Last Wednesday, together with 9 mayors, 10 municipal health officers, representatives from the University of Makati and Zuellig Family Foundation, we paid a visit to the Vice President of the Philippines in his office at the Coconut Palace. As described in Wikipedia, "The Coconut Palace, also known as Tahanang Pilipino (Filipino Home), is the official residence and principal workplace of the Vice President of the Philippines. Located at the CCP Complex, in Pasay, south of the centre of Manila, it was commissioned by former First Lady Imelda Marcos for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1981. However, the pope declined the offer, saying that it was too ostentatious a place to stay while in the poverty-stricken Philippines. The Palace's architect Francisco Mañosa, later claimed that the Coconut Palace - a showpiece on the versatility of the coconut and its viability as an export - was planned long before the Pope even decided to visit the country."
It was my first time to visit the Coconut Palace and my first time to meet Vice-President Jejomar Binay. Many are saying that he is a strong contender for the Presidency in 2016. The palace is located on F. Ma. Guerrero Street at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex between the Folk Arts Theatre and the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Before becoming the official residence of the Vice President, the palace was best known for wedding receptions.
It was a cordial meeting with the Vice President. During the visit, he willingly shared his thoughts about public health and shared his experience as a mayor running his own local health system. I felt that he was comfortable surrounded by mayors having been a former mayor himself. He talked in their own language and it seemed that the Mayors looked up to him almost like a big brother. The Vice President is a strong advocate of local government empowerment.
During the visit, Senator Bong-Bong Marcos dropped by to thank the Vice President for allowing him to use one of the conference rooms for his meeting.
It was a good experience for everyone. The Coconut Palace itself is not only beautiful but very historic. The Coconut Palace has been a guesthouse for many guests, including Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, Brooke Shields and George Hamilton (his favorite room was said to be the Zamboanga Room). The Coconut Palace has found itself being featured in various TV shows. On the fifth season of the reality series The Amazing Race, the Coconut Palace served as the pit stop when the competing teams went to Manila.
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