MANILA, Philippines? (UPDATE 2) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited the wake of one of her vocal critics, former President Corazon Aquino, immediately after she landed in Manila on Wednesday morning.
Arroyo, who cut short her official trip to the United States to attend Aquino's wake, flew in aboard a Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco at 2:45 a.m. and arrived at the Manila Cathedral at 3:42 am.
Organizers immediately halted the public viewing during her brief stay at the church.
The President, who was wearing a cream blazer over a black ensemble, and her entourage entered the left entrance near the altar, which is usually used by priests, and was received by Aquino's only son, Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III.
Arroyo, her Cabinet members and other politicians with her group viewed Cory Aquino's remains for a few seconds before sitting down with the senator at the front pew of the church.
Aquino and Arroyo chatted for a few minutes, with Lupita Kashiwahara often joining the conversation. Kashiwahara is Aquino's aunt ? she is the sister of the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. ? and is currently Arroyo's public image director.
A few minutes later, Arroyo stood up and walked to Mrs. Aquino's casket alone. She stood there for a few seconds and made a sign of the cross, before she and her Cabinet officials left the church. The visit lasted about seven minutes.
Arroyo was with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando and his wife Marikina City Mayor Marides Fernando, Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon, and Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Arroyo?s son, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo were also part of the entourage. Senator Santiago once served as agrarian reform secretary and immigration chief during Aquino's time.
?She (Arroyo) really felt it was her obligation to pay her last respects to the former President,? Press Secretary Cerge Remonde later told reporters.
Remonde said she wanted to stay longer, but decided to leave after noticing that the long queue of mourners was stopped in deference to her. With a report from TJ Burgonio