I watched Air Force One taxi then gradually lift itself into the sky and fly off. I found myself teary eyed – as if someone dear to me had just left. For 24 hours I followed you on TV – from the time you got off your plane, watched you walk over to your helicopter, and waited for your arrival at Malacañang in your limousine, known as “The Beast.” I commiserated with you in your suit because I knew the heat in Manila at this time is searing – nothing like summer in DC.
I listened intently to all your speeches – impressed with your forceful and deliberate delivery of every word. You seemed to be more relaxed and candid here than you were in other countries you visited. You must have felt the warmth of our welcome and the love our people have for you. (READ: Obama: US commitment to PH ‘ironclad’)
I watched you sing along to “What’s Going On” with our cabinet secretaries – this must be a first for you. How many state dinners have you attended with karaoke as part of the entertainment? But you looked like you were having fun and that’s cool. (WATCH: Obama visits Manila | Day 2)
I watched you hug and kiss a 90-year-old veteran, allow selfies to be taken with you, shook hands with as many people as you could, your secret service by your side, ready to pounce on anyone posing a hint of danger to you. Mr. President, you have won the hearts of my countrymen.
The only other president who has done that was President Kennedy. Even after you left, stories about your brief stay here continued. Supposedly, unbeknownst to the public, there were snipers in buildings where you appeared. I’m not a bit surprised. Stories of your stay at the hotel are starting to surface. Is it true that the staff at the hotel were instructed not to face you when you were around? (READ: Obama’s toast: Basketball, Pacquiao, and PH-US friendship)
I heard you say that you were aware of the demonstrations against you and the US and that it was okay because that’s how democracy should be. That was gracious of you. Some of the demonstrators are products of the skewed system of government that the Philippines continues to have. They are tired of corruption, of billions of money stolen, and are thirsty for change. Some of them want another form of government – communism – but those are not the majority. They have been fighting for decades and to this day have not succeeded, while their supposed leaders are out of the country, enjoying the freedom and good life that their minions here continue to fight for.
As I write this, you are halfway home. Please do not forget the promises you made to my countrymen. They have so much faith in you and it will break their hearts if you reneged on any of the words you spoke. Remember your ironclad promise to stand with us in defense of democracy and our shared ideals. Remember that you will continue to look into our veterans’ benefits, yes, the people you shook hands with at the ceremony. Some of them claim they haven’t received any compensation from the US. Remember you promised to help our economy by encouraging American investors to invest in the Philippines.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is under fire even before the ink is dry. Some say the agreement is in favor of the US and that the Philippines benefits little from it. As with most of my countrymen, I just know that it will give us some protection in case China rears its ugly head. The US, China and the Philippines make strange bedfellows. Like it says on Facebook, our relationship is complicated. I do not understand geopolitics but let me see if I can put this in layman’s language. (READ: DOCUMENT: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Aggrement)
The US owes China money so it allows China to export everything to the US to the detriment of made in USA products which resulted in layoffs at American factories which, in turn, contributed to the downturn in US economy. In the meantime, China is encroaching on Philippine waters and flexing their muscle and the US has just promised, in essence, to stand by the Philippines against aggressors which, at this time, are none other than China, to whom the US owe money. It will be interesting to see how this threesome relationship works out.
Even as we look to you for help in calamities and in defense, the best thing the US can do for the Philippines is to help eradicate corruption in our government. I don’t know how you can do that since you have corrupt people in your government also, though not as rampant as we have here. I just know that our country is rich in natural resources and our people are resilient and hardworking – a winning combination. Had it not been for corrupt and greedy public officials, the Philippines would be among Asia’s top progressive countries.
If and when our government finally gets its act together, we will be able to defend ourselves against foreign aggression without any help from you because sooner or later the Philippines has to come out from under the shadow of the US and stand proud on its own. Like you said, balikatan, shoulder to shoulder, and not under the eagle’s wing.
Goodbye, Mr. President. God speed. – Rappler.com
Monin Muriera-Navarro lived and worked in the US for more than 30 years. She held the position of administrative manager for an engineering and environmental consulting corporation. She retired in 2010 and lives in Baguio City.