At Large

The Apec ‘class picture’

/ 12:13 AM November 18, 2015

Among the most anticipated, and iconic, images from the Apec summits through the years has been the “class picture” showing the gathered leaders clad in the “national costume” of the host country.

Some are said to have dubbed the images from this regular photo op as the “silly shirts” pictures, perhaps because many leaders, especially the taller, heftier ones forced to don ill-fitting Oriental wear, look distinctly uncomfortable in the unfamiliar garb. Women leaders in particular can look awkward and overwhelmed in the traditional male attires.


A report published in another paper said it was then US President Bill Clinton who started the tradition in 1993 when he handed out leather bomber jackets to his fellow leaders, ostensibly to make them feel more relaxed during the meetings.

The assembled leaders have since donned batik shirts, silken robes, colorful ponchos and other distinctive wear, to varying degrees of success or embarrassment.


For the Philippines, the costume for the photo op has always been the barong, which unfortunately does not photograph well. It may be made of the finest piña fiber and embroidered with meaningful and beautiful designs, but being in uniform shades of white or beige, the barong tends to disappear in photographs.

I was wondering for a while if designer Paul Cabral would choose different colors for the outfits that the Apec leaders would wear. But I guess organizers, if not Cabral himself, thought colored barong a bit baduy or declassé, and opted for the traditional shades. Here’s hoping the Cabral barong would fare better, or photograph more distinctively, when the time comes for the assembled leaders to smile for the camera.

* * *

TV news reports carried footage of obviously frustrated and weary commuters who were forced to alight from their unmoving vehicles and walk to their work places and then back home in the light of the terrible traffic jams caused by road closure in anticipation of the Apec summit and other meetings.

Some employees decried the decision to declare a nonworking holiday only for the duration of the meetings themselves, which take place today and tomorrow. And really, in light of the decision to close the roads leading to the venue of the summit—the Philippine International Convention Center—and all roads leading to and from the different hotels where the visiting leaders are staying, officials should have anticipated the massive jams in satellite roads as a result. Some offices decided on their own to spare their harried employees by simply deploying “skeleton staff” yesterday, before closing down their premises entirely.

Still, all the contingency plans for the Apec meetings should have taken into consideration the impact of the summit not just on the economy and the traffic situation but most especially on the lives of ordinary men and women who even now cannot appreciate the importance of the events, much less the beneficial effect, if any, on their lives.

Given the lead time, couldn’t the organizers have chosen another locale to host the Apec leaders? In 1996, the first time for the Philippines to host an Apec summit, the venue for the meetings was Subic, which was then just developing itself into a tourism venue. Indeed, the Ramos administration at that time even had special villas built to house the visiting dignitaries, justifying the expense by noting that the newly-built homes would be sold as weekend retreats for private business folk after the event.


Other countries have held the Apec events in isolated locales, far from their capitals, such as Bali in Indonesia last year.

This time around, couldn’t the venue have been another “rest and recreation” place far from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila? Sure, in terms of infrastructure and communications technology, some places, like Boracay or even Cebu, Palawan, or Davao, might still be wanting. But couldn’t the Apec event have been used as an “excuse” to fast-forward the development of the chosen venue? That’s water under the bridge now, true, but maybe the next time such an event of the same magnitude takes place, planners might want to give Metro Manila’s long-suffering commuters some relief and hold the big to-do out of town.

* * *

To him with much power comes much responsibility.

I don’t know if you would call what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau possesses as “power,” but in today’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram world, the young, good-looking and simpatico leader certainly wields influence, if not compelling loyalty and curiosity.

Which is why, given his progressive politics and his early first steps as prime minister, much is expected of him.

I agree completely with this paper’s editorial yesterday expressing the hope that Trudeau would respond positively to demands by environmentalists that Canada “take back the trash” shipped here in 50 container vans in 2013.

The literally “stinking” issue has somewhat soured relations between our two countries, with the refusal of then Prime Minister Stephen Harper to heed the call to do the responsible and reasonable thing.

True, the “trade” was carried out ostensibly as a private transaction between Canadian and Philippine firms, but the practice of shipping trash from the developed world to a developing country reeks of arrogance on the part of the source and rank greed on the part of the receiver.

Trudeau would make a lasting impression, and cement his “rock star” status not just among besotted Filipinos, but among all our people, if he would respond positively and take back Canada’s odious garbage.

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TAGS: Apec 2015, barong, Canada, garbage, Justin Trudeau, Paul Cabral, traffic
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