Malacañang Palace is the official home and office of the president of the Philippines. Although the palace is very accessible by taxi or jeepney, not many Filipinos know what the local version of the White House looks like inside. It’s been attacked and seized in the many coup attempts against the government, bombed by fighter planes, and bombarded with rocks and hand-made bombs by the rioting masses. One has got to wonder what’s inside the palace. Is it made of gold, is it bulletproof, or is it regular concrete that simply represents power and influence and nothing more? In what area of the Palace does the president hang out? What does he do all day?
While not everyone may know what’s really going on inside the presidential home, a rundown of the rooms provides a glimpse of what it is like living in Malacañang.
Inside the palace grounds are a number of buildings, halls and private living quarters. The Mabini Hall is the current Administration Building. This is where all the official action takes place. Simply put, this is where the president works. Official visitors enter the Palace through the Entrance Hall, through the Grand Staircase and to the state reception rooms. These are where all the VIPs come in and wait to be entertained. To the left is the Palace chapel and to the right is Heroes Hall.
Heroes Hall is where informal gatherings take place. One can imagine the president casually chatting with friends and acquaintances in this hall that was once referred to as the Social Hall. It became known as Heroes Hall after busts and paintings of national heroes were installed.
In the vestibule are paintings showing several historical events such Magellan’s death, the Gom-Bur-Za martyrdom, the formation of the Katipunan, the sewing of the first Philippine flag, and the Proclamation of Independence at Kawit, among others. A number of foreign dignitaries have graced this hall including the president of Mexico, prime minister of Thailand, and Princess Margaret of the UK.
And besides the halls, of course, what’s a palace without a grand staircase? Malacañang’s red carpeted Grand Staircase is made from the finest Philippine hardwood. Near the top of the staircase to the left is the famous “Blood Compact”’ painting by no less than Juan Luna.
After climbing the stairs, the Reception and Ceremonial Halls appear on the right, and to the left are the private quarters where many presidential families have lived. The families of presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo all resided in this wing. President Benigno Aquino III, however, decided to live instead in “Bahay Pangarap”, the presidential rest house at the Malacañang Park across the river.
One of the most impressive rooms is the Reception Hall. This is where guests wait before being taken to the Ceremonial Hall for state programs and ceremonies, Study Room, Music Room or State Dining Room. Another beautiful hall is the Ceremonial Hall or Ballroom, which is also the largest room in the Palace. This is where state dinners, official assemblies and presidential parties take place. It is said, however, that the presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos spurned the use of this flamboyantly decorated hall and opted to host their guests at the Music Room instead, absent ceremonies.
Other palace halls and buildings are the State Dining Room, Rizal Room or Study Room, the Presidential Study, Malacañang Museum, Premier Guest House and other guesthouses.
So there it is: the Malacañang Palace at a glance. For people who have not seen Malacañang, there’s another way to get a glance at it: a picture appears on one side of the twenty peso bill.