The Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq made his first visit to Cebu since he began his tour of duty in the Philippines last March. Thirty minutes after his plane landed in Cebu on July 6, he was whisked to a birthday celebration at Casino Español de Cebu.
Carmen Rodriguez de Martinez is sharp, agile and spry at 90, and that was, indeed, good reason for a festivity. She was surrounded by children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, scores of relatives and a horde of dear friends.
Dinner was followed by a dance and music program. Eldest daughter Josie M. Sala sang like an angel, while granddaughter Lianne Sala impressed all with two violin solos—“Salut d’Amour” and “Perpetual Motion.”
On July 8, Ambassador Domecq had a full schedule. In the morning he visited Fort San Pedro, where the first garrison was erected in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. There was also a visit to Magellan’s Cross and Basilica del Santo Niño. It was built on the site where the Holy Child’s image was found by Legazpi’s men.
The Santo Niño image had been a gift from Magellan to Cebu’s queen when she was baptized in 1521. The year 2021 will be the 500th anniversary of that historic event. Preparations are already underway.
It was a short walk to Cebu City Hall where Mayor Michael Rama awaited to give Ambassador Domecq the key to the City. They had a pleasant conversation on the eighth floor with its sweeping view of the Cebu channel, Mactan Island and Bohol in the clear day’s horizon.
Assisting Mayor Rama were protocol officer Marlon Hofer and Angel Espiritu, for many years with the Cebu office of the Department of Foreign Affairs. He retired recently and is now Cebu City’s consultant for international relations.
At noon, Ambassador Domecq was guest of honor at the luncheon meeting of Amigos de España en Cebu, held at Salon Granada of the Casino Español. He was officially welcomed with eloquent words by Myra Gonzalez y Osmeña, the organization’s secretary.
Seated together, Myra and the ambassador spoke about Sevilla where he studied Law at the university, and where she lived for than 20 years, and which she visits now and then to see her children.
Also seated with the ambassador were two madrileñas, Paqui Melendez de Aboitiz and her sister Quina Melendez, and one aragonesa, Cecilia Rodriguez Villarroya.
A delicious buffet lunch was served, for which congratulations were given the Casino’s general manager Jovy Ay-ad, and the F&B director Marina Codina.
By 3 p.m., the ambassador was at the University of San Carlos, welcomed by president Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD. Recently the Spanish Embassy has facilitated a Spanish professor, Maria Perez, for USC. She arrived in June and likes Cebu, and her students.
In the evening of July 7, Ambassador Domecq presided over the opening of Spanish Month and the anticipated fete for “Dia de Santiago.” On hand to welcome him were Casino Español president Enrico Gandionco and his lovely wife Judith.
First on the agenda was a ribbon-cutting for an art exhibit by Dr. George Ruiz, Jesse Roña, Jes Najarro and Bobby Gonzalez. It is on at the club’s foyer up to July 31.
The action moved upstairs to the ballroom, Salon de España, for cocktails and tapas, followed by dinner. Décor by Debbie Huang was beautiful with masses of yellow orchids and red roses. Honey Jarque Loop had supervised.
Mayor Rama graced the occasion, seated at the presidential table with Ambassador Domecq, Enrico and Judith, as well as other casino officers—VP Gabby Leyson with Tina Jordana, secretary Editho Tirol and wife Myriam, house chair Eduardo Gonzalez, sports director Paco Jarque, and director for cultural and social events Antonio Veloso Jr.
Also with them were Myra Gonzalez, Maria Perez, US Consular Agent John Domingo, Honey and Glenn Loop, a past president and the night’s master of ceremonies. He acknowledged the beautiful music by pianist Socorro Rafols and the Casino’s regular performers, Music ’N’ Motion.
There was fanfare to usher in chef Toto de los Reyes, who wheeled in a cochinillo, the Spanish version of lechon. He sliced it up using plates, according to tradition.
The dinner menu was impressive, specially the Spanish dishes the Casino is noted for—paella, bacalao à la vizcaina, lengua estofada, pollo al ajillo and chuleton. Another fanfare announced dessert, and there was chef Toto with his Baked Alaska. “Como se dice en Español?” a lady asked, and was told “Alaska en llamas.”
July 8 also had a full schedule for Ambassador Domecq. In the morning he visited Casa Gorordo Museum, the cultural arm of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation which has restored this 19th-century house, and maintains it with great care. It was home to Msgr. Juan Gorordo, Cebu’s first Filipino bishop.
By 11 a.m., Ambassador Domecq was at the regal Provincial Capitol to pay a call on Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. They exchanged books. The governor gave the ambassador the Arts Council’s “Cebu: Pride of Plaza,” while he presented her with a volume on Spain’s heritage monuments.
Governor Gwen told the ambassador that Cebu was the first province ever created by Spain’s King Philip II, and we are celebrating the 442nd anniversary of that historic date on Aug. 6.
Thereafter, it was a relaxed lunch at the restaurant of Ipar Miranda, which sits on the garden of his great grandmother’s mansion on Ramos Street. It is still lived in by him, his parents Jose Mari and Happy Miranda, sister Merche and younger brother Josu. Ipar’s offers authentic Spanish cuisine which he learned in Spain.
After a brief tour of Ayala Center Cebu and its Terraces, Ambassador Domecq payed a call on Rep. Tomas Osmeña at his residence. They discussed projects for about an hour.
In the evening of July 8 was the grand opening of “Sabores de España,” the Spanish food fest at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel, where Ambassador Domecq was billeted. Welcoming all at the lobby were president manager Julie Najar and marketing director Lara Constantino Scarrow.
During a brief program Julie, thanked the ambassador for his presence, and he in turn said he was most happy to have come. Instead of a ribbon to cut, there was a huge jamon Serrano to slice. Assisting Julie and Ambassador Domecq were executive chef Luke Gagnon and Gema Luisa Pido, for the 4th year now the Marco Polo’s consultant on genuine Spanish fare.
The sound of castanets and stomping feet lured everybody back to the lobby, where Val Sandiego and his troupe performed Spanish dances. Following that, guests headed for El Viento, the Marco Polo’s al fresco dining outlet.
The arrival of Amparito Llamas Lhuillier caused the usual stir. She is president of Amigos de España en Cebu, and had just arrived from a month-long trip to France. Closely following her arrival was that of her husband Michel Lhuillier, Honorary Consul of France in Cebu, who had made a look-see at his office.
Beautiful climate, beautiful company,” Ambassador Domecq remarked, as the breeze wafted fragrance from the nearby garden, and the sounds of Spanish airs from the band that played on a kiosk by the poolside.