|Deanna Ongpin-Recto (right) with artists Charito Bitanga-Peralta, Susan Fetalvero Roces, Lenore R.S. Lim, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, and Mav Rufino who protested against the unfair ouster of Ms. Ongpin-Recto from the Alliance Francaise de Manille's Board|
Vim Nadera: You were awarded the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur with the rank of Chevalier in 2010. How was it?
Deanna Ongpin-Recto: It was a great honor to receive this award which is the highest award given to civilians by the French Republic. It was an honor for me as well to receive in June 2008 the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des arts et des lettres) rank of Officier or Officer. Which is why it was particularly painful for me to have been treated so badly by some French people at Alliance Française de Manille.
VN: Whatever happened to the annual Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Embassy of France and the Alliance Française de Manille?
DOR: A MOA between the French Embassy and the AFM is signed every year, which governs the relationship between the two institutions.
VN: For writers, it will be the literary events. Could you tell us the history of the much-awaited Printemps des Poètes? What will happen to it?
DOR: The Printemps des Poetes (PdP) is celebrated in March every year all over the world where there is an Alliance Francaise. It gathers poets and poetry lovers in celebration of poetry. When I started to organize it in AFM in 2007, it became an instant success, due largely to the help of good friends like Krip Yuson, Gemino Abad, National Artist Virgilio Almario, Marne Kilates, Marivic Rufino, Vim Nadera, the Syjuco family. At its height, it attracted more than 30 poets and an audience of some 200 poetry lovers. I don't know what will happen to PdP, I suppose the new dispensation at AFM will try to continue it, but will the poets come to read, and will poetry lovers come to listen?
VN: You were described as the Alliance Française de Manille’s artistic soul. Why were you fired? How can AFM survive without you?
DOR: I was not "fired" because I was never hired, nor paid to do what I was doing for AFM. I did what I did completely pro bono, gratis et amore. Walang bayad. I was ousted from the AFM Board on June 6 at the Annual General Meeting and Board elections. Two of us: myself and Sevrine Miailhe who had served on the Board for 12 years, were replaced by two French businessmen. For the first time in its 92-year old history, the AFM Board has a French majority. Some 80 new members of AFM were recruited in the week before the June 6 to effect this change. The reason: we asked uncomfortable questions about the escalating costs of the AFM building expansion, and we tried to protect the P9.5 million PARP fund from being usurped for purposes other than what it was meant for, i.e., to augment the building fund. Even the retirement plan for the AFM staff has been deferred for the same reason. Survive? Certainly AFM will survive without me, but it will never be the same again, that's for sure. For one thing, artists like Charito Bitanga-Peralta, Susan Fetalvero Roces, Lenore R.S. Lim, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, and Mav Rufino have started a boycott of AFM, so who will go there now?
VN: How are you now? Writing your memoirs?
DOR: I was very angry, but now I'm just very sad because I loved AFM like I love France, and that will not change. But I despise the people who were behind this graceless act, and that will not change either.
VN: What are your plans? Do they include legal actions?
DOR: I have other work to do, and I have no time to waste nor any inclination to deal with people I have no respect for.