June 29, 2006 (MALAYA) A PRIVATE birthday party in a seaside resort and a visit to a miraculous church highlighted President Arroyo’s two-day vacation in Santiago de Compostela in Spain as she prepares for her official visit to Madrid Thursday.

Arroyo squeezed in the two-day holiday from June 27 to 28 in her weeklong Vatican-Madrid visit which came on the heels of her 35-hour confinement at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City after being downed by acute infectious diarrhea due to stress.

The First Family celebrated the 60th birthday of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo on June 27 at the seaside resort.

The miraculous church in Santiago de Compostela is described to be the second Catholic pilgrimage center after Rome. The St. James Cathedral is said to be the final resting place of the apostle St. James.

The name Santiago de Compostela was derived from St. James’ name "Santiago" and the Latin word "compositum" which means cemetery. The body of Saint James lies beneath the high altar in the cathedral, in a silver coffer. His bejeweled bust sits above his grave.

Presidential brother in law Rep. Ignacio Arroyo (Negros Occidental) said the First Gentleman thought of visiting Santiago de Compestela after someone suggested it to him. He said they had intended to do some sightseeing during their visit to Spain.

Aside from the President, her husband and brother-in-law, other members of the family who went to Spain were daughter Lourdes "Luli" Evangelina, Disodado "Dato" Ignacio and his wife Ma. Viktoria (Kakai) and their daughter Eva Victoria (EV).

The President is expected to arrive in Madrid on June 29, around 9 a.m. (3 p.m. in Manila). The visit was on the invitation of Spanish King Carlos I.

Arroyo will visit the Congreso de los Diputados (Congress of Deputies and Senate of Spain) and the Ayuntamiento de Madrid. This will be followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument at the Avenida de las isles Filipinas, and a luncheon meeting with officers and members of the Confederation Española de Organizaciones Empresariales.

Arroyo will meet with King Carlos I around 7 p.m., then with Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. This will be followed by an expanded bilateral meeting. The day will be capped by a dinner hosted by Zapatero.

On the morning of June 30, Arroyo will receive visitors, including former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, the Union of Fenosa/Soluziona, Partido Popular president Mariano Rajoy and Ruiz Mateo who is interested in investing in the Philippines.

She will also meet with members of the Filipino community in Spain, numbering about 40,000, and will have a luncheon meeting hosted by King Carlos I and Queen Sofia. At 8:30 p.m., there will be a reception for the Filipino-Hispano Friendship Day.

Arroyo will leave for Manila around 11:30 a.m. on July 1 (5:30 p.m. Manila time) and arrive around 8 a.m. of July 2. – Jocelyn Montemayor

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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