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Leap of Faith

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.

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

Events

Citizens of the World: CAMPAIGN 2KRAINE

Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village

Citizens of the World: CAMPAIGN 2KRAINE

By Eva Gullas

“We are all citizens of the world. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate with a stranger… you will find who you are.”

-Jose Andres, renowned Spanish Chef and founder of World Central Kitchen

 

Chef José Andrés

Where there are humanitarian disasters, you will find the volunteers of World Central Kitchen.  In their midst will be local chefs, most of them inspired by its iconic founder, celebrity chef José Andrés. Founded in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in  2010, World Central Kitchen established its “chef network,” of global professional chefs. The vision was for a kind of “chefs without borders” program where volunteers would enact positive change by cooking using local knowledge and resources. Last year, they even came to the island of Siargao in response to an Instagram plea for help after typhoon Odette almost levelled this idyllic paradise. WCK sponsored 2 community kitchens for 2 months serving 250 to 500 meals per day in Siargao.

WCK at Siargao with volunteers, December 2021. (Photo courtesy of Ai-Ai Garcia)

Chef José Andrés was born in Spain where he honed his culinary skills at the eponymous El Bulli under Ferran Adria. By the time he moved to the US in 1991, he was well on his way to being part of the celebrity chefs, with his Bazaar restaurant at the then SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills a favorite hang-out for Hollywood stars. Michelin stars and James Beard awards followed closely. These days though, Jose Andres spends his time in kitchens all over the world while his top rated chain of restaurants in the US continue to thrive. There’s a Bazaar restaurant at Las Vegas and Miami, and if you happen to be in the area, check out their amazing servings – it’s worth the splurge especially since it is owned by this great humanitarian!

The Bazaar Restaurant in Miami

With the Ukraine invasion delivered to us in sharp details tru social media and TV, it’s hard to ignore. And so, it was a natural conversation to be able to do something about it even in a small way. On a full-moon evening a few days ago, joining us at a beachside home for dinner was Matthew Wood, the German singer guest of Miranda Konstantiniduo who is here for a few days to shoot his latest music video. Sated with a good meal by the sea, we idly discussed a fund raising event with Matthew. We have been so engrossed with local politics and a looming election in just 2 months, that it was refreshing to talk about something bigger than our small world. Butch Carungay, seated in front of me, took the idea to heart and by the following day, he had the graphics for the event, and a ready rolodex of possible donors for the silent auction. Getting on board the following night was Carlo Cordaro, who happily lent us the second level of Asmara Resort. To complement Matthew, Cebuana singer Doods Osmena also will belt out a few songs. An impressive list of items for the silent auction is being compiled by Butch, composed of overnight stays at top resorts, artworks and furniture pieces from named artists.  We will post a list on the day of event. 

German singer Matthew Wood

Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village

Ribbon designed by Butch Carungay for guests at the fund raising event

It is sponsored by Zee Publications Inc., in our first foray after having been dormant during the pandemic and typhoon Odette. Zee will soon be launching a new artsy printed magazine called Eatz Cebu! 

This Friday, March 25, at 6pm, we open the doors of Asmara Urban Resort (see map) for this fundraising where we hope you can join us by donating a minimum of $50 to the World Central Kitchen directly at https://wck.org/donate. It will be an evening of fun and fundraising, and entry is tru an email or digital receipt of your donation. 

***

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. By February 25, 2022, Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) was on the ground serving free wholesome meals to those fleeing the violence. Chef Andrés and his volunteers have already served more than one million meals to Ukrainian refugees, from basements, train stations, and shelters. Still, cooking and distributing food in a war zone comes with unique challenges. “We began operations…over two weeks ago inside Lviv,” says Andrés. “The last two days we saw some missiles falling down. So, the western side of Ukraine, that actually was a safe haven for many Ukrainians leaving war, is already kind of feeling like the war is getting closer.” For Andrés, it’s a humanitarian necessity and a call he answers. “The least we can do at World Central Kitchen is be next to them – making sure they will be fed every day.”

SOURCE: MSNBC

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People

What Makes an Empowered Woman? Let’s take it from Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ Managing Director, Cleofe Albiso

What is an empowered woman made of? Managing Director Cleofe Albiso of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, the Philippines’ largest homegrown hospitality chain with 4,000 room keys and 11 hotels, composes her thoughts and shares that its grit, resilience, and love. 

Cleofe Albiso, Managing Director of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts  

Settling in on her new leadership role at the start of the new year, Albiso looks back even way before joining the organization during the last quarter of 2019 as its Group General Manager. It comes as a surprise when she shares that her years takes her back from being a pre-school teacher in Cebu using her degree in Bachelor of Science in Education major in mathematics finishing Magna Cum Laude. After a while, and with doors opening for her to join the corporate world, she finds herself earning her years in sales and marketing where she has gathered decades worth of exemplary experience being part of the country’s biggest telecommunications group and international hospitality brands. 

