Behind the scenes at the closing ceremony of the 31st ASEAN summit

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The arch, which served as the backdrop of the performances for the ASEAN closing ceremony, was projected with illustrations of cities in the ASEAN region. “It’s about flight, future, looking forward, movement, being dynamic … The arch can also symbolize a bridge, connectivity, unity," says set designer Ricardo Cruz. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Before President Duterte handed the gavel to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to signify the turning over of ASEAN chairmanship, performances from Filipino talents took center stage for the closing ceremony of the 31st ASEAN summit.

Ariel Yonzon, the ceremony’s director who is also involved with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, says the conceptualization started four months prior, but the coming together of creatives and talents were only finalized three weeks before the summit.

“It was tighter to the deadline already so it became a challenge … we realized we were having a difficult time getting artists because they're either committed to other ASEAN events already or some other gigs or engagements,” he recalls.

Nevertheless, Yonzon and his team were able to get a wide range of performers, even flying in a handbell choir from Iloilo and inviting a folkloric dance troupe from Malabon. There were also dancers from Ballet Manila, performers from the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, and string chamber artists from UP Arco, among others. Individual artists such as Bituin Escalante, Bugoy Drilon, and Gian Magdangal were also part of the show, adding a contemporary touch to the orchestral ensembles.

Yonzon says that another talent they’re proud to be part of the show is Rony Fortich, then-director of Disneyland. “We engaged Rony who was the 12-year musical director of Disneyland, so part of his deal was if he can Disney-fy the music so that it's not too formal, so that it would be fun and light,” he explains of the vibrant symphonies that filled the Philippine International Convention Center plenary hall.

ASEAN Closing Ceremony Alexandra Lagman (sister of Samantha Lagman) performing during the closing ceremonies of the 31st ASEAN Summit at the PICC. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

ASEAN Closing Ceremony The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the ASEAN Closing Ceremonies at the PICC. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

ASEAN Closing Ceremony Gian Magdangal singing "Corner of the Sky" at the ASEAN Closing Ceremony. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

What their team also wanted to highlight were the young talents, such as Samantha Lagman (who played as one of the Von Trapp kids in “The Sound of Music” show in Solaire) and Alexandra Lagman (who was in Repertory Philippines' "Hansel and Gretel"). The main theme of the festivities for November revolved around the future, the next generation.  

“[When ASEAN kicked off] in April, the concept was looking back at the past, about traditions, about our rootedness. The August events were about the now, the present, the contemporary, the modern, the progressive. And November is about looking at the future, the youth,” he adds. The images of flight, kites, birds, and balloons also inspired the entire show, as these concepts, Yonzon says, symbolize moving towards the future.

For the program, they named the sections of performances to Visions, Hope, and Dreams, while still injecting elements of tradition. “We still have some folkloric touches to it but it was so modern. We had hip-hop, reggae, crossover pop, musical theater, so I hope the crowd was entertained,” he says.

As there were people watching who are not from the Philippines and who would not understand some of the songs, many of the Filipino songs had contextual cues flashed on the screen. “We didn't do it literally, we got the metaphorical grasp, and then we throw that so it's more meaningful for the legionnaires. They get to have an idea of what the song is about and then may tug siya sa puso ng manonood.

The arch, which served as the backdrop of the performances for the entire show, was projected with illustrations of cities in the ASEAN region, also presenting symbolisms of the future. Ricardo Cruz, set designer of the ceremony also involved with the CCP, says: “It’s about flight, future, looking forward, movement, being dynamic … The arch can also symbolize a bridge, connectivity, unity.” He adds that the curves of the stage was also based on the different islands that make up the region.

ASEAN Closing Ceremony Bituin Escalante performing at the closing ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

ASEAN Closing Ceremony The patchwork Ibong Adarna suspended in the air. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

ASEAN Closing Ceremony The closing ceremony director Ariel Yonzon says that the message they want to relay is that we should not only take pride in what the Philippines can offer in the ASEAN, but to support what the ASEAN holds for the upcoming generation, the future. Screencap from the PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

Another highlight of the show was the patchwork Ibong Adarna suspended in the air. Cruz said that Yonzon initially wanted a sarimanok, but he thought it might be “too Mindanao.” He explains: “I want it more representative of the entire country that's why I chose the Ibong Adarna. I also didn't want to make a real bird and so what is common in the region is the weaving industry so I thought of using the puni, which is leaf art in the Philippines, so I created the bird, which is a leaf art [that] Bulacan has.”

While all the set designs, performances, and gimmicks entertained the crowd, Yonzon says that the message they want to relay is that we should not only take pride in what the Philippines can offer in the ASEAN, but to support what the ASEAN holds for the upcoming generation, the future.  

“We have to push the ASEAN agenda for the next generation because more than anything else, that's what's more meaningful. This is just icing on the cake.”

Update: An earlier version of this article indicated Samantha Lagman (which should have been Alexandra Lagman) as the young performer in the second photo. CNN Philippines Life has revised the article to correct this error.