BATAC, Philippines — Former first lady Imelda Marcos, bedecked in jade and diamonds, began a grueling campaign for a congressional seat Friday that she hopes will allow her to bury her ousted strongman husband in a heroes' cemetery and clear his sullied name.
Marcos, 80, and nearly 18,000 other politicians barnstormed the impoverished Southeast Asian nation on the first official day of campaigning for May 10 local elections.
Emerging from more than a decade of political obscurity, Marcos strode back into the scene with a vengeance.
Her hair coifed back and wearing a bright orange tunic with jade and diamond jewelry, she led journalists at daybreak to the mausoleum of her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, in Ilocos Norte province, his northern stronghold.
She went to church and then rode on a flatbed campaign truck festooned with balloons and posters as thousands cheered her along the way. She was flanked by her daughter Imee, who is running for governor in Ilocos Norte, a tobacco-growing region about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Manila.
Her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is seeking a Senate seat.
Asked if she will push her long-standing campaign to have her husband buried in the national heroes' cemetery in Manila if she wins, Marcos replied, "Of course."
His burial there has been opposed by officials amid public outrage after Marcos — accused of corruption, political repression and widespread human rights abuses — was ousted in a 1986 "people power" revolt and died in exile in Hawaii three years later. Imelda Marcos and their three children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991.
"My ambition is to serve without end and to love without end," Marcos said in a news conference in a hotel discotheque before her long convoy hit the road under a broiling sun.
Despite her reputation for extravagance, including shopping trips to the world's poshest boutiques and lavish beautification projects in a nation wracked by poverty, she retained supporters and even won a congressional seat in 1995. She ran unsuccessfully for president in 1992 and again in 1998.
Marcos is running for a congressional seat in Ilocos Norte under her husband's political party, the New Society Movement, which has weakened considerably since his death. In Ilocos Norte, a laid-back province of 390,000 where the late strongman built a network of fine roads, an international airport and seaports, the Marcoses are adored.
Clearing the family name remains an obsession, Marcos said. (AP)