Gloria holds court at McDonald's
What would you do if the President of the Philippines suddenly decided to have breakfast with you--and at a fast food branch, no less?
For call center agents eating at the McDonald's Paseo de Roxas branch in Makati City, it was a chance to speak with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and air their concerns.
For the President, meanwhile, it was an opportunity to remind the public about the government's employment and training programs, especially for workers in the country's business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
Clad in a powder blue suit and with an assortment of Palace staff and media crew in tow, Arroyo showed up at the restaurant and shook hands with visibly frazzled McDonald's staff and customers.
After Arroyo ordered coffee and a "longganisa meal", she sat and chatted with a group of girls, asking them about their families, their work, and life in general.
The President even dished out some advice to one of her audience, a former overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia, who is now working at a call center. "If you're up to it, if you work at night, you can also study part-time during the day," she said.
MRT until midnight?
After several minutes of dialogue, Arroyo announced that she will be asking the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Authority to extend train schedules until midnight, in order to accommodate workers who fail to catch the last train at 10 p.m. every day.
"This is so you can do whatever leisure activities you have [in order] to have a life," Arroyo said, laughing.
She stayed to pose for pictures with several diners before leaving for her next activity.
According to a Malacanang representative, the "surprise visit" was scheduled in the President's itinerary and was meant to spread goodwill.
Developing the country's BPO industry has been one of Arroyo's key projects in a general bid to generate employment.
Erap at sari-sari store convention
Elsewhere in Metro Manila, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada also made a surprise visit of his own at a Puregold "sari-sari store" convention held along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay.
He was immediately surrounded by his supporters and fans, many of whom asked for his autograph or posed for a picture with the former president.
Asked if the warm welcome would influence his decision to run in the 2010 presidential elections, Estrada replied: "Susunod tayo sa gusto ng tao. Kung talagang gusto tayo, eh makakatanggi ba tayo?"
Onlookers, meanwhile, said they did not care whether the visits were mere political stunts to advance politicians' agendas as long as pressing issues like unemployment will be resolved. Report from Nadia Trinidad, ABS-CBN News.