The birthday of Emperor Akihito of Japan was celebrated in Cebu with a reception hosted by Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe. It was held at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel with a good representation of the Japanese community, government officials and the Cebu Consular Corps.
Doing the introductions were Japan’s Consul and Counsellor in Cebu Yoshiaki Hata. In his speech, Ambassador Urabe said it was always a pleasure to be in Cebu. He had been here last August for the First Japan Festival held at Ayala Center. “It was most memorable,” he said.
Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, representing the Province of Cebu said, “Once again, we have the honor to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday in Cebu. We wish His Majesty good health and long life.” Emperor Akihito turned 79 this December.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon of Negros Occidental and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama led in the toasts to the continued friendship and stronger ties between the Philippines and Japan.
The previous day, Ambassador Urabe was the main speaker at a lecture-forum on “The Role of Japan in Promoting Peace in the Asia-Pacific Region.” It was hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences of University of San Carlos (USC) at the theater in its Talamban campus.
USC president Dionisio Miranda SVD was a reactor, along with political science professor Archill Niña Capistrano.
Lee Kyuk, the new ambassador of the Republic of Korea, came to Cebu shortly after presenting his credentials to President Benigno Aquino III. He was accompanied by his wife, Won Wan Soo.
Honorary Consul of Korea in Cebu Augusto Go rolled out the red carpet for them and hosted a media lunch at Cebu Country Club. Present was Kunho “Ken” Choi, president of the Korean Association in Cebu.
April May Ramos coordinated the event which turned out to be a lively exchange of ideas. Moderator was Ana Trazona, nursing dean of University of Cebu, of which Augusto Go is the president.
Augusto was first to speak, welcoming the ambassador to a province where more than 30,000 Koreans reside, many of them as investors, others as students. Koreans also come in large numbers to Cebu as tourists.
Ambassador Lee shared that he found Cebu very scenic, “especially the hills and the beachers.” He observed how Cebuanos have learned to appreciate Korean culture and food. “Filipinos are very hospitable,” he said.
As he has done for three years in a row now, Christopher Thornley, ambassador of Canada, came to Cebu for the grand Christmas Gathering of Canadians and Friends of Canada, now on its 11th year. For Consul Cindy Taylor, this was her first time, and looks forward to return next year.
Behind this celebration from the onset have been Canada’s Honorary Consul in Cebu Robert Lee and his lovely wife Anna. They make it bigger and bigger every year, so much so that the ballroom of Cebu Grand Convention Center this year was filled up.
Leading the guests was former Philippine Ambassador to Ottawa Francisco Benedicto. He sat with Ambassador Thornley as did Willie and Paulette Liu who are training 120 welders to send to Canada.
Glimpsed: Esther Velasquez, Bobit and Jessica Avila, Herbert Buot who sang beautifully, Nonito and Josephine Narvasa, Oscar Chua, Livian Garcia, Ana de la Cruz from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, UK Honorary Consul Moya and Antony Jackson.
In his welcome speech, Consul Robert Lee thanked everyone for being present, especially the sponsors for indeed there were many valuable prizes raffled off, and bags filled with goodies for everyone who attended.
Ambassador Thornley effusively thanked Robert and Ana for their indefatigable efforts, and congratulated them for “they do a tremendous job in fostering the best relations between Canada and the Philippines.”
The ambassador estimated that there may be 600,000 or even 800,000 Filipinos and Canadians of Filipino ancestry living in Canada. It makes for an impressive community.
Seated with Beling Go Ching Hai were Ben and Zenaida Yapjoco, Cristina Corominas, Rosebud Sala, Teresin Mendezona, Tina Ebrada and Ingrid Sala Santamaria who has been rehearsing for a concert with Cebu Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO).
The performance is on Sunday, Dec. 23, 6 p.m., presented by SM City Cebu at its North Wing Atrium. Admission is free. The concert opens with Ingrid as soloist in Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff.
What follows is Christmas Festival of Carols, concluding with the Cebuano (original) version of “Kasadya” and everyone in the audience is encouraged to sing along.
Earlier, at the Atrium, an exhibit on Ingrid’s memorabilia will be opened. It commemorates her 50 years in a brilliant career as concert pianist. The exhibit will remain until the New Year.