‘Durian diplomacy,’ Pinoy breakfast, and Duterte’s ‘kulambo’
With a visit to President Duterte’s bedroom, having one of the world’s rarest birds named in his honor and guided by a sockless host, Prime Minister Abe had a morning to remember yesterday.
Duterte, a charismatic politician known at home for his folksy
charm, dropped many of the formal protocols normally associated with visits by a head of government as he took Abe on a tour of his beloved southern home city of Davao.
Followed by media, it did seem that Duterte and Abe were fast becoming the best of friends.
The visiting Prime Minister got a taste of “durian” diplomacy and warm southern hospitality courtesy of the President.
Duterte pulled out all the stops to welcome Abe in a friendly and casual setting, from hosting a power breakfast at his residence to a durian feast in his beloved home city.
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Banaag explained that the President wanted Abe to “feel at home” during his visit Davao City.
Banaag said the President made sure the Davao reception for the Prime Minister would be “more relaxed more friendly” a day after their formal meetings in Malacañang.
Breakfast, eagle, mosquito net
First on Abe’s itinerary in Davao City was a private visit to the President’s modest residence with his lovely wife Akie.
Duterte and Abe bonded over Filipino breakfast of assorted rice cakes – suman, biko, kutchinta, puto and monggo soup — and exchanged gifts during the house visit. Abe also saw Duterte’s simple lifestyle after being shown his old bedroom and the iconic mosquito net (kulambo) that the President cannot sleep without.
Abe, normally blue-suited and politically conservative who nevertheless showed off his fun side last year when he dressed up as video game icon Super Mario at the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony, appeared to enjoy the day.
“This is what the President wanted ‘yung friendly lang, ‘yung hindi masyado ang ano --- ‘yung pormal at hindi masyado ‘yung mga protocols so that they would also feel we are more than friends, we are brothers (That’s what the President wanted — friendly, not too formal, not too many protocols so that they would also feel we are more than friends, we are brothers),” Banaag said in a press conference in Davao.
“He wants them to feel at home na ito lang po kasi — ganito lang po kasimple ang ating Presidente lalung-lalo na kapag nandito sa Davao; naka-polo lang (this is how simple our President is especially when in Davao; dressed in a polo),” she added.
Based on the photos provided by Malacañang, Duterte and his partner Honeylet Avancena presented gifts to the visiting Japanese leader and his wife. Abe’s wife looked delighted when she received a blouse.
Abe’s visit to Duterte’s home lasted for 45 minutes, according to Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Christopher “Bong” Go. The Prime Minister is the first head of state entertained by the President in his Davao residence.
From having a warm and friendly breakfast, the two leaders travelled to the Water Insular Hotel to meet and greet Filipino and Japanese businessmen. They granted photo sessions with the group without delivering any public speeches.
Photos shared by Go at around 10 a.m. showed Duterte showing Abe his bedroom, but these photos were obviously taken earlier as the two leaders arrived at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao at 10:10 a.m. to key government officials and executives of the companies of both the Philippines and Japan.
The two leaders proceeded to attend a ceremonial adoption of a rescued Philippine eagle by Japan at the same hotel. The juvenile female eagle was named “Sakura,” cherry blossoms in Japanese, in honor of the visiting Prime Minister.
Abe smiled and laughed throughout the eagle ceremony.
Duterte turned over tokens, including an eagle stuffed toy and a framed photo of Sakura, to the visiting Prime Minister during the ceremony.
The Philippine leader then invited Abe to savor durian and other fresh fruits before having lunch at the same hotel. A live feed from state-owned People’s Television showed Abe partaking of spoonfuls of durian with Mrs. Abe, President Duterte and Honeylet.
The Prime Minister also visited the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku, an international college established by the Japanese. He was welcomed by students waving Japanese and Philippine flags and singing “It’s a Small World” in Japanese.
It was Abe’s last public engagement before departing Davao City.
The Philippines was Abe’s first stop in a four-nation swing that includes Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam as he seeks to boost Japan’s trade and security engagements amid China’s rise to Asian dominance.
Honoring heroes in ‘Little Tokyo’
Mrs. Abe honored the memory of Japanese nationals who spent their last years in Davao City at its dedicated cemetery in Barangay Mintal.
Mintal is known in Davao City as “Little Tokyo” being the former site of a settlement area for Japanese abaca farmers.
Mrs. Abe arrived as scheduled at 10:15 a.m. and paid her tribute at the Zaryu Senbou Douhou Irei Tou (Tower of the Japanese residents who have passed away).
She also visited the nearby Ureinashi Ni Ho (Monument of No Regret) which was built by the Davao City Government to maintain friendly relations with Japan.