MANILA, Philippines -- In the end, only street toughs and drunks protected President Ferdinand Marcos' Malacanang Palace from the mobs of Corazon Aquino supporters who had gathered outside.
Armed with rocks and a few pistols, several hundred of the self-proclaimed Marcos 'loyalists' fled when rebel troops fired rifles into the air, leaving the lavish symbol of Marcos' 20-year grip on the Philippines exposed.
Supporters of Aquino, who was sworn in as the new president Tuesday, swarmed over steel fences surrounding the palace. Among the mobs were priests and nuns who were reciting the rosary.
Hundreds of people climbed a four-story administration building inside the palace complex. They looted offices of the Information Ministry on the third floor.
Many ripped open desks and cabinets and took away radios, typewriters, telephones and everything else in sight. Portraits of Marcos and his wife, Imelda, were ripped off walls and burned in the streets.
Soldiers loyal to Aquino quickly sealed the palace, but not before youths managed to break into its lavish halls and rooms, sliding on polished mahogany floors and smashing ornate chandeliers. One youth pounded on the keys of a grand piano.
'Stolen from the nation, give back to the nation,' Aquino supporters chanted. But more responded, 'Don't steal. Don't steal. Don't imitate Marcos.'
Left intact were the ornate reception hall, the richly carpeted ceremonial hall where Marcos received diplomatic guests, the book-lined study, the presidential bedroom, and Imelda's music room.
So was the palace medical clinc, which included a dialysis machine, apparently confirming rumors that Marcos suffered from a degenerative kidney ailment during the final years of his rule.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos marched on Malacanang Palce earlier Tuesday and confronted loyalist troops guarding Marcos. By late evening, after word spread that Marcos and his family had slipped away into the Manila night, the once-loyal troops pulled out.
Left behind were 200 Marcos loyalists who had attended Marcos' inaugural and seen the ailing leader fight back tears and his wife pledge to 'offer my life to the last breath.'
Among the papers scattered about the palace were records of earnings of Manila's casinos, whose unaudited funds had reportedly been used to finance many of Imelda Marcos' pet projects.
Along the river bank near the pier, stacks of official documents were still burning late at night. Some people took the papers as souvenirs, while others simply stared on, saying 'At last, after 20 years, we've seen the palace.'
'I should be happy, but I'm not,' said attorney Zenaida Elepano. 'I'm enraged. I am already 43 years old and this is the first time I've seen the palace.
'It's the property of Filipinos, and we were deprived of the right to even see what is behind the walls,' he said. 'We were never able to go beyond the barricades.'