Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An evening with Grace Lee at Sofitel

The evening didn't begin with Grace Lee, but it ended with her. But let me tell the rest of the story first.

Tonight was a busy round of events. There were five parties to go to, and I said yes to three and ended up going to two. Work kept me late at the office and it was well past 6 PM that I managed to get into my car and head for the National Museum for the opening party of the exhibition and sale of the works of Madame Yan Donko, wife of the Ambassador of Austria, who had painted and exhibited 70 charming watercolors of Philippine scenes in the Chinese style.

There has probably never been such an exhibition before, so if you are at all interested in seeing a very nice combination of Philippine landmarks and Chinese watercolor techniques, please go and see her exhibit at the National Museum. The pieces are truly refreshing and captivating with their uniqueness.

I'd visited the Austrian Ambassador's residence on Friday afternoon for a private viewing of the paintings pre-exhibit, and I've already written about how much I liked them, in this blog.

So as I was headed for the National Museum tonight, I'd made up my mind to buy one of the paintings that had enthralled me.

Unfortunately, I got to the party midway, and spent a good few minutes saying hello to people at the entrance as the diplomatic community had come out in full force for the popular Madame Yan's opening party. When I actually got to the exhibit venue, almost everything was sold out.

Yes, there were little red dots on each painting title. In fact, there were so many little red dots that one guest had quipped: "I thought the red dots were decorations. I didn't realize that they were actually "sold" signs." That's how many little red dots there were.


Of course I was very disappointed. I kicked myself for not having reserved something I liked last Friday. But anyway I walked around the venue trying to see if there was a painting that captured my heart that still didn't have a little red dot on it. That's when I saw in one corner a large painting of the Subic lighthouse, as seen through a nipa hut, with Chinese flowers in the foreground.

It was very pretty and it had caught my eye at Madame Donko's residence last Friday. I couldn't believe it didn't have a little red dot on it, and I knew for a fact that this very painting was Madame Donko's favorite of the entire lot.

So, I decided to buy it, not only because it's very pretty but also because it will serve as a reminder of a very lovely lady. When I told Madame Donko later that I'd bought her favorite painting, she seemed very surprised. She told me: "I thought that painting had already been sold."

I think it had, but then the first buyer had probably switched to another painting. So when I chanced upon it, it was up for sale. Just my luck. So if you go to the National Museum and see the painting of Subic, well, now you know who owns it. Scroll down to read about Grace Lee.


Then it was off to Sofitel for two events. But as I was already late for the first one, I went straight to the ballroom to attend the dinner for the Korea National Tourist Organization (KNTO). KNTO and its related agencies and companies had come to Manila in full force to start promoting Korea as a destination, and Travelife Magazine is at the forefront of these promotions. It's official. Korea is now one of our favorite countries.

And this is how I met Grace Lee. She was the emcee tonight. I know about her but I actually have never seen her photograph, for some reason. But tonight, there I was at the very front table of the ballroom and she was emceeing right in front of me. She caught my attention because she did a great emceeing job and she spoke like a Filipina, but then she pronounced every Korean name perfectly. Either she'd practiced Korean a whole lot prior to tonight or -- and this was the only time that it dawned on me -- she was Grace Lee.


The Sofitel served an excellent dinner, especially considering this was a ballroom catering event. We began the five-course dinner with a medley of appetizers, continued on to a pretty big piece of steak, and then to an excellent chocolate dessert. I have to especially write that the steak was very good and done exactly right, because steaks for large-scale events are hardly ever satisfactory. But this one at the Sofitel tonight most certainly was. I enjoyed every course.

And KNTO put up a wonderful show of Korean and Philippine dances and performances, which were both so enjoyable. The Philippine performance by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was very lively and happy, while the Korean performance, which involved all kinds of stunts, was simply amazing.

At the end of the evening, I got to meet Grace Lee as she came down the stage to our table. She was very pretty and charming in person. When I took her photo on my phone, she suggested we take a photo together instead.
I said with a smile: "No thanks, I'm happy with a photo just of you for our blog."

It's not exactly the kind of photo I would put on a frame on my desk, after all. But I can now understand why some people would think she's pretty cool and wonderful.

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


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