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On the menu: Heidelberg, Jose Rizal and poetry |


On the menu: Heidelberg, Jose Rizal and poetry

LIFE AND STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil - The Philippine Star
On the menu: Heidelberg, Jose Rizal and poetry
Dinner host Sen. Loren Legarda with guests (seated, from left ) Sharm Hiranand, Karen Davila, Charmaine Lagman and Bea Zobel Jr. Standing are Audrey Zubiri, Agnes Huibonhoa, Tootsie Angara, Millet Mananquil, Anton San Diego, Korina Sanchez, Carol Garcia and Alice Eduardo. At right are PJ Pascual and Mike Lagman. Copies of Jose Rizal’s poem “To the Flowers of Heidelberg” were placed beside plates and used for poetry reading

No politics tonight, please.”

Thus declared Sen. Loren Legarda when we started bombarding her with questions regarding the People’s Initiative and other issues raging in the Senate and Congress.

“Let’s just relax and de-stress,” she said during a birthday dinner she hosted for her co-celebrant, Tatler editor Anton San Diego. I must say Anton belongs to Manila’s vanishing breed of true gentlemen.

“Walang masamang tinapay kay Anton,” Loren said.

On the table, flowers from Dangwa were nicely arranged with old candleholders and native fabrics for placemats and napkins from the host’s treasure baul of all things Filipino. The food by chef Gilbert Pangilinan was excellent, as always.  But aside from good food, our plate was full that evening of laughter and stories. And then poetry.

The laughter came as we listened to a trilogy of banters by the country’s most iconic broadcast journalists: Loren Legarda, Korina Sanchez and Karen Davila. Coming from three generations trying to out-young each other, with ageist remarks as one said she started her TV career at 15, and another said, “That was when I was seven years old,” and another asked, “Were you a child prodigy?”

Anton San Diego with the top three broadcast journalism icons: Korina Sanchez, Loren Legarda and Karen Davila

Beside each of our plates was a copy of Jose Rizal’s “To the Flowers of Heidelberg” and each of us gamely took turns reciting some lines in English and Filipino versions. We reserved the Spanish version for Bea Zobel Jr. What was meant to be part of the dinner props became a star on the menu.

Loren reminded us that it was at the University of Heidelberg where Rizal took his eye specialization course so he could heal the failing eyesight of his mother. It was also in 1887 that his first novel was published in Berlin. And what was the relevance of this German connection to our dinner?

The Philippines is the Guest of Honour Country during the Frankfurt Book Fair 2025, a feat worked for by Loren for this biggest international book fair in the world. Turnover will be this September. So there, we should mark that in our travel calendar, we all agreed. Dinner guests included Audrey Zubiri, Tootsie Angara, Alice Eduardo, Agnes Huibonhoa, Carol Garcia, PJ Pascual, Sharm Hiranand, Mike and Charmaine Lagman.

We shared stories mostly about hilarious things in our universe. But talking about the current political brouhaha would have been more hilarious.

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Follow the author on Instagram and Facebook @milletmartinezmananquil. Email her at and

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