Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lisa Macuja and Ballet Manila wow Arts Council crowd

Congratula­tions are due theMarco Polo Plaza Hotel for a most splendid affair

- Jaime Picornell

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE CAME to Cebu to perform and awe her audience in “Masterpiec­es,” the title given to an evening of ballet at the ballroom of the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. It was to launch the 50th anniversar­y of the Arts Council of Cebu.

With Lisa had come the best of Ballet Manila: Yanti Marduli who is from Malaysia, Zaira Cosico, Sarah Abigail Cruz, Jennifer Rose Olayvar, and a bunch of virile premier danseurs in Rudy de Dios who partnered Lisa, Gerardo Francisco, Niño Guevarra, Francis Cascaño and Nazer Salgado.

The select audience responded to every number. A special stage had been constructe­d the better to present the classical numbers. The grand pas d’action from “La Bayadere,” with music by Ludwig Minkus and choreograp­hy by Marius Petipa who devised it for the Russian Tsar more than 100 years ago, opened the program.

Lisa was the star in it, and at her best, too, in the role of the Princess, with Rudy as the warrior Solor who wins her hand. Yanti, Zaira, Sarah, Jennifer, Francis and Niño were also in the cast.

Next came “Reve,” the French term for “dream.” There were two male dancers—Gerardo and Niño—in Ernest Mandap’s choreograp­hy which required fine athletic form, and perfect coordinati­on of body movements. The performers were superb.

Just as athletic and welltimed was “M.A.Z.N.” which was an abstract piece danced by Zaira and Nazer.

Yanti was the “Fancy Doll” while Gerardo and Francis cavorted around as the clowns who vied for her love. It may be a new piece, but it has a lot of the classic in it.

Vivaldi music is always a delight, and here it was for “Widmung,” the German term for “dedication.” Jennifer and Niño were marvelous in this neoclassic­al pas de deux choreograp­hed by Augustus Damian III.

There was drama and great beauty in another classic work by Marius Petipa—the pas de trois from “Le Corsaire.” Sarah was the Princess Medora, captured by the Pirate Conrad (Francis) and held in check by his faithful servant Ali (Nazer).

We had now come to climax, with a Lisa devoid of frothy tutu and tiara, in “Rebel,” with Rudy as her male lead. Augustus Damian III also choreograp­hed this to themusic of Khatchatur­ian.


After the show, many asked Lisa how she had balanced Rudy on her back, or was it her right hip? She answered with gales of laughter.

The finale had the whole cast on stage for “Bongga Ka Day,” a jubilantly bouncy number choreograp­hed by Michael Div- inagravia and Osias Barroso.

Bravo, Bravisimo, shouted the audience as they clapped wildly. It became even louder when Fe Sala Villarica went up the stage with a huge bouquet of flowers for Lisa.

Their profession­al complicity tinged with mutual friendship and great respect was responsibl­e for the evening’s presentati­on. When this event was being planned, Fe gave Lisa a call, and Lisa answered: “Yes, Tita Fe, tell me when, I’ll do anything for you.” And that was it.

The evening had started with a brief program. Current president Petite Garcia gave recognitio­n to the past presidents, and called them and their family members to stand facing the assemblage near the stage.

First to be called was Fe Sala Villarica who founded the Arts Council in 1960, and was its first president. She was a vision in aqua-blue gossamer as she went up the podium. She thanked everyone present for their support. Petite then called the rest:

Angelina Labucay Escaño, current trustee of the Arts Council, for her late aunt Esperanza Labucay Cabahug, a great patroness of the arts in her time.

Myrna Roa Ballestero­s for her late mother, Loring Larraquel Victorino. Myrna may not be active with the Arts Council but she has her hands full running the St. Martin de Porres School for Special Children.

Ellen Aguas Escaño for her mother-in-law Gloria Ligot Escaño, who was in California for the wedding of her first grandchild to get married.

Raci Franco for his mother Maia Villarica Franco, who lives in Spain and couldn’t come. Her best legacy to the Arts Council was grooming Petite as her successor.


Then it was my turn to come forward and lead the toast. This is what I said:

“Tonight, we celebrate 50 years of the Arts Council, founded by Fe Villarica, and its becoming a foundation 20 years ago during the presidency of her daughter Maia. For that, and many more years, cheers!”

At our table, we continued the clinking of glasses filled with wine from Manny O, with Honorary Consul of France Michel and Amparito Lhuillier; Myrna Ballestero­s; Dr. Lorenzo Escaño with his wife Angelina and their son Dr. Clint Escaño who came from New York just for this; my wife Cecilia and I, with our two sons Jimmy and Louie.

Meanwhile, Vicky Hermosisim­a did the voiceover to announce dinner. Served at our seats were the appetizers and the soup of forest mushrooms which everyone found delicious. The main courses formed an array in the buffet. Tops were the prime rib beef, and the coq au vin flavored with a sauce of vintage cognac.

Congratula­tions are due the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel for a most splendid affair, and the excellent service of its staff. Present was the general manager Hans Hauri with his beautiful wife Bo.

Also on hand were resident manager Julie Najar, sales/communicat­ions director Lara Constantin­o, food/beverage director Stephan Wieprich who was looking into every detail, and Tess Catipay who is in charge of banquets/events. We all know what she went through; it has been duly appreciate­d.

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