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Sugilanon sa Pasko Celebrates Christmas in a Uniquely Cebuano Way

Editorial consultant Allain Fonte shares his first Christmas experience at Cebu Parklane International Hotel.

by Allain Fonte

For the past years, I had been spending my Christmases overseas away from family and friends; and worst, away from my mom’s delicious cooking for the Noche Buena.  In those three years, I spent my Christmases in the refugee camps in Egypt and in Java, assisting lawyers process the relocation of refugees to Canada, Australia, Germany and France.  Although it is delightful to be the bearer of good news on Christmas day, informing them that their relocation has already been processed, it is also heart breaking to tell the other refugees that their applications have been denied and that they must wait for another year in the camps.  What a whirlwind experience to celebrate three Christmases!

 

This year, I am very excited because I shall be celebrating Christmas in my most loved city, Cebu.  As early as September, you can see Christmas lights blinking, even from a distance. And, there is something comforting about the rain; most especially when you hear Jose Mari Chan singing in the background.  Alas, November came and the spirit of Christmas is much stronger, as you hear Christmas carols almost everywhere, Christmas decorations brighten houses and buildings, Christmas lights lit every corner of the streets, and most of all, you will hear lots of merry-making in pre-Christmas dinners and parties.  

 

On the 12th of November, Christmas has officially started at Cebu’s premier business hotel, Cebu Parklane International Hotel.  It was one of the grandest pre-Christmas parties in the city; with the guest of honour, no less than the governor of the province of Cebu, the Hon. Gwendolyn Garcia.  What made this event extra special is the theme of the party, which was uniquely Cebuano. The marketing and events offices of the hotel prepared a very entertaining program that showcased Cebuano culture, and presented by Cebu’s most talented artists from the MDF productions.  The hotel’s general manager, Madame Cenelyn Manguilimotan, explains that the program is meant to welcome home the balikbayans and remind them, including the locals, on how beautiful the Christmas celebrations are in Cebu.  It is also to let the foreign guests experience the best of the cultures of Cebu and what it is like to be celebrating Christmas in the Queen City of the South.  For someone who celebrated three Christmases away from home, the pre-Christmas program got me teary-eyed; especially, the re-enactment of the nativity and the heart-touching Christmas carols of the MDF Chorale.  Every guest was smiling with the nostalgic presentations and dance performances from the MDF cultural dance company. Even the kind governor stayed throughout the event, amidst her tight schedule. Hence, I had to compliment the Marketing and Communications manager of Cebu Parklane International Hotel, Miss Jaybee Aquino, for hosting one of the best pre-Christmas celebrations ever staged, and she gracefully shared that in Cebu Parklane International Hotel the practice of excellence is a culture; so, the Marketing and Communications office was pressured to put up only the best for their guests and partners.   

 

The pre-Christmas program was highlighted by the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Following the hotel’s mission to the environment, their 25-foot Christmas tree was made from old newspapers.  The newspapers were dyed in the colours of autumn, and were cut into 15,000 pieces of maple-leaf-shaped ornaments decorated all over the tree.  Under the tree are life-sized figures of the nativity made from papier-mâché. The whole lobby of the hotel glimmer in Christmas decorations.

 

The program concluded with a sumptuous Noche Buena prepared by their Food and Beverage team at the Victoria ballroom.  To my surprise, the hotel’s Corporate Executive Chef, June Rhoses Fernandez, partnered with the local municipalities in Cebu, and served all of Cebu’s most exquisite delicacies.  It was an adventure for the palate. The buffet table took us all around Cebu; from Carcar’s lechon and chicharon, Asturias’ budbud moron, Argao’s torta, Lilo-an’s rosquillos, to Boljoon’s hamonada.  Although I am on a strict diet plan and would only have Sundays as my cheat days, I totally lost myself with what Chef June served.  Every food on the table was a must-try, and nothing on the table disappointed me. Every food served was competing to be the best. However, my personal favourite was the chef’s specialty, Ube champorado and Dilis.  The champorado is literally translated as ‘chocolate rice’; yet, this champorado was not made with cacao but with purple yam and coconut milk.  When I took the first bite of the Ube champorado and Dilis, it took me to a whole new world; and, I almost forgot my name because it was just amazing.  This is something only The Parklane can offer, truly an experience not to miss. The Parklane’s heritage and cultural ambassador, Associate Professor Gavin Sanson Bagares, construes that The Parklane does not only provide international standards of excellent hospitality service to its guests, but is also committed to promote Cebuano heritage and culture to the world, making the Filipino products world-class; thus, the authentic Cebuano cuisine can only be experienced at The Parklane.

