Manila's most popular destination is a place that does not want to be visited. Every week, thousands try to walk to the complex of Spanish colonial-style buildings at the end of Mendiola Avenue, but they are always sent away. Well, actually, they are clubbed, hosed with water and dragged off by screaming policemen. The reason is that Malacanang Palace is where the national leader lives, and ever since the scandal over her allegedly stealing last year's elections exploded, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has not felt much like receiving visitors. Particularly if they are the same old, tedious demonstrators clamouring for her to step down. Under Mrs Arroyo's administration the palace's character, once 17th century Spanish Colonial, has been changed to 21st century Paranoid Delusional. The place is encircled by riot police, water cannon, wire entanglements, outer concrete walls, steel bars, checkpoints, heavily armed soldiers and armoured vehicles. The latest touch: huge shipping cargo containers stacked as barriers. You won't find those improvements in Better Homes and Gardens. The administration hasn't posted fire-breathing dragons or legions of the undead, but it should be just a matter of time. Maybe Mrs Arroyo is afraid that hearing the demonstrators' shouts would disturb her pondering how to further fortify the palace. I can see her gazing out of a stately window at the manicured gardens and murmuring to herself: 'Another minefield there, perhaps?' Built as a riverside summer mansion for a wealthy Spaniard, MalacaNang has been used as a seat of power since 1863. It was open to the public in the 1950s, when the popular Ramon Magsaysay was president. The Marcos dictatorship shut the gates, erected checkpoints, put an anti-aircraft gun on top of a nearby brewery, blocked the river with chains and dug an underground escape tunnel. All to protect the country's gross national product, in the shape of Imelda Marcos' collections of shoes, jewellery and bras. As a reporter in 1986, I was one of the crowd that climbed the palace's tall, wrought-iron fences to take a look at how the looter had lived. I was amazed there was no vandalism or rage - people just walked around, stunned and fascinated. When she became president, Corazon Aquino refused to live in a place with such evil karma, and turned it instead into a museum. Her successors moved right back in, and now Mrs Arroyo is the third besieged leader to inhabit it after Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Perhaps the palace should be reconverted into a Museum of Leaders Who Had to Be Dragged Out. There would be a special display of furniture and the wooden floor, showing all the dug-in fingernail marks.