Filipino professionals troop to Hanoi hotel to see Duterte
HANOI, Vietnam—Most came out in their best clothes while others wore denim pants and rubber shoes. Most of them queued for more than an hour, not to meet a celebrity, but to see President Rodrigo Duterte.
Filipino professionals based in Vietnam took time off from work to personally shake hands with the popular leader, who had just arrived here on Wednesday for a two-day official visit.
The queue at the Intercontinental Hotel here extended to the sidewalk as adults and even their children, some only toddlers, patiently braved the afternoon sun to see Duterte in the flesh.
Some were just based here while others travelled all the way from Ho Chi Minh.
They all gamely showed a pumping fist when asked if they were here for Duterte’s scheduled meeting with the members of the Filipino community.
Vietnam, a socialist state, has around 3,800 Filipinos working here as professionals.
Ray Rodriguez, an engineer, even checked in at a nearby hotel before dawn Wednesday just to make sure that he is among the first in line to enter the hotel.
“The queue began at 4 p.m. but I was here an hour earlier. Many of us were,” he smiled in pride.
He was unable to vote for Duterte in the May 2016 presidential elections but professed admiration for his idol from Davao City.
“I am here for the Philippines. I was unable to vote but I love the President,” he said.
Asked on what he would like to say to Duterte should he get a chance to shake hands with him, Rodriguez said: “No, I won’t say anything. He already knows what he’s doing.”
Duterte arrived at the Noi Bai International Airport on Wednesday afternoon greeted with a red carpet welcome, a limousine and honors.
The Philippine Airlines plane bearing the presidential delegation touched down at exactly 3:48 p.m., marking the start of his two-day official visit to Vietnam.
He wore a white barong Tagalog over black pants, deviating from his usual plaid shirts and denim pants.
After shaking hands with officials who turned out to greet him, Duterte was immediately whisked off to the Intercontinental Hotel here where he met businessmen in a closed-door meeting.
As of posting time, the President has yet to face the hundreds of Filipinos who took time off their schedules to meet him on his first official visit here.
A host and singers kept the Filipinos entertained in a function room at the hotel as they all waited for the popular leader to address them.
Emmanuel Lopez, who is an official of an organization of Filipinos here, said more than 600 Filipinos have trooped so far to the Intercontinental Hotel to meet President Duterte.
The function room rented for the event, however, only has a maximum capacity of 300 people.
“We didn’t expect that so many would want to see the President. Some are still calling us up to ask if they could still go here,” said Lopez, vice president of the Pinoys sa Hanoi.
He initially expected around 500 Filipinos to attend the special meeting with Duterte, who is on a two-day official visit here to meet top Vietnamese leaders.
The overwhelming turnout is proof of the Filipino community’s support for the popular leader, Lopez said.
“They are very eager for the very first time to take part in this,” he said.
He added that the Filipino community here and from Ho Chi Minh will extend their support for Duterte and his programs.
“We wish that he will be able to solve the country’s problems. We are ready to help him, as long as it is right and for the benefit of all,” Lopez said. RAM
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