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A Garden Grows at the ASEAN Gala Dinner

In photos: Lush greenery and meaningful details serve as a dramatic backdrop for this extraordinary event

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Photography: Ito Kish

You may have already read about last Sunday’s Gala Dinner, which celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the ASEAN, and watched all the unforgettable scenes, such as US President Donald Trump emerging in a barong Tagalog, and President Rodrigo Duterte singing a duet with Pilita Corales.

But there was another showstopper last November 12 and that was the production design of the welcoming area, which was conceptualized by designer and visual storyteller Ito Kish. At the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, heads of state were ushered through a modern lounge and were welcomed at a mesh bahay na bato by President Duterte and partner Honeylet Avancena. They were then led to a lush Garden and parol-studded backdrop for the leaders’ “family photo.”


Past, present, and future

According to Kish, planning started as far back as June 2017. The venue was divided into three areas to symbolize the past, present, and future of the ASEAN nations.


The Past was represented by a towering but translucent bahay na bato printed on mesh and stretched across a 12’ x 8’ structure made out of metal tubing (above). The mesh fabric allowed one to see all the way to the back of the setting to the Future: the parol-studded wall.


The stunning Garden

In our opinion, the most impressive vignette in the welcoming area was the Garden. In this area, 20 Talisay trees sprout up from tufts of live palms, bromeliads, hanging moss, and ferns, among other plants. In the midst of this, a solitary settee emerges. The trees and large plants were re-planted afterwards.


Hanging above the garden were woven baskets handcrafted in Bicol, a region known for its weaving. The same baskets also hung above the main dining area that was set for 1,500 guests. 


According to the post on Ito Kish’s Facebook page, “The Garden was a concept to represent the present time and importance of protection of environment for our survival…a pressing matter that we all need to address.” He mentions how the baskets symbolize how ASEAN nations are woven together.


At the ASEAN leaders’ Summit last April 29 2017, Kish designed the lounge and reception areas for the leaders at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, while the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Eric Cruz designed the public entrances and main ballroom for the dinner.

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All photos in this story are courtesy of Ito Kish.

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