(STAR) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reserved New Year’s eve (Dec. 31) for residents of this famous summer capital of the country.

At 11 a.m., she will have a get-together with Baguio’s urban poor at the Mansion for a gift-giving event.

Aside from meeting and receiving gifts from the President herself, the residents from the city’s 128 barangays will have the added opportunity of getting inside the presidential Mansion that is celebrating its 100th year of existence this year.

Most of the time, the Mansion is off-limits to the public.

The Christmas Food Program will take place at 11 a.m. at the manicured lawn of the presidential mansion, with the President herself handing over the gifts to the lucky residents.

The 3,200 beneficiaries were earlier chosen by the city’s social welfare office, according to Baguio City Tourism Officer Benny Alhambra.

Twenty-three residents per barangay will receive their gifts directly from the President, he added.

Before the gift-giving affair, the President will be interviewed by members at the gazebo of the Mansion’s guesthouse.

Earlier Tuesday, (Dec. 30), the President led the unveiling of the twin centennial markers of the “Mansion House” at the main gate of the presidential summer residence here. TOP

PGMA orders crafting of markers in Ilocano/Ibaloi for Mansion House

MANSION HOUSE, Baguio City – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered concerned officials to craft an additional marker in the local dialect to properly mark the centennial of this official residence of Philippine chief executives since 1908.

The President issued the directive during the unveiling of the twin centennial markers of “Mansion House” that pre-dates Baguio City by a year.

Resplendent in red and escorted by the First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, the President walked from the guesthouse east of the Mansion towards the front gates facing the Wright Park for the 10 a.m. unveiling rites. Early-morning tourists and residents waited at the gates to witness the ceremony.

The President first unveiled the Pilipino version of the marker which was installed on the left post of the main gate, before crossing over to the right post to unveil the marker in English text.

“I was saying that rather than Tagalog, the marker should have been in Ilocano or Ibaloi,” the President told city officials as she looked up at the 7x35-inch marker with the Pilipino text that was provided by the National Historical Institute (NHI) in collaboration with the Heritage Program of the Office of the President (OP).

She was seconded by Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan and Mayor Peter Rey Bautista who both suggested the addition of a marker in Ilocano/Kankanaey and Ibaloi.

The two Baguio officials assisted the President in the unveiling ceremony, together with National Historical Institute (NHI) head Ludovico Badoy, Malacanang Museum head Jeremy Barns and Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan. Also present were Baguio Tourism Officer Benny Alhambra and Baguio Centennial Commission (BCC) Chair Virgilio Bautista.

“This is the beginning of the celebration of the Baguio centennial,” the President said as she noted that Baguio will be turning 100 years old in Sept. 2009. The Mansion is observing its 100th year of existence this year.

“Before that, it (Baguio) was a hill station of the US government,” the President added as she instructed Barns to prepare a “nice exhibit” for Baguio’s centennial event.

Barnes said the Malacanang Museum will hold an “open house” of the Mansion on Sept. 1, 2009, the day that this summer capital turns 100 as a chartered city.

Before boarding the van that took her to the Loakan Airport on her way to San Fernando City in La Union for the Rizal Day celebration, the President went around greeting the tourists and residents, including old women from the Cordillera tribes, shaking their hands and wishing them a Happy New Year.

“Happy New Year, apo,” the President greeted the old folks who told her they will be going to either Burnham Park or Mines View Park on New Year’s Day.

“Work on the exhibit,” the President reminded Barns before leaving for San Fernando City, where she was to lead the Rizal Day rites.

The presidential summer house was constructed in 1908 at the instance of then Philippine Governor-General William Cameron Forbes. William E. Parsons designed the structure as part of the Burnham Plan for Baguio in 1908.

The Burnham Plan for this former “hill station” was inspired by the then prevailing City Beautiful Movement in the United States.

Forbes was the governor-general of the Philippines from 1909 to 1913 under US President William Howard Taft.

Before that, Forbes was the Commissioner of Commerce and Police in the Philippine government from 1904 through 1908 under US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Forbes later became Vice Governor of the Philippines from 1908 through 1909, before becoming governor-general.

Forbes would come back to the Philippines 12 years later in 1921 as the head of the Wood-Forbes Commission under US President Warren G. Harding to investigate conditions in the Philippines.

The Mansion markers chronicle the history of the white house atop a hill in Baguio’s wooded Pacdal area which served as “summer residence of American governors-general from1908 to 1935, and later of Philippine presidents starting with Manuel L. Quezon.”

The executive residence also served as the venue of the special session of the Second Philippine Legislature in 1910.

Destroyed in World War II, the Mansion was rehabilitated in 1947 and immediately became the venue of the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission of Asia and the Far East (ECAFE).

It also hosted the summit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1948 and the First Meeting of the Southeast Asian Union (SEAU) known as the Baguio Conference of 1950. TOP

PGMA leads celebration of 112th anniversary

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led this morning the nationwide commemoration of the 112th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. The President arrived here by helicopter from Baguio City shortly before the start of the Rizal Day celebration at the San Fernando City Plaza. Clad in red pants and pink blouse with red pina suit, the Chief Executive was given full military honors by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets.

She was welcomed by La Union Gov. Manuel Ortega, Congressmen Victor Ortega and Butch Dumpit, San Fernando City Mayor Pablo Ortega, National Historical Institute (NHI) Executive Director Ludivico Badoy and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Alexander Yano, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Versoza, among others.

The President was escorted by Yano as she walked down the path for the flag-raising ceremonies.

Following the flag ceremony, the giant tri-color was lowered to half mast as part of the commemoration of the death of the national hero who was executed at the Luneta by the Spaniards on Dec. 30, 1896.

To the accompaniment of a snare drum, Yano escorted the President to the Rizal monument in front of the city hall for the wreath-laying ceremony.

Three volleys of gun shots rang out from a platoon of cadets after the solemn traditional ceremony in honor of the national hero. After the 30-minute ceremony, the President shook hands with the residents who patiently waited for her arrival unmindful of the scorching heat of the sun.

The President then proceeded to the city hall to hold a private meeting with Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) chair Vicente Sotto and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Dionisio Santiago.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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