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TRIVIA: US presidential visits to PH

Agripino Luiz Mendoza III
The Philippines has received 10 American presidents, 6 of them sitting presidents at the time of their visit

MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama will arrive in Manila on Monday, April 28, to meet with President Benigno Aquino III and discuss bilateral issues.

Obama’s visit to the Philippines is part of an Asian trip that includes Japan, South Korea and Malaysia in an effort to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties. It also happens at a time when tensions are high as a result of maritime and territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Obama’s visit will be the 8th time a sitting US president will be coming to the Philippines. The country has received 10 American presidents, 6 of them sitting presidents at the time of their visit.

Here are some interesting details about some of these previous visits by US presidents.

Dwight Eisenhower was the first sitting US president to visit the Philippines

  • When Eisenhower paid the Philippines a visit on June 14, 1960, his motorcade was greeted by a military parade in Luneta Park, and thousands flocked to see a US president in the country for the first time.

Eisenhower was bestowed an honorary degree in the Philippines

  • He received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of the Philippines on June 16, 1960.

Nixon praised Gloria Diaz for winning Miss Universe in 1960

  • After Gloria Diaz won the Miss Universe pageant on July 19, 1969, Nixon said, “The US conquered the moon but the Philippines has conquered the universe.” Diaz won 7 days before Nixon arrived in the Philippines.

The shortest visit of a US president in the country was only 8 hours

  • George W. Bush stayed for only 8 hours in the Philippines due to safety threats, as anti-American sentiments were strong in the country then. In those 8 hours on Oct 18, 2003, he was able to lay a wreath at the Rizal Monument, receive a 21-gun salute, meet with then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and give a speech in front of a joint session of the Philippine Congress.

Bush’s had a heavy security detail

  • Bush arrived on Oct 18, 2003 escorted by a squadron of F-15 fighter jets. Bush’s heavy security was caused by the numerous terrorist threats on his life, all brought by anti-American and anti-war sentiments due to US actions in Iraq. The operations in Iraq were carried out a few months before his visit to the Philippines.

Some legislators walked out when Bush delivered his speech before the Philippine Congress

  • When Bush entered the session hall of Congress, some legislators did not stand to recognize his presence. At least 5 legislators who opposed Bush’s actions on Iraq walked out of the session hall. One of them, Sanlakas partylist Representative JV Bautista, even unfurled a banner in the middle of the session hall denouncing Bush’s decision.

Protests were happening outside Congress when Bush was delivering his speech

  • Outside the Congress hall, over 7,000 anti-American protesters were burning US flags to protest and denounce US operations in Iraq. Many of them attempted to march to Congress but were halted by police officers.

US presidents stayed in the Philippines for 2 to 3 days

  • Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson stayed in the country for 3 days, while Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Richard Nixon stayed for 2 days. Only Bush stayed in the country for less than a day.

Bill Clinton visited the country twice as sitting president – the only US president to do so

  • He first visited the Philippines in 1994 to discuss the dramatic withdrawal of US military forces due to the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement in 1991. He again visited in 1996 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit which the Philippines hosted.

Al-Qaeda plotted to assassinate Clinton on his trips to the Philippines

  • Al-Qaeda’s Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheik Mohammed planned to assassinate Clinton in 1994, but later abandoned the idea after finding it difficult to execute. They instead formulated a new plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II who was visiting the Philippines for World Youth Day in 1995. Then in 1996, Clinton avoided death by only a few minutes when his motorcade was rerouted after the US Secret Service discovered a bomb along the original route. The 2nd attempt to assassinate Clinton was said to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden.

Four US presidents visited the Philippines outside their terms of office.

  • William Howard Taft, Philippine governor-general from 1901 to 1903. He became US president in 1909.

  • Ronald Reagan, California governor, visited the Philippines in 1969. He became president in 1981.

  • George H.W. Bush, when he was vice president, visited the Philippines in 1981. He became president in 1989.

  • Jimmy Carter visited the country in 1999. He was US president from 1977 to 1981.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story inadvertently referred to the 41st president of the United States as George W. Bush. His name is actually George H.W. Bush. We regret the error)

Taft, during his term as Governor-General, had a controversial picture taken of him riding a carabao.

Howard Taft riding a carabao. Photo from the University of California.
  • The image was said to be an allegorical representation of how the US (as represented by Taft) remained a heavy burden for the Philippines despite being liberated from the Spanish empire. – Rappler.com

SOURCES: The American Presidency Project, Dwight Eisenhower website, Kahimyang.info, Philippine Diplomatic Visits, various news sites

Agripino Luiz Mendoza III is a Rappler intern.