WATCH: Honeylet Avanceña hosts museum tour for ASEAN leaders’ spouses

Camille Elemia
WATCH: Honeylet Avanceña hosts museum tour for ASEAN leaders’ spouses
(UPDATED) It marks the ASEAN debut of President Rodrigo Duterte's common-law spouse, who took on the role of First Lady despite having no official designation

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Honeylet Avanceña, President Rodrigo Duterte’s common-law spouse, toured the wives of the heads of government on Saturday, April 29, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Straight from the opening ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center where she welcomed ASEAN leaders and their spouses, Avanceña went to the National Museum to tour them.

Present were Tran Nguyet Thu of Vietnam, Naly Sisoulith of Lao PDR, Indonesia’s Iriana Widodo, and Thailand’s Naraporn Chan-o-cha.

Malaysia’s Rosmah Mansor attended the opening ceremony but was a no-show at the spouses’ event. Some wives of ASEAN ministers and ambassadors also joined the gathering.

LADIES. Avanceña and the spouses of ASEAN leaders, ministers, and envoys watch a live weaving demonstration. Photo by Malacañang

After a brief picture taking, Avanceña was seen talking to Chan-o-cha, pointing to Filipino artist Juan Luna’s Spoliarium.

Before the event, National Museum Director Jeremy Barns told reporters Avanceña felt “comfortable” hosting the event, adding she is “very conversant” in Philippine art history.

“She’s very happy with the museum and so she’s very comfortable in leading the group around. And she’s very conversant in art history of the Philippines. She knows we have the best talaga, we have great national collections, so we’re very happy,” Barns said in a chance interview.

According to organizers, spouses were given small-sized native woven mats as tokens.

SOUVENIRS. Spouses of ASEAN leaders and ministers were given woven mats as souvenirs. Photo from Malacañang

Spouses’ Luncheon

After a brief tour, Avanceña then hosted a luncheon, catered by the Diamond Hotel, at the 3rd floor of the museum or the old Senate hall.

LUNCH MENU. Here's what the Philippine government prepared for ASEAN leader's spouses. Photo from Malacañang

As they dined, there were entertained by cultural presentations of groups such as the Kalilayan Folkloric Group and the Pangkat Kawayan (The Singing Bamboos of the Philippines).

Finalists from The Voice Kids Philippines – Darlene Vibares and Reynan Del-Anay – also rendered Filipino songs.

PROGRAM. Cultural presentations during the luncheon of the ASEAN ladies. Photo from Malacañang

The spouses also witnessed a live weaving demonstration from Palawan and South Cotabato.

WEAVING. Spouses witnessed a live weaving demonstration from Palawan and South Cotabato. Photo from Malacañang

ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council Director-General Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr earlier said they chose to hold a museum tour for convenience and to spare the ladies from the unforgiving April heat.

The First Lady or family members of the Philippine President are usually chosen to host spouses of visiting heads of government.

Though Avanceña is taking on the duties of a First Lady, the President has not officially named any person to the task. (READ: Honeylet Avanceña and her life with the next president)

In January 2017, Avanceña first hosted a foreign leader’s spouse – Mrs Akie Abe – when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Davao City. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email