Philippine Studies: Historical
and Ethnographic Viewpoints
Ateneo de Manila University • Loyola Heights, Quezon City • 1108 Philippines
Dovie Beams and Philippine Politics: A President’s Scandalous
Affair and First Lady Power on the Eve of Martial Law
Caroline S. Hau
Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints
vol. 67 no. 3–4 (2019): 595–634
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Dovie Beams and Philippine Politics: A President's
Scandalous Affair and First Lady Power on the Eve of Martial
Caroline S. Hau
Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, Volume 67,
Numbers 3-4, September-December 2019, pp. 595-634 (Article)
Published by Ateneo de Manila University
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Philippine Studies Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoint s
© Ateneo de Manila University
67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019) 595 –634
This article explores the ramiﬁcations of American actress Dovie Beams’s
exposé of her affair with Ferdinand Marcos in 1970. The ensuing scandal
provoked subversive laughter and provided ammunition to various anti-
Marcos groups; signiﬁcantly, some believed it enabled Imelda Marcos to
accrue greater political power. The competing accounts of this affair raise
questions about the politics of sex scandals and the role of First Ladies, but
the turning point of Imelda’s rise to power was the declaration of martial
law. Still, the Dovie Beams affair is no mere footnote in history because
what is often downgraded intellectually as personal, private, or intimate has
an important bearing on how politics is conceived, delimited, and played out
in real life.
KEYWORDS: DOVIE BEAMS • FERDINAND AND IMELDA MARCOS • CONJUGAL
DICTATORSHIP • SCANDAL • WOMEN AND POLITICS
Dovie Beams and
and First Lady
Power on the Eve
of Martial Law
CAROLINE S. HAU
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
On 11 November 1970, at a press conference held at the
Bayview Hotel on Roxas Boulevard, American actress
Dovie Beams1 dropped a bombshell—a bomba, to use
the popular Filipino term of the time for such a dramatic
exposé—by revealing details of her twenty-three-month
affair with Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. As proof, Beams played
portions of the tape recordings she had secretly made of the trysts. The
ensuing scandal, with its titillating mix of sex and politics, blackmail and
strong-arming, cat-and-mouse chases and conspiracy theories, provided
fodder to a news-hungry, politicized press, ammunition to vocal and silent
critics and opponents of the Marcos administration, and spectacle and object
lessons to the general public. The airing of Marcos’s bedroom antics—from
the most intimate of conversations to the most intimate of acts—exposed
him to public hilarity and humiliation, effectively chipping away at his own
carefully crafted public persona as devoted husband and heroic statesman.
Equally important is the role that the scandal played in shaping a
number of inﬂuential accounts of the Marcos dictatorship and its trajectory.
Dovie Beams was far from being the only woman with whom Ferdinand
Marcos had been sexually involved before and during his marriage to Imelda
Romualdez. It is also true that, in the years that followed, there were far
bigger bomba concerning Marcos’s fake war medals; the torture and killing
of civilians and dissidents; and the rapacity of the Marcos family, relatives,
and cronies—bomba that proved destructive of the myth of the “smiling
dictatorship.” And yet the relationship between the putative strongman and
the American B-movie actress has had a remarkable career of its own as a
literary device (that is, a technique for driving plot and character that is used
to engineer particular effects and interpretations) in narratives constructed
around Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos as power couple and around the
dictatorship they installed and inﬂicted on the Filipino people. Indeed,
a number of Marcos analysts and biographers have viewed the scandal
retrospectively as clearing the ground for the consolidation of the “conjugal
dictatorship” that saw Imelda gaining economic concessions and accruing
greater political power and leverage during the martial law era.
Interpretations of the scandal would serve as character studies not only
of Dovie Beams and Ferdinand Marcos, but also of Imelda Marcos. Too,
the scandal would expose the fabulation, myth making, and mendacity
behind the gendered public images of the three principal players. Above all,
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 597
it would lay bare the dynamics and, just as crucially, ﬁgure in the unfolding
plot of the First Couple’s marital and political partnership and, in so doing,
shed light on the controversies and debates surrounding the evolving role
of women in politics and society and their fraught relationship with power.
Mina Roces (2000, 2) has argued cogently that postwar Philippine
politics is a gendered system that accords ofﬁcial power to men and unofﬁcial
power to women in their capacities as wives, daughters, and mistresses. While
manliness is encapsulated in images of potency and virility that valorize
male (war) heroism and aggression, women draw on a varied range of role
models, capitalizing on their beauty, religiosity, militancy, maternity, and
moral guardianship (ibid., 3).
The Dovie Beams affair and its multiple, competing accounts and
analyses raise broader questions about the ways in which sex scandals ﬁgure
in Philippine politics. The affair sheds light as well on the changing realities
and perceptions of women’s status and authority in the postwar democratic
and martial law eras. It may be a mere footnote to the study of the Marcos
years speciﬁcally and Philippine history generally, but it reveals that what
is often downgraded intellectually as personal, private, or intimate has an
important bearing on how politics—and the contested place of women in
politics—is conceived, delimited, and played out in everyday life.
In light of the Dovie Beams affair, this article seeks to complicate the
dominant narrative constructed by a number of critical assessments of the
Marcoses. It argues that Imelda’s rise as a formidable politician owes more
to two intersecting political phenomena than to the deﬁning “trauma” of
the Dovie Beams affair: the evolution of the First Lady’s role in the postwar
Philippines, which resonates with similar developments in the United States,
and the dismantling of institutional checks and balances by the Marcos
dictatorship, which removed the constraints on the power of the First Lady
and made the conjugal dictatorship possible.
The Bare “Facts”
Although a number of supporting players were witnesses to, and enablers
of, the affair between Dovie Beams and Ferdinand Marcos, only two people
knew the full extent of what really went on in that relationship—and of
these two only Beams provided over the years speciﬁc, albeit fragmentary,
details of the affair. The most complete account (as of this writing) is the
one provided by journalist Hermie Rotea’s (1984) Marcos’ Lovey Dovie, a
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
book on which initially Beams had collaborated and for which she even
allowed two of the secret tape recordings she had made to be transcribed and
published verbatim, but whose author she would later fall out with and sue
for alleged theft of her diary, unﬁnished manuscript, photographs, and a tape
recording (Mathews 1986).
The narratives, spun out of Beams’s recollections and Rotea’s (re)writing
and retailed as biographies and historical accounts pertaining to the Marcoses
and their time in power, need to be taken with a grain of salt. In any case, their
usefulness as narratives does not necessarily reside in their truth-value or even
credibility, but in their ability to advance various agenda, not least those of
Beams and Rotea, but also those of journalists, biographers, scholars, pundits,
and many others who would subsequently harness the Dovie Beams affair to
their respective discussions (and, most important, postmortem dissections)
of the Marcos era. The bare “facts” of the case do not preclude elements of
embellishment, fabulation, or outright mendacity. Indeed, the persistence
and staying power of the Dovie Beams affair in the popular imagination may
have depended precisely on the blurring of the boundaries between fact and
fabulation, between truth telling and lying. Bare “facts” do not simply feed
the curiosity and stoke the fantasies of the public; rather, people engage
in active meaning making, interpreting these “facts” and assigning them
signiﬁcance (or otherwise) in light of their own variegated concerns and
Rotea (1984, 18, 70) relates that American producer Paul Mason had
contacted Beams sometime in mid-December 1968 about a role in Ang Mga
Maharlika, a US$3-million ﬁlm based on Ferdinand Marcos’s war exploits.
Marcos crony Potenciano “Nanoy” Ilusorio, whom Marcos called “Calbo”
(Rempel 1993, 23) and who was producing the ﬁlm, arranged Beams’s trip to
Manila (Rotea 1984, 18). Beams ﬂew to Manila on Christmas Day. Although
registered at the Manila Hotel, she stayed at the Sulô Hotel (ibid., 19–20).
Beams was with a fellow American, Joyce Rees, when they met the man
who was called “Fred.” Rees might have ﬁt better the proﬁle of the classic
Hollywood bombshell, with her blond hair and ample bosom (ibid., 19), but
it was Beams who made a deep impression on Fred after telling him that she
did not “date lawyers, doctors, or ministers” (ibid., 22) because “lawyers are
dishonest” (ibid.) and, asked to sing something by way of an audition, belting
out the song “I Want to Be Bad” (ibid., 22–23). Fred complimented Beams
on her “best-looking legs” (ibid., 23) and her “big eyes” (ibid., 24), confessed
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 599
that he was the president of the Philippines (ibid., 24), and, in parting, kissed
the back of her neck (ibid., 25). The following day, the president told her: “I
really love you, Dovie. Do you love me, too?” (ibid., 30). At the time of their
ﬁrst meeting, Marcos was 53 years old, Beams 38 (ibid., 15).
They met again two days later in Baguio, where Marcos’s security
team smuggled Beams by car in and out of the Mansion House (ibid., 42).
Fabian Ver, who was in charge of the arrangements, declared that Beams
had “creeped like a cat” (ibid.). It was in Baguio that Marcos and Beams
allegedly had sex for the ﬁrst time.2 Marcos showered Beams with jewelry
and put her up at the ﬁve-star Peninsula Hotel during her shopping trip to
Hong Kong over the new year (ibid., 48–50).
In a strange but revealing conversation, Marcos told Beams that he and
Imelda had been “sexually estranged for a long time” (ibid., 39) and that
Beams looked and sounded like the “ghost” of his “ﬁrst love,” an American
mestiza named Evelyn, “who gave her life for him” (ibid., 40)—according
to Rotea (ibid., 177), Marcos claimed that Evelyn was the daughter of
“President Quezon,” and he was supposed to marry her—during the Second
World War and whose character Beams would be playing in Maharlika.
The affair intensiﬁed in the ﬁrst half of 1969, with Marcos spending as
much time with Beams as he could spare, even staying overnight in their
Greenhills love nest whenever Imelda was out of town (ibid., 61). Marcos
talked of wanting to have a son by Dovie (ibid., 64, 65);3 their ﬁrst quarrel,
in fact, had been over Marcos’s discovery that Beams—who was not sure
Marcos would divorce his wife (ibid., 65)—was keeping a stash of birth-
control pills (ibid.). At the thirtieth Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and
Sciences Festival (FAMAS) ceremonies in April, Marcos supposedly used a
prearranged series of secret hand signals to telegraph his love for her (ibid.,
85). One observant columnist later wrote that the president had looked in
the direction of the actress a tad too long (ibid., 72).
