Avanceña leads National Museum tour for Asean leaders’ wives
They posed for cameras in front of the Juan Luna masterpiece “Spoliarium” and lunched on beef tenderloin and ube sans rival while being serenaded by folk musicians playing bamboo instruments.
The wives of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders were treated on Saturday to a tour of the National Museum by Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña, who took on her second diplomatic role since her common-law husband became President.
The two-hour Spouses Program marked the official debut of the 47-year-old former nurse on the international stage, a sign of her growing confidence in representing President Rodrigo Duterte, her partner of 20 years.
“She’s very comfortable in leading the group around,” National Museum Director Jeremy Barns said of Avanceña. “She’s very conversant in art history of the Philippines. She knows that we have the best art, truly.”
The program was attended by the spouses of only four of 10 Asean heads: Iriana Widodo, wife of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo; Naly Sisoulith, wife of Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith; Naraporn Chan-o-cha, wife of Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; and Tran Nguyet Thu, wife of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, was supposed to join the group, but she was not with them when the tour started at a little before noon.
Journalists were allowed to shoot the first 10 minutes of the visit. But moments later they were whisked away from the venue, which was under heavy guard by members of the Presidential Security Group and bomb-sniffing dogs.
Avanceña, who wore a simple black dress under a green blazer, the same outfit she wore at the opening of the 30th Asean Summit, strode into the museum at about 11:40 a.m., smiling, as she greeted her counterparts for the photo-op.
Posing in front of the “Spoliarium,” they were given a brief lecture on its history and meaning by Barns, the Filipino-Australian director of the decades-old museum.
Speaking to reporters, he said he was there to give his full assistance to Avanceña.
“We’re here to support Ma’am Honeylet. We’ll follow her lead as the host of the event,” Barns said.
Asked why Avanceña chose to bring the Asean spouses to the National Museum, Barns said it was because the museum showcased “all the best and widest diversity of Filipino expression through all kinds of art: so paintings, sculptures, drawings.”
“There’s a lot of expression there through the decades and centuries. And by doing so, we try to give people insights into the way Filipinos translate our lives and the world around us,” Barns said.
After a tour of the artworks, the spouses were given a demonstration of the weaving of native fabrics from South Cotabato and Palawan, according to the organizers.
Also in attendance were the spouses of ministers and ambassadors.
Then they had a luncheon at the old Senate Hall on the third floor.
According to a menu provided by the organizers, they ate pistachio-coated goat’s cheese, duck confit crepe, slow-roasted Angus beef tenderloin with a sweet soy glaze, mango-basil sorbet, and ube sans rival and brazo de mercedes.
Their entertainers included the Pangkat Kawayan, or the Singing Bamboos of the Philippines, which performed tunes using bamboo instruments, and the Kalilayan Folkloric Group, which performed “Polkabal” and Mantones de Seda” folk dances.
This was the second time Avanceña was asked to entertain visiting guests. In January, she hosted Akie Abe, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, when the latter paid a visit to Mintal Cemetery in Davao City. /atm
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