Dubai Filipino community’s well-loved couple speaks of their passion for the Filipino arts and culture
From the first few months of their arrival at the Philippine mission’s post in Dubai, Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes and his wife, Dr. Yasmine Balajadia-Cortes, immersed themselves well into the Filipino community and have since been working in collaboration with civic leaders in a number of major projects.
The Filipinos Times spent time with the husband-wife team and talked about their personal experiences, insights, opinions, and aspirations. Excerpts of the interview:
TFT: We have noticed that a number of your major projects for the community revolves around Philippine culture and the arts.
Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes (CG): Well, not just for culture and the arts but mostly the ones the consulate has partnered with the Filipino Ladies of Dubai. I would like the Filipino community in Dubai to be empowered and assured of themselves in what roles they have played in the success of Dubai.
That Dubai has reinvented itself in the past 50 years from a sleepy city in the Middle East to the world’s leader in many aspects is commendable and that Filipinos have been part of this journey is one that we have to be proud of as well.
TFT: How did you develop your love for Filipino arts and culture?
CG: Having sung since my youth, the performing arts is close to me and I truly opine that the arts is a very useful channel in interpersonal relationships, which in turn makes the Filipino shine elsewhere in the world.
Dr. Yasmine Balajadia-Cortes (YBC): Certainly. I have been a follower of the Philippine art scene since my younger days, having high regard for Philippine music and film. I consider myself a strong supporter of dance as well; I have been a ballet teacher/instructor for many years.
TFT: Dubai Dubai Musikahan 2016 is anticipated to be a big success. What do you think is the big factor for its success?
YBC: I think it is because this is the first of its kind among all Philippine foreign service posts in the world. Also, for the longest time, we have been reputed to be among the best singers and performers and songwriters as well.
When we announced the songwriting competition in June, we expected great interest and a number of submissions and interests; and true enough, cutting down to 12 finalists was one of the most difficult tasks of the preliminary board of judges.
TFT: What is the next big cultural or arts presentation you’re preparing this year?
YBC: We are staging the Filipiniana Ball in November. The event will celebrate traditional Filipino wear – particularly that of women’s – the Terno, the Maria Clara, and the Kimona. We would like to stage this as a departure from last 2014’s ball, which centered on the terno, to provide an avenue for Filipino ladies to parade their traditional costumes and to show to the world the depth of our fashion.
TFT: Have you thought about setting up a musical or a play featuring local Filipino talents?
CG: We believe that there are many talented Filipinos here to showcase, that there is no need to “import” talents from back home.
YBC: As mentioned by CG, there is an abundance of talent among Filipinos in DNE, and hopefully we could tap that.
TFT: How did this love for music and the arts came about? CG: I grew up with a strong passion for singing and performing.
YBC: I grew up studying and then eventually teaching ballet.
TFT: Are you encouraging your children to be music and art lovers as well?
YBC: Yes most certainly, though they are free to branch out to their respective arts instead of forcing them to like what we want.
TFT: Would you like to share some insights on the love of arts and culture to the readers?
CG: The arts and culture is one of the most neglected facets of our diplomacy with many in the Foreign Service dismissing this as simply song and dance or inconsequential.
I have always believed that the arts define the soul of a nation and when we do little to empower the arts in the hearts and minds of our people, we do the Filipino people and the nation a tragic disservice as we suppress the elements that uplifts and transcends our national psyche to a more human and at the same time more spiritual level.