WASHINGTON, DC (via PLDT) — US President George W. Bush is not far behind his immediate predecessor Bill Clinton when it comes to having Filipinos in the White House staff.
Two of Bush’s trusted aides dating back to his days as Texas governor happen to be Filipinos — and he calls them only by their first names, Ferdie and Fidel.
Ferdie and Fidel were among the 130 invited guests at the state dinner hosted by the US leader for President Arroyo, and like the other male guests they also wore the required "black tie" tuxedo.
Mrs. Arroyo, seated at the same table as Bush, told The STAR that her host spoke fondly of Ferdie and Fidel.
"They are the only ones who could enter any room at the White House all the way to the President’s bedroom," she recounted her informal chat with Bush during the state dinner.
The President said another Filipino White House staff named Sam was also among the invited guests.
Sam, who was seated at the table of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and First Lady Laura Bush during the dinner, is to retire on June 1.
Mrs. Arroyo refused to compare who was the better friend — Clinton, her classmate at Georgetown University, or Bush, like her a child of a former president and who assumed office on the same day as she did.
Also a source of presidential pride was the presence of US army Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, who was introduced by Bush to Mrs. Arroyo as "one of the highest ranking Filipino Americans in the history of America’s military."
As they shook hands, the President said Soriano thanked her for going to his hometown of Alcala, Pangasinan to save his fellow townmates from discrimination after the country’s first two reported deaths from Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome were from Alcala.
Mrs. Arroyo admitted being flattered by the accolades bestowed on her by Bush, who described her as a brave and strong leader worthy to lead the Filipino nation during the these times of new challenges in the 21st century, especially in dealing with terrorist threats.
"He (Bush) is a very light-hearted person and he described himself as being like his mother. One of my delegation members described his hospitality as very much southern," she said.
Bush is a natural cowboy from Texas.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, a member of the 12-man official delegation to the state dinner, said what struck him most about Bush was seeing him wear black leather boots that reached almost up to his knees.
Drilon, who attended the dinner with his wife Mila, told The STAR that Bush’s boots were even emblazoned with the seal of the Office of the US President.
Mrs. Arroyo said Bush told her that while he does not particularly like formal and stiff parties like state dinners at the White House, he would love to host one for her if she decided to accept his invitation to make a state visit to the US.
She said Bush even asked her if she wanted to have ballroom dancing at the White House. But she declined because she might get criticized again like the last time she went disco dancing with her husband in Boracay on the eve of her birthday last April, during the launch of the nautical highway’s roll on-roll off ferry.