CEBU, March 14, 2005 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit  -  Never in my life have I been more proud to be a Filipino than now. Imagine being in the company of nearly a thousand of our kababayans from all over the world in the Queen City of the South, Cebu, to participate in the Third Global Pinoy Networking Conference graced by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Waterfront Hotel CEO Patrick Gregorio led the unveiling of the "Gallery of Heroes" at the posh lobby of the hotel. Such a grand display paid tribute to 300 of the best and brightest Filipinos here and abroad whose achievements in various fields, such as science, literature, medicine, sports and commerce, are exemplary. Back to back with this event was an exhibit entitled "Sketches," which featured stories of inspiration, excellence, integrity and service to the community, randomly taken from the vignettes of the lives of Ten Outstanding Young Men in the Philippines (TOYM) awardees.

Being the founder of the Cebu visitors and convention bureau (the first and only private sector-led, non-profit organization committed to promote Cebu as a convention and events destination in the Philippines), Gregorio enthused: "The conference is also a venue to network, exchange ideas and come up with solutions to current issues."

A staunch supporter of the Global Pinoy endeavor is one of America’s most powerful CEOs who hails from Sorsogon, Loida Nicolas Lewis. As chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, she believes there is nothing Filipinos cannot achieve if we work together.

At the grand Capitol Building, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia welcomed everyone at a bash that resembled a scene from a turn-of-the-century Filipino ball. It was awesome to witness global Pinoys proudly garbed in national costumes, like the barong Tagalog and baro’t saya, worn with collective pride. Entertainment, native cuisine and drinks flowed endlessly as dramatic fireworks lit up the glorious sky, a testament to the unity and camaraderie of our countrymen.

The tourism forum pointed out that focused marketing, right direction, dedicated and sincere management, long-term planning and aggressive promotions are ideal in making the Philippines a major world tourist destination. NAITAS president Angel Ramos-Bognot presented the resolution adopted during the Third Global Networking Convention by the 800-strong National Association of Independent Travel Agencies. They agreed to network and establish business linkages with global Filipinos. Ramos-Bognot cited the importance of the balikbayan market and partnerships in tourism promotions and development.

A day tour of the city hosted by Cebu Holiday Tours and Travel Inc. general manager Ricky Tio brought us back to history. Magellan’s Cross at Upper Magallanes St. is Cebu’s most important historical landmark. It is encased in a black cross of tindalo wood and housed in a kiosk, which serves as a shrine commemorating the initial conversion of the islanders to Christianity. Off Osmena Ave. is the Santo Niño Basilica Minore dating back to 1565 and now housing the country’s oldest religious image of the Holy Child Jesus. We proceeded to Fort San Pedro, then a Spanish settlement in the 17th century. Across Fort San Pedro is Plaza Independencia, formerly Plaza Libertad, a promenade square where an obelisk honoring the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi proudly stands.

In the afternoon, we joined the Mactan Island tour. We visited the monument of Lapu-Lapu, Magellan’s Shrine, the Virgin de la Regla Church, a local market, a guitar factory and a shellcraft center. We were told that one may also check out the island-hopping tour, Olango birds and seascape tour, or even play a round of golf in their world-class courses.

Of course, a trip to Cebu will never be complete without sampling its culinary delights. Tops on my list is the newly-opened Jerez Spanish Restaurant whose authentic paella, lengua, and croquetas, complemented by Ralph’s fine wines and spirits, transported its diners to Spain. This unforgettable evening of fine dining was graciously hosted by Bobby Joseph, chair of both NAITAS and TCP (Travel Cooperative of the Philippines). Bess Ortiz, restaurant general manager, pampered us like royalty and bid as a restful night in their cozy rooms located at the third floor of the well-appointed building. Jude Bacalso, Cebu’s pride when it comes to tour-de-force standup acts, entertained us with his nightingale voice.

The morning after, Tio took us to eateries where the locals go for piping hot bulalo, the celebrated Cebu lechon, and Chinese lumpia and chicken. For dessert, we had a serving each of the heavenly halo-halo at the Ayala Center where shopping pleasures abound.

As if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a splendid foot massage at Ton Ton’s Authentic Thai Massage. The fragrant scent of frangipani, citrus and eucalyptus filled the air as we soaked our tired feet in the warm water. The gentle strokes of the fine-pressured massage soothed our tired bodies.

Escorted by no less than the San Francisco Police, who jetted in from the United States for the event, we were entertained by the San Diego Dance Troupe as they interpreted "Life Aboard a Cruise," while the SuperFerry coasted in front of us to herald the friendly tropical island of Cebu. It was a heartwarming moment as global Pinoys were feted to the traditional Filipino banquet and hospitality, which Filipinos are known for.

I will never forget coming up close and personal with Loida Nicolas-Lewis. Having come full circle with a successful worldwide business with her late husband Reginald Lewis of TLC Beatrice Foods, she now wants to help fellow Filipinos reach their dreams in life. She believes there is strength in unity.

Our gracious host, Patrick Gregorio, a 2003 TOYM awardee for tourism management, commenced the remarkably successful conference by inviting everyone to the Fourth Global Pinoy Networking Conference to be held in Hawaii in September 2006.

See you there. Mabuhay ang Pinoy!

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For inquiries about the Fourth Global Pinoy Networking Conference, e-mail Jenny Franco at

For information about Waterfront Hotel, call (032)232-6888 or log on to www.waterfronthotels.

Jerez Spanish Restaurant is located inside Ralph’s Wine on Morales St., Camputhaw, Cebu City. Call (032)234-4253.

For guided tours, call Cebu Holiday Tours and Travel at (032)231-5391 or (032)232-1918 or e-mail

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E-mail the author at

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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