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Only the best: Paolo Valenciano on capturing the Filipino experience

Distilling an entire culture into one evening’s performance is not a job for the faint-hearted. Fortunately, the members of the production ensemble for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Welcome Dinner are not the type to back down from a challenge. With musician Paolo Valenciano and dance choreographer Douglas Nierras at the helm, the team put together a performance showcasing not only our best local artists, but also musicians who have already broken into the global scene. Louie Ocampo served as musical director, while Gina Godinez was in charge of the creative concept.

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Paolo Valenciano

Paolo describes the show as both impressive and immersive. “We basically wanted to highlight the talent of Filipino artists,” he says, “not just in music but also in art, design, food…” All these elements finally came together last night, the culmination of a long process that began with initial meetings and conceptualizations.

The question they started with: “Who were the best?” Paolo shares that when they were choosing the artists, “It didn’t matter if they were super-famous or not. The most important thing for us was that they were the best in the country—talents we could show off to the entire world.”

In addition to internationally recognized performers like Charice Pempengco, Jessica Sanchez, and El Gamma Penumbra, the cast also included local artists such as the Buganda Drumbeaters and 11-year-old Reynan Dal-Anay. Paolo acknowledges that although foreigners might not know them, he and Douglas were so proud of them that they “wanted to be able to show them off to the Leaders.” All together, the performers numbered over 200. “We really wanted everyone involved,” Paolo says, “up to the point that even the waiters…[were] also part of the program.”

With such a packed set, the directors identified their main challenge as coming up with a satisfying flow. They didn’t want it to seem like they “just forced certain artists into the mix.” It was a very long process, shares Paolo. “Especially with the stage!” he exclaims. “We really wanted it to be perfect, seamless, smooth… We wanted it to be the overall Pinoy experience without it being a hard sell.”

Apart from showcasing the richness and variety of Filipino culture, the performance also reflected our people’s image as young, modern, and dynamic. “The show is a good collaboration between veterans and rookies,” Paolo says, “not only in terms of the singers, but even the musicians [and] production.” He adds, “The fact that they got me [to direct], that they’re putting a lot of trust in me—that shows you that these people are very collaborative. They’re very open to new ideas, and they really let us…work as equals.”

More than anything else, Paolo sees this project as a rewarding experience. “Seeing all the artists together was the most fulfilling thing,” he says. “To see this many people representing our country and do what they do best—it’s just such an amazing feeling, and it’s so exciting.”

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