More than two centuries ago, thousands of revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison where political prisoners were held during the monarchy of Louis XVI. It led to the French Revolution and the creation of French republic. It is now known as quatorze juillet
, or the fourteenth of July, and has been celebrated ever since.
Like last night, when hundreds of French people living and visiting the Philippines, as well as very important Filipino people, gathered at Sofitel Plaza amidst L'oreal booths, some paintings and French-hatted waiters and mingled with wine, cheese and excellent bread.
Maxime and I have this unwritten arrangement every time we go to a party as a couple: we cannot be together all the time, unless we're in a group. We enter together, talk a little and survey the venue for a while, and then go around and talk to friends. Bastille Day was no different, and that's why while I was dressing up, he noticed that I was a little nervous and kept asking questions about the party.Is it formal? Will there be some Filipinos there too? Do you like my lipstick? Are you going to see your friends there?
He concluded that I was so stressed about the party, and I was. It was my first time to go to Bastille Day, which is more of a French reunion. I felt like an outsider.
As it turns out, I was scared for nothing. Upon entering, we saw Patrice, one of Maxime's cigar-smoking buddies and a really smart man, and we talked for a while with Stephen, who's working here on a new L'oreal perfume. The French ambassador took the stage and delivered a speech which nobody in my perimeter could understand. I thought it was in French at first, and then I realized it was in English, and I whispered to Maxime about it and he said he didn't even know what language it was.
Then, an undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made a speech too, which was more understandable, and both the Philippine and French anthems were sung. (You begin to notice the cultural differences here because I heard some singing during the Phiippine anthem but nobody sang with the soloist in the French one.)
I saw my friend Martin from L'oreal Philippines in a full suit, and was relieved to see someone I know, although all of my French friends stuck together that night. But it's still a relief to see somebody I know who looks like me.
After, there was fireworks, which we ignored, because they opened the cocktail buffet. I wanted to get to dessert really fast that I ignored the cheese and bread deliberately and went straight to the dessert table. It was amazing! There were some hand-rolled chocolate balls displayed on hand-shaped milk chocolate. This was the most memorable taste of the night.
I walked around and saw Mon Casiple, an electoral reform expert in the Philippines, whom I worked with in my stint in political research. I was touched he remembered me, and told me that Eta Rosales, former Akbayan chairperson, Risa Hontiveros, ex-Senatoriable and party-list representative, and Tony Villasor of COMELEC were there. I was ecstatic. So many famous political personalities! The political science major in me jumped in excitement.
Most exciting part was meeting Pierrick, one of my friends who studied in Ateneo two years ago but left prematurely because of a broken leg after a soccer game. He's here in the Philippines with his girlfriend Jeanne and cousin Mathieu, who is unbelievably funny! We instantly clicked when I learned he knows how to speak English, haha! Baptiste (pronounced Ba-tist
) was also there--he was in the Philippines around two years ago too, then went back to France to finish his studies, got in a student exchange program in Taiwan, and is now back here to work in Makati for a Filipino-German company. These people share my love for my country, and this is why I like them so much.
We ended the night before 10pm--Pierrick, Jeanne and Mathieu has a flight to Bohol the next day, Maxime and Baptiste have work, and my heels were killing me. It might be my last time to see Pierrick and friends while they're here in the Philippines--I didn't even recognize Pierrick the first time I saw him!--but hopefully I can see them off on their last night here.
Waiters clad in typical French costume, which my friends vehemently deny--"that was true 50 years ago!" I said that's how foreigners think of the French: riding on a bike with a beret on his head and a baguette tucked under his arm.
This was just a display where they put some chocolate fudge brownies (see lower right, with the white chocolate triangles).
Tarts and chocolate! (and Martin's hand because he couldn't wait until I finish taking the picture)
Hand-rolled chocolate on (gasp!) mutilated chocolate hands!
Red, white and blue--the colors of the French flag
Outside the Sofitel and overlooking the bay
L-R: Baptiste, Baptiste's friend, Maxime, Pierrick, Jeanne and Mathieu (I'm behind the camera)