The very best Filipino singers, hip-hop, tap, folk, ballroom and ballet dancers, an orchestra, a rock band, and violin and cello prodigies await world leaders attending the special gala celebration that President Duterte will host at the SMX Convention Center tonight, Nov. 12.
The treat is just one of several cultural presentations prepared by the Office of the President for foreign guests attending the ongoing 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) Summit and other related meetings.
The showmanship already began yesterday with arrival honors for early birds Hun Sen of Cambodia and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar at Clark International Airport. More than a thousand folk dancers from Bulacan and Pampanga performed as the leaders’ airplanes taxied on the runway.
The newly constructed VIP lounge of the Clark airport was also festooned with designs inspired by Christmas lanterns, Bulacan pastillas wrappers and bamboo shavings called singcaban.
(The two leaders were later treated to a “small dinner for 150 people” hosted by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo near the airport.)
Days before the summit, the streets and areas surrounding the Cultural Center of the Philippines got ready for visitors with Maranao-inspired banners, along with posters and 3D signage by WTA Design, with motifs based on Filipino textiles and various Southeast Asian fabrics.
Nes Jardin, overall coordinator of all Asean-related events with cultural components, said performances of all local artists—whether in Clark, SMX or events set at the CCP and the Philippine International Convention Center in the next two days—“are all about the future,” with an emphasis on young performers.
“This means innovative, cutting-edge, with a focus on developments on Philippine arts and culture. And looking at the young as the future of a progressive Asean,” he explained.
For tonight’s performance in SMX, Malacañang Social Secretary Annalyn Tolentino handpicked master light designer Monino Duque to direct the show.
The fun begins even before foreign guests enter the building’s cavernous ground floor hall.
“As part of the welcome fanfare, the guests will see five giant Pampanga Christmas lanterns, each about 20 feet tall, hoisted on industrial cranes at the open parking lot in front of SMX,” Jardin, former CCP president, told Lifestyle.
Guests would be led to an area where Mr. Duterte will offer them cocktails prepared by Via Mare. Multiawarded set designer Gino Gonzales has transformed three adjoining segments of the SMX’s ground floor hall into a dining area with a dark and austere stage.
Details on what food will be served remain under wraps for security reasons. A Palace source disclosed that the theme is “Filipino Asian fusion, curated by chef Jessie Sincioco and Sofitel (Philippine Plaza Manila).”
Events specialist Mike Miñana heads the food service and waiter flow, while production designer Ito Kish is in charge of sprucing up the venue.
Duque said he told Gonzales he wanted a performance area “devoid of props… but with a huge sculptural piece” made of giant paper strips that would reflect the light from installations sprouting from the floor.
Jardin, meanwhile, said the lights and movement would be reminiscent of the aurora borealis.
“That alone is already a visual statement. We are celebrating 50 years of Asean this year so there are elements of gold. And I want the stage to be very simple and austere so the attention is focused on the performers,” Duque said in a separate interview.
Tonight’s after-dinner presentation dubbed “Bravo Asean” will involve 600 performers, have three parts and run for only 30 minutes.
Duque said effort was made to make sure the world leaders will appreciate the songs. “I had to check the age bracket so we could choose songs they could relate to.”
The first, “Manila, Manila,” is set to a rearranged piece of Hotdog’s classic pop hit to be performed by an orchestra, a rock band (because one of the Asean leaders is said to be a rock enthusiast) and singers. It will also feature solos by violinist Joseph Bryan Cimafranca and 12-year-old cellist Damodar Das Castillo, said Jardin.
The next performance, “Partners” will feature five dance groups, including tap dancers from Davao; a contemporary dance company from Bacolod; ballet, folk, ballroom and B-Boy dancers. Jardin said celebrated ballerina Candice Adea will participate in this suite.
“The concept of five dance forms working with one another (reflects) Asean nations working as one,” Duque explained. “That’s why it’s called ‘Partners.’ Even if we are distinct from one another, we are partners in this family.”
Duque and Jardin are both excited about “Jubilare”—the last portion that blends young singers with established Pinoy talents. Jardin described it as “a medley of very relevant songs” arranged by Danny Tan, featuring Lani Misalucha, Jed Madela, Darren Espanto and Elha Nympha.
Jardin added that Mr. Duterte specifically asked for world-renowned singer Pilita Corrales, to be accompanied by the AMP Band.
Duque noted that the songs chosen for this number “inspire and celebrate the human spirit. Forward-looking songs of hope that celebrate victory.”
More music awaits the guests tomorrow (Nov. 13) when all 21 world leaders attending the summit will enjoy a simple cultural program that includes a contemporary dance number, “Magkaugnay” (unity or coming together) choreographed by Agnes Locsin and performed by artists of Ballet Philippines and the Locsin Dance Workshop.
This will be followed by “Awit ng Pagsinta” from “Rama Hari,” a ballet choreographed by Alice Reyes, National Artist for Dance, based on the Indian epic “Ramayana.”
A hip-hop number with talents from the Philippines and other Asean countries performing to music by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and several choirs will conclude the presentation.
Jardin said the closing ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Philippine International Convention Center plenary hall will have a touching exchange of numbers between the Philippines as current Asean host, and Singapore, the next summit venue.
“Our number will talk about the future, about flight, about youth and kites,” Jardin hinted about the last show.
Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.
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