In the current Philippine national election campaign, nine presidential candidates are fiercely jockeying to become Malacañang's official tenant for the next six years, but only one will get the lease to the stately place—a palace, in fact—that many an ambitious Filipino had fought for and died for and likely had even lied for over the years. But to Raul S. Gonzalez, author of the recently released memoir-cum-essay collection, My Malacañang: Essays on presidents, people, places and politics, being a Malacañang resident wasn't great shakes really. He had lived there as a permanent, non-elective resident for nearly 13 years, giving him a ringside seat to recent Philippine political and social history as well as a close familiarity with the virtues, foibles, and quirks of its long succession of elective tenants.
But if Gonzalez's only qualification was having been Malacañang's longest-staying resident except for one, My Malacañang wouldn't merit even a brief review in Jose Carillo's English Forum. It's indisputable, though, that his 65 English-language essays in the 320-page collection are not only highly evocative, compelling cautionary tales about Philippine life and politics but also superb, instructive reading for students of English style and rhetoric. Gonzalez is a highly astute observer and an English-language wordsmith with few equals in the country, so I took the opportunity of reviewing My Malacañang myself to introduce Forum members to his engaging narrative and expository prose. As a bonus, his deep insights into power and power players in the Philippines might just help us make an enlightened choice of the next Malacañang tenant.