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Filipinos Awed by Opulence at New Museum-- Marcos' Palace

March 13, 1986|Associated Press

MANILA — The government opened the presidential palace to the public today, letting elderly women in tattered dresses and giggling youths tramp through the bulletproof powder room of Imelda Marcos.

A woman in a sweat-soaked housedress gaped as a volunteer worker lifted a sable jacket off a rack in the sprawling basement storage room that is just down a wooden stairway from the former first lady's sleeping quarters.

President Corazon Aquino, who has shunned the opulent palace for her one-story suburban house, also toured the Philippines' newest museum with 70 volunteers who will act as guides to display some of the excesses of deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos' 20-year rule.

Buses are to bring in 2,000 Manila slum dwellers Friday for a tour with Aquino.

Thousands of people chanted Aquino's nickname, Cory, as they crowded the gates of the the two-story, Spanish-style mansion containing millions of dollars worth of antiques, jewelry, rare books, religious artifacts, paintings and other Marcos mementos.

"When I first saw this, I literally vomited," said Roman Catholic nun Christine Tan, interviewed outside a bedroom vault full of expensive Rosary beads, gold-plated clocks, handmade figurines and emptied jewelry boxes.

Mrs. Marcos took jewelry with her when the family fled the palace Feb. 25, fleeing a revolt backed by the Catholic Church and high-ranking military defectors. But other jewelry was left behind.

A scale in her bathroom, which has a gold-plated wash basin, was set at 131 pounds. The guide said it had not been touched.

In her bedroom were two glass-encased ivory images of the Christ child. One lay on a red satin pillow. Another was hung with jewels.

Marcos' quarters were spacious, but Spartan in comparison with those of his wife. A hospital-style bed remained next to his white curtain-draped, king-sized bed. Marcos denied having any serious illness during the campaign leading to the Feb. 7 presidential election.

Parked across the room from the president's bed was a miniature Mercedes-Benz car, which a guide said cost $5,000 and belonged to one of Marcos' grandsons.

Nearly every room contains giant television screens and videotape units.

Some visitors shook their heads at the surroundings, which had been off-limits to all but those closest to the Marcoses.

"We eat like the pigs while they have billions and billions," said Vivian Villacorta, a first-time visitor.

Most of the private rooms, including Mrs. Marcos' cavernous bedroom with walls, ceiling and floor of polished dark wood, are windowless. A guide said windows in the adjoining powder room and in Marcos' bedroom overlooking the Pasig River are bulletproof.

Bea Zobel, a wealthy socialite who has prepared the palace as a museum, said she had been in the palace many times but was shocked at the vast wealth contained in the private quarters. "Nobody knew this existed," she said.

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