Welcome for balikbayans starts

By: Aileen Garcia-Yap January 09,2015 - 08:25 AM

Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and Miss Cebu pageant candidates open the Balik Cebu information booth at Ayala Center with  Balik Cebu  chairperson Tetta Baad and members.   (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and Miss Cebu pageant candidates open the Balik Cebu information booth at Ayala Center with Balik Cebu chairperson Tetta Baad and members.

The annual red carpet welcome for returning Filipinos was officially launched yesterday with the opening of the Balik Cebu booth at the ground floor of Ayala Center Cebu.

“We will once again have a welcome dinner for balikbayans on January 15 at the Terraces,”said Tetta Baad, Cebu City Tourism Commissioner and chairperson of the Balik Cebu.

The barrio fiesta dinner for 500 guests will have a Filipino-themed menu, live music, a Sinulog dance performance and the guest appearance of the newly crowned Miss Cebu and her court.

Later in the evening, guests can linger for a cultural show of the Handumanan.

At the booth, which is open until January 18, balibayans can buy tickets for the welcome dinner, seats  at the Sinulog Grandstand for the January 18 parade, and reserve slots for a countryside tour of southern Cebu in the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo on January 21 to 23.

Baad said they are expecting around 200 balikbayans to arrive on commercial flights next week.  Two flights will be welcomed at the airport on January 14 with a rondalla and Sinulog dancers.

A group of 60 balikbayans from Las Vegas arrived earlier on Wednesday.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama opened the booth yesterday with pageant finalists of Miss Cebu and members of the Balik Cebu committee.

As overall chairman of the Sinulog since 2001, Rama said he would always remember how former Ayala executives like Rene Almendras and Ver dela Cerna first brought up the proposal of a balikbayan welcome program, which took shape as Balik Cebu.

Now on it’s 14th year, the Balik Cebu launched the BalikBalay campaign last year to raise funds to  build 100 nipa hut homes for  typhoon Yolanda survivors in the town of Pilar, Camotes Island, an area not reached by aid groups.

Baad said the Cebu provincial government last December clinched the purchase of land for a  resettlement area in barangay Esperanza  good for 70 to 100 cottages.

“We have  enough funds for 50 nipa huts that cost  P35,000 each,”she said.

The amount will provide a well-built 15-square-meter cottage, bathing area, latrine, septic tank,  water supply and vegetable plots.

Why a nipa hut?  It’s been a traditional dwelling of our ancestors for generations. It’s easy to build, to repair and is even portable so when needed, it can be transferred to a safer location, said Baad.

“When bad things happen like typhoon Yolanda, Cebuano don’t get bogged down. We get up, get moving and help ourselves. When our neighbors in the Visayas get hit by calamity, Cebu is the first to mobilize and extend help. Others say it’s because Cebuanos have a can-do attitude and a big heart,” she said.

They continue to welcome donations for the 50 more nipa huts that they target to build in the area.

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TAGS: Balik Cebu, Balikbayan, Cebu City, Miss Cebu, Sinulog Festival

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