The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
-Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard.”
Thanks to Arnold Clavio and Vicky Morales, I was able to watch their network’s coverage of President-elect Aquino leaving his Time Street residence, dressed in a long-sleeved camisa chino. By the time his convoy (which stopped at red lights) reached the Palace, he was already dressed in a baro. The trip from Times St. to the Palace took something like 15 minutes instead of the close to an hour originally allocated according to the Official Program.
The President-elect alighted from his vehicle at Bonifacio Hall (usually referred to by its old name, the Premier Guesthouse), where President Corazon Aquino held office and where her son will also hold office. Meanwhile, over at the Palace, the outgoing cabinet hung around the “Pacto de Sangre” of Luna near the main stairs, waiting for President Arroyo. President Arroyo, dressed in an ecru terno, then shook hands with her departing official family and undertook descending the main stairs for the last time as President of the Philippines.
President Arroyo and President-elect Aquino then shook hands and departed for the Quirino Grandstand. In the coming days, people will be asking them what (if anything) they said to each other during their brief car ride to Rizal Park.
A cheerful roar came from the crowd when the presidential convoy arrived, and upon alighting from Car No. 1, the two went to their respective daises, for the military rendering its last honors to President Arroyo.
The “President’s March” was played, a 21 gun salut boomed out, and President Arroyo proceeded to review the troops as the band played “Atin Cu Pung Singsing.”
As the military honors were being given, the Vice President-elect’s special electric jeep arrived, and there’s been some undue controversy over this. Some people took it to mean the Vice President-elect barged in on the scene to steal the show.
At the time, I thought it was bungling of the protocol; the Vice President-elect is supposed to arrive ahead of the President-elect (as has been the tradition since the 1949 Quirino Inaugural; at the Quezon inaugural in 1935 the President-elect arrived ahead of the Vice President-elect).
What seems to have happened was this. The Presidential Party arrived about twenty minutes ahead of schedule -and it was the Vice President-elect who actually arrived on cue.
I noticed that what the Vice President-elect chose to do was the correct thing: he waited in his vehicle for the military honors to conclude, and with it, President Arroyo shaking hands with President-elect Aquino, and then getting into her private vehicle: at which point the President-elect went up to the ceremonial platform. Because of the circumstances surrounding the early arrival of the Presidential Party and the arrival of the Vice President-elect, it would have been unseemly for him to sprint up ahead of the President-elect; so he went up after the President-elect.
All in all, it was a courteous solution to an unintended snafu.
An interesting note was the reaction of the crowd -the official set crowding the bleachers of the Grandstand, and the public gathered across the Grandstand- to President Arroyo’s arrival and throughout the Military Honors portion.
I can’t say people jeered, or booed (at least from my vantage point) but there was a kind of highly enthusiastic applause that became particularly cheerful first, when she arrived, second, when the final honors began, then when she trooped the line and finally, when she shook hands with the President-elect and when her convoy departed. I did hear many people lustily saying “goodbye!”
Another interesting note is that some reporters told me President Arroyo twice refused to shake hands with President-elect Aquino at the Quirino Grandstand; I haven’t seen the footage and couldn’t see their interaction from my vantage point.
The Inaugural Program then commenced with an extremely moving rendition of the national anthem featuring Charice Pempengco and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Ryan Cayabyab. This was followed by the invocation.
The Madrigal Singers sang “Bayan Ko,” and then the Apo Hiking Society performed a song, and then Ogie Alcasid and friends performed the Inaugural Song.
At this point, the Senate President rose to read (with great vigor) the dispositive portions of the Proclamation of Congress announcing the results of the election. This was supposed to be followed by the oath-taking of the Vice President-elect, then the President-elect’s oath taking, followed by the military giving a salute and then the Inaugural Address.
Originally, the ceremonial to be followed conformed to tradition: no musical number was supposed to follow the Senate President; then a musical medley was inserted, then, upon the reiteration of the protocol to be followed, the song numbers were moved so that they would precede the Senate President’s reading.
However, since the whole thing started ahead of time, there would have been something like a 45 minute gap between the reading of the proclamation and the administration of the oaths of office, since as much as possible the President-elect is supposed to take his oath or conclude it, at high noon.
So the organizers improvised (this also happened during the Ramos Inaugural), to stretch things out for the purposes of the time specified by the Constitution. Personally, I think all the singing added a festive element to the proceedings and the public generally enjoyed themselves.
The Vice President-elect then took his oath, followed by the President-elect. A bystander told me the President finished taking his oath a few minutes before noon (this has happened in previous inaugurals). At this point, the military band kicked in, with its four ruffles and flourishes followed by “Mabuhay,” as a 21 gun salute boomed out; two choppers thundered overhead and scattered yellow flower petals over the crowd, which was a pretty sight indeed.
Then the President delivered his Inaugural Address. With introduction, applause, pauses, the speech ended up 21 minutes long.
After volunteers read their “Panata sa Pagbabago,” President Aquino was then given honors by the armed forces, and inspected the honor guard. He then proceeded to the Palace.
Then things started running behind schedule; he inducted his cabinet into office at around 3:20 PM. He then began his first cabinet meeting.
Tonight, there will be an Inaugural Reception for foreign delegations and the diplomatic corps and other officials who will pay their respects to the new chief executive. First comes the sole visiting head of state, the President of East Timor, followed by foreign delegations, the diplomatic corps, and other officials and guests. The President receives the visitors in the Music Room, where they are presented to the President individually. After extending their congratulations to the President, guests proceed to Rizal Hall where cocktails are served.
When all guests have had a chance to be presented to the President, he proceeds to Rizal Hall, where he will deliver a short speech and offer a toast to the delegations, diplomats, and dignitaries.
After that, he will go to attend the Inaugural Concert at the Quezon Memorial Circle.