A bromance seems to have bloomed between President Rodrigo Duterte and his hero Russian President Vladimir Putin - at least judging by the way the former waxed poetic about their first meeting.
Sounding like a starstruck schoolboy who just met his idol, the Philippine leader gushed about his initial interactions with Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit here.
“It was like we have known each other for a long time and even [by] the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake,” Duterte said of his first bilateral meeting with the Russian strongman.
At one of the side events with the Apec leaders, he recalled having a conversation with a Vietnam official who thanked him for the release of Vietnamese fishermen apprehended in Philippine waters.
“When I finally sat down, I found out that President Putin was on my left side, so we shook hands,” he said.
“And then after I shook his hands again and I finally said ‘I [will] go ahead.’
He gestured to me, ‘don’t forget to visit Russia,’” Duterte recalled.
Like with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the only other leader he had a bilateral meeting with, he said he had become “fast friends” with the Russian president.
He joked that the moment Putin entered the room, the latter went up to him and told him ‘pare (buddy), don’t tell this to the media of the Philippines, but [in stage whisper] don’t mind America…”
“It’s like… The way…It’s something that you feel.
Because his laugh is big. He has a wide laugh. His laugh is wide,” he said, uncharacteristically at a loss for words.
Duterte said his impression of Putin was different from what he watched or read about in the news.
“The news would say that he never laughs. But he was smiling all along.
He said, ‘don’t forget to visit Russia because I have something for you there… I reserved something for you.’
‘Is that true?’ ‘Gun.’ He’s obsessed with guns,” he said of Putin.
Duterte said Putin, like himself, had a passion for hunting big game like moose. “That’s as big as [actually bigger than] a carabao.”
He added that Putin invited him to visit Russia “maybe about four times already.”
“And maybe I will go. Maybe I shall…What’s the right word? ‘Shall’ or ‘will?’ I shall go someday,” Duterte said. “But not on a wintry night. I can’t stand the cold. It’s hard to adjust to the cold,” he added.
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