A few energetic sightseers were already climbing the steep hill shaded by plumeria and kukui nut trees to take a peek today at what nearly all Honolulu thought was the new home of deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos.
The neighbors along Huelani Place viewed the beginning trickle of strangers and television trucks with a mix of interest and resignation. The front-page story in the Star-Bulletin reported a two-month, $10,000-a-month lease for the estate with the gorgeous view and hot tub at the top of the narrow road.
John Gray, a neighbor who said he found Marcos distasteful, told reporters he had resisted a request to sublet his little white wood-frame house to the Secret Service detail, but finally accepted the inevitable, in return for money to relocate and a promise that no member of the Marcos party would inhabit his place.
Yet by noon today, the arrangements had all wilted like a lei left in the sun. The real estate agent who had spearheaded the deal confessed he was the latest victim of the obsession with Marcos and the visions of grandeur that had overtaken many in this island resort.
Zoltan Rudolics, the real estate agent who had occupied the estate on the hill, said he had shown it to Imelda Marcos, the ousted president's wife, and let her enthusiasm and the Secret Service preparations carry him too far. He had told one of his neighbors, hydrologist Paul Ekern, that Marcos would be moving in Tuesday, but today Rudolics acknowledged that he had only an option to buy the property and had not come up with the $625,000 purchase price that would give him the right to lease it. He said he would try to find the money soon.
He said he had convinced the Marcoses that the secluded estate was "about the safest place in the entire world." Now, he said, "I've got helicopters flying 50 feet over my house. My privacy has been shattered."
It was a cry that would have found a sympathetic ear in Marcos. The deposed leader has appeared anxious to move from officers quarters at Hickam Air Force Base to a more comfortable place he could call his own.
But it is unlikely he will ever escape the public eye for long on this island of sightseers. Today's real estate debacle was only one more step in the controversial leader's growing involvement as one of Hawaii's newest and most absorbing curiosities.
On the radio they are playing a new song: "On Air Force One, he came right here, Fernando's hideaway." In the restaurants along Waikiki, residents and frequent visitors are exchanging stories of Imelda Marcos' 1985 shopping spree -- whole racks of clothes swept up at The Liberty House -- and wondering where they will see her next. The song asserts "When the going gets tough, Imelda goes shopping."
Yet a Washington source familiar with Marcos' current thinking warns that this may not be the last stop for the wealthy 68-year-old refugee. Marcos remains "extremely concerned" about the growing legion of attorneys seeking to subpoena him in several lawsuits over real estate, freshly minted Philippine currency and alleged torture activities back home. The source indicates Marcos has for now decided to find some temporary private lodging where he, his family and closest aides will have enough time and relative quiet to consider a permanent home.
One possibility mentioned by Marcos, the source said, is Singapore, stronghold of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. One of the few world leaders to match Marcos' reputation for intellect, Lee was Marcos' counterpart in the five-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and runs Singapore with a Swiss-watch precision that would tolerate no harassment of invited guests.
Accustomed to Malacanang Palace in Manila, Marcos and his family have been showing signs of restiveness in their relatively austere Hickam quarters. Several of the Marcos grandchildren and other children in the party were taken to the Honolulu Zoo earlier this week. Air Force spokesmen revealed Friday night that at least 20 members of the party, not including Marcos and his former chief military aide Fabian Ver, had already moved out.
One neighbor, mathematics teacher Francis A.I. Bowers Jr. was content to see the deal evaporate. "This was just going to raise our real estate taxes," he said.