Friday, May 13, 2011

Two meals with a prime minister

Good evening from a wonderfully luxurious hotel, where I've decided to take a mini-break and spend the weekend -- as if I don't spend enough time in hotels already! More on this in a later post.

Early yesterday morning, even before breakfast, I schlepped out of my house to visit a Sri Lankan friend for a crash-course on how to wear a saree Sri Lankan style

There are basically two ways to wear a saree: the Indian style (which is the more universally recognized way of wearing a saree) and the Sri Lankan Kandy style, referring to the style popular in the last Sri Lankan royal capital of Kandy, which is about a four-hour drive from Colombo


The Indian style is simple and very flattering, and I really love wearing my sarees this way. I'm now so adept at it that, once, a couple of weeks ago, I actually got one tied and draped around by myself in ten minutes, even after a couple of glasses of champagne and red wine, with a temper brewing and with a Blackberry in one hand. 

The art of wearing a saree in the midst of a perfect storm. Thank goodness my typhoon season's over.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Kandy style is very pretty to look at but it's more complicated to wear as there are dozens of pleats to be made around the waist and over the shoulder. And wearing a saree in the Sri Lankan style was what I needed lots of help with yesterday morning.


I've been invited to both a lunch and a dinner for the prime minister of Sri Lanka who is visiting the Philippines, you see, and I planned to wear a saree for both occasions. 

I think the lunch is a fairly big affair involving the Sri Lankan community and supporters of Sri Lanka in the Philippines -- and for this daytime affair, I was planning to wear a cotton saree in the Indian style. 

For the more intimate sit-down dinner at the home of the ambassador of Sri Lanka, I was going to wear a black-based silk saree in the Sri Lankan style, in honor of the prime minister. And so I needed a crash course on how to fold and drape a saree in the complicated Sri Lankan way.

I really love wearing sarees as I believe it makes a woman feel really beautiful, with all the effortless elegant draping. 

In fact, last night, over a truly delicious Italian dinner of fish carpaccio and tenderloin with my friends Gia and Philip, I gushed so much about the joys of wearing a saree that their curiosity was piqued. 

So I tried to explain why I so love wearing sarees. "You feel like a princess," I began, "especially with the silk sarees which really drape so beautifully over the body."


"So how many sarees did you buy in Sri Lanka last month?" Gia asked me. I held up eight fingers. I brought home about eight sarees of different colors and materials, to match all kinds of moods and occasions. 

She was shocked at just how many sarees I had in my closet, and that wasn't even counting the ones I'd brought back from my last trip to India.

"You like them that much?" Gia asked again. 

And I replied: "Oh I'd wear them everyday in Manila if I could -- except I think a saree would stand out too much in a place like Manila where people are not used to seeing women in them." 

But while I can't wear a saree in Manila everyday, I do wear sarees a lot to formal gatherings, and especially to diplomatic functions. I've also converted a couple of sarees into Philippine ternos -- and the saree fabric does convert to the Philippine terno wonderfully because it has lovely trimmings and gradings of color that are usually nonexistent in non-saree fabric. 

However, not every designer can do this conversion well. I find you need to ask the services of someone who is well-schooled in the classic style of dressmaking and couture to get the conversions perfectly. 

And the few top designers who've worked with me on my saree-to-terno conversions have basically told me that doing so gave them such a big headache because the design of the fabric had to be matched to the cut of the terno.

So I'm really happy about wearing the saree as is, in either the Indian or Sri Lankan style. And the sarees I've decided not to wear, I've converted to tablecloths and throwpillow cases.


Today, too, I had a wonderful lunch at Dusit Thani's UMU, which is one of the prettiest Japanese restaurants in Manila, with Danelle Palang, Dusit's vivacious PR. I arrived determined not to eat much, but Danelle had ordered a feast. 

Wow, the food was so good that when I tasted the sukiyaki and the grilled seabass, I just had to ask her: "Is the food always this good or are they just making it very delicious because I'm eating with you?" 

I hadn't eaten at UMU in a while, you see, as I've been away so much; so I'd forgotten just how good it is. 

But today's lunch reminded me of this, and just how relaxing it is to eat here compared to almost anywhere else in Manila regarding Japanese restaurants. If you eat Japanese food often, you'll know that most Japanese restaurants in Manila are pretty cramped affairs compared to UMU.

We had the sukiyaki made with US beef, the grilled seabass, very fresh shrimp tempura and an assortment of sashimi. And today's piece de resistance was a scoop of sake ice cream for dessert. 

Yes, sake ice cream! 

And it truly tasted like sake but in a very delicious and sweet way. If you're planning to head over to UMU sometime, make sure you have this for dessert.



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