Meantime, Ilusorio, worried that Imelda would ﬁnd out about the affair
and have him “shot” (ibid., 53, 112), tried to convince Beams to return to the
US and do a war ﬁlm there instead (ibid., 52). To cover up the affair, Beams
“dated” the Spanish mestizo actor Pepito Rodriguez (ibid., 71). Ilusorio also
handed her US$10,000 (ibid., 54) and allegedly made advances toward her.
Another Marcos crony, Diosdado Bote, manager of the Wack-Wack Golf
and Country Club, had helped install Beams in a house in Greenhills and
arranged for his son Ray to chauffeur her around (ibid., 61). Ilusorio and
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
other cronies routinely overcharged Marcos for reimbursement of the costs
of keeping a querida; Marcos, despite complaining about it, paid anyway
Beams had recorded Marcos singing songs like “Pamulinawen” and
“Come Closer to Me” (ibid., 97–98) into the microphone of a tape recorder
and had allowed Marcos to take photographs of her in the nude. Two of the
tapes transcribed in the Rotea book were recorded on 17 and 22 January
1970. Furthermore, Rotea claims that Marcos conﬁded in Beams about
his political activities. Reelected in 1969, in one of the most expensive and
bitterly fought elections in the country’s postwar history, Marcos allegedly
told Beams that he had instigated the student demonstrations with the intent
of justifying the eventual declaration of martial law (ibid., 103–4).4 Beams
had moved from one love nest to another because the Liberal Party was
keeping a close watch on Marcos’s activities (ibid., 104) before, during, and
after his campaign for reelection.
Matters came to a head with the publication of the 3 October 1970 issue
of the Philippines Free Press. An article on Beams written by veteran journalist
Jose A. Quirino (1970, 33) carried the suggestive title “A Lovely Argument for
Special Relations.” Beams was quoted as saying, “I don’t know why I attract
married men,” and adding, “In the last few weeks and also during my stay last
year, all those who tried to date me were married men” (ibid.). The article
concluded with the following sentences: “She’s a convincing argument
indeed for ‘special relations’—very, very ‘special relations’” (ibid., 49).
Although the article was careful not to hint at Beams’s affair with the
president, even going so far as to deﬂect attention away from Marcos by stating
that Sen. Salvador “Doy” Laurel had dedicated the song “The Impossible
Dream” to Beams at a dinner in a Makati restaurant (ibid., 33) and that
Beams had dated “the European philanthropist Baron Ernst Valentine Von
Wedel” (ibid.), the article’s double-entendre conﬁrmation of the open secret
embarrassed Marcos, who brieﬂy stopped seeing her (Rotea 1984, 120).
Subsequent meetings between Beams and Marcos erupted into quarrels as
the president exhibited his “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities (ibid., 127).
Imelda, alerted to the affair, put pressure on Ilusorio to cut Beams
out of the Maharlika production and allegedly instructed Commissioner
of Immigration Edmundo Reyes to deport the actress (ibid., 120–21).5
Manhandled by immigration ofﬁcials, Beams consulted an attorney, with
whom she deposited some of the evidence of the clandestine affair that
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 601
she had collected. Calling a press conference was a way to “guarantee her
survival” (ibid., 122). Beams would claim in the Rotea (ibid., 130) book that
Imelda had tried to bribe her with US$100,000 to keep quiet and disappear
from Marcos’s life by using the American embassy as conduit.
The Art of the Exposé
The Dovie Beams affair provides a good case study for exploring the
possibilities and limits of scandal as an instrument for regulating and
transforming political perception and reality. In a short but illuminating
essay, Resil Mojares (1997, 117–18) explores the “art of the exposé.” The
one who engineers the bomba must be an enterprising sort, possessed of
good “media sense” and a “sense of prime time,” and combining a “ﬂair for
risk-taking” with the “nerve to offend, a maverick streak, and a fair dose of
ambition” (ibid., 117). The bomba expert, well aware that the exposé is an
“opportunistic art” (ibid., 118), never forgets to “calculate risks,” knowing
when and how much to reveal and careful not to end up a “loose cannon”
or “dead” (ibid., 117).
Politics is a “spectator sports,” offering “vicarious thrills” and eliciting
“moral outrage” from an audience already familiar with the story line (ibid.,
118). Exposés “perform functions analytic (allowing us to understand the
ills of society and government), preventive (introducing checks to the abuse
or miscarriage of authority), and enabling (setting the groundwork for
corrective and alternative procedures and structures” (ibid.). At its best, then,
an exposé is an instrument of critique, an exercise in vigilance that “keeps
alive among citizens a healthy sense of discontent with the way things are”
(ibid.). But exposés also breed cynicism, building up anxiety without any
promise of release. Mojares draws an important analogy between the exposé
artist, whose political performance is the exposé, and the pornographer: “he
generates a level of surface excitement that never builds up to a satisfying
climax. Like pornography, his is a shabby and repetitious art” (ibid., 118).
Harassed by government agents and fearful for her life, Beams went
public with her account of her affair with Ferdinand Marcos. In detonating
the bomba against the Marcoses, she was not acting alone, for she was
enabled by critics and political opponents of Marcos. The most seasoned
of these opponents, the Lopezes, were well-versed in the art of the exposé.
Beams was a consummate exposé artist, providing tidbits over the years to the
mass media, which peddled the intimate revelations by both parties as works
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
of pornography that would be serialized over decades without any deﬁnitive
climax or resolution.
Anatomy of a Scandal
There can be no doubt that the impeccable timing of Beams’s exposé gave this
particular bomba its explosive charge. Marcos had been reelected in 1969, in
a presidential election that had reportedly been “the dirtiest, most violent,
most corrupt election since 1946” (Salonga 2003, 168, citing foreign media
reportage). Between September and October 1970, four major typhoons—
Oyang, Sening, Titang, and Yoling—hit the Philippines, killing at least 1,348
people and wreaking extensive damage and destruction (Daly 2016, 33).
Fueling the civil unrest sparked by public criticisms and protests—notably
the mass demonstrations of January 1970 that would later be immortalized as
“The First Quarter Storm” (Lacaba 1982)—against the Marcos government
and a ﬂedgling insurgency spearheaded by the Communist Party of the
Philippines–New People’s Army (ofﬁcially founded on 26 December 1968),
the Dovie Beams exposé at the same time crystallized anxieties, doubts, and
anger over the “special relations” between the Philippines and the US, as
the presence of the American military on Philippine soil and the continuing
inﬂuence of the US in Philippine affairs came increasingly under ﬁre.
Marcos typically insisted that a hidden hand was engineering the
scandal, providing advice and other forms of support behind the scenes to
Beams. In his diaries he claimed to have met Beams (whom he insisted on
calling Dovie Boehms, using her ofﬁcial married name before her divorce
instead of her stage name) at the FAMAS Festival in 1969. He said he
encountered her when he was introduced to the cast of Maharlika. Marcos
claimed that Beams was a “name dropper” who approached Imelda at a
tourism conference at the Hilton Hotel and “proudly announced that she
knew her (Imelda’s) husband. Imelda properly ignored her” (Marcos diary
entry of 19 October 1970; also cited in Rempel 1993, 87, 90).
Marcos (in his diary of 5 November 1970, cited in Rempel 1993, 87)
called Beams’s “extortion activities” a “diabolical plot” (diary of 10 November
1970, cited in Rempel 1993, 88) and speculated that it was either the “CIA or
the American embassy” or else his “political opponents who are encouraging
this or have planted her” (ibid.). Marcos (diary of 12 November 1970, cited
in Rempel 1993, 89), summoned the American ambassador Henry Byroade
and other staff members of the embassy to “ﬁnd out what the participation of
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 603
the American government is in the Boehms blackmail conspiracy.” In his 15
November 1970 diary (cited in Rempel 1993, 90), he wrote: “Lest our people
feel the Americans have succeeded in coercing me with the Dovie Boehms
alleged revelations of ‘intimate relations’ with me (which are patently false),
I have ordered a renegotiation of the Military Bases Agreement with the
U.S. . . . And tomorrow I will reiterate the demand for the return of Sangley
Point by the U.S.” If we go by Marcos’s account, then the Dovie Beams affair
played no small role in the recalibration of the Philippines–US relations!6
Although there is no evidence that Dovie Beams had a starring role in a
real-life American version of Ian Fleming’s (1957) From Russia with Love, the
spy angle was one of several conspiracy theories bruited about in the press, and
it attracted its own share of public protest. The Profumo scandal in Britain—
in which the 1961 extramarital affair between then Secretary of State for
War John Profumo and showgirl Christine Keeler, who was simultaneously
involved with a Soviet naval attaché, had brought down the Conservative
government under Harold Macmillan in 1963—was still a fresh memory.
Newspapers like Taliba (owned by the Roces family) speculated that
Beams might have been a spy (espiya) sent by the millionaire businessman
Harry S. Stonehill, who had been deported in 1962 following his involvement
in a major corruption case that implicated then Pres. Diosdado Macapagal,
or that she was sent by the CIA to tease out state secrets that had a bearing
on American interests in the Philippines (Digos 1970; Bancoro 1970b).
These interests included the Holman case (in which American Col. Averill
Holman was cited for contempt by the Philippine court owing to his failure
to produce a key witness to the forced abduction and rape case implicating
US Air Force Sgt. Ronald E. McDaniel), possible changes in the constitution
that might affect the controversial Parity Agreement between the US and the
Philippines, the presence of American military bases, and the sabotaging of
the Philippine government attempt to open and improve diplomatic relations
with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries (Bancoro 1970a).
The scandal also spurred student protest against the “moral bankruptcy
of top government ofﬁcials” (Manila Times 1970, 1). Members of the
Samahang Molabe and the Katipunan ng Kabataang Demokratiko
(Federation of Democratic Youth), holding aloft placards that read “Ferdie,
sino si Fred?” (Ferdie, who is Fred?) and “Palinawen ang Pamulinawen”
(Explain Pamulinawen), picketed the main gate of the presidential palace
and issued a manifesto decrying the “rotten and bankrupt” “system that
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
thrives on military force and wholesale deception of the people.” National
spokesperson for the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA,
Free Movement of New Women) and legendary activist Lorena Barros was
quoted as saying that the “Dovie Beams case reveals that US imperialism will
not stop at anything and will use the foulest and dirtiest means, including
the exploitation of the degraded status of women in bourgeois society, to
perpetrate its political stranglehold on the Philippines and its oppression
of the Filipino masses” (ibid.). Similar pickets were planned in front of the
American embassy (Bancoro 1970c).
The Dovie Beams scandal tapped into the nationalist dissatisfaction
with the inequality and asymmetry that underlay the much-vaunted “special
relations” between the two countries (in which staunch allies could also be
covert saboteurs). Its signiﬁcance, however, lay in the fact that the opposition
to the Marcos administration was much closer to home and needed no
prodding to exploit the scandal for their various agenda.
