It was Feb. 11, 1998, and a very special day for Cebu. For the first time in its history, the reigning King and Queen of Spain were coming for a visit that lasted a few hours.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia landed in Mactan at 1 p.m. and went straight to the Basilica del Santo Niño to render homage to Cebu’s Holy Child. From there they went to Fort San Pedro to lay a wreath at the statue of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
They unveiled a plaque at the fort’s entrance and toured the museum within. From the ramparts they waved at the cheering crowds gathered at Plaza Independencia. It was once known as Plaza Maria Cristina in honor of the king’s great grandmother, Regent Queen Maria Cristina, widow of Alfonso XII.
The royal visitors left Cebu a little after 3 p.m. Many of those at the fort, among them then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, trooped to the Cebu City Marriott Hotel for its inaugural.
Fifteen years have passed and, recently, there was cause for celebration a month after Feb. 11. The theme was “15 Years of Hosting You Brilliantly.” The observance started with the opening of a photo exhibit titled “Marriott 15” at the nearby Ayala Center Cebu.
Cutting the ribbon was Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama along with Al Legazpi, COO of Ayala Hotels & Resorts Inc.; the Marriott’s general manager Bruce Winton; Amparito Llamas Lhuillier; and the hotel’s director of sales Chacha Realiza Rama.
The photos by ace lensmen Ted Madamba, Joseph Ong and Rey Dacalos depicted the Marriott’s presence in Cebu, its VIP guests as well as milestone events, and the recent renovation that has added class and distinction to its services.
From the Ayala Center, many guests went through the garden path to the hotel where a grand bash took place at the Sampaguita ballroom. GM Bruce Winton and his wife Christina were collecting farewells, as they will soon move to Manila after two intense years in Cebu.
Celebrity host was Ruffa Gutierrez, in a dramatic red gown. Much applauded in the program were homegrown talents like Jake the Violinist and songstress Chacha Blanco. Wowing them all was the Cebu team of Dancesport International as they performed Argentine tangos.
Nodding approval was the Cebu Marriott’s beautiful Food & Beverage director Fernanda Lopez, who is from Argentina. The fare served that night was impressive, best of all the Thai dishes by executive chef Chacpol Suaisom, who hails from Bangkok.
As PR manager Charlene Go pointed out, the traditional Cebu lechon had its place of honor. There were also carving stations for US Roast Beef, and Australian Rack of Lamb. Wines and Spirits were courtesy of Barcino, Beringer, Future Trade and Cebu Scion.
If the Wintons were collecting good-byes, so were Antony and Moya Jackson, who will soon be leaving Cebu for home in England after spending 52 years here.
On April 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the ballroom of the Cebu Country Club, British Ambassador Stephen Lillie is hosting a reception in honor of Moya Jackson, on her retirement as the British Honorary Consul in Cebu. This may also be an occasion to announce her successor.
Gema Luisa Pido returned from Manila exulting about the fun she had at the homecoming of St. Scholastica’s College. She was one of the golden jubilarians (class 1963) on the college level.
“We were 26 graduates, and 20 attended, which is a good record,” Gema said. “Two were abroad, and four had passed away. There was a mass at the chapel, and a musical extravaganza by the various jubilarians. Carmita Francisco Urra and Preciosa Soliven were among those who danced the Can-can.”
A sumptuous buffet was served at the college courtyard where white tents had been set up, decorated with white lilies. After dinner, two live bands played dance music until 2 a.m. Gema further said that her class ’63 had a whole week of activities, including a trip to Lipa in Batangas.
Martina “Beling” Go Ching Hai gathered a lively group of friends for an epicurean Chinese lunch at the Tin Gow restaurant of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel. “Try the kiwi berries,” Beling told her guests. These were little green round fruits that had the taste and texture of kiwis, and served as exotic appetizers.
Present were Paqui Aboitiz with her sister Quina Melendez; fashion icon Rosebud Sala; Zenaida Chua and Tina Corominas plotting a week in Spain with Beling, Cheling and Susan Sala; David and Tess Chan; Kelly and Elvira Lu Ym; and Marissa Fernan who caught up with the group.
Beling had chosen a fabulous menu. When Alastair Granger, the hotel’s Food & Beverage director, came by, everyone praised the excellence of the dishes served.
“Let’s do it again, soon,” said Mrs. Go Ching Hai with a twinkle in her eye.