NEW YORK CITY—Raf Ignacio, a Filipino food crawl host in this city, had a special connection with the late Philippine president Benigno Aquino III, his former boss.
Ignacio said, having worked closely with the president, he understood Aquino's vision for the Philippines.
He also had a front seat view to Aquino's work ethic and leadership.
"As a close-in assistant, you have to be with him 24/7, if he needs anything like briefing papers or if he needs information from a Cabinet secretary, he will rely on you or he would rely on me to get that piece of information," Ignacio said.
Ignacio started to work for Aquino during his campaign for presidency in 2009 and stayed on as his assistant until 2014, when Ignacio migrated to the US.
He stayed in touch with Aquino, even visited him at home in Quezon City in 2017.
According to Ignacio, he was exchanging messages with Aquino just last Friday.
"Just last week I was exchanging text messages with him asked if he wanted some magazines, car and history magazines, that I can send through a friend who was here in the States and he told me thanks and that he'd get back to me about the magazines," he said.
Little did he know that was going to be his last conversation with his former boss, whom he called a friend.
Aquino, 61, was rushed to the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City Thursday, but was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. due to renal disease secondary to diabetes.
"I feel like the Philippines has lost a true statesman. You know, he's the type of person who I always look up to as a leader because he led with honesty, he led with integrity. He led with respect for all people or for people of all walks of life and you know he had this immense love for the Philippines and the Filipino people and that's something that I will never forget," Ignacio said.
His former boss' love for the Philippines inspired him to give back to his community.
As a food crawl host, he has worked hard to elevate appreciation for anything and everything Filipino, from books to cuisine and culture.
"He was a transformational force to my professional life and me as a person so he will be somebody that I will keep looking up to even after he's gone and you know . . . Hindi ko na rin siya makakalimutan
. . . Salamat sa lahat, sir," Ignacio said.