From dressing up as video game favorite Super Mario at the 2016 Rio Olympics to eating durian in Davao City, Shinzo Abe's charm shows on the global stage why he's Japan's longest-serving prime minister.
As prime minister, Abe maintained Japan's close ties with the Philippines through the transition from the late Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to the maverick Rodrigo Duterte, who distanced Manila from its traditional allies in favor of an "independent foreign policy."
It was during the Aquino presidency that Tokyo elevated its ties with Manila to a strengthened strategic partnership with Abe pledging to provide the Philippines with equipment to enhance its maritime defense capabilities.
Abe also warmly received Aquino in Tokyo, when the late Philippine leader made a four-day state visit.
At the time, Aquino said the Philippines' and Japan's ties were "reborn like a phoenix" after the economic superpower occupied Manila during World War II.
When the Philippines went with a 180-degree shift with Duterte, Abe managed to keep--if not strengthen--the ties between Tokyo and Manila as evident in his 2017 visit to Davao. Abe was the first world leader to visit the Philippines under Duterte and a charming one at that.
Dropping all protocols, Abe visited Duterte's modest home where they shared rice cakes, and munggo soup (mung bean). The Japanese leader was also given a peek at Duterte's bedtime essential: kulambo (mosquito net).
Abe also got a taste of Philippine local fruits, particularly durian which is abundant in Mindanao. He completed his Davao City experience by adopting and naming a female Philippine Eagle, which he called Sakura--a Japanese word that means "cherry blossoms."
On July 8, 67-year-old Abe died after he was shot while delivering a speech at a campaign event in Japan.