Marcos' mortician reveals: Body was real, face made of wax

Mr Malabed, seen here with his makeup kit, is the embalmer of choice for politicians and celebrities in the Philippines.
Mr Malabed, seen here with his makeup kit, is the embalmer of choice for politicians and celebrities in the Philippines.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA • A wax mask covered the face of Ferdinand Marcos for the 23 years his corpse was on show, but the body on display was no fake, said the Philippine dictator's mortician in an interview.

Mr Frank Malabed - embalmer of choice for politicians and celebrities - revealed the secrets of his trade following the controversial burial at the Heroes' Cemetery in Manila last week.

The interment stoked fresh speculation about the dictator's final resting place - many believe he was secretly laid to rest years ago and the body on display was a wax replica.

Mr Malabed, who embalmed the body, insisted it was real.

"The face the people saw was wax. But for the rest of the body, there was no need for that because it was clothed," he told Agence France-Presse. "The hair, that's only a wig."

Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, three years after the People Power Revolution forced him from office. During his two decades in power, critics say, he looted state coffers and ordered the killing of thousands of foes.

PRESERVING A YOUNGER MARCOS

The face the people saw was wax. But for the rest of the body, there was no need for that as it was clothed. The hair, that's only a wig... (Imelda) wanted Filipinos to see President Marcos (the way) he looked before, when he was still young.

MR FRANK MALABED, who embalmed the body in Hawaii in 1989.

His body was embalmed by Mr Malabed in Hawaii. In 1993, it was flown to the ancestral home in the northern Philippines and put in a glass case for public viewing.

Mr Malabed, 66, said Marcos, who died at age 72 from lung, kidney and liver complications, was disfigured by oedema, a build-up of fluid that causes tissues to become swollen.

Embalming drains blood and other body fluids, which are replaced with preservative solution. But the resulting "shrivelled skin did not look good", the mortician said.

"Ma'am did not care for that," he said, referring to the widow Imelda. "She wanted Filipinos to see President Marcos (the way) he looked before, when he was still young."

Mr Malabed said he received the already embalmed body a week after Marcos' death, but had to repeat the procedure because the face looked "bloated", and he feared it would decompose within a week.

Mr Malabed got his first big break embalming Mrs Marcos' brother and sister, which opened doors to the Marcos family.

He has also embalmed Mr Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, an arch-political foe of the Marcoses whose assassination by government forces in 1983 altered the course of Philippine history.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Marcos' mortician reveals: Body was real, face made of wax'. Print Edition | Subscribe