Why Clinton's life is virtually run by Pinoys

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez -

I had seen former US President Bill Clinton before, just before the APEC Summit in Subic in 1996. He was surrounded by a phalanx of Secret Service men, who lorded it over the Kalayaan Hall at the Malacañang compound in Manila during his press conference, which I covered. After Mr. Clinton’s speech, we couldn’t even leave the building, with one hefty Secret Service Agent spreading his arms patintero style in front of us so we couldn’t go down the stairs of the Kalayaan Hall for what seemed like an eternity. I felt like a prisoner in my own turf.

For Clinton’s return as private citizen last Nov. 10 for his speech, “Embracing Our Common Humanity,” at the Manila Hotel, many things had changed. Security was tight, but not as tight as it was for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his Manila visit. For Blair’s speech at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in 2009, we were required not only to bring our invitation, but also to present a government-issued ID to show we were the name on the guest list.

But except for the usual bag check, I did not have to go through the gauntlet, so to speak, to listen to the charismatic Mr. Clinton. Cellphones and small cameras were even allowed. The Tent of the Manila Hotel was tidy and organized, from the P2,000 section at the back to the P25,000 VIP section. It rained like a mini Ondoy had descended on Metro Manila anew that afternoon, and my shoes swooshed over the red carpet as I walked the remaining distance to The Tent from my car, as traffic was at a near standstill.

Glenn Llamas of Wilbros Entertainment, which was responsible for bringing Mr. Clinton to Manila, earlier told me Mr. Clinton was a “no-frills, no-fuss” guy, and didn’t even specify the kind of mineral water he wanted served to him, unlike other hotshots. What was clear to the organizers, however, was that Mr. Clinton would not be spending the night in Manila and didn’t even demand a wash-up room in the hotel, where he once stayed (at the historic MacArthur suite).

Clinton heads his own foundation and goes on speaking tours to promote his advocacies because, “When I walked out the door of the White House, I knew I wanted to work on things I had cared about as President, where I still have influence.” (Mr. Clinton acknowledged, however, that the person with real influence in the family now is his wife Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

A few minutes before Mr. Clinton appeared onstage, there was a commotion in the Gold Section (P15,000 per seat) of the Tent. A family of about 12 entered and you could see they were special guests of somebody.

Apparently, they were special guests of the Special Guest himself. A few days before his arrival, Mr. Clinton sent word that he wanted to meet the family of the mayordoma (housekeeper) of his Washington DC home — Marina Santos.

Mr. Clinton and his wife Hillary travel extensively because of their jobs, and they entrust their DC home to Marina. They met Marina, who was working part-time in the home of their close friend (a Mr. Jordan), during a reception. They were impressed with her and offered her the job of running their home, which she has been doing, obviously to their satisfaction, for many years now.

Clinton described Marina as the “wonderful woman who runs our home in Washington, without whom Hillary will not be able to serve as Secretary of State.”

Now, those of us who have trusted househelp know exactly what Clinton means. Without someone making sure there is food (and flowers) on the table, chow for the pets and fresh towels in the bathroom when we come home from work, working wives like me probably won’t do well in their careers.

One of Marina’s sisters told me Mr. Clinton likes pancit, and she cooks this for him.

Also in a special place in the audience, theater-style (tickets did not include drinks and snacks, and if you wanted a bottle of water, you would have had to pay P145 for it.) was Mr. Clinton’s former valet Lito Bautista. The former president acknowledged his presence and said that whenever he bumps into Lito’s former colleagues in the White House, they say they envy Lito for the “good” life he leads now in the Philippines, where he has chosen to retire.

Last but not the least, Mr. Clinton mentioned his White House doctor Connie Mariano, the first Filipino-American woman to become an Admiral in the US Navy.

Born in Sangley Point, Cavite, Mariano, then already in the White House medical unit, bested all others on the shortlist for presidential physician when she was the one who provided care for Mrs. Clinton’s father when he needed it. Mrs. Clinton got to know her better and reportedly told the President, referring to Connie, “Bill, meet the new White House doctor.”

(Hillary Clinton was here in 2009 and she reportedly warmed up not only to the Filipino people but also to Philippine pearls, which were brought up to her at her suite at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza by the American Embassy’s favorite Muslim vendors.)

It was easy to believe Mr. Clinton when he said to his Filipino audience at The Manila Hotel: “I feel at home here and I am grateful for the chance you gave me to come back.”

From Lito who got him ready for work every morning when he was President, to Dr. Mariano who tailed him with a defibrillator in her bag in case the unthinkable happened, to Marina who now runs his house so that he and his wife can better serve interests higher than their own — well, don’t you think an important part of Clinton’s life was and is run by Pinoys?










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