Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Yeung who play significant roles in the fundraising campaign for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod need no introductions. But few know the inner workings of the minds and hearts of these two ladies, so alike in circumstance and yet so different in temperament and discipline.
How can I refuse Pedro? He was my room mate in Rome!” Thus began a most candid interview with Edna Diago Lhuillier, the wife of former ambassador to the Vatican, Philippe E. Lhuillier.
It was, for me, a distinct pleasure to be given this assignment to meet and interview two of Cebu’s prominent personalities. For the Zee Lifestyle shoot on a warm summer Tuesday, Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung were dutifully enduring the instructions of the photographer even up to two hours beyond lunchtime. Mariquita looked svelte in her black linen Gianfranco Ferre gown and Edna was queenly in her black Cary Santiago ensemble. They must be used to this kind of activity as no one heard them complain, ask for a break, or saw them get uncomfortable the whole time they were being photographed.
The residence of Ambassador and Mrs. Lhuillier in the mountains of Cebu, resplendent with European ecclesiastical artworks, was the perfect backdrop for the two ladies. Befitting too for Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Monsignor Roberto Alesna, the two members of the Cebu Church hierarchy who were assigned by Archbishop Jose Palma to lead the fundraising campaign for the canonization expenses for Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Pedro is the endearing name Cebuanos call the soon to be declared saint from the Visayas. The Cebuanos relate very intimately to Blessed Pedro Calungsod, a layman; he is somehow regarded as one that they call on to. The Cebuanos cannot call him San Pedro, as that pertains to St. Peter the apostle, so Pedro it is.
Msgr. Alesna first asked Mariquita Yeung to co-chair the fundraising drive that, so typical of her, she accepted without any qualms. Two weeks later, she helped Msgr. Alesna in asking Edna Lhuillier to join the project, who couldn’t refuse Pedro and consented to Msgr. Alesna’s request. For indeed she kept the image of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in their bedroom in Rome when the Cebu delegation to Pedro’s beatification asked the then Philippine Ambassador’s wife if she can take care of it so they won’t have to pay extra freight on their way home to Cebu. “Besides, Msgr. Alesna told me that the canonization of Pedro will be on October 21; why, that’s my birthday!” So the die was cast for Edna Lhuillier, the quiet and retiring mother and wife.
Talking to Edna Lhuillier, I found that behind the soft voice is a steely resolve to do the right thing. She is known to personally deliver aid to victims of calamities and will not back down on her resolve to keep politicians out of her way when she does it. This lady has a heart but will not be taken advantage of by people who think they know better.
Her well-ordered world shows in the impeccable service and attention a guest is given in her home. She gaily admits to her love for cooking and entertaining in her homes, no wonder the generous food served that day was beyond reproach. These traits are perfect for an ambassador’s wife who has to entertain a lot and well.
I sensed that Edna Lhuillier would do the right thing even if it exacts a toll on her. She knows her place is beside her husband, and that being an ambassador’s wife takes leaving her comfortable homes in the Philippines. Because of her stringent requirements, it took them two years to find a place befitting an ambassador’s residence in Rome. She talked about how lonely the first two years were in Rome. She missed her children, her grandchildren and her friends in the Philippines. It took some time for her to develop friendships among the other diplomatic wives. But she soldiered on, staying by her husband’s side. Later, both she and the Ambassador found solace in the special friendship they had with the late Cardinal Sanchez.
The Ambassador’s stint in the Vatican lasted eleven years. Edna Lhuillier recounts that for her, the most unforgettable events during those eleven years were the two instances when she met Pope John Paul II. The first one was when they were presented to the Pope as the new ambassador to the Holy See. She remembers that she wanted to cry in the presence of the Pope and reminisces, “He had this aura of goodness and holiness. He was already bent from his affliction but he made sure he would make eye contact. His gaze seemed to bore through you in intensity. I felt so blessed to be near him.” The second time was when the Pope said Mass in St. Peter’s Square, and there were many Filipinos present. All of a sudden, Cardinal Sanchez called them to come to the front and they received Holy Communion from the Pope himself.
Her life after Rome is filled with familial duties, the family business, and the numerous charitable foundations she is actively involved in. She supports seminarians and deserving college scholars. She never forgets Bais, her hometown in Negros Oriental, and extends help to people in need there.
