The President was supposed to speak before an international conference upon the invitation of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
While in Hong Kong, the President was also supposed to attend a post-Chinese New Year gathering of some 130,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
An advance close-in crew from the Presidential Radio-TV Malacañang was recalled from Hong Kong to Manila after Mrs. Arroyo canceled her trip to the former British crown colony.
There are still residual cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and bird flu in Hong Kong and Alingod said the President was "advised by her doctors to take a rest."
[PHOTO: President Arroyo offers incense at the Sen Guan temple in Binondo, Manila on Wednesday night, minutes before the lunar Year of the Monkey was ushered in. At right is Dante Go, honorary president of the Chinese-Filipino Business Club. - Revoli Cortez ]
Mrs. Arroyo, however, did join in the Chinese New Year festivities in Manila, as Filipino-Chinese greeted the Year of the Monkey at exactly 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
Clad in a red cheong-sam set off by a red-and-white polka-dotted scarf, the President was besieged by luck-seekers when she handed out the traditional Lunar New Year’s gifts of ang pao envelopes.
The President’s close-in security detail was overwhelmed by the crowd at the Chinese Seng Guan Temple on Narra street in Binondo, Manila as she handed out the ang pao turned over to her by Federation of Filipino-Chinese Commerce and Industry Inc. president Robin Sy.
The ang pao is a gift of money in a small red envelope marked with the Chinese character Fu (good fortune).
The President joined in the ceremonial lighting of joss (incense) sticks at the temple led by Master Tuan-in. Others who participated in the incense lighting rites were Dante Go of the Chinese-Filipino Business Club and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. — Marichu Villanueva
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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