The Museo ng Pampangulong Sasakyan (Presidential Car Museum) opened its doors recently, in a structure built specifically for it located in the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City. Housed in a 3,000-square meter tract of land within the national park, the modernist exterior of the museum houses relics of the past, specifically 12 cars used by the Philippines’ former presidents, from Emilio Aguinaldo to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Upon entering the exhibit hall, a wall explains the significance of the vehicles on display. Immediately behind it is an interactive video wall which explains the details of each vehicle on display.
The museum’s centerpiece is the 1924 Packard Single 6 233 Series of Aguinaldo. Although the car itself was not used to convey Aguinaldo during his short-lived stint as the Philippine’s first president from 1899 to 1901, it did serve as his private vehicle until shortly before his death in 1964 when he donated it, along with his house in Kawit, Cavite to the national government. Along with the car, also on display are some of Aguinaldo’s personal artifacts, including a pair of boots and a shirt that he once used.
Right behind it are four vehicles that, though not used by a Philippine president save for one, are of historical value: a 1934 Cadillac V16 Transformable Town Cabriolet that was former president Manuel L. Quezon’s first presidential car from 1935 until it was turned over to then-General Douglas MacArthur in 1937 to be used as his vehicle as the Field Marshal of the Philippine Army; a kalesa that was used by Leon Apacible, one of the authors and cosignatories of the 1899 Malolos Constitution; a 1943 Willys MB–or “Jeep” as it was known during World War II–that was a gift of MacArthur to then-Secretary of National Defense Ramon Magsaysay during the term of then-President Elpidio Quirino; and a right-hand-drive 1960 Rolls-Royce Phantom V used by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, complete with “storage for wine and champagne bottles at the back, a set of four crystal champagne flutes, and a built-in humidor for Cuban cigars.”
Spread around the centerpiece are the presidential cars themselves, led by the imposing 1937 Chrysler Airflow Custom CW used by Quezon from 1937 to 1941 to the 1993 Mercedes-Benz S600 Limousine V140 used by Macapagal-Arroyo from 1993 to 2001.
Conspicuously missing are the cars used by former presidents Carlos P. Garcia, which was supposedly not recovered, and Benign Aquino III, which is reportedly still in Malacañang. Although the actual 1959 Cadillac Sedan DeVille used by former president Diosdado Macapagal wasn’t also recovered for the museum, a model similar to it was found and is now on display. It’s also worth noting that during his term, President Sergio Osmeña used the 1942 Packard Custom Super Eight: One-Eighty used by his predecessor, Jose P. Laurel–a gift by the Japanese administration which then governed the Philippines during World War 2–as the country was still recovering from the ravages of war.
While taking in the entire vehicle collection as a whole, a noticeable disparity between the cars of former presidents Ferdinand E. Marcos and Corazon Aquino is obvious. While Marcos’s 1980 Lincoln Continental Mark VI Signature Series looks stately with its long hood and lengthy wheelbase–and wife Imelda’s Rolls-Royce borders on pretentiousness–Aquino’s 1986 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL, donated by the German government, looks understated, even pedestrian.
All the vehicles on display in the Presidential Car Museum are under the care of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and have been carefully repaired and restored by the agency since 2008.
“Each car has its own history–reflecting the era from which it was manufactured and the personality of the president who used it in his/her official capacity,” the NHCP said in a statement on display at the entrance of the exhibit hall itself. “It is the aim of this museum to preserve these vintage and classic cars for posterity as each vehicle provides and alternative perspective not only to the Philippine presidency but also to the history of the country.”
Directly across the doors to the exhibit hall is the souvenir shop where you can buy items that help to finance the museum’s upkeep, from t-shirts to commemorative stamps featuring the cars issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation on August 10.
The Quezon Memorial Circle is a sizable tract of land and your first instinct might be to go to the Quezon Memorial Shrine itself. The museum itself is actually behind where the row of food stalls are and near where the exit is, and it’s not hard to miss because of its dark gray, modernist design.
As we previously reported, the Presidential Car Museum is free to the public from 8 AM to 4 PM every Tuesday to Sunday.
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