Perks and benefits

/ 12:11 AM November 23, 2015

THERE IS no doubt that the Aquino administration did everything in its power to ensure that the Philippines’ hosting of the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit would be glitch-free.

But outside of the high-profile gathering, social media seethed over the cancelled work and classes as well as domestic and international flights, and the closure of certain roads and rerouting around the Apec venues. Accounts of commuters stranded or walking for hours to reach their destinations, of airline passengers missing their travel commitments, and of ordinary citizens trapped in gridlock are now the stuff of legend.


It was truly unfortunate that Filipinos, especially those in Metro Manila, had to endure such troubles. But there is another side of the Apec event to consider—the stories of those who did the country proud and those who benefited from the conduct of the meetings.

The event’s creative director, internationally known designer Kenneth Cobonpue, transformed the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City into an “indoor garden” with fairway-like carpets, a mockup of the rice terraces, huge anahaw-leaf-inspired lamps and chairs resembling big blades of grass. All the suppliers and contractors that Cobonpue tapped for the venue arrangement were surely happy to be part of the Apec event.


Then there is the impressive entertainment for Apec night, top-billed by acclaimed Filipino artists Cecile Licad, Apl.de.ap (of The Black Eyed Peas), Arnel Pineda (of Journey), Charice and Jessica Sanchez, as well as the Philippine Madrigal Singers, the shadow-play group El Gamma Penumbra, and the Ramon Obusan folkloric troupe. Co-directors Paolo Valenciano and Louie Ocampo should take a bow for the show that combined pop, classical and cultural performances, and that was made possible by the cast of performers and production staff described as bigger than the actual number of guests who attended the reception.

Photographs of the heads of state dressed elegantly in the Philippine barong hogged the newspapers and social media. The barong were designed by Paul Cabral, who counts among his clients President Aquino and many other politicians and show biz celebrities. Only too happy to be part of the Apec event are Cabral’s cutters, pattern-makers, dressmakers and suppliers of the piña fabric from Aklan and Lumban, Laguna.

The welcome dinner for the Apec leaders was no less than a feast of Filipino flavors for the guests. The menu was prepared by Via Mare restaurant founder Glenda Barretto and celebrated chef and restaurateur Margarita Fores. The hundreds of restaurant and kitchen staff who attended to the needs of the heads of state and other guests at the dinner truly benefited from the event.

There are many others who gained from the Philippines’ hosting of the Apec meetings. The hotel industry was one. All hotels, big and small, were fully booked for most of last week. Some 8,000 Apec delegates from the government and the private sectors were billeted in practically all the hotels in Makati, Pasay and Manila (or the vicinity of the main Apec venue at the Philippine International Convention Center and the Mall of Asia) and in as far as Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong. Even hotels in Baguio City were booked for the week as many Metro Manila residents took advantage of the long holiday.

Car lovers are now awaiting the auction of the vehicles used during the Apec meetings. Topping the list are luxury BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars from local distributors Asian Carmakers Corp. and Auto Nation Group. Japanese auto makers are also in on this, with Toyota Motors Philippines providing about 300 Camrys, Corollas, Fortuners and Grandia staff vans, and Nissan Philippines also providing more than 300 units of its Altima, Sylphy and Almera sedans and Urvan vans. All told, the second-hand market will see almost 1,000 “slightly used” vehicles coming in soon.

There was great inconvenience suffered by certain portions of the Metro Manila populace as a result of the government’s strict measures to ensure the safety of the Apec leaders and delegates. But apart from the logistical trauma, there was a positive side that showcased Filipino talent and hospitality to the Who’s Who in the Asia-Pacific. There’s reason to wait for the fruits of this grand production.

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