SOME 17 years ago, Imelda Marcos imported Placido Domingo to sing Tosca at Manila's Cultural Centre. Today, President Fidel Ramos' close friend, Baby Arenas takes centre stage as another Imelda.

Glenn Gale's column (South China Morning Post, February 16) quotes Ms Arenas as saying she is importing Luciano Pavarotti to raise funds for Manila's street children. Earlier she told a news agency that she is doing this ''to show the world that the Philippines is not just a country of domestic servants''. In other words, we are a ''cultured'' people, something which is very important for Third World countries. We Filipinos may be poor but we too have ''class'' - whatever that means.

The truth is that Ms Arenas and others of her ilk are the curse that has turned the Philippines into a nation of servants (just see the numbers now in Hong Kong, trying to eke out a living because only the rich live well in their country).

The Imeldas and Babies of this world belong to the decadent elite which thrives amid great poverty with their First World pretentions, hankering for recognition and status while living in a world of their own making. These goings-on in Manila's ''high society'' are such familiar piffle, and yet another repeat of the vicious cycle begun by the Marcoses.