I arrived early as requested in the invite and my car underwent very strict security check (I think the most strict that I've have ever seen in my life so far). I was dropped off right at the front door where it was filled with security personnel and ushers ready to assist you. Not knowing where to go next, I just followed the long line which they called the receiving line. In my mind, I thought this would lead to a registration table where I will be meeting J, my fellow blogger who invited me to this very exclusive celebration.
Little did I know, as we inch our way closer to the ballroom, I would reach the welcome committee headed by no other than Ambassador Harry Thomas himself. He was a very nice man that I was initially speechless and all I uttered out was "hi, I'm Fran, thank you for inviting me."
Inside the ballroom, people were busy mingling as it seems like they've known each other for quite some time. I tried to look for a familiar face but failed on my first attempt which lasted for a good five minutes. It's a good thing, the friendly usher led me towards the garden area where we can get refreshments and food while waiting for the ceremony to start.
At this point, I was successful to spot a familiar face in the crowd -- it was a former Starbucks partner who was busy serving Starbucks Coffee to the distinguished guests. Aside from Starbucks, there were also booths from Dunkin Donuts, TGI Friday's, Dairy Queen, Burger King and Hyatt Hotel who prepared a delicious roast beef sandwich.
As I've had my first plate filled, I happily found J and was introduced to his colleagues as well. It was amazing, around me were foreign dignitaries and local government officials happily enjoying the food while chatting with one another. This was truly the essence of celebrating the friendship of the Philippines and the United States were everyone come as one and enjoy good food on a windy Friday afternoon.
I hopped over to the other side of the tent and saw that Chef Jessie Sincioco had prepared an All-American buffet spread. When I think of the 4th of July, what comes to mind are plates of ribs, buttered corn and stacks of burgers. Chef Jessie had prepared a feast! From Mini Corn Dogs, Grilled Corn, Veggie Sticks, Chicken Fingers and a lot more! How I wish though that Chef had prepared some juicy ribs too! It would have been a fun grillfest that evening!
Shortly after, we were told to head to the ballroom for the ceremony. I was lucky to get a good spot where I had a nice view of the stage and the red carpet. I watched as Ambassador Harry Thomas entered the ballroom together with Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario. We sang the Lupang Hinirang which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner.
I loved the speech given by Ambassador Harry K. Thomas where he talked about what it means to be American and to be a friend to the Philippines.
We are powered by our relationships—by our friendship with great nations like the Philippines, with whom we share historic ties and strong bonds of friendship and family. We are driven by our commitment to liberty and our knowledge that our friends are entitled to our protection and our loyalty when they are in peril. We are powered by our devotion to peace, and our drive to find solutions, not divisions.While the ceremony was short, it gave me that pride of being a Filipino who continues to have great ties with the United States. Our countries have been close allies for decades and we have seen the great influences that the Americans have imparted in terms of our education, sports and culture in general. For that, we are truly grateful.
This is what it means to be American. And this is what it means to be a friend to the Philippines.
While chatting with some of the members of the Embassy, I got to reminisce about my short trip to the US early this year and I promise that I shall return to explore their beautiful country once more.
The celebration continued and this time I was joined by fellow bloggers Noemi and Marcelle wherein we continued to revisit the buffet spread once more and I was lucky to have a photo op with Chef Jessie herself. Hooray! Talk about being chef-strucked.
Needless to say, the celebration ended with a bang as we watched a colorful display of fireworks that lit up the dark sky along Roxas Boulevard that night.