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
LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.
Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic. People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu. More and more are joining the ride. Many are quite serious about cycling. I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.
How did you get into serious cycling? What was your motivation?
Blinky de Leon. Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer
“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”
“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”
Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant
“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”
“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”
Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative
“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”
Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…
#CebuPride: Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films
Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts
By: Allain Dumon Fonte
Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ. Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies. In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society. The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more. Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people. Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia. At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.
The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s. Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide. A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!
1. Lingua Franca
Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval. Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay. Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent. When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”. While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.
The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media. Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.
Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines. In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU. She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.
2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz. However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee. Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.
Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA. Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools. He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan. Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii. Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines. When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother. Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.
3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film. It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall. It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends. Raquela is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines. The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.
Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology. Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies. Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.
There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have brought Cebu to world. They truly are #CebuPride.
37 Years of High Fashion; Arcy Gayatin leaves a Legacy of Edginess and Elegance
Arcy Gayatin: A Legacy of Luxury in Fabrication
By: Allain Dumon Fonte
The brand Arcy Gayatin gave the Queen City of the South a distinct reputation in the fashion industry. The fashion line of Arcy Gayatin sets the bar higher each year for clothing luxury and fabrication techniques.
Araceli “Arcy” Ancajas Gayatin is the daughter Galileo Ancajas and Remedios Zanoria Ancajas who founded Cebu’s home brand, Gal’s Bakery. Arcy went to the University of San Carlos and studied Political Science. And just like Dr. Muccia Prada, who completed her Ph.D. in Political Science and established the luxury line of Prada, Arcy also got in touch with her artistic side and started her own fashion line. However, it was not Prada that influenced Arcy. Arcy was introduced to fashion and tailoring at a very young age by her mother, Madame Remedios Anacajas whom they dearly call Mama Eme. Mama Eme was running a tailoring business back then. It was called Arabel; named after Arcy and her sister Belma. Ara from Araceli and Bel from Belma. In those years, Arcy was fascinated by fabrics and was intrigued by how to manipulate the fabrics to come up with fashion-forward designs without compromising comfort and taste.
After 37 years of creating haute couture pieces for the most fashionable personalities in the Philippines, Arcy Gayatin is now laying down her sketchpads and pens to rest. As she enjoys her retirement, may be on a cruise to the Bahamas or a holiday to the Swiss Alps, Arcy Gayatin has left the fashion industry a legacy of elegant and edgy clothing ensembles that understand and define the shape of women; without compromising comfort and good taste.
To salute the lady who brought Cebu fashion to the world, a retrospective exhibition of Arcy’s incomparable masterpieces can be seen today at Ayala Center Cebu’s The Gallery; curated by fashion editor and writer, Clint Holton Potestas, and interior and fashion designer, Jul Oliva.
BALANCE. Arcy Gayatin is known for her perfect symmetrical lines when fabricating. She knows how to balance edginess and class; understanding well the strength and the finesse of a woman.
RHYTHM. Arcy’s expertise in draping and fabric manipulation can be seen in how she achieves rhythm between architectural lines and soft fabrics like silk and cashmere.
TEXTURE. With her thorough knowledge on fabrics, Arcy Gayatin has achieved the perfection of fabrication by working on different types of fabrics and creating a single piece of art out of them.
HARMONY. The simplicity of the silhouette plus the intricacy of the details create a wonderful harmony, making Arcy Gayatin’s design a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
The photos below show an up-close look at the intricacy and the exquisite craftsmanship of Arcy Gayatin’s fabrication techniques:
THE SPIDER WEB: one of Arcy’s genius fabrication techniques.
MATCH and PATCH: Arcy’s unique fabrication craft by patching layers of different types of lace and lace patterns
PLEATS: The perfection of symmetry in pleats on silk.
LA ROSE BLEUE: U.P. student, Danielle Alessandra Deutsch, inspired by the artistry of Arcy Gayatin, designed this midnight blue dress. The cabbage rose made from layers of silk organdy gave this evening ensemble a romantic appeal.
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LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.