The Liberal Party was said to have helped Beams arrange the press
conference (Thompson 1998, 275), and the Lopezes were thought to
have had a hand in emboldening Beams to go public with her revelations
(Seagrave 1988, 222, 238). In his diary of 19 October 1970, Marcos accused
Beams of blackmailing him and pointed his ﬁnger at a cabal of conspirators
led by Joaquin “Chino” Roces, owner of Manila Times, and Eugenio Lopez
Sr. Marcos in his diary of 11 Mar. 1971 claimed that Roces had distributed
photostat copies of a Boston Free Press article (dated 28 February 1971) that
carried an autographed photo that Marcos allegedly gave to Beams (signed
“with all my love into eternity, Ferdinand”). He also stated in his diary of 17
April 1972 that the “Lopez camp” had wired funds to Beams in California;
was supporting “the escalating demonstrations, mobs and riots”; and had
teamed up with Gerardo Roxas and J. Amado Araneta.7 Meantime, Imelda
blamed Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. for passing on copies of Beams’s tape
recordings to the students of the University of the Philippines (UP), who
would make a loop of the more sensational parts and, at the time of the
so-called Diliman Republic (otherwise known as the Diliman Commune
[see the excellent account by Scalice 2018]), air them all over campus
through the DZUP radio channel (Seagrave 1988, 369).
The scandal did not just reverberate in the early 1970s but would
be resuscitated for another round of anti-Marcos opposition in the early
1980s. If the perfect timing of the Dovie Beams affair largely accounted
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 605
for its explosive impact, the timing of the American publication of Hermie
Rotea’s Lovey Dovie was similarly opportune. Coming out in 1984, a year
after the assassination of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, the book’s tell-all
account of the Dovie Beams affair detonated the thirteen-year-old bomba
yet again. The staunchly anti-Marcos Rotea, editor of the Philippine Press
in Los Angeles, had met Beams in 1973; he had been a friend of Marcos
critic Primitivo Mijares and had authored Behind the Barricades: Story of
the January 26 and 30 Student Revolt in the Philippines (Rotea 1970), which
he said had been blacklisted by Marcos in 1970 (Rotea 1984, 6–7). In the
martial-law 1970s and the 1980s, the American West Coast had emerged
as a hub and hotbed of exiled-Filipino and Filipino American anti-Marcos
activism (Hamilton-Paterson 1998, 255, 267).
As John Thompson (2000, 7) has pointed out, political scandals often prove
to be ruinous, sometimes tragic, for the persons involved. These personal
dramas play themselves out and are contested in the discursive terrain (ibid.),
with the public playing a crucial role in making sense of what has happened
and discussing and commenting on the events in light of their variegated
interests and concerns (ibid., 87).
Scandals are characterized not only by the ﬂouting or “transgression
of values, norms, and moral codes,” but also by the disapproval or, worse,
denunciation and opprobrium heaped upon the transgressors by other
people. But the context and circumstances in which a scandal explodes
matter more than the actual content or quality (let alone degree) of the
transgression (ibid., 13–14). For one thing, “what counts as scandalous in one
context—say, extramarital affairs among members of the political elite—may
be regarded as quite acceptable (even normal) elsewhere” (ibid., 15). For
another, the fact that the values, norms, and moral codes at stake in a given
scandal are routinely ﬂouted, perhaps even largely tolerated, in everyday life
by ordinary people does not detract from the seriousness of the scandal and
its consequences (ibid., 20). As Thompson (ibid., 124) argues further: “One
of the paradoxes of sexual-political scandals is that, while they presuppose a
degree of moral bindingness of sexual norms and codes, there is not a clear
and direct correlation between the seriousness of a sexual-political scandal
and the degree of the moral bindingness of the relevant norms and codes.”
In other words, scandals do not lose their power to stigmatize people for their
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
alleged transgressions even if ordinary people themselves do not abide by or
fail to adhere to these codes (ibid., 125).
Scandals sell newspapers, of course, but they are also political weapons
that can damage the reputations and impugn the integrity of political
ﬁgures. The Americans were known to have used information on the
sexual dalliances and peccadillos of both American and Filipino ofﬁcials
to manipulate colonial politics during the ﬁrst few decades of the twentieth
century (McCoy 2009, 97–104). In the postindependence period, Americans
aided and abetted Filipino politicians in scandal-mongering, using the threat
of scandal to compromise their enemies.
Ironically, the Lopez clan, which Marcos blamed for egging on Beams,
also fell victim to sexual blackmail. Fernando Lopez Sr., who served as
vice president and secretary of agriculture under the Elpidio Quirino
administration, had joined the Magsaysay team for the 1953 presidential
elections, only to follow Claro M. Recto’s lead in breaking away from the
Magsaysay camp. A person close to Magsaysay had borrowed recording
equipment from the CIA and made secret recordings of Lopez’s afternoon
sessions with his querida in a side room next to his ofﬁce in order to “lean on
him [Lopez] a little bit” (Smith 1987, 149–50).
Moreover, the “politics of trust” (Thompson 2000, 8, 111) that places
emphasis on the “character” of politicians has become more important in
the wake of the postwar expansion of the mass media and the retreat across
many of the world’s electoral democracies of the kind of “ideological politics”
that had once been the purview of class and sectoral-based parties. In the
Philippines, distinctions between political parties, already ill-deﬁned to begin
with, had weakened considerably by the late 1960s, aided in no small measure
by the practice perfected by Marcos and other trapos (traditional politicians)
of bolting from one party to another and the negative public perception—
sharpened by the critique and activism of nationalist individuals, groups, and
organizations—of the two-party system (Wurfel 1988, 97).
Furthermore, scandals do not simply ﬁgure in intra-elite debates and
power struggles (the term “elite” here includes media persons, the educated
class, and politicians, among others) (Adut 2008, 5–6); they also speak to
a growing disconnection between the principle and practice of sex and
sexuality. Scandals continue to ﬂourish in times when (and in places where)
sex and sexuality have become matters of open public discussion and their
shame, embarrassment, and discomfort factors are subject to demystiﬁcation
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 607
(ibid., 181). The afﬁnities between the sexual revolution and the revolutions
against political and parental authority (ibid., 197) are ﬁttingly encapsulated
by the Profumo scandal, which turned Cold War pawn Christine Keeler,
photographed nude, into a poster girl of sexual liberation and the Swinging
Sixties (cf. The Economist 2017–2018, 120).
Such afﬁnities between free sexuality and resistance to political and
parental authority (Adut 2008) also resonated strongly in the Philippines in an
era of decolonization and Third World nationalism, socialist internationalism,
and youthful activism and rebellion.8 Vicente Rafael (2000, 123) has pointed
out that the heyday of the bomba—“impassioned political rhetoric” that is
also a “synecdoche for scandalous charges and countercharges of graft and
corruption made by politicians in Congress or during political campaigns”
(ibid., 132)—coincided with the advent of the bomba ﬁlm, which enjoyed its
own heyday between 1970 and September 1972, as “new images of female
subjugation and ambition emerged in ﬁlm and politics” (ibid., 123).
The breakdown of the Filipino studio system in the late 1960s had
ﬂooded Philippine theaters with imported Hollywood ﬁlms. The year 1969
was heralded as the breakthrough “Year of the Bomba” (Samonte 1970,
38). Bomba ﬁlms like Celso Ad. Castillo’s Nympha (1971) and Ruben S.
Abalos’s Uhaw (Thirst) (1970) delivered a much-needed shot in the arm
for the ﬂagging native ﬁlm industry (De Vega 1975, 33–35; cf. Matilac and
Lanot 1994, 84; Hoﬁleña 2016), even as they stoked the interest of urban
elites in local ﬁlms. Talitha Espiritu (2017, 87, 89) argues that the “radical
youth politics associated with this audience group bled into the potentially
subversive qualities of the bomba ﬁlm.”9
In an era of bomba in ﬁlm and politics, however, the real-life bombing
of Plaza Miranda on 21 August 1971, at which members of the Liberal Party
had originally planned to unleash their own bomba against the government
and which ended up killing nine people and injuring a hundred more,10 was
a sobering reminder of the ferment, turmoil, and violence of the time that
would culminate with the declaration of martial law on 21 September 1972
and the gathering storm of the Muslim, Communist, and other insurgencies.
Moreover, the scandal was being wielded as a political weapon not just
by Marcos’s elite rivals and opponents, but also by far larger communities
that were critical of, and more importantly mobilizing against, the Marcos
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
government. Steve Salonga, then a student activist at UP, had this to say
about the ﬁllip to the student movement provided by the exposé concerning
Marcos’s “personal life”:
By 1970, ang mga issue namin kay [our issues regarding] Marcos
were very basic, political issues. To ﬁnally get something that had to
do with his personal life, of course, Pilipino tayo [we are Pilipino] . . .
ﬁrst, amusing, second, explosive, possibly, but most of all, scandalous,
dahil galit na galit na kaming mga estudyante kay Marcos noon eh
[because we students were very angry at Marcos that time]. Lahat
ng maibabato namin ay naibato na namin [We already hurled all that
we could lob]. I guess this was one more piece of ammunition in our
locker. But hindi kami nag . . . hindi namin nalaman iyan hangga’t hindi
nag-press conference si Dovie Beams. [But we did not . . . we would
not have learned of this had Dovie Beams not held a press conference].
(cited in De Veyra 2013)
The political charge of “amusing,” when coupled with “explosive” and
“scandalous,” owes a great deal to the subversiveness of laughter. Laughter
is a kind of bomba, an often uncontrollable bodily eruption with equally
uncontrollable effects in communication that are capable of either reinforcing
or transforming the social order (Douglas 1975a, 86, 88). Shoshana Felman
(2002, 87) tells us that “If laughter is, literally, a sort of explosion of the
speaking body, the act of exploding—with laughter—becomes an explosive
performance in every sense of the word.”
As a form of communication, laughter creates community among those
infected by it—a “collective of laughers,” to use Anca Parvulescu’s (2010, 3)
term. While laughter is said to be a universal feature of our humanness, it is
also culturally bound, as evident in Steve Salonga’s contention that Filipinos
ﬁnd talk of sex and intimate bodily functions amusing. Laughter also has
the potential to question community. As Mary Douglas (1975b, 152) has
argued, making a joke out of something that is not meant to be one does
not so much unsettle and reverse as levels and dissolves the hierarchies and
differentiations that subtend a community, if only for a moment. Laughter
closes the gap between ordinary people and a high ofﬁcial like Marcos,
pulls down the high and mighty and punctures their highfalutin rhetoric
and their hugely inﬂated self-regard and self-worth. One can imagine the
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 609
different reactions of the soldiers sent in to break up the Diliman Republic
(or Commune) to the broadcasting over loud speakers of a crooning and
moaning Marcos (Ordoñez 2003, 15).
