A celebration fit for a princess

STARBYTES - Butch Francisco -

It is without doubt the grandest children’s party I’ve ever attended and I’ve been to really fabulous ones in this very long life.

But nothing comes close to the grandeur of the first birthday party thrown for Princess Pacquiao. That it was an affair fit for a princess doesn’t come as a surprise anymore. She is from boxing royalty, after all — the only daughter (and admitted favorite) of Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee.

Princess actually turned a year old last Oct. 1, but Daddy had to punch somebody in Vegas that time for big bucks and the party had to be pushed back last Friday, Oct. 12. Better late than never — and they have bigger reason to celebrate after Daddy won the fight.

Before leaving for Las Vegas, however, Mommy Jinkee had already asked Claudine Barretto to help with the preparations. Mareng Claudine (Manny is ninong to her daughter Sabina) apparently did a good job because the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel on the day of the party looked like it was torn from the pages of some storybook for children.

Ascending the hotel’s marble staircase to the right, you know that there was something big and special going on at the second floor. Even the balusters had been primped with balloons and pretty pink ribbons.

At the top of the staircase was a booth where little girls and even their mommies can have cute stick-on applied on their faces and this was what Ruby Rodriguez and daughter Toni did for their bonding moment. (Ruby’s other adorable kid, AJ, was inside playing with birthday celebrator Princess.)

At the other end stood a shooting gallery for boys and the line here was always long. For the longest time, I waited for my turn but some kid always beat me to it — prompting Keempee de Leon to suggest that I just bully my way through. He was joking, of course, and we laughed hard over that one.

There were other activities to keep both young and adult busy anyway and most of us spent our time moving from booth to booth offering kiddie food and no one was able to resist those hotdogs on a stick that I wanted thrown back into the rack for a little bit more toasting — until I saw those corn dogs that I haven’t had since sixth grade a long time ago (a very long time ago).

Also a popular treat among the guests were the mini pizzas and the fruit in ice cream that came in different flavors. Across it was a chocolate fountain, but I guess most Pinoys do not find pineapples and grapes coated in chocolate appetizing. The cotton candies in various attractive colors were more tempting, but it could get messy, especially since I had to shake hands with people I knew, people I just met there and people I didn’t even want to see anywhere.

But really, I think there were more food than people in that party and inside was a buffet of “real food” — starting with smoked salmon and tanigue (Spanish mackerel) just for appetizers. I didn’t even dare venture toward the end of the long table because food was already starting to come out of my ears at that point.

While feasting on all that food, the kids were also entertained with a show and parlor games that offered cell phones and MP3 players as prizes and a Shitzu for the top winner. For giveaways, kids went home with bunnies and in one corner, I thought I saw somebody with a pair of what looked like parakeets in a lovely metal cage.

Oh what fun the children must have had and this party was a lovely gathering for celebrity kids, led by Yilmaz Bektas and Ruffa Gutierrez’s beautiful daughters Lorin and Venice, who is my godchild.

Most fabulous was this centerpiece parked on every table: A pink castle with colored lights and princesses descending the grand staircase. It was tempting to bring it home, but too scandalous and called a lot of attention to sneak out of the hotel ballroom into the car park — or worse if you have to take the FX home. But I know some people did — with two movie reporters actually riding the jeep with the prized loot each.

The real treat, however, was watching the Pambansang Kamao (National Fist) Manny Pacquiao take part in a magic show that he gamely did for the love of his one and only daughter Princess. (You can say anything about him, but it seems like he is a good father to his kids.)

Manny must already have been very tired by then after being sought out for interviews by various TV  crews and requests to pose for pictures. Most tiring (and sickening) must be the fact that he had to entertain those shameless politicians and hangers-on who were all over him.

Years from now, when Princess grows up and appreciates this party by watching videos and going over photographs of this grand occasion, she may just ask: “Who the hell were these people at my first birthday party?”

Well, my dear Princess, you may be too young now to appreciate the birthday party your parents lovingly gave you, but it was grand as grand can be. Actually, I can’t wait for your debut party — not just to see the festivities, but also to find out for myself if these very same people would still be around years after your father had retired and had hang up his boxing gloves.

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