Sunny Cebu is brightest and wildest when it celebrates its annual Sinulog Festival. Through the streets of the city, fields of colorful, feathered masks and headdresses abound. Dominating as well the urbanscape were street dancers, dressed in glittering costumes and bearing painted shields, who flocked the parade routes.
Cries of “Pit Señor!” reverberated last weekend as I joined Cebuanos and visitors from all over the world in celebration of the feast of the Santo Niño, or the child Jesus.
“Pit Señor” is short for “sangpit sa Señor,” a call of praise, thanksgiving and supplication. My ears are still ringing with it, interspersed with the Sinulog song, various pop tunes and the ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.”
I was hoping to fly in on Saturday for the fluvial procession, a water parade starting at dawn, from the Mandaue wharf, and ultimately ending at the Basilica where a reenactment of the Christianization of Cebu was held. Unfortunately Sunday was the earliest I could go, but it was good enough to make it to the Grand Parade, the ninth and final day of the Sinulog festivities.
Onboard the morning PAL flight were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Ruffa Gutierrez and Bianca Valerio. Bianca had to warn the counter that I was coming as I arrived late for the flight.
Us girls left the politicos and joined the giant float of International Pharmaceuticals Inc. The IPI float is always one of the stars of the Grand Parade. Cebuana friends Abigail Ngo, Pauline Hofer and Marcie Abesamis made sure we had our IPI T-shirts and lots of drinks to keep hydrated for the five hours of street-dancing ahead.
The finale was the Sinulog Contest at Cebu City Sports Complex, where competitors, coming from all over the country, included, to my surprise, groups from our Muslim brothers in Mindanao. All told, the Sinulog is one of our country’s biggest street parties, with over four million attendees.
Hotel Elizabeth Cebu owner Jean Fernando hosted my longtime buddy Rosan Cruz and I. It was wonderful to stay at her European-inspired boutique hotel (www.hotelelizabethcebu.com), partially because the location is great, being right beside the Ayala Mall, but mostly because I was its interior designer.
For my next Cebu trip, I will stay at the newly relaunched Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu, a five-star, beach-front property on the famed resort isle. Mövenpick has transformed the hotel into a truly indulgent lifestyle experience with superb facilities.
Hotel owner Manny Osmeña told me the renovation totaled P500 million and was completed in just five months. Top designers Manny Samson, Cynthia and Ivy Almario, and Fred and Butch Valdes collaborated to bring the “Ibiza” design concept to our shores. Stark white Ferrari-branded parasails are used throughout the hotel. The predominantly white interiors are so hip and happening.
The centerpiece of the renovation is its Ibiza Beach Club, where VIP guests hung out on opening night. Among the glitterati were Megastar Sharon Cuneta and her husband Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, KC Concepcion, Tim Yap and Grace Lee.
Food has been a core part of the transformation, with executive chef Johnny Rodriguez digging deep into his Spanish and Mexican roots plus his training at L’Ermitage, Beverly Hills and Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, to come up with a stellar international buffet for The Sails. More casual dining is close at hand, at the Churrascaria at Ibiza Beach Club. For the kids, Mövenpick ice cream in Caramelita, Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate and Maple Walnut flavors are available.
The Ultimate Ibiza Beach Club Package is a luxurious, lifestyle set that starts with hotel transfers from the airport in a Porsche Cayenne, Ibiza Beach Club breakfast at the oceanfront, an afternoon Mixology class with professional cocktail experts, and other perks. Ibiza is all about the cool tunes, so DJ Toni M., of Ibiza roots, is the master mixer. He has played in the world-renowned Nikki Beach in Marbella, El Divino and Puro Beach Club in Ibiza, and OHM in Spain.
After a day of Sinulog and a night of Ibiza, I headed home by way of Italy. My fave Cebuana buddies took me to Vito Selma (www.vitoselma.com), a specialized furniture-maker, with designs that can only be described as contemporary furniture with a twist.
Vito Selma is a true family biz. Mom Evelyn Selma handles the classic line, made from exquisite wood and fine finishes. The younger generation creates the exciting, ever-evolving and funkier designs.
The collaboration of classic and contemporary comes up to a creative composition of complex contours, with curves of wood and crests of composites. It’s all unabashed and unafraid, and best experienced first-hand.
Back in Manila, I am back into training. It seems life here is a mix of social events and athletic endeavors. Up next weekend is the 6th Condura Skyway Marathon (www.conduraskywaymarathon.com).
The thrill of running the Skyway only happens once a year and 13,000 runners in 2012 proved that it is indeed quite a thrill. This year, Condura CEO Ton Concepcion expects over 14,000 runners will be contributing to Condura’s cause—which is to protect and preserve the marine environment. The goal this year is to plant 42,000 mangroves, three for each runner.
With more participants, Ton is also upping the beneficiaries list. Included this year are Hero Philippines, an advocacy of Ayala bro Fernando Zobel, which supports the education of children of soldiers who have been killed in action; I Can Serve, headed by Bettina Osmeña, which works toward cancer awareness and early detection; Bikes for the Philippines, by Joel Uichico, which donates refurbished bikes to school kids; and Liter of Light, by Illiac Diaz, which provides eco-friendly, low-cost lighting solutions for the poor.
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