MANILA, Philippines (AP) — She glided down a red carpet with a bouquet of roses, trailed by tuxedo-wearing violin and flute players who rendered her favorite love song. She blew out the candles on her 80th birthday cake amid glittering confetti and fireworks.
Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, notorious for her vast shoe collection and unabashed opulence in her days in power, used the celebration late Thursday to express confidence she would defeat the last remaining corruption cases against her. She and her late husband Ferdinand were accused of plundering the country's coffers during a two-decade rule that ended with his 1986 ouster.
"I'm now into the last of 910 cases," Marcos told nearly 1,000 guests, mostly from wealthy families.
"I can brag this to the whole world and say I have no mission that failed, I have no project that failed, I have no case that will lose," she said, to applause.
Newsweek magazine in April portrayed her as one of the world's greediest people, but it did not upset Marcos. She said she pleads guilty for being the "greediest for the good, true and beautiful."
When authorities looked into her closet, she said, "they only found shoes."
Her husband and his cronies allegedly amassed ill-gotten wealth estimated at $5 billion to $10 billion when Marcos was in power. The Presidential Commission on Good Government, created to recover the Marcos billions, says the government has only found cash and assets totaling $1.63 billion.
Despite some 900 civil and criminal cases she has faced in Philippine courts since 1991 — cases ranging from embezzlement and corruption to tax evasion — Marcos has emerged relatively unscathed and never served prison time. All but a handful of the cases have been dismissed for lack of evidence, and a few convictions were overturned on appeal.
Marcos will forever be remembered for the dazzling jewels and 1,220 pairs of shoes she left behind in the presidential palace after the "people power" revolt that toppled Marcos' authoritarian regime in 1986 and forced them into exile in Hawaii.
She remains unashamed of her past, including the many lavish beautification and cultural projects she launched amid the Philippines' extreme poverty. One of them is the swank Manila seaside hotel where her birthday bash was held.
Marcos' party, which aides said was paid for by friends, was reminiscent of the extravagant gatherings she threw in her heyday. Opera singers and a pianist performed on a stage adorned with her portrait. Marcos-era friends showed up, including former Indonesian first lady Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, who flew in from Japan for the party.
Asked if the lavish party was too much amid the financially difficult times, Marcos acknowledged that she, too, was overwhelmed.
"It's a little too much," she said. "But there is no extravagance of beauty and love."