Article 1: History of the Casino Español de Cebu

The first Casino Español de Cebu was located on Legaspi St. esquina Zamora St. in a pretty green chalet, just enough for its few members in 1920, the perfect place for "un grupo entusiasta de españoles" who longed for watering hole at the end of a day’s work. It was a bright idea of the founders like the business brothers, Don Vidal and Don Ramon Aboitiz, Associate Don Manuel Moraz and a few others who are said to have contributed P/10,000.00 each (a tremendous sum in the twenties) to start it.

Record are scanty as they were destroyed during the Second World War. Some older members say that the Initial money was returned to the owners later, on installment.

But the inauguration on Legaspi st. was a joyous affair in January 1920, says one of Casino Español’s elderly senior members, Don Santiago Picornell, now 83. He was only eight years old when his father, Don Bartolome, one of the early offices, took to the opening, as every other member did his wife and children. The place, including the garden was packed with De Numero members mostly in all-white formal suits for the balmy afternoon. And Spanish chatter filled the air in a day now historical to the club as it looks back to it on Casino Español 75th years today.

The Clubhouse at present on Ranudo st. is actually more than a clubhouse now, because it has become a recreation and dining place for those in the community who are attracted to the old world mood. In this, Casino Español boasts of a difference.

The service has a personal touch because the cooks, waiters, the boys in the bowling ally, billiard table and the pelota, badminton and tennis court have known the members for years. In fact, the waiters know what food is preferred by what member.

When a member has come across a new recipe, if he feels so, he goes and shares the same with the cook. Or his wife does, too, since everyone is encourage to help make the Casino’s menu the best in the city. A member could also request the cook to come up with certain recipes, for the Casino Español is second home to all members.

Antonio Alvarez, managing consultant, says that the best in the restaurant is not necessarily its imported supplies, but assuredly its freshness and excellent quality, say of the meat and vegetables. The cooking has the taste of special home -cooked recipes as it is not commercial, and some of these recipes emanate from ideas among cosmopolitan members or members’ wives who have culinary talents, especially in Spanish cuisine. Casino Español is also home to the “dependents,” wives and young children of member. The small children of member. The small children with their yaya could play around could play around the place the whole day and stay very safe, although it’s the father who sign for them when they eat at the Terraz, next to the pool. On Saturday mornings, groups of teenage kids in comfy get ups lounge in corner tables at the Terraza, kids around, laugh lazily letting the morning slip to noon.

To old employees, the place is also their second home. Carlito Occo, 53, a waiter, has been with the club for 34 years and remembers Don Quinito Ubago as the longest to keep the position of president. Carlito started as pin boy at the bowling alley when he was 17. “This place is just as if it were my home because I’ve spent most of a lifetime here,” he says. He says. He says in fact, that his brother, who also works there, has been employed by the club for 26 years. Even a cousin is there, too.

While for years Casino Español had been open to members only, now it has function rooms for parties of wedding receptions as long as they are sponsored by any member. Going on inside Casino Español was sweet mystery to outsides for so long time. Now it is fulfilled discovery to many who get invited to any one of these functions. To the new generation, they see an amount of posturing in the way the function rooms had been names for atmosphere after the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and his book, Don Quijote-Cervantes Hall, Dulcinea, Sancho Panza, Don Quijote rooms- but it works happily for everyone. Even the young today are fascinated by Casino Español’s old graciousness during formal affairs, as flattering a setting as the sway of formal dress during cotillon de honor.


Article 2: Spanish ambassador visits Cebu for the first time
November 10, 2001
Inquirer News Service

SPANISH Ambassador Tomas Rodriguez Pantoja visited Cebu for the first time. He was accompanied by two gentlemen who have been here several times before: Juan Manuel Feliz, who heads the Manila office of the Confederacion Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, and Javier Galvan, director of Instituto Cervantes, an architect who once toured Cebu island's churches. On the day of their arrival, a brief ceremony was held to mark the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) covering the extension of classes in business Spanish held at its premises. CCCI president Sabino Dapat, who is also the honorary consul of Denmark in Cebu, was eloquent in his welcome remarks.

Maria Pilar Escaño, who handles the Spanish classes, called out the names of the students who received their certificates from Galvan and Feliz. In the first class for the year 2001 were Maricar Tan Alivio, Aissa de la Cruz, Janette Gabutin, Edwin Perez, Eduardo Piañar, Gloria Rica Talens and Maria Eva Tongcos.

In the second and more recent group: Araceli Beltran, Esther Endoma, Josephine Deligero, Lito Fruelda, Amado Go, Carmel Godinez, Lorraine Lee, Nonito Piloto, Eugenie Tumbagahan and Joyce Yang. Lawyer Anastacio Muntuerto received a special citation for having been the first graduate of the course, in 2000. He was at the time the president of CCCI.

