Things you may not know about the Malacañan Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – As the country’s seat of power for over 150 years, the Malacañan Palace has countless stories to tell, from historic visits of kings and queens to a handful of wars, political upheavals, leadership changes, and even haunting ghost stories.

Whether or not incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decides to live in Malacañan, it will always be a household name, being the principal workplace where decisions affecting the welfare of over 100 million Filipinos are made.

Here are things you may not know about the Malacañan Palace, the official residence and seat of the presidency.

1.    It’s Malacañan, not Malacañang.

The Malacañan Palace is located on the north bank of the Pasig River, on President Jose P. Laurel Street, which was formerly called Calzada de Malacañan.

Spanish and American colonizers both preferred to call the palace Malacañan, which in Spanish means “place of the fisherman.”

In 1953 however, Former President Ramon Magsaysay changed its name to Malacañang.

The original name Malacañan was restored by Former President Corazon Aquino in 1986, along with an order to use the term “Malacañan” to refer to the official residence of the president and “Malacañang” as a shorthand for the office of the president.

2.    The presidential palace was once sold for P1,000.

The Malacañan Palace was a modest summer house owned by Don Luis Rocha, a wealthy Spanish merchant, in the 1700s.

In 1802, Rocha sold the property to then Manila mayor, or alcalde ordinario, Colonel José Miguel Formento, for P1,000. It was later sold to the Spanish colonial government.

Since incumbent governors-general lived in the Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros, Manila, Posesion de Malacañan, as it was called, was used to house outgoing chief representatives awaiting the next ship back to Spain.

After a strong earthquake destroyed the Palacio del Gobernador in 1863, Governor-General Rafael De Echague Y Bermingham was forced to move to Malacañan, becoming the first chief executive to reside in the palace.

3.    Former President Emilio Aguinaldo is the first president to stay – but he did not reside – in Malacañan.

Former President Emilio Aguinaldo may be the Philippines’ first president, but he was not the first to reside in Malacañan – although he stayed in it as a prisoner after the Americans captured him in Palanan, Isabela in 1901.

The room where he was held was named the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in 2003 in his honor.

In 1935, Manuel L. Quezon was inaugurated and became the first president to live in Malacañan.

4.    The Malacañan Palace survived earthquakes, fires, typhoons and World War II.

When Echague moved to Posesion de Malacañan, he found the place too small so he ordered the construction of a wooden two-storey building and several smaller buildings for his aides and personnel. Soon after work had been completed, an earthquake struck, damaging the newly built structures.

Throughout the Spanish era, Malacañan was rebuilt several times after being hit by successive natural disasters: a typhoon in October 1872, and an earthquake two months later. The following year, two fires damaged Malacañan and a bad storm struck it in May 1873, after repairs were made following the second blaze. By 1898 when the Americans took over, Malacañan was a compound of buildings built of wood, with sliding capiz windows, patios and azoteas.

It survived World War II largely unscathed with only the southwest side damaged by shelling.

The palace was reconstructed and rebuilt by the leaders after the war to make it a structurally sound and secure building.

5.    Malacañan underwent extreme makeover under Marcos.

The Marcos family, the longest-staying residents of Malacañan, made major renovations to the palace during the two-decade rule of Ferdinand Marcos.

Also read: Duterte: I will allow Marcos' burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Then First Lady Imelda Marcos closely supervised the reconstruction led by Architect Jorge Ramos from 1978 to 1979.

New bedroom suites were built with bullet-proofed windows, along with function halls, and a discotheque above the enlarged presidential bedroom.

The renovated palace was inaugurated on May 1, 1979, the Marcoses’ silver wedding anniversary. The architectural grandeur was made of concrete, steel girders and trusses, with elegant hardwood floors and ceilings – fully bullet-proofed, air-conditioned and with an independent power supply.

“The old Palace was gutted almost entirely, not only to meet the needs of the Presidential family but also because the buildings had been weakened by patch up renovation and repair jobs for a century,” Malacañang said on its website.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989) stands by as his wife, Imelda, sings to supporters from a balcony of the Malacañan Palace in Manila, after Marcos' self administered inauguration ceremony as victor in the presidential elections, February 25,1986. This was the last public appearance by Marcos and his family. Later in the evening they fled the palace aboard four American helicopters and were taken to Clark Air Base enroute to exile in Hawaii.

Today, there are state rooms in the Malacañan Palace which are used for official functions and historic rooms which are preserved for their historical value.

6.    Duterte is not the first president to refuse to live in Malacañan.

President Benigno Aquino III refused to live in Malacañan like his mother, Cory Aquino. He wanted to stay in his family’s home on Times Street, Quezon City, but ended up being the first president to reside in Bahay Pangarap, the rest house located within the compound of Malacañang Park.

Aquino’s mother and her successor former President Fidel Ramos both chose to rent and live in the nearby private-owned Arlegui Guest House, which is now called the Laperal Mansion. Cory Aquino held office in the Premier Guest House, while Ramos worked from the palace.

Former President Joseph Estrada also lived and held office in the Premier Guest House.

In January 2001, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo used it both as her residence and workplace.

Duterte will be the 15th president to work in Malacañan, but he has repeatedly said  he won't live there, saying the palace is a “symbol of oppression” and that it is haunted by ghosts.

7. Is Malacañan haunted?

Centuries-old mansions often are reputed to be haunted. Malacañan is no exception. Several accounts by its residents and staff say the ghosts of former presidents have been seen roaming around Malacañan.

Presidential daughter Imee Marcos reportedly saw the ghost of President Quezon in the study, according to the Malacañang website. The web site has in fact dedicated a whole page on supernatural tales about the palace.

Officials, palace guards and other personnel share a plethora of spine-tingling stories, including the creepy sound of footsteps following them, pianos playing by themselves in empty rooms, and sightings of a lady in a frilly black dress, a white bearded man, and other ghosts and supernatural creatures such as a kapre (smoking giant) puffing cigars from the centuries-old balete tree (strangling fig tree) at the palace entrance.

Haunted or not, Duterte and his cabinet would have to bear with working in Malacañang for the next six years.