Let me relive my surreal Friday. I was on mommy duty for Sophia, who had a 5-hour animation class in Fully Booked BGC with the Alcazaren Brothers. It was the last of a two-day workshop. I figured I could use the five hours alone and hole myself up at the Starbucks with a laptop.
As we entered Fully Booked, I noticed there were a lot of PSG-looking men and women – not so inconspicuous in their black pants, white linen barongs, the pin on the collar, and ear piece. I figured there was a VIP inside the store. I hadn’t been in there for a while, but I know how security works around here. On our way up to the top floor of the building we saw PSG everywhere. They were scouting the area, looking out the glass windows, combing the racks of books. All the way up to my daughter’s workshop classroom.
So I asked the cashier. She said, “Baka dumating si Presidente.” (The President might come.) I asked why. It was a Friday, the last day of the World Economic Forum. She said President Aquino and the President of Indonesia were having lunch at Hossein’s across the street (unconfirmed) and may drop in to the book store. I asked again, why. She said, “Madalas si PNoy dito.” (PNoy comes here often.)
So I started talking to myself in Facebook. My friends kept me company.
Soph started her class on the third floor. I stayed in the second floor Starbucks and began writing my blog. But all the security activity continued. Men in white linen barongs first. Then men and women in batik came in. The mood was exciting but not intimidating. I knew President Yudhoyono was here on an official State Visit. But I still wondered, why Starbucks? I continued with my writing and so did the other Starbucks customers. Then I overheard two not-so-secret-service security talking behind me. One of them said, “Alanganin dito. Ang daming tao,” referring to the Starbucks set up. So I took a photo from the reflection of my laptop.
So if PNoy and President Yudhoyono walked into my Starbucks, I figured that would be a great story. I started documenting what was going on. I’ve been told off many times by security. I was a news reporter, remember? So I’m not scared of taking photos. I’m more scared of retailers who don’t want their windows photographed.
Then when it felt that the heads of state were about to walk in, you know that moment when everyone stands on alert, I see two girls in Fully Booked uniforms rush upstairs with a tabo, disinfectant, and a pail of water. What the.. ?
Minutes later, a wave of important-looking people walk by the Starbucks hallway. And then, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono walk through. There was no PNoy. President Yudhoyono really was just shopping for books. He went to the history, business, management, religion sections. I saw the owner of the book store showing him some books.
Then the President and entourage went upstairs to where my daughter’s class was. Apparently they waved at him and he waved back. Later I found out what the tabo, disinfectant, and pail of water were about. Minutes before the president arrived, one of the pre-teen girls in Sophia’s class vomited on the carpeted hallway. Security and maintenance did a quick cover-up with a black cloth. No biggie.
This went on for a few more minutes. Then President Yudhoyono went to the washroom behind the Starbucks counter. At this exact moment, my daughter and one Alcazaren brother come to me. She needs to go the washroom too. “Uh, Soph, you can’t right now. The president of Indonesia is in the washroom.” There are separate washrooms for men and women. But still. I thought it best to let all the commotion go by. So Soph waited. Then this happened.
It was quite the event for me and my daughter. I’m sure she will always remember this. I grew up in the periphery of this arena. My dad was the military pilot of President Marcos. He was the chosen aide-de-camp for visiting Indonesian heads back in the 80’s. As a reporter, I covered the Ramos presidency and saw many heads of state come and go. And as myself, I met Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard at a cocktail reception during a state visit in Manila, but have no photos as proof. It feels a lot different when you’re just a mom in a sundress having coffee in Starbucks and the president of the largest Muslim country walks in and decides to sit right next to your table. President Yudhoyono, by the way, is a former general who served two terms as Indonesian president and is about to step down in July. He is leaving behind a very stable and dynamic democracy.
By the way I forgot to mention that on that very same Friday, President Yudhoyono and President Aquino just signed a historic agreement to resolve a 20-year maritime border dispute. According to the BBC, this is very significant in light of the regional tension felt in other border disputes with China. Wow.
So I posted a couple of photos in my Instagram. And this morning, I find out that the First Lady, an avid photographer and Instagrammer, liked the photo I took of Sophia with the President and First Lady as photobomber.
First Lady Ani Yudhoyono “likes” my Instagram photo. She also posted this in her Instagram. Nice.
We are living in very interesting times.