Monday, August 4, 2008

Ironies in our Country

Tacloban is a small coastal city where life is generally slow paced. I love the laid back atmosphere- the most traffic we have occur during fiestas or festivals, and I gather no one would be complaining about that. Most of the time, people here cruise through their routines and live life simply.

This premise is however being challenged by the changing times- a “Big Dome” was just completed to serve as venue for events, and “Mall fever” hit as Robinsons and Gaisano Malls have begun construction early this year. In more than two decades of living here, it seems we’re finally going to get those plush movie theaters, minus the wooden seats and hollow block projector screen that we have now.

Passing through old Real street with my beau, I was suddenly feeling nostalgic as we passed Sto. Nino Shrine- Imelda’s ancestral home. I have never been inside, so with a little persuasion, N. agreed to go on a tour of the Heritage Museum (as PCGG would put it).

I had a little obsession back in my college days in Diliman of Mrs. Marcos’ life. As the guide (a nice lady who went on with her memorized spiel) led us around, I gave my own take on the history of the place, to which my beau gave a knowing smile.

“Imelda belonged to the poorest Romualdezes, according to a bio of her that I read. With a battered tampipi, Imelda went with a relative to Manila, where she would join a beauty pageant, lose, file a complaint, and as consolation get declared as Muse of Manila. Later she would meet a young, ambitious politico, who she will marry within eleven days of courtship.”

I continued:

“The Sto. Nino Shrine was not built until Marcos was in power. As First Lady, Imelda built a number of buildings and institutions in Manila, and of course in Leyte- among the most ambitious: the San Juanico Bridge (an engineering feat during its construction), Imelda’s Olot Residence, People’s Center, and Sto. Nino Shrine.

Imelda told people that Sto Nino Shrine was her ancestral home, but truth be told, it was merely a humble dwelling before she became First Lady. The old house was destroyed, and in its place now stood a beautiful building.”

The interior was amazing: Italian mosaic adorning the walls, chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, antique vases from China, intricately carved furniture from Korea, mirrors from Egypt, brass beds from England, King Louis XIV furniture from France, fine ivory carvings, jade statuettes, Pina and leather paneling of some of the bedrooms, antique Sto Nino’s from all over the globe, and of course, original paintings by Filipino Masters and portraits of Imelda and her family.

It was hard to believe these existed right here in a city where most people’s idea of opulence was buying a new karaoke machine during fiestas. Or displaying wedding giveaways in a divider in the living room.

I remarked to N. how the place was slowly decaying through time. The incandescent glow of the chandelier was overpowered by the light of the sun outside, and as we passed the heavily carved wooden door, I saw a sight that made my head shake in irony:

A vagrant just outside the fabulous shrine, with a pained expression, reached out her calloused hands to beg for change. I couldn't find a clearer picture of the real state of the Philippines today.


Mugen said...

Wow, that's what I call opulence. Interesting. :)

crystal_farmer said...

i visited this shrine when i was in grade school. i remember the sto. nino that we were told was made of ivory, and all these family portraits of the marcoses. yes, there's a lot of irony in the philippines, not just in this one. ever been to boracay?

Anonymous said...

i have to agree imelda had a taste and means.. in fairness to her ambitions



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