For activists like Salonga, the mirth provoked by the public outing of
private passion, however conservative its underlying moral assumptions may
be, nonetheless makes laughter “a project against deep, heavy, oppressive
seriousness” (Parvulescu 2010, 5). Laughter challenges the high seriousness
of a Ferdinand Marcos, who suddenly ﬁnds himself dwindling from object
of respect and admiration to laughing stock, from His Excellency to “Lover
Boy” (Garcellano 1971c, 11).11 As Hannah Arendt (1970, 45) puts it: “To
remain in authority requires respect for the person or the ofﬁce. The greatest
enemy of authority, therefore, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine
it is laughter.” More, Mikhail Bakhtin (1984, 123) makes a strong case for
laughter’s philosophical import and implications: “Laughter puriﬁes from
dogmatism, from fanaticism and pedantry, from fear and intimidation, from
didacticism, naiveté and illusion, from the single meaning, the single level,
Walter Benjamin (1980, 159, cited in Parvulescu 2010, 154) has called
laughter “the most international and the most revolutionary affect of the
masses.” When “a people” laughs, one hears the “echo of revolutionary
noise” (Parvulescu 2010, 155). Dictatorships tend not to ﬁnd anything
amusing about laughter, especially when they are its object. José Rizal’s
Noli me tángere offended church and government authorities with its ideas,
leavened with satire and irony, the combination of which proved incendiary.
It is no accident, either, that one of the ﬁrst things Marcos did within
twenty-four hours of declaring martial law, other than arresting his critics
and opponents, was to close down the radio and television stations and print
media; subsequently, he would allow only “ofﬁcial” press to function (Franco
2001, 105). Magazines like Graphic, the source of the “Your move, Lover
Boy” (Garcellano 1971c, 11) jibe, would no longer be allowed to subject the
newly minted dictator to ridicule.
After the imposition of martial law, the Dovie Beams scandal would
become part of the repertoire of anti-Marcos stories and memories that
people retailed in private as a way of keeping the spirit of resistance alive. In
her memoir of growing up under martial law, Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein (2013,
96–97) comments on the political uses of rumors and the critical value of
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
Marcos was also rumored to be a womanizer. It has been said
that if politics is around the corner, libido is never far behind. The
combination of sexual and political power has been the domain of
politicians and public ﬁgures throughout history. Marcos as a politician
was no exception. I remember well how I disliked the way he smiled,
the crinkle on his lips, a gesture between a smile and a sneer. The
smile was lecherous, a smile that replaced many an indecorous
word when directed to the opposite sex. For that reason, his marital
inﬁdelities regularly greased the rumor mill. How could any Filipino
of my generation, or the one before me, forget his affair with the
American starlet, Dovie Beams? Her picture graced the gossip pages
of periodicals at the height of their affair. We reveled at hearing this
gossip and stories like it because there was not much we could say
freely regarding the fact in a repressive public arena. Inane as it may
sound, there was much private humor we could derive in the image of
a strong man with a penchant for dropping his pants. How about the
Filipino actress who allegedly had acid thrown in her face by Imelda
upon learning of her husband’s marital indiscretion? Unfortunately, his
many affairs and conquests of women only served to incite traditionally
chauvinistic Filipino men to beat their chests and boast their male
virility, never apologizing for it because they believe it was their God-
given right to behave that way.
The sexual excesses and psychopathologies that the Dovie Beams affair
supposedly laid bare functioned as sociopolitical commentaries in their own
right. Under less explosive circumstances, an affair with a beautiful white
woman might actually have boosted the masculine, virile, infallible persona
that Marcos wore like an armor. But the magnitude of the scandal and the
way the scandal was played up by Marcos’s detractors did have a corrosive
effect on his public image, as he found himself subject to ridicule and,
In the immediate aftermath of the bomba, Marcos and his team sought
damage control. The weapon they used was the age-old one of slut shaming.
Marcos had his spin doctors unleash a battery of negative gender stereotypes
against Beams. Ten articles serialized in the crony-owned Republic Weekly
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 611
between late February and April 1971 did their hatchet job on the actress.
Beams was labeled a prostitute and a lunatic (A. E. 1971a, 3), a gold digger
deluxe. The articles set to work on milking a psychiatric report that had
been submitted on behalf of Beams’s husband, Edward Boehms, during
the couple’s divorce proceedings. Selectively lifting quotes from this report,
the articles characterized Beams as “extremely narcissistic,” prone to self-
indulgence, and a bad mother to boot (according to the report, “[s]he is too
poorly integrated to be very giving to others except as it serves her own needs
. . . [S]he is not capable of loving the child and is apt to neglect the child”
[ibid.]). The psychiatrist’s report diagnosed her as a “latent schizophrenic,”
even though the doctor who prepared the report admitted that he “never
found any evidence of explosive aggressive hostility but rather that of
withdrawal from responsibility and the pursuit of erotic self-satisfaction
through music and romance” (ibid.). The report also said Beams “suffer[ed]
. . . from illusions if not from hallucinations” (ibid., 24). A subsequent
Republic Weekly article (A. E. 1971g, 20) went on to deﬁne “schizophrenia”
for its readers as a “psychotic disorder.”
To the rhetorical question, “What sort of lady would tape her most
intimate bedroom moments and play the recording at, of all places, a press
conference?” (ibid.), succeeding articles responded with the following: a
woman who had a “strong sex drive” (A. E. 1971b, 4), who took lovers while
still married to another man and was not above “press[ing] her attentions
upon” one of them (ibid.); who boasted of dating, among many others, John
and Edward Kennedy, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, former
English prime minister Harold Wilson, “the present Prime Minister of
Germany,” a “former mayor of Berlin,” the Sheik of Kuwait, Howard Hughes,
“George East, Jr. and Sr.,” “Senator Gore of Tennessee,” and a “certain ‘pogi’
[handsome] Filipino senator,” and “passed them [these stories] off as true
even though they were a pack of lies” (A. E. 1971c, 5); who staged “orgiastic
nights in the bedroom . . . with various men, sometimes with homosexuals as
well” (ibid.); and who had a “fantastic imagination” (ibid.) and inﬂated her
own business dealings and acumen (ibid.; A. E. 1971e, 6). Beams was even
compared to typhoons Sening and Yoling (A. E. 1971c, 6) and accused of
extortion, even as the article admitted that Beams had been offered (by the
ﬁlm’s producers) US$1,000 in cash upon departure from the Philippines,
US$8,000 in escrow in Los Angeles, and a 5 percent commission on the sale
of the ﬁlm for no less than US$750,000 and two more sums—US$13,500
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
and US$17,500 drawn from Los Angeles banks no later than 12 October
1970 (A. E. 1971f, 7).
In response to the Republic Weekly’s slut-shaming hatchet job and claim
that tape recordings were inadmissible as evidence in court (A. E. 1971a, 2),
Beams sent a copy of one such tape to the Graphic ofﬁce (Garcellano 1971a,
11). She also informed Graphic that she had saved other evidence such as
letters, telegrams, and mementos (Garcellano 1971b, 11). She then dropped
I have, in my possession, pubic hair from X X X which I believe can be
scientiﬁcally proved as to its origin. Maybe this will be the proof to the
people of the Philippines that I have told the truth and that persons in
very high positions have perfectly told incredible lies and it is time that
this deception and conniving X X X be exposed for what it is. For what it
has done not only to me but to millions of the people of the Philippines.
(Garcellano 1971c, 11).
Beams never released the pubic-hair evidence to the public.
By way of drawing a contrast between Beams and Imelda Marcos, Republic
Weekly peddled a series of “facts” about Imelda: that she “comes from a very
rich family of Philippine sugar barons”; that she is “blessed with a ﬁne ﬁgure”
and was once “Miss Manila (91-58-89 cm.)”; that she had “tolerated” her
husband’s “weakness for women” over the past sixteen years and that the Dovie
Beams affair had lasted “too long” (A. E. 1971h, 20). Of these so-called facts,
the ﬁrst three (that Imelda came from a rich family, that she had a ﬁne ﬁgure,12
and that she was a former Miss Manila) have been disputed.
The purported exposé of Beams’s troubled marital, business, and sexual
history was not conﬁned to words. Republic Weekly splashed across its pages
nude photographs (which its writer claimed were taken not by Marcos, but
by one Delﬁn “Fred” Cueto,13 who went on record about his alleged affair
with Beams [A. E. 1971d, 6]) of Beams with her private parts blacked out.
In effect, Republic Weekly turned itself into a porno magazine, and Beams
was made a bomba star against her will, and her experience (shared by many
aspiring actresses) of Hollywood’s infamous and predatory casting couch
would be held against her.
There is, moreover, a racial politics at work in the Dovie Beams affair.
One of the articles cited a 21 August 1969 letter that Marcos wrote, belatedly
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 613
criticizing the casting of American actors in the key roles of Maharlika, even
though Marcos had previously met (and had not posed any objections to) the
members of the cast months before. Wrote Marcos in his diary entry of 21
August 1969 (cited in A. E. 1971d, 6): “The hero should not be an American
because it was not so. How come the girl looks like a Hollywood cheapie?
