What's It Like to Party in Malacanang?

When the President of the Philippines entertains guests.
Photo/s: Jim Watson, Agence France-Presse

When Chinese President Xi Jinping was feted with a dinner in Malacanang during his most recent state visit, he was served duck with hoisin sauce that was familiar to his palette with sweet Guimaras mangoes for that local flair. When the presidential palace rolls out its red carpet, the nation's hospitality is on display.

The state banuqet thrown in Xi's honor in November 2018 is one of the official parties in the riverside presidential palace that are steep in protocol -- the ones where every move from arrival to the toast are choregraphed, and are often communicated to the public through photographs and press releases.

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Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivers a speech while US President George W. Bush listens during the state dinner at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, 18 October 2003. Bush on Friday opened an eight-hour state visit to the Philippines, bringing promises of fresh US aid in the shared struggle against terrorism and stoking hope of progress on trade. Paul Richards, Agence France-Presse
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Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) gestures as Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (R) looks on during a state banquet at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on November 20, 2018. Chinese President Xi Jinping called his visit on November 20 to long-time U.S. ally the Philippines a "milestone", as he aimed to boost blossoming ties on the promise of billions of dollars in backing for mega-projects. Mark Cristino, Agence France-Presse
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Queen Sofia of Spain (C) speaks during a dinner in her honour at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on July 3, 2012. Jay Directo, Agence France-Presse

U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 was treated to a dinner of seafood pochero and lapu-lapu or grouper in pili nut crust. Sometimes, the president can choose to hold the party in another area of the compound, like in 2009, when then President Gloria Arroyo hosted dinner for then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at what is now Bahay Pangarap. Mrs. Clinton had tawilis with white cheese and bangus salad.

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Aside from official dinners for visiting heads of government, the President also hosts a cocktail reception for members of the diplomatic corps, called the vin d'honeur (literally, wine of honor in French), twice in a year -- a few days after New Year's Day and during June 12, Independence Day.

During one of the late President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino's vins d'honneur, caterer Via Mare served guests with diniguan jelly with puto as one of the hors d'ouvres. Lechon was also served as finger food, wrapped in crepes like peking duck.

One by one, ambassadors and CEOs make a beeline from the Palace foyer, to the grand staircase, to the entrance of Rizal Hall, the main ballroom of Malacanang to greet the President and the First Lady or First Gentleman. The event culminates in speeches from the President and the Vatican's envoy to the Philippines as dean of the diplomatic corps and a ceremonial toast.

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Malacanang also hosts parties and social gatherings for the President's guests. On July 2, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. hosted a gathering at Rizal Hall for his mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, on her 93rd birthday.

Photos of the event, many from social media posts of the attendees, were circulated on social media over the weekend. Press Secretary Trixie Curz-Angeles said any gathering hosted by the President in Malacanang "will adhere to the law".

Sen. Imee Marcos, the President's eldest sister, said the birthday event was a "simple" merienda-cena or a late afternoon snack that's close to dinner. 

Angelo Marcos Barba/Facebook
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Sen. Marcos, in response to reporters, said no public funds were used for the event. "I don’t think that’s the case. I’m sure everyone brought food as a matter of fact. It was quite funny. At saka libre naman lahat ng produkto. Bawal ba yun? Di ko alam. Kasi nagbi-birthday party rin ako nung bata ako doon eh. Bawal ba yun?" she said.

On June 30, Malacanang also served as the venue for Marcos Jr.'s inaugural ball, as the family returned to the presidential palace after 36 years. Guests were treated to prime beef tenderloin with kaldereta sauce and chicken soup with ginger and green papaya or simply, tinola.

Guests went home with medallion souvenir to mark the assumption to office of the new president, as shared by one of the guests, former senatorial candidate Harry Roque.

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