Monday, June 6, 2011

Palawan's new superstar

From the El Guernica:
Deconstruccion exhibit at Ayala Museum

must really be a small world if you bump into several people twice or thrice in a day.

This morning started bright and early with a breakfast meeting with television executives. I appeared at the designated restaurant in a modern version of the Philippine terno, which I was planning to wear from 7 AM to 11 PM today.

"What's the occasion? You certainly look touristy," they said. Yes, not too many people were walking around Makati in Filipiniana attire yesterday. I apologized: "Sorry, but I've got to go to Malacanan this afternoon."

"Oh, are you going to the Palawan event later?" The president of the TV station asked. I nodded. "Well, see you later as well then," he said. And true enough, I did see him again at Malacanan and we sat together after the event eating Glenda Barreto's kesong puti pandesal sandwiches and pancit malabon.


Then from my TV meeting, I went on to the Dusit Thani to have lunch with them and discuss our upcoming Travelife India Night at the Dusit Thani. We'll be organizing Travelife India Nights on July 16 (a public performance) and July 18 (gala dinner). Again, at this lunch, the same question on my Filipiniana attire came up and I had to explain about my visit to the palace this afternoon.

"Are you going as well?" Dusit GM Prateek Kumar asked me. I nodded. He replied: "See you there."

When I got to Malacanan, there was already an assembly of diplomats and senior executives of various corporations seated and waiting for President Aquino in the Ceremonial Hall. I found a seat next to a five-star hotel general manager who had just returned from an out of town trip. During his trip, he'd visited a restaurant well-known for being pricey but good.


"It was good," the general manager said, of his dinner at this well-known restaurant in central Philippines. "But I was shocked that there was no one else around. They didn't even have enough staff. I ordered a martini and I had to go back into the kitchen and mix it myself. One of my friends ordered a Cosmopolitan and the lone guy there didn't even know what this was -- so again I had to go and mix it for him."

"With all that DIY, perhaps you shouldn't have paid for dinner," I suggested. "But I hope that at least the meal was good?"

"Dinner was surprisingly good!" He said. "I was a little worried about the lack of customers because for me that means stale produce. No turnover. But we ordered steaks and they did a very good job. In fact, considering what I had seen about the place, with their tattered menus and nonexistent staff, it was almost shocking that they'd made such a good dinner."


This conversation kept me amused while we waited for President Aquino. And when the President arrived, the ceremonies to confirm the underground river of Puerto Princesa as a finalist in the search for the best new wonders of the world was short and entertaining. We watched an excellent video on Puerto Princesa and the underground river, and this is where I learned that PP is the first carbon-neutral city in the Philippines, if not in Asia, and that fossils of the 20-million-year old Sirenia mammal were discovered imbedded on the walls of the cave. The skeleton of the Sirenia is the first of its kind to be discovered in Asia.

But what was most entertaining was President Aquino's speech. The speech itself was good, and he gave a good delivery. And at the end of his speech and the program, President Aquino led the entire hall in casting the first text votes to make Puerto Princesa's underground river win in the global competition.

On the way down to merienda afterwards, I saw an old Palace hand and together we went down the private back staircase from the Ceremonial Hall to Heroes' Hall. "Gosh, President Aquino gave a very good speech today," I said. And she responded: "He's really grown into his role. And that speech was written by Manolo Quezon so of course it's good in terms of content."


At Heroes Hall, I bumped into my television executive friend again. "I haven't had lunch," he admitted, "so I'm famished." I responded: "Of course you've had no lunch. We had a humongous breakfast this morning."

I didn't tell him, of course, that I'd also had very good Thai food at Benjarong for lunch and was going to have lots of Peking Duck in just a few hours. Together we had the pandesal with kesong puti, dinuguan with puto, and pancit Malabon.


Just before my Peking Duck dinner tonight, I stopped by the Ayala Museum for the opening night of El Guernica: Deconstruccion, an exhibit on paintings, photographs and other art works inspired by Pablo Picasso's Guernica masterpiece -- one of the most powerful artworks of the post-war era, and a painting that Pablo Picasso had done about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. The exhibit showcased works by 51 contemporary Filipino and Spanish artists, and these were assembled and installed on two walls with a photo installation of the real Guernica on the wall in the middle.

One side of the exhibit featured works by Philippine artists while the other side featured works by Spanish artists. I liked the Philippine side better, and among the most striking works for me was a photograph collage done by Jaime Zobel showing human pain. Truly very Guernica.

Again it was a testament to the how small Manila is that I bumped into the wife of the Italian ambassador, Madame Silvana Fornari, twice today as well. She and Ambassador Fornari were at the Malacanan event, and then this evening they too walked into Ayala Museum to view the Guernica exhibit.

On the way out, Madame Fornari and I had another short conversation. We're meeting tomorrow for Travelife Italy Night, and she was very excited to brainstorm. "We must make it truly wonderful," she said, with that infectious enthusiasm of hers. "I truly believe that travel and culture go together."

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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