Needless to say, the fundraising for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod will surely have her zealous attention. This lady will do the right thing for Blessed Pedro.
The afternoon was coming to an end but graciously, Mariquita told me that we could schedule her interview later in the week at her home. The interview with Mariquita on a Friday afternoon was revealing. I saw Mariquita wave from her front door who was a refreshing sight in her tan jeans tied with a sash below the waist showing off her reed-thin figure. She told me that she exercises, plays golf and tennis, and goes horseback riding. She adds that lately, her grandson also takes up a lot of her time and energy.
“Do we really have to make it an interview? Let’s just have a nice chat!” That statement set the tone for that afternoon. She was relaxed and in her element in her lovely home, and what a place it was; comfortable chintz-covered settees in the living room, a grand piano lined with beloved family pictures, and a marvelous view of the flamboyant bougainvilleas tumbling all over the walls of the house from the open French doors. Mariquita brought us to the cool comfort of the kitchen cum family room where she talked about her charities, her civic involvements and her children.
A strong presence in her family, she makes sure that everyone is taken care of and happy. Although generous of her time to other causes, Mariquita makes sure that family comes first.
This lady is the force behind the eponymous MSY (Mariquita S. Yeung) Foundation that takes care of indigent children, as well as a special project called “Operation Smile” that gives free operations for cleft-lipped children. For her extensive contribution to society and those in need, the Pope raised her to the Order of St. Sylvester.
Last year, she was tapped by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to head the Beautiful Cebu Movement. Since then she has not stopped asking, cajoling and charming others to help with the rejuvenation of Osmeña Boulevard, the only ceremonial street in Cebu City. The Masquerade Ball, which Mariquita conceptualized to raise funds for the Beautiful Cebu Movement, was a great success. She was able to gather so many people from society and the business world, who generously pledged financial support for the project.
Immediately after consenting to be the co-chair of the fund drive for the canonization expenses of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Mariquita got Brian To on board, a noted strategist from Hongkong. To’s credentials include having graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon, and some other business schools; being a Senior Fellow of the Wharton School, and being a strategist for more than twenty years to some of the Fortune 500 corporations, among others. With his expert guidance, the fund drive should be a successful endeavor.
Only a few privileged women would go out of their way to lend their names to such a massive undertaking; it would have been so much easier to donate a certain amount and be done with it. But these two ladies should be commended for taking on this project, for it is one that intends to raise an amount that runs in the millions, which also raises the question in a lot of people’s minds about the expense for canonizing a saint.
Be that as it may, the fundraising group has embarked on a massive campaign. To whom much is given, much is required, and consciously or not, Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Yeung live by this principle.
I asked Mariquita if she regretted accepting the gargantuan task. She was sitting languidly in a sofa sipping a cold glass of orange juice.
She softly patted a loose lock of hair back in place and said ever so softly said, “I’ll do it again if I have to.”
- by Louella Eslao-Alix
- sittings editor Katsy Borromeo
- photography Jan Gonzales
- hair and make-up Romero Vergara
- hair and make-up assistant Jessi Egos and Jay Failanga
EXCLUSIVE: Never Been Released Behind-the-Scenes photos of Zee Lifestyle’s Emerald Issue Cover Shoot
We celebrate the strength and resilience of womanhood in this year’s Mother’s Day by looking back at these never been seen before behind-the-scenes shots of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s Emerald (20th Anniversary) Issue cover shoot featuring the “Leading Women” of Cebu.
To celebrate the 20 beautiful years of Zee Lifestyle as the ultimate source of lifestyle news in Cebu, we handpicked 12 strong and stylish women of Cebu from every age group. These women show us that independently building one’s strength of character and living one’s passion knows no age. From the beginning, Zee has always been empowering women, providing the Cebuanas a platform to express their beauty and confidence, share their passions, engage in economic and political participation which yields to viewing women with equality and respect that we deserve.
photography Jan Gonzales
creative director Melo Esguerra
art director Doro Barandino
sittings editor Shari Quimbo
beauty director Romero Vergara
makeup Arnauld, Janice Barillo and Nicko dela Peña
hair Jessie Egos and Jake Arias
fashion styling Clint Potestas
production assistants Patty Taboada and Katrina Labra
locale Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Cebu
Twelve women, two sets and one afternoon. That is how the Zee Lifestyle team decided to celebrate the title’s 20th anniversary issue—with a challenge that, in some ways, is one of our biggest productions yet.
