Palaces come in different shapes and sizes so to speak. Then there’s the Coconut Palace. And yes, it does it exist in case you haven’t heard of one yet.
The palace first sprang to life as a pet project of then First Lady Imelda Marcos who wanted to showcase homegrown Filipino architecture at its finest. To do the job, she commissioned an architect named Francisco Mañosa to make her dream into a reality. Work began in 1978 and would be finished just in time for the visit to Manila of the then leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II. Originally, the Coconut Palace was offered to be the guesthouse for the aforementioned pope, an offer which he would refuse. Eventually it did become a guesthouse for some visiting dignitaries like the Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, or Hollywood celebrity friends of Imelda like George Hamilton and Brooke Shields.
After the Marcoses’ ouster by People Power I, the Coconut Palace was not used for official functions for a long time, save for some regular tours. That was, until in 2010, when Vice President Jejomar Binay decided to make the Palace his official residence and office, the Vice President’s Malacañang if one may call that.
Mañosa would draw his inspiration from the abundance of coconut trees in the country. But despite it being called Coconut Palace, it’s not fully made of coconut lumber as some of the materials used in the building of this structure are other hardwood, though native here like the narra, mahogany, etc, still giving a Filipino flavor to this unique edifice. All in all, it is said that about 20,000 trees were used throughout its construction.
The Palace also sports much a hexagonal motif of sorts, which is actually in relation to the coconut roots of the building since that is the shape one might notice if you shave off the outer husk of the coconut, especially if you drink coconut juice from the fruit itself.
The Coconut Palace is a 2-level structure, the ground floor being where the dining area, reception area, and the library are located; the library being used currently as where the Vice President holds office in day-to-day functions.
Upstairs are the living quarters, 7 of them named after the different places in the country: the Zamboanga, Marawi, Mountain Province, Pampanga, Ilocos, Bicol, and Iloilo. Each of them bearing artwork and other items identified with the place it came from or associated with. It is said that the Vice President uses the Bicol room as his bedroom, the room itself boasts of a good view of the Manila Bay just a few steps away.
And yes, the Coconut Palace even has a swimming pool.
In a city that some have said has lost or ignored its own cultural identity, the Coconut Palace is one example how this is not true at all. On the contrary, it serves as an inspiration how our culture which tends to be overlooked by others can create something as beautiful as the Coconut Palace. Let this be a challenge for this present generation to preserve and promote the Filipino cultural identity and make it stand out among the rest of the world.
The Coconut Palace is open for tours which must be scheduled/arranged beforehand. For details, contact the Office of the Vice President at (+632) 8326791 ext. 119.
Acknowledgements to the Office of the Vice President for accommodating me throughout the tour.
© The Urban Roamer