Thursday, May 16, 2013

Where at?: Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum

"Filipinos want beauty. I have to look beautiful so that the poor Filipinos will have a star to look at from their slums." - Imelda Marcos

And the woman thought she deserved a beautiful, grand house everywhere she goes, too. 

The Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum is one of our major stopovers during our short trip to Eastern Visayas.  This imeldific mansion, which may look like a shrine upon entrance but will eventually transform into a lavish, ostentatious structure upon further exploration, is just one of the 29 rest houses of the former first family.  This is one of the Marcos properties that have been seized by the PCGG and is now a public museum.

Upon entrance, you will be welcomed by a serene chapel.  At first I thought this is all that's inside, but the guide hurried us and told us that we still have a lot of rooms to see.

The mansion has 13 guest rooms with different themes and design, but is similar in its extravagance.  Each room is like those of first-class boutique hotels where every piece that you see is for sale.  When we entered the first room, I was having a hard time choosing which spot to take pictures first.  Two minutes later, we were hurried again by the guide, and I was really dismayed over not being able to capture enough of its grandeur.  When we were led to the second room, I just knew then that I really wouldn't be able to have enough just after one visit.  The next rooms seemed to be better than the previous ones, and one will always get blown away with all the beauty that await.

Each guest room has a diorama like this that represents the major milestones in the life of Imelda Marcos.  How cool is that?  These figures totally make the regular framed photos a cheapo. 

Further into the mansion is this humongous receiving area that connects to the various rooms in the ground floor, including the dining/conference room that holds a 40-seater dining set that's made of hard wood. It's so long you won't even hear what the person at the other end is saying. I wonder if meetings then included much shouting.

Apart from the fountain in the middle of the huge receiving room, this bas-relief of the Malakas and Maganda legend is also a major point of interest seeming to invite all the guests' attention. It's such a beautiful piece of art that's entirely made of hard wood. 

The gigantic floor-to-ceiling mirror fronting the grand staircase is pure joy for people who love taking mirror shots (ehem, just like us).

The grand staircase leading to the equally lavish second floor is, well, GRAND, in every way.  And yes, your eyes are right about that red carpet!

Apart from the huge receiving area in the second floor, this grand ballroom also takes up an enormous space.  Uh, no.  You're just looking at the majestic chandelier.  Just shift your focus a little.  A little more... aaannnddd.... there.  You're now seeing the ballroom.  This is where the grand socials were held before.  Opposite this angle is an elaborate King and Queen chairs where the hosts would sit for some drama.  

This receiving area on the second floor is filled with various art pieces, including some antique Chinese jars, antique paintings by famous artists, majestic chandeliers, bronze sculptures, and some elegant furnitures.  Most of these were acquired and imported from various countries. 

Adjacent to the receiving area is another conference room with a longer table than that of downstairs.  This one might have been for very important/controversial meetings since the walls are sound-proof.

The mansion's second floor also holds the presidential family's bedrooms. This one below is the former President Ferdinand Marcos' bed. Adjacent to his room is his personal bodyguards'.

Aimee must have felt like a real princess with this bed. 

And this one, my friends, is Imelda's bed. I wonder why the couple have separate rooms. 

Imelda's room is huge, and her bath/comfort room is as big as the guest rooms.  The room is filled with beautiful furnitures and grand pieces.  Well, what do we expect?  It's the room of the woman who always claimed to be allergic to ugliness. 

During our visit to the mansion, I was filled with an amalgam of emotions. There was, of course, great appreciation and a hint of envy, too. Seeing the overall intricate beauty of the structure, who wouldn't be? Then there also was some sort of animosity over all the extreme lavishness, while the majority of our countrymen remained living despondently in, as Imelda put it, 'their slums'. Most Filipinos then were trying to make ends meet; providing for their families and religiously paying the taxes. And here's the country's first lady living in a lavishly extravagant (redundancy intended) lifestyle with "five-million-dollar shopping tours in New York, Rome and Copenhagen, and sending a plane to pick up Australian white sand for a new beach resort" (Wikipedia).

Oh, well, everything that happened, happened years before I was even born.  Though history lessons and granny's stories portray how painful their experiences were, I know I don't have that much right to dwell on this issue.  The Filipino people have long moved on.  They've so much as moved on that they even managed to elect Mrs. Marcos and her children to government positions again.  That must have been what the "forgive and forget" mantra means.  Just how stupid can we still get? (*sigh)

"If you know how rich you are, you are not rich. But me, I am not aware of the extent of my wealth. That's how rich we are." - Imelda Marcos
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