The idea came along when publisher Eva Gullas and editor-at-large Melo Esguerra were discussing a cover story that would best represent the magazine’s history. From commissioning artistic depictions on Cebu to playing with the anniversary’s emerald theme, no idea had stuck until Melo suggested putting a series of women who had already been on the cover of Zee, again on the cover all together.
Coming up with the list of names, of course, was no small feat. Our covers from the last 20 years have included several strong personalities—from philanthropists and politicians, to actors, and names to soon watch out for, our pages have seen them all. The challenge, then, was to come up with a list of women who had been driving forces in their respective fields when they had first appeared on the cover, and remain as powerful players even today.
With input from editors, both past and present, we rounded up 12 women from different age groups, fields and industries, who are all strong and passionate at whatever it is they do—Amparito Lhuillier, who remains the doyenne of Cebu society as a picture of elegance and class with her continuing efforts in business and social causes; the always-stylish Marguerite Lhuillier, herself an example of sophistication in all her efforts, whether business or otherwise; Margot Osmeña, who as a Cebu City Councilor has spearheaded many urban projects directed for the betterment of living in the city; hospitality mavens June Alegrado and Alice Woolbright, who are deeply involved in the rise of their brands, Bluewater properties and Beverly Hotel, respectively; Christina Garcia Frasco, the current Lilo-an Mayor advocating impressively progressive efforts in the area; former model Fiona King, now a major player in homegrown real estate with projects like Bloq Residences; the fitness enthusiast Danessa Onglatco who has espoused wellness with the opening of Yogahub; restaurateur Carla Yeung-McKowen who is behind the city’s hottest dining outlet, The Pig & Palm; designer Mia Arcenas, whose signature resort wear and accessories are representative of Cebu’s laid back lifestyle; Kym Maitland-Smith, who juggles efforts in swimsuit design through SOLTI Activewear and is building awareness for the vegan lifestyle; and Kryz Uy, whose online presence was a strong one even before fashion blogs were on anyone’s radar.
An impressive bunch, for sure. These women properly embody the characteristics that Zee Lifestyle looks for in one who makes the cover—beauty, yes, but also elegance coupled with individuality, and always a strong drive to succeed in whatever efforts they are directed.
This, it turns out, was the fitting tribute to the years Zee has been Cebu’s premier lifestyle bible, as well as a sign of the things forthcoming. Our 12 cover stars may have been on our pages before, but if their current efforts are any indication, our pages will continue to see more of them in the future. And as continuing purveyors of what Cebu has to offer, Zee Lifestyle will happily be seeing them in the years to come.
(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s December 2016 Emerald Issue, “Leading Women” on pages 140-155.)
La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu
La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.
Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.
There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.
La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.
Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.
Behind the Garments
Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.
Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.
Historical Awareness in Cebu
The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.
After the Razzmatazz and Razzle-dazzle: Post-Sinulog Thoughts
by Chrissy Grey Resaba
Buntings of red and yellow were removed from post to post. Streets were cleared and cleaned. Fireworks displays were faded in the sky. Beats of #prititit and tunes of tourism-booster Cebu tracks were being put to archive once again.
Contingents from different parts of Cebu and Central Visayas had gone back home. Party people had gone sober while some are still recovering. Traffic has gone back to normal. Businesses, as well, has gone back to normal.
However, all the fun and loud chants, smooth grooves, and frenzied choreographies are still replaying from the memory banks of the people who celebrated Sinulog 2020. The queen of all festivals in the Philippines has left again another mark of cultural and festive nostalgia to the people from all parts of the world and Cebuanos alike.
After all the razzmatazz and razzle-dazzle, let’s get to know what are these IG and FB personalities’ #PostSinulogThoughts about celebrating the newly-culminated Sinulog 2020 and how did they differentiate it to last year’s.
