WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than one thousand people, many of them local Filipino-Americans, attended a dinner honoring Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. It was the only public appearance for Aquino, who was in Hawaii to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Most in the crowd at the Hilton Hawaiian Village were dressed in their most formal Filipino wear to see the president: barong tagalogs, the richly embroidered shirts, for the men; ternos (with the butterfly sleeves), Maria Claras (a shawl-like blouse), or Kimonas (an embroidered, short-sleeve blouse) for the women.
"I think it's important for the Filipino community to come together and support President Noy Noy Aquino (one of his nicknames), being that he just finished his first year, and we really have to give him all the support we can," said Jenny Quezon of the local Fil-Am Courier newspaper.
"In Hawaii, there's a lot of different dialects," said Eddie Agas, Sr., a member of the local committee that helped plan the event. "But as you can see, tonight, you see them all to welcome the president."
Several local politicians were also at the event, including Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, both wearing barong tagalogs.
Filipinos have been generally supportive of Aquino, the only son of the late president Corazon Aquino.
In Hawaii, Filipinos make up the second-largest ethnic group, a point that wasn't lost on Aquino, who noted that Filipino-Americans still send home millions of dollars to relatives in their homeland.
"More than the remittances you send home to the ones you love, and more than the positive effect you have on the economy, time and again, you show the world the capacity of the Filipinos to hold strong in times of difficulty and calamity," the president said.
He also told the crowd that the Philippine budget was actually in the black for the first time in years. "Our budget secretary is actually scratching his head wondering how we can spend the extra money we have," Aquino said, to applause. "I will admit, like you, I didn't think we'd ever hear 'Philippine budget' and 'surplus' in the same sentence."
Aquino also touted his fight against corruption in government and an initiative to increase the number of classrooms in the country.
"We are finally shedding the stigma of a directionless country, and we are finally reclaiming our national dignity," said Aquino.
"I'm just so proud of our community," said Bennette Misalucha, the chair of the Philippines Celebration Coordinating Committee of Hawaii. "The ties between Hawaii and the Philippines will always be there, and I think tonight is a testament to that."
There was perhaps one disappointment for the audience: after his 15-minute speech, Aquino left the gathering for Hickam Air Force Base to leave immediately for Manila, where he's scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.