An event celebrating the 90th birthday of the Philippines’ former first lady Imelda Marcos began as a jubilant affair – until the country’s national dish, adobo with egg, landed more than 200 of her guests in various hospitals on Wednesday with suspected food poisoning. Local media reports said more than 200 guests – out of 2,000 who ate the dish – suffered vomiting and dizziness. Guests and Marcos family supporters were assisted into ambulances at the Ynares Sports Complex in Pasig. As people moved out of the hall, Senator Imee Marcos, flanked by her mother Imelda, apologised and insisted ill guests would receive the best care. “We will take care of those who were hospitalised and hopefully we will visit them one by one,” she said. “I am hoping also we can reach the age of 90 still beautiful, kind and helpful like my mother.” Later in a statement, Imelda’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, said organisers were trying to determine what had gone wrong. “The organisers assure [us they are] working with the authorities. I apologise and ask for understanding for this incident. We [guarantee] to help all the victims until they are discharged from the hospitals,” he said. Bryant Wong, Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council acting head, said 261 guests had been poisoned, adding that they were closely working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test the food served at the party. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters that unsanitary handling and poor storage of food likely caused the food poisoning incident. “Suspect cases strongly point out to a toxin derived from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureaus,” he said. Dr Primo Valenzuela, a medical specialist at the Rizal Medical Centre where 43 patients were being treated, shared the same explanation. “It’s possible that the one who prepared the food did not wash his or her hands. It’s possible the toxin produced multiplied, so the toxin caused the symptoms,” he told reporters. “If you prepare food in advance, you have to keep it in the right place, at the right temperature. So if it’s not stored properly and not consumed immediately, it should be kept in a refrigerator at the right temperature, otherwise the bacteria will multiply.” Ferdinand Marcos was president of the Philippines from 1965-86 before being ousted by the “People Power” revolution and forced to flee into exile. He was democratically elected in 1965 and 1969 but declared martial law in 1972, citing alleged threats of communists insurgency, and ruled as a dictator before he was overthrown. In 2004, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International named Marcos the second-most corrupt leader of all time, behind Indonesian dictator Suharto . The Marcoses and their cronies stole up to US$10 billion from the Philippine Treasury during his rule, according to government investigators and historians. Imelda Marcos was renowned for her extravagance. She amassed a vast collection of art, jewellery, property and at least 1,000 pairs of shoes , many of which are now displayed in museums. How the law caught up with Imelda Marcos and her stolen millions She was once quoted as saying: “We practically own everything in the Philippines, from electricity, telecommunications, airlines, banking, beer and tobacco, newspaper publishing, television stations, shipping, oil and mining, hotels and beach resorts, down to coconut milling, small farms, real estate and insurance.” In November, the country’s anti-corruption court convicted Imelda Marcos of funnelling about US$200 million of stolen funds through Swiss foundations when she was governor of Metropolitan Manila in the 1970s. The court ordered her to serve a minimum of six years in prison for seven counts of corruption but later allowed her to post bail. Ferdinand Marcos died in 1989. Imelda and her children, however, returned from exile in 1991 and once more became influential in Philippine politics. Imelda ran for president twice and was elected to three terms in congress. Her son, Bongbong Marcos, was also a governor, congressman and senator at various stages and ran for the vice-presidency in 2016.