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Inside the Estrada museum: The world according to Erap
« on: July 05, 2007, 11:23:09 AM »

If he didn’t go into show business and politics, former president Joseph Estrada would have probably made a fortune as an architect.

Having no formal training but just relying on his eye and personal style, he drew, designed and chose the furnishings and finishing for his Spanish villa inspired Presidential Library inside his property in Tanay, Rizal.

Estrada bought the 15-hectare property in 1963 at two pesos per square meter and used it as a movie backlot -- using cogon covered hills, rock streams and small forests to shoot cowboy movies with best friend, the late Fernando Poe Jr.

Estrada started building the Presidential Museum in 2002. He picked a small hill in his property as the site of the museum because it was his favorite spot to sit and pray.

“This is a labor of love,” Estrada recounts while sitting inside the Presidential Library surrounded by the portraits of all the Philippine Presidents hanging on the walls.

“I learned to love this place ever since. Maybe God has a purpose for bringing me here because this is where I pray.”

“When I was still a movie actor, I’m always here every weekend. I pray every morning once the sun rises because God said he is the light, the way and the truth,” Estrada added.

His detention gave him the time to look over the property and plan his museum. He saw the museum as an opportunity to tell his story including his ouster as President in 2001.

“I don’t like wasting my time doing nothing so I’d rather do something. If I’m no longer around, people will see the truth, what really happened,” he said.

One of the main sections of the museum is EDSA DOS,  described as “A Dark Time For Democracy.” The display’s main theme is black and prominently displayed is an enlarged mugshot of  “Joseph Ejercito Estrada cc# 26558" after his arrest in April 2001.

Asked why he included this, Estrada said: “That’s part of history, I want the people to know the truth why I was thrown into prison.”

The museum
The stucco and red roofed museum is located on a hilltop near the main entrance of Estrada’s Tanay resthouse. A Philippine flag flies on the flagpole located at the center of the cobblestone driveway.

A bronze statue of a waving Estrada stands at the entrance of the Joseph Ejercito Estrada Museum and Archives. Also at the entrance is an image of a carabao made of white granite, which was donated by China. Estrada’s pet Senate bill (no pun intended) was Senate Bill 1165, which created the Philippine Carabao Center to propagate and promote the Philippine carabao.

Inside, the first thing that will greet visitors is a wall of photographs showcasing Estrada’s accomplishments as an actor before he became president. On  the wall hang his numerous awards including one for Famas Best Actor.

The tour is divided by the various chapters of Estrada’s life. The first display is entitled “The Actor’s Got Heart: 1957 – 1989.” Among the displays are life-like mannequins of the former president in various roles including the grease-gun-wielding Asiong Salonga and that of Estrada holding aloft a baby in the movie “Ito Ang Pinoy.”

Positioned near the Asiong Salonga Erap mannequin are two old film cameras stamped with “Joseph Estrada Productions.”

In a glass case is his tuxedo and black Converse rubber shoes, which he wore in the 1965 movie, "Deadly Pinoy."

The next display's title is “This Mayor Performs: 1969 - 1986.” Unlike the movie displays, the Estrada mannequins are dressed in short sleeve polo barongs – similar to the ones he wore as mayor of San Juan. There is also an explanation on why Estrada entered politics and how he was belittled as "merely an actor."

“All these so called elitists and intellectuals, they were all laughing at me and it was only the masses who were behind me,” Estrada recounted.

And then there is Estrada “The Pro-Poor Legislator: 1987 – 1992” and Estrada as the “crimebusting Vice-President: 1992–1998.”

Highlighted in the last display are Estrada’s campaign as head of the Presidential AntiCrime Commission, including the killing of Red Scorpion Group leader Joey de Leon.

The next display is  “The Warrior President: 1998 – 2001.” Highlights of the section are the actual jeepney used by Estrada in the Jeep Ni Erap campaign; a diorama of Estrada wearing an army uniform and raising the Philippine flag at the recaptured MILF camp, and; a replica of Estrada’s desk and office inside Malacanang.

Around the replica office are Estrada photos with other world leaders and business tycoons: US President Bill Clinton, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, South African President Nelson Mandela, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The final display is the dark, black themed “A Dark Time For Democracy”, detailing Estrada’s ouster from Malacanang. To this day, Estrada maintains he did not resign and that he was illegally removed from office.

The display highlights various commentaries from foreign media, which criticized EDSA Dos. “Even the foreign press said it was wrong.”

In one part of the museum is a small theater were the main highlight is an hour-long documentary, produced by the Estrada camp, highlighting Estrada’s political career and what they said is the real story behind his ouster.

The documentary blames the oligarchs and the political elite as those behind his ouster. It said Estrada's order to look into anomalies committed in the past administration and his refusal to give in to demands of businesses, especially on water, power and basic utilities, led the elite to move against him.

Estrada’s documentary identifies these oligarchs and elite, and highlights Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s now famous ambush interview  saying he (Davide) would administer the oath of acting president on then-vice-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Outside the museum is a black granite tomb, where he wants to be buried, which overlook his Tanay property. Inscribed at the wall beside the tomb is a quote from Estrada’s Inaugural speech: Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kung hindi kapwa Pilipino.

The Presidential Library displays the different gifts he received from other heads of state as well as books on leadership and Philippine history. Also prominently displayed is Estrada’s biography.

Forgiveness, politics
Five years on, Estrada claims he has forgiven those who were behind his impeachment.

“I’ve talked to the former vice-president Teofisto Guingona.  We’re very, very good friends. He was the first one who made the privilege speech in the Senate, the 'I Accuse' speech. I was even kidding him, 'Now, you can say 'I Acquit,'” Estrada joked.

As both defense and prosecution gave their summations on the Estrada plunder case, the former president believes that based on the merits of the case, he would be acquitted of plunder and perjury. He recounted how emissaries from the Arroyo administration offered not to file charges against him if he left the country, which he flatly refused. To this date, he insists he will make no deals with the Arroyo administration.

“I want to be acquitted on the merits of the case, not because I had negotiations with them,” he stressed.

Estrada is also looking toward the future and 2010 presidential election. His frontrunners are: Senators Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Roxas and Manny Villar. He admits he has not decided on who to support but tacitly acknowledges the opposition must unite by 2010.

On the outcome of the Senate race, he sees the opposition win as the result of a protest vote against the present leadership. “People are suffering. They claim that the economy is moving forward… but majority of our people, specially the masses don’t feel it,” he said as he lounges in a chair inside his Presidential Library.

When asked about the defeat of his political rival Chavit Singson, Estrada wryly smiled and said: “God is not sleeping and they will be put in their proper places.”

He admits that he is disappointed with the defeat of Tito Sotto, whom he still considers a close friend. While acknowledging politics forced Sotto to join the administration party, this has not diminished their friendship.

“Naaawa ako dahil kumpareng buo ko yan… I don’t know what happened,” he said, “But our friendship is beyond politics – we have been friends for a long time.”

Will he run again for President  if he is acquitted? Estrada said he has had enough and it's time to let the young people serve.

Doing a Nixon or a Carter
If given a choice, the former president sees himself as a peacemaker or in his description: Doing “a Nixon or a Carter.” 

“If they will give me a chance to go out in Mindanao or with the New People's Army, just to unite the country [I will do it],” he said.

In the end, Estrada wants to be remembered for one thing: The masses made Joseph Estrada.

“I want to be known when I’m no longer president as the President who championed the cause of the masses. That’s why I said in my museum, whatever I am now, I owe it to the Filipino masses.”


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