Washington, DC, July 29, 2000 Unknown to many Filipinos, except for the Filipino valets to US President Bill Clinton, ''pancit bihon'' which he and the First Lady, Hillary, first tasted at the Manila Hotel in 1996, remains a special fare frequently requested by the Clintons from the kitchen here.
Lito Bautista, a US Navy steward who has served as personal valet to US presidents since then President Richard Nixon, said it is usual procedure at the White House kitchen to serve lemon in lieu of the native "kalamansi" for added flavor when the US First Couple asks for their favorite Filipino dish.
Bautista, a native of Silang, Cavite, said the Clintons' taste for "pansit bihon" developed after it was first served to them at the MacArthur Suite of the Manila Hotel where they stayed during the 1996 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila.
The 1996 APEC forum was hosted by the Philippines. At that time, President Joseph Estrada was vice president and official escort of the Clintons during their Manila stay.
Like every foreign trip of the Clintons and the other First Couples before them, Bautista was also with the Clintons when they were in Manila.
He said he had several meetings with then Vice President Estrada everytime he fetched the Clintons from the Manila Hotel. Except for those encounters, Bautista said he saw Estrada only in the movies.
Estrada’s visit to the White House was a big day for the Filipino aides who served in the US Navy before their assignment to Washington, Joe Fama said. Clinton had told them to wear their Navy uniforms so they can have photos taken with President Estrada.
So yesterday, Bautista, Fama, Fred Sanchez, and Bayani Nerves reported for work at the White House in their white naval uniforms for Mr. Clinton to introduce them to President Estrada who, they said, was "charming, humble, and respectful."
"We will not forget this day, ever," the proud Filipino aides said. (Brenda Piquero Tuazon, Manila Bulletin)
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