When the first “Night of a Thousand” was held two years ago, it seemed like the result of many months of planning. The truth is, the idea for the benefit dinner was hatched in 60 days.
The event, held at the Dusit Thani Hotel, generated millions for scholarships of secondary school graduates who would pursue a career in education.
Ramon del Rosario, chair of Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), happily acknowledged the women power that infused fresh resources for the 1,000 Teachers Program, aimed at supporting the best and the brightest high school graduates through college.
Del Rosario enlisted the wives of PBEd board members to tap a wider base for the project. He had been meeting with some of the country’s private sector leaders on the low public school standards and had received considerable resources, but he felt more could be done.
“The first time I invited them to a meeting, the attendance was almost complete, except for one who was abroad,” he said with a laugh. He asked what they could do to generate more awareness and participation in uplifting the condition of educators. “Before the meeting was over, the ladies had a plan of action.”
They went to great lengths to organize a special evening, in partnership with Lifestyle Asia, for benefactors who filled the ballroom of the hotel. Besides their meticulous preparations that included food tastings, discussions with the chefs, sourcing elements for a Royal Thai dinner, and enlisting the award-winning UST Chorale to perform, they tapped their network to be part of a cause they had embraced as their own.
It was too good an event not to reprise, and Del Rosario once again engaged the spouses. This time, the women had two goals. Aside from the scholarships, they also wanted to highlight the National Museum and stir more interest in the country’s repository for art.
“Jeremy Barnes, the museum director, is doing a good job in the restoration of the facilities,” Marivic del Rosario says. “He has the heart, the passion and professionalism to spearhead this effort, and we want to support the work.”
The old Senate Hall has been undergoing painstaking rehabilitation in the hands of skilled artisans. “Even amidst scaffoldings, tarps and debris, the architectural artistry of Juan Arellano was apparent,” says Anna Sobrepeña. “It was awesome to stand in the august hall with Isabelo Tampinco’s sculpture and reliefs, even with all the dust around.”
The women made several visits to the site they had selected as the venue for their next dinner event. “I can imagine the great statesmen who charted the course of the country in this place,” says Lizzie Zobel.
The likes of Claro M. Recto, Manuel Roxas and Manuel Quezon were members of the upper chamber of the bicameral body that crafted the legislation in the building originally designed to house the National Library. After its completion in 1926, eight years from the time construction began, the upper floors were appropriated for the lawmakers, while the ground level was designated for the library.
Today, it is the home of some of the country’s prized art, including Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” and “La Bulakeña.” “These will be available for viewing during the cocktail hour,” says Marivic, who is the de facto chair of the women volunteers. “The reason for holding the dinner here is to bring people and show them what we have, and hopefully move them to contribute to the museum.” It will be the first time that the old Senate hall will be used for an event following the restoration work.
Fantastic table settings
Different exhibition rooms will be opened to afford guests an opportunity to view the collections. Dinner nuanced by Philippine elements at the Old Senate Hall will follow.
“Margarita Fores will be taking care of the food,” Lizzie says. “She has gone through enormous effort to create special food. Her vision for the table settings is fantastic.”
Besides the anticipation of spectacular fare on Fores’ menu, a live band will provide music popular during Manila’s golden era. There is a strong likelihood that people will get up to dance, a possibility the women are enthusiastic about. “It’s a fun way to be part of a worthwhile cause,” says Mary Lou Hilado.
“People want to do something to help our country,” Anna says. “The 1,000 Teachers Program is a way to contribute to nation building. Providing quality education for future teachers, who will join the public schools to form young minds, is an investment in improved chances for quality of life.”
Companies and individuals have expressed support, and some like the SGV, CVC Law Center, Metrobank Foundation, Ayala Corp., Planters Development Bank and several others have already turned over check donations. “We are deeply grateful for all of it,” Marivic say.
She acknowledges that it isn’t an easy thing to mount an affair as ambitious as “A Night of One Thousand at the Museum.” However, the collective efforts and indomitable spirits of the women have proven to be potent forces. More than just organizing a memorable event, they hope to raise support for quality education and educators, and for national patrimony in the museum.
For those interested to be part of “A Night of One Thousand at the Museum,” call Katrina Luz at tel. 0915-9302845 or e-mail [email protected] You may also call tel. 8969537 local 248.