George Sison and Jose Rizal were both born on June 19. To celebrate the spiritual guru’s and the National Hero’s birthdays, Loida Nicolas Lewis hosted a special party at the Luna Gardens in Rockwell Center, Makati City.
As a fitting tribute to Rizal, Sison, who is an author himself, together with friend Lewis introduced Noli me Tangere, the Opera at the dual celebration.
And everything—from the invitation to the celebration—was just impeccable.
The moment we entered venue, we were met by a trio that serenaded us with popular kundimans and familiar Tagalog songs. Also a welcoming sight was the cocktail area, which was transformed to look like a living room of a luxurious home.
There were already people milling around when we arrived and at the center of it all, was our hostess, Lewis, who spearheads Filipino-American relation in her own inimitable way. As the dress code indicated, everyone was dressed in Filipiniana of their own choosing.
Joseph and Nel Calata; Ambassador Klaus Zeller and wife Pinky del Rosario; Rosalinda “Baby” Orosa; Pepe Rodriguez; Lorna Laurel; Gemma Cruz Araneta; Ambassador Lani Bernardo were the early comers. We were being served champagne as we said hello to Rene and Ann Puno, Sandie Poblador, Rupert and Tina Jacinto.
When the honoree, George Sison made his entrance, there was instant applause as he was dressed as Jose Rizal himself—a bowler hat and a Barong Tagalog topped with a knee length coat from the late 19th century. When we complimented him on how young he looked, he reminded us that Rizal was martyred when he was only 33 adding “You know I am much younger than that,” with a chuckle.
We met the likes of JJ Soriano and wife Minette; Grace Palma Tiongco; and Ruby Jacob. Marietta Santos, Dj Lopez and nephew Miguel de Leon, newly wed couple King Rodrigo and Boots Anson-Rodrigo, Cory Quirino, and Korina Sanchez also made their presence felt.
So many personalities kept pouring-in until at least 80 guests filled the room with laughter and pleasantries. Glenda Barrettos’ Via Mare also started passing delicious hors d’oeuvres around.
By 8 in the evening, the formal dining room opened and we were transported to the huge hall with buffet tables fit-for-a-king. We were assigned to our seats and then partook of a Filipino dinner only Via Mare can prepare.
Finally, Lewis went up on stage to explain the second reason for the celebration, the introduction of Noli Me Tangere, The Opera.
After sharing the success and rave reviews of its New York runs, she together with Mark Manalang and JS Productions will put up a 21-day showing of Noli Me Tangere at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila. Their aim is for the Filipino people to recall and appreciate their history.
Also, the local producers also wish to share the talents of the two National Artists. National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino wrote the Libretto, while National Artist for Music Felipe de Leon composed the music.
Tenor Ivan Nery (Crisostomo Ibarra) and Myramae Meneses (Maria Clara) sang solo arias at the party. They were accompanied by pianist Camille Lopez Molina.
After thanking Loida for generosity and advocacy, Sison finally proceeded to act as emcee in his own party. He asked his friends to share their talents, from Rosalinda Orosa to Margie, to Gemma, to Joseph, to Boots and King and even to Loida, who recited a verse from “Mi Ultimo Adios.”
The ice-breaker of the night was an astrological “game” Sison made joined by all his guests while seating comfortably in their own places.
To end the night, Sison finally revealed his cake, a replica of the Noli Me Tangere book. Seven of his Gemini friends lighted their respective candles for him.
Happiest birthday to my guru!