HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – He'll come for the summit but stay for the people. Philippines President Benigno Aquino is extending his visit to Hawaii beyond APEC - making plans to meet with Hawaii's huge Filipino community.
It's an additional logistics and security challenge. Despite that, President Aquino wants to spend two extra days on Oahu after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit ends on November 13th. He'll be here to the 15th. "It's going to be pretty tight. It's going to be very exciting. It's going to be a landmark visit," says Philippines Deputy Consul General, Paul Cortes.
This will be the President's first-ever visit to the state. He's garnered widespread support lately – after touring flood-ravaged towns torn apart by typhoon Nesat. When he arrives here in five weeks, he'll be one of 21 heads of state meeting at APEC, but Aquino's visit may be more poignant than most.
Cortes says, "Because you have a huge concentration of Filipinos in Hawaii, we deemed it necessary, and I guess relevant, to extend his stay a little longer, you know, to accommodate visiting the Filipino community."
The President will attend a fancy gala event Sunday night. The following two days, he'll meet with local Filipino political, cultural, academic, and business folks. The Deputy Consul General says they hope to show Aquino how Hawaii's 340 thousand Filipinos and part-Filipinos have assimilated and contributed to the islands.
"For their president, at least for the president of the country where they had come from, that they identify with, to come over and visit them is certainly a huge, huge deal," Cortes explains.
They're certainly buzzing about the visit at Max's of Manila in Waipahu. Tony Boquer was born and raised in the Philippines and now lives here. He says Aquino has empowered and motivated the masses. Boquer says, "He's done a lot of positive moves towards cutting back on excesses, abuses, and I think he's on the right track."
Max's diner, Chris Fidelibus – who's married to a Filipina - adds, "We do have a large Filipino community and businesses from the Philippines are starting to pop up everywhere here, and it'd be a good time for him to explore more Hawaii business."
"We are very pleased to welcome the President," says Helen Dela Cruz – who says she's a distant relative of President Aquino.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the last Philippines leader to visit Hawaii back in 2006.
Benigno Aquino – who's also called Noynoy or P-Noy Aquino – assumed the office last June. He's the 15th president of the Philippines. His mother, Corazon, was the country's 11th president.