|Deanna Ongpin Recto (right) receiving the Order of the Legion of Honor from the French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota in 2010|
Vim Nadera: How did you become a Counselor for Foreign Affairs to the permanent delegation of the Philippines to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris from 1996 to 2004?
Deanna Ongpin-Recto: Again, quite by accident. I rocked the boat at the Cultural Center of the Philippines by making changes in its artistic program which hadn't evolved in 10 years since the Edsa Revolution, and for asking too many questions about million-peso failed projects like the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. So I was "kicked upstairs", sent back to my post in Paris with a nice promotion.
VN: What did you learn as well as teach being an expert in the cultural institutions and policies of France?
DOR: I'm not an expert at all, and what I learned, I learned during the many years I spent working at the Philippine Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in Paris.
VN: What are your most cherished memories in international cultural relations?
DOR: Of the many and varied dossiers I had to handle in my job, I was most interested and involved in the work on the heritage. As one of the Philippine representatives to the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, I participated in conferences on the heritage in world heritage sites like Carthage in Tunisia, Santa Fe, New Mexico in the U.S., Cartagena in Colombia, Kyoto in Japan, etc.
VN: You began in 2005 as vice president of the board of the Alliance Française de Manille and in 2009 you became president. What was your legacy?
DOR: I gave to the AFM Gallery the credibility that it enjoyed until my departure. When I volunteered to manage the Gallery, I designed a successful program of exhibitions that featured both established as well as young, relatively unknown artists. The Gallery earned P9.5 million over six years, and with this fund I established the Philippine Artists Residency Program (PARP), to finance a three-month residency of one Filipino artist in France every year. This fund is now in danger of being used for other purposes.
VN: Could you share with us your professional secrets? Some say it is your energy. Others speak of your extensive connections. Do you agree?
DOR: Yes. When I take up a cause, I am passionate about it, and that spells time, energy, work. As for extensive connections, yes, especially among the artists. They have been more than generous in accepting to exhibit at the AFM Gallery, even at the time when it was not yet a gallery of any consequence. Perhaps among the collectors as well, who have frequented and patronized the AFM exhibitions I organized in the last six years.