By Oscar R. Ramos, from the March 30, 1963 issue of the Philippines Free Press, Number 13, Volume LVI.
The year 1962 saw changes in the general appearance of Malacañang. Previously, some Palace employees lived in the compound. The dormitory specially built for them was not large enough to accommodate these employees whose services were very often needed by the First Family.
The children of these employees often went to the Executive Building to fetch cold drinking water. The children went there barefooted, with unkempt hair, dirty dresses; the boys sometimes went without pants. With big bottles, kettles or cans, they would empty the water cooler located on the first floor of the building. Foreign visitors sometimes saw these children excreting on the pavement near the budget building and also in the boat-house near the Press Office.
Heaps of garbage were piled near Gate Six. Carinderias beside the budget building made brisk business — without the necessary sanitary facilities. Flies swarmed all over these places, but employees also swarmed to the place because of the cheaply-priced food.
The parking area was always full. Motorists going to the Saint Jude church nearby used the place to park their cars. A traffic jam was a common sight.
The Presidential Guard Battalion had barracks near the Pasig River. At night some of the soldiers who did not like to use their stinking toilet defecated behind the concrete wall alongside the river.
At dusk, the Park became a lovers’ lane. People necked inside cars.
Such was the state of affairs before President Macapagal settled in Malacañang. When the new First Family moved in, those employees who were living in the Palace compound moved out. Unsightly buildings were demolished. The Engineers Office personnel were transferred to the other side of the river. The garbage around Gate Six was removed. The filthy eating places were closed.
The Presidential Guard barracks were demolished. In its place was constructed the present parking lot. The lawn was made wider, became greener as more sunshine streamed down through trees whose dead branches were cut off. Plants were tastefully arranged around the lawn.
Man-made fountains and springs appeared. Toilets became cleaner.
The asphalt pavement was changed to concrete. The golf green in Malacañang Park was scraped up by bulldozers.
Janitors and gardeners now wear uniforms. Before, some of them practically wore rags. Sometimes they even came to work without shoes.
The prostitutes I used to see coming out of the air-raid shelter behind the Executive Building alongside the Pasig River could not possibly go there now. The place is now off-limits to outsiders.
Most of the credit for the improvements goes to the First Lady, Mrs. Eva Macapagal. The engineers, architects, mechanics, electricians, masons, drivers, carpenters, gardeners, janitors, and laborers who worked on the project also deserve congratulations. These people were most efficient, primarily because they did not want to be fired. — OSCAR R. RAMOS, Manila.