Much has been said about our new president (P-Noy) buying a second-hand Porsche with his own money. The media endlessly castigated him for such an extravagant purchase in a poor, third-world country with majority of its people wallowing in poverty.
I suspended judgment on this issue.
Then . . . an early flight takes me to a two-day conference in Tacloban City, Leyte, a lovely place I had often read about but never visited. Like an extra dollop of grace, I had the whole afternoon free.
My hosts drive me and my roommate Yay to the famous Sto. Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum, built for (by?) Imelda as her family's vacation house when she was First Lady.
My eyes pop with every step I take. If this is the place where, according to our guide, Imelda spent only one night, I couldn't imagine how the other 28 vacation homes of the Marcoses are like.
The entrance fee is P200 for five people. Because it is closing time, we are toured through only half of the estate/palace. But this half hour walk tells me enough.
More than a dozen bedrooms just for guests are decked with canopied or four-poster beds, intricately carved cedar cabinets, antiques, and pricey knick-knacks from all over the world; carpeted or wood tiled; and heavily draped.
Along the way, I gasp at a sculpture of Imelda's face (on one side) and her husband on the other; Imelda's photos in all the rooms; original paintings by great masters; an ivory collection; huge chandeliers and larger-than-life murals; mosaics; walls lined with hand-embroidered, hand-painted pina cloth and Gucci leather woven like colossal mats; jars from China, infinity mirrors from Vienna—they're . . . oh, even a writer can run out of words.
The ex-president's room is separate from Imelda's. Both are larger than my whole house (inclusive of my garden and garage). The ballroom is bigger than our community's basketball court, the dining room is more spacious (with higher ceiling) than our village church.
We are not shown the Olympic-size swimming pool nor the other rooms on the opposite side of where we are.
So this is only half the story.
How do I describe it all? Outrageously opulent. Let's try another alliteration: excessively extravagant. And another: shamelessly shocking. Maybe ten, twenty, thirty times more expensive than a second-hand Porsche.
These Bible verses claw at my mind as we leave the musty, decaying premises:
Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (NIV)
And I thank God for the relief of not having to worry about moths and vermin and thieves.