Just as their invitations said, Dr. Jose Enrique “Joe-Em” de las Peñas and Jill Johns de las Peñas hosted “an enchanted evening to celebrate the 18th birthday of their beautiful daughter Mary Ellen.”
Venue was the spacious ballroom at the marque of the Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa. It was transformed into a scene from Camelot, with swaths of white silk forming a huge tent. Fairy lights twinkled on a gazebo set in the center, while table centerpieces sparkled with crystal prisms.
Escorted by her parents, and to much applause, Mary Ellen made a grand entrance wearing a powder blue gown. There was a throne for her on a raised dais. Clustered about her were sisters Mary Angeli and Mary Elizabeth, as well as brother John Edward, youngest of the brood.
The debutante’s uncle Dr. Glen Mark Anthony de las Peñas led the prayers at the start of the program. His wife Stephanie and their two little daughters were with him, and also his younger brother Joseph de las Peñas who had come from the USA just for the occasion.
Dinner was served in an adjoining area, with a variety of appetizers, salads, hot dishes, and a most impressive table filled with desserts. The Cebu mangoes were particularly delicious. There was a beeline to the gelato station, and most everyone had those scoops on crunchy cones.
Meanwhile, Mary Ellen had changed into another gown of golden peach tones. A glittering tiara was on her pretty head. She’d do the first dance with her dad who confessed he doesn’t usually dance but that he’d do anything for Mary Ellen.
Everyone expected a waltz, of course, but instead there was a medley of music from decades past, so that Joe-Em and Mary Ellen did the twist, the frug, the mashed potato, the swim, and some vibrant disco steps when the Bee Gees played. You can imagine the applause.
This was followed by the Cotillion de Honor wherein Mary Ellen’s escort was Vincent Williams. Later, the young men presented her with 18 roses and they did waltz with her. Eighteen girls, all close friends, lit 18 candles as they wished Mary Ellen lots of happiness and success.
As he said, Joe-Em will do anything for Mary Ellen, and so he went to Manila to invite close family friend Christian Bautista to the ball. His busy agenda did not allow him, so he filmed a video which was shown where he wished Mary Ellen the best, plus tickets to one of his shows.
“I don’t drink,” Joe-Em said when he was about to make the toasts, “But this evening I’ll fill my glass with Dom Perignon.” Everyone present was given a crystal flute bubbling with the finest champagne.
This was an occasion to remember and many of us recalled Joe-Em’s late parents, Tony de las Peñas, and Sally de los Reyes de las Peñas whose birthday had been on the eve of this grand event. “Thinking of them,” said Joe-Em, “I wanted this party to be perfect. The best!”
For us, we had come full circle as years back we had been to Sally’s debut. Tell us more, Joe-Em and his brothers asked. “Well,” I remembered, “Sally’s debut was grand, but just as fun was her 19th birthday because she said she was saying good-bye to her teen years.”
I can still see her, in a shimmering gown seeded with sequins from the deepest red to the lightest of pinks, and on to flowing white. She made her entrance through by a long line of young friends holding lit up sparklers. Memories are made of this.
Chinese food fest
“Chinese Culinary Treasures” was the food festival held by the Radisson Blu Hotel, Sept. 13-22 at the Feria outlet. Two chefs from the Radisson Blu in Pudong-Shanghai, John Wen and Lu Shi Chou, came expressly to prepare the exotic dishes.
There was an opening program at the lobby lounge on the first day, hosted by Jude Bacalso. Welcome remarks were by the hotel’s general manager Lyle Lewis. Congratulatory messages were delivered by the People’s Republic of China Consul General Zhang Weigou and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
Wilson Ng and his musical ensemble played Chinese tunes, and the Wu Shu group performed a series of Tai Chi movements, much applauded. Leading everyone to the Feria outlet were the hotel’s assistant manager Zeny Alcantara, food and beverage director Geev Bahrampoori, sales and marketing director Ann Olalo, and marketing communications manager Rica Rellon.
Executive chef Marco Amarone was as busy as can be. He counts with three Chinese chefs—Peter Yeung Sih Man, dim sum whiz Eric Zing Zi Liang, and noodle puller Li Bao Jiang who was attracting quite an audience as he turned a mass of dough into fine noodles.
There was a raffle and top prize, an overnight stay at the hotel in luxurious splendor, was won by Grace Ho, the new Cebu manager of Cathay Pacific Airways. Her predecessor, Maggie Wong, is now cargo sales manager for Cathay in Hong Kong.