Filipina chef special mention in Obama speech

·Kim Arveen Patria

Admiration for Filipinos was a recurring theme in U.S. President Barack Obama’s speeches in Manila, but there was one Filipino-American who got special mention.
 
At the state dinner held in his honor in Malacanang Monday, the U.S. President lauded Cris Comerford, a Filipina who has been working at the White House since 1995.
 
“There’s our shared pride in the millions of Filipino-Americans who contribute to our nation every single day,” said Obama, who chose Manila as the last stop for his Asia trip.
 
“There’s one in particular I’m grateful for -- Cris Comerford, our executive chef at the White House. Cris was born in Manila. She still has family here,” he added.
 
The U.S. President even boasted that he and his family in the White House “enjoy the occasional lumpia and adobo,” Filipino dishes prepared by for them by Comerford.
 
Comerford’s story is not new to Filipinos, having made headlines both here and abroad after she was promoted White House executive chef by then first lady Laura Bush.
 
Born to an elementary school principal and a dressmaker in 1962, Comerford grew up in Sampaloc, Manila, with 10 other siblings. She was the second youngest in the brood.
 
In a video posted on the White House website in 2012, the Filipina chef recalled how she started out as a salad bar waitress, and moved up the career ladder.
 
She was the first woman to be White House executive chef. “Her resume reads like a classic American success story,” the Chicago Tribune once wrote of Comerford.
 
Millions of Filipino-Americans like Comerford makes the friendship between the U.S. and the Philippines “deeper,” Obama said during Malacanang press conference.
 
Another connection that Americans share with Filipinos, he quipped, is the “mutual admiration for Manny Pacquiao even if sometimes he’s fighting against Americans.”
 
On a more serious note, he noted how U.S. experiences with weather-related disasters allow them to empathize with Pinoys devastated by typhoon Yolanda.
 
The U.S. President also touted the newly signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement aimed at increasing American troops’ rotational presence in the Philippines.
 
“We are honored and proud to call you an ally and a friend,” Obama said at the state dinner. Earlier he noted how the Philippines is America’s oldest ally in Asia.
 
“Through our treaty alliance, the United States has an ironclad commitment to defend you, your security and your independence,” Obama said, to applause from guests.
 
President Benigno Aquino III awarded Obama with the Order of the Sikatuna, the highest honor the Philippine government can bestow on a head of state.
 
Receiving the award, Obama said, “I accept it in the spirit in which it has bestowed—with a commitment to continuing to deepen the bonds between our two great nations.”

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