2012 (MANILA BULLETIN) His schedule is so hectic that President Benigno S. Aquino III could only take a vacation on the last day of the year.

Addressing the people of Camiling, Tarlac, last Saturday night, the President announced that he may finally heed the doctors’ advice to rest on December 31 after falling sick a few weeks ago.

After attending a mass officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the President went to his home province last Saturday for the awarding ceremony of the annual Belen displays. The 52-year-old bachelor leader explained that he may only need a day to rest since he felt “fully recharged” anyway during his latest homecoming in Tarlac.

“You must have heard the news that I fell sick a few weeks ago. I was advised to take a rest but I chose to recover while working. It’s a good thing that I received your invitation to visit Tarlac for your annual Belenismo awards,” the President said in Pilipino.

“With the warm reception and support of our cabalens and friends, I am sure that I will be fully recharged again. I will yield to Health Secretary Enrique Ona. I will take a rest probably on December 31,” he added, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.

The President endured bouts of flu, cold and cough a few weeks ago, forcing him to cancel some of his engagements. The Chief Executive was advised by Ona as well as his personal doctors to rest for a few days to improve his health. Ona claimed that like other foreign leaders, the President deserves a break from his demanding job at least every quarter.

Meanwhile, Aquino called on Filipinos to sustain the spirit of “bayanihan” in order to attain the ultimate Christmas gift of an equitable and progressive future for the country.

The President said people should shun the temptation to stray from the straight path and instead continue to consolidate efforts towards positive reform.

Aquino highlighted the country’s “successes” from improving economic growth to fighting corruption, saying these were made possible due to good governance as well as the bayanihan of the Filipino people.

“We achieved the successes because many people like you walked the straight path. My only appeal is: Let us not let go of our solidarity, let us not be tempted, let us not stray from the direction of change. Let us fight for what is right everyday, let us do what we can to serve others and the country everyday,” the President said in Pilipino.

“With our bayanihan, we can attain the unparalleled Christmas present for the Filipino nation: an equitable and progressive future for the Philippines,” he added.

Aquino said the government wasted no time and immediately carried out reforms and change the old crooked system of the past. He said abusive persons are being made accountable, honest and competent leaders have been appointed, and government funds are now used to provide efficient service.

“From improving infrastructure to boosting agriculture growth, from meeting the shortage of classrooms to creating new jobs, from providing electricity in communities to brightening the future of the needy, the government is focused on the welfare of the Filipinos,” he said.

In his reunion with his province mates last weekend, the President had a few laughs while waxing sentimental about his childhood.

Aquino told the crowd that when he was in first year high school, he was not allowed to go to parties. The young Aquino also had to save his allowance so he can watch the New Minstrels and Circus Band, the country’s premier bands in the 70s.

He said his two favorite bands used to be competitors but eventually joined forces to make one great musical group. The popular band played some nostalgic tunes during the Belenismo awards ceremony.

The President turned sentimental when he recalled being sad during the Christmas season in the martial law period.

“Noong martial law po, pag sumasapit ang Pasko, hindi ko maiwasan na medyo maging malungkot, dahil parang isang taon na naman ang lumipas, hindi tiyak liliwanag, kung darating man,” he said.

Aquino said he was lucky to be with his family while in exile in the United States but wondered why they could not spend Christmas in the Philippines then.

This Christmas season, the President encouraged the public to pray for Filipino families, especially those apart so they can be reunited soon.

Last month, the President skipped a meeting with visiting International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde due to a bad flu and cold. But Aquino still flew to Cambodia to attend a regional summit. Aquino was diagnosed to have flu and allergic rhinitis which he might have caught when he visited warm Occidental Mindoro and chilly Tagaytay City.

While on a state visit to Australia last October, the President cut short a dinner with Prime Minister Julia Gillard after becoming ill. He supposedly suffered a bad stomach.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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