While hundreds of enthusiastic civilians poured into the streets to support troops rebelling against President Ferdinand Marcos last night, across the capital a stony silence hung over the Malacanang Palace grounds from which Marcos was directing his effort to stamp out the revolt.
Only the clanking of armored vehicles moving through the palace grounds and aiming their cannons outward through the gates broke the midnight silence. Although no curfew had been declared, streets around the palace were largely deserted.
At midday Sunday, life elsewhere in Central Manila seemed normal, with the usual joggers loping past the lightly guarded U.S. Embassy on Manila Bay.
A few dozen grim-faced soldiers at barbed wire barricades blocking roads leading to the palace quietly discussed among themselves the confrontation dividing their top military and civilian commanders, while inside the 17th century tropical mansion Marcos was preparing for the first of two late night television broadcasts appealing for public support.
The soldiers were clearly surprised and confused by the sudden conflict between Marcos and his loyal generals on one side, and the rebels led by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile on the other.
"I don't know any reasons," said Lt. Justado Nieveras as he turned back journalists trying to get to the palace last night. "We're just not supposed to let anyone through."
When reporters persisted, Nieveras pointed to a pay phone across the street and said, "Okay, call the palace, and if you can get someone to approve you, I'll let you go on."
Several reporters hovered around the phone passing it back and forth as they tried in vain to reach a contact inside who would authorize their entry. A small group of Filipinos gathered a few yards away and watched solemnly, except for the children of the mostly poor neighborhood who, delighted to find the street suddenly free of traffic, turned it into a playground.
Small knots of people gathered at cigarette shops and on street corners in the middle class and poorer housing districts that surround the palace. They appeared to be rushing neither to protect Marcos nor to join the mutineers, but cautiously watching events unfold and desperately seeking information.
"We are just waiting to see what will happen," said Juanito Laya, a taxi driver who said his taxi and several others had been trapped in the local streets overnight when soldiers suddenly blocked off all approaches to the palace by erecting barbed-wire barricades.
Those who listened to transistor radios were tuned into Radio Veritas, the Catholic Church-run radio station, which issued appeals for support for the rebels and which has consistently been more accurate and complete in its reporting on events than has the government-run media in recent weeks as the Philippine crisis has mounted.
"What is going on?" one anxious civilian asked the frustrated journalists as they gave up the phoning effort. "We are completely confused."
At another gate to the palace, an officer let himself be convinced to allow this correspondent into the palace press office, accompanied by a rifle-toting soldier.
Inside, press officials disagreed among themselves whether journalists would be allowed up to Marcos' study to watch his televised announcement that security forces had foiled what he said was an attempted coup d'etat. The argument went unresolved until Marcos appeared on the screen, surrounded by a small group of handpicked Filipino reporters from the palace press corps, who were clearly the only ones who would be allowed to attend the conference.
In the carpeted office of the information minister, aides watched Marcos in silence, one senior staffer scribbling down the story to be dictated to the state-run news agency. On the screen, Marcos looked tired and sounded hoarse as he explained his version of the standoff at the Defense Ministry headquarters.
Marcos answered questions from the reporters and asked a young officer from his security detail to read a confession of participation in the alleged plot. Asked whether he believed Marcos' account of the coup and assassination attempt, one of the press staffers simply shrugged and turned away.
Marcos appeared more relaxed in a second television appearance after 1 a.m. in which he presented a second officer to read a confession.
Shortly after the first broadcast ended, a new group of armored personnel carriers and self-propelled cannons were maneuvered into position around the palace, and soldiers carried armloads of rifles and ammunition boxes to the roof of the building housing the press office.
Outside floodlights shone on a large esplanade within the palace compound. In the warm, humid night air, perhaps 30 workers in T-shirts and shorts shoveled and hoed the earth.
A soldier explained that a garden was being dug out to put in a grassy lawn for the president's swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.