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Coconut Palace

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Located on Roxas Boulevard and overlooking Manila Bay is the Coconut Palace, a unique work of architecture that is built of 100% Philippines materials, of which 70% are derived from the coconut palm tree. Also known as Tahanang Pilipino (Tagalog for "Filipino Home"), the Palace is part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex and is located in Pasay City, Manila.

Coconut Palace, Manila (image)

Front courtyard of the Coconut Palace. (Photo: Paul Shaffner.)

This building has had a controversial history. It was built over a 14 month period 1978-81 by the First Lady Imelda Marcos for Pope John Paul's visit in 1981. The Pope was reportedly appalled at the cost (a rumored P37 million) and extravagance of the building (when there was such poverty in the Philippines), and he refused to stay there and stayed at the Papal Nuncio’s residence instead.

Whatever its origins may have been, the Palace is actually an interesting and well designed architectural work celebrating a vital part of life in the Philippine Islands: the coconut palm tree. It is built in an octagon (eight sided) shape and its roof is in the shape of a salakot (traditional Filipino hat).

As mentioned above, the Palace is mostly built of coconut by-products. The idea is to show the most famous tree of the Philippines and how its parts (tree trunk, bark, shells, flowers, roots) are creatively used in many aspects of daily life in the country. It aims to depict the coconut tree as truly the Philippine’s "tree of life". Not only the materials but also the design, decor and ornamentation, not only in the building but the furniture it contains, all combine to communicate this message.

Some of the famous decorations are made from coconut (for example, there is a chandelier made of 101 coconut shells) as is some of the noted furniture (for example, the large dining table in the state dining room downstairs is made of 40,000 small pieces of inlaid coconut shell).

Other native Filipino materials used apart from the coconut are banana fiber (known in Tagalog as jusi fiber) and pineapple fiber (Tagalog, pina fiber) (these materials being used for the sheets and bedspreads in the guestrooms), and Philippine hardwoods such as narra (a dark purple-brown colored, termite-resistant wood that is widely used to build staircases, tables, etc. in the Philippines and other southeast Asian countries).

On permanent display in the Palace are a number of modern artworks such as a large mural by the Filipina realist and traditionalist artist Araceli Limcaco Dans and bedposts designed by the Filipino artist and sculptor Napoleon Abueva (who was later appointed to the order of the "National Artists of the Philippines").

Let’s look at the layout of the Palace...

Downstairs is a large state dining room and Ferdinand Marcos’s library.

Upstairs are seven lavish guestrooms, each in the style of one of the regions of the Philippines:

-- Zamboanga Room
-- Pampanga Room – includes statues made of lahar (solidified lava) taken from Mt Pinatubo
-- Marawi Room
-- Bicol Room
-- Mountain Province Room - includes priceless Igarot and Ifugao tribal artifacts
-- Iloilo Room
-- Pangasinan Room

The Palace was designed by renowned Filipino architect Francisco Mañosa (another "National Artist of the Philippines") whose work often reflects elements of the Filipino culture and traditional life.

In the early 1980s the Coconut Palace was used as the guest house of President Ferdinand Marcos.

After the end of the Marcos era, the outdoor grassed area between the Coconut Palace’s swimming pool and Manila Bay and the downstairs living area were rented out for wedding receptions and parties. The venue was particularly popular due to its spectacular views of sunsets across Manila Bay.

Over the years a number of heads of state (such as President Gaddafi of Libya) and celebrities (such as Brooke Shields and George Hamilton) have stayed in the Palace.

In 2009 the Palace became the official office and residence of the Vice-President of the Philippines. Almost all of the Palace is able to be visited by individuals and groups (but for security reasons weddings and parties are no longer permitted).

Visiting Hours and Conditions
Guidelines for tours of the Coconut Palace

The Coconut Palace elsewhere on the Internet
Jim's Photos from the Philippines
Interesting photos

Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)

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