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Modern Living

France and the Philippines celebrate 75 years of friendship

Therese Jamora-Garceau - The Philippine Star

France and the Philippines are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations tomorrow, June 26.

When French Ambassador Michéle Boccoz talked to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. about how they would mark this milestone event, “We said to ourselves, that day we’re going to highlight our political relations, organize an exceptional economic event between stakeholders, illustrate our cultural relations by organizing an event that would highlight culture, highlight gastronomy, then another event to put Filipino and French singers in the spotlight,” Boccoz said. “Sports, of course, is a sector on which we absolutely have to focus on June 26 given the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the participation of Filipino athletes, the great success at the Tokyo games and basketball —just something that links us so much.”

Then they talked about cinema, fashion, painters, and exchanges between students and researchers. “We stressed the importance of giving the floor on the same day to culture, health, climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity… and after this passionate discussion, we looked at each other and said, hmm, how can we make all that happen on the 26th of June? Impossible! So we decided we had to take six months to celebrate our friendship from the 26th of June to the 31st of December.”

Hence, we have a six-month calendar of Franco-Filipino events, which started in March with the participation of French films in the Montañosa Film Festival in Baguio City.

Then in April, the exhibit “Macario Vitalis: Un Peintre Philippin en France (A Filipino Painter in France)” opened in Puteaux, a suburb near Paris, France — the result of a partnership between the Philippine Embassy in Paris and the municipality of Puteaux.

“Vitalis was born in the Philippines in 1898 and settled in France in 1925,” noted Rosario Lemque, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. “He was embraced by the local communities and the French artist groups both in Puteaux and Brittany.”

Philippine Ambassador to France Junever Mahilum-West said that 2022 promises to be a banner year in bilateral relations between France and the Philippines: “On June 23 we unveiled the bust of Jose Rizal at Place Jose Rizal in the ninth arrondissement.”

Liza Diño, chairperson and CEO of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, said that both countries share a love for cinema: “For France and the Philippines, cinema is like church.”

She listed several milestones: “Just last May, FDCP led its first biggest Filipino delegation since the pandemic at the Cannes International Film Festival and Marché du Film in Cannes, where we officially renewed the cooperation agreement to create stronger film policies, exchanges in education, training, development, and collaborating through co-production, exhibition and archiving.”

Plan 75, a film co-produced by Filipino independent producer Alemberg Ang and directed by Chie Hayakawa, won the Special Mention prize in the Camera d’Or section. And director Arvin Belarmino is the sole Pinoy at this year's Cannes Residency, where he won the CNC Best Pitch prize.

In the wake of these triumphs, “What do we want to do together in the next 75 years?” Boccoz asked. “We’re going to see the answer throughout the next six months. So let’s together open the new page of relations between our two countries for the next 75 years.”

“Up to the Sky,” a street-art exhibit at Vinyl on Vinyl, 2241 La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces Ave., Makati, featuring the works of French artist Ceet Fouad and Filipino artist Egg Fiasco, curated by Claire Thibaud of the Rose Art Studio Gallery.

Fouad and Fiasco also collaborated on painting a mural at Bonifacio High Street, BGC, to celebrate Franco-Philippine friendship.

June 21-28: “Tara, Allez!” the 26th edition of Fete de la Musique, with main stage at Puerto Real Gardens, Intramuros, Manila, with pocket stages in Makati, El Nido, Cebu City, Baguio City, and Siargao.

“We will feature Filipino musicians like Barbie Almalbis and Itchyworms, and French artists like singer Marc Fichel, DJ Blutch and dancer Maxime Cozic,” said Xavier Leroux, director of Alliance Française de Manille.

June 26: Inauguration of the France-Philippines Friendship Park at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP), and unveiling of a sculpture by Raphael David.

“LPPWP is a unique, emblematic place located only about 20 minutes from Makati,” said Hubert d’Aboville of the Together Ensemble Foundation. “The idea for development came from Senator Cynthia Villar. The Philippine-France Friendship Park reflects our fight for the protection of the environment. It’s part of a 180-hectare protected area, including 34 hectares of mangroves threatened by urban expansion projects.”

June 26 to Aug. 7: “Diamond in the Rough” is a Franco-Philippine art exhibition to be held at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Rizal.

“Early this year a very elegant lady came up to me wanting to get to know who owns Pinto Art Museum,” said owner Dr. Joven Cuanang. “Little did I know that I have a friend now, Ambassador Michéle Boccoz, who said, ‘Let’s have a partnership.’”

Thus, tomorrow Pinto will start showcasing a collection Sandra Palomar curated, spanning 75 years of painting, sculpture, design and other genres by Filipino and French artists, with works from no less than Paul Gauguin.

