Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Under Busay’s moonlit sky

Friends reunite in Cebu’s mountain retreat

With the mountain and moonlit sky as painterly backdrop, friends dine at Chateau de Busay: from left, Marget Fernan Villarica, Eloisa Fernan, Menchu Salas, Teresin Mendezona

Celebrating friendship at Chateau de Busay: from left, seated, Irma Atillo, Eloisa Fernan, Annie Aboitiz, Marco Protacio; standing, from left, Menchu Salas, Nonie Uy, Jaime Chua, Marget Fernan Villarica, Marissa Fernan, Babes Reese, Margot Osmena, Elvira Luym, Candice Gotianuy

Chateau de Busay

At last after two years, we were back in Cebu, meeting up and dining with longtime friends, like in the old pre-pandemic days. This bonding was an incentive to accept the invitation of Cary Santiago to fly to Cebu early March and to watch his grand Philippine Terno Gala—the terno collections of Philip Rodriguez, Rajo Laurel, Mark Bumgarner and Cary.

We took the pleasant drive up to the mountain, to Chateau de Busay Inn and Restaurant, the restaurant/events sprawl of Nonie Uy. Nonie and Marissa Fernan gathered friends for a “lechon dinner” to celebrate our visit with Marco Protacio who was based in Cebu for a decade as general manager of the Waterfront Hotel. Marco has been taking advantage of the post-pandemic re-opening of travel to fly to Cebu to visit bosom friends like Candice Gotianuy who was there at the dinner.

 Teresin Mendezona came up with an exquisite table setting—how she can create elegance out of natural, organic ingredients is a talent much copied by newbies but hardly matched because her style is effortless and her taste impeccable. Also behind this dinner were Elvira Luym, Jaime Chua whose garden provided the blooms.

Blooms from Jaime Chua’s garden, Cebu’s artisan crafts make up table centerpiece by Teresin Mendezona

It was a feel-good moment to dine again with Margot Osmena—who was perfect for this “lechon dinner” because Margot, as her friends know, is a hardcore carnivore (“But my bloodwork is good,” she always says), with Eloisa Fernan, who’s healthy and hearty even after the long pandemic isolation, Marget Fernan Villarica, former ambassador to the Czech Republic Menchu Salas, Annie Aboitiz (who brought the yummy cassava pudding), and balikbayan guests from the US, Irma Atillo, who lives in her native Cebu several months a year, and Babes Reese. Menchu remains active in developing the Rafael M. Salas Parks and Nature Center as an ecotourism destination at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon in Bago, Negros Occidental. The late Rafael Salas, her husband, was the noted diplomat and statesman (he was behind the National Rice Sufficiency Program in the late ‘60s which enabled the country to stop importing rice).

Eloisa Fernan (seated, far right) on a good night-out, with daughters Marget (seated beside her) and Marissa (standing far left), Thelma Sioson, Nonie Uy

At Chateau de Busay terrace overlooking the summer skyline, Margot Osmena, Babes Reese, Marissa Fernan, Elvira Luym

Menchu Salas and Nonie Uy

Barbecue complemented the lechon dinner capped by Cebu delicacies, including the favorite halo-halo.

That feel-good evening, a bright moon shone over this mountain top retreat in Cebu. The guests gathered on the terrace of Chateau, the mountain looming before us in the clear evening sky. The image was a painter’s masterstroke, as the cool breeze energized the already high-energy bonding at the table. The moment produced another memory of friendship—and our grateful heart for ties that the pandemic didn’t manage to break.—Thelma Sioson

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