Fiesta welcome for balikbayans
As host of the Sinulog festival, Cebu opens its arms wide to a special group – balikbayans.
On its 15th year, Balik Cebu continues its tradition of preparing a hearty welcome for those coming home for the feast of the Santo Niño and the street-dancing revelry of the Sinulog.
“Now more than ever, we need to remember that the spirit behind the Sinulog keeps us together as a community,” said Tetta Baad, chairman of the volunteer group which brings together civic, business and government leaders.
More than just a tourism event, the Sinulog draws from centuries of devotion to the image of the Child Jesus and has become part of the brand of Cebu as a celebration of faith, music and culture.
Balikbayans look forward to the annual welcome dinner for an evening of Filipino cuisine, hometown memories and entertainment. Expect a live band, Cebuano songs, festival dances and the special appearance of Sinulog festival queens for “Celebrate Cebu,” a musical production directed by Junjet Primor.
The fiesta welcome for about 300 guests will take place on January 18 at 6 p.m. at the Sinulog Grand Ballroom of the City Sports Club in Cebu Business Park.
Instead of al fresco dining at the Ayala Terraces that guests have come to enjoy over the years for a Balik Cebu homecoming, organizers moved the venue across the street to the elegant City Sports Club, another Ayala property. The decision to take the event indoors was to ensure that the Sinulog party would still go on despite the temporary closure of the mall complex, which is undergoing thorough safety checks in the aftermath of the Jan. 5 fire that struck the adjacent Metro Department Store.
Since 2004, the welcome dinner has been hosted by Cebu Holdings Inc., Ayala Malls and Ayala Center Cebu.
While most of the guests are sponsored by Balik Cebu for complimentary dinners, other balikbayans can still purchase dinner show tickets at P400 each. Tickets are available on first-come-first-served basis at the Balik Cebu booth set up in the lobby of the City Sports Club starting Monday. A balikbayan can bring one companion, and will be asked to present proof of identity as a returning Filipino such as a passport or airline ticket.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and newly installed Region 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano of the Department of Tourism will deliver welcome remarks at the dinner.
Some of the balikbayan guests are arriving this week on connecting flights from various parts of the United States.
Over the next three days, Sinulog activities in Cebu City reach their peak and culminate with the Sinulog Grand Parade and the feast day of the Santo Niño which falls on the third Sunday of January.
At the Mactan airport, the Balik Cebu committee is ready with its signature welcome – a rondalla, banner and DOT staff in Filipiniana gowns with leis in hand – to greet balikbayan passengers on three flights in the morning of January 18 starting 8:30 a.m.
Balik Cebu’s partners include the Ayala group, DOT, GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority, Sinulog Foundation, Province of Cebu, Cebu City Government and individuals who volunteer “for the love of Cebu”.
For updates, follow Balik Cebu Program on Facebook.
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