This is a repost.
I could still remember when I was still a child when we are gathered in our living room to watch good old movies on television such as Ramon Revilla Sr, Dolphy or FPJ, my late mother would suddenly tell us about a special moment (according to her) happened in 1968 in Mati Davao Oriental while pointing to a picture frame hanging on the wall. In my young mind, nothing but an ordinary picture and just shrugged my shoulder ignoring our mother had told us; in that photo is my late father smiling ( a kapitan sa barangay for 20 years) with then President, the late Ferdinand E Marcos.
March 23, 2017, when 1,900 Filipinos working and living in Thailand gathered at the Royal Thai Navy Hall to meet the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines- His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Never minding the hot weather and long queue and very strict security, just to see and hear the President’s message in person.
We were treated first with an early buffet dinner in one of the function halls of the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters before we proceeded to the venue. Since it was my first time (I think most of us in the hall) to meet the President of my beloved country, I realized how strict the security if the guest is the one holding the highest position in the land or in my mind and perhaps President Duterte is different: he is now also loved by the Thai government that the treatment is very special (than other presidents). Everything from our bags was checked, from lipstick to even receipts found were checked.
As we enter the hall, we were ushered to rows according to numbers we got from the second security check staff and I felt I was lucky because I was in Row 6, not far from the rostrum where the President will stand to deliver his message. Even inside, the security was tight. VIP Police Security from the local government was seen anywhere in the four corners of the hall. There was a small misunderstanding between the guards and some Filipino because of the strict rules as instructed by the Royal Thai Police plus the language barrier, the good thing was that there were Filipinos who understand and speak Thai fluently and they become the instant interpreter and helped to explain to both sides. While waiting for the arrival of the guests, we were entertained by Filipino Talents based now in Thailand who not only wowed us with the singing prowess the Pinoys are known for but we had some reminiscing when one group danced the Filipino Folk Dance.
Media from local and the giant networks from the Philippines were present to cover this special event. The long wait was over when we heard the cheering from the back and as soon as they did, we also while waiving the Philippine Flag provided by the Philippine Embassy and we kept it later as a souvenir. As usual, the first to come on stage were the cabinet members and other members of the entourage and as expected, Senator Cayetano and Press Secretary Martin Andanar were the crowd drawers. There was a bit of silence in the hall and finally, the Rockstar has arrived and all of us cheered “Duterte, Duterte” while waiving proudly the Philippine Flag. Honestly, I had goosebumps that moment seeing President Duterte and my fellow countrymen showing sincerity as I can see in every face the hunger of a true leader. Even the local guards were astonished while watching us happily and eagerly supported the President. Some Filipinos present cannot help but cry seeing the beloved President.
Aside from the purpose of his visit to all ASEAN members which is in preparation for the forthcoming meeting in the Philippines as the host country, the President also informed us the economic agenda that were signed by Thailand and the Philippines: science & technology, agriculture, and tourism. Of course, we were very happy learning the huge amount poured into our economy.
While delivering his “unedited” speech that entails the current situation of my beloved country and proudly cited the changes of his governance particularly for OFW’s such as the one-stop shop processing of documents, he also mentioned the moves of the opposition and some of its famous allies. The President stressed to us repeatedly his invincible drive to stop illegal drugs in the country despite the minding of the international groups.
For over an hour, all of us never got bored listening to his speech. Who would when the President is not only a man of action but he has many jokes brought with him and he knows when and how to crack them. Before only Mindanaoans especially Davaoenos understood him when he uttered words such as F—ck as we are used to it as his expression but beyond that word is his kind heart, especially to children. But now and perhaps only the elites do not accept him as everyone cheered when he speaks his favorite expression. The president also gave thanks to the Thai government for the wonderful treatment during his visit and for giving chance to Filipinos to work in the kingdom.
Overall, the President’s words were full of inspirations and hopes, and assurance. A stable economy, lasting peace, drug-free nation. These are the prime concerns of his governance and we Filipinos believe. Pres. Duterte’s leadership will make the Philippines rise again and not just a crawling tiger. He also hopes that one day, no more Filipinos will leave the family to work abroad to seek greener pasture.
I have understood now what my late mother told me. Meeting the 16th President of the Republic is not everyone’s privilege and I am proud I had the chance of seeing the president and hearing his speech personally. I was not able to shake hands nor had the chance to take a photo with him to frame but the experience was unforgettable as a Filipino.
Here are some tips when attending a meeting for an extraordinary guest:
- Aside from wearing formal clothes, kindly ensure that the textile is soft or made of cotton to make you feel comfortable all the time;
- Bring only important things to fit in your small bags such as ID, Passport, Lipstick, and face powder. Umbrella, water is not allowed.
- Be an early bird. First come first served is the rule; it means you will be first in the queue and you will be in the front row.
Have you had experienced attending meeting of high ranking officials or popular celebrities? Can you share your experience in one word? Drop your comment.