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The Inside Edge: Evora's extraordinary lunch

Hillary Clinton invites former pairs skater to dine with Philippine dignitaries; Brown picks programs

Retired U.S. pairs skater Amanda Evora poses for a picture with Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III in Washington, D.C.
Retired U.S. pairs skater Amanda Evora poses for a picture with Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III in Washington, D.C. (courtesy of Amanda Evora)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(06/12/2012) - Like Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who recently attended an official dinner in Washington for the prime minister of Japan (see here), Amanda Evora got an exciting invitation on June 1 from the Office of the Chief of Protocol. It read, in part:

"Please find attached an invitation from The Secretary of State for a luncheon in honor of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, on Friday, June 8, 2012."

Evora was thrilled and honored by the invitation to lunch at the State Department. She called over the weekend to tell us all about her trip to Washington.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Washington, meet President Aquino and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," she said. "There was no question I would RSVP 'Yes.' I was already going to pairs camp in Fort Wayne, Ind., so I was able to go to Washington beforehand."

Evora is a first-generation Filipino-American; both her parents were born in the Philippines, and they moved to the U.S. in 1972. She says she still has a lot of relatives in the Philippines.

"My dad is one of 12 brothers and sisters, and my mom is one of eight, and a lot of my dad's family still lives in the Philippines," she said.

Evora, while very well-traveled, is used to setting out with her former partner, Mark Ladwig, under the auspices of U.S. Figure Skating.

"This was one of my first events on my own," she said. "It was different for me to be traveling by myself and being out of my element. I'm so used to being around skating people. I wasn't sure what would be expected of me. I asked them for a description of what would take place during the luncheon. They wrote back and said, 'You'll be in business attire; we'll tell you when to stand up and when to toast.'"

The State Department arranged for Evora to stay in a hotel within walking distance of the Department of State, and at 11:30 a.m. last Friday, she made her way to the Benjamin Franklin Room.

"You're not allowed to take pictures until you get to the eighth floor," she said. "The setup was beautiful. They did a great presentation -- I honestly would compare it to a wedding reception."

Before lunch, Evora said there were cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and mingling.

"It was really nice to get to connect with other Filipino-American people," she said. "I got to meet a historian; a financial adviser, one of the Tennessee Titans, Eugene Amano; and a bunch of actors and actresses. One of them was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ernie Reyes, Jr."

Other actors at the event included Michael Copon, Nicole Anderson, Liza del Mundo and Matt Sapaula, the co-host of MSN's The Invested Life."

"When you enter the room, they have a 'Washington Red Carpet,'" Evora told us. "There was a string quartet playing. It was very interesting.

"I never realized how prominent I was as a Filipino-American in the Winter Olympics. They had watched me skate and said they remembered me! The people who traveled from the Philippines were very interested in meeting me.

"Not everyone got to meet President Aquino and shake his hand, but I got to," she said. "I met a lot of people who wanted to take a picture with me."

After everyone sat down at the tables, Hillary Clinton introduced President Aquino and they both spoke. Then it was time for lunch, which sounded delicious.

"The food was interesting," Evora said. "It started with sweet pea soup, with a kind of crab cake thing on top. Our main meal was tenderloin of beef with a miso glaze, with fingerling potatoes, sweet corn and woodland mushrooms, and wilted spinach. Dessert was a chocolate orange panna cotta. Everyone was like, 'Maybe they would bring out some Filipino food for us!' You know, rice."

Evora giggled and said she had really enjoyed hanging out with people who shared her ethnic background, right down to the food. After lunch was over, she met President Aquino and took some more pictures with some of the attendees. Then she had to rush to the airport to get to Indiana for pairs camp.

"That's where the fun began," she said. "I had more than enough time to get to the airport, but unfortunately Dulles is quite large and I didn't realize how long the security lines would be. They were gathered around my skates, pulling off the soakers, trying to decide if it was a weapon or not. And I was still in my business attire, with my pink skating bag!

"I had to run to the gate. I ended up getting to the gate five minutes before the flight and it was already closed. It was frustrating!"

Evora wasn't able to make it to Fort Wayne on Friday, but with the help of U.S. Figure Skating and some rearranged flights, she made it in just a little late on Saturday.

"Mark and I were a product of a lot of U.S.-sponsored pair camps in the past," she said. "I am a big supporter of them and I'm glad to see it reborn again. I was glad to be able to work with little pair teams. It was really exciting, getting a young team to come up with a new element."

Prince

The always-delightful Jason Brown told us Monday that he'll skate his short program next season to the Prince song "The Question of U." For the free skate, he'll be interpreting Franz Liszt's "Liebesträume." Brown's longtime choreographer Rohene Ward will create both programs.

"One of the people that works with me on my skating skills, Rob Peal, used to be a dancer, and he was like, 'I think you should do this piece.'" Brown told us. "It's really fun, because Rohene is Prince; he's just that type of person. It's been fun working with him on it. I got so caught up watching him that I would forget what I was supposed to do!

"It's really cool. I hope people like it. I hope the crowd responds well to it. It's slicker than I've done before. It's a different genre than I've ever done: smooth and cool."

Brown said that he and Ward just made the final decision Monday to use "Liebesträume" in a traditional orchestral version.

"Rohene walked in one day and he said, 'I know what you're going to do! I have it!'" Brown said. "We looked at different versions, and he had a very clear vision of what he wanted. It started to grow on me, and I was like, 'Let's try it.'"

Brown says that he and his coach, Kori Ade, will be trying to present a more mature image next season. He just finished his junior year of high school, and he says skating is going well. He's planning to compete at the 2012 Southport Summer Classic competition in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., this weekend.

"It's in three days, which is funny, because I don't have a [free skate] yet!" he said. "Hopefully in the next three days, Rohene and I can get it done. And I'm doing Glacier Falls (Aug. 2-5), too."

More news about other skaters' programs coming soon.

Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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