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The Selfie King, the Showstopping Dinner, and our Not-Silly Barong at ASEAN: Talk of the Town
Take a bow, Philippines.
IMAGE facebook.com/ kishmanila/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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As the Philippines wraps up the ASEAN Summit and prepares to turn over the chairmanship of ASEAN to Singapore this week, we sum up some of the lifestyle highlights of the gathering of 21 world leaders—from the venue to its gala dinner menu, as well as the selfie king who made it to world news.


The Venue

One of the most publicly anticipated events of the ASEAN Summit was the Gala Dinner. Traditionally, the venue is used to showcase the host country’s technological advancement or unique architecture, and this year was no exception. The Philippines pulled out all stops to feature the Filipinos’ craftsmanship and talent.

Malacañang tapped the talents of three of the country’s top designers to create an ambience with a warm Filipino Christmas theme.



Ito Kish designed various spaces including the welcoming lounge, spaces for photo-ops, the presidential dining table, and the backdrop for the family portrait of the world leaders and their spouses. Among the centerpieces at the venue were the gold basket chandeliers with solihiya patterns, which were made with the help of Bicol’s weavers.


Monino Duque directed the event’s entertainment. For the stage, Duque tapped stage designer Gino Gonzales, who produced a spectacular set on a limited budget. “I wanted the show to be almost completely devoid of Filipinana, and I didn’t want to see any of the forms such as ethnic patterns, the national flags,etc.” Duque said in an interview with GMA Network.


According to Gonzales, Duque’s “specific direction was to create something sculptural that’s visible from all sides, hovering from the ceiling. We didn’t have enough money for the initial idea. That was a blessing in disguise because I had to think hard for a substitute.” 

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The Gala Dinner Menu

Chef Jessie Sincioco was assigned the huge task of preparing dinner for the 21 world leaders, as well as for the 1,000 delegates who attended the Summit's Gala Dinner. Chef Jessie also made the menu for Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines in 2015.


The menu for this year’s for dinner started with ensaladang ubod and sinigang na maya-maya sa miso. For the main course, guests chose between bistek sushi and inihaw na apahap. Leche flan was served for dessert.

The Barong’s Simplicity and Elegance

Visiting world leaders are often made to wear the national costume of the ASEAN Summit’s host country, which has resulted in many awkward fashion moments because of ill-fitting garments or robes, hence the media's nickname of "silly shirts."

This year’s ASEAN Summit, however, proved yet again that the barong is a simple yet elegant piece that can make anyone look like royalty. The barongs worn by world leaders were designed by Randy Ortiz, Rajo Laurel, and Albert Andrada.

Embed from Getty Images

Compared to other national costumes, the barong is relatively subdued and familiar. Gino Gonzalez, a fashion historian, says of the barong: “It is an indigenized version of the Western shirt.”

Each barong was unique with a theme that featured a Filipino trait. Some of these themes included Magiliw, Marangal, Mapayapa, Magiting, Masigasig, Mapagkumbaba, and Magalang.

The ‘Selfie Savant’

The Washington Post labeled Bong Go, President Duterte’s special assistant, a “selfie savant” because of the number of selfies he took with everyone he met (and those he didn't meet) at the Summit. In many of the selfies, his round, expressionless face occupies a large area of the photo, while his photo companions look tiny in the background.

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His selfies have become so popular that Facebook created a page, “Photo by SAP Bong Go”. The page allows you tolabeledpose Go’s face in the foreground of your profile photo to make it appear as if he took a selfie with you. The effect is hilarious.

Since the Washington Post published the article, Go's face has become a meme, appearing in front of iconic photos and paintings.

The local media has long labelled Go the “National Photobomber” because of his habit of deliberately posing in news photos taken of the president, which have then published in newspapers and flashed on TV.

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