Built in 1981 at a cost of $10 million, The Coconut Palace, located at the northwestern corner of the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, was offered as a place to stay by First Lady Imelda Marcos to Pope John Paul II when he visited the country back in 1981. The good pope declined the offer, saying that the residence was too ostentatious, and stayed instead with the country’s Papal Nuncio. (Imelda Marcos has this penchant to impress distinguished visitors to the country with grand architecture, like the Golden Mosque, built for the Libyan president.)
The Coconut Palace is almost entirely built out of coconut lumber, narra, and other native hardwoods. It’s named that way because 70% of the building’s materials came from the coconut tree and practically every furnishings in the palace has coconut in it, with the coconut shell chandelier and the intricate coconut dining table among the masterpieces. The palace contains seven bedroom suites, each representing a region of the Philippines: Bicol, Iloilo, Marawi, Mountain Province, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Zamboanga. (The Marcos’ favorite number is seven.) Outside, there is a magnificent pool and grassy lawn, with planted coconuts (but of course!) overlooking Manila Bay.
Photo by Paul Shaffner.
Nowadays, the palace serves as a museum. Tourists can visit it during the day after paying an entrance fee of 100 pesos and tour guides will be glad to show the interiors of the Coconut Palace. However, visitors are not allowed to stay overnight. The lawn and pool area can be rented for events and occasions, and many wedding receptions have been held on its grounds.
If you’ve seen the 5th season of The Amazing Race, you should remember that the Pit Stop for the 11th leg was the Coconut Palace (with First Daughter Luli Arroyo greeting the racers). Since nobody can actually stay, much less sleep, in the palace overnight, our visitors were actually booked at the Westin Philippine Plaza (now the Sofitel Philippine Plaza) next door. In the reality TV show, we see Colin and Christie, who arrived last at the Pit Stop in a non-elimination leg, beg for money from tourists at Westin. (We’ve already featured Lagen Island, in El Nido, Palawan, which was the Pit Stop of the 12th leg.)