75 years of a special “friendship” – Manila Bulletin
The French have always been known to take and enjoy the long road, avoiding shortcuts. They hate fast food, despise illico fashion, and enjoy languorous parties and dinners. Should we therefore be surprised to discover that while France is celebrating its 75th year of diplomatic relations with the Philippines, via a treaty of friendship signed in Paris in 1947, the French ambassador Michèle Boccoz and our under-secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (FDFA) for European Affairs announced at a press conference that they were embarking on six months of events and activities? All to highlight Franco-Philippine collaboration, economic cooperation, talent and creativity.
Not just a day, a week or a month of festivities, but six months of marvelous “moments” of Franco-Filipino joie de vivre. And as Amb. Boccoz and guest speakers were called to the stage at the Ayala Museum, it was easy to see why this year’s celebration will be truly special and why it deserves the six months of friendship. It reads like a menu, stamped ‘something for everyone’, has been crafted and carefully planned to perform until January next year.
Whether nature and the environment, art galleries to street art, cinema, theater, classical music to popular music, sports and professional basketball, poetry , business and commercial opportunities, fashion, food and wine, animation and documentaries, photography, television, youth choirs from France and the Philippines this Christmas season , or French NGO clowns – there is 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 an exponentially amplified Franco-Filipino camaraderie.
The major organizers of this biannual event are the French Embassy in the Philippines and Micronesia, the CCI France Philippines (French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines), the Alliance Française, with our Philippine Embassy in France and our DFA.
On June 26, just to kick off in style and highlight the diversity of what is planned, the morning saw the inauguration of the France-Philippines Friendship Park at the Las Piñas Wetland Park- Paranaque. Senator Cynthia Villar of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with Amb. Boccoz, and Hubert D’Aboville representing the Together-Ensemble Foundation animated the opening ceremonies of this park.
The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) is a 175-hectare protected area composed primarily of mudflats and mangroves. It is a base of biodiversity, sheltering more than 70 species of birds, including at least 29 migratory species. , who make the mudflats their “refuge” from August to April.
Then in the afternoon of the same day, an exhibition of Franco-Filipino art was inaugurated at the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. The principle of the exhibition, by Dr. Joven Cuanang de Pinto, is to bring together the works of contemporary Filipino artists who have lived in France with the works of French artists living in the Philippines. Sandra Palomar curated and called it “Diamond in the Rough”, a moving testament to the cross-pollination of cultural and artistic influences.
There are even statues and paintings of Paul Gauguin. And what was amazing to see was how well attended the affair was, despite the distance to travel from Manila to the Pinto Museum, and that the afternoon was marked by a heavy downpour. Hosted by Issa Litton, the evening was both bonhomie and camaraderie, and the art on display was super impressive. This was my first time visiting Pinto, and it truly is a hidden gem in the hills of Antipolo. A most gracious host, Dr. Cuanang was visibly pleased with the attendance, and the “Diamond in the Rough” exhibition at Gallery 7 lasts for a month.
Head to the French Embassy website for details of all the activities that run through January, then pick the one that catches your eye and interest. I am particularly looking forward to the theatrical performances: Anton Juan directing “Bayan Bayanan: Texts from the house of Bienvenido Noriega Jr.” at the CCP from July 15 to 17, and “Mula Sa Buwan“, a musical set in 1940s Manila and based on the tale “Cyrano de Bergerac”, performed at the new Samsung Theater at Circuit Makati on August 14.
In cinema and television, this year there will be a special French juror for Cinemalaya, a month of animated film organized by the Alliance Française and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), a French film festival and Filipino organized by the FDCP, UniFrance and Orbis Media, participation in QCinema, and possibly a Franco-Filipino TV show.
On August 31, September 2 and 4, a series of basketball matches will pit the Lyon-Villeurbanne Basketball team (partly owned by Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum) against our Blackwater and Gilas teams, plus a guest team EASL from Hong Kong. Dioceldo Sy of Ever Bilena/Blackwater is spearheading this collaboration, and after hearing speakers refer to film and theater as the “cathedrals” that the French and Filipinos greatly appreciate, he joked that if it was cathedrals and places of worship of a cultural context, for Filipinos, basketball is a religion!
For those looking for culinary adventures, October is the month to watch, as this is when the annual Goût de France will be held, October 21-29; and reports are that a three-Michelin-starred French chef will be flying in to deliver masterclasses. This French chef will also be part of the Franco-Philippine gala dinner on October 22, organized by the CCI France Philippines. The gala will not only be a celebration of the culinary arts, but will also showcase fashion and jewelry, with special prizes for ICC graduates.
As you can see, there is real diversity in the program that has been created for this 75th year, and it shows how deep and rich this friendship between two nations has been over the decades. There are opportunities not to be missed, so get informed and don’t miss them!
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