MAX V. SOLIVEN: VENI, VIDI - VAMOS

MANILA, OCTOBER 19, 2003  (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven  - So much has been written – too much, in truth – about the Bush state visit that one already begins to think of it in past tense, even if – as I write –I still have to go to Malacañang for the State Dinner. Bush, it was announced earlier, was supposed to sport a barong Tagalog. So much for costumes. I laid out my taxedo (which they call "smoking" in Europe, since it’s technically a smoking jacket).

Why a tux? Not in defiance or for lack of patriotism or wardrobe. All of us have barongs galore. (And it’s hot in the open-air Barrio Fiesta preceding the actual supper.) Yet how many occasions does one have in which to use a tuxedo? Unless, naturally, I hire out for an extra job as a maitre d’ or head waiter.

At this stage, we know President George W. Bush and party landed safely at the NAIA, officially met by Vice President Teofisto Guingona. Among the welcomers in the Guingona deputation was one of my partners, Stargate Vice Chairman and STAR columnist Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez. He didn’t ask me to include his name, but I think it should be mentioned since so many jealous and social-climbing officials and kibitzers tried to elbow him out of the official list, so they could insert themselves. It’s insane how so many people, biggies and wannabes, and ladies, had been fighting tooth and nail for insertion into the guest list in the few functions which were scheduled. Yet, I guess that’s human nature. Even a few minutes of proximity to power gives people "bragging rights" to pretend that they, too, have power and influence.

In this light, we can forget all those vehement anti-Bush "don’t come", or "go home", or "you dirty Imperialist" rallies by the usual publicity-hungry leftists. They were never demonstrating against Bush or the US Embassy, really. They were preening themselves for the photographers and the television cameras. KSP, or kulang sa pansin, I guess. In the same category fall the usual congressmen who uttered loud war cries against Bush et cetera, and their damn-Yankees (sounds like the baseball team). Sounding brass and clanging cymbals. Enough na. They got their publicity mileage.

Mr. Bush and the First Lady zipped by the US Embassy, giving Ambassador Frank Ricciardone a brief opportunity to show them a bit around and the American First Couple could shake the hands of staffers there, then with Manila Mayor Lito Atienza assisting, the US President laid a wreath at the monument of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, in the Luneta. Then it was into the bulletproof limo and on to Malacañang – with guardian helicopters buzzing around, riding shotgun on the convoy.

On the Palace grounds, a full-dress military welcome with red carpets strewn all over. You know the drill.

Julius Caesar, speaking of his triumph in battle, succinctly asserted: Veni, vidi, vinci! (I came, I saw, I conquered). In Dubya’s case, it was veni, vidi – and, to use that Texicano word popular in the old Panhandle Days – he vamoosed very quickly last night for Bangkok.

Glad you could come, Dubya, with your First Lady, Laura. Thanks for having been so hospitable to us in the White House last May 19, 2003. It’s good you brought along Ms. Condoleezza Rice, you’re brainy but paranoid National Security Adviser, so she could see we’re not such bad sorts here in the Philippines. Admittedly, we can’t blame Ms. Condoleezza for being wary of JI or al-Qaeda threats to Mr. Bush in our country, but, hey, Mr. Bush as war chief of the world’s lone superpower is unsafe everywhere. Even in France. Just ask Jacques Chirac.

I’m informed Ms. Rice speaks fluent Russian, and is an expert on Russia (including the old Soviet Union) and Eastern and Central Europe. She ought to come our neck of the woods more often. Then she might be more friendly.

Why, some of us even speak English.

* * *

After Mr. Bush may come the Russians. Our Ambassador to Moscow, who has just concluded a five-year tour of duty in Russia, Ambassador Jaime S. Bautista, has just returned to Manila. His term in Russia had been extended by President Macapagal-Arroyo up to the end of December, but somebody in the Department of Foreign Affairs "misplaced" the papers – so Bautista came home ahead of schedule.

Was this "loss" of the Presidential "extension" deliberate, or merely a case of sloppy transmission? Methinks in this administration, too many bad things deliberately happen, not by simple bungling. As an offshoot, the new Ambassador-appointee arrived in Moscow, also ahead of schedule, and took up residence in the Embassy there. Jimmy Bautista isn’t complaining since that gentleman is a personal friend of his, but I’m not such a sunny type. I think the new envoy, Ambassador Ernesto Llamas, a career man I grant you, is the nephew of Triple R. Gadzooks!

The late, brilliant wife of the late Foreign Secretary Carlos P. Romulo was Virginia Llamas (mom of Triple R). Is Ernie the son of Pangoy Llamas? I can say, at least, his dad was a good fellow and a friend of ours.

* * *

Jimmy Bautista was my student at the Ateneo de Manila, graduating law there with honors. Then he went on to the Universidad Central de Madrid, earning his Doctorate in Laws in Spain sobresaliente. The trophy he also brought back with him was his bubbly Spanish wife, Conchita, who’s so popular that in Moscow she was elected President of the International Women’s Association and head of the Diplomatic Wives Club.

Thanks to Jimmy’s persistent efforts, there’s a chance Russia’s President (whom GMA cordially sat with at the OIC conference in Kuala Lumpur) may be coming to the Philippines within the next few months. Other leaders from that area will be arriving here as well.

These achievements cap a splendid career in our fo-reign service. Jimmy – I hear – will be retiring in a few weeks.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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