With the highs and blows of life and as well as business, she shares that “An empowered woman needs to have grit”. The will to persevere and continue with passion has become her brand of leadership in serving not just clients and guests, but as well as taking care of the people she works with. Through her dedication, Albiso has since continued to climb the corporate ladder and was also recognized as the first Filipino General Manager of a Marriott International branded property in the country, the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo that is also one of Megaworld Corporation’s many other operated international hotels in the Philippines. 

Fast forward to today, she looks at the future with gratefulness as she embraces the opportunity to empower the lives of 2,000 employees present across 11 hotels and not to mention 3 more properties opening this year as well as in 2023. She shares that “My responsibility can only be best tackled by filling my heart with gratitude and keeping my purpose in close check when times get challenging.” 

More than ever, she has come to understand that “Resilience is her way of life.” She explains that challenges come and go along with every solution that solves each one of them. Safe to say, what she considers as the biggest one yet would have to be this pandemic.  Albiso hopes that after a two year pause and struggle of the industry “My constant prayer is for our fellow Filipinos to help us recover by patronizing homegrown brands for them to explore the Philippines and travel again.” She said that in doing so “this will mean more jobs for the hospitality and tourism practitioners and boost confidence in the total industry to go back on full swing once again.” 

Admittedly, despite being one of the industries at the frontline of the pandemic, she can still say that “The culture of appreciation in our very own organization has been better strengthened during these times”.  The company lives by the Circle of Happiness. She explains that “Our organization operates with a culture that reminds us to love ourselves, our families, our work, our community with the love of God at the center of everything we do.” This pandemic has better reminded them to strive to take care of the wholistic well-being of each employee from physical to emotional and even mental health.

On top of that, Albiso gathers that what allows them to thrive is their team’s collective ability to take care of their key stakeholders, execute efforts geared towards sustaining the business, and making people stay and work passionately.  She further adds “We are a work in progress and there are many more business and service facets that we are focusing on improving” and humbly claims that “The best years for Megaworld Hotels and Resorts are yet to come.”

When asked about what her best advice to fellow women would be as they reach for their dreams, she said “I only found genuine fulfillment when I started having a relationship with God.  It is only by accepting that we cannot do things by ourselves that we become dependent on our creator.” According to her it is important “That we do not give credit to our talent, creativity and hard work (alone) but give glory to the one above us who have blessed us with all that.”  

At present, their properties are continuously looking to hire qualified applicants for vacant positions in front office, security, information technology, food and beverage, sales & marketing, human resources and engineering for Belmont Hotel Manila and Savoy Hotel Manila within Newport City in Pasay across NAIA terminal 3, Kingsford Hotel Manila located in the Entertainment City of Paranaque, Hotel Lucky Chinatown in Binondo, Twin Lakes Hotel near Tagaytay, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel in Quezon City, Richmonde Hotel Ortigas in Pasig, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo in Iloilo Business Park of Iloilo City, Belmont Hotel Boracay or Savoy Hotel Boracay located at the Newcoast Boracay and Savoy Hotel Mactan Newtown in Cebu.

For more information about how you can be part of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, kindly email careers@megaworldhotels.com. You may also inquire about your future stays through salesinquiry@megaworldhotels.com or connect with them through any of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ and its properties’ social media pages. 

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Lifestyle

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thanksgiving with the Woolbrights

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

The holiday season kicks off officially with Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful for family, friends and blessings. Although this is not usually practiced in our tropical country, there are, however, families like the Woolbrights for whom this is a time-honored tradition.

by Janine Taylor sittings editor Katsy Borromeo fashion stylist Mikey Sanchez food stylist Nicolette Gaw-Yu production manager David Jones Cua intern Danica Ronquillo hair and make-up Jessie Glova assistant Jojo Embalzado photography Joseph Ong locale Woolbright Residence

 

Eddie Woolbright was among the thousands of G.I.’s that landed on the shores of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. After the war, a few enterprising American soldiers came back, including the 24-year old Eddie who made Tacloban his home, before settling down in Cebu in the 1950s and opened a restaurant and a hardware store downtown—Eddie’s Log Cabin and Eddie’s Hardware and Auto Supply, respectively.

Eddie’s Log Cabin quickly became the hub of social, political and even military scene. It was the first air-conditioned café in town, and more importantly, it offered American diner food including a soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. It was patronized by one and all for its reputation for good food and service.

It also didn’t take long for the fearless Eddie Woolbright to realize that the real estate in the sleepy hillside suburbs was ripe for development. “I will show Cebu what a good planned subdivision is,” Eddie had said, when the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, then a young legal counselor for Columbian Rope Co., took Eddie to see the property. Pretty soon, Eddie had purchased over thirty-three hectares of otherwise undeveloped land from the heirs of the late Arlington Pond.

“Buy land,” Eddie Woolbright was known to quote the late humorist Will Rogers, “because they ain’t gonna make more.”

With his added access to army surplus, he bulldozed tracts of land, and a decade later, Beverly Hills, the first major subdivision in Cebu City, was created, and marketed to the city’s growing well-to-do locals, with the subdivision’s connotations of Hollywood and colonial American aesthetic. Eddie’s belief in the business potentials of central Cebu city enabled him to see much growth in his investments in land development, water drilling, construction, and general trading.

