Aquino turns 53: All in a day’s work

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12:49 AM February 9th, 2013

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February 9th, 2013 12:49 AM

NO BIRTHDAY BREAK Cabinet secretaries fete President Aquino with a birthday song as he turned 53 in Malacañang on Friday. Except for the song and a birthday cake baked by Malacañang chefs (inset), it was a no-fuss occasion for the President. Among those who attended the first official Cabinet meeting for the year were Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., among others. LYN RILLON/RTVM FACEBOOK PAGE

Except for a morning visit to two indigent patients at a government hospital and a birthday treat of toasted corned beef for Malacañang reporters, it was business as usual for President Aquino who turned 53 on Friday.

The bachelor president did not take a day off from his official duties and in fact held his first full Cabinet meeting for the year in the afternoon, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said.

The President, Carandang added, was scheduled to start his day with a visit to Jericho Rafols, a 15-year-old bone cancer patient at the Philippine Orthopedic Center.

Time off

“It was Jericho’s wish to meet the President, so he took time off from his schedule—he had a meeting with the Presidential Management Staff (PMS)—to personally (meet) the boy,” the Palace official said.

The Chief Executive also brightened the day for Mario Maniego, 47, who has been suffering from a spinal injury for the last 16 years. Maniego, who can no longer walk, is confined in the same hospital.

Mr. Aquino met with the PMS staff when he returned to the Palace and with his Cabinet family later in the afternoon, Carandang said.

The President’s official schedule made no mention of a banquet to celebrate his natal day, although members of the media waiting at the nearby New Executive Building for word on the outcome of the meeting, were served toasted corned beef, the President’s favorite dish.

Members of the Presidential Security Group greeted Mr. Aquino early in the morning as he was about to leave his official residence, Bahay Pangarap, to go to Malacañang, according to Carandang.

Texted greetings

“They have access to him earliest (so) they greeted the President in person.  (But) I am sure my fellow colleagues in the Cabinet also texted him (birthday greetings) very early this morning,” he added.

Carandang said that “economic matters” were on the agenda, with Budget Secretary Butch Abad reporting on the country’s fiscal conditions and the President reminding his economic managers of the glaring disparity between the unemployment numbers and the number of college graduates every year.

Fiscal outlook

“Not much to report. The fiscal outlook for the next three years was presented and discussed,” Carandang said in a text message following the meeting.

Mr. Aquino was also slated to have a “quiet” dinner with his sisters late Friday, possibly at Bahay Pangarap.

“I am not sure what he is going to do after our Cabinet meeting,” the Palace official said.  “As you know, I don’t ask about his personal life. Whatever the President’s plans are, I think he would appreciate being given (some) privacy.”

Birthday wish

His birthday wish for the President, which Carandang said he was able to convey to him, was for the Chief Executive to find happiness in the things that ordinary people enjoy.

“I hope he (would have the) chance to enjoy the simple pleasures (in) life that perhaps he is no longer able to… because of his being President. And that’s why this weekend, I will not bother him or ask him what he’s doing.  I want him to be able to enjoy those simple pleasures,” the communications secretary said.

First posted 12:03 am | Saturday, February 9th, 2013

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