A kiss is just a kiss. But not when it’s from the world’s most powerful leader.
Capt. Carolina Garcia Delfin did not plan on getting a kiss from US President Barack Obama on Tuesday. But she got a kiss, and a commendation when the US leader delivered a speech before Filipino and American servicemen at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, Metro Manila.
Delfin, 94, was cited by Obama when he acknowledged the heroic defense of Bataan and Corregidor during World War II when soldiers from both countries “together endured the agony of the Death March and the horror of war camps.”
As a nurse, Delfin treated injured Filipino soldiers using only herbs and coconut water.
“I was surprised where he got my name. I was so happy that I was able to kiss the President of the United States. That was something great. Now I will go back to my peaceful life,” Delfin told reporters.
Obama paid tribute to the veterans, telling them that his administration passed a legislation that has provided “nearly 20,000 Filipino veterans and their families” the much needed compensation and recognition.
“In Bataan and Corregidor, the heroism of the veterans brought out the best in the Filipino character in the face of adversity and served as beacon to freedom-loving peoples everywhere,” he said.
“Many never made it out. In those years of occupation, Filipino resistance fighters kept up the struggle. And hundreds of thousands of Filipinos fought under the American flag,” Obama noted.
But he said the partnership of Filipinos and Americans goes beyond military exercises, particularly during disasters.
“This spirit of alliance remains up to the present, such as when one of the worst typhoons hit the [Philippines],” Obama added.
He acknowledged the bravery of Capt. Roy Trinidad, a Philippine Navy Seal; Col. Mike Wiley, a US Marine; and Major George Apolosta of the US Air Force.
They were the first to land in Tacloban City, Leyte, to provide relief and medical supplies to survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
To honor them, the US leader took a moment to applaud Delfin, Trinidad, Wiley and Apaliso, saying they and other men and women in uniform worked tirelessly.
“There’s a connection between our proud veterans from World War II and our men and women serving today, bound across the generations by the spirit of our alliance, Filipinos and Americans standing together, shoulder-to-shoulder, balikatan,” he added.
Trinidad took the commendation in stride.
“If they recognize you at the end of the day, well and good, thank you. If not, no hard feelings. Life goes on, just do your job,” he told reporters.
Apolosta said the good relationship between Filipino and American troops was evident even during their first day in Tacloban City.
“ It is like [we were members of]a basketball team, it seems that [we]have been playing together,” he explained.
Also in the audience that listened to the US leader were former President Fidel V.
Ramos, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Senators Loren Legarda and Antonio Trillanes 4th, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon and current and former military chiefs.
Obama also mentioned US solidarity with the Philippines during the state dinner hosted by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday night in Malacanang.
“After Yolanda, America grieved with you and stood with you. But we were also inspired by your resilience and your determination to care for those who had been affected. Tonight, our hearts actually grieve for some of our fellow Americans back home who have been devastated by very terrible storms and tornadoes, but we draw strength from your example. For even as we grieve, we know that we will recover and we will rebuild in these communities that have been affected because people will care after each other,” he said.
The tornadoes smashed south-central United States on Sunday, leaving at least 16 people dead in Arkansas and Oklahoma and leveling entire communities of homes.