Fil-Am student gifts ecstatic Aquino with Harvard T-shirt
NEW YORK—As you wish.
No sooner had President Benigno Aquino III wished he had something to remember the private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by when he received a cool gift from a young Filipino-American.
He got exactly what he asked for—a Harvard T-shirt.
The President, who was in Harvard University for a speaking engagement, was ecstatic about getting a Harvard shirt as much as he was about his homecoming to Boston after 31 long years, he told reporters in a briefing at his hotel last Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Manila).
“Of course I also feel proud. I was invited by Boston College, I was able to speak at Harvard and was given a shirt,” he said.
But he said he also wanted to reimburse Fil-Am Harvard junior Carlito Marc Natividad, who gave him the shirt on behalf of his group, a Fil-Am organization, as the young man may have blown a hole in his budget to purchase the shirt.
The President hinted at wanting a Harvard shirt as he began his policy speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government last Monday.
“I dropped a hint [about the shirt] but later I told [my companions] that this person might have an allowance and had quite a sum shaved off it [because of the shirt]. I couldn’t find him afterwards to ask him if I could reimburse him,” Mr. Aquino said.
Right after his Harvard engagement, the President was whisked to the airport for his flight to New York City where he delivered speeches at the United Nations Climate Summit and Columbia University.
A check with the Harvard online store showed that the price range for Harvard round neck T-shirts for adults ranges from $15.99 to $30.
Before he delivered his policy speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on Monday afternoon, Mr. Aquino told his audience that it was in Boston where his “family found warmth in exile during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.”
“Harvard, in particular, was a haven for my father, who was one of your visiting fellows during those years. Back then, however, the closest I ever got to entering Harvard was traveling along Massachusetts Avenue. I never even owned a shirt from your souvenir stores.
“Now I am here talking to you. I hope that later the organizers who invited me will be patting themselves on the back instead of shaking their heads in dismay,” the President had said, drawing laughter from his audience.
During the open forum, Natividad told the President that his group, the Harvard-Philippine forum, “actually wanted to present you with this Harvard shirt.”
“Thank you. Now, I have one. Thanks!” the President said with a wide smile.
Natividad, who is copresident of the Harvard-Philippine Forum, asked Mr. Aquino how the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States enhances the role of the Philippines in the Asia-Pacific region.
The President replied that the “operationalization” of the decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty with America “leaves a lot to be desired.”
“As far as the Philippines is concerned, the enhanced cooperation means that we will have access to all of these 21st technology and, in fact, just to possess it but at least to be able to understand and utilize the same. The endpoint being, that you get to manage situations a lot better. And that, again, the roles of the respective partners are more clearly defined, leading, hopefully, to joint cooperation that enhances stability within the region,” Mr. Aquino said.
The open forum was going along smoothly with the President taking questions on a variety of topics until a man engaged him in a debate over the Philippines’ purchase of firearms from the United States and Canada.
The man questioned the purchase of the firearms for the military when he claimed such a program does not provide livelihood or improve the welfare of the Filipinos.
Keeping his cool, Mr. Aquino said the Philippine government had purchased a total of 50,000 units of brand-new assault rifles to replace the vintage firearms used by its military.
He also emphasized the need for the military’s modernization given that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had lived with World War II-era materiel.
As the open forum concluded, the moderator asked President Aquino what lessons on leadership he could share with the audience. Quickly, the President said: “Oh, I am still learning myself.”
Except for the heckling he got at Harvard and Columbia University, where he spoke at the year-round World Leaders’ Forum, President Aquino apparently cherished his visit to the United States, his third as head of state, particularly because of his Boston homecoming.
“There are places [in Boston] that have not changed. There are places that are really different now,” Mr. Aquino mused.
He also met with his late parents’ closest friends in Boston, who he said were the first ones to rush to their side right after news reached them that his father, opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., had been shot dead on his return to Manila on Aug. 21, 1983.
Until then, President Aquino had not been to Boston after going back to the Philippines to bury his father.
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