Monday, June 24, 2019

The Coconut Palace

A SPECIAL invitation to cover the conclusion of the term of losing presidential aspirant and former vice president of the Philippines Jejomar Binay allowed me to enjoy an exclusive tour of its main office for the past six years, the grandeur that signifies our resilience as a people, that is, the Coconut Palace.

Three-fourths of the place has been opened to the public as a tourism site. The remaining space served as the working area of the former vice president. According to sources, it has catered to more than 4,000 picture hungry tourists, all excited to take a photo with luxurious furniture and grand pieces that resembles to perfection.

My case was all and the same, peeping and checking with so much enthusiasm and interest, I find myself in all corners of every room, enjoying a moment with time and history. The OVP has showed so much respect to national artists whose works are displayed in all corners of the two floor building through practically preserving the place by only retouching some portions.

The Coconut Palace, also known as “Tahanang Pilipino” (Filipino Home), is an outstanding building that is part of the rich history and culture of Filipinos. Checking on its design is a trip back to the old times since it served as guest house of former President Ferdinand Marcos. It has surely heard so many secrets of the Marcos regime as it housed international leaders, cronies and the usually elusive guests that shy away from media. If only walls could speak, it will surely vent out to unmask the many unanswered misfortunes during the Martial Law.

The caretakers shared that the Palace was constructed over a 14-month period from 1978 to 1981. It is the brainchild of former First Lady Imelda Marcos and was designed by Filipino architect Francisco Mañosa. It has used coconut in a different fashion: well adorned walls, elegantly looking chandeliers and giant centerpieces, all made from what is considered as the “Tree of Life.”

Today, it served as home to the world renowned artworks like the well celebrated mural master Araceli Dans and bed posts designed by national artist Napoleon Abueva. A glimpse of these masterpieces is an enthralling visual and emotional treat.

There are seven rooms in total, seven being the lucky number of the Marcoses and are named after different provinces in the Philippines: Zamboanga, Pampanga, Marawi, Bicol, Mountain Province, Iloilo and Pangasinan. Bed spread is made of pineapple, banana or jusi fibers. There are hexagonal shaped tables in some parts, proving that hexagon is Imelda's favorite shape.

Bicol was Imelda's favorite room since it is fronting the Manila Bay while the dictator's favorite was Pangasinan that houses a huge bathroom and intricate bed design. The Mountain Province, on the other hand, was adorned with artifacts from Ifugao tribes, all considered as historical treasures worth retelling our young generation a thousand times.

The Palace is all these and probably more, but, one thing remains certain – its grandeur dismayed Pope John Paul II to stay there. Staying true to his humility, he directly declined the offer in his 1981 visit due to its extravagance and being too flamboyant. “In 1978 at a then cost of P37,000,000 or at the time US$10,000,000 the Coconut Palace was built,” according to history writers.

With its prime location adjacent to the majestic sunset at the heart of the Manila Bay, no wonder it may have already reached more 100 percent, maybe 10 or 20 times bigger that its initial capital in the past.

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