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Aquino plants tree next to Cory's red maple.

OTTAWA -- You might say President Benigno Aquino III wanted to bask in his mother's shadow when he planted his red spruce right next to a taller red maple planted in 1989 by the late President Corazon C. Aquino.

The ceremonial tree planting by a visiting head of state on the picturesque, sprawling grounds of the Governor General's official residence is a Canadian tradition that Mr. Aquino observed as he kicked off his three-day visit here on Thursday afternoon (Friday morning in Manila).

The symbolism of President Aquino's action was not lost on his Canadian hosts.

Today, you will quite literally follow in your mother's footsteps; (she) not only visited Canada in 1989 as president, but also planted a tree at Rideau Hall, Governor General David Johnston said.

What a wonderful legacy for your family! Reminds me of one of my favorite proverbs: 'Blessed is the man or the woman who plants a tree knowing that he or she might not be there to enjoy its shade,' he added.

Icons of democracy

The Canadian official earlier welcomed President Aquino by referring to his parents.

We stand here in friendship because of the efforts of our predecessors. In your case, it is your parents, icons of democracy in the Philippines, Johnston said, in a tribute to the late President Aquino and the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.

President Aquino arrived here a little past noon on Thursday from Chicago, and like other visiting heads of state, made a dramatic entrance in a state landau, a horse carriage driven by the Canadian Royal Military Police.

As he disembarked near a dais, the President was welcomed by the Governor General and his wife Sharon Johnston, after which he was accorded military honors and a 21-gun salute.

After inspecting the honor guard, Mr. Aquino headed toward a welcoming group of flag-waving Filipinos to greet them.

Spade bears Cory's name

The President and the Governor General then walked to the wooden area where Mr. Aquino stopped before the red maple tree for a briefing. His mother planted it during her Nov. 6, 1989, visit to Ottawa, he was told. Mr. Aquino was also handed the stainless steel spade bearing his mother's name, among other implements used in the tree planting. Finally, he was given a photo of his mother planting the red maple.

Amused, Mr. Aquino said he would show the photo to his sisters. He was happy to see to it, gardener Jennifer McNamara said later.

The President walked a few steps to the red spruce, and started shoveling soil onto the base of the tree. The Governor General shoveled the remaining soil and, looking at the motley crowd of camera-wielding journalists crowding them, asked in jest: Any more trees around?

Started in 1906

Beginning in 1906, members of the royal family, heads of states and dignitaries have been asked to plant trees on the grounds of the Governor General's official residence to mark their visit.

During the state dinner for Mr. Aquino and his delegation of Cabinet officials at the Rideau Hall, Johnston referred anew to the tree planting, and said he was confident that the tree planted by President Aquino would be as tall, strong and resilient as that planted by his mother, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. recounted.

In levity, the Governor General suggested that President Aquino could come back 25 years hence and witness how big the tree he planted today had grown. (The official also) repeated what Nelson Henderson (a Canadian second generation farmer and pioneer) once said, 'The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit,' Coloma said.

Robust relations

In his response to Johnston's welcome remarks, Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was looking forward to strengthening its already robust relations with Canada.

Johnston readily acknowledged this, and said that dialogue between the two countries would be vital to the strength of their relationship.

In our modern age, we must be able to communicate, the Canadian official said. We know this today, just as those who forged our initial links knew that we would find more success when we work together, he added.

In his message, Mr. Aquino said Canada was close to the heart of the Philippines given that there are more than half a million Filipinos working here.

Ottawa is home to about a million people, including at least 10,000 Filipinos.

But the main goal of his visit, President Aquino said, was to personally thank Canada for sending not only aid but the Canadian Royal Force to help rebuild areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in November 2013.

He also thanked Canada for choosing the Philippines as a country of focus and designating it as a priority emerging market.

As a country of focus, the Philippines is among a handful of countries that would be given priority for development funds.

Canada, Johnston responded, would be pleased to support the Philippines' long-term commitments in areas of security, disaster management, development and humanitarian aid.

Room for cooperation

But the Governor General also admitted that there was much room for cooperation.

Let's see more students travel between our countries. Let's see more mutually beneficial investments that will stimulate progress. Let's see how we can work together to create a smarter, more caring world for generations to come, Johnston said.

How we do so is simple: Through our people, he added.

Johnston earlier expressed admiration for the great economic strides taken by the country under the Aquino administration: President Aquino said that good governance and pursuing the righteous path were largely instrumental in enabling the Philippines to achieve a turnaround, he said.

Promotion of SMEs

The two leaders also exchanged notes on the promotion of small and medium enterprises, with Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo sharing the Philippines' experience in setting up roving academies and training workshops as well as setting up shared facilities for start-up enterprises.

On Friday, Mr. Aquino was expected to visit Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa for a tAAate-AA -tAAate with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 9, 2015
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