(STAR) By JOSE KATIGBAK, STAR Washington bureau - The US capital is getting ready to rock.

And if you’re willing to “pay to play” you can go to any number of balls, galas and parties that will be held in this normally staid town to celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

With such an explosion of celebrations and a good time to be had, can fun-loving Filipinos be far behind?

Filipinos for Obama (FFO) are pulling together a slate of events for their friends and kababayan, starting off with a welcome reception on Jan. 17, the first “official” event the community is putting on in conjunction with the inauguration.

One of the hottest acquisitions for many Filipinos and Filipino-Americans is an invitation to brush elbows with Washington society at a reception hosted by Ambassador Willy Gaa at the Philippine Embassy on Jan. 19 on the occasion of the inauguration of the 44th US President.

The embassy plans to issue 150 invitations to FFOs, community leaders, members of Congress and prominent officials of the incoming administration.

Security will be tight and only those on the invitation list will be allowed in.

Filipinos for Obama have appealed to community members to help house out-of-towners because of the shortage of hotel rooms or the astronomical cost of the few rooms still available.

Some of the inauguration parties planned by FFO or Asian-Americans Pacific Islanders for Obama cost up to $400 per head. Others are more reasonably priced and still others are on a kanya-kanyang bayad (KKB) or dutch treat basis.

There are so many balls and galas planned all over town it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on where.

The most sought after tickets are for about a dozen “official balls” where Obama, his vice president Joe Biden and their wives are guaranteed to show up.

These include the Commander-in-Chief Ball, the Constitution Ball, the Freedom Ball, the Democracy Ball, the Independence Ball, the Liberty Ball, the Patriot Ball, and the Stars and Stripes Ball.

Invitations to these balls go to big donors, campaign volunteers, the well-heeled and the well-connected.

In keeping with a commitment to make his inaugural celebration open and accessible to all Americans, Obama will host the first-ever “Neighborhood Inaugural Ball” on the evening of Jan. 20 which will take place at the Washington Convention Center. Tickets will be available free or at an affordable price.

“This is an inauguration for all Americans,” said Obama. “I wanted to make sure that we had an event that would be open to our new neighborhood here in Washington, D.C., and also neighborhoods across the country. Michelle and I look forward to joining our fellow Americans across the country during this very special event.”

He will also host the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball to honor the country’s active duty and reserve military, a tradition started in 2005 by outgoing President George W. Bush.

“It is a privilege to honor our men and women in uniform during our inaugural festivities by continuing the tradition of the Commander in Chief’s Ball,” Obama said. “Our troops represent the best America has to offer, and without their dedication and sacrifice we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that we are coming together to celebrate on January 20th. They deserve our thanks and our gratitude.”

For those unable to score invitations to the “official balls” there are always the unofficial balls hosted by any number of celebrities.

So assuming money is no object, party revelers can go to such pay-to-play events as A Time For Hope Inaugural Jazz Gala, American Music-Legend Ball, Black Tie and Boots Ball, Land of Enchantment Inaugural Ball and of course, Yes We Did! Celebration Ball.  

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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