The Vin d’honneur

Most years a traditional receptionnow called a “Vin d’honneur”takes place at Malacañan Palace to mark the New Year. As with many official traditions, the practice of an official reception to mark the New Year dates to the colonial period. In the United States, from the time of George Washington until the early part of the 20th Century, the practice was to throw open the White House to any citizen who wanted to pay a visit to the American Chief Executive. This tradition was taken up in the Philippines by the Governors-General during the American colonial period.

In the time of the Commonwealth, the annual New Year reception always took place on January first. President Roxas also insisted on the New Year’s day reception, as for both President Quezon and Roxas, January 1 had a special significance as under the Catholic calendar. January 1 is the Feast Day, or Name Day, of people named Manuel. Other presidents until President Marcos also followed the tradition, called simply a reception or an “at home day.” For example, during the Commonwealth and Third Republic, invitations would simply state that the President and First Lady would be “at home” from the afternoon to early evening of January 1.

In times past, the annual New Year’s reception was quite the social event, the traditional “open house” being an opportunity for high government officials, former presidential families, members of Congress, the Judiciary and the diplomatic corps and business and social circles to mingle freely and relatively informally in the Palace.

After the Edsa Revolution, the traditional New Year’s reception was continued, but came to be known as a vin d’honneur. The term comes from the French practice, which means “wine of honor.” It traditionally takes place at the end of inaugurations, speeches, and ceremonies that marks the social life of the French provinces.  In the Philippine context, over the years it has come to be considered primarily a diplomatic event, which features a toast exchanged between the President of the Philippines and the Papal Nuncio, who is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps (in Catholic countries or those that formerly belonged to the Spanish Empire, by tradition, the senior diplomat, or Dean, in in the diplomatic corps is the Papal Nuncio or ambassador; in other countries, the ambassador accredited to the country longest is the Dean).

The vin d’honneur of 2012 took place on January 13. It marked the 25th  vin d’honneur of such since the EDSA Revolution (the first one took place in 1987). Like the previous year, it took place in the morning, in contrast to the afternoon (reception) or early evening (merienda cena) practice in the past. The 2012 vin d’honneur is the annual New Year’s Reception hosted by the President of the Philippines as head of state, and by tradition, after the President hosted  the Philippine officialdom and the diplomatic corps, other departments in turn host their own New Years’ receptions for their own officials and staff.

In 2013, a New Year vind’honneur was held on January 11. This marked the 26th vin d’honneur since the EDSA revolution. Like in 2012, it took place in the morning.

The rituals include guests entering the State Entrance of the Palace and climbing the main stairs, going into the Reception Hall where in the past, a reception line would have been formed. Guests are then escorted to Rizal Hall, the ceremonial hall of the Palace. The President of the Philippines then joins the assembled guests and proceeds to deliver some remarks, concluding with a toast to the prosperity and well being of the Filipino people.

 
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