Malacañang Christmas Tree Lighting 2023: ‘Rains do not dampen our Christmas spirit’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Malacañang Christmas Tree Lighting 2023: �Rains do not dampen our Christmas spirit�
The 15-meter Christmas Tree oustide the historic Kalayaan Hall, arguably the most stately building in the Malacañang complex.
Photos by Joanne Rae Ramirez

"Sorry for the rain.”

Thus said First Lady Liza Marcos to me when I greeted her “Merry Christmas” at last week’s lighting ceremony for Malacañang’s 15-meter-tall Christmas tree on the circular driveway in front of the historic Kalayaan Hall.

All the guests had taken shelter on the second-floor hall of the building, with its dazzling capiz chandeliers and hardwood floors. Social Secretary Bianca Zobel also had potted palm and anahaw trees seemingly sprouting all over the ballroom, giving the place a tropical Christmas vibe.

The rains didn’t dampen the festive mood, though the food stalls with Filipino kakanin on the grounds—including a castañas cart, tibok-tibok, fish balls, puto bumbong, etc.—curated by Florablel Co Yatco, had to be evacuated indoors.

When President Marcos and the First Lady arrived, they immediately mingled with the guests. The President, who the night before had begged off from an official dinner due to fatigue, was in high spirits. When he was greeted by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he complimented her energy. The President said she is an “Energizer Bunny.”

President Bongbong Marcos and First Lady Liza Marcos behold the 15-meter Christmas Tree on the Palace grounds.
Photo from Instagram

“I always have to keep up with GMA when I am with her.”

Later on, he said in his speech, “We are Filipinos. We do not let a little rain dampen our Christmas spirit.”

Indeed. Guests stayed for Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas carols and the magnificent light and sound display over the Pasig River behind the Palace.

This event also marks the second year of “Isang Bituin, Isang Mithiin,” the annual Christmas lantern or parol-making contest that kicks off the Yuletide season. Each year, the Office of the Social Secretary collaborates with a specific department for this cheerful and spirited competition.

This event also featured the Coro de San Jacinto Chorale, the Cagayan State University Chorale and Rita Daniela.

The Kalayaan Hall ballroom where President Clinton met the press during his visit to Manila in 1994

The rain finally became a drizzle and the tree lighting proceeded, albeit late. The First Couple and several children stood on the iron balconies lacing the façade of Kalayaan Hall — the same balcony where the Marcoses greeted their supporters on Feb. 25, 1986.

Instead, what the President beheld from the same spot 37 years later was a tower of joy and celebration, with children all agog at the lights from the giant Christmas tree.

I am in awe of how the Kalayaan Hall looks now — handsomely refurbished but not opulent. It was good to be back, even for a few hours, in the building that was my second home for almost seven years.


You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.

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