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H.E. BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
The 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, has come to stand for Filipinos’ reinvigorated passion to build a nation of justice, peace, and inclusive progress.
Aquino—the only son of democracy icons Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and President Corazon Aquino—has in different junctures throughout his life responded to the challenge of acting with and serving the Filipino people.
In 1983 after the assassination of his father, he returned from exile to the country to help show the way for the EDSA People Power Revolution—the nonviolent and prayerful revolution by ordinary people that toppled a dictatorship and restored Philippine democracy.
In 1998, Aquino entered public service to make sure that the democracy his parents fought for would bring changes in people’s lives. He served as Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac from 1998 to 2007. In May 2007, he joined the Philippine Senate, wherein he worked to bring about legislative initiatives anchored on the protection of human rights and honest and responsible governance.
The most despondent days perhaps in Aquino’s life took place in 2009 when his mother passed away from cancer after suffering for nearly a year. Her demise prompted mourning from all over the country. And yet it also awakened a remembrance of the values she stood for. It stirred up the people’s yearning for a leadership that is honest and compassionate, and a nation that trusts and works with its government.
Immediately after her wake, people began to call on Aquino, urging him to run for presidency in the 2010 elections to continue his parents’ work. Signature drives and an outpouring of support through yellow ribbons and stickers went full blast, convincing him to run. Moreover, candidates for president such as Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, and Isabela Governor Grace Padaca gave up their presidential aspirations to support Aquino.
After a spiritual retreat at the Carmellite Monastery in Zamboanga City, Aquino responded to the call to make the people’s passion for change the driving force behind a new government. On September 9, 2009, the 40th day after former president Cory Aquino’s passing, he officially announced his candidacy for president at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan—where his mother took oath on the final day of the EDSA People Power Revolution. “I want to make democracy work not just for the rich and well connected but for everybody,” he said.
On June 9, 2010, the Congress of the Philippines proclaimed Aquino as the President Elect of the Philippines. In his inaugural address on June 30, 2010, he told the Filipino people: “We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation.”
The presidency of Benigno Aquino III has been marked by a hardy dedication to bringing about shared progress by doing things the right way. Aquino’s determination to lead the government and the nation towards the straight path has been the catalyst for unprecedented economic growth, which has trickled down to the margins of society through improved government services, reforms in the education system, and conditional cash transfers for the poor; an inspired campaign for good governance and justice as evidenced by the prosecution of corrupt and abusive government officials; and the empowerment of every citizen so that they may participate in building a nation of hope and opportunity.
“My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change.”
President Aquino was born on Feb. 8 1960. He studied from elementary to college in the Ateneo de Manila University, and finished a degree in Economics in 1981.
Aquino’s classmates remember him as a “quiet” yet “friendly” student. Gene Manalastas, a batch mate in grade school, said: “He could not go to parties with us on weekends because he was always visiting his dad in prison.”
His father, then a senator and opposition leader to President Ferdinand Marcos, was incarcerated after the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. In confinement, the senator wrote his son a letter, asking him to continue the family legacy of working for the good the every Filipino:
“The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.
“There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.
Son, the ball is now in your hands.”
In 1980, his father was allowed after a series of heart attacks to receive medical treatment in the United States. Aquino joined the family in a period of self-exile until 1983—when they had to return to the Philippines after the assassination of his father.
Following his return to the Philippines, Aquino served as assistant of the Executive Director of the Philippine Business of Social Progress, an institution that coordinates the efforts of private companies to help struggling Filipinos. He was also Assistant Retail Sales Supervisor of Mondragon Philippines, and was the Assistant Promotions Manager of Nike Philippines.
Aquino continued to work in the private sector even during the presidency of his mother. He was the Vice President of the Intra-Strata Assurance Corporation all through her term.
In August 28, 1987, Aquino was wounded by five bullets when rebel soldiers assaulted Malacanang Palace in an unsuccessful coup attempt. One of the bullets remains embedded in Aquino’s neck—an enduring reminder of the sacrifices one must make to defend democracy.
THE PUBLIC SERVANT
“I will be there because of the people and I will stay there because of the people and hopefully, I will be true to my word to serve the people.” Aquino’s response to a reporter’s interview after announcing his candidacy for president illustrates his approach to public service.
As the Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac, and legislator in the House of Representatives, he worked to pass a number of bills and resolutions to uphold public accountability and address the people’s pressing concerns. These include: House Bill No. 4251, which grants annual productivity incentives to all workers in the private sector; House Bill No. 4397, which strengthens the regulatory power of the Department of Trade and Industry to effectively enforce consumer laws; and House Resolution No. 788, which creates a Congressional Oversight Committee to check and study the use of intelligence funds by government agencies.
Aquino served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He, however, relinquished the post after calling for the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Hello Garci Scandal was exposed.
