Life! Memories of Home

The King of Swaziland

ON September 11, 2007 Silkair invited a group of Cebu media to join a media group of Manila for a trip to Kerala in southern India. Silkair’s manager in Cebu Kum Hoong Kong and Rita Dy of Singapore Airlines–Manila were our escorts.

We all met in Singapore and from there we flew to Kochi, capital of Kerala. Nelia Neri and Honey Loop were with us. Among the Manila press were Thelma San Juan and Ethel Soliven Timbol.

In Kerala, there is no glaring poverty nor ostentatious wealth. The climate was like Cebu, humidly warm. We did a lot of sightseeing. There was the church of Saint Francis where Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, was buried.

No longer a Catholic church, it must now be Anglican for a plaque said Queen Elizabeth II had visited there in 1997. You have to take off your shoes
to enter. I put mine in a bag. I recalled how in 1969 at the temple of the Emerald Huddha in Bangkok, an old woman was walking away with my shoes.

At the Cottage Art Emporium we admired the carpets, the bolds of silk and the jewelry with precious gems of all colors — emeralds, rubies, blue sapphires, topazes and aquamarines. I obtained a book by the Maharani of Jaipur, an autonomous kingdom, which helped me understand the independence of India from British rule.

In Taj Malabar we were introduced to Ayurveda to enhance wellness through the respiratory and digestive systems. I signed up for an Ayurveda message. A small wiry man put me on a slab of granite and kneaded me with fragrant oils.

It ended with a sandy mass of mud to wash away the mud. Then I had a shower throughout which I must have passed a gallon of water. What a relief!

But one felt like brand new. Lavish buffets were available for lunch and dinner, and most of the food was hot.

We asked a chef which dishes were not spicy, and he indicated some. But they were spicy just the same. The chef insisted that the dishes did not have any chili, only pepper! We visited numerous resorts and took a river cruise. On Sunday, September 16, I walked to the Catholic church near the resort.

I heard Sunday Mass outside the church, for one had to remove one’s shoes and leave them outside together with heaps of slippers. A miscievous little boy was gathering them in his hands and throwing them up in the air. I can just imagine the resultant confusion at the end of the mass.

Meanwhile, back in Cebu there was intense activity among our age group for the revival of the Rigodon de Honor of the Bachelors and Feminas clubs (BF) during the Innocents Day ball on December 28.

Participating were former members who were very nostalgic about the whole thing, led by Perla Agudo Peterson. We had the choreography recorded by Jesus “Choy” Sala during the Baile del Siglo in 1998. Johanna Mangubat of Balletcenter interpreted it and the rehearsals were fine.

There were occasions to bond with old friends. Finally, the day came. As tradition had it, there would be Papas and Mamas: Congressman Ben-Hur Salimbangon and Rosebud Sala for the Bachelors; Oscar Jerez and Annie Corrales Woolbright Mahrt (Mama in 1968) for the Feminas.

Perla Agudo as president of the Feminas danced with Junjo Ferreros, while Vice Mayor Michael Rama’s partner was architect Tessie Javier.

The 1968 top officers were in the Rigodon — Presidents Vic Torres and Pacita Unchuan Toledo; Vice Presidents Ana Maria Manguerra and I.

Couples in the Rigodon were Eddie and Marilou Bernardo, Julius and Nelia Neri, Alvin and Ninette Garcia, Bill and Annie Neri. Also among the Rigodon dancers were: Gina Kahler and Edward Deen Jr., Chinggay Utzurrum and Tony Lozada, Anne Marie Uy and Dindo Borromeo, Mariquita Yeung and Benjie Diola, Ritchie and Emma Mendoza, Anita San Jose and Jonathan Lopez; Elena Young and Gabby Leyson, Marietta Malinao and Benito Unchuan, Ben and Mary Jane Estalilla, David and Betty Young, Elsa Yared and her son Patrick, Dr. George Dosdos and Minnie Yuvienco.

It was agreed that the next B-F ball would be for young people.

A big event in February 2008 was a piano concert to launch the 75th anniversary of St. Theresa’s College (STC) Performing at the ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel were Las Damas de Marfil (the Ivory Ladies, previously known as the Ivory Mafia).

The pianists were STC Cebu alumna Myrna Rodriguez Adad, Nena del Rosario Villanueva, Amelia Guevara, and Carminda Regala and Alumna of STC Manila.

They played solo, or as duo, or as double four hands with all of them on stage at the two grand pianos. A special tango number was performed by Tessie Javier and Larry Rendon.

In April 2008, Ayala Malls invited Cebu media to Manila for the awards night at The Gallery, presided by Fernando Zobel de Ayala and his wife Kitkat.

Jeanette Japzon of Cebu Holdings was our leader. We were billeted at the Intercontinental Hotel and given a tour of the Ayala Museum. The paintings of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Fernando Zobel and others were impressive as were the detailed dioramas depicting Philippine history.

Most astounding was the gold museum with over 1,000 artifacts big and small, dating back to the times before the Spanish colonization.

Another trip abroad came our way when Cathay Pacific invited Cebu media to experience Macau, once a Portuguese colony, which like British Hong Kong, reverted back to China in 1999. Escorting us was Connie Cimafranca of Cathay Cebu, and Charina Puno of the Macau Tourism Board.

In our group were Chinggay Utzurrum, Nathalie Tomada, Han Kintanar and Cybill Gayatin. We flew from Cebu to Hong Kong where we had to take the ferry to Macau. I was almost left by the ferry.

I had gone to a bookstore and had to line up for the book I had obtained: “City of Falling Angels” by John Berendt, fascinating non-fiction about Venice.

His other book is “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” set in Savannah.

We stayed at Macau’s MGM Hotel. Portuguese influence is all over Macau, and so is the Las Vegas glitter. The famous gambling casinos are in Macau, and we visited some of them (although not to gamble) like the Venetian and Wynn.

The food in Macau is fabulous. Its cuisine consists of Chinese ingredients cooked the Portuguese way. The famous baroque facade of St. Paul’s church is Macau’s emblematic symbol. It is not a ruin.

It was built that way because the Chinese empire did not allow large structures to face its territory, and St. Paul’s looks to the sea. A little wooden chapel lies behind the monumental facade.

In mid 2008 the King of Swaziland (a land locked African nation) H.M. Mswati III visited Cebu with his wife No. 13, Queen Lakhambule, and his sister Princess Nsinuoso. They stayed with their entrourage at the Shangri-La in Mactan.

The chance to meet them was at the luncheon hosted by Governor Gwen Garcia at the Shangri-la’s Ocean Pavilion. Governor Gwen showered the visitors with gifts made by Cebu artisans, including pearls mounted in silver by Carmen Campbell.

Among those present were Congresswoman Nerissa Soon Ruiz, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Francisco Benedicto, the Philippine Ambassador to Swaziland Virgilio Reyes, the Swaziland Ambassador to the Philippines Mpmelelo Hlophe, Sam Costanilla who hosted the program and Junjet Primor who cheoroghaped it.

During the program a little one-year-old princess on the lap of her nanny protested loudly until they turned her around so that she could see the dances.

The King and his group later went on a shopping expedition to SM City Cebu, where they bought a lot at the Nokia shop and the Levi’s stores.

Knowing that the king had an eye for pretty ladies, we asked Governor Gwen if he had flirted with her. “No, I’m not his type,” she said. “He couldn’t take his eyes from Nerissa, though.”

TAGS: Cebu, india, King, SilkAir, Switzerland
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