3 Cabinet men steal show in state dinner for Obama

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 29 2014 01:34 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2014 07:26 AM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Entertainers were on hand to perform during the state dinner for US President Barack Obama on Monday night.

But what appeared to have stolen the show were 3 Aquino Cabinet members who serenaded Obama with what is supposed to be his favorite song, Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Going On."

The song is known to be an anthem of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s.

While the dinner was closed to coverage after the traditional toasts of the 2 leaders, what did appear on social media is a video of secretaries Florencio "Butch" Abad, Rene Almendras and Rogelio 'Babes' Singson serenading the President of the United States with his favorite song, a number Obama enjoyed.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima uploaded the video in his social media account.

In the article, "After 30 Years - Marvin Gaye's landmark album "What's Going On?" by Eljeer Hawkins on Justice Issue 24 April-May 2001 as published on website redbug.com, the song "What's Going On" is from an album of the same name. It was described as ”a musical, Black-Detroit reflection on the social landscape of the 60s and 70s. The conditions of working class and poor people in the US and worldwide under capitalism have gotten worse since then and 'What's Going On' still serves as a soundtrack to our reality."

Almendras told media the number was an attempt to tailor the entertainment to the personality of the guest, in this case President Obama. He said Obama enjoyed it, so did members of his delegation like National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

During the 60s, the US was mired in a war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia so unpopular that it gave birth to a worldwide anti-war movement. Obama was just in his formative years when the song came out.

Other songs performed were "Da Coconut Cut" and towards the close of the program, the song "Happy" from the movie "Despicable Me 2."


Three-hundred guests jampacked the state dinner held in honor of US President Barack Obama Monday night. It was a gathering of who’s who in Philippine society, with high officials of government from different parties and persuasions in attendance.

The world’s most powerful man sat in the same state dinner with 2 former presidents---Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada—the latter had been convicted of plunder and pardoned by former President Gloria Arroyo.

Lawmakers supposedly linked to the pork barrel scam were also in the same dinner, like Senator Gringo Honasan and Bongbong Marcos.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and the Aquino Cabinet members were also in full force.

Aquino family members were also in attendance led by the President’s sisters, Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris.

Kris with Boy Abunda, sisters, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales
Kris with the Philippines' most powerful woman in business, the Tessie Sy Coson, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

Entertainment personalities were also present like TV host Boy Abunda and ABS-CBN President and CEO Charo Santos Concio.


The events at the Palace were, however, not without incident. President Obama appeared to have a hard time pronouncing the name of President Aquino during the joint press conference. He used “Niño” then “Beninyo” and “Nonoy” and “Noynoy”.

He also appeared to be tired during the arrival honors. The Philippines was his last stop in a 4-country swing that began last week in Japan, onto South Korea and Malaysia before coming here.

At the state dinner toast, President Aquino had water in a glass as he doesn't consume alcohol.

Neither Malacanang nor the Department of Foreign Affairs has released how much the Philippines spent on Obama's state visit. In a state visit, the host country, in this case the Philippines, spends for all the expenses of the visitor.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the expenditure report is still being prepared.