Because of important commitments in Taipei, this writer had to decline an invitation to attend the gala dinner in honor of the leaders attending Asean’s 31st Summit in commemoration of the 50 years of its existence.
Watching the events that unfolded in Clark and Manila from internet snippets was good enough compared to the hustle of activities back home. No selfies, no handshakes, no “thrill” of historic unfolding.
As we write this, we still have to await real news about what the Asean summit achieved. So we will confine ourselves with trivia in this article.
There were quite a number of Filipino officials who took the special holidays as occasion to visit Taiwan, particularly its capital, Taipei. Unfortunately for them, the weather had not been too cooperative. It’s been raining here for the last three days, although the mercury has dipped to mid-twenties in daytime and a few degrees lower by nightfall. I am sure many others hied off to Hong Kong, or Macau.
Back home though, the big news, especially to the female population, was how Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, outshone Donald Trump of America. While the Donald was heavily ensconced by his Secret Service bodyguards, the Justin moved around with the “masa,” enjoying himself immensely in the warm sunlight that Manila provided in contrast to the biting cold back home.
The Bieber “tukayo,” as every Filipina including Rina Jimenez David of the Inquirer gushed, was the “superstar” of the Asean sideshow. From milling with the welcoming crowd in Pampanga, to taking an electric confabulation co-designed by the Canadians with Secretary Art Tugade, to taking a bite of Jollibee’s starch-covered Chickenjoy and wooing the Tondo folk as well as the kitchen crew, and gushing about feminism at the Likhaan Women’s Clinic, the boyish-looking, certainly youngest chief executive who came over just stole the show from Donald Trump.
The Justin sideshow solidified his hold on close to a million Fil-Canadians back home who may have been turned off by the disgusting antics of their other Canadian “idol,” rock star Justin Bieber.
That’s a big chunk of votes, considering that Canada has a population of only 35 million, and thus about 17-million voters, where just about two-thirds bother to cast their vote in parliamentary elections. Ah, the advantages of sparse population!
Canada is 33 times larger than Philippine territory with just a third of our teeming population. Which makes governance a lot easier for the young son of the equally popular Pierre Elliot Trudeau who ran Canada’s government at the time we had Ferdinand Marcos.
Trudeau’s easy-going and natural charm was in stark contrast to Trump’s rather pompous conduct, using a “special” side entrance to the Cultural Center while everyone else went up the ramp in their host-provided BMW sedan. He effectively denied TV viewers like myself a glimpse of “The Beast,” his armored vehicle. Exchanging pleasantries with our Rodrigo and Mme. Cielito Avancena, the towering Donald even managed to bar the TV cameras from capturing the moment. You’ll never know if he did it on purpose to spite the media that he despises.
But in fairness, the Donald was a nice visitor who did not try to hector his host with issues on human rights and the conduct of our war on drugs. And our Rodrigo was gracious in return. All’s well that ends well.
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In Da Nang days before, some of the Apec economies brought forth a TPP minus One. The eleven economies earlier believed that US President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership was cast in stone was disappointed by the Donald. So after months of being in limbo over their trade multilateralism, they decided to go ahead, minus the US of A.
On the sidelines of the Apec Summit where Trump once again trumpeted his “America First,” the Eleven agreed on the core elements of what they then re-named a Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, minus the US, vowed to strengthen their proposals to engage in greater free trade arrangements, with Taiwan intending to join.
Dr. James Soong, Taiwan’s envoy to the Apec said that his delegation did its utmost to ensure that the voice of Taiwan would be heard at Da Nang in Vietnam.
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Some of our female staff were nitpicking on the sartorial elegance, or lack of it, of some of the leaders in the Asean Summit, while going ga-ga over the Justin.
Bakit daw ang “old-style” pa ng mga trousers, or Trump’s signature red tie was “lampas sa sinturon,” or our President’s barong had sleeves rolled.
Wryly I said, “pero sila Presidente, tayo hindi.”
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Just to add to the trivial, my executive assistant here in Taiwan, a former media person, gave me a list of “funny” signs:
A coffee shop whose Chinese name, when translated in the English sub-title, reads: “To earn money, you must spend money.” Yep, that’s the name of the coffee shop.
There’s a restaurant within a hotel, whose name is Frenchified: “L’idiot.”
And believe it or not, a bar cum coffee shop near our office is named “Three Idiots.”
Passing by the cheap shopping area called Ximending, one sees a foot-and-back massage parlor with the inviting English name: “I Love You, You Love Me Massage.” It has an all-glass façade, which gets you to see the masseuses. They are all past 50,60 even. Oh well.
And nearing the high-speed rail station in the southern city of Kaoshiung, one sees an official sign going up the loading and unloading ramp: “Kiss and Ride.”.
Oo nga naman, don’t forget to kiss your wife or girlfriend, or husband or boyfriend, before you ride the train.
“Tawa ka ng tawa”, I chided my HEA, “pero sila mayaman, maski baluktot ang Ingles.”