FCC-Le Club Brings Paris to Manila with its 2011 Soirée Beaujolais, “Paris, La Nuit,” at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza

Quand vous êtes à Manille, or in English When In Manila (actually, it’s better translated as “When you are in Manila”), as much as you’d like to be, you are not in “the Paris of The Orient.”  China’s glittering commercial city of Shanghai, long ago, claimed that title for itself, but with the lights, the glitz, the glamour, and the history, you have to admit, Manila could be a close second.






For one night, however, the French Chamber of Commerce in The Philippines, better known as FCC-Le Club, helped steal the crown from Shanghai by bringing a bit of Paris straight to Manila, specifically to the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, with Le Club‘s annual Soirée Beaujolais, this year bearing the theme of “Paris, La Nuit.”  Members of the French community in the Philippines, business tycoons, European expats, and Philippine glitterati all gathered at the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel to sample the famous Beaujolais wine, ogle the swirling skirts of the authentic French cancan dancers, and try their luck at the fabulous raffle prizes the FCC had to offer, including a grand prize of a two week stay in Paris, France.


As a student of the French language (for almost two years now, courtesy of the University of Asia and The Pacific’s mandatory Asia-Pacific Languages program), a francophile, and a lover of Les Misérables and Moulin Rouge, to say that I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s Soirée Beaujolais would be an understatement.  I have been dreaming of going to study in Paris since I started taking French classes, and while as of the moment the dream is out of reach, attending FCC-Le Club‘s annual soirée seemed to be excellent preparation for my future vie Parisienne, and so on Thursday (November 17) night, armed with an elementary grasp of the language, a camera, a tube of red lipstick, and what I hoped to be a French girl’s charm (as much of an approximation as a Chinese-Filipino girl could manage, at any rate), I made my way to the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel Philippine Plaza.



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L’esprit de la France: Sofitel Philippine Plaza‘s Harbor Garden Tent was bedecked with the French colors and featured table upon table of le cuisine Française.



My first reaction, when I showed up, was how many men resembled actor Hugo Becker (Gossip Girl’s “Prince Louis”).  For an admitted wannabe-Waldorf, this did nothing to assuage my nerves.  The party was huge, there were attractive men about, and I knew no one: ingredients for my very rarely present “shy side” to emerge with a vengeance.  Luckily, to help lessen my tension, there was free-flowing wine–the famous Beaujolais wine, in fact, courtesy of Le Cellier.



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Let’s drink to that!: Beaujolais nouveau burgundy, one of the most popular “vins de primeur,” or wines given a rather short fermentation period, is famous for its fruity taste (supposedly with notes of banana, fig, and pear) and youthful flavor. 



To accompany the wine, of course, was delicious French food.  Tables were scattered all throughout the huge Harbor Garden Tent, offering anything from deli meats to French bread and cheese.  And not only were these tables a feast for the stomach; they were also a feast for the eyes.  The dessert tables boasted the most spectacular decorations of the lot, from bon-bon pyramids to replicas of Parisian landmarks done in chocolate and spun sugar.  My personal favorite was the Arc de Triomphe carved entirely out of what seemed to be one gigantic block of chocolate, looking both gorgeous and supremely edible at the same time.




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Continental cuisine: Soirée Beaujolais 2011 featured a spectacular offering of French cuisine to match the delectable wines.


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For the monumental sweet tooth: Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe, rendered entirely out of chocolate, is a monument to the French’s triumphant domination of chocoholics everywhere.


After downing a glass of the Beaujolais nouveau’s sister wine, a zesty Beaujolais rosé (by the name, this wine has a unique pink color, and is sometimes made as a by-product of creating a red wine), I circled the room, viewing the pop-art paintings on display.  Created by Cebu-based French artist Delphine de Lorme, the paintings featured scenes of Parisian nightlife–in keeping with the event’s theme–done in a semi-art nouveau poster style.



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The famous windmill: Delphine de Lorme captures the lights of Paris’ notorious cancan spectacle, Le Moulin Rouge.


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Me with my favorite of Delphine de Lorme‘s paintings, a cancan dancer lounging provocatively.



My favorite painting of the lot was one of a doe-eyed cancan dancer with seductive, half-lidded “bedroom eyes,” crossing one leg over the other to reveal her fishnet stockings.  But while the painting was provocative enough, the clever double entendres of the night’s host, Mr. Johnny Litton, were even more so.  He’d been attempting, quite humorously, to grab the audience’s attention the whole night–most everyone was occupied socializing and sampling the wine–but what really got the audience’s attention was when he announced the raffle would begin since the cancan dancers were still dressing or, as he put it, “dressing to undress.”



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May I have your attention please?: Host extraordinaire Johnny Litton regales the crowd with his witty double meanings and hilarious side comments.



Thankfully, I did listen to Mr. Litton, and thus, by virtue of his pointing them out in the crowd, met Yves Saint Laurent designer Roy Gonzales, and had a hilarious conversation with the Dutch Ambassador, Robert Brinks, and his friend, Endemic Pursuit Tours’ Mark Wallbank.  Said conversation centered on questioning my journalistic credentials as, when I’d asked for their names after their photographs, I managed to mishear “Brinks” as “Briggs.”  I apologized, certain that they were furious, but it turned out I was merely on the receiving end of good old fashioned British ribbing, courtesy of Mr. Wallbank.



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His Excellency the Dutch Ambassador, Mr. Robert Brinks, and friend, Mr. Mark Wallbank.


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Yves Saint Laurent designer Roy Gonzales.



