Great timing! Chef Don Bognoson's (3rd from right) selfie captures U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris passing by Plaza Cuartel as if she is photobombing them. Left photo shows VP Harris carrying the bouquet of white flowers made by Jong Morato of Shiot's Flower Shop. | Photos courtesy of J. Morato and D. Bognoson

Some of the city’s providers of essential services took great pride in their preparations for Tuesday’s visit by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Part of second gentleman Douglas Emhoff’s itinerary in the city is to visit the Plaza Cuartel, where around 150 American prisoners of war were burned in 1944. In preparation for the event, the advance team of VP Harris found Jong Morato’s flower shop along Rizal Avenue and asked her to prepare a wreath.

Morato had no idea the random inquiry she received at her shop last week was for VP Harris’s visit. She later found out that her shop was chosen by the US Embassy’s team after their ocular inspection of the city.

She was asked to prepare a wreath with all white-colored flowers and a bouquet. The initial request was for a lotus flower, which Harris’ name was inspired from.

In this photo shared by the Palawan Provincial Information Office, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, husband of U.S. VP Kamala Harris, is shown with the wreath of white flowers at Plaza Cuartel that Jong Morato (inset) arranged. The second gentleman is shown with Puerto Princesa Vice Mayor Maria Nancy Socrates.

“I found out na ang lotus pala ay Sanskrit name ni VP. Gusto nila na tropical flower kaso wala ng oras kaya nag-stick na lang kami sa white, binigyan niya rin naman ako ng suggestion kung ano ang pwede ko gawin,” she said.

Even the official’s team was picky about the color and size of the bouquet, which she felt proud and happy to arrange for the vice president.

VP Harris is the first foreign highest official she has made flower arrangements for in her two decades in the business, she added.

Morato did not charge an additional fee for the official’s team’s additional request. For her, it was the honor to see how much they valued and were satisfied with her service, she said.

“It’s more than the kita but the honor. Yong once in a lifetime opportunity, yong honor na I got to do it, vice president ng pinakamalakas na country ng buong mundo. Noong nakita ko na hawak niya ‘yong bouquet ko, na-goosebumps talaga ako. Kinilig talaga ako sobra,” she said.

“Nakakatuwa, hindi ko alam kung paano sasabihin yong feeling na yon pero yong appreciation mo na they appreciate your craft—it was such an honor doing it for the vice president,” she said.

Following the wreath-laying ceremony at Plaza Cuartel, refreshments were served by local chef Don Bognoson of Dang Maria’s. He prepared a Pinoy-inspired merienda cena in the hopes of introducing foreign visitors to the flavor of Filipino cuisine.

It includes arroz caldo with condiments on the side, puto, post-war pandesal or small-sized pandesal, turon with langka, biko, empanada, mini bibingka, sapin-sapin, and crispy chicken adobo sandwich.

In addition, seafood bam-e was prepared for the guests by Bognoson’s team so that they could become more acquainted with locally grown food.

“I didn’t think twice to say yes sa opportunity because we are so lucky na na-visit tayo ng second highest person in the US. For us, it is a great opportunity especially na nakita namin doon na face-to-face, hindi man malapitan,” he said.

In the roughly twenty minutes that followed the conclusion of the official program, he was also able to catch a glimpse of the vice president at the Plaza Cuartel, where she also visited the POW memorial.

“Malaking opportunity talaga and we are very lucky to be chosen,” he added.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.