Malacañang Christmas Tree (File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday surprised families visiting Malacañang to view its Christmas tree and lantern displays at the Kalayaan Grounds.

The President made the surprise visit while on his way to a get-together with officials and personnel of the Radio and Television Malacañang (RTVM).

The President arrived in the area past 8 p.m. and gamely shook hands and had his picture taken with the Malacañang visitors who came from nearby cities and as far as Cavite and Laguna provinces.

Everyone was so excited with children trying to get near, while supporters continually chanted the name of the President who shook hands and greeted them "Merry Christmas!"

Ben Aguilar, a visitor from Muntinlupa City, said he did not expect to see the chief executive in person.

"Very happy kasi open siya sa public, at iyon naman ang nakakatuwa dahil ang minimithi ng tao ang lider na abot-kamay (I am very happy because the Palace is open to the public. And it is quite amusing as the public looks up to a leader who is within reach),” Aguilar said.

The public can enter the Malacañang Palace Grounds to view the Malacañang Christmas Tree and parols (lanterns) and attend the Simbang Gabi or dawn mass until Dec. 24.

The opening of Malacañang is part of the President's goal to make sure that Filipino children, including those residing near the area, will have a joyful and meaningful Christmas.

Through the celebration dubbed "Tara sa Palasyo," the President ordered the opening of the Palace grounds to the public on Dec. 18 until Dec. 24, from 7 p.m. up to 6 a.m. the next day.

The traditional Simbang Gabi also gives the public a chance to view the Christmas displays.

From Tuesday evening until 4 a.m. Wednesday alone, at least 2,116 visitors have viewed the Christmas displays and attended Simbang Gabi held every 4:30 a.m. in front of the Mabini Hall.

Those visiting Malacañang can enter the Palace grounds through Gate 6. (PNA)