MALACANANG: LEGENDS AND MYTHS

In a dressing room at Malacanang Palace, where just a year ago Imelda Marcos might have stood choosing shoes for her last appearance in the Philippines, Heidi Montesa, a McDonald's hamburger salesgirl turned tour guide now tells stories about the last days of the would-be dynasty.

Malacanang has become a shrine. The home of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his avaricious wife until they were forced into exile last February after 20 years in office, the palace is now a museum for the treasures and trappings of a rotten regime.And of course, to Imelda's now world famous shoes.

For Ms. Montesa, the palace has lost some of its ability to shock. Imelda had gaudy taste and her gowns - I wouldn't wear them - most of them look itchy, she said. But she refers to the room where Mrs. Marcos's 935 gowns and dresses line two walls like an overstocked department store as the wow room - because nobody can believe their eyes when they enter.

Now the 1,060 pairs of shoes that Mrs. Marcos left behind are stacked neatly in racks, many unworn, some exotic, such as her disco set with rechargeable flashing heels, and almost none made in the Philippines as she claimed. They share shelves with rows of Christian Dior and Monsieur Rochas perfume, some of it in two-liter jars, and empty jewelry boxes stacked high.

The 100,000 people who have passed through the palace since it opened as a museum last September now see it in a clinical and carefully inventoried state. Traces of the Marcos' hurried flight into exile have now been cleared away.

Cheap Casio watches used as gifts during the flawed presidential campaign that triggered the dictator's downfall no longer litter Mrs. Marcos' bedroom floor and the traces of a last hurried meal and the unmade beds have been removed.

But while the palace has lost some of the feeling of recent flight, it is gaining its myths and legends. There is the Univac computer in one of the studies that was said to link Marcos directly to his bank accounts in Switzerland that the government now suspects lodge up to $5 billion of the country's wealth. Then there is the pure oxygen found by Mrs. Marcos' bed that she was supposed to have breathed each night to improve her complexion.

The receipt for $1.43 million from a New York store for six pieces of jewelry will pass into legend as will the blackboard in what is now called the war room, but was previously a small kitchen where Mrs. Marcos used to cook for her family at weekends. On the board, chalked maps show the military camps and positions of the soldiers during the rebellion that triggered the civilian uprising and forced the Marcoses to flee to Hawaii.

One Filipino visiting the palace for the first time was shocked by the grotesque changes to the old Spanish colonial governor's residence that highlight the corruption of values in Marcos' time.

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