BALIK CEBU DINNER
Filipino cuisine and Cebuano music with a modern twist gave balikbayans a feel of home once again during the Balik Cebu welcome dinner and entertainment last Thursday evening.
At least 300 balikbayans participated in the activity which was held at the City Sports Club, the first time since it started 15 years ago.
“It was very nice. It was something different. Before, there were only dances and songs. Now, there is a band, there are modern songs, and there are still also traditional songs,” said Gina (real name withheld upon her request) who came with her Swiss husband and their daughter.
She has been attending the Balik Cebu welcome dinner for several times already, and she noted that this year’s edition has been the best so far.
Gina, who has been living and working as a nurse in Switzerland for 30 years already, said they will be staying in Cebu for one whole month.
They arrived last January 16. Although her parents are from Borbon, a town 77.6 km north of Cebu City, she has been living in Cebu City before she left for Switzerland.
The balikbayans were treated to a full course dinner of authentic Filipino food which included an appetizer of fresh lumpia; main course of pork pata humba, special bam-i, fish escabeche, chicken barbecue on a stick, pinakbet, and rice; and dessert of mango pandan cake.
As a refresher, they were served with calamansi basil lemonade.
“The food was really good. There was so much food. We got our money’s worth for P400, plus we also enjoyed a show,” Gina said.
While they ate, the Bogo City children’s rondalla serenaded the balikbayans with traditional Cebuano music.
Sinulog dances were also performed by the Knapsack dancers while several local singers performed Cebuano music that included “Rosas Pandan,” and “Pasayawa Ko Day” among others. Sinulog Festival Queens also danced with their dazzling costumes.
Cebuana singer, Anna Fegi-Brown, also gave her renditions of popular Visayan Pop (VisPop) songs like the highly loved “HAHAHAsula.”
Cebuana trio Maka Girls also belted their popular song “Gugmang Maka,” much to the delight of the balikbayans. The trio earlier gained national recognition as one of the successful auditionees of the sixth edition of Pilipinas Got Talent (PGT).
Another highlight during the activity was the special performance of Tangub City’s Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe, which holds the most number of championships in the Sinulog Grand Parade.
They performed short Sinulog dances featuring their different costumes over the years as well as traditional Filipino dances like the Tinikling.
“Fifteen years is a significant number. It speaks volumes about our resolve to stay on course despite challenges year after year. Thanks to the support of the Ayala Group, we’ve never failed to come together to organize Balik Cebu,” said Tetta Baad, head of the volunteer group behind the Balik Cebu program.
Cebu Holdings Inc. (CHI) was the group’s partner for the Balik Cebu welcome dinner. In the past editions, the event has been held at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu, but this year, it had to be transferred due to the mall’s temporary closure.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who is also a member of the Balik Cebu group, thanked the balikbayans and the private partners of the event.
She said the province’s tourism industry continues to be dynamic thanks to the private sector and she assured that the government will continue to do what it can to improve the tourism industry.
Newly appointed regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas, Shahlimar Tamano, also reiterated the department’s thrust for faith tourism this year.
Tamano said the Sinulog Festival will be very relevant to this campaign.
“I am also a Cebuano. My mom is from Ginatilan. So I was the happiest among all officials who were reassigned to other posts,” Tamano said in a speech.