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CASINO ESPAÑOL DE CEBU was founded in 1920 by Spanish residents in this city, as well as members of the Filipino and Chinese communities. It celebrates its 90th jubilee year in 2010.

One of the statutes which remains in force today is concerned with the promotion and diffusion of the Spanish culture. This has been complied, and more so in the past 30 years, with regular classes in the Spanish language. They are open to all.

The classes are currently under the tutelage of Professor Mariton Villaflor, held every Saturday morning, and on week days during summer. Mariton is a most flexible person, as she also accepts one-on-one sessions and tutoring.

The Spanish Embassy in Manila has recognized this effort. Ambassador Luis Arias has sent a plaque of commendation presented by the embassy?s Counselor for Education, Francisco Javier Menendez. He came with his wife Charo and their daughters Lucia and Cristina.

The ceremony took place during the regular meeting of Amigos de España whose president Amparito Llamas Lhuillier delivered the welcome remarks. Words of appreciation in accepting the plaque came from Casino Español de Cebu president Manuel Sainz Jr. With him were vice president Jose Luis Alba and treasurer Renato Kintanar.

Everyone present listened attentively to the speech of Menendez who dwelt on the issue of ?Spanish language in the Philippines?Past, Present and Future.? In the past and until just 20 years ago, Spanish was one of the official languages of the Philippines.

Spanish has enriched many of the dialects. In Cebuano alone, because we speak it, there are thousands of words (the experts have lost count even) directly taken from Spanish or derived from it. Menendez said that in his past seven months in the Philippines, when he said some Spanish words, he was asked if he is Filipino.

The Philippines? national heroes spoke, read and wrote in Spanish to communicate their ideas of independence. Literature in Spanish written by Filipinos makes up a golden era yet to be surpassed. Proof of it are several books written about Premio Zobel, courageously championed by Georgian Padilla y Zobel. Someone should give her a prize.

In the past two decades, Spanish was in the decline, which brings us to the present situation when something must be done. It was removed from the school?s curriculum, but now there?s a desire to correct this fallacy. More and more students of Spanish are filling the classrooms of Instituto Cervantes in Manila. The classes at Casino Español de Cebu have also increased their number of students.

Brighter future

The future of Spanish in the Philippines has become brighter than ever. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has shown great interest in it, and the Spanish government has responded with gusto.

Little by little, Spanish has been reintroduced into the country?s educational system, with several high schools offering it. The idea is to do that in all public high schools, and for the private institutions to take up the incentive.

A memorandum of agreement to this effect will be signed during the Tribuna to be held in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 20-25. Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is one of the speakers. Actually, her main reason for going is to sign a sisterhood pact between the provinces of Cebu and Barcelona.

Those going with Governor Gwen are looking forward to attending a reception hosted by the Philippines? Ambassador to Spain, Ana Sequera de Ugarte.

Here?s a story to tell. Someone, and they say it is the King of Spain, has said that the Philippines has sent a dead ringer for Julia Roberts as its envoy. When you see Ana de Ugarte, you?ll note that she?s much prettier.

Going back to Casino Español de Cebu, its annual costume ball was a blast. Dance music played all night, a sumptuous buffet was served, and the grand entrances of those in costume caused the usual stir. There were fancy hats for all, and horns to toot, specially when the program emcee became too verbose. Oh, it was such fun!

Casino president Manoling and his wife were adjudged best couple in costume, in cowboy outfits and empty holsters. They demurred the prize and granted it to Joe and Rita Suaco, in white, as a god and goddess come to earth from Olympus.

Applause and cheers greeted the royal entourage of Maharajah Michel and Maharani Amparito Lhuillier in shimmering costumes ablaze with jewels. The group included Angie L. Mathieu and her son Mickey Paulson, Yvette (nee Lhuillier) and Franck Wearnod who?ve since returned to Paris, and Alliance Francaise de Cebu director Louis Thevenin with his stunning and statuesque wife Honeylet (nee Samia).

Danny Villarante whirled about them in his balloon costume, and a bevy of sari-clad princesses fanned them. Equipment included buckets for fine champagne and the most delicious French red wine?Grand Cruz?ever.

Throughout 2010 Casino Español de Cebu will highlight Spanish gastronomy in its various outlets. One cultural activity has been scheduled for April. It is an exhibit of oil paintings by Cebu?s most eminent artists, coordinated by the energetic Celso Duazo Pepito.

Chosen theme is the Spanish heritage in Cebu. Towns in the north and south of the province either in the east or west coast, provide ample and multifarious subject matter.

The usual annual celebrations of Casino Español de Cebu will be given added splendor and significance. July is always Spanish month, and its climax is Dia de Santiago on the 25th. The Dia de la Hispanidad grand reception and ball will be on the Saturday nearest to Oct. 12.

Soon after that, Christmas will come with the Casino?s usual events?Cesta de Navidad raffle of Christmas baskets, the New Year?s Eve ball, and the Three Kings fete on Epiphany Sunday.