POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011
More than 1,000 members of the local Filipino community gave an enthusiastic welcome Sunday night to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Tapa Ballroom.
The popular president drew a standing ovation from the overflow crowd at a dinner sponsored by the Filipino Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Consulate.
Aquino spoke of the close bond Filipinos have no matter where they live.
"It really warms my heart to see you all here united," Aquino said. "Wherever you are in the world, you have a bond that keeps you together."
Aquino was one of 21 leaders in Honolulu for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Filipinos make up Hawaii's largest Asian group.
Many guests at the dinner waited for hours to see the president.
"I left home at 2 o'clock today to make sure I got here on time," said Edwin Munoz of Royal Kunia.
"This is very exciting because I believe this happens once in a lifetime," said Munoz, who moved to Hawaii from the Philippines 36 years ago. "This is a good chance for us to see President Aquino in person."
Among the dignitaries in attendance at the dinner were Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
Aquino, son of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, addressed the crowd after performances by a mix of Filipino and local entertainers that included the Honolulu Boy Choir and the Philippine Chorale, made up of members of the Hawaii Filipino Community.
State Rep. Henry Aquino (D, Pearl City-Waipahu) attended the dinner with several of his constituents.
"This is an important event for a lot of us here. We believe in President Aquino's leadership and his strong stance against corruption," said Henry Aquino, who is not related to the Philippine president.
Corazon Aquino, who died in 2009, led the 1986 People Power revolution that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos.
A group of Filipino-Americans in Hawaii who want the Philippine government to allow dictator Marcos to be buried with full military honors held a rally Saturday in Waipahu.
The group, called Marcos for Peace Movement, urged President Aquino to allow Marcos to be buried in Manila's heroes' cemetery. In June, Aquino ruled out a Manila burial.
Marcos died in 1989 while exiled in Hawaii. His body was returned in 1993 to Ilocos Norte, where it is displayed in a glass coffin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.