After awarding the first few raffle prizes–all stays at exclusive resorts, and none of them, sadly, going to me–Johnny Litton finally made good on his promises of daring cancan girls.  To the tune of French fanfare entered the cancan dancers, with their brightly-colored skirts and matching garters.  However, if one expected risqué lingerie underneath those skirts–or, better yet for the men, no lingerie at all–then the dancing might have come as a disappointment, for while there were lots of high kicks and skirt raising and flashing of bottoms, the “naughty bits” of these naughty ladies were amply covered by bright white bloomers.



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Daring to bare: The high-spirited cancan dancers entertain guests with their furious high kicks, flashes of long leg, and joie de vivre at Soirée Beaujolais.



Since the cancan has much of the same status as, say, pole-dancing, I will have to admit that I expected something a bit more “sexy.”  Reality was a lot less “sexy” and a lot more…spirited, I should say.  The girls twirled like whirling dervishes, executed cartwheels, and did a lot of gleeful shrieking which I discovered was really part of the routine.  The kicks were so vigorous that, twice in the program, a girl had her garter fly clean off her leg and onto the stage!  This would have made for a rather interesting souvenir of Soirée Beaujolais, for someone cheeky enough to take it home, but if anyone dared to, I wouldn’t know.



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A saucy finale: The extremely limber French cancan girls pose like impish ballerinas.



The performance ended with the girls leaping and falling into extreme splits–perhaps French girls have their hipbones attached differently?–amid laughter and claps from the audience.  I have to admit that the performance was more saucy than sexy, but I enjoyed it: it was a cultural experience, if anything else.  And, if one is interested in the sexier variety, well…there may be no place in France where the people wear no pants, but apparently there is one where they wear no bras.  According to the video of the actual Le Moulin Rouge that was played during the evening, there is a topless cancan variety, which looks a lot like the dance performances you see in Vegas–complete with extra-tall feathered headgear and Aztec-esque jewelry–but performed, well, topless.


There was a long intermission between the cancan performance and the second “big event” of the night: the announcement of the grand prize raffle winners.  Since I’d gotten some of the Beaujolais into my system, I was feeling considerably less shy, and considerably more in need of somewhere to seat, so I made the rounds of the room attempting to find a seat where I could safely nibble what I had managed to take from the buffet and sip water.  In the course of my search for somewhere to sit, I ended up chatting with a few of the other guests, all expatriates who were based in the Philippines for job reasons, about Makati life, work, and of course, the soirée.


But while I managed to chat up quite a few foreign guests, none of them happened to be French, and I was just dying to try out my parlez-vous.  On a stroke of luck, however, near the end of the night I managed to get introduced to Henri Ortiz, the administrator for FCC-Le Club.  We exchanged pleasantries–I in my halting French, which I eventually gave up for English due to my nerves–and he gamely agreed to pose for a photograph.



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Administrator of FCC-Le Club, Monsieur Henri Ortiz, sporting a single Jewelmer pearl choker.



My second round of introductions was interrupted by the announcement of the grand raffle prize winners.  I held out hope to the very end that I could take home the two week stay in Paris, but unfortunately, I was not lucky that night.  With the close of the raffle came the close of the formal program.  The host invited people to dance, and some did, but my losses did not quite make me feel like moving my two left feet.


The dance floor, however, provided ample opportunity to meet with a few members of FCC-Le Club: its past president, Monsieur Bernard Flour, who was also the managing director of Le Cellier, the wine sponsor for the evening, and Monsieur Philippe Gauthier, the founding president of FCC-Le Club, and whose son had won the Jewelmer gold pearls–or a choice between the pearls and the three models who sported them, as Mr. Johnny Litton had joked–during the raffle.  After being introduced by Mr. Rod Estrera of Asian Tigers Mobility, both of them got to hear my carefully pronounced spiel of “Pardonnez-moi, je suis une journaliste pour When In Manila.  May I take your photo?” which brought a slight smile to their face, and even questions from M. Gauthier on whether I spoke fluent French, to which I shyly replied “Un peu” (a little).



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The charming Monsieur Philippe Gauthier, founding president of FCC-Le Club.


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Monsieur Bernard Flour, Managing Director of Le Cellier, and past president of FCC-Le Club, with a companion.


But perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came when I met Monsieur Stephane Khaled, the current managing director of FCC-Le Club.  After reciting my French “spiel” and taking photos, I chatted with him and his companion, Monsieur Bruno Magnenat, about the soirée, the wine, and, oddly enough, the difficulty of getting softdrinks, which supposedly made the evening “a healthy one.”  After thanking them for their time and showing them the photo, I was told that M. Magnenat was, in fact, the French Consul to the Philippines!



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His Excellency, the French Consul Bruno Magnenat (left) and the Managing Director of FCC-Le Club, Stephane Khaled.



Having sampled the French wine, spoken the language, and watched the dancers carouse and cancan, I was just about ready to end my Parisian evening…but not before I got a photo with the cancan dancers!



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With that, my evening was over, but it was only one evening of many in the active events calendar of FCC-Le Club.  So When In Manila, and wanting to sample the life of a chic Parisienne, why not be on the lookout for the events of the French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines-Le Club?  If this year’s Soirée Beaujolais was any indication, you will definitely find a taste of the Continental life: fine wines, delicious food, spectacular entertainment, and above all, an evening of French chic and sophistication.


Chambre de Commerce Française 
aux Philippines

7B YL Holdings Building
Rufino corner Salcedo Streets
Legaspi Village, Makati City, 1229 Philippines
Tel:  (632) 813-9005
Fax: (632) 892-6114
E-mail: info@leclub-fcc.org
Website: www.leclub-fcc.org



(And, if you’d like to be able to parlez-vous with the best of them, check out Alliance Française at https://www.alliance.ph/.)



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FCC-Le Club Brings Paris to Manila with its 2011 Soirée Beaujolais, “Paris, La Nuit,” at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza