GMA & co. at Le Cirque

I have tried my very best to stay apolitical with my posts here not because I have no political views, but I feel that’s just not my cup of tea.  From time to time, though, I am moved by some point or other relevant to me as a Filipina living here in New York, and this is one of those times.

I spend my lunch hour in front of the online version of Manila’s newspapers, and I was surprised to see the headlines of the different newspapers blasting GMA (Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and her party for ringing up a tab of P1 Million (roughly $20,000.00) for a dinner at Le Cirque here in New York last August 2.  According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, (the) Palace Won’t Say Sorry, quoting Press Secretary Cerge Remonde as saying “(I)f the dinner was really ostentatious, then there has to be an apology, but it wasn’t ostentatious and I stand by that.” 

The buzz started thanks to a short entry in the New York Post  where it was written:  “THE economic downturn hasn’t persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country’s armed serv ices, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of per jury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Maca pagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.”

There was reportedly a party of around 25 in the Arroyo group who had gone to have a late dinner at the famed restaurant upon the invitation of Cong. Ferdinand Martin Romuladez who had so generously treated them all to a lavish dinner at Le Cirque in celebration of the first couple’s anniversary.  (Something the good congressman is reportedly denying and passing on to the other Romualdez, Daniel, who was with the group.)

All this is hearsay as far as I am concerned but just to give our friends back home an idea of how this could happen, yes, it could have been possible given Le Cirque’s gastronomic offerings.  The current menu will give you an idea of the kind of money one would spend here, and given that they were a large party, they were surely charged the customary gratuity of 20% of the total bill which is protocol for large groups.

Zagat places the average cost per person at $99.oo, but that’s “average”, sans the “celebration”. 

For a party of 25 and deducting the gratuity which became part of the bill automatically, and setting aside another 10% for tax, which varies depending on whether it’s the food or the liquor you are taxing — that meant that the party actually consumed around $15,000 worth of food and drinks.  Divided by the purported number of people present, (25), that meant approximately $600/person.  Even if for the sake of argument we say there were 30 which is unlikely given that there were only 2 tables for the whole group, it was still $500/person.

Sure there was an occasion to be celebrated and as the good Press Secretary said, it would’ve been impolite for the President and the First Gentleman to refuse the invitation, but I believe the sponsor of such a lavish gift would not feel offended if the President were to request that they celebrate instead in a less ostentatious restaurant.  I agree with those lambasting the palace in saying that this is one restaurant where dinner is never “simple”.  And does it make this more palatable if we were to believe that some generous soul footed the bill instead of Juan de la Cruz?