Warm airport welcome for balikbayans: Rondalla songs, native leis, giveaways
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Lorna Cabrera has a list of what she wants to eat in the two weeks that she will be in Cebu.
On top of the list of what she refers to as native Cebuano dishes are: kinilaw nga puso sa saging, adobong nokus and nangka salad.
She also looks forward to eat seafood and seaweed.
“I will make the most out of this visit,” said Cabrera, who left Cebu in 1977 for greener pastures in Chicago.
Cabrera left Cebu when she was 24 years old. She came home five years ago during the Christmas season to experience Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo.
This is Cabrera’s first Sinulog.
“I always come home for a reason. I am a Filipino and I really want to experience Sinulog,” she said.
The former resident of barangay Punta Princesa was onboard an Eva Air flight from Taipei, Taiwan which landed at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) today, January 17, at around 11:40 a.m.
She was joined by her husband, Adruel, and their friends who are members of BisDak (Bisayang Dako) Golfers League.
Coming down from the escalator after going through immigration procedures, Cabrera was greeted with Sinulog songs from a rondalla and a team of well wishers from the Balik Cebu committee who literally welcomed the balikbayans back home.
Outside of MCIA Terminal 2 arrivals area are Sinulog dancers clad in their festive costumes moving to the beat of the traditional dance.
“I did not expect that welcome. I was very surprised and very impressed,” a teary-eyed Cabrera said.
The Balik Cebu committee officials, representatives from the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority, Department of Tourism Central Visayas (DOT) Regional Director Shalimar Tamano, and other government agencies welcomed over a 1,000 balikbayans today, January 17, who came home to Cebu for the Sinulog festival season.
Balik Cebu comittee officials Alice Queblatin, Eileen Mangubat and Patria Aurora “Dawnie” Roa were hands on in welcoming and entertaining the balikbayans.
Queblatin said they have been welcoming overseas Filipinos since January 12.
“It is hard to quantify right now how many is the exact number of balikbayans who are in Cebu for Sinulog because there are so many ways to enter Cebu now. The airlines offer great deals,” she said.
Balik Cebu brings together government, business and civic leaders under one volunteer group that aims to give the balikbayans the signature warm Cebuano welcome since 2002.
Roa, former DOT 7 regional director, has been part of Balik Cebu since it started.
“You cannot get tired of welcoming people because this is Cebu. This is home. I have lived in Cebu for 26 years, 17 years of that I served in the DOT. I have been retired for nine years but I still do this because I love doing it,” she said.
Balikbayans from three flights — Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Eva Air — were welcomed with songs from a rondalla, native leis with the word “Cebu,” giveaways from Ayala Center Cebu and the airport.
The flights were from Seoul/Incheon, Hong Kong and Taipei, which are the usual connecting flights for balikbayans who live in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
The Chocolate Chamber, led by Cebu’s Chocolate Queen Raquel Choa, took charge in the distribution of dark and white chocolates as tokens.
Tonight, January 17, a reception dinner of Filipino dishes will be held at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu.
Cebu Holdings Inc., Ayala Malls and Ayala Center Cebu has been hosting the welcome dinner since 2002.
The Cabrera couple said they will also go around Cebu as their group will play golf in Bogo, Medellin and Danao to name a few.
“We call ourselves BisDak Golfers League. BisDak… Bisayang Dako. We are proud Bisaya living in Chicago,” said Adruel Cabrera./dbs
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