Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fete De Minyong

Saturday evening I went to the retirement party for Mr. Herminio “Minyong” Ordoñez. He was the CEO of Publicis Manila, and before that the chairman and CEO of Basic Advertising prior to its merger with Jimenez to form Jimenez/Basic. He’s one of the pillars of Philippine advertising, the grand old man who helped Jollibee trounce McDonald’s and made “Lalaking Disente” for Three Flowers Pomade. I believe he was also responsible for the “Chickletin Mo Baby!” and the “Kilig Sa Lamig!” of Zesto.

The party was held at Father Blanco’s Garden behind San Agustin church in Intramuros. I got trapped for three-and-a-half hours along España all the way to Quiapo because there was an event in Plaza Miranda. I got there past eight in the evening; the program had started already.

The whole party was a fusion fete, a tribute to Minyong’s First World exposure and sophistication mixed with his down-to-earth and pedestrian, even barriotic, sensibilities born out of his growing up in Majayjay, Laguna. Thus guests dined on street food (from fish balls to hotdogs-on-sticks) downed with wine. There was also the ubiquitous lechon, because every Basic event always had roasted pig. I particularly liked the pan de sal with white cheese and pesto palaman. And since Jollibee wouldn’t be Jollibee without Minyong, they sent styro boxes and boxes of palabok. Even the Jollibee mascot had a dance number for Minyong and his guests, composed of bigwigs from Philippine advertising and from clients both local and international (Nestle is a huge account of Publicis). Now that’s so Minyong.

I had so much fun seeing old faces from Basic. In my working years I’ve stayed with Basic the longest, around seven years. Former officemates were now CEOs and presidents, others already on client side, others on suppliers’ side. Some were hotshot commercial directors while others were already assigned abroad. Funny, Basic Advertising people are all over the industry—we’re like the exported Pinoy housemaids, infiltrating different households in so many countries. There were many more who didn’t make it that night; it was quite difficult to track down all the ex-Basic employees.

Embarrassing moment for me: I was with some former officemates around a table when I stood up to get more lechon. When I went back a woman had taken my place at the table, happily muching on her food. I wondered to myself, “Who’s this woman, and why is she at my place?” I took my drink, which I had left on the table and moved elsewhere. As I was going away, I heard my former creative director Tere (now a farmer and a teacher) call out, “Mon! Mon! They’re calling you onstage.” The guy beside the woman turned and I recognized him as Mon Jimenez. Suddenly I realized the woman who took my place was his wife Abby! Ngyek. No wonder she looked familiar.

It was nice seeing all the old faces once again. As we remembered names and events of Basic past, it felt like we were back in Basic during the late 80s and early 90s. The Lawak-Utaks. The yearly out-of-town Corplans. The punchlines. The brownouts. The people. Always it’s the people. Basic was one big family, and while the late Antonio R. Mercado was the father, Minyong was the wise uncle who kept every one’s feet on the ground.

I had to meet someone in Makati so I left early. Walking down the old streets of Intramurous was like walking back into the past. But as I drove away, the streets transformed from cobblestones to asphalt to cement, and the buildings became cold steel-and-glass.

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