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Aquino gets warm welcome at home

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It was a moment not many had witnessed – the last few minutes before the country’s most powerful man turns into a private citizen. Yesterday, President Aquino came home to No. 25 Times Street, Quezon City, in his white Toyota Land Cruiser, and was welcomed by about 500 people – neighbors, supporters, former classmates and members of his Cabinet.

Instead of turning into his gate, Aquino’s car went straight to the end of the street where a small stage had been set up by the neighborhood council, and where Leah Navarro and Jim Paredes were entertaining the crowd with a song.

“We might be cited for being a traffic obstruction here,” Aquino said, checking his watch. “I’m still in charge for the next 13 minutes,” he said to the cheering crowd waving small yellow paper flags.

Aquino thanked his neighbors for the warm welcome and apologized to them for the trouble that his house had brought to the street by groups who stage protests.

They know I don’t live here and yet they come here and disturb you; shout slogans and throw paint. I am sorry for that. Now I hope that your lives will return to normal here, he said in Tagalog.

He said home to him will always be Times Street. “Ever since we transferred here in 1961, this has been my home,” he said.

Appearing in the most relaxed state that we have seen him, Aquino told of an anecdote of how he is considered a simple neighbor there. He related a time when he went to buy a watermelon for his mother at the fruit stands in front of National Book Store.

He asked his assistant what sound he expected from the act of tapping each watermelon to check on its freshness. The assistant replied that he did not know but it was an act that would make the vendor think they know what they were looking for. Finally, based on advice that the fruits on the top row are the oldest in stock, they chose one on the second row.

When the vendor learned that it was for “Tita Cory,” she took back the fruit, went inside a room and produced another watermelon which she said is the freshest in her stock.

The story, Aquino said, tells of how his mother is well-known in the neighborhood and he was just one of the residents.

Before 12 noon came, Aquino again thanked the crowd for the warm welcome and apologized that unlike his mother who had prepared some food after she left the presidency, he had none to offer.

“I still have to fix the house so maybe we meet again for that sometime.”

He stepped out of the stage as Private Citizen Noynoy C. Aquino, and very slowly made his way to the house with the No. 25 on the gate and a large landmark declaring the resident’s place in history. Well-wishers crowed his path to shake his hand and some said “Thank you!” (PINKY COLMENARES)