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Opulent Presidential Palace Shows Marcos Family’s Extravagances With AM-Philippines, Bjt

March 11, 1986

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A tour of the palace Tuesday where Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife, Imelda, governed for 20 years shows how far the Marcoses’ opulent existence strayed from the grinding poverty of the Philippine masses.

Bea Zobel, wife of a wealthy Philippine industrialist and head of a group of socialites who volunteered to clean Malacanang Palace, said the lavishness of the palace displayed the extent of the Marcoses’ isolation from reality.

″The minute you see these things, you realize that they didn’t know the value of money anymore. They just kept buying and buying,″ she said. ″They didn’t realize that a vast number of our people were in need ... I think their compassion was already gone.″

Paintings dominate the palace’s paneled walls. The most elaborate is a life-sized illustration depicting a half-naked Marcos as the Filipino Adam and Imelda as the Filipino Eve swirling out of a sea of mist.

Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., said last week during a visit to Manila that Versailles, the palace of French King Louis XVI, looked like an ″Appalachian hovel″ in comparison to Malacanang Palace.

A week-long inventory of the palace has been completed, and among the items left behind when the Marcos fled on Feb. 25 were 51 boxes of commemorative gold coins and packages of jewelry, Mrs. Zobel said.

Besides the coins and jewelry, the Marcoses left behind staggering amounts of personal belongings, clothes and art objects, all of which showed a lavish lifestyle in a country where the average worker earned $136 in 1984.

A palace tour Tuesday by a group of journalists, including an Associated Press reporter and a photographer, revealed elements of that lifestyle, shrouded in secrecy because the palace was off-limits to most people during the Marcos era.

But Friday, the first visitors, mostly the poor, will arrive in fulfillment of a campaign pledge by President Corazon Aquino to open Malacanang Palace to the public.

Most rooms are furnished with elaborate period furniture. Crystal chandeliers hang from intricately carved ceilings, refracting the palace lights in tiny points of iridescence.

The rooms of Marcos’ three children demonstrated their interests: stuffed toys for Irene Araneta; taffeta gowns and beaded dresses for Imee Manotoc; and 300 cassettes and several video machines for their son Bong Bong, former governor of Ilocos Norte province.

Despite the ex-president’s frequent denials that he suffered from a reported kidney disease, his bedroom showed signs of a sick man - a hospital bed beside his canopied bed, oxygen tanks, vials and syringes arranged on a side table.

A room on the ground floor, heavy with the stench of medicine, had been transformed into a sophisticated hospital ward, the drab medical equipment set up alongside photographs of a smiling Marcos clad in swimming trunks, flexing his muscles.

In contrast to the clinical atmosphere of her husband’s bedroom, Mrs. Marcos’ boudoir was richly decorated: a Bosendorfer grand piano at one end of the room, and a 10-foot-wide canopied bed with lace pillows and sheets on the other side.

The former first lady also had the most lavish bathroom in the house: a Jacuzzi, mirrored ceilings, 6-inch-tall perfume bottles, and six baskets full of imported soap.

In the basement under her bedroom there were 3,000 pairs of shoes and hundreds of gowns, designer suits, jackets, hand-embroidered blouses and five fur coats, including one Prussian sable.

An elevator to the third floor takes the visitor to a discotheque, complete with strobe lights and announcer’s booth, and a man-made waterfall.

President Aquino pledged during the campaign that she would not live in the Spanish-style palace, built in the late 19th century to house the Philippine presidents.

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