Lifestyle Asia Exclusive: Tea With Ambassador Caroline Kennedy
February 9, 2018
Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy was on a private visit to the Philippines, her very first trip to the country. During her brief stay, she requested to meet with the Aquino sisters. U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim extended the invitation to the daughters of the late President Cory Aquino and hosted the meeting at the U.S. Embassy.
A tea service was prepared in the sunroom that opened up to a terrace overlooking the Manila Bay. The former envoy, together with Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada and Viel Dee spent a few minutes on the terrace together with Ambassador Sung, who showed them a bronze map that situated the islands fronting the embassy. He said that on a clear day it was possible to see Corregidor, the rocky fortress at the entrance of Manila Bay. This is the island where Filipino and America soldiers stood their ground against the Japanese forces that invaded the Philippines in World War II. The Allied forces used Corregidor as their headquarters. It was also here that Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon established the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth.
Earlier, Ambassador Sung walked with Ambassador Kennedy to the flag post fronting the Chancery Building to show the bullet marks from World War II. They had come from a visit to St. Scholastica’s College, where Ambassador Kennedy met with students of poetry. “Poetry is a wonderful way of bridging our differences, learning about each other, sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings, and dreams for the future,” Ambassador Kennedy said to the gathering of students that included participants to the International Poetry Exchange Program, which she actively supports.
Poetry and writing resonate with the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who memorized and illustrated poems together with her brother, John when they were growing up. During Ambassador Kennedy’s term as vice chairperson of New York’s City Fund for Public Schools, she learned about the poetry project of DreamYard. Ambassador Kennedy, who published bestseller A Family of Poems and Poems to Learn by Heart became involved with the grant-funded project. DreamYard promotes and supports art education, programs and residencies for actors, painters, poets and dancers. St. Scholastica was selected to participate in the IPEP, enabling poetry students to connect with counterparts in different parts of the world.
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During Ambassador Kennedy’s two-day visit, she made time to pay respects to the soldiers who died during World War II. Ambassador Kim accompanied her to Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial where both American and Filipino servicemen are buried. Ambassador Kim is a friend of the former diplomat who retired last year. She expressed her high regard for the US representative to the Philippines, who assumed his post last year. Ambassador Kennedy showed no trace of jetlag during the afternoon tea with the Aquino women, this despite having flown in directly from the United States. She was personable and engaging, approachable and gracious. Ballsy Cruz later shared how she was impressed by the absence of self-importance and the pleasantness of the former US president’s daughter.
They sat down for tea prepared by Ambassador Kim’s executive assistant and other embassy staff. The afternoon sun lighted up the room where the intimate gathering was held. They sat around a small round table where a tea service was set up with a selection of teas, shortbread and brownies. The congenial exchange was light, touching on life in Boston, where the Aquinos lived together with their father Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. after he was released from prison during the dictatorship so he could get medical treatment abroad. President Cory Aquino described their time in Boston as one of the happiest in her life.
The visit ended after an hour. The Aquino women left the historic building late afternoon while the ambassadors proceeded to their next engagement. Lifestyle Asia was invited to cover the occasion exclusively.
By Anna Isabel C. Sobrepeña