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Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A Surprise Birthday Bash

Dr. Nestor Alonso ll - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - It is fun to be part of a conspiracy to surprise a friend on his birthday and what made it more memorable is because it was a celebration of his 60th birthday. Preparations had to be made in total secrecy by an event organizer. Finally, the dinner took place at the clubhouse of Azienda Milan, Talisay City, on Tuesday, January 12.

The celebrator is my dear friend Chris Waller, who has been teaching in a university for the last 10 ten years and has been connected in the business of technology and retail-based industries the last 22 years. He may seem quite ordinary to a casual acquaintance, but as soon as one knows of the degrees he possesses (MBA, University of Ottawa; Doctorat, Management Sciences, Université Paris Est; and PhD in Marketing, ESCP Europe) to qualify to teach in graduate school, Chris makes such a big impression.

He travels across four locations in the globe: France, where he is a Professor in ESCP Europe, simply the oldest business school in the world; to his residences in London and Cebu with his wife, Leslie, who's a close family friend of ours from the Villahermosa clan of Dalaguete; and to the family home in Canada. Very interesting lifestyle, excuse me, tessellating back and forth in four divergent cultures!

Chris wanted to celebrate his birthday party with a small group of friends - but lovely wife Leslie decided to give a surprise bash. The plan was so well executed that it really caught Chris by surprise. Close family friends numbering 80 people came including 10 of the 14 scholars funded via the most generous checkbooks of Chris Waller and family.

Food was catered by Cafe Laguna: Grilled Pork Spare Ribs, Sweet and Sour Pogapo, Seafood Sotanghon, Karekare with Bagoong and Pandan Chicken. The main item on the dinner table was the large roasted leg of calf, paired with select red and white wines.

My favorite food in Café Laguna is Fresh Lumpia and when I think about it, the book of my favorite food writer, Doreen Fernandez ("Sarap, Essays on Filipino Food") comes to mind. The book tells of her childhood memories of homegrown food in Silay, Negros Oriental, including lumpia peddled by street hawkers. The "ubud" (shredded pith of coconut tree) is sautéed with pork and shrimps and wrapped by the spoonfuls in very thin edible wrappers.

What makes lumpia special is the freshness of the "ubud," because the tree is cut down the very same day the "ubud" is cooked.  In fact, farmers in that part of Negros plant the coconut trees very close together, for purposely for harvesting only the "ubud." And just like the Cebu lechon, there is no need for sauce for the lumpia because garlic and other spices are sautéed together.

All the elements of a wonderful celebration were present at Chris Waller's birthday. It began with spectacular fireworks, three-piece band playing lovely music, greetings with birthday songs, wishes and speeches, delicious food and the warm physical presence of scholars, friends and family.

However, the club house at Azienda Milan, Talisay has imposed a strict curfew at 10:30 p.m. Well, even wonderful parties have to come to an end.  (FREEMAN)

ATILDE AZIENDA MILAN BAGOONG AND PANDAN CHICKEN CAFE LAGUNA CHRIS CHRIS WALLER DOREEN FERNANDEZ FILIPINO FOOD FRESH LUMPIA GRILLED PORK SPARE RIBS QUOT
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