Lisbon International Airport, VIP Area: An Encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo

©Moira G. Gallaga

The viral video of Cristiano Ronaldo’s press conference where he sets aside 2 Coca Cola bottles that was placed on the table has caused quite a stir online. Well, it also caused Coca Cola to lose US$4 billion in market value in less than a day. Yes, that’s right, 4 billion US dollars! Talk about an influencer, and I think he wasn’t doing anything deliberate and was just being himself.

It brings to mind our encounter with him a few years back while we were still assigned in Portugal. It was at the VIP parking lot of Lisbon’s International Airport. I was there to pick up Hubby who was arriving from an official trip to Angola. Ciaran was also there because that was the only way I could get to the airport on time as he is more effective than the GPS.

“Your love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable.”
― Cristiano Ronaldo

I parked beside this Mercedes Benz sedan. Hubby arrives and starts loading his luggage in the trunk. Almost at the same time, a guy comes out of the VIP Lounge and starts loading luggage in the car beside us. A few seconds later, Cristiano Ronaldo comes out and heads towards the Benz. With my Malacanang training where we’re so used to seeing Heads of State/Government, Royalty, etc. I don’t go agog when I see celebrities. In my 16 years, I never asked for a photo with any of the VVIPs. So Ciaran and I just said hi to Cristiano and while his luggage was being loaded, we had a chance to have a brief chat:

Lisbon’s International Airport parking for Diplomats and VIPs

“Me: Olá, sinto saudades de vê-lo jogar com a camisa branca, mas lhe desejamos boa sorte na Juventus.

(Hello, I miss seeing you play wearing the White shirt, but we wish you luck in Juventus.)

**

Cristiano: Madridista?  Ou os jogadores

             (Madridista? Or the players?) And he smiled.

**

Me:  Madridista para sempre, mas também seguimos os nossos jogadores favoritos e tivemos que nos inscrever na Eleven Sports para podermos vê-lo na Série A.

(Madridista para sempre, but we also follow our favorite players and we had to subscribe to Eleven Sports so we can watch you in Serie A.)

**

Ciaran: Como você está? (How are you doing) and he replied “tudo bem.” I got lost when the two of them started talking really fast, he asked Ciaran if he plays futebol and Ciaran said since our posting here he trained in Escola Benfica (Benfica Futebol Academy). He complimented Ciaran’s Portuguese saying he speaks like he was born here in Lisbon. But he also teased Ciaran that he’s on the wrong team (Cristiano started his career with Sporting, rivals of Benfica).

He thanked me for my best wishes and asked how long I’ve been in Portugal.

**

Me: Quase 5 anos.  Obrigado e boa sorte e já agora, Madeira (a sua cidade natal) é o local de férias preferido da nossa família.

(Almost 5 years. Thank you and good luck and by the way, Madeira (his hometown) is our family’s favourite getaway place.)

Cristiano: Prazer em conhecer vocês dois.

                       (Nice meeting you both.)

Waiting for Hubby at Lisbon Airport. Now that I’m done publishing my first book on poetry, maybe I’ll write something like anecdotes of being a spouse to a Diplomat or Foreign Service life. Showed it to Hubby some time ago, but he rejected all my notes and outlines. He said I could make it more better if I really sit down on it.

**

He then kindly asks us if we could move our car forward so his brother can enter the driver’s side as they need to be on their way. He was pretty down to earth and had a nice aura about him.

I tell Hubby we need to move out already because Ronaldo’s brother can’t get inside their car because I parked too closely. I let Hubby drive so Ronaldo and his brother will think it’s Hubby who has the deficient parking skills (Hahaha!). After we get going, Hubby asks who’s Ronaldo? Ciaran and I bursted out laughing and told him, “who else, the one and only CR7?” Hubby’s reaction was priceless, to think that we’ve seen Ronaldo several times playing live both in Madrid and Lisbon, and close up during a parade when they were the Euro Champions and the bus passed by near the Embassy. He wasn’t pleased that we just let him go on load his luggage and then drive off without bothering to tell him we were parked beside the Cristiano Ronaldo.

