Presidents come and go, but one thing remains the same: a car emblazoned with the plate number 1 will transport whoever holds the highest seat in the land. The presidential car, with all its luxury and glory, remains an extension of the President of the Philippines himself. So what makes these cars extra special? Is it the passenger, the car model, or just the plate number?
More than just a mode of transportation
There’s more to a presidential car than just a set of four wheels that takes the commander-in-chief. According to National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Maria Serena Diokno, the carrier that transports the President also paints a picture of the kind of the person leading the nation at a certain time.
“They tell you something about the person who rode in it, who occupied it. For me, it’s a lens. It’s just a lens: through the car, you can tell a story,” she said.
While presidential coaches carry a certain piece of history with them, seasoned motoring journalist Iñigo Roces says that these vehicles are subtle masters of spectacle, attracting both curious onlookers and auto enthusiasts.
“If you pull up into one of these, it’s like you’re really descending into the red carpet, ready to see a premiere,” he told ABS-CBN News. “These vehicles really made in the art of arrival.” Currently, Roces helps the NHCP in its mission to restore the former presidential cars to their former glory.
The said cars are currently held in a private and secure location. Once fully restored, the government will move them to a more permanent location where the general public can experience pieces of history right before their very eyes.
Then and now
The presidential cars then and now are no joke; they have been a testament on how a vehicle exudes with power. Since these rides have already earned their historical status, it is important to now look at the evolution of the cars used by our former leaders. Among the cars under the care of the NHCP are following:
• Jose P. Laurel – Packard 180
• Elpidio Quirino – Chrysler Imperial Crown
• Ramon Magsaysay – Cadillac Series 75
• Imelda Marcos – Rolls Royce Phantom V
• Ferdinand Marcos – Lincoln Continental Signature Series
• Corazon Aquino – Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL
• Fidel V. Ramos – Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL Guard
• Joseph Estrada – Mercedes-Benz S600
• Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman
Aside from the presidential coaches above, the NHCP is also in charge of taking care of the following vehicles used by our former Presidents, although not during their terms:
• Emilio Aguinaldo – Packard Single Six
• Ramon Magsaysay – Willys Jeep
Meanwhile, the are the following presidential vehicles are not under the care of the NHCP:
• Manuel A. Roxas – Fleetwood Cadillac 75
• Manuel L. Quezon – 1937 Chrysler Airflow
• Sergio Osmeña – Cadillac Series 61
• Diosdado Macapagal – 1957 Ford Country Squire
Before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last June 30, he promised to not use one of the many presidential cars that come with becoming the most powerful person in the country. According to him, he still prefers his trusted steed, an Isuzu pickup, as his personal transport as President.
According to GMA News, the current presidential fleet is made up of two Mercedes-Benz W221 S-Class limousines and a Mercedes-Benz a600 S-Guard. Similarly, former President Benigno Aquino III opted to use his personal vehicles, a Lexus and a Toyota Land Cruiser, instead.
Whether or not the President will keep his promise is beside the point; the said issue raises public awareness about the important relationship between the President and his common mode of transportation.