Duterte gets advance birthday greeting from Chinese president
From Beijing with love.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who turns 73 on Wednesday, received an advance birthday greeting from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was recently given an unlimited term.
In his letter released by the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday, Xi thanked the President for the “turnaround” in bilateral relations since the Philippine leader assumed office in 2016.
On his birthday, don’t expect the President to throw an extravagant party for himself. It’s not just because the day falls on Holy Wednesday.
He never liked lavish parties and would be content if his well-wishers would pray for him, according to his special assistant, Christopher Go.
Improved bilateral ties
There was no prayer from Xi, who said that improved bilateral relations had “brought tangible benefits to our two peoples and promoted peace and stability of the region.”
“We have met with each other on quite a few occasions and we reached important consensus on advancing China-Philippines relations and deepening practical cooperation, and set the course for the future growth of our bilateral relations,” the Chinese leader wrote.
Xi said he was ready to work with Mr. Duterte to further strengthen bilateral relations “to bring about more benefits to our countries and peoples.”
Since he assumed office, Mr. Duterte has courted Chinese investments and loans and set aside protests against China’s presence on several islets within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
Spending birthday at home
Go said the President would spend the day at home in Davao City with his family.
Earlier, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the chief executive liked to hole up at home on his birthday.
Last year, he spent March 28 catching up on sleep. But he was woken up in the afternoon by his grandchildren who greeted him.
In previous years, the President marked his birthday by visiting senior citizens at Co Su Gian Home for the Aged and cancer patients at Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
He was also known to spend a few hours during his birthday in the company of close friends at his favorite watering hole in the city — where he would do karaoke, belting out songs like Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park.”
Birthday celebrations among immediate members of the Duterte family were always toned down.
During resigned Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo’s celebration of his 43rd birthday in the city on Saturday, only Duterte family members and Go — considered a part of the President’s family — were present.
On the menu were “kilawing kambing” (minced goatskin in vinegar with spices), “kalderetang kambing” (stewed goat meat), “bopis” (spicy minced pig lungs and other innards) and “paklay” (soured and spicy innards stew) from a popular local restaurant.
Paolo’s birthday also served as a reunion for the President’s original family.
The President and his former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman, their daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara with her husband Manases Carpio and their children, came to Paolo’s house for the birthday celebration.
Last week, megastar Sharon Cuneta greeted the President happy birthday in advance at Malacañang with a cake.
Cuneta, whose husband Francis Pangilinan is an opposition stalwart, had dinner with the President and Go during the visit.
She serenaded him with “Ikaw,” one of the President’s favorite songs. —Reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Leila B. Salaverria and Allan Nawal
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