“Pinto means ‘door,’” Cuanang said. “It’s always an opening for the exchange of what we have in different countries.”

July 10: French conductor Michael Cousteau takes the baton to perform again with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines a concert featuring the works of the great French composers César Franck, Camille Saint-Saens and Claude Debussy.

July 15 to 17: “Bayan-Bayanan: Texts from Home” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines is a classic play adapted from the award-winning playwright Bienvenido Noriega Jr. and directed by internationally acclaimed Dr. Anton Juan.

“We are giving a homage to the spirit of the thousands of migrant workers who have fought heroically, fighting the loneliness of being away from their families, helping in the economic and social evolution and tapestry of other nations,” Juan said. “It is a timely piece because when the play was written, there may have been less than 5,000 Filipino migrant workers in Italy, less than 1,000 in France. Now there are more than 100,000 Filipino migrant workers in Italy, about 2,000 in France, 30,000 in Greece. With the current search of the European Union for an immigration regime that will be sustainable, inclusive, as well as just and cognizant of the needs for portals to assimilation, it is relevant to look at a small slice of the realities of Filipinos in diaspora.”

Aug. 5 to 14: French film director Frédéric Auburtin joins the jury of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Aug. 14: Mula sa Buwan at the Cultural Center of the Philippines is an original Filipino musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s French classic Cyrano de Bergerac set in 1940s Manila among young ROTC cadets, using harana and kundiman music.

Aug. 31: Basketball exhibition game with members of the Lyon- Villeurbanne basketball team flying to the Philippines to participate, organized in partnership with the Philippine Basketball Association.

“In the Philippines, if cinema is church, basketball is a religion,” laughed Ever Bilena CEO Dioceldo Sy, who owns the PBA team Blackwater Elite and is one of the event’s sponsors.

Sept. 2 and 4: More basketball exhibition games with the Lyon- Villeurbanne basketball team.

TBC: Since the Alliance Française de Manille launched it in 2010, the Philippine Artist Residency Program (PARP) has sent seven Filipino artists to France and French artists to the Philippines.

This year, PARP will bring in French artist Louis Guillaume for a residency in the Philippines, while Filipino artist Issay Rodriguez will go to La Rochelle, France.

Sept. 20: Wordello, a night of poetry reading and awarding of winners of a poetry-video competition.

Sept. 30: “The ASEAN and French-Speaking World: Future Perspectives” at the Alliance Française de Manille

Oct. 5: A roundtable discussion at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, Manila, on diplomatic relations between France and the Philippines with Ambassador Boccoz and former Philippine ambassador to France and Brussels Cristina Ortega

Oct. 13: An exhibition dedicated to Marcel Proust

Oct. 15: An exhibit featuring the works of the 2022 participants of PARP Oct. 19: Animated Film Month at the Alliance Française de Manille, a month-long screening of French animated films and talks with Filipino directors

Oct. 20 to 30: The French and Filipino Film Festival

Oct. 21 to 29: Gout de France, the yearly celebration of French gastronomy and culinary tradition returns to the Philippines with three-Michelin-star French chef Alain Passard, who will offer master classes.

Oct. 22: A French-Filipino gala dinner — a fashion, culinary arts and wine event featuring chef Passard and special awards for alumni.

Oct. 24 to 25: French Philippine Joint Economic Committee

TBC: Documentary Film Month at the Alliance Française de Manille, a month-long screening of documentary films and talks with Filipino directors

“Novembre Numerique,” an exhibit on “escapes and journeys to the heart of digital cultures”

Nov. 15 to Dec. 2: An exhibit featuring French artist Patrick Deballon at the Alliance Française de Manille

Nov. 24: Street-art exhibit where four Filipino artists and four French artists will paint a mural in Manila and Cebu.

Nov. 26: QCinema, a selection of French films will be featured at the Quezon City Film Festival.

Nov. 29: The “Happy Together” photo exhibit at the Alliance Française de Manille, “a portrait exhibition of 75 personalities who embody the joy brought by French-Philippine relations,” according to Leroux.

There will also be a workshop and show by French NGO Clowns Sans Frontieres (Clowns Without Borders) for underprivileged children.

TBC: A French Christmas market and Light Festival at the Ayala Triangle Gardens

Dec. 3: A French-Filipino Christmas television show with eight French and eight Filipino singers performing live on television

Dec. 4 to 8: A children’s choir concert featuring the Petits Chanteurs a la Crois de Bois of France and the Loboc Children’s Choir

Dec. 15 to Jan. 2, 2023: An exhibit at the Alliance Française de Manille gallery featuring the PARA collective.

* * *

Follow the author on IG @theresejamoragarceau.

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