Thursday, February 14, 2013

President Noynoy Aquino visits IRRI

The day started bright and sunny. Something was definitely up because at the gate, motorists were greeted, not by the friendly wave of the security guard, but by a man clad in a white polo barong (he's part of the Presidential Security Group). Still very friendly, mind you, as he flagged me down for a car inspection conducted by the bomb squad. That's hardly a surprise, though, because it had been announced the day before that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III was dropping in for a visit. It didn't look like it, if you weren't sent the memo, because there were no welcome greetings, no tarpaulins, no placards along the way from Calamba City to Los Banos. 

Then, as his arrival time approached, so did the dark clouds! It seemed that his visit will be preceded by some rain.

But the dark clouds passed, dropping just a few raindrops here and there. They certainly didn't dampen the moods of the people excitedly awaiting the President. And when he finally arrived at the NCBL Building, he was welcomed like a movie star by his fans (sans the placards, that is).

He visited IRRI's collection of rice varieties in the Gene Bank and then mingled with the crowd before leaving. I was standing on a ledge in the middle of the roundabout, a few meters away from the President, so I didn't have a chance to shake his hand or to get one of the souvenir yellow silicone wristbands he was handing out. He was barely visible among the people crowding around him. I was, however, able to take a few photos because of the vantage point.

Yes, with his security team watching him like a hawk, the President allowed people to get close to him. This is actually the first time I've seen a head of state (in person, not on tv) who's not onstage, not in formal/business attire, and who was granting autograph requests.

More photos from the President's visit in the slide show below. To see President Aquino in the images, just follow the direction of the cameras, mobile phones, and tablet PCs. All of them should be pointing at him. :) That's a lesson I learned from IRRI photographer Chris Quintana.