February 26, 1986. There was something odd happening, Camp Crame was the center of army revolt.
I wish I could remember it all better without weakening the vitality of the narrative.
At Malacañang Palace, Where the vegetable garden had been, now lay an empty lawn. All the concrete statues were being smashed and carried away. The workers watched us, as we passed. There were tanks at every gate — big metal monsters. The security check was very much in operation.
As we walked down to center of the road to the Palace, our feet crunched broken glasses. We pleaded like children to armed soldiers to let us proceed, but we were warned there were a few Marcos loyalists hiding in side streets, even as the fighting had stopped.
Within the view of the Palace, I saw people climbing over the railings, pouring into the gates. With persistence and determination, the gates flew open and we blended with the immense crowd of people of all sexes, age and character. There was a lot of coming and going in the different buildings. Inside the compound, documents were flying out of the offices. It was a strange mixture, some looked happy, my colleagues said they felt like victorious insurrectionists.
Then an armed civilian sent by the rebel troops said we couldn’t go any further. But it was too exciting to just walk away. An Associated Press photographer just went past the guard then, another photographer followed, and another one. I was the only one left, and seeing that he didn’t shoot them, I surmised that he won’t shoot me so I scuttled past him.
Inside the private chambers of the Marcoses, it was strikingly beautiful. There were precious goods of every kind which surpassed everything I have ever seen before: paintings of the masters, statues, tapestry, Russian giant vases, Venetian chandeliers, monogramed towels with the initials of Mrs. Marcos, Aubisson bed sheets, fine china on open crater with jade plates so large and vulgar.
Then we went into the Ceremonial Hall where a lot of the schemes of the Marcos era were hatched. People ran, and sat on the former dictator’s throne, began giving mock press conferences, issuing orders in that deep baritone voice, falling about with laughter or just gawking at the splendor of the hall.
The Blue Drawing Room was impossible to describe as you gaze at it and words fail you. There was this huge magnificent library, and the other journalists gazed in wonder at the leather bound, gold gilded volumes and the collection of art books. This was the reference library of Mrs. Marcos, renowned collection of treasures.
We’ve never seen anything of such splendor and no one dared touch the furniture and trinkets. There was the most exquisite marvelous grand piano Van Cliburn played and I couldn’t resist playing Mendelssohn “On Wings of Song” but my colleagues had obviously hoped for something more racy of lofty and patriotic like the “Internationale” or “Bayan Ko.” But what was hard to believe was, the whole press corp was there and the Marcoses weren’t.
A soldier came in brandishing an Uzi ordering us to “Please cooperate.” So we did.
Outside, the awe had consumed itself into the crowd, as they stood by the fountain, looking down at the color lights beneath the Pasig River – not saying anything. They were just a crowd of a happy cheerful world — from the transition of contempt and fury of the populace of the preceeding day, to the affectionate transport admiration and glory of the present moment.
But today, 30 years later, it was fireworks. The whole country — not just the city — were celebrating..
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