Former first lady Imelda Marcos says the 3,000 pairs of shoes she left in the Philippines while escaping with her husband during a revolt in 1986 were a symbol of thrift, not extravagance.

"You see, you go to anybody's closet, you find shoes," Marcos said in a pre-taped interview from New York aired Friday on local television. "Thank God, when they opened Imelda's closet, they found shoes and not skeletons."She said the shoes piled up because she was thrifty and because most were gifts from shoe fairs she attended as governor of Manila.

"I never throw away all these tokens, all these symbols of love . . . I kept them and if I have erred it is because I cared," she added.

Marcos fled to Hawaii with her husband, Ferdinand, during the 1986 uprising that toppled his 20-year authoritarian rule. He died in exile in September 1989.

President Corazon Aquino has refused to allow her to return, citing national security.