MANILA, Philippines -- Ousted president Joseph Estrada treated the hospital staff -- from the director down to the janitor -- taking care of his sick mother to a sumptuous lunch featuring a roasted pig and a calf on his mother's 103rd birthday Friday.
Celebrating Mary Ejercito's birthday for the first time as a free man, Estrada treated the staff of San Juan Medical Center to a meal "to thank them for looking after my mother," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
"We prepared lunch for all of them, from the director down to the janitor. This is a miracle and a blessing from God, that my mother is still alive at 103," said Estrada, who was in good spirits Friday.
When he was detained on plunder charges in 2001, Estrada had dutifully asked the Sandiganbayan to allow him to leave detention each time her mother was to celebrate her birthday.
The antigraft court had granted him a furlough to attend his mother's birthday feast in 2006, which left him with a bum stomach. He was reported to have helped himself to a "high-powered meal" that included kare-kare, paksiw na lamang loob, adobong baboy, among others.
But last year, the antigraft court turned down his request.
Ejercito has been confined at the hospital since August last year after she had difficulty breathing due to pneumonia. She had to be connected to a respirator since then.
But based on the findings of her doctor, Ernesto Acosta, Ejercito has been cleared of pneumonia. She has also been detached from the tangle of hospital tubes, except from the respirator, which was helping her breathe.
"She has normal vital signs and can still recognize people around her," Estrada's spokesperson, Margaux Salcedo, told the Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
The Ejercito matriarch was garbed in a red gown on her special day. A thanksgiving mass was held at the hospital's conference room, four floors down her quarters.
Lunch, which featured "lechon baboy" and "lechon baka" courtesy of Ejercito's grandchildren, followed.
Close family members, relatives and friends dropped by to greet her. The former president's wife, Luisa ?Loi? Estrada and children, Senator Jose ?Jinggoy? Estrada, San Juan Mayor Jose Victor ?JV? Ejercito, Jackie Lopez also presented Ejercito with a birthday cake.
Estrada's two brothers and three sisters were also present. "She can no longer talk but she opened her eyes when I whispered to her,? Estrada reported.
Though the celebration was closed to relatives and friends, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay also came to pay respect to the birthday girl.
"He came not as a politician but as a friend. Other than him, no politician dropped by," said Estrada?s close aide, Ferdie Ramos.