Check her background. She cannot act. Better take her out.” Given Marcos’s
(and, more generally, Filipinos’) proclivity for Filipino mestizas, preferably
of Spanish ancestry, an affair with the “genuine” article, an American white
woman, would not have been farfetched and his belated criticism sounded
insincere, mealy mouthed, and hypocritical.14
Marcos already had a long-time partner named Carmen Ortega, a
Spanish mestiza with whom he was involved before he married Imelda
(another Spanish mestiza) and who Marcos’s mother, Josefa Edralin, was
said to favor over Imelda (Mijares 1986, 264–65). Ortega was even alleged
to have gotten pregnant with one of four children she had with Marcos after
one of Marcos’s quarrels with Dovie Beams (Seagrave 1988, 215). Aside
from Dovie Beams, Marcos would have affairs with many other women—
from famous actresses to wives of cronies—over the years (Mijares 1986,
264–75), even as his well-known proclivity for extramarital activities in no
way discounted the emotional intensity of the affairs he engaged in over the
The decision to have American actors play Filipinos in Maharlika has
been parsed by James Hamilton-Paterson (1998, 256–57) this way:
It might well be wondered why Marcos was to be played by a white
American actor in a ﬁlm whose primary purpose was as propaganda
vehicle in a Filipino election, for viewing by domestic audience. It
says something about cultural confusion when an incumbent Filipino
President tries to broaden his appeal by turning himself into an
American onscreen. Maybe he thought that, like Hartzell Spence’s
original book, the ﬁlm might have an image-making impact on
Americans if they could see him—and not merely intuit him—as one
Such a tortured line of thinking obscures the simple and obvious fact
that, like hiring American journalists to write their hagiographies, Filipino
politicians like Marcos were not content to demonstrate their mastery over
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
the symbolic codes and prestige goods of their native country (such as getting
the country’s top actors to play the First Couple in the Marcos bio-pic Iginuhit
ng Tadhana). Just as important, they sought to enhance their own status
by their perceived access to, and afﬁrmation by, “America.” The validation
offered by the “white” gaze was not intended for consumption in America
(even though American interest in the movie would have been a bonus), but
rather in the Philippines—a strategy, in other words, for enhancing Marcos’s
stature in the eyes of his fellow Filipinos by signaling his connections to the
outside world and his cosmopolitan worldliness and, above all, his “world-
class” standing and stature. Never mind that the Americans he hired to toot
his horn were not exactly, or no longer, the best and the brightest.17
For a man obsessed with looking good before an admiring public, Marcos
would have found the damage inﬂicted by the scandal on his carefully
crafted public image and persona the most bitter pill to swallow. Rotea
(1984, 2) exaggerated in stating that the scandal “dwarf[ed] even the Nixon
Watergate and Profumo affair.” But the scandal did whip away the cloak of
invincibility that Marcos had carefully draped around himself. Not content
to be a bar “topnotcher,” he had to be a war hero, and, not only a war hero,
but the most decorated war hero, the Audie Murphy of the Philippines. His
sterling war record would later be exposed as fraudulent and the existence of
the guerrilla unit Maharlika challenged (McCoy 1999, 167–70).
The Marcos mythology, including the Marcos romance, rested on
“manufactured” pasts (Rafael 2000, 127).18 The scandal exposed the Marcos
marriage as a “sham” (palabas) of an “ideal marriage” (Ellison 1988, 104).
Speaking of Imelda to a newspaper in 1969, Ferdinand had waxed poetic:
“Each man has an ideal who embodies all of the graces in form, in mind
and in spirit. It is not often given to a man to ﬁnd that ideal . . . but I have
had that fortune. How can I look for anything more?” (ibid., 111). Much
has been written—including Imelda’s own account (see, e.g., Joaquin
1979, 23–24)—about Ferdinand playing Pygmalion to Imelda’s Galatea.
Imelda famously underwent a difﬁcult tutelage (which included a nervous
breakdown) “in the game named politics” (Pedrosa 1969/1986, 189) that
turned her from a “very simple, very unaffected” (ibid., 193, quoting Connie
Manahan) “homebody” (ibid., 190) into a seasoned campaigner (ibid., 200)
and consummate politician’s wife and later First Lady.
Moviegoers who have seen Iginuhit ng Tadhana (1965) remember the
scene in which the playboy Ferdinand (played by Luis Gonzalez) reassures
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 615
his worried mother Josefa (Rosa Mia) with these words: “Don’t worry,
Mother. When I ﬁnd the woman I’ll marry, I swear to you that I will neither
look nor glance at any other women” (Huwag kang mag-alala, Inay. Sa oras
na matagpuan ko ang babaeng aking pakakasalan, ipinangangako ko sa
inyo, ni tingin o sulyap sa ibang babae, hindi). Ferdinand adds: “Yes, I will
be a good husband and model father of the house” (Oo, ako ay magiging
mabuting asawa at ulirang ama ng tahanan). The Dovie Beams scandal
brutally underscores the fact that even marriage to the “ideal” Imelda, with
her beauty and illustrious family name, poses no obstruction to Ferdinand’s
Conjuring the Conjugal Dictatorship
The Dovie Beams affair immortalized in Rotea’s Marcos’ Lovey Dovie would
leave one more important legacy. Other than the fact that its narrative
account of the affair helped expose the “moral bankruptcy and criminal
nature of the Marcos Presidency” and keep alive the opposition against the
Marcos regime, the Rotea (1984, 1) bomba was also arguably instrumental
in establishing and disseminating an inﬂuential thesis about the evolution of
the marital and political dynamics between the First Couple and the impact
of these dynamics on Philippine history and politics.
In fact, Rotea’s (ibid.) argument—that the “true story of American
actress Dovie Beams of Beverly Hills, California, . . . not only reveals what
kind of leader Ferdinand E. Marcos is, but also heralds the rise of his wife
Imelda from ceremonial First Lady to a conjugal tyrant reminiscent of Evita
Peron of Argentina”—would be taken up and embellished by journalists,
biographers, analysts, and pundits writing in the wake of the 1986 People
Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime.
Stanley Karnow (1989, 379) quotes a Marcos friend as saying this about
the consequences of the Dovie Beam scandal: “It was a turning point. . . .
He could no longer control her, and she went crazy with power and greed.”
Other accounts have sought to provide more nuance.
Carmen Pedrosa (1987) offers this telling snapshot that hints at Imelda’s
feelings about the affair: among the things left behind in Imelda’s bedroom in
Malacañang after the People Power Revolution was a dossier on Dovie Beams
in which nude photos of Beams had been “furiously scribbled over with a
pen” (ibid., 124). Pedrosa (ibid.) quotes “insiders” as saying that “Imelda had
caught him philandering, and that weakened his hold over her”:
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
Marcos had been cast as a bumbling Casanova, with his lovemaking
allegedly taped by a mere second-rate American actress, who claimed
she had indubitable proof that her lover, “Fred,” was none other than
the President of the Philippines. To Imelda, who had so carefully
nurtured the image of a perfect marriage—and her image of Marcos
as a superhero—his public humiliation was unforgivable. Marcos
squandered his side of the partnership and now the scales of power
tipped in Imelda’s favor.
Henceforth, the Marcoses ruled separate but equal empires even
as they continued to appear devoted to one another in public. The
fallout from the Dovie Beams affair gave Imelda the leverage to
acquire more power.
Katherine Ellison’s (1988, 111–12) account stresses not just the
personality changes in Imelda following the Dovie Beams scandal, but,
equally important, the gifts and concessions that Imelda was able to obtain
from Marcos as a form of apology or compensation (or, as the Germans call
it, Drachenfutter, literally “dragon feed”) for his relentless womanizing:
Imelda had been changing ever since she learned of Dovie Beams. In
the years leading up to the affair, she was known for her impulsive
warmth and generosity, consoling friends when relatives died and
giving loans when they were broke. “But she got harder and harder,”
said her priest. “Her personality couldn’t seem to handle it: She had
held onto this fairytale vision of romance, this life-long dream of hers,
and now it seemed she had decided to trade in that dream for another.”
The other dream was power. Imelda soon learned to make the most of
her husband’s continuing indiscretions, winning speciﬁc concessions
of money or new privileges almost every time she managed to
catch Marcos “outside the mosquito net,” as Filipinos called it. “It
appears clear that whenever she went abroad, his movements were
documented,” said Francisco Tatad, then the palace press director, in
a 1987 interview. On her return, Imelda would produce photographs
or detailed accounts of Marcos’s transgressions, and then ﬂy off to
Leyte in a rage, refusing to return until her husband proposed a peace
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 6 17
offering. It was in this way, said Tatad, that Imelda earned her two
most important appointments, governor of Metro Manila and minister
of Human Settlements.
Ellison (ibid., 108) would also state that among Marcos’s most famous
love (and peace) offerings to Imelda was the US$21.9 million San Juanico
Bridge, which connected Samar island to Leyte province, her hometown.
Ellison’s point about political and economic concessions and privileges
is echoed in a number of other works on the Marcoses. Sterling Seagrave
(1988) claims that “Imelda would extract a heavy price from Ferdinand for
his philandering—from shares in gold mines to unbridled political power”
(ibid., 227), including control over the Benguet gold and copper mines
Unlike their counterparts in journalism, Philippinist scholars have been
more circumspect in claiming the explanatory power of the Dovie Beams
affair. Paul Hutchcroft (1991, 436–37) quotes David Wurfel’s (1988, 241)
observation that the relationship between Imelda and Ferdinand was one
of “mutual blackmail,” “a curious mixture of collaboration and conﬂict.
Malacañang insiders often described it as a standoff between two warring
camps, in which the battlegrounds were appointments, government contracts,
investment opportunities, media treatment, and priority in the allocation of
funds.” But Hutchcroft offers no deﬁnitive take on the origins of Imelda’s
appointment as minister of Human Settlements; governor of Metro Manila;
chair of the National Housing Corporation, National Home Mortgage
Corporation, National Pollution Control Commission, and Rural Waterworks
Development Corporation; and head of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New
Society Movement, KBL) Ladies (Roces 2000, 46–47). He merely observes in
a footnote that “Whatever the precise origins of her power, there is no question
that at some point after 1972 she was able to establish a relatively autonomous
power base within the regime. In Weber’s words, the ‘boundaries’ of her ofﬁcial
positions were ‘frequently indeterminate,’ and the positions themselves were
treated ‘as a personal right’” (Hutchcroft 1991, 436).
Closer to home, an insider-observer such as Imelda’s niece Beatriz
Romualdez Francia (1988, 32) conﬁrms the “harder edge” around Imelda’s
character, but dates this change back to the “new person” she became
and the “façade of urban sophistication” she acquired after her nervous
breakdown in the early years of her marriage to Marcos. Becoming more
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
“regal” (ibid., 35), “[f]or a few years, Imelda did peak and achieve a kind of
perfection. Between 1969 and ’73, Imelda was at her magniﬁcent velvety
best. She was fabulous but still had a kind of softness about her. But by 1974
onwards, Imelda by degrees began to show an onerousness in her appetite
for attention, power, and luxury” (ibid., 28). In Francia’s account Imelda’s
appetite for “attention, power and luxury” would not become pronounced
until 1974, long after the Dovie Beams scandal.
Primitivo Mijares (1986) devotes the requisite pages to the Dovie Beams
affair, but his account is as interesting as Francia’s because it does not single
out the scandal as a turning point in the relationship between Ferdinand
and Imelda. Rather, he suggests a more generalized pattern of Imelda—or
her relatives, particularly younger brother Benjamin, nicknamed “Kokoy”—
gaining or else extracting concessions from Marcos following bouts of two-
timing (much more than two, in this case).
Mijares (ibid., 215) says he “learned from Juan Ponce Enrile that one of
the tried and tested tactics being employed by the brothers and sisters of Mrs.
