The French have always been known for taking and enjoying the long route, eschewing short cuts. They abhor fast food, look down on pronto fashion, and enjoy languid soirées and dinners. So should it come as a surprise to discover that as France celebrates its 75th Year of Diplomatic Relations with the Philippines, via a Treaty of Amity signed in Paris in 1947, French Ambassador Michèlle Boccoz and our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assistant secretary for European Affairs announced at a press conference, that they were embarking on six months of events and activities? All to highlight French and Filipino collaboration, economics cooperation, talent, and creativity.
Not just a day, a week, or a month of festivities but six months of wonderful “moments” of Filipino-French joie de vivre. And as Amb. Boccoz and the invited guest speakers were called on stage at the Ayala Museum, it was easy to understand why this year’s celebration will be truly special and why it deserves the six months of amity. It reads like a menu, stamped “something for everyone,” was drawn up, and carefully planned to happen all the way up to January of next year.
Whether it’s nature and the environment, gallery art to street art, cinema, theater, classical music to popular music, sports and professional basketball, poetry, business and commercial possibilities, fashion, food and wine, animation and documentaries, photography, television, children’s choirs from both France and the Philippines this Christmas season, or French NGO clowns—there’s literally something for everyone, as the two nations join hands and find ways to cooperate, explore, and turn this special friendship into something fruitful, entertaining, and so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s French-Filipino camaraderie exponentially magnified.
The major drivers organizing this half-year event are the Ambassade de France Aux Philippines et en Micronèsie, the CCI France Philippines (French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines), the Alliance Francaise, with our Philippine Embassy in France and our DFA.
On June 26, just to kick off things in a big way, and highlight the diversity of what has been planned, the morning saw the inauguration of the France-Philippines Friendship Park at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park. Sen. Cynthia Villar with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with French Amb. Boccoz, and Hubert D’Aboville representing the Together-Ensemble Foundation led the ceremonies opening this park.
The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) is a 175 hectare protected area that’s predominantly mudflats and mangrove areas, and it’s a bedrock of biodiversity, home to over 70 species of birds, with at least 29 of them, migratory species, who make the mudflats their “haven” from August to April.
Then in the afternoon of the same day, a Franco-Philippine art exhibition was opened at the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. The exhibit’s premise, from Pinto’s Dr. Joven Cuanang, is to bring together the works of Filipino contemporary artists who have lived in France with the works of French artists living in the Philippines. Sandra Palomar handled the curating and called it “Diamond in the Rough,” a stirring testament to the cross-pollination of cultural and artistic influences.
There are even some statues and paintings by Paul Gauguin. And what was amazing to witness was how well attended the affair was, despite the distance to get from Manila to the Pinto Museum, and that the afternoon was marked by a heavy downpour. Hosted by Issa Litton, the soirée was both bonhomie and camaraderie in equal measures, and the art on display was super-impressive. It was my first time to visit Pinto, and it’s really a hidden gem in the rolling hills of Antipolo. A most amiable host, Dr. Cuanang was visibly happy with the turnout, and the “Diamond in the Rough” exhibit at Gallery 7 runs for a month.
One should head to the French Embassy’s website for details of all the activities stretching to January, then cherry-pick which one catches your attention and interest. I especially look forward to the theater presentations: Anton Juan directing “Bayan Bayanan: Texts from Home of Bienvenido Noriega Jr.” at the CCP July 15-17, and “Mula Sa Buwan,” a musical set in 1940’s Manila and based on the “Cyrano de Bergerac” tale, as performed at the new Samsung Theater at Circuit Makati on Aug. 14.
In cinema and television, there’ll be a special French juror for this year’s Cinemalaya, an Animated Film Month organized by the Alliance Francaise and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), a French and Filipino Film Festival organized by the FDCP, UniFrance and Orbis Media, participation in the QCinema, and possibly, a French-Filipino television show.
On Aug. 31, Sept. 2 and 4, a series of exhibition basketball games will pit the Lyon-Villeurbanne Basketball team (owned in part by Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum) against our Blackwater and Gilas teams, plus a guest EASL team from Hong Kong. Dioceldo Sy of Ever Bilena/Blackwater is spearheading this collaboration, and after hearing speakers talk about cinema and theater as “cathedrals” that the French and Filipino both enjoy tremendously, he cracked a joke about how if those were cathedrals and places of worship from a culture context, for Filipinos, basketball is a religion!
For those seeking culinary adventures, October is the month to look out for, as that’s when the annual Goût de France will be held, from Oct. 21 to 29; and the reports are a three-star Michelin French chef will fly in to offer masterclasses. This French chef will also be involved with the French-Filipino Gala Dinner of Oct. 22, organized by the CCI France Philippines. The Gala will not only be a culinary arts celebration, but also highlight fashion and jewelry, with special awards for the CCI alumni.
As can be seen, there’s true diversity in the program that’s been created for this 75th year, and it just shows how deepening and rich this friendship between two nations has blossomed over the decades. There are opportunities not to be missed, so be informed, and don’t miss out!