Location, location, location

Posted at 06/14/13 8:57 AM

After paying his hotel bill so there would no repetition of the disturbing and hitherto unexplained papal ritual of rejecting an envelope presented by the Chief Rabbi of Rome—which turned out to contain the unpaid bill for the Last Supper because Jesus was taken away before he could return from the garden to pay it and Peter and the other apostles ran out—Pope Francis checked back into the same hotel this time for good. (As if settling a small bill gives any kind of assurance of paying a much later and bigger bill.)

Nicole Winfield of Associated Press reports that when he was asked why he will not stay in the plush and private papal apartments, Pope Francis cited health reasons; to be exact, mental health reasons, for staying away.

“I need to live among people,” he said. “If I was (he meant “were”) living alone, isolated, it wouldn’t be good for me.”

In short, it would give him delusions of self-grandeur that no one else would be able to correct. You see, the problem with being by yourself is that, not only is it highly unlikely you will correct yourself, but if you did, it would be highly likely you have a split personality.

Anyway, Pope Francis is also staying on in the hotel throughout the long hot summer when Romans decamp for cool high places, like the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome, which encompass a walled area that is bigger than Vatican City.

This is nice but lonely. As we said earlier, it would be solitary which invites delusions of self-grandeur. This pope cannot imagine having breakfast without the company of fellow priests in the hotel’s communal café.

This aversion to plush and exclusive places is not unlike Noynoy’s decision to reside on the other side of the river; and his mother’s to live in the old Cojuangco mansion across from the presidential palace. The converted mansion beside the US embassy was a Cojuangco residence as well. These people seem to have had a lot of houses and all of them big.

I too share the thought that staying in palaces is bad for the resident’s mental not to mention the nation’s financial health.

Most crooked deals are made in the Palace followed by the golf course. Golf, which holds players to the highest standard of honesty, is nonetheless known as the game of thrones and the sport of thieves.

Malacañang, whose sesquicentennial is being celebrated even as you read this, should be turned into a museum, better yet a leprosarium or an orphanage; the best is to demolish it to make room for a bus depot. Malacañang imparts a sense of royalty incongruous in a republic where the only thing Royal was the brand of a spaghetti and currently the army of the Sultan of Sulu.

The presidential palace injects those who are elected to live there with the idea they are special in themselves rather than by virtue of something that accidentally happened to them: they got elected.

Palatial residence instills the unshakeable conviction even in transitory residents that they are always right and always good no matter how wrong they are and how badly they behave; as shown by examples too staggering in number to mention specifically.

Indeed, the ghost of presidential corruption must be exorcised by demolishing its main habitat, whose aesthetic value and architectural merits are, in my expert opinion, zero. Manolo Quezon, the historian of the Palace, observed on Twitter that Malacañang doesn’t even look like itself after Imelda’s gad-awful renovations.

Only Noynoy can pull off the demolition. Only he would have the moral authority on top of his mother’s, to do it with or without asking some other branch which he can anyway ignore: like Congress. Malacañang is nowhere mentioned in any of our constitutions as the seat of anything let alone the official domicile of any officer.

The demolition of the presidential palace will be part and exemplary of Noynoy’s legacy to keep the presidency as clean as when he leaves it.

It will also help keep his successor sane minus the giant temptation to go crazy over the kingly wealth he may come to believe he deserves just because he lives in a Palace.

As in real estate so in politics; it boils down to location, location, location; whether palace or city hall which make men thieves or modest surroundings that keep them honest and real.

Lee Kuan Yew does not live in a palace.

The founder of the Oberoi chain of luxury hotels, who lives in a cottage at the foot of a hill on the vast grounds of his son’s palatial mansion on top of the hill, was asked why his son lived so grandly and he so modestly. He replied, “He was born with a rich father.” His son can look down on the origin and possibly the fate of his fortune if he is not careful.