Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino’s parting gift to the Philippines

Published June 30, 2021, 7:04 PM

by AA Patawaran

As he wraps up his four-year stint in Manila, the Italian ambassador pays homage to the beauty, hospitality, and homeliness of our country through the limited-edition modern art portfolio 7,000 Islands

DONO DI BUONA VOLONTÀ Italian Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino handing over the 7,000 Islands portfolio to Ben Chan

Ciao, Ambassador Giorgo Guglielmino! Arrivederci!

I was at a small dinner recently with the outgoing Italian ambassador on the invitation of retail magnate, visionary entrepreneur, and culture champion Ben Chan. I’ve been at many events with Signore Guglielmino over the past four years, especially as he has had many passion projects related to art and culture that he personally attended to during his stint, but this dinner was the first time I had ever been up close and personal with him. At Canton Road at Shangri-La at the Fort, there were only five of us in a private room. The other two were architect Miguel Pastor and PR specialist Ailene Co.

My understanding was that it was just going to be a small catchup, and it was, with everybody more open, more candid—and I saw the side of the ambassador that was quite as generous with sentimentalities as he was with humor and personal charm. He didn’t hold back on his feelings now that he was approaching the close not only of his tour of duty in the Philippines, but also on his feelings about his retirement from foreign service, which has been his life over the past 30 years.

LEGACY FOLIO The 7000 Islands portfolio is a tribute to the Italian Ambassador’s second home, Philippines

Guglielmino is an artist. At the core of this diplomat’s heart is his love of art, particularly modern art. He has written at least four books on the subject, including How to Look at Contemporary Art (…And Like It), This Is Now. A Geographical Guide to Cutting-Edge Contemporary Art, and Ladies & Gentlemen (200 People That Count in the Art World). His forays around the world, from his first assignment in London to his succeeding posts, which he described to us over dinner as so far away from home, such as Nairobi—where his children, Federico and Alessandra, were born—Calcutta, Buenos Aires, Dhaka, and, finally, Manila, have sharpened his eye for culture, as expressed particularly in art.

To our surprise, as we finished the main course, there was a bit of a formal ceremony to our little banquet. It was a surprise even to Ben when, casually, Ambassador Guglielmino said, “So while we are waiting for the dessert to be served, may I present a little something to my friend here.”

ISLANDS IN A SEA OF INFORMATION One of the artworks in the 7000 Islands by Micol Assaël

As it turned out, that little something was a big thing, a most thoughtful present not only to his friend Ben Chan, a recipient of the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia in 2019, and about 14 other Filipino individuals, whom he considers the most special of the people with whom he has made the most of his stay in the Philippines as envoy from Italy, but also to the Philippines and the Filipino people. Also, all recipients of this gift were chosen on the strength of their contribution to strengthening ties between the Philippines and Italy.

In limited 25 numbered copies, the 10 other copies went to organizations, institutions, and government officials, it was an art portfolio initiated by Ambassador Guglielmino to wrap up his four-year stint in Manila and printed by Bulla, a famed printing studio in Rome. In this work, aptly called 7,000 Islands, Italian contemporary artists Micol Assaël, Rä di Martino , and Nunzio were given a free hand to interpret the theme of “island” as a physical and metaphorical place and a cultural tribute to our archipelago of 7,641 islands, these islands that since August 2017 have been his home away from Rome. To Guglielmino, the art portfolio is an homage to the remarkable culture and resilience of the Philippines. He and Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat wrote the texts accompanying the artworks of the three Italian artists.

TASTE OF ITALY Among the recipients of the 7,000 Islands portfolio is renowned Filipino chef Margarita Forés

“The prints were made with the highest professionalism and sincere participation on the part of the Italian artists from the point of view of what 7,000 islands represents. From my perspective, it is a concrete sign of how culture brings two countries like Italy and the Philippines closer,” said Ambassador Guglielmino. “In the printing process I involved the Bulla printing studio, one of the most prestigious artistic printing companies in the world, based in Rome. The Bulla printing studio was born 210 years ago and has always remained in the ownership of the same family. It is currently managed by the seventh generation.”

Delivered to the Foreign Minister of Italy Luigi Di Maio and Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, and Secretary Romulo-Puyat who also contributed to the portfolio initiative, many of the copies were personally presented by Ambassador Guglielmino to personalities like Ben, who have over the past few years helped bring closer cultural, commercial, and convivial ties between the Italians and the Filipinos.

Apart from Ben who, along with Florence Ko, has promoted the best of Italian design and furniture by importing some of the best Italian brands to the Philippines, some of the other recipients of 7,000 Islands are the Metropolitan Museum of Manila’s Tina Colayco who was instrumental for the presentation of the exhibition Arte Povera, Italian landscape, Margarita Fores who has constantly enhanced and promoted Italian cuisine at her restaurants and through television broadcasts,  Nedy Tantoco for the Italian fashion brands at Rustan’s and other companies under the Rustan Group, and Boots Herrera of the Ateneo Art Gallery for the creation of the Embassy of Italy Award, which recognized Silvana Diaz for her contribution to visual arts through Galleria 2000.

The prints were made with the highest professionalism and sincere participation on the part of the Italian artists from the point of view of what 7,000 islands represents. From my perspective, it is a concrete sign of how culture brings two countries like Italy and the Philippines closer.

Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino

A heartwarming parting gift, 7,000 Islands is an expression of an Italian’s love and appreciation of the hospitality of the Filipino people and the beauty of our island nation.

Ciao, Ambassador Guglielmino! Grazie e arrivederci! Better yet, and I risk being too forward with this expression, ci vediamo presto.