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The tropical paradise of Hawaii is well-known as a vacation destination, but for Ferdinand Marcos, the islands served as a refuge when his dictatorship in the Philippines came to an end in 1986. Exiled with his family to Honolulu after massive protests led by the People Power movement, Marcos would spend his final years far from the country he ruled for over two decades.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Marcos fled to Hawaii in 1986 after being overthrown in the People Power Revolution. He lived in Honolulu until his death in 1989, occupying expensive homes and hotels despite facing embezzlement charges back in the Philippines.

Marcos’ Rise and Fall from Power in the Philippines

Before delving into Marcos’ time in exile in Hawaii, it is important to understand the events that led to his downfall. Marcos’ political journey began in 1965 when he was elected as the President of the Philippines. He promised to bring prosperity and stability to the nation, but little did the people know that his presidency would be marred by corruption, abuse of power, and authoritarian rule.

Becoming President in 1965

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos won the presidential election, becoming the tenth president of the Philippines. He initially enjoyed popular support, as he promised to address issues such as poverty, inequality, and corruption. However, as time went on, Marcos began consolidating his power and suppressing political opposition.

Establishing Martial Law in 1972

In 1972, Marcos declared martial law, citing the need to combat rising communist insurgency and maintain law and order. However, many believe that this was a strategic move by Marcos to consolidate his power and extend his presidency beyond the constitutionally mandated two terms. Under martial law, Marcos had absolute control over the country, suspending civil liberties, suppressing dissent, and imprisoning political opponents.

Alleged Embezzlement and Human Rights Abuses

Marcos’ regime was marked by allegations of embezzlement and human rights abuses. It is estimated that Marcos and his wife, Imelda, amassed billions of dollars through corruption and embezzlement during their time in power. The ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family became a symbol of their excessive lifestyle, with Imelda famously known for her vast collection of designer shoes.

Additionally, human rights abuses were rampant during Marcos’ rule. Thousands of activists, journalists, and political opponents were arrested, tortured, or killed. The Marcos regime was notorious for its use of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances to silence dissent.

The People Power Movement and Marcos’ Overthrow

Amidst growing discontent and opposition, the people of the Philippines rose up against Marcos in what came to be known as the People Power Revolution of 1986. Millions of Filipinos took to the streets, demanding an end to the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy.

The movement gained international attention and support, with the Catholic Church playing a crucial role in mobilizing the masses. Through non-violent protests, the people were able to oust Marcos from power and install Corazon Aquino as the new President of the Philippines.

The fall of Marcos marked a turning point in Philippine history, symbolizing the triumph of democracy over dictatorship. It also led to the subsequent exile of Marcos and his family to Hawaii, where they lived until his death in 1989.

For more information on the rise and fall of Ferdinand Marcos, you can visit or

Marcos’ Exile and New Life in Hawaii

After being ousted from power in the Philippines, former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family found themselves in an unexpected new home: Hawaii. In 1986, Marcos and his wife Imelda were forced to flee the country amidst a popular uprising. They sought refuge in the United States and eventually settled in the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

Arriving in Hawaii and Occupying Luxury Homes

Upon their arrival in Hawaii, the Marcos family wasted no time in making themselves comfortable. They occupied several luxury homes, including an oceanfront mansion in Kahala, which became the center of controversy and media attention. The property was known for its opulent furnishings, including a private movie theater and a collection of valuable art pieces.

Spending Lavishly Despite Frozen Assets and Corruption Charges

Despite facing frozen assets and corruption charges, the Marcoses continued to live a lavish lifestyle in Hawaii. They were known for their extravagant shopping sprees and frequent trips to high-end resorts. Imelda Marcos, in particular, gained notoriety for her extensive shoe collection, which included thousands of pairs.

It is estimated that the Marcos family amassed billions of dollars through embezzlement and corruption during Ferdinand Marcos’ time in power. However, much of their wealth remained inaccessible due to international legal battles and the efforts of the Philippine government to recover stolen assets.

Relationship with Hawaii’s Filipino Community

The presence of the Marcos family in Hawaii had a significant impact on the local Filipino community. While some Filipino immigrants saw them as symbols of pride and success, others criticized their extravagant lifestyle and alleged human rights abuses during Marcos’ presidency.

Despite the mixed opinions, the Marcoses maintained close ties with the Filipino community in Hawaii. They attended various cultural events and were often seen mingling with local Filipino leaders. This connection helped them establish a support network during their time in exile.

Declining Health and Eventual Death

In the later years of his life, Ferdinand Marcos’ health began to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with multiple illnesses, including heart disease and kidney problems. Despite his declining health, Marcos remained active in politics and continued to make public appearances.

On September 28, 1989, Ferdinand Marcos passed away in Hawaii at the age of 72. His death marked the end of an era and brought closure to a controversial chapter in Philippine history. Today, his legacy remains a subject of debate and discussion among Filipinos both in the Philippines and in the diaspora.

For more information on Ferdinand Marcos’ time in Hawaii, you can visit the official website of the Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center:

Legal and Political Legacy in the Philippines and Hawaii

During his time in exile in Hawaii, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos left behind a complex legal and political legacy that continues to impact both countries to this day. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key aspects of this legacy.

Corruption Charges and Court Cases in Absentia

One of the most significant aspects of Marcos’ legacy is the numerous corruption charges that were filed against him during his time in exile. Despite being physically absent from the Philippines, Marcos faced several court cases in absentia, with allegations of embezzlement, human rights abuses, and other forms of corruption. These charges not only shed light on the extent of corruption during his regime but also highlight the ongoing efforts to hold him accountable for his actions.

Did you know? According to Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization, the Marcos family is estimated to have embezzled between $5 billion to $10 billion during Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency.

Impact on U.S.-Philippines Relations

Another aspect of Marcos’ legacy is the impact he had on U.S.-Philippines relations. During his time in power, Marcos maintained a close relationship with the United States, which provided political and military support to his regime. However, as allegations of corruption and human rights abuses grew, the U.S. government faced increasing pressure to distance itself from Marcos.

The exile of Marcos in Hawaii presented a delicate diplomatic situation for the United States. While the U.S. government had to balance its commitment to human rights and democracy with its strategic interests in the region, the situation strained bilateral relations between the two countries. The handling of Marcos’ exile and the subsequent fallout had a lasting impact on U.S.-Philippines relations and shaped the way the United States approached similar situations in the future.

Remaining Supporters and Burial Controversy

Despite the corruption allegations and court cases, Marcos still had a significant number of supporters both in the Philippines and in the Filipino community in Hawaii. These supporters saw him as a strong leader who brought stability and economic growth to the country. They believe that Marcos’ exile and the subsequent legal battles were politically motivated and aimed at discrediting his legacy.

The controversy surrounding Marcos’ burial is a testament to the lingering divide among Filipinos regarding his legacy. After his death in 1989, there was a heated debate over whether he should be buried in the Heroes’ Cemetery in the Philippines. This controversy sparked protests and further deepened the divisions among the Filipino people.

Fun Fact: Did you know that it took more than 20 years for the remains of Ferdinand Marcos to be finally laid to rest in the Heroes’ Cemetery?


In the end, Hawaii provided sanctuary for Marcos as his rule came to an ignominious end back home. While he lived comfortably on the islands in exile, legal battles and debates over his controversial legacy continued to play out thousands of miles away in the Philippines. Though Marcos never faced his accusers in person before his death in 1989, the effects of his oppressive dictatorship still linger in his native country today.

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