Having worked up an appetite discussing territorial disputes, US President Barack Obama and President Benigno Aquino 3rd shared a sumptuous dinner in Malacañang on Monday night.
Some of the dishes served were the lobster kilawin carpacio, fiddle fern with kalamansi, lapu-lapu with pili nuts, pochero with a seafood twist, and US prime rib inasal.
For dessert, the US president was offered coconut lychee ice cream with mango macapuno strudel.
Among the performing artists at the state dinner were Apl.de.ap, Leo Valdez, Kuh Ledesma, the Madrigal Singers, Bituin Escalante and the Bayanihan Dancers.
Obama was welcomed at the airport by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr., and Philippine Air Force Chief Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado.
The US president and his party flew to Malacañang on board Marine One, the presidential helicopter.
At the Palace, Obama was welcomed by President Aquino in front of the Bonifacio Hall. Aquino led Obama to the hall for a few minutes, then re-emerged to begin the full military honors, which included a 21-gun salute.
Before entering the Malacañang Palace, Obama was introduced to the Philippine Cabinet officials who attended the arrival ceremony.
Obama initiated an impromptu meet-and-greet with some Palace employees who were gathered at the side of the main building to welcome him.
On the official guestbook of Malacañang, the US president signed a “thank you” note to the Philippines for welcoming him, calling the country America’s “oldest alliance in Asia.”
“I thank President Aquino and the people of the Philippines [for]welcoming me. May America’s oldest alliance in Asia always be renewed by our friendship and mutual respect,” Obama’s note read, with his signature affixed below.
Both leaders had a brief one-on-one meeting at the Music Room before proceeding to the Aguinaldo State Dining Room for an expanded bilateral meeting.
The two leaders then held a joint press conference at the President’s Hall.
“Mr. Benigno, I want to thank you and the Filipino people, not only for your generous hospitality today but for a friendship that has spanned generations,” Obama told the media and the President.
“I’d like to add our friendship is deeper and the United States is stronger because of the contributions and patriotism of millions of proud Filipino-Americans,” he added.
Obama also pointed that Filipino and American soldiers fought together in the battle to liberate the Philippines during the Second World War.
This is my first visit to the Philippines as President and I am proud to be here,” Obama said.
“All these years later, we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to uphold peace and security in the (Asian) region and around the world,” he added.
Obama said the Philippines, as a “vibrant democracy,” reflects the desire of the citizens in the region to live in freedom and to have their universal rights upheld.
“And as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, the Philippines also represents new opportunities for trade and investment that creates jobs,” Obama added.
From Malacañang, the US president headed to Hotel Sofitel where he met with US embassy personnel before returning to Malacañang for a state dinner at 7:20 p.m.
On Tuesday, the US President will meet with members of the business sector and then with the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Fort Bonifacio. He is expected to visit the Manila American Cemetery before leaving the country around noontime.