Under a brilliant blue sky, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Manila. After a red carpet welcome at the airport, she headed straight to historic Goldenberg Mansion to meet with her counterpart, Alberto Romulo, the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Goldenberg Mansion was built nearly 100 years ago and was furnished by former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos with gorgeous antiques and paintings from all over the world – including some original art works by renowned American artist “Grandma Moses.” The Government of the Philippines now uses it as a meeting and event venue. In this lovely setting, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Romulo were joined by their delegations on the second floor for a wide-ranging and friendly discussion that included the upcoming meeting in Singapore between President Obama and the leaders of ASEAN, U.S.-Philippine counterterrorism cooperation, and the December climate change conference in Denmark. Secretary Clinton congratulated the Philippines on the safe release earlier in the day of kidnapped Irish priest, Father Sinnott.
After their meeting, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Romulo met with members of the press to share their meeting conversation and answer questions. Secretary Clinton started the press conference highlighting the exceptional partnership between the Philippines and the United States. She focused on the people-to-people nature of our friendship that has endured over decades. She told the crowd of her sympathy and compassion for those who had suffered in the wake of recent typhoons and storms. And said she was proud that Americans and Filipinos had worked together to bring immediate relief to suffering communities.
No lunch time for the busy Secretary of State as we jumped in cars and drove across town to Marikina, a city within Metro Manila that was heavily devastated by flood and typhoons in recent months. We stopped at Malanday High School, which served as an evacuation site for flood victims despite being flooded up the second floor itself. But today, desperation gave way to celebration, with balloons flying, flags waving and bands playing. Thousands of cheering students greeted Secretary Clinton from every floor of the three-story building circling the center courtyard. Secretary Clinton toured classrooms, together with the Philippine Secretary of Education and the Vice Principal, and heard from the city mayor of the devastation suffered by residents.
Secretary Clinton then opened a “Book Fair” where teachers from flood-affected schools selected from among tens of thousands of books those that would best compliment their education program. The books were donated by a partnership between U.S. NGO “Brother’s Brother” and USAID. Addressing the students and teachers, the Secretary praised them for their resiliency and their spirit of helping each other. She announced a new U.S. relief donation of $5.2 million to assist schools and health clinics as they recover from the flooding and typhoon damage.
Not surprisingly, Secretary Clinton was unable to resist the energy and excitement of the students. Despite the mid-afternoon heat in the open courtyard, she stayed to talk with students, book shop with teachers, and posed for photos. She clearly would have stayed for hours despite the heat if her Ambassador (me!) hadn’t pulled her away. But I knew we had other events and more people waiting to meet Hillary Clinton.