A cocktail party followed the signing of the MOU. Glimpsed were Dante Araneta and Cesar Barte, who handle the CCCI office; Boni Sia whose Bionic Hardware imports fixtures from Spain; Gus Palao who heads the European Chamber in Cebu; former CCCI president Efren Valiente; and a group of Hispano-parlantes like Teresing Mendezona, Myra Gonzalez, Chona Mercado, Margot and Manuel Larranaga, Harry and Carmen Campbell, Julina de Muertegui, Cheling and Susan Sala with daughter Carinna, Ingrid Sala Santamaria with daughter Cecile Nubla, Spanish professors Cesar Momongan and Socorro Escaño Laplana, who is on leave from teaching (she and husband Darwin have just become parents of a pretty little girl who will be christened Ana Luisa).

Next morning Ambassador Pantoja did the tourist sites of Cebu City-the 19th-century house Casa Gorordo, the Basilica del Santo Niño, Magellan's Cross and Fort San Pedro. Jaime Romero Salas joined the merry group for lunch at Va Bene, making it merrier with his jokes and anecdotes stretching well into the afternoon, until it was siesta time. The Spanish VIPs retired to the Cebu Plaza Hotel where they were billeted. The evening provided more fun.

The Casino Español de Cebu was holding its grand annual ball to mark Dia de la Hispanidad, and Ambassador Pantoja was the guest of honor. A thick red carpet covered the regal staircase. The casino's officials stood at the landing to meet the guests. "Bienvenidos," greeted president Jess Cuenco with his pretty wife Teresa Garcia Cuenco beside him.

Other members of the welcoming group were vice president Ed Misa with his wife Helen Franco Misa, secretary Edgar and Marna Gica, treasurer Angelito Veloso, house chair Jose Mari Miranda, cultural activities director Manoling Sainz and wife Melba, structures director Manuel Guanzon and wife Afriquita. Manuel has a big job to do in the coming months as the present building will be demolished and a new stunning edifice will be erected.

Milagring Sembrano, who lives in the mansion across the casino, was celebrating her birthday that evening with a large group of friends. Her cook had prepared bagfuls of those special peanuts roasted in butter, honey and some other secret ingredients. She sent Ambassador Pantoja a bag. He crossed the ballrooms to greet the celebrator, kiss her hand, and wish her many more.

The ball officially started after the toasts, with the orchestra played a lilting waltz. This was followed by a fiery paso doble and then every number in the ballroom dancing music book, with occasional disco tunes and slow pieces requested by the romantics. Dinner was served at the Cervantes Hall, but the dancing did not stop.

Gema Luisa Pido, Casino Español's food consultant, outdid herself. Until the golden bell was rung to announce dinner, no one had seen her. The paella was pronounced excellent and there was plenty of it to last all night. Just as good were the bacalao, solomillo al homo, the tenderest pavo (turkey), and one of Gema's recent inventions, lasagna with cream sauce with lots of broccoli and shrimps.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama came to the ball and danced all night with councilor Joy Pesquera, pretty in white satin and pearls. Councilor Gabby Leyson was there, too, with Lisette Garcia who was quite a live wire on the dance floor. But the belle of the ball was birthday girl Millie. A long stag line formed, each gentleman waiting for a chance to do the cha-cha, tango, foxtrot, or just gyrate to whatever tune was being played by any of the two alternating bands.

At the crack of dawn, Gema announced breakfast. For those who had to recharge their batteries, there was a whole new menu on the buffet. Scrambled eggs, spicy hot bangus, sausages, and what-have-you.

Tell us all about it, said Oscar and Sol Via, the next Spanish VIPs to visit Cebu. He is the economic and commercial counselor of the Spanish embassy, but he holds office at the Yuchengco Tower in Makati. The couple came to spend a long weekend at the Shangri-La's Mactan Island Resort with their two daughters, Carlota and Sol, her mom's namesake.

The family enjoyed the beach, the 1,000-square-meter pool, the flora and fauna that abound in the Shangri-La gardens. Driving to the city, the family had dinner at Va Bene, where the chef prepared different pizzas and the tastiest pasta dishes ever. A memorable dinner was at the Shangri-La's Cowrie Cove, which had a seafood buffet. Chef Pina Catubay sent a whole steamed lapu-lapu to the Vias' table. Making the evening complete, was a full moon that turned the Mactan Channel into silver. Definitely wider than a mile, as Johnny Mathis' line went on that Henry Mancini's tune.


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