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Party hopping on Chinese New Year

February 11, 2008

Party-hopping on Chinese New Year
Jaime Picornell

Media has been hopping to the beat of Chinese drums and the refrain of “Enter the Rat” as hotels all over town have celebrated the Chinese New Year.  It was a time to celebrate.  The top hotels were overflowing with guests, the local were all out partronize the various offers from the hotels’ restaurants.

Eeky as a mouse can be, imagine many people’s reactions to a rat.  But, but, but, in the zodiac of the Chinese lunar calendar, the rat is No. 1 as the most intelligent of creatures.  It is a case of never mind how abhorrent you may be, as long as you’re smart.

But philosophical ramblings are not our cup of green or black tea.  Our role is to report how much we’ve enjoyed the series of events we’ve enjoyed the series of events we’ve been to, all proving how Cebu and its top hotels are up to par with any anywhere.  The marathon started on Monday, Feb. 4, at noon at the foyer of the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel.

Executive chef Luke Ganon was on center-stage poised by a huge salad bowl, with his white-toqued aides.  That was for the Yee Sang salad tossing ceremony – the day’s highlight.

Hans Hauri, GM of the hotel was introduced by PR manager Mafe Castillo to welcome all and give the rationale of the celebration.  The Consul General of China was there, as well as Governor Gwen Garcia, Cebu City First Lady Margot Osmena, DOT Undersecretary Phineas alburo and regional director Dawn Roa, Apas Barnagay Rommel Ayuman, and more.

They, along with the hotels HRD manager Julie Najar and others completed the auspicious number of 12, were asked to do the tossing.  The higher those 12 condiments went, the better, never mind if the carpet was littered, or if some of those carrots and cold salmon fillets landed on Jessica Avila’s silk outfit.  She was congratulated for having been showered with good luck.

Everyone was given a plateful to sample the salad, and in no time led to Café Marco by Lynn Romero, Carlo Borromeo, Jude Pangan, Margaret Pareja, ect.  A special Chinese menu was served.  The appetizers and the soup were enough to feast on, but there was so much more.

Did you know that the Yee Sang tossing rite originated among the Chinese of Malaysia?  Dr. Nestor Alonso put forth the question next day Feb. 5 at lunch in Tea of Spring of the Shangri-La in Mactan.  He quickly added that just like the dish Chop Suey, fortune cookies were contrived in USA.

In the absence of communications director Sharon Samarista (on vacation in some far-flung destination) doing the honors was Lesley Ann Tan, with Richard Alarcon by her side, Lesley was in Chinese attire that had “Shanghai” written all over it.  “You can tell?” she beamed.

In brocaded burgundy silk was Food and Beverage director Trevor Stevens who shook everyone’s hand in welcome.  GM Tim Wright and his pretty wife Mona also came by to say “Happy New Year.”  Teresin Mendezona loomed into view and explained she was attending a celebration, s did gordeous Marguerite Lhuilier.

“Open your fortune cookies,” suggested Nestor Alonzo.  Flor Ynclino and Nelia Neri cracked theirs, and said with glee that they had the same admonishment.  To have with them during this lunar year a cicada-shaped piece of jade.  I got two messages in my fortune cookies.  One that I should have a fan handy, and the other is that I have a painting of a mountain behind when I work on my desk.  Well, well.

A vision of loveliness and glamour stepped in and sat at the end of our table – Marites Allen, who gave Mila Espina a buss as she said, “Hello, Ma’am, I’m a Josenian.”  An alumna of the University of San Jose-Recoletos, the turns and tumbles of life have made Marites a supreme authority on feng shui.

Lunch, an epicurean experience of the first magnitude, was served and, in due time, Tea of Spring’s new executive chef Kenny Wong made an appearance to collect kudos.  After such a fine repast you’d expect drowsiness to creep up.  But no!  Marites Allen perked us all with her expostulation on feng shui, and even if it was at a dizzying rate, we all went home with special calendars where everything she said was spelled out, day by day.

The evening of Feb. 6 was for the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City to hold its traditional “Fire in the Sky” event.  The lobby was thronged with people who had come to see the preliminary show, with GM Marco Portacio holding court at one end.  Choy and Rosebud Sala were beside him.  From the PR office, helping to seat the VIPs were Kaye LuYm and Renee Pimentel.

Those deafening drums made good beat for the lion dance, and then the dragon dance.  The young people involved were very good at it.  So were those who made a display of Chinese martial arts, and the pretty maidens in colorful costumes performing folkloric dance.  Best of all was the Shaolin monk who flitted about with the grace of a celestial spirit.

The show over, dinner was served at Café Uno with accent on Chinese cuisine, alright.  Those huge mushrooms stuffed with fish were delicious, as was the huge Tanguigue roasted and cut into fillets.  Someone reminded that it was Ash Wednesday.  Another said there had been a dispensation granted.

“I’ve done something very good today,” said Margot Osmean, eyeing the crisp lechon skin tidbits.  She sat with a large group that included Marissa Fernan, Elvira LuYm, Philip Rodriguez, Arcy Gayatin and her pretty daughter Cybill, Teresin Mendezona, Myrna Adad, Irma Atillo and Lillian Abella with their guest Julie Brussel.

When fireworks time neared, everyone spilled out into the driveway or the terraces adjoining Treff and La Gondola.  What a magnificent display.  Not just fire in the sky, but outbursts of metallic sparkle, and all the colors of the rainbow.  It must have lasted more than 15 minutes, and it could have gone on and on.  Fabulous, and more marvelous than last year’s, we told Marco P.

The Hilton Mactan marked Chinese New Year on the actual day.  Feb. 7.  Time for 5:30 p.m., that would require us to start moving at 4:30 p.m.  Oh, where was I?  Everywhere save on that road to Mactan.  My sister Ma. Pilar Escano arrived from Leyte, and we had to change all our plans.

As fate would have it, the Casino Espanol was having a special Chinese New Year’s buffet which attracted a lot of people, including us.  No escaping the entry of the Year of the Rat

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