By Gus Lagman

AAP President

Hosting the sixth edition of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) Global Sport Conference in the Philippines was such a big thing for us at AAP (Automobile Association Philippines), considering there are more than 200 other clubs worldwide which could have been granted the honor. Held on June 4-6, 2018, it was also the first in Asia.

During a press conference a few months ago when we announced the event, a media person asked me why the AAP was chosen to host, when there are much larger clubs, even in Asia. Good point, I thought. I said that I could only venture a guess: a) we have a close personal relationship with many of the top FIA officials; b) maybe FIA wants to reach out to the smaller clubs; 3) we happened to ask for it whereas the others maybe have not; or 4) all of the above. And I did ask, in person, two years ago, and got a reply just a few months after.

While the FIA team that selects the venue did not show any indication, I felt that they were initially a bit skeptical that we were capable of organizing an international conference as big as the FIA’s. That is, until they came to do an ocular and realized, from what they saw and from our discussions, that hosting conferences was nothing new for organizations in the Philippines. Meeting former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, who is an AAP trustee, and who eventually chaired the National Organizing Committee, took away whatever remaining doubts they still had.

They were impressed by the chosen venue – the Conrad Hotel … very new, and located just beside Manila Bay, thus offering an excellent view of our world-famous sunset. They found the nearby concert grounds as the best area for the motor sport exhibition. The Mall of Asia completed (for shopping addicts, at least) a perfect picture of an ideal conference site.

The topics covered and the respective speakers were all very good. Of course, credit must go to the FIA team for doing an excellent job of selecting them.

The evening socials were yet another big surprise for the delegates. Lined up were the jazz night during the welcome reception at Barbara’s in Intramuros, a symphony orchestra with Filipina-French Elle Adda, during the gala dinner at the Manila Polo Club, and the Banda Kawayan during the Fiesta Filipina at the Sofitel. I am certain that they all went home to their respective countries recognizing and appreciating the musicality of Filipinos.

Judging from the reaction of the delegates, I believe it is safe to say that it was indeed a very successful conference. All the delegates I would meet – at the hotel lobby, along the hallways, at the social events – thanked me, profusely, for the very well-organized conference. Credit goes to the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the AAP staff who constituted the Committee.

FIA president Jean Todt, who had on a satisfied smile the whole time, sent me an email a few days later which said,

“I would also like to congratulate you, along with all of the AAP teams for the excellent organisation of the Asia-Pacific Congress, followed by the Sport Conference. Implementing this event with such a high-level audience and the attendance of the FIA Asian clubs was an historical moment. Numerous delegates praised the smooth running of these events, including the various receptions.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors, particularly the DOT and Petron Corporation (for their financial support), BMW (for the luxury cars they loaned us), and Hyundai (for the H350 vans they provided to shuttle the delegates to and from the hotel). They helped a lot in making this conference a huge success.