Over 200 people were hospitalized in the Philippines on Tuesday at the 90th birthday party of Imelda Marcos, the wife of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with what authorities suspect was a case of severe food poisoning.
Hospitals and emergency rooms in the Pasig neighborhood of the capital Manila were reportedly inundated with patients who attended the celebration, all of whom showed signs of suspected food poisoning.
According to the Pasig City disaster risk reduction and management council, at least 231 people were treated for symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, with that number expected to rise. The country’s Red Cross were deployed to help those affected by the incident.
The birthday celebration took place at a nearby sports center and was attended by approximately 2,500 people, many of whom were Imelda Marcos’ friends, family, and supporters.
Local police chief Richard Pua said guests had eaten adobo, a traditional Filipino dish featuring potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. It is still unclear what the source of food poisoning was, although Marcos’ chief of staff confirmed she was not experiencing symptoms like many of her guests.
Marcos’s daughter and incoming senator Imee Marcos reportedly told guests at the party, “The food may have been spoiled, but we remain solid. Let’s just take care of those who are in the hospital and expect that we will visit each one of them.”
Imelda Marcos’ son Ferdinand, Jr., also offered a statement to “offer my apologies and ask for your understanding … Rest assured that we will continue to help until everyone is fully healed,” he added.
The 90-year-old former First Lady remains a divisive figure in Filipino politics, having been intimately associated with the military dictatorship led by her husband Ferdinand, who died in 1989.
Imelda herself gained notoriety for her lavish lifestyle at a time of economic crisis and civil unrest, spending millions of public funds on extravagant parties and shopping sprees, including buying over 1,000 pairs of luxury shoes.
She and her husband currently hold the Guinness World Record for the greatest robbery of government funds, with the pair siphoning off between $5 to $10 billion during his time in office.
Following the People Power Revolution that removed her husband from office in 1986, she and her family fled the country and were forced into exile. However, she returned in 1991 following Ferdinand’s death and went on to serve four terms as a Congresswoman in the House of Representatives.
In November, Marcos was handed an 11-year jail term for corruption after making numerous illegal bank transfers worth $200m to Swiss foundations while serving governor of Manila in the 1970s. She denies all the charges and is currently on bail pending an appeal.