President of Philippines Makes Valley Visit

June 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was in Fresno Sunday as part of a special trip to the United States, just as her country deals with a natural disaster back home.Local Filipinos gathered for a special mass with the president at Fresno's exhibit hall Sunday morning. Hundreds of families came for their chance to catch a glimpse of Macapagal-Arroyo. "We just want to see the president of the Philippines," said Eric Estrada. Estrada was born in the Philippines and said Sunday was the first time he had a chance to get this close to the president.

Estrada and his wife, Aldine, arrived early to find a seat. "I'm just here to support her," said Aldine Estrada.

The Diocese of Fresno held a special Catholic mass as part of the president's brief stop in Fresno. Fresno is one of only three cities Macapagal-Arroyo will visit during her 10 day trip to the U.S. "It's a big honor because it's so weird how she chose Fresno. Out of all the places in the world, I'm so excited she's coming here," said Angelica Chavez. Chavez was chosen to be an altar girl.

Ellen Perry came to the United States four years ago from the Philippines. She was also excited to meet to see the president for the first time. "In the Philippines, you can't really come close to the president and shake her hand, but here it's different. It's like, oh, wow, it's different," said Perry.

The president's trip to the U.S. is meant to highlight the cordial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines. She also wanted to thank Filipinos living abroad for what they do to support the economy back in the Philippines.

But Sunday's visit to Fresno came as the Philippines deals with the aftermath of a deadly typhoon. The president held a teleconference in front of hundreds gathered at the exhibit hall so emergency officials could brief her on the situation.

President Macapagal-Arroyo also met with Filipino doctors and nurses at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno Sunday morning. She's now headed to Washington, D.C., for the rest of her visit. There, she plans to meet with President Bush and the candidates who want to replace him.


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