In the hallway outside the bedroom where Ferdinand Marcos is doing his morning exercises hangs the embroidered presidential seal of the Republic of the Philippines.
Once the symbol of Marcos' rule over millions, the seal now seems little more than a souvenir to many, though not to Marcos.
Outside the $1.5 million waterfront house Marcos is renting here for $4,000 a month, a fisherman stalked bright tropical fish in the shallows. The fringes of hurricane Estelle picked up the surf beyond the reef and boosted the humidity to a soggy 70 percent. Marcos has traded vest and tie for a bright flowered red and white aloha shirt.
But his mind is half an ocean away. He said in an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser that he worries about the communist threat to his homeland and fears that President Corazon Aquino is not doing enough to stop it. He talked constantly of returning to lead his people, seeming to ignore the reality of his situation.
Marcos is now five months into an uneasy exile that began with a departure from Malacanang Palace that was so hasty he forgot to take his false teeth. He is beset by claims that he robbed his people of billions of dollars, is dismayed to see his family and entourage "scattered and in destitution," and said he feels that U.S. bureaucrats took him out of the Philippines against his will. It was, in his view, closer to a kidnaping than a rescue.
Asked what he would do if he could do it all over again, Marcos snapped: "I would not listen to the Americans. They were always insisting about a new election, they were insisting that I leave Malacanang, they threatened to use the Marines on us.
"They ordered me to leave the presidency even if I felt that I had won," he said. "They made it look as if it was an order from the president of the United States, but it was from the State Department." And in Manila, he said, his forces were attacked "with helicopters that were armed and fueled by the U.S. Air Force at Clark Air Force Base.
"I had decided to die in Malacanang," Marcos said.
Why, then, did he leave?
"I was practically carried into a helicopter," he said, his voice rising.
"I thought there were some white men," he said, "but we will not go into that." He did not offer his previous explanation that he had left to prevent bloodshed.
Marcos said he should have listened to the Americans earlier, in 1983 and 1984, "when they said there should be reforms in the military . . . even in the civil government." He said there were some changes, but "we got caught in a propaganda war."
Marcos suggested he could return to the Philippines "as a simple peasant," then serve as a figurehead leader, to unite the people. "It is immaterial now who is president," he said, but "to set up a legitimate government you have to have some symbol of legitimacy, and the only symbol is me. I may abandon all the power and give it to all those people, but there has to be a legitimate government.
"Not only that, in order to unite the people there has to be a symbol of authority."
But then, he said, he would need time, "up to one full year, or six months, to make up for all the errors that have been made." Otherwise, he said, the communists would take over, the United States would lose its bases, the balance of power would tip to the Soviets, and then "goodbye Asia, goodbye Middle East, goodbye Europe."
After the assassination of returning exiled rival Benigno Aquino -- for which Marcos refuses to blame himself in any way, not even for insufficient security to protect Aquino -- the United States urged that Marcos' chief of staff Fabian Ver be tried, and many in the United States were skeptical when Ver was acquitted.
In was in those circumstances, Marcos said, that he yielded to U.S. pressure for the snap elections.
"I should have been stronger than that," he said. "I should have seen that the first problem was the insurgency and economic recovery," rather than an election campaign.
Marcos and his friends spend much time talking of scenarios, war games and contingency plans.
There is news, Marcos said, that General Fidel Ramos, chief of staff of the Philippine armed forces, is warning that the Philippines could become "another Vietnam."
Marcos said that Ramos and Gen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the minister of defense, "can still save the situation, but they have to stop the people of Madame Corazon Aquino from supporting the communists. This partnership with the communists is going to be our downfall."
He said he told Enrile in a telephone call shortly after his arrival here to pull out longstanding counterinsurgency contingency plans, "take a look at them, and then tell Gen. Ramos, 'no hard feelings but you guys better do your jobs.' "
"The only problem," he added, "is I don't know whether Enrile and Ramos are burned out. But I still depend on them."
Why not simply fly to Manila?
"Well, theoretically I should be able to, but you know when you get there . . . they would probably shoot me down . . . my enemies in the Philippines.
"Of course Mr. Enrile has said 'he should not come back any more,' and then he Enrile has said: 'but if he insists, I'll give him security.'
"Look, I am willing to risk my life, I am willing to go there, but not to start a civil war, and this is my worry. If I go there, I must first be sure that everybody will listen to me, including Enrile, Ramos and any others who can still be saved from that hotbed of vindictiveness and illegality."
Marcos denied having a kidney problem. The five dialysis machines in the palace were more than he would have needed even if he did have a kidney problem, he said, and were part of a hospital set up for troops who defended the palace.
He denied having lupus, but said he does have a susceptibility to infection and asthma and related pulmonary problems that have slowed him down a great deal.
Two visiting Philippine politicians, a former governor and a former assemblyman, were visiting Marcos for lunch. They called themselves, joking only a little, "rebel leaders." They were among those who occupied the Hotel Manila July 5 when Marcos' old running mate, Arturo Tolentino, declared himself "acting president" in Marcos' absence.
What, Marcos was asked, of reports that a telephone operator in the hotel overheard Marcos urging Tolentino to pass a resolution calling for Marcos' return?
That was a joke, Marcos said.
"At one point I called up Tolentino and I asked him what had happened and he said, 'One thing led to another and before I knew it I was telling everybody since there was no other opportunity and I would like to present the matter of legitimacy and constitutionality in a quiet and simple way, I took the oath.' "
Marcos said he asked Tolentino what he expected would happen next. "Well, they'll probably shoot me," Tolentino replied, according to Marcos. "All I said," Marcos continued, chuckling, "was if you need someone to be shot with you, why don't you invite me, you pass a resolution and I'll come down and be shot with you, but you stay on my left," the inferior position in a military lineup.
"And it was done laughingly, but I understand it was taken seriously by the telephone operator . . . who was probably quaking in his boots when he was listening," Marcos said.