Nothing short of the best.
With world leaders descending on the Philippines this weekend, the country has left no stone unturned in preparing a special gala to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Hosted by President Rodrigo Duterte, the dinner will be held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City tonight in honor of the leaders and their spouses attending the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits.
Around 1,300 guests—which will include each country’s delegation—are expected to attend the event.
According to the primer disseminated to the press, the gala will showcase a special brand of Filipino hospitality and the best of Filipino artistry and talent through an evening of outstanding Philippine music, dance, design and culinary arts.
Five giant lanterns, representing 50 years of Asean, will ring in a fiesta atmosphere as soon as guests arrive at the SMX. Made especially by artisans from the country’s “parol capital” San Fernando, Pampanga, they hope to show how Filipinos pay close attention to detail and quality in their distinct handicraft.
After the President’s welcome message and toast, guests will be treated to a four-course Filipino-Asian dinner curated and prepared by multi-awarded Chef Jessie Sincioco and the food and beverage department of nearby Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
“Doing something like this is a humongous responsibility. When you know who would be recipients of what you are doing, you will get butterflies in your stomach because it’s not easy,” Sincioco said of her important task over an interview on ABS-CBN’s late night newscast, “Bandila.”
While the menu has been kept top secret—The Manila Times had made calls to inquire but was gently told no one has the authority to reveal any information—the chef went on to say that the salad and dessert will be 100-percent Filipino, while the soup and main course will be an Asian fusion.
Moreover, Sincioco said there will be no pork in any item on the gala menu.
“These are Asian countries [participating]and many are observing Halal. So, to be safe I did not put pork in the menu. The main course will be beef,” she elaborated.
“Nothing can go wrong with something like this. These are world leaders and they cannot afford to get sick because they are the busiest people in the world, so everything counts,” the chef finally noted.
Sincioco, a renowned chef and patissier, owns three restaurants in Metro Manila—Chef Jessie Rockwell Club Makati and Top of the Citi by Chef Jessie in Makati and Chef Jessie Grill at The Grove in Pasig. Sincioco also prepared the meals of Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit to the country in 2015.
Song and dance
As for entertainment, a big band and two soloists will serenade the guests through dinner. Thereafter, an orchestra, a marching band, a rock band and soloists will perform the iconic song “Manila” for delegates.
In a text message sent to The Manila Times, ABS-CBN’s Corporate Communications head Kane Choa confirmed the participation of the network’s talents Bugoy Drilon and Darren Espanto among the performers.
Finally, five different dance forms, still signifying the golden anniversary of Asean, will take to the stage, namely, ballet, folk, ballroom, tap and contemporary.
The attire for the gala dinner is Filipiniana and will therefore see guests in bespoke Barong Tagalog and the traditional terno or saya made by award-winning Filipino designers.
Albert Andrada, one of the country’s top fashion designers, is responsible for the piña cocoon barong for the Asean leaders and dialogue partners. Done in different designs, the barong pieces will either be a half- or full- button down, but all featuring intricate embroidery along the center front, and on the collar and cuffs. Customized buttons bearing the Asean logo is the only feature common for the special barong.
In Andrada’s social media accounts, he further shared that each barong is named after distinct Filipino qualities such as Magiting, Magiliw, Marangal, Mapayapa and Magalang, among others, as echoed in the unique embroidery.
Meanwhile, the Filipiniana attire of the Asean leaders’s spouses and dialogue have been designed by Rajo Laurel, Randy Ortiz and Andrada as well. The designs are categorized in three different looks inspired by and to represent the three major islands of the Philippines—a terno for Luzon, baro’t saya for Visayas, and Muslim-inspired attire for Mindanao.
Each spouse has been assigned to a particular island group based on their country of origin. Details as to whom their designs will go have not been revealed by the designers, especially who among them had been assigned to dress US First Lady Melania Trump.
With regard to fabric, the designers said they made use of high quality poly Thai silk with embroidered adornments, piña cocoon with special embroidery, and piña cloth with flower-themed embroidery and Minanaon fabric.