Eva Psychee Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2018 @evapatalinjug
I celebrated my Sinulog with my boyfriend and some of my close friends, we decided to choose a place where it’s not very crowded where we can see the whole Cebu, talk, and chill the night away. We went to Verified Lounge – Cebu’s newest premier sky lounge – located at the rooftop of the Avenir Building. It was something new for me as the night was calm as I was away from the busy streets of Cebu. It’s definitely one way of enjoying such festivities.
Kim Covert @kimcovert
The Sinulog celebration this year has been one of the most memorable events in my life. Not only was I invited to perform a few of my own songs during the weekend’s festivities but I also turned over my Binibining Cebu Tourism crown to my successor. Last year, I was busy with work and was not able to completely grasp the events. This year’s festival was more organized which is a great success for Cebu. Many have flown in and had spent time with their families in the “Pit Senyor” spirit, others have enjoyed spending time off with friends and colleagues. It was a great way for me to start my New Year and close my Cebu chapter before I leave to the US in a week.
Alem Garcia @thealemgarcia
Well pretty much, I was still busy doing shows and events for Sinulog. But what made it different this year was the religious celebration made me believe even more that Sto. Niño is indeed miraculous and that He is meant to be celebrated. Even though you are successful in your chosen field, furthermore, everything will be meaningless if you do not have the faith.
Philip Pingoy @almostablogger
We all have a Sinulog story to tell. It may be a story of losing faith and finding hope. But what is important is our devotion to the Holy Child Jesus (Señor. Sto. Niño). This year, my Sinulog experience was very different since I am already based in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the internet I was still able to watch the mass and all the festivities in Cebu. I am in UK because I prayed to Sto. Niño. So, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Sinulog and let us continue to share to the rest of the world why Sinulog is the grandest festival in the Philippines. Pit Senyor everyone! I hope you had a good one!
Lyssa Amor @lyssaamor
Sinulog celebrates Filipinos’ acceptance of Christianity. This year, I celebrated Sinulog by hearing the word of God. I went to church which I do every Sinulog but the difference now is that I am not in Cebu. It’s my first time to celebrate Sinulog away from home because I’m currently in Japan. Although I didn’t dance the traditional Sinulog dance this year, I wasn’t able to watch the fireworks in Ayala, and didn’t spend time with my friends in Mango and IT Park. Snr. Sto. Niño will always be in my heart and I am forever grateful that our ancestors accepted Christianity and we continue to embrace it up until today.
Kevin Geniston @kgeniston
Sinulog will always be a highlight for me as a Cebuano. This year has been fulfilling as I was able to brave the crowd in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu three times to attend the novena mass which had also become like bonding time with my family, daughter, friends and loved ones. I ended the celebration of the Sinulog festivities with a bit of the usual partying and/or clubbing.
Carlo Andrew Olano @kalamicebu
My Sinulog this year was a great mix of religious and secular activities. I was able to go to the church and somehow witnessed the Traslacion and the fluvial procession. I also went to many side events like parties, mall events, and fireworks exhibitions. Sinulog 2020 had a fantastic balance of fun, faith, and festivities.
Danna Bacolod @dannabacolod
This is the second time I spent Sinulog with Cebu Pacific. We had series of events prepared during its entire week and participated the grand parade by having a float last Sunday. I always feel excited to join Sinulog Grand Parade and see a lot of people celebrating their own way of Sinulog along the streets of Cebu. Guess it’s safe to say that I had so much fun. Even if this was work-related, I didn’t feel like I’m actually working as it was always joyful doing events like these.
Nimo Hideki @nimo_scheming
You prolly knew this already but, Sinulog 2020 was by far the most phenomenal Sinulog experience: more laidback than the previous years’. The music in every corner of the streets were still there to help you let loose and enjoy the experience. The surge of people had tested you both mentally and physically. But it was an experience you cannot miss like mingling with people from different walks of life and shouting out “Pit Senyor” to everyone. Summing up my Sinulog experience, I was able to get crazy and enjoy all aspects of the fest.
Michael Rey @michaelsomewhere
I had the most relaxed Sinulog experience this year. I did not party and preferred to witness the grand parade instead. I do think that this year’s celebration was more colorful and much safer as establishments strictly abided the rules imposed by the Cebu City Government. I was also amazed at how the festival of fashion here in Cebu has evolved throughout the years.
Now, how about you? What are your #PostSinulogThoughts this Prititit 2020? Viva Pit Senyor!
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