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Good to Know: 8 Facts About Malacañan Palace

As we begin the countdown to a new leadership, read up on some interesting info about the country’s seat of power

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In a few weeks, our country will be welcoming a new president who will take his or her seat at Malacañan Palace as the republic’s 16th commander-in-chief. While we await the results of the election, we invite you to take a trip down memory lane—and a virtual walk around the Palace—as we explore interesting facts about our new president’s official residence.

Illustration: Alyssa Roxas.

1 A storied name. There are multiple theories, among which have something to do with the Spanish words “mamalakaya” or fisherman (making it a place for fishermen); and “mala cana” or evil bamboo cane (as thick bamboo groves were believed to house evil spirits). 

2 A cluster of buildings. One gets the impression from every photo we’ve seen of the Malacañan Palace that it is just a single building housed in a sprawling compound. It was exciting for former Press Undersecretary Martin Crisostomo who worked for six years in Malacañan to discover that “it is actually made up of different buildings each from a unique time and with a distinctive look, with its own history to share.”

“The president’s residential building is just an image or a symbol of the ‘house of power.’ But as a person who had the privilege to work at the seat of power, Malacañan to me is a compound with a collection of buildings made to accommodate the expanding number of workers and officials serving the Palace,” Crisostomo adds.

In photo: The Reception Hall. Photo from Wikipedia.

3 A rich history. A Spaniard by the name of Luis Rocha was the first recorded owner of the property, which originally served as his country home. Rocha then sold it to a Spanish Army colonel in the early 1800s, and the property was sold to the government after the colonel’s death. It became the official palace of the Governor General after the 1863 earthquake felled the Palacio in Intramuros.

4 An array of design influences. The dominant use of wood, especially in the State Rooms which are used for state functions, reflect the design influences of the Spanish era. Sliding capiz windows and patios are also reminiscent of Rocha’s country home in the 18th century. A bit of western influence is also seen as the palace was improved under the rule of the Americans, with some of the wood changed to concrete and magnificent chandeliers added to its interiors.

“I feel that Malacañan has been renovated and improved president after president because the materials and architecture used in several parts do not belong to one time or era only,” says Crisostomo.

5 Regal elements. What elements make Malacañan Palace worthy of being home to the most powerful person in the country? Crisostomo names the Rizal Hall as the most majestic State Room in the palace.

In the National Geographic documentary directed by Marnie Manicad, Inside Malacañang, Manolo Quezon of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Management Office says the Rizal Ceremonial Hall is where oath takings happen, importance legislation is signed, and lying in-state of presidents take place. “[Among] its features are unique chandeliers carved in Betis, Pampanga; its three domed ceilings are gilded,” he adds.

In photo: Presidential Museum Walkway. Photo from Wikipedia.

6 A fortress. Up until the time of President Corazon Aquino, the Music Room was used as the First Ladies’ reception area. Today, private meetings with important guests of the president are held here. According to Inside Malacañang, the Music Room has no windows, and its walls and ceilings “exceed the normal specifications for thickness and load-bearing ability” compared to normal residences. This gives us a glimpse of how the palace is built like a fortress to protect the president and the First Family.

7 Odd favorite. In the same documentary, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III shares that his favorite part of the Palace is the basement, where Imelda Marcos’s vast collections are also housed. It was also where the Aquino family sought shelter during the 1989 coup d’etat. In describing the Palace, President Noynoy Aquino says, “It is ornate and tends to be quite dark. It’s too big; it emphasizes that it’s lonely at the top.”

8 Insider secret. Here’s something golf aficionados will find interesting: It has a tee-off area, and the green is located at the other end of the Pasig river. Crisostomo says, “The ball is supposed to fly across the Pasig river and over to the PSG Park. Cool!”

In photo: The New Executive Building. Photo from Wikipedia.

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