Today I had lunch and dinner with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and his entourage. The Prime Minister is well into his 80s, but he looks not a day over 55. The guests today tried to guess his secret for youthfulness but no one could come up with a good answer. Personally, I think it's all those spicy curries. (That's the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, by the way, receiving his copy of the latest issue of Travelife Magazine. Now you tell me if he looks over 80...)
Lunch was an intimate affair hosted by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka at a private function room of the Dusit Thani Manila, while dinner was held in the garden of his official residence, with beautiful lanterns strung all over the driveway, gardens and swimming pool.
For the lunch, I'd planned to wear a cotton saree in the Indian style. I'm quite good at the draping and knotting by now so I can usually get into a saree in under ten minutes, elaborate folding included. As luck would have it, though, this morning was just not one of those effortless saree mornings. I'd done it twice and the folds just didn't come out right, so I thought perhaps it was the stiff cotton fabric I'd chosen for the lunch. Quickly, I switched to an easier silk saree (silk drapes effortlessly over the body, while cotton has to be manually pleated and plied into place) and was very pleased at the outcome. A saree can really transform a person's feeling, and instantly I felt really elegant.
SRI LANKAN FOR A DAY
When I walked into the venue, lunch was already under way. Many guests, including people I didn't know, quickly commented on my saree as I made my way through the venue. Then I greeted Sri Lankan Ambassador Bennett-Cooray who smiled and remarked, "You look like a Sri Lankan." I also saw Singaporean Ambassador A. Selverajah, who said he was surprised to see me in a saree. "I'm an honorary Sri Lankan today," I responded.
I'd better be. I was having lunch and dinner with their Prime Minister, after all; as well as spending most of the day with their community. (That's a Sri Lankan Member of Parliament and Presidential Advisor, holding his copy of Travelife Magazine, by the way. We spoke to him at length about post-war Sri Lanka and its prospects for tourism. He's one of the most articulate and learned men I've met in recent years.)
"KEEP BEING HAPPY,"
AND THE BEST BOSS IN THE WORLD
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was among the principal guests of honor at the lunch. Just before he left, I went up to greet him and to share with him something I'd been meaning to say for a while. I said, "The late Ambassador Ramon del Rosario was my very first boss, and he was absolutely wonderful. He was the best boss in the world. I learned so much from him about work and life."
My years working directly under Ambassador Monching del Rosario in Tokyo were among the happiest and most fulfilling years ever, and much of it was due to the trust, freedom and support he provided me so that I could do a good job. I'd just graduated from college, you see, so this trust was pretty extraordinary -- and it made me work a hundred times harder for him. It was a pleasure and honor to work for such a top businessman and true statesman.
Secretary del Rosario seemed pleased to hear this about his brother. "You seem very happy so he must have done a good job," Secretary del Rosario said, and I nodded enthusiastically and answered: "I believe so." His last words to me as he left the lunch were: "Keep being happy." And that's something I really intend to keep being.
Travelife Magazine at Dusit's Devarana Spa
Speaking of happiness. After the lunch, I had a few hours before the dinner at the Sri Lankan Ambassador's residence, so I headed to Dusit's Devarana Spa on the second floor of the hotel to get a couple of spa treatments. Talk about on-the-spot bliss. The Devarana Spa is one of the best in the city and it's got a very comprehensive menu of services, out of which I chose a new body scrub treatment and a facial. The treatments were wonderful and when I finished, I was surprised to find out it was 645 pm. Technically, I had fifteen minutes to head home, get out of my current saree and into another one, and then drive over the the Ambassador's residence.
Again, a saree is best worn in a relaxed state. I was relaxed from the spa but stressed at the thought of being late for dinner, so I pulled out an easy-to-wear saree and began the process of folding and draping all over again. The results were worth it, however; and the Filipina women at the dinner were all very impressed with the versatility of the saree and the possibilities it offered as formal wear instead of the usual Western-style gowns.
HAPPY EVER AFTER
When dinner ended and most people had gone home, I was still sitting out by the Ambassador's pool talking with two friends from the diplomatic community. I always bump into them at functions but we usually never have enough time to talk beyond the usual niceties. But late tonight, with the party ended and the atmosphere pretty relaxed, we decided to just sit around for once and shoot the breeze.
They told me their story -- their love story, actually -- which was incredibly romantic and it ended this lovely, relaxing and yet terribly interesting weekend on a pretty memorable note. They'd been childhood friends who'd grown up on the same street and who'd hung out with the same friends; and then they'd become separated for twelve years. But when they met again, they just knew they were meant for each other. They've been married for well over ten years now, but they still acted like highschool sweethearts. Every so often during our conversation, the husband would say something sweet to his wife, which reminded me of how people used to date in college. This really made me smile as it was so nice to know that such things still happen in this pretty jaded city of ours.
In fact, we left the party together and they were still headed out for Date Night at 1030 PM. I left them in the driveway of the Ambassador's residence, still holding hands and smiling pretty sweetly at each other, as if no one else was around. If only all stories ended this way.
Just another weekend in our neverendingly eventful Travelife.
What's on my iPod today:
Click here to listen
I love this song today...
ON SALE EVERYWHERE FROM APRIL 15
Travelife's Special Summer Issue
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Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue
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