02 November 2009

ERF: Imelda Romualdez Marcos

I want eventually to publish a book entitled Encounters with the Rich and Famous (ERF), consisting of accounts of my brief interactions with, well, the rich and famous.

Let me start the book by putting in this blog, in no special order, my memories of such encounters.

I briefly headed the Audiovisual Division of the Population Center Foundation (PCF) during the last years of martial law, when Ferdinand E. Marcos was the dictator in the Philippines. (The pay was good and, at that time, I was not a particularly politically sensitive person.) No one, therefore, dared cross his wife Imelda Romualdez Marcos, whose brainless remarks were then fodder for the alternative press.

I was sitting in a small meeting with her and the President (or was it Prime Minister) of Cambodia (I'm not sure it was the Khmer Republic then). Naturally, there was an interpreter from the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines to translate the Cambodian's French remarks into English and Imelda's English remarks into French.

Imelda was explaining why we had a Population Center Foundation (a quasi-private foundation that she founded and headed) when the government had a Population Commission.

Imelda said, "There is a lot of duplicity in our government."

We all kept poker faces and held our breaths, wondering how the interpreter was going to handle that sentence.

I knew a little French, and I understood what the interpreter said in French. The Filipino ambassador (who shall remain unnamed in order that his reputation shall not be enhanced or tarnished, depending on your political persuasion) said, "The First Lady said that our government does all it can to face the challenge of population growth" (or words to that effect).

He then proceeded to create a totally different discourse in French than the one Imelda was doing. For every stupid sentence that Imelda uttered, he invented a perfectly logical and even brilliant sentence in French, with no relationship at all to the original English sentence.

That's diplomacy at its highest (or lowest)!

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