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Enjoying russian hospitality

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Russian Embassy press secretary Natalia Linovitskaya.

Other than the Russian and Philippine flags  displayed at the foyer of the residence of the Russian Ambassador to the Philippines, the Matryoshka dolls displayed on two shelves serve to welcome guests and assure them that this is home sweet home to His Excellency Igor A. Khovaev and Madam Maria Ilina.

The staff of the Daily Tribune recently visited the Russian Ambassador’s residence, thanks to Ms. Natalia Linovitskaya, Press Secretary, who made the appropriate arrangements and who joined Madam Maria Ilina in entertaining us.

We learned from the lady of the house that the ambassador’s residence has been rented since the start of the millennium. She shared that she and Ambassador Khovaev  have lived here since only four years ago, the Philippines being her husband’s first posting as ambassador. He had been attached in Vietnam, Turkey and in Yugoslavia, right after the war which resulted in the creation of the countries of Kroatia and Bosnia.

Madam Maria joined her Attache husband only in Turkey and Vietnam, and when he became the ambassador, she joined him in the Philippines where they have traveled to various parts.

“I love the Philippines,” she said. “We have been to Baguio, Sagada, Banaue and other parts of the Cordillera. We went to Laoag in the north by car, and to Legaspi in Southern Luzon, also by car.

Mayon Volcano is very beautiful. I have been to Davao and the nearby Samal Island.” Interestingly, she and the ambassador have visited Boracay three times and Bohol twice. “I love your beaches,” she told us.

A lover of seafood sinigang, Madam Maria is lucky to have a Russian chef which makes entertaining easy for her, which could be three or four times a week.

The chef in residence served us Russian-style pancakes, folded into triangles, which, Madam Maria suggested we should eat with honey and strawberry jam. Ms. Natalia explained that Russians sometimes eat their pancakes with caviar.

As a highlight of our brunch, we were offered piroshky, also made by the Russian chef, which is pastry with fillings. There were three versions that morning — filled with apple, cabbage and meat.
Madam Maria explained that the place had been decorated already. Some of the ornaments and furniture were left by the former ambassador, while others were placed there by the owner of the house.

From the large living room, where the embassy often conducts its press conferences, guests could see the lanai, and beyond it, the swimming pool where, we were told, the Ambassador does his laps almost every day if his schedule allows him. A stationery bicycle stands right next to the ambassador’s office, which says a lot about the ambassador’s concern for health.

While she loves the Philippines, Madam Maria, a French teacher back home, misses her grandchild  in Russia. Their son’s family and their single daughter visit occasionally so that is when she is kept busy by family matters.

She gladly shares that “our Filipino staff is like family to us. They are very nice.”

We said our goodbyes with the impression of a sweet motherly lady who does her duties as an ambassador’s wife with joy and dignity, at the same time that she plays her role as a caring and loving wife, mother and grandmother.

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