MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Benigno Aquino III’s presidential journey ended on Thursday, June 30, at Times Street in Barangay West Triangle, Quezon City, where hundreds of supporters and some of his Cabinet members welcomed him home.
The first of Aquino’s Cabinet officials to arrive on Thursday were transportation chief Joseph “Jun” Abaya, social welfare secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, and chief peace adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles.
They came from the inauguration of Vice President Leni Robredo.
In an interview with Rappler, Abaya said he went straight to the Aquino family home at Times Street to receive Aquino and to wish him luck as a private citizen.
“But I’m sure we’ll always keep in touch and continue to help and serve the country in our own little ways,” added Abaya, who is also a member of the Liberal Party.
Now that he’s also a private citizen like Aquino, Abaya said taking care of his children will keep his hands full.
Former education secretary Armin Luistro and former tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr arrived a little later. Both spoke during a short program organized by Aquino’s neighbors, his supporters, and his Cabinet secretaries.
Luistro is the first outgoing Cabinet secretary to speak during the program here at Times Street. pic.twitter.com/zNzwgWR3Wg— Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
Outgoing Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez arrives: "We're a little more relaxed these days." pic.twitter.com/EVgljbW5ew— Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
In an interview with Rappler, Luistro thanked Aquino for his leadership.
“Maraming salamat (Thank you very much), sir, for the leadership, the pressure which we needed at many different times, and for the great courage to continue to serve up to the very end. Have a restful year ahead,” he said.
Luistro assured Aquino that the 66,800 classrooms carried over from the previous administration “are all finished.”
“We will leave our offices with pride that we have served our people these past 6 years as best we could,” he added.
Luistro said he still has a few more days to transition to the new education secretary, Leonor Briones, “but after Monday next week, tapos na tapos na ako, so puwede na akong mag-disappear (I’m very much finished, so I’m already allowed to disappear).”
Speaking to the crowd of supporters at Times Street, Jimenez also thanked Aquino, “the guy who made it all possible.”
“Some days he also made it really difficult, but for the most part, he was our inspiration not only to do well but to do good and that is, I hope, what we are gathering for,” he added.
Jimenez believes he’s leaving the country’s tourism industry “in a far better place than when we found it.”
“We didn’t exactly meet all our dreams, but we’ve doubled the business and I’m hoping that our successors will be infected with the same type of zeal and dedication that we were all encouraged to bring to the job,” he added.
Asked about her end of service at the DSWD, Soliman said, “I think it’s a day where we thank the people for having supported us. We thank everyone in journeying with us in Daang Matuwid where we were able to really touch lives and change people’s situations and help them move out of poverty.”
Soliman said her immediate plans are to take a breather and then to look for work. “I am not allowed to have official work with anything I supervised before so I’ll probably be working to earn my keep outside the country for consultancies,” she said.
Former finance secretary Cesar Purisima said in a chance interview that he wishes Aquino “a good retirement and a partner.” (READ: The bachelor president: Aquino and the women he met)
Aquino’s executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa Jr, was also spotted at Times Street on Thursday. He was with Aquino when the latter met with his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte, in Malacañang.
Soliman hosted the short program on Thursday with singer Leah Navarro. Aside from Navarro, singers Jim Paredes and Noel Cabangon also performed a few songs before Aquino arrived past 11:30 am.
Aquino now speaking before supporters here at Times Street pic.twitter.com/UtAReTkFrR— Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
After his 7-minute speech, Aquino walked home, accompanied by his supporters. The short program ended with Aquino’s Cabinet secretaries and his supporters singing “Bayan Ko,” a song Aquino earlier said was part of the soundtrack of his presidency.
Program ends here at Times Street as audience sings "Bayan Ko" pic.twitter.com/zOerbvwzy6— Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
– with reports from Dwight De Leon/Rappler.com