13 October 2010

Philippine Presidents who Visited De La Salle Lipa


One of the perks of working with external relations – as I did during the years of Brother Rafael Donato as President of De La Salle Lipa – was that I and my crew would, occasionally, find ourselves hosting visiting celebrities and dignitaries.

Since the SENTRUM was under our jurisdiction, we stood side by side on a regular basis with musical acts like Gary Valenciano, Side A and True Faith, to name a few. Once, we even went international and had David Pomeranz – Born for You, Got to Believe in Magic – performing in school.

In this picture, I was asking American pop star David Pomeranz to autograph an official poster of his concert to frame and hang at the SENTRUM lobby.

You will see a picture of me side-by-side with Gary V at the Café Le Barako, the occasion being the dinner after his third and last concert that we promoted when I was in charge. That is me, alright! Eyes bloodshot, extremely stressed out from trying to sell tickets for a third Gary V concert in just a few years. It was stressful enough to drive a perfectly healthy man to his grave!

Posing with Gary Valenciano after his third SENTRUM concert.

We were also in charge of this lecture series called the Ka Pepe Talks, short for the Jose W. Diokno Lecture Series which Brother Rafael asked Social Concerns to stage also on a regular basis. We were bold; we did not ask just any Tom, Dick or Harry to come over.

As Brother Rafael used to say, gamitin n’yo ako! He was right! His name alone was sufficient to vouch for our credibility, so that we were able to invite no less the presidents and presidentiables to come over and speak to multi-sectored audiences.

Hosting these dignitaries was not quite as tiring as staging concerts; but it was just as stressful. Although the campus has always been reasonably secure, these were still very important persons under our care for even just a few hours. To put things in perspective, somebody got close enough to fire at Ronald Reagan when he was President of the United States – even when he was protected by a posse of Secret Service personnel. That was the nightmare scenario always playing in our minds.

To be perfectly honest, when we hosted former President Joseph Estrada, he was still only Vice-President of the Republic. No crystal ball was needed, though, to foretell that he would be the next President.

Joseph Estrada was still Vice-President when he visited De la Salle Lipa.

I am sorry to say that Estrada came to school after having been hosted in a luncheon affair by the Mayor of Tanauan. Consequently, his lecture was not only brief but was also largely incomprehensible; and whatever questions he was asked he wisely prompted his aides to answer.

I had the pleasure of escorting him to the Chez Rafael after the lecture, so I was privy to the fact that he had had probably not just a few drinks with his hosts in Tanauan. That said, I thought he was a very charming feller! He talked to me like he’d known me all his life. I was half expecting him to call me “pare.” I thought, then, that I understood why the masses swooned at the sight of him.

Like Estrada, PGMA arrived when she was still Vice-President. Goodness! The school must have been a president-maker – or something – because, like Estrada, she would go on to become top honcho. I remember little of her lecture except that I was impressed by her intellect but not so much by the monotone with which she spoke.

She did surprise us by returning for a visit when she was already President. I think we had a half-an-hour window to prepare. She was visiting Batangas City and decided she had time to say hello to Brother Rafael.

PGMA as President came for an announced visit to DLSL after an official function at Batangas City.

When former President Corazon Aquino came for a visit, she had – of course – been out of Malacañang for sometime. It was not really even our activity. There was a prayer rally of some sort and we were asked to help out. I had the honor of ushering her into the venue, as the picture below shows – but that was as close as I got.

I have always said I was never a fan of her presidency. That said, even from afar, I could see why a whole nation would trust her with their souls. She exuded this aura of serenity that I have seen up close in but a handful of people. When she started to lead the faithful in the praying of the Holy Rosary, it was an out-of-this world experience! Like being in the presence of a living saint… Yes, I had goose bumps all over my body!

The late Corazon Aquino visited DLSL for a Rosary Rally at the SENTRUM.

My favorite presidential visitor would have to be – and I say this without even thinking – Fidel Ramos. He was not president, of course, when he came for a lecture. Television and newspaper photos – to this day – never do him justice. They show him to be a wizened old man who speaks in a dull, contrived manner.

Fidel V. Ramos delivered a lecture at the Diokno Auditorium and willingly posed with school administrators.

In person, that preconception is immediately thrown out the window! Although he was seventy-ish when he visited, he immediately gave the impression of being a bubbly and youthful personality trapped inside the body of an old man. Where Cory Aquino exuded serenity, Ramos was the opposite. The latter exuded vibrant energy!

When we asked if we could have a picture taken with him, his reply was, “I thought you would never ask!” That was probably contrived; but I bought it, nonetheless! The guy was pure charisma!

And now to President Noynoy… Please come back to this blog in about ten years’ time…

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