NEWS FEATURE: FINAL MALACANANG WORRY - WILL WEATHER COOPERATE?

MALACANANG, OCTOBER 18, 2003  (STAR) After the thorough preparations for the barrio fiesta-inspired reception for US President George W. Bush at Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo has only one more wish to make the event perfect: sunshine.

On the eve of the arrival of the US president, an intertropical convergence zone developed into a low-pressure area over Metro Manila, dumping rains and drenching the newly resodded Palace lawn the whole morning yesterday.

Small pools of water accumulated in some portions of the area where President Arroyo will walk along with her very important visitor for the traditional military honors and trooping of the lines.

When the sun came out past noon, Malacañang gardeners immediately went to repair the damaged portions of the gardens and planted patches of carabao grass where the red carpet would be rolled out for the welcome rites.

In his press briefing at the Palace yesterday, Saludo, however, gave assurances that the Palace is prepared for alternative plans in case rains continue to pour today.

Saludo said the formal reception for President Bush and his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, would be held inside the foyer leading to the Palace Ceremonial Hall.

"We don’t have any quaint umbrellas deployed. So, I’m afraid, if there is rain, we will have to cancel the outside activities," Saludo explained.

But the scheduled in-door activities, including the substantive meetings between Mr. Bush and Mrs. Arroyo will proceed as well as the address of Bush before the joint session of Philippine Congress and the state dinner in the evening at the Palace.

"So it’s only the welcoming ceremonies that may be affected by the weather. But we’re hoping that today’s downpour has exhausted the skies and tomorrow we will have sun," Saludo said yesterday.

Bush will wear a barong Tagalog in beige piña with stylized embroidery designed by Joe Salazar. The barong was commissioned by Malacañang for the occasion. — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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