On our first day in Tacloban, I took my client to Imelda Marcos’ Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum, a 21-room tropical palace showcasing some of the most precious gifts the couple received from different countries during their 20-year rule. The first floor has been flooded during Typhoon Yolanda and even after three years, it seems that they have not bothered to fix it. The wallpapers were moldering and most of the beautiful customized furniture look dilapidated.
But the real gems are at the second floor, though it too looks gloomy and ill-maintaned. Here you will find the majestic ballroom, the chandeliers, the jade statues, the ivory carvings, the paintings, the luxurious carpets, the priceless antique collections like Ming dynasty vases and French Louis chairs, 18th century grandfather clocks, and unsurprisingly, dioramas and paintings depicting the Marcos’ mythical past and delusions of grandeur. All these magnificence set against a palace made of native, organic materials like narra, kamagong and mother of pearl. A beautiful place that should be preserved.
The big ballroom. Check out the enormous wooden chandelier!
The second floor.
Another part of the second floor drawing room with the lights turned on.
The elegant wooden staircase to the second floor.
Here are the gems at the second floor:
Carpet made of real fur at Ferdinand Marcos’ bedroom.
A lovely jade carving.
Fantastic Persian carpet, Ming dynasty vases and vintage French chairs (falling apart!)
An ivory table with divider at the back.
One of my favorites: a black lacquer cabinet inlaid with mother of pearl.
Imelda Marcos as a Patron of the Arts
One good thing about Imelda Marcos is she has always had a keen eye for beauty and has always championed Philippine arts, as evident in this 21-room “tropical palace” which she had constructed made from native, organic materials. I was told that Imelda had designed the palace itself and that she was very hands-on during the building. Below you can see this huge marvellously-carved wooden vanity mirror in Imelda’s room (where she never slept at all) made by one of the greatest Filipino wood artists in Betis, Pampanga. Below that is the 21-seater dining table where she hosted extravagant meals, look at the ceiling: those are individual narra chips painstakingly attached one by one for the “weaved” effect. No cheap woven sawali here!
The Philippine-made furniture in this tropical palace are truly top-notch, very elegant and of extremely high quality.
A vanity mirror made by local crafstmen.
The Marcoses’ Narcissism
The couple’s narcissism was also on full display at the museum. In ordinary people I would find bragging self-displays of (imaginary) heroics and greatness merely eccentric, like kids showing off their toys. Shameless and tacky, yes, but harmless. When expressed by geniuses, this kind of self-belief, this kind of hubris can be awe-inspiring. But when you consider the breathtaking greed and corruption that came with the Marcoses, these self-mythologizing pictures and dioramas at Sto. Nino Heritage Museum in Tacloban look grotesque. After all, part of the reason why they have remained in power for so long is their masterful deception and manipulation (this is not to discredit all the good things they have done, however).
Makes me wonder, did they style themselves as saviors of the Philippines to justify all their crimes and misdeeds? OR have they always sincerely believed that they are destined to save the country, and that gave them a sense of invincibility?
Do you believe in ghosts?
Also I must mention an incident when we entered all the Marcos family’s bedrooms one by one, my client and I and two other tourists plus our guide. Take note that normally the museum is closed, the staff are stationed outside near the door and they only open it and turn on the lights when there are visitors. This was why it had such a gloomy, depressing feel, as though it’s been abandoned to the elements – and literally it was, since they don’t maintain it anymore and in fact many precious furnitures are decaying.
After touring for about an hour and seeing almost everybody’s bedroom, we got to Bongbong Marcos’ room. This was located at the very end of the corridor, farthest from the staircase. It was simple and unremarkable. I was about to enter his bathroom when I suddenly felt weird, like there’s something unpleasant. I didn’t feel scared, just hyper-aware. Without thinking, I suddenly blurted out “Are there ghosts here?”.That started off our guide to talk about all the strange hauntings and sightings guests, staff and guards have experienced, from mysterious sounds at night to disappearing items to furnitures being moved about. We left his room, and in fact the second floor, very quickly, and I didn’t take a picture. Here is one of the daughters’ rooms, I believe this was Imee’s.
When I posted about this in my Facebook, a friend replied with her own pictures with some mysterious figure-like shapes/image showing. Creepy!
Meanwhile, this is Imelda Marcos’ opulent bedroom at the museum. This is supposedly their resthouse, and each member of the presidential family had a bedroom here, yet not one of them spent a single night here. Check out Imelda’s humongous bathroom also.
Imelda Marcos’ bathroom at their resthouse. I bet she never once took a bath here. I’m pretty sure no one did.