Cebu City marked the 75th year of its charter with a grand celebration that did honor to the late Sen. Vicente Rama who was responsible for the charter’s approval in 1937 by the Philippine Assembly. He also served as mayor from 1938 to 1940.
Cebu City’s incumbent mayor is his grandson, Michael Rama, who presided over the various events that highlighted this diamond jubilee. One of these was a memorial lecture on the exemplary qualities of Vicente Rama by professor Leilani Echavez Paredes at the Cebu Normal University.
Charter Day on Feb. 24 started with a Mass of thanksgiving at Plaza Sugbu fronting City Hall. This was followed by a floral offering at the Central Fire Station where the statue of Vicente Rama is located.
Members of the Rama family clustered around Mayor Mike. A crowd of over 100 cheered upon the arrival of his cousin Annabelle Rama, and her husband Eddie Gutierrez, with their son, Rocky. Their other son, Richard Gutierrez, gave the response in behalf of the clan.
He spoke about how his great-grandfather stood before the Philippine Assembly to lobby for the passage of House Bill 1428, which transformed Cebu from a municipality to a chartered city.
In the evening, there was a glittering testimonial and awards ceremony at the Pacific ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel. The occasion gave recognition to 75 families of distinction who have made Cebu what it is during the same number of years.
Welcoming guests at the entrance and indicating their assigned tables was Glenda Gabuya, officer in charge of the Cebu City Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission. The entity researched on the 75 families, and handled deliberations on the awards to the most outstanding individuals and institutions.
Seated with Mayor Mike Rama were Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Almendras Magpale; his aunt Corazon Luna Rama del Prado, the only surviving daughter of Vicente Rama; his children Micheline Rama and Mikel Rama; cousin Fernando Rama; and lawyer Jocelyn Pesquera.
Also with the mayor were Amparito and Michel Lhuillier, Honorary Consul of France in the Visayas, who have pledged their unstinted support to restore and beautify Cebu’s most famous landmark, Fuente Osmeña. “We’ll have water flow in the fountain,” says Michel, “After we fix the mechanism.”
Joining them were Mariquita Yeung and Marguerite Lhuillier, who had flown in from Hong Kong that very night. They collected a special award for the Beautiful Cebu Movement of which they are co-chairs. Their main project is the beautification of Osmeña Boulevard.
Among the special awardees, too, were Ricky Dakay, whose construction firm provided bleachers during the Sinulog; and neurosurgeon Wyben Briones, who led a fierce campaign to combat the dengue epidemic.
Wilson Ng provided beautiful music during the dinner. Program hosts were Vince Escario and Elizabeth Maynard, who announced that the University of Cebu dancers would perform “Diamonds are Forever.”
UC president Augusto Go and his wife Elizabeth led in the applause. They were most amused when someone told them that at the mention of diamonds, most eyes turned on the Lhuilliers.
Lourdes “Odette” de Dios Jereza gave the rationale on the 75 families of distinction, as chair of the Cebu City Private Sector Volunteers. She introduced her panel and said none of them had nominated their own families to the roster.
It was really quite a parade of Cebu City’s who’s who in history, politics, culture and socio-civic prominence. It is unavoidable that questions arose about why so and so was in the list, and who were not.
Seated at the same table as Councilors Leah Ouano Japson, Edu Rama and Raul Alcoseba, we were at a vantage point to see the procession of illustrious personalities who filed through the red carpet on their way to the stage, in five batches, of 15 clans each.
Glimpsed: former Councilor Renato Osmeña with nephew Mariano Osmeña, descendants of President Sergio Osmeña; former Rep. Antonio Cuenco; Rep. Cutie del Mar; Msgr. Achilles Dakay; Ferdinand Jakosalem and cousin Myrna Rodriguez Adad; Honorary Consul of Belgium Enrique Benedicto; Valeriano “Bobit” Avila; Inday Esperanza Briones Blanco (daughter of erstwhile Senate President Pro Tempore Manuel Briones); Marilu (nee Briones) and Victor Chiongbian, with his sister Elena C. Young; Manuel del Rosario; Marissa Fernan; Nelia Garcia Neri with sisters Joyce Garcia Dizon and Zenda Garcia Lat; Jackie Gullas and cousin Didi Gullas; Victoria Hermosisima; Billy Jaca; Ariel Jumalon with sister Jumaida; Arsenio Pacaña; Generosa Sanson Solano and Yolanda Sanson Oporto; Franklin Seno and daughter Pia S. Campbell; Fe Sala Villarica led up stage by nephew Jose Sala, Honorary Consul of Sweden; and dashing Antonio Veloso, former Mayor of Cebu City.
A few nights later, an even larger crowd gathered at the same venue for a grand Masquerade Ball organized by the Beautiful Cebu Movement. That is quite another story waiting to be told.