Malacañang as Prize, Pulpit and Stage

Presidential Museum and Library

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Malacañan Palace - the Palace of the People according to one of its former inhabitants- serves a purpose much loftier than as the official residence of the Chief Executive of the Philippines. As a prize, it is the tangible symbol of the people's trust, won after the grueling elections; as pulpit, the platform from which decisions and orders that affect the the Filipinos' lives emanate; and the stage from which the pomp and pageantry of the Philippine presidency is presented.

Malacañang as Prize
From the Spanish colonial times until the present, the assumption to the highest executive position in the country was seen as a prize, the summit of all that could be achieved in one’s political career.  

The two most prominent political personalities of the American colonial era- Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña- would coalesce for the first presidential and vice-presidential elections in 1935.

Although at odds with each other twice- first in the 1920's and the second in the early 1930's- Quezon and Osmeña established a united front in the 1935 elections. Here is the sample ballot for the province of Bulacan.

In the first general elections after the war, the incumbent president, Sergio Osmeña, was prevailed upon to enter the race, despite his decision to retire from public life. The Nacionalista Party fielded him as their standard bearer, together with Senator Eulogio Rodriguez as his running-mate.

Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas- partners in the fight for the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act against then- Senate President Quezon- parted ways in 1946 when Roxas formed the Liberal Party which became the platform for his presidential campaign against Osmeña. This leaflet accused Roxas of destabilizing the efforts of Osmeña to rehabilitate the country in the post-war years.

To clear his name from allegations of collaborationism during the Japanese occupation, Jose P. Laurel, president of the Second Philippine Republic, ran as president in the 1949 elections. Some believed that he would have won had fraud not been committed during the polls.

In 1953, Liberal Ramon Magsaysay switched to the Nacionalista Party and challenged his former party-mate and boss Elpidio Quirino for the presidency of the nation. Carlos P. Garcia, a senator, was fielded as his running-mate.

78 rpm shellac records containing jingles were distributed during the campaign season. The songs helped in increasing the people's awareness of a particular candidate and often included the platform of those seeking public office. This piece was used by the Macapagal-Pelaez ticket in the 1961 elections.

Ruben Tagalog, a popular Filipino crooner, would be used by the Liberal party to sing songs that encouraged the people to vote for their standard bearer, Diosdado Macapagal.

In 1965, Senate President Ferdinand Marcos bolted the Liberal party and joined the Nacionalistas after it was apparent that President Diosdado Macapagal was bent on seeking a second term. Former Vice-President and Senator Fernando Lopez would join Marcos in the Nacionalista ticket.

The 1986 snap elections saw the incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos being challenged by the housewife Corazon C. Aquino, widow of slain opposition Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. She was joined by former Senator Salvador Laurel.

Malacañang as Pulpit
Like the elevated podium in old churches where ecclesiastics delivered their homilies, Malacañang could also be regarded as this pulpit where chief executives promulgate and broadcast their edicts or the minaret from which they sound the call to action.  It is no exaggeration to say that when Malacañang talks, the nation listens.  The policies and pronouncements that emanate from the premier edifice in the land affect even the lowliest Filipino.

Besides holding pieces of paper wherever the president delivers a speech, the podium adds a certain air of authority to whoever is speaking behind it. This wooden podium bears the seal of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and a fluted column mounted on an intricate base.

Less than half a decade old, the 1935 Constitution was to be amended upon the instigation of President Quezon himself. Among the changes were the restoration of the Senate and the modification of the length of the presidential term of office. The President intimated the plans for the constitutional amendment during one of his press briefings.

Many who watched President Marcos announcing the imposition of Martial Law on television on September 23, 1972 would recognize this chair as the one he was sitting on. This was again used by President Fidel V. Ramos during his presidency.

President Marcos modified the seal of the President- in use since 1947- during the latter part of his term. He inverted the triangle and used an eagle, similar to that of the seal of the president of the United States, instead of the traditional sealion. President Aquino would revert to the original seal during her term.

Malacañang as Stage
No other building in the Philippines has witnessed as much pomp and pageantry as Malacañan Palace has.  The presentation of power could not have a better canvas than the Palace itself.  Malacañang, through its long history, has served as the locus for the display of power. This is where the Chief Executive delegates authority to his subordinates, strengthens the bonds of the country with other nations, and rewards outstanding individuals and groups for their contributions to the country.  Through all these, the Palace is used not only as a site but as a showcase of the powers of the President and the best of the Philippines.

Customary among the important guests of the President in Malacañang Palace is the signing if the register. This bears the signature of Pope- now Saint- John Paul II and his entourage during his pastoral visit to the Philippines in 1981 for the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz who would later become the first Filipino saint.

A Madonna and Child, with ivory hands and heads, was given by President and Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos as a gift to Malacañan Palace.

To commemorate her ascent to the presidency in 1986, Yamaha gifted President Corazon Aquino a baby grand piano in her signature color, yellow.

Credits: Story

Presidential Museum and Library, Malacañang, Manila
Presidential Communications Operations Office, Malacañang, Manila

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