I attended this year’s Vin D’Honneur last June 12, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Vin d’honneur literally means “wine of honor.” It usually takes place in Malacanang Palace as a New Year’s or Independence Day reception when the President and First Lady hold an “open house” for government officials, the diplomatic corps, business and social circles to mingle informally.
The highlight is a toast exchanged between the President and the Papal Nuncio who is considered the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, following the rule of seniority in Catholic countries. (In other countries, the most senior diplomat is the ambassador who has served the country longest).
I like the way Bongbong Marcos and Liza Araneta-Marcos tweaked this year’s Independence Day celebration. It was not only a bonding event between the government, the business community and the international circle of ambassadors in a relaxed manner. It also served as a showcase of our country’s cultural heritage.
What the First Lady did was assign our local designers to create Philippine outfits for women ambassadors. The ladies were honored and delighted, of course. In between sips of wine and bites of Philippine food by Gaita Fores, the diplomats and guests scrutinized the details of the ternos.
What I noticed is that while past administrations usually stuck only to their favorite designers, this time, the choices were democratic, perhaps a good attempt to unify all colors of the political spectrum.
I asked Patrick Rosas, one of the many creatives helping Liza with cultural events, how it happened. Patrick said Liza expressed the desire to meet with all fashion designers, and include both rising and established ones. She also wished for more events to highlight the beauty of our fabrics and crafts from all Philippine regions. This effort actually began early this year with Likha (now on its second edition), and the Goldenberg Series which recently started in an historic house.
The Vin d’honneur tradition began in the American colonial years from George Washington’s time. It was picked up by the governors-general during the American colonial era in the Philippines.
Some history trivia: During the time of Manuel Roxas and Manuel Quezon, the “open house” was held on New Year’s Day, as it happened to be near the feast day of people named Manuel.
After the EDSA Revolution, the New Year’s tradition became known as vin d’honneur (President Cory Aquino was French-speaking, after all).
And so, last June 12, we joined the toast: President BBM hoping we can be inspired by the courage of our heroes, and Papal Nuncio Charles John Brown wishing for peace, prosperity, and happiness in our country.
And may we add: Hoping we can have more inclusive, unifying events such as this.