09 July 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-Three!

We're still looking at new books in the Philippine Literature Giveaway pool today, and this one is so meme-friendly that if I hadn't made myself save it for Locus Focus, I would have been writing about it all week. It wins the prize for most Marcos Pa Rin setting: a place that will always be tied to his memory, unless something more historically momentous upstages his regime. (That could take a while . . .) 

Malacanang Palace
by Cyan Abad-Jugo

Today we went to Malacanang Palace . . . We saw all sorts of rooms, like the Chapel and the Heroes Room, the Lupus Room in the basement with all the hospital equipment Marcos needed, and the Rustan's Room with all of Imelda's shoes (3000 pairs, though [Dominique] says it's only 500 pairs . . .) But we weren't allowed in the Disco Room. [Dominique] boasted that her family had been there lots of times, and that she has seen the Disco Room. Who cares?

Oh, and we also went into their bedrooms. They had separate bedrooms like Prince Charles and Lady Di . . . and Imelda's bed was so huge you could swim in it. The woven coverlet, Mrs. Gonzaga said, cost around 95,000 thousand pesos . . .

Anyway, we couldn't stay in any place for a long time because there were lots of other people in line before us and behind us. Around 6,000 to 8,000 come each day, Mrs. Gonzaga said, and most of them are foreigners curious about how the Marcoses lived . . .

Now I'm slightly embarrassed that I've never been to Malacanang Palace, a gracious nineteenth-century Spanish colonial residence originally built to be the summer home of the country's Governor General. It has also been a home to some American Civil Governors, and of course, it is now the official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

But since the Marcoses left, only one other president has actually lived there; for various reasons, the rest have preferred to stay in the more modern guest mansions on the larger Malacanang complex. Cory Aquino, of course, would not have wanted to move into a place that had been home to the man who had kept her husband unjustly imprisoned for years and who may also have ordered him assassinated. (My own theory is that someone much closer to Cory commissioned her husband's death, but both my lawyer friend and my mother don't want me blogging his name.) Many years later, Cory's special snowflake son would whine that both the palace and the smaller mansion his mother used were "too big" for him. (Heck, the presidency was too big for him.) But I can kind of respect the current president's reason for refusing to make the palace his home when he is in Manila: he says it's too full of ghosts. It would be, wouldn't it?

I was too young in the 80s to visit Malacanang when it was pretty much "the Marcos museum," but there was really no reason I couldn't have gone later on. It would have been the best field trip for my first year of high school, when Philippine History was on the syllabus. (Basically, my elders never cared to bring me there in my younger years, but now it's my fault I don't remember history.) Yet Cyan Abad-Jugo's note about tourist demographics--that foreigners outnumbered the locals back in the 1980s--doesn't really surprise me: not just because Filipinos can be awfully incurious at times, but also because we wouldn't have needed to see Malacanang to know how the Marcoses lived. We knew it just by living under them.

These days, the Malacanang tours have been repackaged to focus on the legacies of the fifteen past Philippine presidents--which is a grand way of saying that tourists can no longer gawk at Imelda Marcos's shoe collection. Bummer, right? =P But it's true that there is more to Malacanang than the Marcoses. 

Question of the Week: Have you visited the home of your country's leader?

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Image Source: Salingkit: A 1986 Diary by Cyan Abad-Jugo


Brandon said...

Being Texan, "my country's leader" could mean either the President of the United States or the Governor of Texas! But as it happens, I've never been to either executive mansion. (I've been to the Library of Congress, though, which was so much better!)

I sometimes wonder if shoes are a bit underappreciated. If Imelda Marcos had owned several hundred paintings, or several hundred first edition books, people might still think the money could have been better used elsewhere, but I suspect they would still treat it as a relatively exalted way to spend it. (Lots of museum collections begin this way, for instance.) People have difficulty not looking down on shoes, though. (No pun intended, or only half-intended, anyway.) But Florence, Italy, used to be almost as famous for its shoes as for its fine art, and it has a shoe museum. Do you know if they just got rid of the shoe collection, or is it all in a vault somewhere?

Enbrethiliel said...


Imelda had a huge art collection as well! But nobody remembers that! =P

The shoe collection (along with many of her designer gowns and Marcos's original barong) were moved to the National Museum several years ago . . . where they were forgotten in a storage room until it got flooded. Typical.

Granted, there are more important Philippine treasures to preserve than Mrs. Marcos's shoes, especially if funds are limited. But I think the desire never to repeat the evils of the Marcos era has mostly fueled the determination to erase their memory--which is only the best way to guarantee we'll end up reliving that history!

By the way, any news on your country's Brexit-inspired "Texit"? Or as at least one other person has called it, the "Texodus"? LOL!