Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Botero draws me a picture

Tonight began at the Dusit Thani for the National Day celebration of Germany. The ballroom was packed and it was very well attended; it was a great opportunity to say hello to so many friends, although many of us had actually met the previous night already at the National Day celebration of South Korea.


At the party, I bumped into an art collector friend who I always see at all the auctions and major art events. We'd seen each other at the Ateneo art auction last Saturday and we began comparing notes on what we'd liked. "I was in Hong Kong for the Botero exhibit, and it was wonderful," she said. Then I told her how I'd actually met Botero himself, years ago in Tokyo, at a very small cocktail party given by a multinational investment bank that had flown him and his works to Tokyo for an exhibit. This was years ago, but I'd seen his giant sculptures along a wide avenue in Madrid one summer and I'd loved them -- so I've been a big fan ever since.

Anyway, he was very charming. I asked for his autograph on a postcard of the exhibit -- this was the only piece of paper I had in my evening bag -- and instead, to my joy, he drew a picture on the postcard, addressed it to me and signed his name. I still have this postcard now.


We all enjoyed a wonderful German feast, and there were many Bavarian specialties on offer. Between the great food and the relaxed atmosphere, we ended up staying longer than expected. Before we knew it, it was past 9 pm and we were still knocking back glasses of very good white wine with some rather merry friends, and it was way past our cut-off time for heading to our next event.


But we just couldn't miss the second event of the evening either, as it was being hosted by our good friends over at Shangri-la Makati and all their sister hotels all over the country. The theme for the evening was travel chic -- yes, it could have been a Travelife party, with the great travel theme and props and all -- so I spent some time trying to decide on an outfit that would look good both at a pretty formal national day celebration and yet not feel out of place in a relaxed travel theme party thrown by the Shangri-la.

I ended up wearing a purple caftan I'd bought in a Malacca boutique as it was suitably dressy but at the same time travel chic. At the German national day, lots of ladies asked me where I'd bought my outfit and I told them about how I'd traveled to Malacca last month and found this very versatile piece of clothing.

"You're always buying such interesting clothes," said one lady, while another said: "You're always in a saree or in some kind of exotic dress. It's become your trademark. So now I actually remember more your regular black cocktail dresses, because you wear them so rarely these days." These are people I see a couple of times a week at events, you see.


Then we headed off to the ballroom of the Makati Shangri-la to join what was left of the big party. Fortunately there were still lots of people around who showed no signs of leaving. Makati Shangri-la really outdid itself in the travel theme, by the way. It was an event so tailored to Travelife that I could have put a Travelife banner at the entrance and invited my friends, and no one would have batted an eyelash. I like to think they chose a travel theme for their party because Travelife Magazine has made the concept of traveling fun and chic.

To get to the ballroom, we actually had to pass a security X-ray booth. Earlier in the evening, too, I heard they'd even had guard dogs to make everything look very authentic. And right at the entrance of the ballroom was an immigration booth where you were supposed to get stamped for entry.

Inside was a travel set-up that wowed even Travelife, the Philippines' leading travel & lifestyle publication. There were Mercedes Benz hotel limousines in the ballroom and very fashionable luggages piled up on top of each other. The waiters were all dressed like airline crew so it took me a while to get used to calling one of them over for a refill of champagne.


Then with a champagne glass in hand, we joined the group of Shangri-la and Traders hotel general managers talking in one corner of the ballroom. The main event was over and everyone was relaxed so we all just had an enjoyable chat about where the euro is going, how stock markets have crashed in the past weeks, why Germany shouldn't always have to carry the burden of other countries who don't manage their finances as well, how Switzerland has so many Michelin-starred restaurants, and the really delicious hay soup served at the Swiss dinner at the Makati Shangri-la sometime back.

Some of the topics were not so great, of course. Who would be happy talking about an overburdened Germany, after all? But with such congenial company and lots of free-flowing champagne, everything seemed manageable -- even the crashing euro and world economy. We all surmised that the Philippines would weather the crisis better than others and we were all looking forward to what is usually a strong holiday/ consumer season.


We were just about to go home when I espied a big round vat in the center of the room. What on earth was it? I asked the people around. It turned out to be a huge vat of tiramisu! Of course I had to have a taste, so I got a plateful and seated myself in an empty table in one corner to eat quietly. I even took off my shoes finally, as I'd been on my feet all evening. Erica of Makati Shang joined me with exactly the same plate of tiramisu, and Miko, one of our editors, sat with us to keep us company.

We had a good laugh about all kinds of things, and we started thinking about costume party events that we might organize so that Miko could wear one of the many national costumes he'd bought on all our trips abroad. He'd wanted to wear one of them today -- and he would probably have won a prize if he had done so -- but he'd had to accompany me as well to the German National Day, which had required him to leave his costumes at home in favor of work attire.

He wasn't very happy about this, or about missing the fabulous free stays at Shangrila Boracay and other properties all over the Philippines and Asia that had been given away tonight; so kind-hearted Erica had promised to think of some event that would necessitate a costume sometime soon.

Just another evening in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.


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