‘....If we wish to continue to see the beauty in the world, we must respect it, in every way’
After the infamous Beatles fiasco in Manila in 1966, when members of the greatest rock band in music history vowed to never set foot in the Philippines again, a Beatle kin is visiting the country for the first time.
Julian Lennon, 55, was a wee boy when his father, John Lennon, and his bandmates were manhandled at the Manila International Airport (now Naia), after a successful two-night concert, reportedly as a result of an inadvertent snub of the Marcoses. The Fab Four kept their promise, and no Beatle ever visited or performed here again.
When the incident was brought up at dinner last week with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Lennon “smiled and said that after all these years, it was time to put it all behind us. And if he can help in that process, he is happy to do so,” Puyat told Inquirer Lifestyle.
Lennon, a Grammy-nominated musician and photographer, is a guest of the Department of Tourism, and is visiting Manila and Boracay to help highlight the sustainability programs and campaign of the DOT.
Lennon, founder of The White Feather Foundation, is an environment and humanitarian advocate. “His presence in the country gives his many fans and followers in Europe some visibility of the attractions and unique character of our country. Since his arrival last March 29, he’s been enjoying his visit and posting [on social media] about his trips in Manila and Boracay,” Puyat said.
Lennon founded the charity The White Feather Foundation in 2007, to tackle environmental and humanitarian issues. It has helped raise funds to relieve poverty in places like Kenya, Sri Lanka, Peru and Gambia. It has also funded environmental projects in his native England. Providing clean water in developing nations is one of the foundation’s major projects.
Lennon’s trip to Boracay is his first to a beach in four years, according to Puyat.
“He heard of Boracay only on the BBC because of the island’s six-month closure and rehabilitation. This is what inspired his visit to the country,” said Puyat.
The DOT first met him in 2017 through BBDO, the DOT’s digital PR agency for sustainable tourism, and Nick Wood of Syn music agency, Lennon’s good friend. “We kept the conversation going until the opportunity came up to make it happen at this time. It helped that Julian was in the region and could fit this trip in with his other commitments,” Puyat said.
Impressed with Boracay
In a text message to the Inquirer, sent through his hosts, Lennon said: “I’m so impressed [that] Boracay decided to take care of the island and consider sustainable tourism, in such a smart way… And continue to do so. It’s a lesson to be learned by many, that if we wish to continue to see the beauty in the world, we must respect it, in every way.”
He also shared his joy in going around Intramuros on a bike. “So much history. Absolutely fascinating,” he said.
Puyat said Lennon expressed his desire to include Philippine mangoes in a recipe. The English celebrity is a passionate cook.
“He talked about a lamb dish served with coconut milk and I told him that I would trade a dozen mangoes for the dish. He said that he would love to include our mangoes in his recipe.”
Puyat described Lennon as “very open, friendly, down-to-earth and fun to be with. A very positive person; no pretensions. He was interested to hear about the country... He’s proud to be of service with his work and foundation in the name of his mother.”
At the dinner, they talked about The Beatles’ song “Hey Jude,” originally titled “Hey Jules,” and written by Paul McCartney, it is said, for the young Lennon, following his parents’ divorce in 1968, to help the kid cope. Growing up, Lennon was close to McCartney.
Lennon, 55, is the son of John Lennon with his first wife, Cynthia.
At the dinner Puyat said, “I also shared how my daughter and late husband were such Beatles fans so that she played in her guitar ‘In My Life’ during his funeral mass. Julian was surprised that I was a widow.
“Julian actually looked sad and surprised when I told him that. It was the piece my daughter loved playing for my husband.”
Lennon, in his text message, said he found the Filipinos to be “a very warm and kind people, regardless of their station in life. [They’re] always welcoming, considerate and respectful.”
He said he was impressed by the “cultural diversity, the food, the different landscapes, and of course, the beauty of the islands, too.”
Lennon has promised to return. “I wish I’d had more time, as there’s never enough time. So, it looks like I’ll just have to come back, sooner than later.”