Marcos was to get the president to ‘make them presents,’ granting concessions
or yield in violation of established policies on certain contracts involving
multi-million peso deals.” Mijares (ibid.) goes on to explain the ploy:
The brothers and sisters of Imelda (Kokoy, Alfredo, Franciping, Alita,
Mrs. Edon Yap, et al) have their own corps of spies which has only one
mission: to spy on Dictator Marcos to ﬁnd out which woman he had
taken, or plans to take, to bed. If any of them makes such a discovery,
the matter is usually not immediately reported to the First Lady. The
bearer of the “bad news” usually waits for such time as when he or
she had a fat government deal which only the President can approve
or disapprove. After breaking the “bad news” to the First Lady, the
particular spying brother or sister—Kokoy is topnotch among them on
such projects—asks Mrs. Marcos for the favor of having the President
approve the deal in mind as quid pro quo for the vital piece of information
furnished the scorned queen of the Palace by the Pasig. The First
Lady then raises hell with the dictator for his latest act of inﬁdelity,
and demands that appropriate propitiation be made. In addition, would
the president kindly favor a “neglected” brother or sister with the
approval of this particular government contract? A cornered president
then reluctantly makes his peace offering, and to get her off his back
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 619
and to cut off her nagging, yields to her importunings in favor of the
brother or sister. One such concession could be permission for her to
make another trip abroad to visit some potentate in the Middle East or
to New York to cavort with her jet-set crowds and display her multi-
million dollar jewelry collection.19
Mijares (ibid.) adds that he was able to verify this “particular situation of
‘terrorism’” not just with Enrile, but also with Tatad (one of the major
informants of the post-EDSA books that discuss the Dovie Beams affair),
Immigration Commissioner Reyes, and Airport Manager Luis Tabuena.
Nor did Imelda’s bid for power sit so easily with Marcos, as it
“challenged the chauvinism in Marcos” (ibid., 90), and Mijares records a
particularly violent quarrel between the First Couple on this very issue on
board the presidential yacht in June 1972. Mijares (ibid., 103) even raises the
possibility that Marcos might consider divorcing Imelda: “The installation of
a new First Lady in Malacañang, whether Imelda is still alive or not, is not
inconceivable at all. After making that cowardly decision to impose martial
law, Marcos will no longer surprise anybody, if he does away with Imelda—
perhaps, in the dead of the night.”
More, the brouhaha over the Dovie Beams affair did not prevent
Marcos’s eye from wandering over to other women. Two months before
declaring martial law, Marcos was caught with yet another woman, and
Mijares quotes Presidential Assistant Guillermo de Vega as saying “Nahuli
na naman si boss!” (Boss has been caught at it again!) and Tatad answering
back with “The President . . . got caught by the intelligence network of
‘Puti’ again!” (“Puti” here being the code name of Marcos’s men for Kokoy
Romualdez) (ibid., 216). Imelda is supposed to have told Teodoro Valencia
to pass this message on to Marcos regarding his serial fornications: “Sabihin
mo sa sir mo, at nasabi ko na rin sa kaniya ito. Kapag-hindi siya tumigil ng
pagloloko, gagawan ko siya ng eskandalo na maluluma si Profumo” (ibid.,
264) (Tell your Sir—and I myself have told him so—that if he doesn’t stop
fooling around, I will create a scandal that puts Profumo in the shade).
The problem with the cruder renditions of the Dovie-Beams-scandal-
as-turning-point-for-Imelda thesis is that they rely on simplistic pop-
psychological, gender-inﬂected analyses of love and marriage that tend to
gloss over the complexities of a conjugal relationship. The pop-psychology
line of thinking would have women ﬁnding consolation and compensation
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
for their husbands’ chronic unfaithfulness in other obsessive pursuits,
whether sex, shopping, or, in this case, power. A variant of this narrative is
one in which a woman tolerates the affairs of—and stands by—her (faithless)
husband because she herself has political ambitions and, as payback, expects
the man to help her fulﬁll her ambitions. The generic nature of these
storylines means that one name can be easily substituted for another. Erase
“Imelda Marcos,” for example, type in “Hillary Clinton,” and the shoe still
ﬁts (Bordo 2017, 43–55), as far as critics of these women are concerned.
The point is that the dynamics of love and marriage are complex, and
people do separate from, or else stay married to, each other for any number
of reasons, despite—in some cases because of—the inﬁdelity that causes
pain and suffering in a spouse. Ellison’s (1988, 108–9) account hints at this
complexity by pointing to some sort of reconciliation between Ferdinand
and Imelda after the Dovie Beams affair, even as Ferdinand continued to
fool around with other women.
A major problem with the accounts of Imelda’s increasing clout and
inﬂuence in the Marcos government is that they rest on commonsensical
assumptions about the relationship between women and power that turn
out, upon closer examination, to rest on shaky ground. Accounts of Imelda’s
“rise” treat her career as an exception to the power that ought to accrue (or,
more important, not accrue) to women, particularly First Ladies whose
ofﬁcial statuses as presidential spouses grant them direct physical access to
democratically elected presidents but whose unelected ofﬁces impose limits
on their ability to play direct political roles in their spouses’ administrations.20
If there are attempts at all to compare Imelda with other First
Ladies, the tendency has been to lump Imelda with other “exceptional”
women in power, most notably Argentina’s Evita Perón (cf. Taylor 1979,
10–12). Indeed, the Imelda–Evita comparison—whatever the parallels
in the personal and political circumstances of these two women (a brief
comparison is made by Ellison 1988, 91 footnote)—has a long history,
with Ninoy Aquino saying, in a famous speech delivered on the Senate
ﬂoor in 1969, that “a president should not use his wife for politics. We’re
handicapped. When she’s criticized, they go saying, she’s a woman.
Woman? Baloney . . . Ferdie is hiding behind the skirts of a woman; Ferdie
uses Imelda as a shield. She is a lovely woman, but I think that if a woman
indulges in politics, then she should share in the brickbats” (cited in
Ellison 1988, 91).
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 621
And yet the achievements that made Imelda stand out as an “exception”
among First Ladies—her energetic campaigning on behalf of her husband,
her loyal Blue Ladies,21 and her roving diplomacy—are neither unique to
Imelda nor exclusive to “Dragon Ladies” of tin-pot Banana Republics or the
Third World. In his study of the possibilities and limits of Imelda Marcos’s
First Lady diplomacy, Dean Kotlowski (2016, 328) identiﬁes a similar pattern
of First Ladies engaging in a multiplicity of tasks ranging from informal ones
like “ceremonial hostess, political campaigner, presidential conﬁdante, and
independent advocate” to formal ones like “holding a government job or
initiating a policy debate.” The novelty of Kotlowski’s analysis lies in the fact
that he does not conﬁne his comparison of Imelda’s activities to those of
Perón or Soong May-ling (Madame Chiang Kai Shek), but includes as well
the activities of American First Ladies like Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter, and
Hillary Clinton (ibid.).22
The kind of “new” First Lady that Imelda embodied has her counterpart
elsewhere, most notably in America, where the role of First Lady has also
evolved beyond her formal and informal duties. Eleanor Roosevelt served
as her husband’s “trial balloon for radical ideas” and acted as Washington’s
emissary to the disadvantaged sectors (Troy 2000, 6). Both Bess Truman and
Mamie Eisenhower were popular with the voting public and important assets
to their husbands’ election campaigns,23 and their high-proﬁle appearances
were deemed crucial to their spouses’ “whistle-stop” campaigns (ibid., 2).
Lady Bird Johnson, Imelda’s near-contemporary, logged some 34,405 miles
of travel by herself and 9,433 miles of travel alongside the president before
the Democratic Party convention (ibid., 140). Like Imelda, Lady Bird—the
ﬁrst American First Lady to make an ofﬁcial solo trip abroad to represent
her husband at the state funeral of the king of Greece (Anthony 1991,
116)—was hailed as a “political asset for the campaign that is unique in
presidential history” (Troy 2000, 141). Like Imelda, she was seen as a new
“secret weapon” and was aided in her campaigning by her own Southern
band of Blue Ladies (ibid., 142). And like Imelda, one of her major projects
as First Lady was to chair the Committee for a More Beautiful Capitol and
oversee the beautiﬁcation of Washington, DC (ibid., 153–54).
Pat Nixon and Rosalynn Carter’s tenures were no less signiﬁcant. Nixon
was the ﬁrst US First Lady to undertake a foreign mission, traveling to Peru
in June 1970 (ibid., 188); embarking on a solo tour in August 1971 (ibid.,
194); and visiting Liberia, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast in January 1972 (ibid.,
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
195). Carter, the ﬁrst to have her own ofﬁce (in the East Wing) at the White
House (Brower 2016, 224), attended Cabinet meetings and was sent to Latin
America to engage in “substantial bilateral meetings” with the heads of state
and diplomats (Troy 2000, 254–55). On her ﬁrst year alone, Carter visited
eighteen countries and twenty-seven US cities, made ﬁfteen major speeches,
and held twenty-two press conferences (Brower 2016, 226). She also played a
prominent role in brokering (and taking notes at) the Camp David meeting
between Egypt’s Anwar Al-Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin that resulted
in the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Peace Treaty between Egypt and
Israel (Troy 2000, 264).
Women with this much access to and inﬂuence over their spouses are
invariably taken to task for their “arrogance” and other so-called attitude
problems. Imelda was not spared the usual opprobrium. In the heat of
the election campaign in 1965, opponents of Marcos capitalized on the
ambivalence aroused by Imelda’s visibility as political wife and active
campaigning by waging their own smear campaign against her, grafting a
photograph of Imelda’s head onto that of a woman’s naked body and passing
off the result as Imelda “in the nude” (Pedrosa 1969/1986, 219). In other
words, the smear campaign turned Imelda into yet another bomba (or what
Filipinos would later call “bold”) star, someone no better than the viliﬁed
“Dovie Boehms” of Marcos’s creation.
In her essay on American women in foreign policy, Joan Hoff-Wilson
(1992, 184) makes this trenchant observation:
Almost every woman was held to a double standard when she tried to
operate inside the “old boy” network or outside of it as a critic. In all
instances these women faced the possibility of being singled out for
behavior unbecoming women, but not men, in carrying out their foreign
policy jobs, and for acting or talking outside their areas of expertise.
Being held to such a double standard led to criticisms of amateurism
or abrasiveness, which would not have been applied to men holding
similar positions or participating in peace and antiwar movements.
