Now it can be told: my claim to history is being in the same toilet with the President of the Philippines.
You might say “big deal.” But I have to add, it doesn’t happen everyday. You might be with the President in a town hall, in an office building, in a grand ballroom but in the toilet..with just you, the President, her lady guard, and the cleaning lady? That is simply one for the books!
To answer Notty’s question: the Prez went to the toilet ahead of me and I had to ask the presidential guards if I could come in. They said it’s ok, it helps not to look like the mistress of an Al Qaeda operative. I caught her while she was washing her hands already and she was flashing us her big smile on the mirror. She said thank you to manang and thank you to me after I greeted her. No chance for a small talk, nothing fancy.
This is therefore the story of this picture. We had just come out of the loo and she was greeting her wellwishers in the hotel hallway during the Manila Overseas Press Club’s “President’s Night.”
It is different when you hear the President on the news and then actually see her in person, imagining her peeing in the cubicle next door. That adds a totally human dimension to the immense power that she wields as The Person who will determine the fate of my three kids and 75 or so million Filipinos in the next six years.
I just have to say I admire the lady and all the other great women leaders before her. She may rant and rave, scold her underlings in public but the business of the presidency is no laughing matter. It takes extreme intelligence and hard work to be in the position and she is all that. Majority find her cute and I do wish I would look as young as her when I am 54 years old;)
The President explained the key points of her foreign policy before a distinguished audience composed of diplomats, business leaders, Cabinet members and the media. The hottest issue of the day was the Philippines’ controversial decision to pull its troops out of Iraq to accede to the militants’ demands to free Angelo de La Cruz. Contrary to common perception, she claimed the decision was made even before the Angelo crisis erupted. The main factor she took into consideration was the fact that there are 4,000 Filipinos working in civilian jobs in Iraq, they are the largest contingent of foreign workers there working odd jobs as truck drivers, construction workers etc.Most of all, they are unarmed. In a statement that probably made Amb. Frank Ricciardone et al squirm in their seats, the President said our workers are not working in comfortable offices indoors, they are not like the combat troops of other countries who are fully armed. When the government made the position to pull out, it’s because the 100 Filipino peacekeepers were deemed less valuable compared to the 4,000 civilian workers whose lives are continuously at risk in Iraq.
The President did say our people’s enduring historical and economic ties with the US have witnessed World Wars and other momentous events, no President can ever break those bonds. We cannot say though that if an incident similar to Angelo happens again we will react the same or arrive at the same happy conclusion.
As a result of l’affaire Angelo, the President and the Filipino people have earned the scorn of the countries belonging to the so-called Coalition of the Willing. But I think she made a point. There are dynamics that come into play when making difficult decisions like that..political, the national interest..and not just bowing to the wishes of the great superpowers.
I withhold further comment. After all, her statements during the night were fodder for the headlines and columns the next day. I only feel fortunate to be behind the scenes and appreciate the Presidency up close, rather than from a distance.