I welcome any excuse to get away from the computer for a while and so it was a blessing when me and the bosses attended the Manila Overseas Press Club Gala Night in the august halls of Malacanang last Wednesday. What transpired during this event made it on the news the next day but still, it’s worthwhile to go for the chance to see the much-maligned President up close, hobnob with the so-called “power personalities” and then witness the absolute look of boredom on everyone’s face because dinner has not been served at 9 p.m.
To begin with, it’s hard going to the Palace because of the very tight security in place. You have to be on their official guest list and then all your things have to be scanned in a machine, like in the airport. My digicam didn’t make it because it didn’t have the “proper clearance” and so it was left with the guard at the entrance.
The invitation said “formal” but I certainly knew better than show up garbed in my shimmering backless gown like what I did on one occasion. In the Philippines when you say “formal,” it simply means you don’t show up in shorts, denims and slippers. And so I noticed that most of the ladies wore black dresses a little over or below the knee while the men had their barongs or coats on. I was simply content to be in my light blue corporate suit.
It turned out the program would begin with cocktails which meant standing up for close to two hours while engaging in empty, let’s-get-done-with -this conversations with people. As expected, I took out my boredom on the appetizers peddled around by the immaculately-clad waiters from Cibo. I must have had a dozen bites of the squid ink risotto meatballs (because it tasted so good!) and the banana leaf canapes.
Yes, I gorged on the hors d’ouevres because somebody whispered there was no dinner. It turned out there was! After admiring the portraits of Philippine presidents on the walls, we were ushered in to the main ballroom of the Heroes Hall where round tables were arranged by numbers.
The President’s speech dealt with her NewYear’s Report to the nation. What made it to the front pages, however, was her statement expressing confidence that she would finish her term in 2010 amid fresh rumors of another People Power revolt, or worse, being replaced by her VP, Noli de Castro.
After a few more roundabout questions by the media panelists, dinner was ready to be served. Considering the hunger pangs felt by some people that night, a buffet would have been fitting. Instead, there were the Cibo waiters again serving tongue-twisting fancy dishes which made us suddenly wish for a Wendy’s hamburger. The appetizer was the millefoglie of US angus beef adobo while the main course was the seabass and prawns sorpresa which was covered in a paper box. The seabass was heavenly but the prawns were more like “shrimps” in a bed of baby potatoes and winged beans (aka sigarilyas). I liked the dessert best, the Baguio strawberry-plantain crespelle…or rather strawberry and banana crepes with marsala zabaglione which melted in my mouth and made me forget my diet (kuno).
It seemed that as soon as the last course was served, everyone stood up to go home. I didn’t even get the chance to drink my coffee. But it was indeed memorable considering that it was my first time to eat dinner in Malacanang. I savored everything, including using the toilet with its posh fixtures. And going out into the Malacanang garden while waiting for our ride home, my friend & I commented how beautiful it was with the Roman fountain and the beautiful pinlights adorning the Spanish-style buildings. Not only did it exude the aura of an impenetrable fortress, it also seemed like we were in another world.