 

It was a night that I shall never forget.  Cebu Parklane International Hotel did not only remind me on how beautiful it is to celebrate Christmas in Cebu; but it also rekindled my spirit of nationalism, making me proud to be a Filipino, and even prouder to be Cebuano.  Maayong Pasko Cebu Parklane International Hotel!  Maayong Pasko Cebu!!!

Beauty & Wellness

Tea with Coralie

When a basket filled with tea goodies of macaroons, delicate cakes and sandwiches was delivered, it came in the signature purple color of this iconic brand. “Very Charriol”, as Coralie , the CEO of the Swiss brand, might have put it. She didn’t actually use that term to describe the savories. Rather, she was describing the cable bracelet that makes their products distinct. Avid Rustans Cebu shoppers will find the Charriol boutique just off the main entrance of the department store, near the familiar scented hall at the first level. On display are an array of earrings, bracelets and watches enticing to those looking for retail therapy with pieces that are timeless and yet not overtly breaking the credit card limit.

The tea Zoom party, as arranged by our host Ginggay Joven, and Luzanne Manlapit who is the brand manager of Charriol in the Philippines, was as good as any press-do from pre pandemic normal times. And an intimate peak at lifestyle editors’ lives as most of us were zooming from our living rooms, including Coralie who was answering our questions from her home in Geneva. Like most of us, she readily says, “I have a travel bug, and on weekends, I dream of where I can go!”.

Philip Charriol, Coralie’s father who started the brand in 1983, was a frequent visitor to the Philippines, making Manila (and Cebu) a side trip to his rounds of Singapore and Hong Kong. He made many friends in Asia and it was a sad day when everyone heard of his passing more than a year ago in a car accident at the Le Castellet racing track in southeast France.

These days, the company is in good hands with Coralie. She is set to debut a series of new collections building upon her father’s vision, including a reimagined Celtic collection, a line of watches first introduced in the 80s. The latest Celtic Legacy watch has a more striking face with two dials and bigger bezels available in gold or rose gold. The cable bracelet is made up of 6 strands of steel and titanium alloy that are flexible and durable. It comes in an elegant 30mm case, making it an equally perfect accessory for both a lunchtime affair as well as to a glitzy night on the town.

Also new are their ocean-themed pieces. The Forever Starfish watch comes in two iteration of stainless steel or rose gold case with a white mother-of-pearl dial. The second one is the Marina bracelet collection — the Charriol signature cable tied around a porthole and clasped together by a Charriol dial, it’s a fresh and young take for an everyday jewelry.

As a contemporary business leader, Coralie shared cautionary tales of polar bears and melting icebergs. Through their Charriol Living initiative, Philippe Charriol is a partner of the global organization Lonely Whale. It is a community of international businesses cognizant of the harming effects of disposable stuff in today’s world. Particularly single-use plastics, which are harmful to marine life when they end up in our seas. She co-produced a compelling documentary titled The Story of Plastic (www.storyofplastic.org) “a searing expose revealing the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling”.

The company is committed to being socially conscious. Pretty soon, all Charriol packaging will be made of paper and sustainable materials. “We are interconnected tru our oceans”, she explains. In addition, part of the proceeds of selected ocean-themed Charriol pieces like the Forever Turtle watch, the Forever Waves and Ocean bracelets, will go to the Lonely Whale organization.

Philippe Charriol comes up with new design for watches once a year or once every two years to keep it fresh. Their jewelry line is much more frequent with bracelets and earrings. When asked if the company will be coming out with smart watches, Coralie was quick to reply that although other prestige watch companies have tried it, Charriol will not be producing one. “But I am coming out with something by October which is a kind of an accessory to a techie watch. To connect Charriol to technology.”

 

Coralie Charriol, the CEO of Charriol showing the Forever Starfish collection using mother of pearl face and their entry level cable bracelets in bright colors.

 


Screenshot of the Zoom tea party attended by top Manila lifestyle editors

 


The tea goodies for the tea party delivered by the Charriol team

 

The Charriol boutique inside Rustans at Ayala Center Cebu

 

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Culture

PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later

Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202

AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.

We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.

We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.

Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.

 

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Featured

Artisanal Cebu: Aspiring calligraphy artist Abigail Condrado

In the third installment of Artisanal Cebu, we feature the wonderful artwork and calligraphy style of Sarah Abigail Condrado – a freelance calligraphy artist.
 
Abigail is one of the rising singers and performers of Cebu today, with singles such as “Bisan Asa” and her famous cover of “Duyog” by Jewel Villaflores. Currently working as the Marketing and Relations Manager of St. Paul College Foundation Inc., she has one other skill that only a few knew: her talent in the art of calligraphy.
 
Watch on how she began her journey in becoming a freelance calligraphy artists.

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