President Aquino explains his chemistry with Obama | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

AQUINO and Obama meeting in NY in 2011

It should be interesting to note the chemistry—if there is, and obviously there is—between President Aquino and US President Barack Obama. Even before Aquino’s visit this week to the US, the two heads of state have had casual encounters, if you could call them that, since Aquino was elected president.

Four, to be exact.  And in these encounters, the congeniality between the two leaders—who are almost the same age, by the way—was quite obvious.

On Aquino’s first visit to New York for a UN event, shortly after his election, the President recounted to us how Obama cooled his heels on the corridor as P-Noy emerged from the restroom. That was their first “chance” encounter, when the two presidents first came face-to-face, alone, and talked a bit.

DESIGNER Ito Curata and his weakness — lobsters

This was followed by international meetings which the two heads of state attended, with other heads of state. But even in such collegial gatherings, even in photos alone, the warm vibes between the two were evident.

It’s not congeniality, you say, just geopolitics. Mutual-interest agenda.

Given that, nonetheless, each could still choose to be distant. Not the case, so far.

Why does Obama seem particularly friendly to him, we asked the President one time. Perhaps it’s because, in those light social encounters, we don’t push a heavy agenda on his plate, the President told us. In short, cool lang.

Could it be because they’re both smokers (although Obama has reportedly quit the habit)? In truth, they hadn’t even smoked together, Aquino said; their encounters had been limited to sitting beside each other at official dinners so no chance to sneak in a puff, he added.

JOHNNY VALDES blows the candle on the cake, helped by friend Pitoy Moreno

At such dinners, their talk had been casual, if not personal. For instance, Aquino recalled, in passing, they talked about how even now in their early mid-age, they already feel some bone and muscle aches as they get up in the morning. Some comparison.

Both are relatively young heads of state who ascended to power on the fervent support of their people. While Obama has Michele and two young daughters, Aquino remains an elusive bachelor.

But it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that when it comes to the type of women, their individual preferences wouldn’t be that much different. Michele is chic, independent-minded, if not feisty, and with her own sense of purpose. P-Noy also likes his woman to be chic, pretty, with strong sex appeal and knack for good conversation, and with independent careers and personal goals.

Aquino and Obama belong to the cool-dude generation. Obama has already found his life partner. Aquino is still in a getting-to-know-you stage where women are concerned.

BIRTHDAY guy Johnny Valdes (standing, far left) with his dinner guests

After having been linked to one woman the past months, and given the infinitesimal amount of time he has for himself (if he has, at all), Aquino is back in the dating game. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

Good luck—again.

Chill time at Arena

The Arena at the Mall of Asia definitely raises the bar where concert-going is concerned. After we saw the Lady Gaga concert in this 20,000-seat-capacity establishment, we knew that concert-watching would never be the same.

Arena has the amenities of stadiums abroad—it has elegantly furnished suites from where you could watch the performance and the crowd below, while you sip wine and nibble on cocktail food. You can lounge on the sofa and watch TV if you want to take a break from watching the concert. Best of all, the suite has its own powder room/restroom.

VALDES, the birthday celebrator, with more guests

Some firms, such as those in the SM Group, have leased a suite for about P12 million a year. Bench did, we heard.

During the Lady Gaga concert, we spotted show-biz celebs lounging around in the suite, and also SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy greeting, after the concert, the President’s niece Nina Abellada and nephew Miguel Abellada.

This is so cool, my friends said as we watched Lady Gaga in the comfort of the suite—as a friend’s 19-year-old daughter pleaded, “Mom, can I go down, please?” She wanted to be in the mosh pit, where the action was, not in the suite where her mom’s friends were.

“I am you… I am your insecurities… I am your dreams…” Lady Gaga hyperventilated onstage, obviously not referring to us.

Lobsters for Johnny’s special day


Johnny Valdes, the visionary businessman who established Johnny Air Cargo, gave his friends a special treat when he celebrated his birthday last Sunday—he served them huge, healthy-red lobsters flown in (but, of course, Johnny Air) from Maine.

He added that imported fare to the lauriat at Peking Garden where his friends gathered around two round tables, led by good friend Dr. Greg Alvior, the balikbayan doctor who’s doing a hell of a job in the PGH Foundation.

We were happy to see Johnny’s other good friend, Pitoy Moreno, looking well and gleeful.

ARENA suite has sofa

Haciendero and art patron Ado Escudero made the trip from Villa Escudero in Quezon just to greet his friend. Also making time for Johnny, even on a Sunday, a traditional family day, were his doctor friends-Tony Protacio, Abe Marinduque (Beverly Hills 6750), Danny David, couturier Ito Curata (lobster is apparently his weakness), Bob Miller, lawyer Ed Berenguer, architect Boy Restubog, Eki Cardenas, who’s  back in government (with Sen. Bongbong Marcos); New York-based Mike Bautista, Roel Rovelas and Jenny Zamora.

“Most of you I’ve known for only eight years,” Johnny said, underscoring how he’s made new but solid friendships in his midlife, “yet I’m very happy and feel blessed to spend my birthday with you.”

If in business he succeeded because he didn’t fear the unknown, obviously, in his personal relationships, Johnny is also the same way—he welcomes life with open arms.

Edna and Tuan’s young boy

“How do you survive that?”

A friend asked over dinner last week. He was talking about what the parents of the four boys, who died in a car crash in Ayala Alabang Village a few weeks ago, must be going through.

No one among us at the dinner table had any answer. How does a parent survive the death—the sudden, accidental death—of one’s child? Only a sad silence followed that question.

People in the south are still talking about that tragic incident one early morning, when the car bearing the four boys, aged 14 to 18, rammed the concrete fence of a house along the major avenue, then wrapped itself around a nearby post. One of the boys, Thomas, was the son of tennis couple Edna (formerly Olivarez) and Tuan Nguyen. My tennis friends, whom I was having dinner with that night, went to the wake to condole with Edna and Tuan. (Our condolence, Edna and Tuan.)

The accident happened during the sleep-over night of the boys. It didn’t make it less painful that the boys were only a few seconds away from the house where they were to sleep over.

So, again, how does one survive an incalculable loss?

Only with faith. And belief in heaven.

We also pray for our good friend, hotel executive Joy Wassmer, who just lost her husband Butch, and theater stalwart Toots Tolentino, whose mother died last week. We pray, too, that they draw strength from their vision of heaven. We meet up with lost loved ones, in God’s own time.