MANILA, February 23, 2005 (STAR) By Conchitina Sevilla De Bernardo  -  After an almost endless barrage of bad news filtering into Spain about the Philippines, it was sheer joy opening the pages of Vogue España, and seeing eight glorious pages of beautiful pictures in its Living section. Javier Fernandez de Angulo is the sub-director of the magazine himself, and he penned the spread in his personal style.

It was an account almost ecstatic and glowing of his visit to the Philippines. He started off by saying, "This is not a travelogue, it is a ticket directly to Paradise." Then he continues, "At last, we can now reveal the best-kept secret of voyagers, globetrotters, photographers, adventurers and explorers. The Philippines is the most beautiful place in the face of this earth!"

Spanish is such a rich and extravagant language where superlatives abound, and also because Javier is such an excellent and fluid writer, I will not attempt to translate the article. With the permission of Vogue, I reprint some pages. I will, however, give you a short history of how this trip came to be.

Javier Fernandez de Angulo has Filipino roots. His grandmother spoke to him of her youth, where she grew up in an azucarera called La Carlota, and where her father, his great-grandfather, worked in the La Isabela, a company that produced excellent tobacco grown in our country. Javier was drawn to the Philippines. Marisol Mora, now working for Vogue, once worked in the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona, where I also worked many years back. It must be told, too, that Marisol, a Spaniard, married a Filipino. My husband Lani was then a student in Barcelona. Thus the friendship with, and subsequently, the link to Javier.

My husband went on to become the Philippine Ambassador to Spain, Marisol came back to Spain and the friendship resumed. Javier was introduced to us and the plan to go to the Philippines was hatched. However, it was not without its hitches. Too lengthy and tedious to recount, suffice it to say that the reality seemed dimmer and dimmer, until we approached Henry So Uy of Philippine Airlines. Without too much ado, he simply said, "We are ready to help in any effort to promote the country in Europe." He arranged for four tickets on Air France from the account of Philippine Airlines and the problem of how to get them from Paris to Manila was quickly solved. Also thanks to her nationalistic fervor and devotion to the Philippines, which is a passion for Bea Zobel Jr., the entire trip became, for the Vogue group, an experience they will never forget.

Amanpulo, El Nido, and the Pearl Farm opened their doors to these travelers (their websites and contact numbers were also featured in the article). It was Bea Jr. who painstakingly accompanied them, prepared their bookings, took them by private chopper and opened her parents’ home in Mindoro for them. Don Jaime and Doña Bea Zobel received them personally and entertained them. So did the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Ambassador Ignacio Sagaz and his Filipina wife Aurora. That all-important personal touch was there, and that always makes any trip an event to remember.

The Philippines has history shared with Spain – our names, our culture, our religion and many traditions are entwined. In fact, Ambassador Lani Bernardo always says, "Filipinas es el único pedazo de España en Asia." The Philippines remains the only part of Spain in Asia.

The Philippine Embassy in Madrid is indebted to Philippine Airlines and to Bea Zobel Jr. for making this event a reality. To Vogue and Javier Fernandez de Angulo goes the gratitude of a country that is now ready to reveal its best-kept secrets to the world!

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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