In the Senate, Aquino worked to make sure that accountability processes in the government were at work. He spent long hours examining the General Appropriations Act of 2009, and proposed key amendments to make sure that public funds were prudently spent. Aquino vigorously participated in Senate investigations on the abuses of government officials, and fought for justice for victims of human rights violations.
Aquino, then chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government, introduced substantial amendments to the Cooperative Code to make it more responsive to the needs of the people for which the code was enacted. Among his proposed measures were: Senate Bill 2035, which seeks to raise standards in the construction of all public infrastructures by penalizing contractors of defective infrastructures; and Senate Bill 2160, which seeks the amendment of Government Procurement Act. Although Aquino was elected president before these bills were passed into law, his efforts to make sure that government acts to bring about fairer outcomes for all Filipinos continue today.
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History & People
The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.
In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.
Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.
Filipinos are a fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes. (Source: www.visitmyphilippines.com)
The PHILIPPINES stands at the crossroads of the developed western world and the Orient. It lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, stretching more than 1,840 kilometers. Composed of 7,107 islands, the Philippines is readily accessible to the different capitals of the world. Its three main islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The South China Sea washes its western shores. Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are northern neighbors and further north is Japan. To the west lie Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. An arm of the archipelago reaches out towards Borneo and at its feet stands the chain of Indonesian islands. To the east and south, the waters of the Pacific Ocean sweep its headlands, looking out towards Micronesia and Polynesia.
Its unique location has made the Philippines the commercial, cultural and intellectual hub of Asia from the dawn of history.
November to February is the coolest months and a good time to visit the Philippines as far as weather is concerned. Meanwhile, March to May is the summer months in the country and are classified as hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterized by typhoons.
The average temperature in the Philippines is 86°F / 30°C; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu and its neighboring provinces in the Visayas are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.
Tourists can visit the Philippines without a visa if staying in the country for 21 days or less; provided tourists have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months and a return ticket or a ticket to another destination outside the Philippines. If you wish to stay longer you must obtain a Visa Extension either before your trip from a Philippine Consulate or Embassy. Or, once in the country, you may obtain it from the Bureau of Immigrations.
Upon arriving; Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. “Balikbayans” have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.
You may bring in unlimited amount of foreign currency. Upon Departure; any antiques you may have acquired during your stay must be accompanied by a certificate from the National Museum. You may not take more than PhP5,000.00 (five thousand Philippine pesos) out of the country.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PHP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 Pesos.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing outlets. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Most large stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visa and Master Card. Traveler' s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.
TRAVEL TAX AND AIRPORT FEES
Philippine Nationals are expected to pay for the Philippine Travel Tax upon departure from the Philippines. It is usually paid at the airport upon departure or; oftentimes, already included in the cost of the ticket when purchased. US Nationals and Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) are exempt from the Philippine Travel Tax. US Permanent Residents need to secure a Travel Tax Exemption Certificate from the Philippine Tourism Authority at the Department of Tourism Building at TM Kalaw Street, Ermita Manila. The Philippine Travel Tax is PHP1,620.00 (approximately $35.00).
All passengers departing from the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) are expected to pay the Airport Terminal Fee of PHP750.00 (approximately $17.00). No one is exempt from paying the Airport Terminal Fee.
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines, which fly to different cities around the world. The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore, and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States, and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic Airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau. Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered “Asia’s First Airline,” remains the country’s biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila.
Cebu Pacific Air (5J), the low fare leader in the Philippines, is the country's leading domestic airline with the lowest year-round fares, most number of destinations, most number of routes, most number of flights, most number of passengers flown in its domestic network and newest fleet of brand new Airbus A320s, Airbus A319s and ATR 72-100s. It links Manila to 21 domestic destinations and the Philippines to 12 international destinations with its direct flights. It also makes its international and domestic destinations virtually accessible to each other through its extensive connecting flight network. The airline currently operates hubs in Manila, Cebu, Davao and soon, in Clark. Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Other airlines that presently fly the Philippine skies are Air Philippines, South East Asian Airlines, Laoag International Airlines, Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit Airlines), and Pacific Airways – each serving popular tourist destinations at pocket-easy prices. For a more personal experience, chartered flights are available via small air companies such as Airspan Corporation (helicopters), A. Soriano Aviation, and Aerolift Philippines (small-to-medium-sized planes).
As the 7,107 islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in traveling to and within the country. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.
WG&A Lines, a partnership between William Lines and the Aboitiz Group, has launched its SuperFerry Program, an affordable but convenient alternative to the usually crowded vessels of other ship lines. Website: www.SuperFerry.com.ph.
Metro Manila, as well as key cities and towns throughout the country, offer a wide selection of deluxe, standard, economy, and pension-type accommodations. In island destinations, there are a variety of resorts ranging from deluxe to special interest categories.
Arts and Culture
The major cultural agencies of government are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Historical Institute, the National Museum, The National Library, the Records Management and Archives Office, and the Commission on the Filipino Language. The Heads of these cultural agencies are all ex-officio members of the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) Board.