By Stephen Lillie
British Ambassador to Manila
While World Cup fever grips most of the globe, the world's 12th largest country is a largely football-free zone. Instead, the sports pages of the Philippine press are dominated by the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics as people tune into the NBA basketball finals in the US.
But the real story of the moment here isn't sports at all. It's the preparations for Senator Benigno Aquino III to be sworn in as the Philippines' next president on 30 June. "Noynoy," as he is popularly known, won by a landslide in the country's first automated elections on 10 May. Overseas Filipino voters in the UK turn out to have been among his strongest supporters, with over 60 percent voting for him.
Expectations of Noynoy are high, especially as he's the son of two towering former figures in Philippine politics. His father Ninoy Aquino led the opposition to martial law before being assassinated in 1983. His mother Cory Aquino restored democracy when she became president in the peaceful People Power Revolution of 1986.
Noynoy has no shortage of tasks to attend to. I met him recently together with the other EU ambassadors in Manila. He set out clearly his priorities: tackling corruption, fixing the budget deficit, and creating new employment opportunities. And he was clear about wanting to end the long-running armed conflict in the southern Philippines. This is an area where the UK is already helping. Since the end of 2008 the British Embassy in Manila has been sharing experiences with the Philippine government and the main rebel group (the MILF) from our experience of peace-building in Northern Ireland.
None of these goals will be easily achieved. But there is undoubtedly a sense of change in the air, and of renewed optimism about the future: the start of a new political era in the Philippines.