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Tim Yap, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong under fire for controversial birthday party

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 27, 2021 2:20 am

Eventologist and host Tim Yap received backlash after photos and videos of his birthday party, held at The Manor at Camp John Hay in Baguio City, surfaced on social media where most guests appeared to be not wearing facemasks or a face shields, and little social distancing was observed.

Baguio City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong was also under fire for being one of the guests at Yap’s controversial party.

On Wednesday, Magalong said on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that he was invited to the gathering. Earlier this week, a picture of him and his wife, who was not wearing a facemask, together with a facemask-less KC Concepcion, made rounds on social media, which was heavily criticized by Baguio residents.

The mayor also explained that many of the guests were compliant but the timing was wrong as they took off their facemasks as they were about to have dinner, which was when cultural dancers arrived and asked the guests to join them.

"Nag-usap na ho kami kahapon at binanggit ko sa kanya (Tim) na I understand what happened,” Magalong said.

He continued, “Sabi ko sa kanya, don’t you worry about it, 'yung tulong mo na ginawa sa Baguio, promoting, he’s saying good words about Baguio, we’re considering all of these... Nahihiya nga sila." According to Magalong, Yap’s group bought a lot of paintings from local artists who are suffering from the effects for the pandemic.

Magalong also noted that he and his wife were at the dinner but they did not stay long and reminded the guests “we have to wear masks.” He said there were possible violations as the city mandates wearing of facemasks in public.

"Meron pa rin, even my wife violated it kasi nagtanggal nga 'yan because may picture taking,” said Magalong, who also explained that it may have been due to his wife’s excitement to take pictures that’s why she removed her facemask.

The City of Baguio Public Information Office released a statement today that the “The city government gives hotel 72 hours to explain why it should not be sanctioned over celebrity party protocol breach.”

In a statement, the Department of Tourism-Cordillera Administrative Region said it is “is currently investigating the reported party at a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment in Baguio City. A Notice to Explain has already been issued to the establishment.”

As of Jan. 27, Baguio City has a total of 4,870 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Cordillera Administrative Region, where Baguio belongs to, has almost 11,000 cases, including the new variant of COVID-19.

Tim Yap party controversy

A viral clip circulated online of a collection of photos and Instagram stories that first appeared on the social media accounts of the guests at Tim Yap's party held at The Manor at Camp John Hay.

In one of the videos, Yap and most of his guests were not seen wearing facemasks while doing a “community dance” with Ifugao dancers. At one point, Yap said, “let’s go guys, let’s go,” urging guests to get in the dance line.

Another video, where Yap is dancing with his guests devoid of social distancing and facemasks, was captioned, “Haven’t had this much fun in a loooooong time!” and “Please don’t worry! We all took tests. Baguio and Team Yaparrazzi had very good safety protocols.”

Also in the clip were guests who are staples of the local social scene—from models, businessmen to socialites, huddled in a photo.

Yap is known for hosting and organizing extravagant events and parties under his company Yaparrazzi Events.

Reactions on social media were abuzz, mostly slamming Yap for holding such an event while there is a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Cordillera Region.

“The audacity of Tim Yap to hold a party is a very clear disrespect to all the medical professionals working day in and day out in the battle against the pandemic. You(r) swab test result is not a valid reason to hold a party. You’re a shame!!!” tweeted @maroonismorethanacolor.

Meanwhile, @cheesecakekpn said, “There’s so many things to unpack with what Tim Yap said, pero unahin na natin yung fact that he’s acting lilke he’s doing a service to Baguio by holding a mass gathering under the guise of promoting ‘culture,’ when hospitals in the city are at their full capacity.”

Others also pointed out how the position of privilege is in effect even during a pandemic. “This Tim Yap and Raymond Gutierrez party has been circulating for hours now. All I can say is that protocols have been breached. See what money did? And see what money can do… I am just hoping that COVID cases don’t surge again because of some irresponsible folks,” said @BakerStrLondon.

In a tweet, writer Nash Tysmans took a sarcastic jab at the situation, “Tim Yap brand of confidence to think that Baguio needs him to place our town on the map. LGU strategy of inviting him to throw a birthday party for his friends is so effective. Maybe advertise lots at the cemetery so when you visit Baguio, you can stay forever. Welcome kakabsat!”

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A post shared by Tim Yap (@officialtimyap)

In an interview with ABS-CBN News with Jeff Canoy, Yap said that they followed LGU protocols before they went to Baguio, knowing that the city is strict with its protocols. He also said that all the guests all tested negative.

Yap, who organized the event, said that the goal of the event was to promote local tourism, and the arts, crafts and culture of Baguio. He also said they made sure to secure necessary permits and “it was never my intention to offend anyone.”

“We are all responsible as citizens of this country. All we want to do is help restart the economy, reopen the economy and push for local tourism.”

When asked why there was a party amid the pandemic, Yap clarified that it wasn’t a party but a dinner. “Hindi po siya party. Dinner po siya na nagkataon meron music, may mga lumabas po na cultural dancers, meron kaming mga ibang elements na kasama po na parang pinakikilala ko sa mga bisita doon kung ano ang parte ng kultura ng pinupuntahan namin.”

In an interview with CNN’s The Final Word with Rico Hizon, Yap explained that before the dinner started, he reminded the guests “let’s all be safe, let’s all wear masks” and everybody was provided a mask, proper PPE and face shields.

Yap acknowledged that there’s no excuse for not wearing a mask. “It is not in any of my wishes to endanger anyone… I am very, very sorry for those videos that came out that we didn’t have the masks.”

Hizon told Yap about a comment on social media where one netizen pointed out, “Testing doesn’t justify and give them a pass to ignore health protocols.”

To which, Yap said, “I totally agree to that. It wasn’t our intention to defy and ignore safety protocols. We all know how strict Baguio is. Before you enter Baguio, you need to present a negative test and two weeks after our party… two weeks after our dinner, we checked on everybody.” He added that everybody in the group tested negative.

Recently, Raymond Gutierrez, influencer and twin brother of actor Richard Gutierrez, threw a birthday bash at a restaurant in BGC, which has been slammed online after photos of the event made rounds on social media.

Following the party, Spanish restaurant La Picara, where the event was held, was reportedly shut down for violating COVID-19 protocols.

Photos from @officialTimYap and Mong Pintolo/The Philippine STAR