We’re near the end of our tour of the CCP complex now, and we come to arguably the strangest building of all: The Coconut Palace (or the Coconut CocoHut, as I prefer to call it).

Built for Imelda in 1978 and designed to highlight the ingenuity of Filipino crafstpeople, 70% of the structure is supposedly made from various parts of the coconut. I find that hard to believe (those cool ’70s toilets and bidets certainly aren’t made of coconuts). Nonetheless, this is an important building (if you’re keen on seeing how the nouveaux riches like to live).

During our recent visit to Manila (December 2009), I felt compelled to visit for the first time (previously I thought, “that kind of architecture just doesn’t interest me”). I guess having a blog helped me to overcome my coconut prejudice; I wanted to report on this Thing on the Bay.

We showed up for a tour. Paid our ₱100 and got the grand tour from a docent who seemed to know less than I did about the place. We were all alone, wandering the many rooms of this strange edifice. I’m really glad I saw the CocoHut; it certainly put the word “decadent” into perspective for me.

Ostensibly built for the papal visit in 1981, John Paul II decided that it was way over-the-top and refused Imelda’s offer to stay there (he would have liked the swimming pool and the gorgeous view of Manila Bay).

Some months before [the Pope arrived in Manila], she had ordered a special stretch limo for the Pope’s visit. The maroon limo was out at the airport waiting for the Pope, but he would have none of it. He also turned down Imelda’s offer to stay in the Coconut Palace, a fascinating structure, shingled with coconut bark, and bathrooms tiled with coconut shell, which she had built for his arrival. The pope chose instead to stay at the nunciatura.

– Beth Day Romulo, Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987: 146.

Rather than receiving the papal imprimatur, the CocoHut became the home-away-from-home for various Imelda hangers-on such as Brooke Shields, George Hamilton, and Christina Ford whenever they were in town. Now it sits forlornly, waiting for you to show up and take a gander.

It’s an interesting place. Be sure to check it out if you’re in Manila. The bathrooms alone are a special treat and the empty shoe closets are somewhat wistful.

A traditional bahay kubo, the most indigenous domestic house in the Philippines. Built on stilts like a “floating mass,” they resemble traditional Malaysian and other South-east Asian huts.

The Tagalog word “bahay” means house and “kubo” is derived from the Spanish “cubo” or “cube.”

The Coconut Palace (Tahanang Pilipino) was meant to glorify traditional Filipino materials and became an over bloated tribute to its patron, Meldy Marcos. It was designed by Franciso “Bobby” Mañosa and completed in 1980.






Published by: Tukod Foundation

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