Actually, we didn’t do that on purpose. It just seemed like any ordinary polite encounter with a regular person. It didn’t even cross our minds to ask for a photo with him. We are cool like that. I think it’s better it turned out that way, a regular encounter between people rather than a fan meeting a superstar.

In the car as Hubby was still harping on our not letting him know, Ciaran says that maybe it was all for the best, especially as he noticed Ronaldo looked at our car’s diplomatic plate because if we told him, he might have ended up embarrassing us to Cristiano (Hahaha!). Hubby would not be asking for photo or anything, but what he’ll most likely do is give Cristiano his two cents worth on his playing, the team’s morale, football tactics, etc. To his credit, Hubby agreed with that thought and said nothing more.

21 June 2021

Diplo-Tales: Dupont Circle Roundabout – Merry- Go-Round from Hell

©Moira G Gallaga

(Note: A blast from the past during our diplomatic posting at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. I wrote this in 2011)

After three years driving the same roads every week you would know your way around, correct? Well, I don’t.

Like I need any more “idiot me” moments, right? However, in my defence, I’m referring to a particularly nasty piece of road known as Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. Anyone who has ever driven in it would probably understand where my confusion and distress comes from.

The Bermuda Triangle of Roundabouts

Whoever decided that a roundabout with ten—read that, ten!—exits was a good idea should be back in school, relearning how to design roads. There are also two segregated lanes in the roundabout, just in case you decide you don’t feel like getting off the Merry-Go-Round for a while and instead want to kick back, relax, and listen to the music.

If that weren’t confusing or challenging enough already, the centre of the roundabout has a nice little park with trees and a fountain. It is also full of people and has got a number of crosswalks. So while navigating the maze that is Dupont Circle you must be on the lookout for pedestrians as well as your intended exit of that roundabout. I get this sense that in their eyes are looks of mirth, as if they know I’ve travelled this road every week and still have to call my husband for directions because even my GPS is befuddled by Dupont Circle. At least I’m not the only one.

I work at the Philippine Embassy, WDC. As if I’m not already late enough, I have trouble navigating the roads outside the Embassy. There’s this one time I saw Resty, a colleague of mine, and then I realized “Oh, God! This is already near the Ambassador’s residence.” A second and closer look at the surroundings confirmed my belated realization. This was the other side  of the diplomatic enclave called Embassy Row. Our Embassy was in the opposite direction across Dupont Circle. I was supposed to exit Dupont Circle towards the South but ended up going North, the merry-go-round from Hell had got me disoriented again. Needless to say, I don’t tell my colleagues about my fights with Dupont Circle. I’d never hear the end of it. The forthcoming jokes would have been relentless.

My husband offers a chuckle every time I call him. Those chuckles were sounding a bit forced after a while, but there’s nothing I can do. When my mechanical GPS fails me I must turn to my human GPS. He’s gotten used to it, and he would say the same thing every time. I think he had the directions written down, a little sticky note in his wallet. He’s used to communicating with people and being patient as he tries to reach a consensus on difficult issues. In this case, garnering his wife safe passage to work.

While I’m driving in circles trying to figure out the right exit again or how to get back to the proper lane within the roundabout, peering at the roads that all look the same with their asphalt and sides of buildings and trees and cars, my fingers hit the speed-dial. My husband had learned to anticipate my calls in that he always picks up on the first ring and automatically asks which building I’m near at to serve as a reference.  I describe it and he tells me the next time I pass it to go a certain number of exits in order to get out of the right one. I haven’t the faintest idea how he knows which exit I should be taking by my less-than-impressive building descriptions. I have a hard enough time recognizing the building for my next loop around the Merry-Go-Round.


I don’t know how Washington D.C. locals do it. Dupont Circle isn’t the only roundabout in Washington D.C. It is the worst though. I guess once you’ve conquered the worst of roundabouts the others are like mere pebbles on a pathway.

16 September 2011