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13/05/2012: Philippines Featured at Memphis in May Festival

The Philippines was this year’s featured country at the 2012 Memphis in May International Festival.  The month-long event served as an invaluable opportunity for Philippine Embassy officials to showcase to the American Mid-South the Philippines’ rich culture, promote the country’s tourism, encourage increased trade and investment activity, develop relations with local officials, and meet with the local Filipino American community.

A number of exhibits were organized in local museums, galleries and public spaces, including the following:

  • “Revolution Revisited” – photo exhibit on the “People Power” revolution;
  • “The Corregidor Island Story” – artifacts that show the important role played by the island during World War II;
  • “Floating Warps and Guiding Heddles” – display of rare and fragile textile weavings from Museo Ilocos Norte;
  • “Flora de Filipinas” - fine prints of Philippine botany;
  • “Art of the Philippines” – select paintings from the Philippine Center in New York;
  • “Living Landscapes and Cultural Landmarks of the Philippines” – photography exhibit of heritage sites in the Philippines.

Award-winning contemporary films from the Philippines – Emir and Halaw – were shown at the Brooks Museum and MALCO Studio on the Square, respectively.  Philippine rock band Sponge Cola performed at the Beale Street Music Festival, in front of a crowd estimated at 80,000.  And, the Worldwide Family of Modern Arnis and Bayanihan National Dance Company staged memorable performances at the packed Orpheum Theater.  Two special shows were also made by the Bayanihan for some 4,000 local schoolchildren of Memphis in elementary and high school free-of-charge.  Moreover, 12 students from Cebu City National Science High School were the beneficiaries of grants that allowed them to stay with selected host families in Memphis, attend classes at a local high school, visit the city’s famous monuments and landmarks, and experience the culture of Tennessee first-hand.

Experiencing Philippine culture would not be complete without sampling its cuisine.  Kapampangan Chef Claude Tayag prepared a special menu at the Chez Philippe restaurant of the city’s historic Peabody Hotel.  And, the famous Cebu lechon, courtesy of Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, competed in the World Championship Barbecue Contest.

Ambassador Cuisia had the chance to call on Memphis City Mayor AC Wharton to discuss partnership possibilities on business, education, and tourism, among other areas.  He also met with Representative Steve Cohen, who represents Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, whose jurisdiction is home to thousands of Filipino Americans.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez also made an appearance in Memphis to talk about the country's new campaign, "It's More Fun in the Philippines."  His activities included a television interview with CBS’ local affiliate and a speaking engagement at a luncheon hosted by the Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at the Peabody Hotel, which included Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker among the guests.

On the business front, prominent personalities from the Philippine private sector spoke before the state’s leading businessmen in various fora, including the following:

  • Architect Augusto Villalon – Architects of the World luncheon on May 8;
  • PHL NCC Co-Chair Guillermo Luz – Memphis Rotary Club on May 8 and Greater Memphis Chamber on May 10;
  • Mr. Aurelio Montinola III – Economic Club of Memphis on May 9; and,
  • Dr. Jamie Montoya - Memphis Bioworks Business Association on May 18.

The Ambassador also met with corporate executives of FedEx and Medtronic, where he invited them to expand their operations in the Philippines.  He also spoke at the International Business Council luncheon, where he presented the challenges and opportunities in the Philippines-U.S. trade and investment partnership and cited the advancements that have been made in the Philippine economy under the Aquino administration.

The launch of the Pili nut, as a gourmet product, for the U.S. market took place during the Festival. Samples were distributed in various events, including the international gala.

Ambassador Cuisia had two occasions to meet with members of the Filipino American community.  On May 9, a townhall meeting was organized by the local association FILAMemphis at the Dixon Gallery Gallery and Gardens, where Filipino Americans from the states of Tennessee and neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi were present.  On May 11, he also met with representatives of second and third generation Filipino Americans, where he was joined by Consuls General Marciano Paynor and Leo Herrera-Lim.

The Festival served as a terrific opportunity for the people of Tennessee and nearby states to understand and appreciate the Philippines and Filipino Americans and hopefully serve as a catalyst for increased cultural exchanges and economic activity.