Imperial Manila’s favorite socialite, lady walker, man-about-town Frank Ordoñez zoomed into Negros Island with his sister, Menchi Valenzuela, and went straight to Sipalay, where they rented a huge house with a pool for some sun and relaxation before attending to some business in Bacolod. Of course, after the business, came the socials and this time, Frank O made sure there were friends to share the fun.
The select groupie got together in the mellow climes of Don Salvador Benedicto, where the cool air comes complete with the scent of pine trees. Going into the town center, one could see how the local tourism industry is booming with picture-perfect picnic areas overlooking the mountain range and one could easily be deceived, if not for the errant coconut tree, that this was somewhere in Tuscany.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was so beautiful and people were safely distanced from each other, tables a good three meters away and no sign of trash being littered away. New cafés and restaurants dotted the main strip and there were colorful fruit stands selling local produce. I’m so happy that our local tourism industry is being given new life.
When we finally reached Kuartitos where the party was being held, my jaws dropped upon seeing the number of cars. I completely forgot that for every car, there’s usually one passenger – being the driver! Well, we must have been 15 guests but I could swear, I thought I saw 20 cars! Obviously, lunch has already started and as I wound around the tables introducing myself with the heart gesture and blowing kisses to those familiar faces, I had to calm my nerves with a glass of Pinot Grigio from the initial shock of expecting a horde of guests. Well, it turned out to be quite an intimate groupie that before long, I was breathing the cool mountain air of DSB and taking in the sight of the clear mountainscape.
I should have held my breath because, after 15 minutes, a torrent of rain poured down from the heavens, blowing in to the Pavillon refreshing fine mist that quickly woke me up from cloud nine. But this was obviously a blessing in disguise as it made everyone cozy up to each other, despite good social distancing, and made me realize that this was my first grand sortie in an unfamiliar ground. There was debonair Junie Lizares, who apparently lives just around the corner with his loving wife Jeannie (who happens to be the daughter of Mamá’s dearest friend, Lorna-lie Bongco), and from the looks of it, the mountain air has definitely done them good. Frank’s sisters-two Menchi and Marilou were busy making everyone comfortable and eating the goodies on the buffet table. I went straight to the dinuguan as soon as I heard that it was done by Hestia Baldevia and, sure enough, I was not disappointed by her authentic Silay cooking skills, that was accompanied by the iconic Quan puto! It was a pleasure seeing good looker Fean Trebol, now a doting father with his model wife Isabel and their two picture-perfect kiddies in tow. Pretty soon, party animal Paul Lizares arrived with his sons and only daughter as long-time-no-see Dr. Mike Sarabia joined our table to fill us in on the latest social circuit.
The party could have stretched on ‘til late if not for the announcement from proprietaire extraordinaire Francis Arnaldo, reminding us that a new group would be arriving soon and that we had to evacuate the Pavillon as the convoy of a taipan was fast approaching. Well, it was really time to go as the skies were opening up buckets of water and I preferred to scoot before my car got stuck on the slippery muddy road. It was actually God sent because I was able to buy a trunk load of native roses to fill up a flower bed in my house’s facade before it got dark. And my charming travel mate, Omon Maravilla, enjoyed my spontaneous suggestion of stopping by a roadside café that offered an amazing view of the river that flowed down from the mountains, giving the curving route a touch of Bali. Ahhh, the wonders of our blessed island!
My prayer: Then he said to the all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24, NIV*