The point is neither to excuse nor rationalize the bad behavior of women
(whether Dovie or Imelda), but to underscore the fact that, when women
behave no differently from men, they are more likely to be singled out and
berated for being difﬁcult or “arrogant.”24
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 623
The turning point for Imelda’s “rise” to power is arguably not the Dovie
Beams scandal, but the declaration of martial law and the dictatorship that
Marcos established in the Philippines. It is one thing to be the wife of an
elected president, living in a country whose politicians are corrupt and
enrich themselves at public expense,25 but with a free press that can criticize
the president’s (and his wife’s) policies and actions and a body of elected
ofﬁcials to vet or else block the president’s decisions. It is another thing to be
the wife of a dictator unconstrained by any institutional checks and balances,
capable of putting rivals and enemies behind bars and stripping them of their
assets, commanding an army to arrest anybody given the suspension of the
writ of habeas corpus, and helping himself to the nation’s funds and taking
over various industries and turning them into personal expense accounts for
himself, his wife and relatives, and his cronies and political allies.
Any number of explanations can be offered to account for Imelda’s
growing clout in the martial law government, but the most important is
regime maintenance, the desire of Marcos to keep himself, his closest kin,
and his most trusted people in power for as long as he could. Ferdinand’s
deteriorating health, the knowledge that his children were neither old nor
experienced enough to “inherit” his position, the suspicion shared by all
dictators that their lieutenants—especially those with strong connections to
the military such as Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor Jr. and Minister
of Defense Enrile (Timberman 1991, 107, 117; and Enrile’s [2012, 474–77]
own account of his estrangement )—were conspiring to build their own
power bases and ultimately dislodge the dictator in a coup d’état: all of these
would have had salience in determining (as well as upsetting) the “balance
of favor” (Hau 2017, 214) through which Marcos managed his dictatorship.
Imelda metamorphosed into the “Steel Butterﬂy” (Ellison 1988) because
she could do so and did so from 1972 onwards: there would be no institutional
mechanism to hold her decisions and actions to public accountability, and
there would be no one, not even an increasingly debilitated Ferdinand, to
stop her from doing what she wanted.
The Dovie Beams scandal did not create the “monster” that we now
call Imelda. The American colonizers relied on scandal as an instrument to
regulate Philippine politicians’ behavior and colonial politics generally. In
the postwar period, scandal was a potent instrument in fueling the internecine
struggles among politicians and the growing criticism and militancy of
activists, organizations, and sections of civil society. It was martial law that
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
effectively cemented the absolute power of the Marcoses, quelling dissent
(through censorship, imprisonment, torture, and “salvagings”26), dismantling
the institutional checks and balances that had hitherto served to constrain
the executive power of the president and render it accountable to the public,
and ultimately greasing Imelda Marcos’s ascent to the commanding heights
of government in partnership with her increasingly ailing, codependent
The Dovie Beams affair is instructive in exposing the role that sex and
scandal have long played in shaping Philippine politics in the postwar and
martial law periods. Scandalous politics has a lineage stretching back to the
American colonial era, when American ofﬁcials used the intelligence arm
of the Philippine Constabulary to collect scurrilous information (including
rumors and gossip) on Filipino politicians’ private lives, selectively wielding
this information to regulate politicians’ behavior on the public stage in
particular and to police colonial politics in general. In the postwar period,
the expansion of mass media and the highly contentious nature of electoral
democracy have enabled largely the politics of scandal. An affair between an
American B-movie actress and a Philippine president becomes a Benguet
mine of opportunities for various key players: cronies exploit the secrecy of
the affair to cement, even exploit, their close ties to the president for their
own gain; political opponents play up the affair to weaken their incumbent
rival; and activists and ordinary people incorporate it into their growing
criticism of the president, the government, and the dismal state of Philippine
politics, economy, society, and culture.
Perhaps the most crucial consequence of the scandal has been its use as
a literary device by journalists and academics to account for the increasing
power of Imelda Marcos as First Lady and the “conjugal dictatorship” that
was forged in the wake of the declaration of martial law. These accounts have
conferred explanatory power on an event that is more opaque and nuanced
than is popularly supposed.
Beams would have had a number of motives for lobbing her bomba:
pique and revenge against a lover who discarded her and a lover’s wife who
hounded her; fear for her life after being manhandled by agents of the state;
money that was owed to her (by contract and by her own calculation of
what she was entitled to); and free publicity that enabled her to parlay her
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 625
notoriety into a string of minor roles in B-ﬁlms in the 1970s, interviews in
the wake of the fall of the Marcoses in 1986, and a career in real estate
that ended in bankruptcy and conviction for fraud (homemade sex videos
in our time can make celebrities and moneymakers out of nobodies like
the Kardashians). The scandal provoked by her revelation of her affair
with President Marcos is now part of Philippine historical and collective
memory. It also gave ammunition to various opposition groups (ranging
from oligarchs to student activists) for their criticisms of, and actions
against, the Marcos government throughout “the long 1970s” (to use
Vicente Rafael’s  term).
As sociopolitical pornography, the affair tarnished the image of the
Marcoses as individuals and as a couple whose presumed sexual excesses
and psychopathologies served as symptoms of their ethico-political and
moral failings. More, in postmortem accounts of the long 1970s, the affair
was made to ﬁt into a narrative charting the ascendancy of Imelda Marcos
and the conjugal dictatorship that proved so disastrous for the Philippines.
Although Beams’s alleged affair with Marcos lasted less than two years,
its fallout has been a long-drawn process, part of several news cycles across
decades. The explosive details of the Rotea book, which many consider the
deﬁnitive account, is a strangely unsatisfying climax. Beams’s consequent
disavowal of the book has left the issue dangling (the Filipino word bitin is
an apt expression) and begging to be retold over and over.
Beams’s penchant for telling tall tales and lying (see, for example,
the inconsistencies, discrepancies, and unveriﬁed claims noted by Ramos-
De Leon 1986, 38–39, 42–43)27 and history of mismanaging ﬁnances
ﬁnd their sad parallel—albeit of far larger magnitude, scope, and tragic
consequences—in her former lover Ferdinand Marcos’s own proclivity
for fabulation and mendacity and history of mismanaging the politics and
economy of the Philippines.
The Marcoses may have thought themselves smarter than others. Dovie
Beams, knowing she would need to offer proof other than her own words, had
taken pains to ﬁx the evidence of the affair in durable media like the cassette
tape, even though she could not have foreseen the great lengths to which
Marcos would go to cover up his affair by getting someone else (Cueto) to
admit to being “Fred” and trying to convince the public that Beams’s story
was not to be taken seriously because she was mentally unstable, greedy,
licentious, and a bad mother.
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
Dovie Beams outlived the news of her demise in the 1990s (Hamilton-
Paterson 1998, 265), dying on 30 December 2017. Like Ferdinand Marcos,
Dovie Beams has become a kind of ghost, haunting the narratives of our
recent past and eluding all attempts at exorcism and closure. So, too, has
Imelda, even though she is still alive.28
Changing sexual and political mores have made the Dovie Beams affair
and Marcos’s ham-ﬁsted efforts to silence his mistress in order to retain a
modicum of middle-class decorum and respectability seem quaint, even old-
fashioned. Presidents like Joseph Estrada and Rodrigo Duterte not only ﬂaunt
their inﬁdelity and mistresses, but their open display of male virility, like
their use of folksy, earthy language, helps burnish their popular appeal and
their “populist” (supposedly anti-elite, even as they are arguably members of
the Filipino elite themselves) credentials (Mudde and Kaltwasser 2017, 64).
Women, however, continue to ﬁnd that what is good for the gander is not
good for the goose, as slut-shaming remains in the arsenal for creating and
containing scandal. Recently, allies of Duterte have weaponized allegations
of a sexual relationship between Sen. Leila de Lima and her bodyguard in
order to discredit one of his staunchest critics (Santos 2017).
Rather than downgrade the importance of the personal, the private, and
the intimate in politics, we would be better served if we examine closely
their bearing on how politics is conceived, delimited, and played out in real
life. There is nothing speciﬁcally Filipino or Banana Republic about such
things as nepotism, cronyism, pettifogging, and misogyny: just look at US
Pres. Donald Trump.29 Politics is always personal and can often get deeply
personal. Perhaps the only sure thing that can be said about the scandal
is that, in falling “in love” with Dovie Beams and playing with ﬁre (the
Filipino phrase “naglalaro ng apoy” packs more punch), Ferdinand Marcos
had ﬁnally met his match.
This article is based on the paper presented at the plenary panel of “Bridging Worlds, Illumining
the Archive: An International Conference in Honor of Resil B. Mojares” organized by Philippine
Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, Ateneo de Manila University, and Southeast
Asian Studies, Kyoto University, and held on 30–31 July 2018 at Novotel Manila Araneta Center,
Quezon City. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments,
and Jojo Abinales, Jun Aguilar, Leloy Claudio, Ambeth Ocampo, Bliss Cua Lim, Vince Rafael,
Michael Pante and the staff of Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, and,
of course, Resil Mojares and Takashi Shiraishi, for their insights, friendship, and encouragement.
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 627
Dovie Leona Osborne was born in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, on August . A former piano
teacher, she had minor roles in B- and C-ﬁlms like Wild Wheels (), Guns of a Stranger (),
and The Kentucky Fried Movie (). She married Edward Boehms and had a daughter by him.
Boehms sued for divorce in . After Maharlika, she operated a real estate agency in California
and married Sergio Villagran, who would be sentenced to ﬁve years in prison for his part in
defrauding banks of US$ million.
In Rotea’s (, ) cheesy prose, Marcos at ﬁrst “could not have an erection”; by contrast,
Beams, who “had not made love in a long time” (ibid., ), “unbelievably came” and “screamed with
joy” (ibid., ). Marcos had a hard time believing that Beams “came” (ibid.). Subsequent sessions
apparently proved more successful, as “both came like crazy” (ibid., ).
Marcos’s desire to have more sons is documented in his diary (see the entries cited in Rempel
Over the years, Beams would make other claims: that the marriage between Ferdinand and Imelda
was no marriage, but a mere political partnership (Pedrosa , ); that Marcos had boasted
that he was going to beat Sergio Osmeña Jr. in the presidential election by two million votes
in Cebu and was upset that he had lost the election and had to “adjust” the ballots in order to
declare himself winner (Ramos-De Leon , ); and that Marcos told her in April that he
was planning to declare martial law (ibid.).
A rough cut of the ﬁlm was released in Guam, but Maharlika was banned in the Philippines.
Marcos had sought to reorient Philippine foreign policy by strengthening diplomatic relations with
Russia and other communist countries. Sensitive to nationalist opinion back home and aware of
the need to burnish his own nationalist credentials, Marcos had also opted to “renegotiate” the
agreements between the Philippines and the US, declaring that the Philippines would no longer
allow itself to be treated as America’s “small brother” (cited in Kotlowski , ) and, during
his visit to the US in , spoke to Nixon and other senior ofﬁcials about “adopt[ing] a stance
of independence” while remaining “close to the U.S.” (ibid., ). The language of Philippines–
US relations under Marcos and Nixon shifted from one of “special relations” to that of “mutual
accommodation” and “common interests” (ibid., ). This stance, of course, did not stop
progressive groups from calling Marcos a “running dog” (tuta) of the US and characterizing the
Philippines–US relations as a neocolonial partnership.
