Queen Sofia turns 500 guests into instant avid admirers

- The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The invitation to Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq’s evening reception last Wednesday, in honor of Spain’s Queen Sofia, particularly specified her meeting the local Spanish community.

Five hundred invitations having been sent out, the vast throng filled every inch of the living and anterooms and the veranda of the embassy residence. Some guests would have spilled out to the spacious garden were it not for the drizzle that had dampened the greenery and the exquisite blooms.

Waiting for Her Majesty’s arrival were countless Spanish priests and nuns, ranking diplomatic and government officials, and members of Spanish and Filipino societies. Among those present were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his half-Spanish wife Cristina Castañer, Madrid’s Georgina Padilla Zobel de MacCrohon, sponsor of the Premio Zobel; former Ambassador to Spain Juan Rocha and his dusky Spanish wife Pilina; Juan Tambunting and his wife Josefina Arnaiz who introduced herself to Queen Sofia as the daughter of the Spanish pilot who had made the historic flight from Madrid to Manila decades ago; former Instituto Cervantes director Jose R. Rodriguez and his Filipino wife, portraitist Lulu Coching; Jose Ma. Fons of the Instituto Cervantes; Fr. Rodriguez of the San Agustin Church in Dasmariñas Village. Seated beside me were the vivacious Pilar Aldanese, formerly of the Spanish Embassy, and a Spanish Agustinian priest. His age? Ninety-seven!

Stella Alegria and the rest of the embassy staff strenuously exerted all efforts to have everything in order for the arrival of Queen Sofia. At exactly seven o’clock, the vast assemblage lined up to meet and greet Her Majesty in the living room, with the lovely, towering Doña Rosa Maria Rufino Rus de Domecq, the ambassador’s lady, graciously accompanying this columnist halfway to Her Majesty for the usual curtsy.

Queen Sofia instantly turned the guests into avid admirers for her unassuming, modest, charming manner. She was royally elegant, looked prettier in person than in pictures, and much younger than her 73 years. She is known to be approachable, easy to please and highly appreciative of any kindness shown her. Incidentally, my assistant Everlyn R. Garcia, who took photos, was ecstatic about Her Majesty’s personality.

After queuing, visitors enjoyed typical Spanish delicacies; however, according to an informant, Queen Sofia is a vegetarian. Consequently, one wondered what was served Her Majesty; that is, if she managed to partake of any refreshments at all, after shaking hands with 500 guests without any respite!

At home in Zamboanga City

Listening to songs in Chabacano, a Spanish-based dialect in Zamboanga City, Queen Sofia felt at home during her visit there yesterday.

“She was very happy and impressed by what she witnessed and she said she felt at home when she heard the songs like ‘El Chabacano un Poquito Español’ and ‘Zamboanga Hermosa,’” Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said.

Lobregat said Chabacano, which is 65 percent Spanish, is the living link of Zamboanga to Spain.

“No other city in the Philippines and Asia where the majority of the population speaks, understands and converses Chabacano on a daily basis except in Zamboanga,” he said.

Queen Sofia arrived in Zamboanga at around 9:15 a.m. at the Edwin Andrews Air Base accompanied by Spanish dignitaries led by Ambassador Jorge Domecq. They toured the different projects funded by the Spanish government through the Agencia Española y Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo. – With Roel Pareño











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