The French Connection — 05.21.2020

In previous anecdotes, I mentioned how Green Papaya was funded, albeit informally, from 2000-2007 by the French Embassy in the Philippines. This more detailed narrative aims to give credit and show gratitude to some individuals who helped open the doors of the embassy for me.⁣

A few years before I decided to resign from ABS-CBN, I started to build a small client base as a freelance graphics designer. Two important clients were Alliance Française de Manille, whose director then was Renaud Fessaguet, and PAMATEC (Paris-Manila Technology Corp.), a French-Filipino corporation founded by Hubert d’Aboville. In the short period of time that I was working with Renaud and Hubert, my acquaintance and friendship with them became valuable.⁣

In 1998 Mr. Gilles Chouraqui was appointed French Ambassador to the Philippines. The following year he introduced French Spring in Manila (FSiM), an arts festival which promoted artistic collaborations between French and Filipino artists across disciplines. FSiM was patterned after French May in Hong Kong (Le French May), which the diplomat helped initiate in 1993 while still a Consul in the former British Crown Colony. With the French Film Festival and Fête de la Musique as its two main components, FSiM fast became one of the most anticipated cultural events in Manila.⁣

I formally met the ambassador only once and informally during a few social events hosted by the embassy I was asked to attend. For the FSiM account, I worked closely and directly with the embassy’s Cultural Counsellor, Mr. Marcel Jouve. It was Renaud who introduced me to him and his wife Lily Yousry-Jouve, a prolific painter in her own right. ⁣

Mr. Jouve, a fine gentleman and an impeccably dressed diplomat, was also very kind and generous to me. He practically gave me a crash course on French culture and diplomacy after I disappointed him for being unfamiliar with the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle. But Mr. Jouve must have been happy with the work I did for FSiM 1999. He assured me that I will continue working for the FSiM account at least until he completes his deployment in the Philippines in 2001 .⁣

During one of our initial meetings for FSiM 2000, he insisted on coming to my design studio which shared space with Green Papaya in Teachers Village. I guess he was fascinated by the idea of an artist-run space that does not depend on any government funding. He got even more interested when informed that the design studio's FSiM earnings was allocated to fund Green Papaya's exhibitions and programs. If given the opportunity to continue working on the FSiM account even after his tenure, these funds will continue to help Green Papaya. ⁣

Shortly before he went back to Paris in 2001, Mr. Jouve invited Donna Miranda and I for lunch to inform us that he will recommend to the embassy to keep me even after he leaves. True to his word, I continued to work with two other Cultural Counsellors for the French Spring in Manila until 2007. ⁣

As we continue preparations for our exit in 2021, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Renaud Fessaguet and Mr. Marcel Jouve for their indirect but invaluable support to Green Papaya.⁣

Norberto Roldan⁣
May 21, 2020⁣

FSiM 2000 poster.

FSiM 2005 poster.

FSiM 2006 poster for Christian Lacroix Haute Couture exhibition at the Ayala Museum.

FSiM 2006 catalogue page.