Luchie Mendoza Allen Paul Mendoza Allen Ruby Sexon Con Gen Mary Jo Aragon Hosts Vin d’ Honneur to celebrate 114th Philippine Independence Day
Con Gen Mary Jo Aragon Hosts Vin d’ Honneur to celebrate 114thPhilippine Independence Day► Words and photography by Rene VillaromanLOS ANGELES – The Oxford Dictionary defines Vin d’ Honneur as a reception with wine andsnacks. Other less formal definition states “wine formally offered in honor of a special guest.” InFrance, the literal definition of Vin d’ Honneur is “wine of honor.” The reception held at thePhilippine Consulate General on June 12 is a vin d’ honneur, only it was not stated in theinvitations as they had done in past Philippine Independence Day celebrations.The last two Philippine Consulate-hosted Independence Day celebrations this writer hadattended were held in a Little Tokyo hotel and an elegant event center in Alhambra, and thislast one, apart from having been less known to the media – we had to call the Consulate mediaofficer to request coverage – was held at the Rizal Hall of the Consulate General in mid-Wilshire. We surmised it must have been due to the belt-tightening measures going on in thePNoy administration.
This reception was not as magnificent and colorful as past vin d’ honneurs, given that thecelebration was radically scaled down, compared to celebrations in the past, most of themheld at hotels and event centers. We missed the colorful native folk dances, the zarzuelas, andthe native costumes. But, viewed under the prevailing economic condition in the old country, itdid not take a lot of imagination to understand why this vin d’ honneur, tendered also asa symbolic despedida party for the outgoing Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon whose posting ends thismonth, wasaustere.There’s no reason to complain about the array of snacks and finger food served by an excellentFilipino caterer, whose attentive assistants are always at the ready to offer guests with deliciousskewed grilled shrimps or slices of sinfully tasty pastries and other desserts. The native songsand music, performed by a coterie of local Pinoy musicians and singers, from actor-singer GeloFrancisco to amateur balladeer and newsman Romy Borje, were nothing new and failed tooverpower the cacophony of a hundred odd guests conversing at the same time, onlyoccasionally semi-conscious of the performances going on. Andy Tecson’s and RhonyLaigo’s kundiman duet was a nonevent, made even less engaging due to the long time it tookthem to synchronize their instruments and to mix the sound system to its optimum level ofsonority.When it was time for the Con Gen to deliver the speech, everyone was already sufficientlysatiated by the food and mildly inebriated by the ample supply of champagne and other winesand spirits from the open bar. It was not every day that a struggling member of the communitypress could saunter to the bar, and without concern for how much money he had in hiswallet ask the bartender, “Could I have a glass of champagne, please?”The Con Gen, resplendent in a yellow terno, is the celebrant and host at the same time. Earlier,she had stood near the entrance to Rizal Hall with her affable and ever-smiling Deputy Consul,Daniel “Dan” Espiritu, welcoming members of the diplomatic corps of other countries and Fil-Am guests and city officials. It is hard to fathom whether she is feeling exuberant because herposting in L.A. is going to end this month, or she is happy because she will be home in Manila toawait her next posting. Being a seasoned diplomat, Con Gen Aragon encapsulates the qualitieswhich define her position. Always gracious and welcoming.There was really nothing new to report, the vin d’ honneur having come on the heels ofPresident Benigno Aquino III’s visit the week prior. The diplomat retold the glowing, PR-orientedeconomic report and on-going programs under the aegis of P-Noy’s administration. Themembers of the media that covered the President’s brief stopover in Los Angeles know the deal.But it was essential for Mrs. Aragon to make that report for the diplomats in attendance, as wellas other members of the Fil-Am community who did not attend the reception for P-Noy at theLAX Hilton. It was also the ConGen’s practice to update everyone about the outreachservices of the Consulate and the latest legislations in the Philippines and in theUS Congress that affect Fil-Ams in her jurisdiction.As is the usual custom, there were numerous photo opportunities with the Mrs Aragon and otherlocal Fil-Am officials who greeted and gave the ConGen glowing citations – from Walnut,represented by Mayor Tony Cartegena to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, represented by City Hall’s
chief of protocol, and Mayor Jim Dear of Carson, as well as some members of the diplomaticcorps of other countries.This reception could be the last social event with the Con Gen’s signature. For now, we can onlyspeculate who will take over the post of the largest Philippine consular jurisdiction in the UnitedStates.