MIKE A. SKIPS APEC FUNCTION FOR THAI MASSAGE AND BONDING W/ DAUGHTER

BANGKOK (PLDT), OCTOBER 22, 2003  (STAR) First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo played hooky from the official activities lined up for the spouses of the 21 leaders who attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit here to bond with his daughter and experience Thai massage.

Mr. Arroyo was not the only APEC spouse to skip the official activities. The respective husbands of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark were also no-shows at the affairs, which were presided over by the wife of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Most of the APEC spouses were female, with only three women leaders attending the summit.

Mr. Arroyo, however, carried out his primary role as President Arroyo’s official escort during the official functions for APEC leaders that required his presence.

The First Gentleman skipped the guided tours organized for the APEC spouses and opted to try the Thai bath and massage sessions at the Oriental Hotel, where he and the rest of the Philippine delegation are billeted for the summit.

With him was his daughter Luli, with whom he has apparently reconciled following a brief "tampuhan" over his supposed marital infidelity.

Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a series of privilege speeches, insinuated that the First Gentleman was having an affair with his private secretary Vicky Toh.

Both Mr. Arroyo and Toh denied Lacson’s allegations.

The First Gentleman admitted that the controversy affected Luli, who then refused to talk to him. Luli, 32, is the second of his three children and his only daughter.

Arroyo and Luli have apparently reconciled — Luli was seen being affectionate with her father Monday night.

Luli took her father’s hand and extricated him from staying behind with the Philippine media delegation, with whom Mrs. Arroyo had a post-dinner press conference.

"Mom is looking for you," Luli told her father, pulling his hand and slinging it over her shoulder as if to bodily carry him back to their hotel suite.

The First Gentleman told The STAR he is glad his daughter has apparently recovered from the emotional stress brought about by Lacson’s exposés.

He said he had some "bonding" time with Luli last month in Spain, where they spent five days tracing their family’s Spanish roots. — Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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