A few things the then president, PNoy, told me face to face, not from the long lens of current events becoming history, but from the short distance of a casual conversation:
1. “What are you doing there?” I was taking pictures of his leather slippers, neatly tucked under his work table in Malacañang.
2. “I saw you dancing in your seat.” Actually, I was “dancing” with my shoulders to the beat of Art Manuntag’s music during a luncheon PNoy hosted for Prince Albert of Monaco.
3. “What is OC?” During our Bulong Pulungan Christmas party, I told him his four-hour monitoring of typhoon Ruby was a perfect OC performance (OC for obsessive-compulsive).
4. “I love my sister.” My question was, “How do you feel about Kris going into politics?”
5. “No, my worst day was not Nov. 7 (when Yolanda hit in 2013) but Nov. 8,” the day after the killer typhoon made six landfalls in the Visayas.
Last Thursday when President Benigno S. Aquino III passed into history, TV reporters recalled his “no wang-wang” policy as one of their favorite memories of his presidency. I remembered something else: his fondness for driving his SUV – a metaphor of how the bachelor President, younger than any of his three predecessors by many years, wanted to be seen as being in the driver’s seat. I cannot imagine GMA, or Erap, or FVR telling their chauffeur to turn over the wheel to the boss.
Whether it was the sense of freedom in maneuvering the steering wheel and stepping on the pedals, or whether it was a form of therapy for someone sentenced to a sedentary position in a lonely office, that was PNoy.
There were times when the President looked as if he would rather be somewhere else, just as there were times when he would show up some place unexpectedly, like the time he dropped in on his alma mater just to see how the packing drive was going on for Yolanda’s victims.
The last time I saw him it was at Sebastian Chua’s birthday party in February 2019. PNoy declined a seat at the VVIP table, choosing instead an inconspicuous seat in a far corner, far enough to hide in plain sight.