Clinton finds ‘Hillary fans and fanatics’ in Philippines

November 12, 2009

If you’re a hard-traveling foreign secretary and need a place to recharge your batteries after a week of diplomacy, the Philippines seems to be the place to go.

PHILIPPINESU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got an enthusiastic welcome on arrival in the capital Manila Thursday after a week of visits that included stops in Berlin and Singapore.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo called her “the most popular foreign secretary the world over.”

“The Filipinos love her,” he told a news conference. “I told her that there are Hillary fans and fanatics here.”

To demonstrate the point, she was greeted by a couple thousand cheering school students when she visited Malanday High School in suburban Marikina.

The school was inundated during massive flooding in September that left the first floor of the multi-story building under water.

The school has been receiving U.S. aid to help it get back on its feet, including desks, fans and some 50,000 books. Clinton brought with her a pledge of another $5.2 million in flood relief for the Philippines, which has been hit in quick succession by Tropical Storm Ketsana, Typhoon Parma and Typhoon Mirinae.

The U.S. secretary of state seemed invigorated by the excited school kids and the warm welcome.

PHILIPPINES/She told the crowd she’d learned a new word as she toured some of the classrooms, but then had to bring a girl up to the podium to help her pronounce it.

After a moment’s whispered consultation with the youngster, Clinton turned back to the microphone and said “mabuhay!”

The popular Tagalog greeting, meaning “long live,” is  roughly the English equivalent of “live long and prosper.”

Clinton later received the Sikatuna award with the rank of Datu from Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The award is given by the Manila government to foreign diplomats or officials who have worked to improve ties with the Philippines.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Erik de Castro (Clinton shakes hands at Malanday High School in suburban Marikina; Clinton learns the word “mabuhay!”)

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Not all who turned out to greet Clinton were “fans and fanatics.”

Check out BBC News “Day in Pictures” and flip to Image 11. 356612.stm

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