After only a few hours of sleep on early Saturday morning, I had to wake up to attend a luncheon event at the Asia Hotel. The host of this event is President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Guests included the Filipino athletes who were already there for the Olympics as well as the flag bearer Mr. Manny Pacquiao and his “inspiration” Jinkee.
The event started at 11am with dancing from a Chinese group and the introduction of the athletes with the ‘standard’ Olympic Cheer introduced by China (heh!). My friend, Marco hosted the first part of the event while waiting for President Arroyo to arrive. Congressmen and members of the cabinet arrived a few minutes earlier than Arroyo. I was seated with the Congressman from Pampanga and Leyte. Tito Sotto was also there looking tough as the head of the Dangerous Drugs Board. Chavit Singson was also there sharing seats beside the Pacman.
When the President arrived, Consular Leyda introduced a cause which they would like to promote that day, the “World Simultaneous Breastfeeding Event”. The person in charge was quite passionate with her cause that she even encourages mothers to have their children breastfed till 6 years old. (EWW! 6?! Di na yun baby!) They’ve held Guinness Book of World Records on the most number of breastfeeding mother-child pair in one and simultaneous event. They presented a medal to the policewoman in Sichuan who breastfed 9 infants in the aftermath of the earthquake. Afterwards, President Arroyo gave a speech about how the rice in the Philippines which is subsidized by the government is not that high compared to our neighboring countries. She also bragged that she was the first head of state whom President Hu Jintao met that day. She honored our athletes, the Chinese businessmen, the torchbearers (Marco & Michelle), the teachers, researchers, musicians and other Filipinos working in China. I think all in all the speech went on for like 20-30 mins. By that time, it was already 1pm. Everyone was hungry and itching to eat some food.
When the speech ended, we applauded and was advised that we can eat. Marco’s brother in law, John, took this opportunity to take some pictures with the athletes, President Arroyo, Pacquiao and some sports official. He donned his own Philippine Team jacket which he brought specifically for this occasion. He reasoned to himself, the program stated Photo Opportunity, so he took advantage of it.
Around 2pm, after the President left, the party died down and people slowly left the ballroom. I got the chance to shake the President’s hand on her way out and I could have bragging rights of “Been There, Done That”. Hehehe! When I told my Chinese colleagues about it, they said I’m lucky as I was able to dine with the President. For them, they haven’t even had a glimpse of him in person.
On a side note, the luncheon was prepared (as per the words of the Consul) by the President. That means taxpayer’s money was used to shoulder this event. Also, there was an article released either Sunday or Monday saying how wonderful a wife President Arroyo is by granting her husband’s request to delay their stay for another day in order for him to watch the US Dream Team play against China. That delay was only known a few days before they arrived that the plane need to head back to Manila and come back the next day to pick up the President because she doesn’t want the government to be charged for additional room for the crew. She wasted fuel and money for the crew just to give in to the whim of FG to watch a part of the US Dream Team in action.