Subject: Timor Leste's president of national parliament graces Dagupan 'bangus festival'

Timor Leste's president of national parliament graces Dagupan 'bangus festival'

By Leonardo V. Micua

DAGUPAN CITY, April 16 (PNA) -- The 16-day Dagupan Bangus Festival was off to a good start on Wednesday with no less than the president of parliament of the youngest nation in the world, Timor Leste, joining as a special guest.

Fernando La Sama de Araojo, 45, president of the Republica Democratica De Timor-Leste National Parliament, arrived in the Philippines on Monday, had an overnight stay in Manila, before proceeding to Dagupan City on Tuesday.

De Araojo, who is more popularly known in Timor Leste by his nom de guerre La Sama (the Portuguese name for unconquerable), said he was on a "very, very private visit to Dagupan to see his wife's parents and his family who were here a week ahead of him.

This was De Araojo's third time to come to Dagupan. The first one was in 2001 when he attended a seminar at Ateneo University in Manila and the second was when he attended a meeting in Manila when he was vice minister on foreign affairs of his country years later.

But this was his first visit to the city of his beloved wife after being elected in 2007 as president of Timor Leste's national parliament, the second highest office in his country.

He attended the opening of the Dagupan Bangus Festival with wife, the former Jacqueline Aquino Siapno, their son Hadomi, with an unarmed aide standing by.

De Araojo told newsmen he found Dagupan as a beautiful place and always got many beaufiful stories--the situation and the people--about the place from his wife, fondly called Joy, who is from Barangay Bonuan Gueset, Dagupan City.

Before joining the Dagupan Bangus Festival, De Araojo called on Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. and the city council, whose presiding officer, Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez, hosted Mrs. De Araojo, their only son Hadomi and his mother-in-law, Corona Balolong Aquino to lunch on Palm Sunday.

"I feel very much at home in Dagupan," De Araojo told newsmen when he got a warm welcome from the families of his wife, both from the Aquino and Siapno sides.

He said his wife always told him about bangus, the number one agricultural product of Dagupan, and tried to look for this in Dili, capital of Timor Leste, which he said came very rare.

He said they have no organized farm yet like the one they have in Dagupan, but his family was thinking to put up one and start a business in Timor Leste.

De Araojo said he and his family would spend one week in Dagupan to allow them some bonding which they could not do in Timor Leste.

"You know, building a new country such as Timor Leste is very difficult. You have to work 12 to 14 hours everyday and yet (at the end of the day) you find there are many things left that you should do more," he said.

One week is enough time for us to rest a little bit, he said adding that after coming from the Philippines, he will go straight to Portugal, then to Africa to visit two countries.

Before coming to the Philippines, De Araojo headed Timor Leste's members of parliament who attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Ethiopia that was also joined by leaders and members of parliaments from 154 other countries of the world.

"I asked for a holiday from my group to have this very private visit in the Philippines," he said, chuckling.

Asked on how his country now after gaining its independence in 2002, De Araojo said they were now peaceful and stable than before.

At the moment, he said, they were working on the setting up of state institutions and now focusing on the consolidation of the national police.

"In general, we are building the institutions and in some parts we are consolidating the institution bodies," he said.

De Araojo recalled that during the struggle for independence of his country, he was a student leader and was arrested by the military and thrown to jail as a political prisoner in Jakarta, Indonesia for six years and four months.

It was in that jail where he met his future wife when she came to visit them in prison as an activist too, being a member of Amnesty International.

"The first time we've met, we fell in love (with each other)" he said. (PNA)

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