GMA  TAKES  TIME  OUT  AT  BORACAY

MANILA, April 16, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - All work and no play makes for a dull GMA.

President Arroyo proved she likes the nightlife as much as the next Juan on a recent visit to Boracay.

Taking a breather from her demanding workload, Mrs. Arroyo took in the local nightspots and souvenir shops and even took a few swigs of — gasp! — light beer.

While most visitors to Boracay are content to play in the surf and sun, the President was there for business as well. She visited the island to inaugurate private investment projects aimed at sustaining development in Boracay, which is one of the country’s premiere tourist draws.

Earlier in the day, Mrs. Arroyo inaugurated Mirant Global’s P600-million clean diesel power plant, which would deliver electricity exclusively to the island. In the evening, she witnessed the turnover of a P1 million check from Kasangga Foundation to the Boracay Foundation for microfinance credits for market vendors.

Then around 9:30 p.m., after a long day of work, the President left her hotel with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and took a stroll along the beach, taking vacationers and even Cabinet members, who were already relaxing in nearby restaurants, by surprise.

She waved to locals and foreigners and gamely posed with adults and children who wanted their pictures taken with her. Even her usually strict security escorts were accommodating to local tourists who wanted to greet or kiss Mrs. Arroyo.

The President poked around in various nightspots and stalls and stores, commenting on merchandise and greeting patrons.

Passing by an open restaurant, Mrs. Arroyo was greeted with shouts of "GMA! GMA!" from patrons that included some television actors and actresses. By then, the crowd following her was already large.

The First Couple finally stopped by a restaurant near the beach, which featured a Marine band playing Hawaiian folk songs.

The President was seen drinking light beer while Mr. Arroyo danced to the songs played by the band. They requested the band to play the "Wedding Song" and later a newspaper photographer and a radio reporter serenaded her with a Visayan love song.

When the traditional music was replaced by a younger band, Mrs.

Arroyo requested the popular Capampangan ditty "Atin co Pung Singsing (I Have a Ring)," which the young female vocalist gave a modern rendition.

The President then briefly chatted and thanked the reporters who joined her. At midnight, the First Couple stood up to return to their hotel.

On their way back, they viewed a sandcastle and briefly watched fire dancers on the beach while still posing for pictures.

At her press conference earlier that day, the President said the government’s thrust in Boracay has shifted to ensuring the sustainable development of the island instead of only attracting tourists.

"The tourists will always come. What we want to ensure is sustainable development to make them stay or come back," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She said she has formed an "Eminent Persons Group" composed of private individuals to help the government protect and sustain Boracay.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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