MONDAY night, it felt like the Philippines was the safest place on Earth as 600 foreign guests—among the 7,000 delegates representing 21 countries to the ongoing Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) business forum—savored creative takes on Filipino and international cuisine while chilling out on traditional and contemporary Pinoy music.
The occasion was a welcome dinner for the delegates of the Apec ministerial meetings at the Marriott hotel in the Resorts World Manila complex. A four-course meal was served at Marriott Manila’s newly built grand ballroom.
The scene was relaxed during cocktail hour at the ballroom lobby, where people of different nationalities mixed freely while sipping wine. A few were fiddling on their mobile phones.
Everyone seemed in a convivial mood. At one table, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel engaged in animated banter with Egyptian Ambassador to the Philippines Mahmoud Mostafa Ahmed Mohamed. Their laughter was contagious.
Every so often, guests were spotted exchanging calling cards. The Japanese contingent was quite obvious with their customary bows in the course of introductions.
Soft rondalla music was played while the guests waited for dinner.
‘Mangga,’ ‘hipon,’ ‘binakol’
First served was an appetizer of Ensaladang Mangga at Hipon (green mango and prawn salad), followed by a soup of Chicken Binakol (double-boiled chicken with papaya and young coconut). This Ilonggo version of tinola came in a coconut shell.
The main course was Roasted US Beef Tenderloin with Seared Atlantic Scallops and crushed potato, bell pepper relish and organic petit carrots with liver jus.
Dessert consisted of Leche Flan with Macapuno (caramel custard with young coconut), Turon (sweet banana roll with jackfuit) and Tropical Island Fruit Salad.
Manila Polo Club president Isabel Caro Wilson took note of the tastiness of the dishes, considering the large number of guests, though the Binakol was not warm enough. “The steak’s really good,” she said, as Goldberg quipped: “Well, this is an American hotel…”
A special cultural performance commenced. Dubbed “Archipelago of Sounds,” the show featured renowned soprano Rachelle Gerodias who sang Filipino classics “Buhat” and “Ikaw”; West End theater star Joanna Ampil did a reprise of her “Miss Saigon” piece “On My Own,” including a Tagalog version. The world famous Philippine Madrigal Singers offered a touching rendition of the Visayan love song “Usahay.”
But it was the old pop hit “Manila” that had the guests smiling and swaying on their seats. Ampil and Gerodias joined rock and pop singers Jett Pangan and VJ Caber, along with musical theater star Aicelle Santos, in a lively version of the Hotdog hit. Dancers used stylized jeepneys as props.
Seen lingering after the show were Bernard Morgan of the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce and wife Margaret. Bernard, who was wearing a barong Tagalog said, “We had so much fun, we were waiting if there was an act two!”