A Peek Inside the Coconut Palace, A Reminder of Imelda Marcos’ Edifice Complex

The famed Coconut Palace in Pasay was built by Imelda Marcos in 1978 as a guest house for Pope John Paul II for his papal visit in the Philippines in 1981. But instead of living in the palace, which the Pope described as “too opulent,” the Pope lived in the much simpler Papal Nuncio residence in Manila.

Many years later, when she was interviewed about poverty in the Philippines, she mentioned the Coconut Palace.

“It doesn’t mean that if you’re poor, you cannot be beautiful,” began Marcos.

“I told the people in the provinces, ‘How come our country is a paradise, and your houses are so ugly? Can’t you do something about it?’ and they said, ‘Oh, Mrs. Marcos, we are so poor, all we have are coconuts and bamboo.’ You know what I did? I did a bamboo mansion and a coconut palace,” recalled Marcos, with an air of pride sorely bereft of a grasp on reality.

Marcos’ infamous “I did a bamboo mansion and a coconut palace” is the Philippines’ version of France’s “Let them eat cake” or Paris Hilton’s “Stop being poor” shirt.

At the time it was built, the Coconut Palace cost the Filipino people P37 million, which is not yet adjusted to today’s inflation rate.

The Coconut Palace was designed by National Artist for Architecture Francisco Mañosa. As much as 70 percent of the structure is made of materials derived from the coconut tree: coconut lumber, coconut shells, and coconut husks. Other materials are all indigenous hardwoods and marble from the Philippines. The Coconut Palace is considered a prime example of Filipino vernacular architecture.

A Satellite Photo of the Coconut Palace

Inside the Coconut Palace

In this picture, we see inverted coconut lumber supporting the corners of the palace exterior.

Photo by Paul Shaffner.

The furniture in the palace is all made from coconut products. Standout pieces include a coconut chandelier with 101 coconut shells and a dining table inlaid with over 40,000 pieces of crushed and polished coconut shells.

A Coconut Lamp at the Coconut Palace

A Coconut Chandelier with 101 Coconut Shells

Altar Made of Coconut Materials

Photo by Winona Tagle-Velasquez.

Main Hall of the Coconut Palace

A specific type of treated coconut wood was invented because of Marcos’ Coconut Palace. It is called Imelda Madera, named after the former first lady and literally translates to Imelda Wood. This highly treated coconut wood is more resilient than normal coconut lumber. 

Coconut Palace as the Malacañang of Vice Presidents

In 2011, the Office of the Vice President was offered to relocate to the Coconut Palace. Previously, the Vice President of the Philippines had no official residence or office, and only rented office space at the headquarters of the Philippine National Bank in Pasay. 

Vice President Jejomar Binay is the first government official to use the Coconut Palace for official functions. His office paid a monthly rent of P400,000, which was significantly lower than the P800,000 monthly rent it paid to PNB prior to relocating to the Coconut Palace. 

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