President Rodrigo Duterte was visibly breathless when he described the performances by Filipino artists in various cultural presentations that capped the opening and closing ceremonies of the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits held in Manila in early November.
The President had just finished watching a number called “Asean Flight medley”—a production number that combined the vocal powers of Bituin Escalante, Shiela Valderrama Martinez, Gian Magdangal and Coro San Benildo, accompanied by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mr. Duterte and his guests, however, were blown away by the acrobatic skills of Airdance, an aerial silk group whose members climbed and swung from floor-to-ceiling swaths of fabric while executing a choreographed number.
The audience included Asean heads of state led by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who accepted a ceremonial gavel that symbolized the turnover of the chairmanship of Asean to his country next year.
Nes Jardin, overall director of the cultural presentations, said the theme of flight suggested optimism about the future. The songs expressed a “desire to make the most of time in order to soar above the din and confusion of the present toward a brighter tomorrow.”
The next number, dubbed “Iddem Dem Malida and the Flight of Adarna,” was no less jaw-dropping. From the ceiling descended a life-size Adarna bird that carried a male performer, as Escalante led a chorus that included the St. Benilde choir and two orchestras. Various dance troupes also joined the number.
Foreign delegates who were forced to wait for hours at the Philippine International Convention Center plenary hall because of extended bilateral talks before the event said the agony was worth it.
Also featured in the closing ceremony were the handbell ringers from Central Philippines University, child singer Samantha Lagman, Summit Dance Troupe, UP Arco, UP Guitar Orchestra, pop singers Bugoy Drilon and Keiko Necesario, Quest, Liviana Angela Navarro and Ballet Manila.
Two days earlier, Asean leaders and dialogue partners, including US President Donald Trump, Canadian President Justin Trudeau, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were feted to upbeat musical numbers at the Cultural Center of the Philippines main theater after President Duterte’s welcome speech.
The show opened with a dance production called “Magkaugnay (Connected)” that featured talents from Ballet Philippines and the Locsin Dance Workshop and a song by Joey Ayala and the Bagong Lumad band.
An excerpt from “Rama Hari,” a local ballet choreographed by National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, followed. Singers Armand Ferrer and Lara Maigue sang the parts of the lead characters while dancers from Ballet Philippines enacted the story.
The finale was a video and live dance hip-hop combo performed by dancers from the 10 Asean member-countries, including The Project, Saint Benilde Romacon Dance Company and La Salle Dance Company from the Philippines; Soul Industry (Brunei); B Devil Group (Cambodia); Jalan Flamboyan Gang (Indonesia); Lao Bangfai (Lao PDR); Budak Joget (Malaysia); Life & Dance Group (Myanmar); Maya Dance Theatre Ltd. (Singapore); NDDT (Thailand) and X-Step (Vietnam).