ON THE COVER The Woolbright sisters, Joy, Karen and Alice don Jun Escario’s Holiday Collection, photographed in their home by Joseph Ong. Hair and make-up by Jessie Glova.

 

Eddie had nine children: Rick, Anita, Marc, Gilbert, Alice, Kathy, Kristy, Karen and Joy. All recall that each holiday was as important to them as Christmas. Turkey Thanksgiving dinners, for example, as it was known in the Woolbright household, began when Eddie’s mom, Nell, came to visit sometimes in the 1960s. Eddie would buy a butterball turkey from the American base in Clark and she whipped up a traditional feast complete with cornbread stuffing, cranberry jelly, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes and her famous giblet gravy which was poured literally all over the bird, as they do back in her home in Oklahoma. Grandma Nell also taught the cooks at Eddie’s Log Cabin to make the famous Coconut Cream Pie, another Eddie’s Log Cabin standard. Kathy also recollects, “It was also dad’s idea that the restaurant and the hotel should serve breakfast 24 hours, and since I loved my Mexican omelet, sliced ham, buttered toast I enjoyed being able to eat breakfast any time of the day.” 

My dad taught me how to be humble. He told us stories about his younger days jumping trains, eating nothing but grapes for days just to go pick cotton. He had a hard life growing up and I guess he wanted us, his children, to know the meaning of hard work. He would say, “Nobody owes you a life in this world”. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. -Alice Woolbright

 

FROM LEFT ON JOY Nude dress, models own; ring and bangle by Gladys Young; ON ALICE Sequined LBD, models own; ON KAREN Grey pleated shift dress from Loalde; ring and necklace by Gladys Young.

Shortly after, turkey was introduced in the menu of Eddie’s Log Cabin, both Americans and Cebuanos, with a penchant for this wholesome meal, look for it when November came, and more especially on Thanksgiving Day. “Dad loved quality meat, and passed on this fondness to us, his children,” noted Karen, “So special meals always consisted of a good steak or the tender Prime Rib Roast. Of course, the year was never complete without a Turkey once or twice.”

As the sisters change into various outfits for the photo shoot in their childhood home, each one recalled the happy memories this holiday brings.  

ON KAREN Teal pantsuit from Loalde, belt by Gladys Young; ON JOY Plum cocktail dress, model’s own; ON ALICE Teal corseted dress by Jun Escario, belt by Gladys Young.

Alice, recalls disliking the giblet gravy as a child but since her dad would serve her at the dinner table she had no choice but to eat it. She adds, “He would get upset if we did not try everything.” Funnily enough, she now looks forward to the giblet gravy and can’t imagine turkey without it.  Her dad, she said, employed the same tactic with his customers at the restaurant so after a while, they ended up getting used to it, and will not have their turkey any other way.

Between brothers and sisters coming home from out of town and family members in the States, there was always some degree of traveling or entertaining company. Dad valued the family bond and holidays were the best time to reinforce that. –Karen Woolbright

Happy hour with the Woolbright siblings.

The family pet Chewy joins in on the annual Woolbright Thanksgiving dinner.

Joy Woolbright-Sotto fondly remembers watching her dad carve the bird. “He made sure that each one of the kids learned how to do it properly, with the white meat sliced thinly enough, and followed last by the dark meat,” she says. A feat she now does with ease. Future doctor Karen says that her dad would always carve the wings and serve it to her, which is still her favorite part of the fowl. Kathy though, considers turkey her comfort food. But she says that she loves the Coconut Cream Pie, which is also served on the restaurant’s menu, and that as a child she could eat half a pie in bed. 

 

Old fashioned roast turkey

Cebu in the 60s and 70s was a very small town, if you wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, you went to Eddie’s. Eddie’s Log Cabin, like its owner was a trailblazer, the balut dice game originated there, many singers’ careers such as Elizabeth Ramsey’s were given their first break there.  

The torch has been passed on to his children, and they too celebrate it with turkey dinners and all the trimmings, ensuring that the restaurant still serves the traditional menu, down to the Coconut Cream Pie.  Thanksgiving will always be celebrated at their homes, and the Beverly Hotel, the last legacy that Eddie Woolbright gave his children to run.

Another legacy that Eddie left to his children was a love for food and Alice was quick share that she got it too, “I’m usually home during the day and I find myself in the kitchen trying to cook up new dishes to serve.”

 

Back at the Woolbright ancestral home, which is also now Alice’s home, the dining table has been set, evoking autumn and harvest, the candles are lit, the wine is being poured, the buffet table is groaning under the weight of the Thanksgiving repast. The sisters are seated at the table, each with a glass of wine discussing whose turn it is to carve. The annual Woolbright turkey dinner is about to start and I am glad to be invited to join them at their family home. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s November 2011 Entertaining Issue, “The Gift that Keeps on Giving” on pages 72-77.)

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