President Rodrigo Duterte was a no-show at the grand debut of his granddaughter Isabelle Duterte on Friday, January 19.
Duterte chose to spend that night in his hometown of Davao City. His son Paolo, who had a recent public spat with daughter Isabelle, also did not attend.
The President had obviously been invited to the celebration as Presidential Security Group personnel were present at the venue, and stayed put practically the entire night in case he showed up.
Among those spotted making the rounds was PSG spokesman Michael Aquino.
Duterte's possible attendance explained the high-level of security unusual for most debuts. Army bomb squad personnel and truckloads of Makati police were deployed around the 5-star Makati hotel.
Presidential close-in photographer King Rodriguez was also spotted at the debut, camera in hand.
Malacañang staff had informed reporters that Duterte flew back to Davao City on Thursday night, the day before Isabelle's debut.
The debut has attracted public attention due to the controversy surrounding preparations for it.
Isabelle's pre-debut photo shoot in Malacañang and use of the presidential seal raised eyebrows among some netizens who thought it was inappropriate.
At around 5 pm, The Peninsula's white marble bedecked lobby began filling up with women in every style of gown and men in suits, all in black, to fit the affair's color theme.
At that very moment, press freedom advocates started gathering at the Boy Scouts Shrine in Tomas Morato, Quezon City, also, coincidentally, dressed in black.
Back in Makati, some of Isabelle's guests held on to their debut invitations, which, when opened, revealed a tiny LED screen that automatically played the pre-debut video of Isabelle wearing glamorous gowns in Australia and inside Malacañang.
Other guests carried their gifts for the debutante, many in paper bags that screamed Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, or Kate Spade.
Most eye-catching among the guests were the women wearing gem-encrusted hijabs. Isabelle's mother, Lovelie Sangkola Sumera, is a Muslim.
Before entering the Rigodon Ballroom. Isabelle's guests began the night at the hotel's upper lobby where cocktails were served.
While waiting for the program, her friends, clustered by barkada, could have their photos taken inside a black box with streaks of light on its walls.
Beside the walk-in booth flashed a video of Isabelle wearing a variety of full-length gowns. (LOOK: Isabelle Duterte's Michael Cinco debutante gown)
Soon enough, her guests, trickled by little groups down the grand marble staircase, with a selfie or two, before they entered through the imposing wooden doors fronting the main ballroom.