THE inauguration of a President is rich in symbolism which is generally little known or understood, but which can be utilized to lend solemnity, a sense of democratic continuity and a spirit of national consecration to the occasion.
The location is the Quirino Grandstand (formerly the Independence Grandstand) where the inauguration of every president from Quirino to Marcos and thereafter, of Ramos, and the inaugural addresses of Estrada and Arroyo, were held.
Prior to independence, inaugurals were held on the front steps of the Legislative Building (Quezon, Laurel, Roxas) but the wrecked condition of the building in July 1946 suggested the need for a different location.
The independence ceremony in July 1946 was held, instead, in front of the Rizal Monument, and the large flagpole in front of the monument is now known as the Independence Flagpole precisely because it marks the spot where Rizal’s dream of national independence was finally achieved.
Thus, the Quirino Grandstand directly faces the execution site of the Gomburza martyrs; the monument and grave of the country’s foremost hero and martyr, Rizal; and the flagpole which commemorates the achievement of independence in 1946 and which bears aloft the flag, symbol of the sovereignty first asserted before the world in 1898. This symbolically presents a vista of the nation’s path to freedom.
Tradition dictates that the president-elect arrive at the presidential palace before the inaugural, to pay a courtesy call on the outgoing, incumbent president. The president and the president-elect then go together to the Luneta.
From 1946 to 1965, the tradition was that at the Luneta, the president received his final military honors as commander in chief, and then departed to go home as the president-elect in turn ascended the Quirino Grandstand.
The vice president-elect is sworn in before noon to secure the constitutional succession; at 12 noon, the president-elect is sworn in. The chief justice administering the presidential oath is tradition and not mandatory.
Immediately upon conclusion of the oath, the traditional presidential anthem, “Mabuhay” is played with the appropriate ruffles and flourishes, and the armed forces shall render its first 21-gun salute to the new commander in chief.
The new President of the Philippines then delivers his inaugural address.
The President then takes symbolic possession of the presidential palace and holds his first Cabinet meeting. Traditionally this was done in the Council of State Room (the Quirino Room) in the Executive Office Building (Kalayaan Hall) but because of Marcos’ failing health, this has been held in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room since the Marcos years.
The Palace itself is rich in meaningful associations: the new President can arrive either at Kalayaan Hall, the old Executive Office Building, now restored, or at the Palace itself. In the Palace, the President takes symbolic possession by means of ascending the main stairs, which legend attributes as having been climbed by Rizal’s mother on her knees, to beg for clemency for her son: a reminder to every president of the portion of the oath of office which pledges justice to every man.
From the main stairs, the President passes Luna’s painting of the Blood Compact, and enters the Reception Hall, lined with the portraits of the past chief executives and which traditionally has, at its center, the table given to President Quezon by inmates who had received a presidential pardon: again, a tangible reminder to every administration of the power to grant clemency and do justice.
To the left is the Presidential Study, with the presidential desk; to the right, the Aguinaldo State Dining Room, where President Aguinaldo was held prisoner by the Americans and where Cabinet meetings have been held since the Marcos administration. At the end of the Reception Hall is the Rizal Ceremonial Hall, where the rituals of sovereignty are undertaken: the receipt of credentials from foreign ambassadors, and the conferment of state awards and decorations.
President Corazon Aquino restored the distinction between the term Malacañan Palace as referring to the official residence of the President of the Philippines, and the use of the term Malacañang to refer to the Office of the President.
The first concern will be whether or not the new president will reside in his official residence.
The President has the option of residing in Bonifacio Hall (the Premier State Guesthouse) or the traditional family quarters of the Palace.
The President has the option of weekday residence in the Palace and returning to his private residence on weekends, which would permit the public to visit the Palace on weekends, in a symbolic gesture of opening up the Palace to the people.
The second is the physical layout of the new President’s working spaces; the location of the heads of the various executive offices. The President has three offices. The Presidential Library, located in the Palace itself, more suited to actual executive work; and the Executive Office (the Quezon Room) in Kalayaan Hall, more suited to ceremonial occasions; and the Private Office, which is traditionally located within the residential quarters of the Palace.
Because of President Marcos’ illnesses, the traditional demarcation between executive working spaces, the rooms of state and the private quarters were blurred.
The great size of the Office of the President in recent years has also led to a pell-mell and willy-nilly growth that increases pressures for executive officials to prove clout by means of demonstrating physical closeness to the working areas of the President.