MANILA, Philippines?The country?s most tightly guarded bachelor?s pad comes complete with a swimming pool, a Bali-style garden, ample space for a pool table, three new bedrooms?and, well, that occasional ?smell.?
The smell of the Pasig River.
The prewar Bahay Pangarap located across the Pasig River from Malacañang would be ready by the weekend for its new occupant, President Aquino, according to the chief of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
?It?s up to him how he wants to decorate,? Col. Ramon Dizon told reporters yesterday. ?They?ve started cleaning the house two days ago, but this weekend we will be ready whenever the President wants to transfer.?
Under previous administrations since the Commonwealth era, the Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams) usually served as venue for formal dinners and other social functions.
While retaining its art deco look, the house was recently renovated and refurbished to suit the needs of the country?s first bachelor Chief Executive. Malacañang tapped architect Manny Dimaculangan to rework the spacious bungalow.
Three more bedrooms were added to the existing master bedroom. Dizon said they would be reserved for Mr. Aquino?s occasional guests, security detail and household staff.
Family members could come over, but the renovations did not really consider providing long-term lodgings for such visitors.
?Right now, there are no accommodations for them like in a family,? Dizon said. ?There?s a guest room, but who?s going to stay there is dependent on the President?s desire, if one of his nephews or nieces want to live with him or maybe if one of his sisters want to visit or spend the night.?
A billiards aficionado, the 50-year-old President would have enough room for a pool table inside the house.
Mr. Aquino would rather go target shooting than pick up a golf club, but his new home offers a serene, stress-relieving view of the nearby Palace golf course.
Since assuming office on June 30, Mr. Aquino has been staying at the family residence on Times Street, West Triangle, Quezon City, preferring to make that daily trip to work and endure Metro Manila?s notorious traffic jams rather than live in or near Malacañang.
Before Mr. Aquino finally chose Bahay Pangarap, three other locations were considered?the Palace itself, its premier guest house and the nearby Arlegui Mansion.
But while having that resort feel, Bahay Pangarap is not immune to the hassles endured by other riverside residences.
Garbage floating on the Pasig River, which predictably swells during the rainy season, would usually wash up on the elevated landing.
And then there?s the smell when the river runs shallow during summer.
Dizon noted, however, that the stench ?isn?t that bad anymore? lately, thanks to the rains.
The smell doesn?t really permeate the interior of the house, but outside ?during summer it can be quite annoying ... It?s really difficult,? the PSG chief said.
Dizon gladly noted that even at the height of Typhoon ?Ondoy? which unleashed flash floods in many parts of Metro Manila last year, the rising waters did not reach the floor level of Bahay Pangarap.
The Pasig River could offer an alternative route for the President from Bahay Pangarap to his office in Malacañang.
From his house, the presidential barge can take him to his workplace across the river in five minutes.
But the river has to cooperate first: It must be clear of water lilies and the tide high enough for the barge, Dizon said.
At present, unauthorized vessels cannot dock at the areas near Malacañang, but Dizon explained that ?as much as possible, we will try not to limit the traffic at the Pasig River because that?s already a transportation hub.?
?Security is also an evolving thing. What works, we strengthen. What doesn?t work, we can always put aside.?
Dizon said the PSG was verifying what he called ?minor threats? to the President. He did not elaborate, maintaining that ?the threat itself is not really that high.?
For security reasons, media coverage will not be allowed when Mr. Aquino finally transfers to Bahay Pangarap. ?I hope you understand,? Dizon told reporters.