Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Malacanang Palace (or Malacanan if one would like to be historically and politically correct) was once upon a time second home to me having frequented its majestic stuctures and stature during the Marcos era. I found myself as a regular fixture there, visiting my father in his office straight from school which was just across the Pasig. This was also the era of Kokoy Romualdez, Johnny Tuvera, Jake Clave, Ernie Maceda and of course Celso Cabrera who wrote a frequent newspaper column entitled "Inside Malacanang," which featured the latest gossip right in the corridors of power. He too was a frequent visitor of my father. Cabrera knew stuff about President Marcos and the First Lady before anybody knew about it. If something had to be known and was front page material, Cabrera almost always scooped everyone to it, making his column a must read if one wanted to know the happenings right inside the palace. The Malacanang Clinic which was situated across (was it Arlegui?) is a memorable place for me for it was the place where my dreaded circumcision took place. I still remember vividly the man in white who performed the 'cutting-edge' procedure one summer morning. He had a kind face and was also kinder with his 'tools.' His name is Dr. Casanova. To this day, I still wonder what has become of him, for aside from him, I pretty much am aware of what has become of many of FM's lieutenants. Long before the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) was created, there was the Legislative Affairs Office (LAO) / Office of the Legislative Secretary (OLS) which my father headed. He was one of Marcos' longest straight-serving men having been the Legislative Secretary for 20 years (1966-1986) ending only at the height of the EDSA revolt. My father was such a low-key person to a fault that many had forgotten he was working there. And if there was one thing he was found guilty of as is the usual accusation to government officials, his was a simple but bizarre case of "unexplained poverty." As a curious young lad then, I always was fascinated with the huge portraits that hung on the walls of the palace. In one such occasion, I had the privilege to view each and every one of those portraits - imposing presidential portraits they were, which hang majestically to this day. All the portraits of past presidents hang there. Of these, one portrait is unique and differs from the rest because the man was never elected president, nor did he succeed as vice-president. The plaque right below it simply says, "President Jose P. Laurel." I was immediately intrigued by this seeming abnormality because, as far as I remembered my Philippine history at a tender age, Laurel indeed was never elected. I remembered then that Laurel was invited by the Japanese government to serve on the wartime Philippine Executive Commission during the Japanese Occupation. He held several posts on the Commission until he was shot on June 6, 1943 during a golf game with some of his colleagues. The failed assassin was probably an anti-Japanese guerilla, and Laurel recuperated quickly from his bullet wound and was offered the presidency of the Japanese-sponsored republic. He promptly accepted and was installed on October 14, 1943. He served as president from then on up until the American liberating forces returned in 1945, which prompted him to leave immediately for Tokyo. After the war, Laurel was indicted on more than 100 counts of treason and many believed he was just a little too comfy with the Japs. Laurel and Macapagal-Arroyo have one thing in common I suppose - and that both were never elected to the presidency. But that will be another post someday. And so, Malacanang will always be my 'Palace by the Pasig,' even long after the ghosts of yesterday's occupants tirelessly haunt its illegal occupant of today - the 'Squatter in the Palace' if I may. One last item though. If Malacanang is the Tagalog contraction to mean "there is a man of nobility there," or "may lakan diyan." shouldn't Malacanang now be called "Malocanang" meaning, "may loka diyan!"

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