Supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’ destroys Imelda Marcos mansion
TOLOSA, Leyte—Former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos has lost one of her precious gems.
The grand Olot mansion, which Imelda, now the Ilocos Norte representative, considered her family’s ancestral home here, was reduced to a pile of rubble when a three-story-high storm surge whipped by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” obliterated everything inside the 42-hectare beach front property.
The destruction of the controversial estate came nearly three years after the Supreme Court allowed her to retake the property, one of the assets of her husband, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, which the government had sequestered, on suspicion it was ill-gotten.
Save for a couch and a few mud-splattered wooden sculptures, one can barely picture the grandiose 17-room residence that used to house the once powerful family.
“It took me a while to recognize the house,” the late dictator’s namesake son, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., told the Inquirer when he visited the property on Monday.
The senator dropped by the mansion before proceeding to the distribution of aid donated by Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. at Barangay (village) Imelda.
“What I immediately recognized was the area where the volunteers placed the relief goods because that was where we used to eat. It also had guest rooms,” he said, pointing to a damaged structure where a group of men placed boxes of bottled mineral water.
Marcos said he had so many good memories of the place, recalling that he spent most of his summers as a teenager in the beach house facing the Pacific Ocean.
He maintained that the property, which also had an 18-hole golf course, originally belonged to the paternal side of his mother, the Romualdezes, one of the oldest political clans in Leyte province.
Ironically, Leyte, which bore the brunt of the most destructive typhoon recorded this year, is one of the poorest provinces in the country.
Leo Acejo, the mansion’s caretaker, said he and a coworker almost gave up their lives guarding the Marcos estate, which lies between two hills.
His voice breaking, he recalled the moment when a wall of seawater swallowed the entire property.
“I saw the sea level drop, as if gathering power and momentum. I got more scared when I noticed that the clouds turned very dark,” he narrated.
“Then I saw what looked like a tornado. A giant tidal wave was coming. We immediately ran to safety inside a room in the staff house,” he continued.
“The wind sounded as if it was an airplane coming down.”
Acejo, who said he had been an employee of the Romualdezes for three decades now, said the seawater inundated the mansion but the flooding lasted only “for a few seconds.”
He said he drank about 2 liters of seawater as he held on for dear life, clutching the window grills.
When the deluge was over, the caretaker said he could not believe what he saw.
The Olot mansion, a testament to Imelda Marcos’ wealth and power in her home province, is now gone.
“It’s hard to see the mansion like this. I cannot imagine this could happen,” he said, his eyes welling with tears.
“But I am happy to be alive. I just want to move on. I don’t know if we can still rebuild the mansion.”
Marcos said his mother had been told of the destruction but photographs of the ruined mansion had been withheld from her.
“It’s sad, you know. She’ll also be hurt if she sees the pictures. More than the mansion, she was asking about the people,” Marcos said.
“That’s why we will prioritize helping the residents of Tolosa. We’re still lucky because the people around us have even less.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.