MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's eldest daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, played a critical role in welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to Malacañang on the first day of his Philippine state visit.
As Xi took his first historic steps in Malacañang, the first by a Chinese president in 13 years, it was Sara who stood beside her father to welcome the state guest.
She was the 3rd in the line of government officials Xi shook hands with after the review of honor guards – after only Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Sara walked with Xi and Duterte as they made their way down the red carpet that stretched from the Palace grounds fronting Mabini Hall to the main Palace building. She was every inch the image of a First Lady, with a personal touch of her own: large tattoos clearly visible on her legs.
A day after the ceremony, the Davao City mayor said she felt like a fish out of water in such a formal event, but that the experience was worth it.
It was particularly the wardrobe requirements she had to bear with.
"I am used to using rubber shoes so the stilletos were killing my toes and soles. It was painful to the feet but I was honored to do it for two presidents," she told Rappler in a message.
Videos showed the mayor working her black high heels from the welcome ceremony, to the long walk to the main Malacañang building, then up the stairs to the Palace Reception Hall for Xi's guestbook signing.
Sara stood on Xi's right as he signed the Malacañang guestbook, while President Duterte stood on his left. The imagery was a powerful reminder of where the President's daughter stood in recent history.
Her moments beside Xi even gave her the chance to personally thank the world leader "for his graciousness in accepting the invitation to visit" from her father.
Much has been said about Duterte's and Xi's apparent "bromance," with critics worrying over just how much of a compromise the Philippine leader is willing to make to keep his ties with China amicable.
But for his daughter, Xi's visit was significant in how it attracted global attention to the Philippines.
"I am happy that President Xi Jinping gave importance to our country. Without a doubt, he is one of the more important leaders at this point," she said. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.