I thank Ambeth Ocampo for kindly sharing with me by an email dated Feb. the texts of the
Marcos diary entries, in particular those of Oct. , Mar. , and Apr. .
See the excellent discussions by Rafael and Espiritu , –.
According to Teodoro F. Valencia (cited in De Manila , ), who had served on the Board of
Censors just after the Second World War, “[t]he bomba business . . . dates back to . They
were showing bombas already, especially in the provinces. Striptease and outright French movies.
We were going after them and persecuting them. And the problem of cuts being restored by
exhibitors—that is old hat, too. It has been going on since . And criticism of the board as well.”
The word “bomba” (Italian and Spanish bomba, “bombshell”; from the Latin bombus for “dull,
heavy noise” and Greek bombos for “echoic, booming, humming”) had acquired the meaning of
“shattering, devastating thing or event” by and began to be used to refer to beautiful women
“of startling vitality and physique, especially blonde” in (Online Etymology Dictionary ).
The prototype of the “blonde bombshell” was platinum-haired and curvaceous Jean Harlow,
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
who appeared in the ﬁlm “Bombshell” in and whose image and career inspired another sex
symbol, Marilyn Monroe (Spoto , ; on Monroe as “bombshell,” cf. Smith , –).
Gregg Jones (, –) alleges that the bombing was planned by the Communist Party of the
Philippines’ Jose Maria Sison, who has denied his involvement.
“Your move, Lover Boy” (Garcellano c, ) was the concluding sentence of journalist Rosario
Garcellano’s three-part article on Dovie Beams’s response to the smear campaign by Republic
Weekly. Laughter is celebrated in feminism. The French feminist Hélène Cixous () uses the
ﬁgure of Medusa to analyze the relationship between women, laughter, and revolution (a tribute to
the important role of women in the French Revolution [Godineau ]). The fear of Medusa that
is rooted in male anxieties about the female genitalia and power of speech (vagina dentata) is a
recurrent symbol in counterrevolutionary rhetoric. Laughter can also be an assertion of freedom
that is mindful of risk, as highlighted by distinguished Filipina feminist Sylvia Estrada Claudio (,
–) in her book on counseling abused women, which she has entitled And Then She Laughed.
The ﬁrst and third “facts” are undermined by Carmen Pedrosa’s (/) biography of Imelda,
which functioned as an exposé of the ﬁnancial and marital troubles that dogged Imelda’s immediate
family and the subsequent protest that Imelda and her supporters lodged against the Miss Manila
contest that led Manila mayor Arsenio Lacson to designate Imelda as “Muse of Manila.” Moreover,
according to Mijares (, ), Marcos had dangled before Beams the prospect of becoming
First Lady in place of Imelda, “who was becoming fat and obese, and an old wag.”
Cueto called himself a businessman, but was better known as a professional thug who ran his own
protection racket. He had tried to sit beside Beams and chat her up on the ﬂight out of Manila and
had evidently followed her to Hong Kong. Rumored to be Marcos’s half-brother, he was killed in a
shootout at a Makati hotel two years after the Dovie Beams affair (Rempel , ).
US Ambassador to the Philippines Henry Byroade was quoted as saying of Marcos that “He didn’t
have any vices at all, except for women. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink. But he liked American
blondes” (Ellison , ). As noted earlier, in the “audition” for the female lead in Maharlika,
Marcos chose a brunette over a blonde.
See, e.g., Hamilton-Paterson’s (, ) argument in favor of the “emotional seriousness” of
Marcos’s affair with Beams.
In her biography of Imelda Marcos, Kerima Polotan (, ) lists the criticisms levelled at
the Spence biography by critics, who complained that Marcos was “praised not for being a ‘good
Filipino,’ but for being ‘almost like an American.’” As for Spence, he was dismissed as an “‘American
nobody in the Philippines had heard of, a writer of B-movie scripts, with a heavy-going style, turgid
and atrocious’” (ibid., italics added).
Paul Burke, the actor who played Marcos in Maharlika, was a television star who appeared in the
critically panned but commercially successful Valley of the Dolls () and also had a secondary
role in The Thomas Crown Affair (), but had had trouble landing another starring role in a hit
TV series of his own after the mid-s. The other star, Farley Granger, had made a splash early
in his career, when he appeared in two Alfred Hitchcock ﬁlms (The Rope  and Strangers on
a Train ), and had some success in Broadway later on, but was never considered a major
Cf. Espiritu’s (, –) discussion of the “Marcos romance” and its impact on the creation of
the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
HAU / DOV IE BEAMS AND PHILIPPINE POLITICS 629
In the US Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s well-known extravagance and shopping sprees had
created tension in her marriages to John F. Kennedy (who had been involved in a potentially
scandalous affair with a woman who was also the mistress of a Maﬁa boss) and billionaire Aristotle
Onassis (Adler and King , ). The difference between Jackie and Imelda lies in Ferdinand’s
capacity to enrich himself (and indulge his wife and his family) while in ofﬁce and the scale of this
There have been laudable attempts to rethink the premises of women’s relationship to power.
See, e.g., Mina Roces’s (, ) argument about the need to expand the deﬁnition of “power” by
deconstructing the binary between ofﬁcial and unofﬁcial power and recognizing women as “vital
political agents” whether or not they hold political ofﬁce.
The Liberal Party’s standard bearer in , Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, relied as well on wife Eva’s
cohort of female supporters, collectively called “Lakambini .”
Dean Kotlowski’s (, ) account, however, uncritically takes the Dovie Beams turning-point
thesis for granted: “For example, Imelda’s visit to the United States was a side excursion
from a trip to England, where she had gone to see her son settled in boarding school. That same
visit was prologue to public revelations of her husband’s affair with an actress. Nevertheless,
Imelda used that tragedy to her own advantage by subsequently expanding her overseas travel
and meeting Nixon in .”
Dwight Eisenhower considered Mamie “the best vote-getter in the family” during the election
campaign, and the women’s Division of Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon was able to take advantage
of Mamie’s popularity to argue for a bigger role for women in the campaign (Troy , ).
Kotlowski (, , italics added), for example, quotes the same passage from Hoff-Wilson
(, ), only to adopt the same stance Hoff-Wilson criticizes when he makes the pointed
observation that Imelda’s “diplomatic forays lifted Imelda’s standing in the Philippines and paved
the way for her to make ofﬁcial visits to other nations, gain government positions during the
Marcos dictatorship, and grow arrogant as she pursued a ‘Jet Set’ lifestyle.” Entire books have
been written about Richard Nixon’s arrogant behavior (see, e.g., Buchanan ), but nowhere in
the essay does Kotlowski make any reference to Nixon’s personality, problematic and otherwise.
The same kind of grating arrogance that is denigrated in a woman is excused, even admired and
celebrated, in a man (for what would Harlequin romances be without their arrogant men?).
A former crony of Marcos has been quoted as saying: “As far back as the s, when Marcos was
a congressman, he was known as a percenter. Business people wanting favors turned over
percent of their shares to him—and they got their favors” (Seagrave , ).
“Salvaging” refers to summary or extrajudicial killings (EJK), as they are now popularly known.
Among the claims Beams made over the years were her modeling for Salvador Dali (“I’m in a
lot of his paintings”) and her friendship with Hollywood producer Bob Evans (Gomez ,
). After the People Power Revolution in February , Beams was interviewed about her
connection to Marcos. She told a reporter that she had taken “political documents . . . from the
presidential palace” (Hastings ), which she intended to use for her autobiography, and that
she had knowledge of “political assassinations carried out by the Marcos regime” (ibid.). She also
denied proﬁting from ill-gotten Marcos money, saying that she “worked very hard” at her real
estate dealings, the landholdings of which were estimated at US$. million (ibid.). At that time,
Beams—then married to a nightclub owner named Sergio de Villagran—was petitioning a federal
PSHE V 67, NOS. 3– 4 (2019)
bankruptcy court for permission to reorganize payment of debts amounting to US$ million
(Mathews ; Murphy ). Barely a year later, in December , Beams was sentenced to
eight years in prison for defrauding a number of banks of a total of US$ million in real estate
loans (Murphy ). Her lawyer attempted to put up an insanity defense, arguing that the actress,
who claimed to have been diagnosed with AIDS, was mentally impaired from an arterial blockage
caused by the virus. He also unearthed and presented—no surprise here—a physician’s report from
thirty years ago, similar to if not the one used by Republic Weekly in to take down Dovie, that
had diagnosed Beams as “borderline psychotic” (ibid.). The judge promptly threw out the insanity
defense, saying there “is no substantial evidence to this day of a serious psychiatric problem”
(ibid.). The federal prosecutor also presented a document indicating that the results of Beams’s
AIDS test was negative (ibid.).
I thank Vince Rafael for this insight.
Contrary to being an exception to the rule, the US provides ample and rich illustration of the
intrinsically personalistic nature of politics. American Speaker of the House of Representatives
Newt Gingrich, outraged at not being invited by Pres. William Clinton to the front of the airplane
for budget-crisis talks during a twenty-ﬁve-hour ﬂight for the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin and even more “insulted” and “appalled” at being asked to disembark off the back
of the plane when it landed back in Washington, proceeded to get Republican-controlled Congress
and Senate to pass a stopgap funding bill that Clinton had vetoed. Interviewed about his actions
afterwards, Gingrich referred to the incidents on the plane and said: “I think it’s part of why you
ended up with us sending down a tougher . . . resolution. It’s petty, . . . but I think it’s human”
(Baer ). Another case in point: Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver was skillful in integrating
the horoscopes cast by Nancy Reagan’s favorite astrologer into Pres. Ronald Reagan’s schedule
(Regan , ). The astrologer stated that January was a “bad month” for the president to
deliver the State of the Union Address (ibid., ) and that the president should not deliver his
speech on the ﬁndings of the Iran–Contra report and hold a press conference on March ,
suggesting instead that and March (the date of the Reagans’ wedding anniversary) were “good”
(ibid., ). The president delivered his speech on March.
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Caroline S. Hau is professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 46
Shimoadachi-cho, Yoshida, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan. Her most recent books are Elites
and Ilustrados in Philippine Culture and Interpreting Rizal, both published by the Ateneo de Manila
University Press. <firstname.lastname@example.org>