Bernardo M. Villegas
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A Free Evening in Barcelona

          The spouses of the top executives participating in an Advanced Management Program (AMP) offered by the University of Asia and the Pacific in tandem with some leading professors of the IESE Business School in Barcelona had the best of both worlds:  to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and not to attend the classes that their respective spouses had to endure for five straight days, tackling some four to five business cases a day.  This was the last module in the four-module AMP that brought them from Manila to Jakarta to Cebu and finally to Barcelona.  Bringing their respective spouses to Barcelona with them was a fringe benefit of the AMP.  The spouses and other relatives who traveled to Barcelona were more than happy to be beneficiaries of this unique feature of an executive education program.

          What do you do when you have more than a free evening in Barcelona?  The first obvious answer is immerse yourself in the art of Gaudi.  There is the Casa Batlo on Paseo de Gracia 43.  This was built between 1904 and 1906 by Antoni Gaudi.  It is one of the symbols of Barcelona and also of modernism.  The facade represents the legend of "San Jordi", the patron saint of Catalonia.  The audio-guided tour includes a visit through the hall, the first floor (where the Battlo family used to live), the attic and the roof.  Then there is the Casa Mila or "La Pedrera".  This is one of Gaudi's best known buildings.  When it was built, public opinion condemned it as ugly, hence its other name of "La Pedrera" which means stone quarry.  It is highly recommended as an introduction to his works. Then there are the mansion called Palau Guell on Calle Nou de la Rambla, 3-5, commissioned by Count Eusebi de Guell, Gaudi's main patron early on in his career as an architect and the Parc Guell which is famous for the multi-colored salamanders and the Mosaic Pagoda, with organic pillars, as well as being a quiet green area with an impressive view of the city,

          The obra maestra of Gaudi is without doubt the Cathedral of the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia), which was consecrated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Possibly the best known and most personal of Gaudi's buildings, he even lived there until a tram killed him in 1926.  It is a building that inspires either awe or horror, but never leaves anybody indifferent.  It is said that George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and who fought on the Republican side during the Civil War, opined that the forces of Franco showed very bad taste in not bombing it while they had the chance.  The Cathedral is being built purely with donated funds, including some significant amounts recently given by the Japanese.  Construction continues and it is calculated that the building will be completed in the year 2057.  A visit to the crypt is worth it as one can see his plans and drawings and one gets a good idea of how Gaudi calculated his civil works.

          For the art connoisseurs, there are numerous museums:  the Museo Picasso, which contains the best examples of Picasso's earliest work, as well as giving an overall view of his life's work; the museum containing the works  of Joan Miro and gifts he received from fellow painters and sculptors and designed by the internationally famous Catalan architect Josep Lluis Sert; Mies Van der Rohe Pavillion, originally built as the German contribution to the 1929 Exhibition and rebuilt for the Olympics in 1992; and the Antonio Tapies Foundation which exhibits a permanent collection of the works of Antonio Tapies, one of Spain's best known living artists  Finally, there are the Museum of the History of the City, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, the 1992 Olympics installations and National Museum of Catalan Art.  The last one was recently renovated by the architect Gae Aulenti and houses some of the best examples of Romanesque frescoes and art in Europe.  It also has a fantastic collection of gothic art and interesting temporary exhibitions.  It may be considered the equivalent of the "Met" in New York.  The museum with which I am most familiar is the Monastery of Pedralbes, literally a stone's throw from the IESE Business School.  This beautiful early 14th Century monastery is considered to be one of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic architecture and allows one to see the artistic legacy preserved by the community of nuns from the Order of St. Claire.

            Needless to say, the spouses of the CEOs and business owners in the AMP could not be expected to just focus on the cultural aspects of Barcelona.  Their husbands were resigned to the inevitable: their wives would do the rounds of the commercial establishments in Barcelona.  Among the fashion shops that Barcelona is famous for are Joaquin Berao (handmade jewelry); La Manual alpargatera (typical Spanish designed espadrilles); Cristina Castaner (shoes); Camper (shoes); and Farrutux (shoes).  Most of these shops are located on the Av. Diagonal, Paseo de Gracia, Rambla Catalunya and intersections.  Then there are the household wares such as Spanish ceramics and Gaudi-style and other Spanish-design furniture and fixtures.  Moreover, the eager shoppers discovered the large SM-like malls like El Corte Ingles and L'llla that are open Monday to Sunday and not to mention Plaza Catalunya, the large, round plaza located exactly at the heart of the city; and the world-famous La Rambla, a wide avenue that features many shops and department stores as well as a variety of street performers.  The shoppers did not forget to get for their husbands good Spanish wines, including Cava, the Catalan equivalent of champagne.  The last evening of the AMP was spent in a seafood restaurant by the beach, complete with Karaoke-style singing but with live accompaniment by a professional pianist who was part of the entourage.  CEOs, senior executives and owners of business who would like to experience what have been described above should communicate by email with amp@uap.asia for information on the next offering which starts on September 23 to 29, 2013 in Manila and will move on to Jakarta on November 11 to 16, 2013, January 13 to 18 in Hong Kong and finally Barcelona on March 17 to 21, 2014.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.