This article was co-written with Anthea Reyes.
“We’re so out of our league,” we thought to ourselves as we entered into the fancy North Forbes home of Mr. Asif Ahmad, the current British Ambassador to the Philippines, who invited several members of the media to – what else? – a tea party!
The backyard was adorned with decorations of everyday British landmarks, such as the double-decker bus, a phone booth and a large Union Jack flag as a background. Seated at the many round tables in the media were the members of the media; they were seasoned journalists, well-known reporters (Ces Drilon was there!), and experienced cameramen.
Mr. Ahmad’s mother was visiting Manila for the first time. Even vlogger siblings Wil and Haley Dasovich showed up! We were both extremely starstruck and nervous at the same time as we were surrounded by people who were obviously better reporters and writers than us.
Enough about our anxiety, though; this is a time to relax and have fun! The afternoon began as we were treated to a snack bar filled with the most British food imaginable: scones with jam and cream, cupcakes, assorted sandwiches and, of course, tea! And the tea was Twinings!!
Later on Mr. Ahmad addressed the members of the media, whom he thanked for attending the event. He then went straight into why he invited all of us into his lovely home: the fourth annual Great British Festival was going to happen soon!
He brought us through how first version of the festival, which then included around 30 brands, were not very effective because it didn’t feature the three “essential requirements that Filipinos have, which is food, drinks and music. It wasn’t a festival if there were no songs, music or drinks.” That’s why those were immediately added in later editions of the festival. And to make things better, this year’s festival was located at the entire Bonifacio High Street with over 100 British companies showcased, both established and new.
Taking place from February 24-26, 2017, the festival highlighted several different fields of British culture. Music was definitely a highlight in the festival, with a “Rockeoke” contest, several DJ sets and dance performances, and a special concert by Fil-Brit girl group and former X Factor contestants 4th Impact. There were screenings of recent British films such as Me Before You and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, as well as famous talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. There was even a fashion show showcasing several British clothing lines!
Additionally, there were special activities such as a calligraphy workshop, face painting and a slow motion video booth that were free. Airline tickets to London were even raffled off! The only issue? “People keep borrowing chunks of our Game of Thrones throne. Please do not destroy the exhibit, at least until the event is over,” said Mr. Ahmad. “But at least it shows that you are participative, and you want to take a piece of Britain with you.”
Despite the Constitution forbidding foreign colleges and universities in the country (with a few British schools as exceptions), booths were included in the festival where students can know more about British education. Mr. Ahmad wishes that more Filipinos can have access to high-quality & affordable British education, as this encourages more PhD courses and job creation, citing the 81% Filipino faculty from the I.N. Another topic he wanted to promote is the rise of “smart cities”, where systems such as architecture and power systems use smart ideas to bring around communication. An example he gave were buildings that use energy properly and recycle water.
After expanding further on both the British Festival and his personal advocacies, things settled down as several media members (including us) began talking about different stories and personal experiences, and it’s nice to get lots of advice from different people in the media. As the sun went down, we were given snacks such as fish & chips, vegetarian lasagne and steak adobo pie, which was a unique and tasty local twist to the classic British dish.
Throughout the afternoon, we were serenaded by a band consisting of members of the British Embassy and led by Deputy Ambassador Nigel Boud. Their two sets featured covers of British hits such as One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, and Coldplay’s “Yellow”, before ultimately closing with the rousing “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. We even took pictures with Ces Drilon, Will Dasovich and even Mr. Ahmad himself! Ultimately, we had to go, but despite our initial hesitations and insecurities, we’re thankful for a memorable experience.
And ultimately, the British Festival was a success! Here’s a gallery, as well as a recap video of the festival that happened last February: