President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night hosted a state banquet for China's President Xi Jinping, who was on his first state visit to the Philippines since he took power in 2013.
Accompanied by his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña, Duterte offered a toast to Xi, who, in turn, considered his Filipino counterpart a friend.
"My friends, may I invite you to raise your glasses: to the good health and continued success of President Xi Jinping; to the seeds of friendship and cooperation we plant here today," Duterte said during the dinner held in Malacañang.
"To the legacy of peace and prosperity that the succeeding generations will reap as a result of the improved relations between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China."
Xi, for his part, wished for the "prosperity and well-being of the Republic of the Philippines, to the lasting friendship between us and to the health" of Duterte and Avanceña.
He also commended Duterte for "taking on" Jose Rizal’s "mantle and for his commitment to an independent Philippines."
Before his engagements in the presidential palace, Xi laid a wreath at the monument of the Philippines' national hero at the Rizal Park in Manila. Rizal's ancestors were from Jinjiang City in Fujian province, where the Chinese president once served as governor.
"Jose Rizal is not only the father of this nation but also a symbol of fraternal relations between the Philippines and China," said Xi.
Since he assumed the presidency in 2016, Duterte has made friendly overtures to China and even confessed his “love” for Xi during a press conference before leaving for China to attend last April's Boao Forum for Asia.
Duterte’s decision to temporarily set aside the country's arbitration victory on the South China Sea dispute has led to a marked improvement in Manila’s relations with Beijing but angered critics that accused him of kowtowing to China.
"In the past two years, we were able to hurdle these challenges by resuming bilateral dialogue and deepening our relations through positive engagement," Duterte said.
The President added that he and Xi were "committed to forge a new legacy of friendship and cooperation as we work together in further consolidating ties with our both nations."
"I am hopeful that through our cooperation, opportunities for greater collaboration will further promote the prosperity and success of our nations, and contribute to lasting peace and stability in the region," the Philippine president declared.
Duterte, Xi and the guests feasted on assorted specialty bread rolls and butter, appetizers such as deep-fried prawns with special dressing served with Guimaras mangoes and pineapple, duck salakot with plum sauce and century egg slices, and crunchy suckling pig with pancake and hoisin sauce, as well as abalone soup with malunggay.
They were also served with black cod with Chinese sauce and beef tenderloin, taro gnocchi, broccoli and kalabase purée.
Taho ice cream with tapioca pearls, bukayo and burquillos, kapeng barako and chrysanthemum tea served with pastillas were also on the state banquet's menu card. — DVM, GMA News