Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Nes Jardin’s proud moment in Dubai

Beyond the hit Philippine Pavilion and World Expo, the culture executive does a quick exploration of today’s favorite destination

Daluyong ng Diwa

The original one-hour performing arts production ‘Daluyong ng Diwa’ won acclaim in the World Expo. Nes Jardin sight-sees at Miracle Garden.

Here is one good news: The Philippine Pavilion in the 2020 World Expo in Dubai has been drawing recognition. The World Expo, which didn’t go full blast in 2020 because of the intermittent lockdowns in the pandemic, has drawn visitors this year. The Philippine Pavilion, mounted, designed and conceptualized by the Expo Philippines team headed by Trade Assistant Secretary Rosvi Gaetos, architect Royal Pineda of Budji+Royal Design Firm, leading arts multi-media curator and writer Marian Roces, was inspired by the bangkota, the traditional Filipino word for coral reef.

In this interview, culture consultant Nestor Jardin, the former president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, a pioneer of Ballet Philippines and ex-head of Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc., describes the significance of the coral reef bangkota design that resonated with thousands of World Expo visitors: “It is also an apt description of the Filipino people. Like the polyps that build the reefs, we have been scattered and spread by the tides of time, yet we continue to thrive….”

Jardin helped mount the show in the Pavilion last month. As Filipinos are beginning to travel again and might be curious about Dubai, Jardin gives an interview about the World Expo and his trip to Dubai last February, what he finds memorable about this destination.

What sent you to Dubai Expo?

I was hired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2019 as consultant to monitor, oversee and critique the various productions of the Philippines for the live performances in the Philippine Pavilion, National Day show, and pocket shows in Expo 2020 Dubai. Part of my contract was to visit the Expo during the Philippine Day last February 11 (2022).

Can you describe your event in the Philippine Pavilion?

We presented Daluyong ng Diwa (Tides of our Soul), a one-hour original performing arts production that traces the 4,000-year history of the Filipino people and complements the essence and design of the Philippine pavilion—the bangkota (ancient Filipino word for coral reef).

It was produced by Expo Philippines under (DTI) Assistant Secretary Rosvi Gaetos and put together by Silang Communications, Inc. headed by producer and artistic director Bart Guingona. The production, staged by Mark Dalacat with music and lyrics by Ejay Yatco, production design by Leeroy New, and choreography by JM Cabling, was presented at the Jubilee Park theater in the Expo grounds.

The show was attended by more than 3,000 people and got a standing ovation from the mostly Filipino crowd. Initially, we were afraid that a contemporary dance and music production might not be well received by the audience because most of the Expo shows were either traditional, pop or classical music. But I was glad that it was enthusiastically received and made Filipinos proud of their heritage and culture.

More than 3,000 people attended the Philippine gala presentation on February 11, 2022.

We also organized the Philippine Day ceremony and program at the Expo’s Al Wasl Plaza which was attended by United Arab Emirates and Philippine dignitaries and viewed by the public.

How was Philippine Pavilion?

The Philippine Pavilion, conceptualized and created by the team of Rosvi Gaetos, Royal Pineda and Marian Roces, is outstanding in terms of design and content. It is inspired by the bangkota or coral reefs that surround our island nation. It is also an apt description of the Filipino people. Like the polyps that build the reefs, we have been scattered and spread by the tides of time, yet we continue to thrive, connected in one spirit, held together by one soul.

I also like the fact that in the pavilion our story was presented through exceptional artworks and film by noted Filipino artists.

Soaring High by Charlie Co

What did you like about Dubai?

It was my first time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and I thoroughly enjoyed my 10-day visit. We were working in the first six days so I was cooped up in the Expo site. But I was able to see some pavilions during our break time. For me, this is by far the best Expo I’ve been to because of the architecture and contents of the pavilions.

Ceiling of UAE pavilion designed by Santiago Calatrava

I stayed an extra four days after our events to visit places of interest in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I was surprised to experience how culturally open Dubai is even with its Islamic tradition. It is a melting pot of deeply-rooted Middle Eastern culture and modern, almost futuristic ambitions manifested in its buildings, infrastructural wonders, and cosmopolitan way of life.

A city rising out of the dessert with grand, man-made, iconic landmarks is indeed awe-inspiring and enviable for its determination to make things possible—palm-shaped islands rising out of the sea, magnificent skyscrapers that pierce the clouds, modern hyperloop trains that are as efficient as one can hope for, and gardens that rival those in the tropics.

I visited several popular destinations in the city including the Miracle Garden, a picturesque and therefore, Instagramable flower garden publicized as the biggest of its kind in the world. It’s supposed to be home to 100 million flowers. And it looks like so.

The Miracle Garden

I also went to the Madinat Jumeirah, a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Arab village, complete with a souq (market), palm-fringed waterways and desert-colored hotels and villas with wind towers. It provides a good view of Burj Al Arab, believed to be the most expensive hotel in the world.

Thankfully, the old sections of the city have not disappeared and, in fact, have been enhanced. The Al Fahidi Historic District is a beautifully restored heritage site with quaint shops, craft stores, cafés, small museums, art galleries, and waterside restaurants.

I proceeded to the other side of the Dubai Creek to see the two products Dubai is known for—gold and spices. The Gold Souq has shop after shop of all types of gold that dazzles even from afar. The Spice Souq is an age-old, crowded, aromatic destination with tiny shops selling a wide variety of spices and teas.

Gold Souq

No one visits Dubai and misses the Dubai Mall—Dubai Fountain—Burj Khalifa Complex. Dubai is a shopping capital of the world and the best place to experience this is at the Dubai Mall, one of the biggest shopping complexes in the world with a humongous aquarium that is an attraction in itself. The Dubai Fountain, with a light show at 6pm, attracts thousands of tourists weary from day-long shopping.

The mall is also a good place to dine, with lots of restaurants that give you a good vantage point to take nice photos of the Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa. We specifically went for a quick lunch at Black Tap Burger, known for its craft burgers, and had the truffle burger made famous by YouTube. Unfortunately, because of lack time I wasn’t able to brave the long queue at Burj Khalifa to see Dubai from the 148th floor of the world’s tallest building.

At the Dubai Mall with Burj Khalifa in the background.

One of the highlights of my trip was the visit to the iconic Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. It’s an art museum located in the Saadiyat Island housed in a stunning building by noted French architect Jean Novel. With an area of 24,000sqm and exhibition space of 8,000sqm, it is the biggest museum in the Arabian peninsula. I spent four hours in the museum savoring the beautiful exhibitions of traditional and contemporary art from around the world before heading back to Dubai. One item on the bucket list crossed out.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a joint project between France and the United Arab Emirates.

No problem with travel protocols?

We had to prepare in advance to complete the numerous travel requirements and comply with the health protocols. As required by the PAL check-in counter we needed to present a valid passport, round-trip air ticket, e-visa to UAE, DOH VaxCert, duly accomplished UAE undertaking form, PAL passenger information form, One Health pass, travel insurance with Covid-19 coverage and a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours before departure.

Upon arrival in Dubai DXB airport, we had to take another PCR test before the immigration counter. But the nice thing is they have an efficient system and the test is free of charge.

Read more:

8 hours in Dubai: It still lives in my head

Ben Chan takes pause in Savannah

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