‘Proud’ Aquino: APEC hosting shows Filipino excellence

Ayee Macaraig
‘Proud’ Aquino: APEC hosting shows Filipino excellence
President Aquino hails the Philippines' hosting of APEC: 'Give the Filipino an opportunity, and he or she will excel'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – “Bigyan mo ng pagkakataon ang Pilipino, nagpapakita ng gilas.” (Give the Filipino an opportunity, and he/she will excel.) 

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he was proud and pleased with how the Philippines hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit last week, the region’s most high-profile business event. 

Aquino made the statement in a press briefing here after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings that gathered 18 world leaders in the Malaysian capital. The President said that in comparison, the Philippines had to secure 21 world leaders for APEC in Manila from November 18 to 19. 

Higit pa sa ASEAN, tapos lahat ng superpower na kilala kung tutuusin nandito (sa Manila), siyempre may dalang kaibigan at may naakit din sigurong kalaban. Napaka-tempting. Baka sabihin ang Pilipinas may reputation na ‘di kasing rigid ng Aleman o Hapon. Pero pinakita natin we can handle it professionally,” Aquino said on Sunday, November 22. 

(More than ASEAN, almost all of the superpowers were in Manila so of course they bring with them friends and also attract enemies. It’s so tempting to attack them. So maybe people will say the Philippines has a reputation for not being as rigid in security as the Germans or the Japanese. But we showed that we can handle it professionally.) 

There were 5 to 6 high-risk world leaders who attended APEC including US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. 

The APEC summit also occurred just days after terror attacks in Paris and Beirut, and the bombing of a plane over Egypt with mostly Russian passengers.  

Aquino credited not just security officials but all Filipinos who welcomed the guests and ensured that APEC proceeded without any untoward event. 

“I’m very proud of all involved – ang kapulisan, ang nagtahi ng barong, ang mga performers, gumawa ng visuals, yung timing, kilos ng performers, wala akong nakita na may nauna, nadelay, ang mga naghanda ng pagkain,” he said. 

(The police, the ones who made the barong, the performers, those who made the visuals, the timing, the actions of performers, I did not see anyone out of sequence, those who prepared the food.) 

The Philippines hosted APEC for the entire year, culminating in the leaders’ meeting last week. Organizers told Rappler that the affair was 3 years in the making. The Philippines spent P9.8 billion ($208 million) to host APEC. 

APEC DINNER. President Aquino says he was proud of how the MOA Arena was transformed for the APEC leaders' welcome dinner.

‘Showing the best of the Philippines’ 

Aquino said many pitched in to show the best of the Philippines during APEC. 

He said when he first visited MOA Arena in Pasay, the venue of the APEC leaders’ welcome dinner, he was apprehensive about the preparations. 

“Iyong nakabalot ng itim na tela e. So ang una kong tinanong ‘Hindi kaya mukhang funeraria itong ginagawa nating ito?’ Tapos ang sabi nila sa akin ‘Sir, magtiwala kayo, may ilalagay kami diyan, ma-i-impress kayo.’” 

(It was covered with black cloth. So my first question was: “Wouldn’t this look like a funeral parlor?” They told me, “Sir, trust us. We will put something there. You will be impressed.”)

The result was a grand setting that transformed the venue into a massive outdoor garden inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces, a World Heritage Site. International furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue was the creative director for the dinner. 

Cobonpue also designed the leaders’ so-called Yoda chairs, made of rattan and stainless steel. 

Aquino said at first, he was afraid that the chairs would prick the leaders but they turned out to be both aesthetically appealing and comfortable. 

“Pati ‘yung pakikidamay na gustong ipakita ‘yung pinakamaganda ng Pilipinas, ‘yung mga gumagawa ‘nung – nag-design, gumawa ‘nung furniture, ipinahiram lang lahat ‘yan, ang daming ipinahiram eh.” 

(People reached out to show the best of the Philippines, those who made the design, furniture, they all just lent this to us.) 

Aquino said even the decades-old Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was spruced up for the leaders’ meeting. 

‘We did our duty’ 

Despite the President’s praises of APEC, motorists, commuters, and vendors complained about the hassle the event caused them. The government closed down roads, called off work and classes, and had flights cancelled to and from the capital to secure the VIPs, and to accommodate their movement. 

APEC caused a major traffic jam in the Philippine capital, forcing many commuters to walk to get to work and to go home. One woman even gave birth on the road due to the heavy traffic. 

Critics said the inconvenience showed that the APEC was an “exclusive, elite club,” contradicting the Philippines’ theme of inclusive growth. (READ: APEC: Special lanes for whom?)

Aquino acknowledged that some sectors opposed APEC but focused on the “success” of the event. 

“Merong mga ilan na talagang kontra-tiyempo lang pero ‘yung overwhelming majority, bayan natin ito, ipakita natin ‘yung pinakamaganda sa bayan natin, nagdeliver at may mga limitasyon tayo pero naagapan natin ‘yung limitasyon na ‘yon at nagawa natin ‘yung tungkulin natin.” 

(There were some who were against the beat but the overwhelming majority felt this is our country, let’s show the best it has to offer. We delivered. There were limitations but we addressed these, and we were able to do our duty.) – Rappler.com 

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