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Philippine chocolate queen Raquel Choa shares life journey, passion

She didn’t know it then but Raquel Choa spent her childhood days in a place that shaped what she would become: Philippine chocolate queen and the amazing woman behind Ralfe…

She didn’t know it then but Raquel Choa spent her childhood days in a place that shaped what she would become: Philippine chocolate queen and the amazing woman behind Ralfe Gourmet, The Chocolate Chamber (TCC), and just recently, Batirol.

At a young age of seven, Choa went to live with her grandmas in a secluded mountain in Cebu when her parents separated.

It was in that remote community in Balamban in the early 1980s that she first encountered tablea, the bitter chocolate rounds that were popular with the villagers.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol Raquel Choa

BATIROL. The kiosk store concept is named after the wooden beater used to mix the tablea to make the sikwate. This is the latest project of Raquel Choa, who is dubbed the Philippine chocolate queen.

The Chocolate Chamber founder

Today, Choa is recognized for her work to elevate the quality of the products made from local cacao beans, starting with the chocolate buffets she organizes at her home in Cebu City and through her artisan chocolates and chocolate-flavored food and drinks that are available at The Chocolate Chamber restaurant.

The next step in her chocolate journey will be to make mainstream and add a new spin to tablea-based local delicacies such as “sikwate” and “champorado” through the Batirol.

Choa said the Batirol is a kiosk store concept created for franchising and it is a part of the business that her children will manage.

It is aptly named after the wooden beater used to mix the tablea to make the sikwate and was a fixture in households of old Cebu, said Choa’s right hand man Edu Patino.

Raquel Choa Batirol

PUTO-SIKWATE, CHAMPORADO. The puto sikwate and champorado used to be mainstays of the Cebuano dining table. Raquel Choa aims to make these mainstream again.

Food, drinks in Batirol menu

Batirol menu includes local favorites like sikwate, a drink made from tablea dissolved in water, and Chocondense, which is sikwate sweetened with condensed milk. Chocomallow is a chocolate drink topped with mallows.

This new twist to Ralfe Gourmet, Inc. intends to draw in the millennial crowd so drinks come hot or chilled. Since Batirol also seeks to reintroduce the wonders of tablea to young Filipinos, it makes available such delicacies as puto sikwate or sticky rice sprinkled with unpolished sugar and paired with sikwate and champorado or chocolate porridge.

Raquel Choa

Raquel Choa shares her life story.

The 41-year-old Choa also adds to the Batirol menu her soft rolls flavored with chocolate and baked with fillings like bacon and such Filipino favorites as longanisa and tocino.

In addition, she will also introduce one other use of a cacao-based product and that is using chocolate lava for painting, which will be one of the activities offered through Batirol.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

SOFT ROLLS. Raquel Choa and her children with soft rolls flavored with chocolate and baked with fillings like bacon and such Filipino favorites as longanisa and tocino.

Maria Cacao tales

The journey from her early years to founder of Ralfe Gourmet, Inc. took a circuitous route but Choa said the bedtime stories of her grandma, Nanay Nila, sustained her all through those years of hardship.

“Oh, she was a great storyteller. I grew up with her bedtime stories. One in particular was about Maria Cacao. She was the queen of the cacao forest and she travels through the river to the open sea on a ship that turns to gold when she docks. That magical story of Maria Cacao warmed my heart and my love for the chocolate drink made with tablea, sikwate as we call it, remained even when my parents got back together and brought me back to the city after six years,” she said during a small gathering in May.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

COSMETICS. Raquel Choa introduces her cosmetics line that include cacao butter for skin care.

During a trip she made to New York late in 2016, Choa said she met a lot of chocolate makers as well as boutique and shop owners.

“I realized that what makes us unique is we have a story to tell. Our chocolate has life, soul, and spirit and it comes from our ancestors,” she said.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

SIKWATE. Just add hot water and these sticks turn into sikwate.

Casa de Cacao chocolate tours

Ralfe Gourmet holds chocolate appreciation tours at Casa de Cacao, which is also her residence in Casals Village in Mabolo, Cebu City.

Woven into these events is her chocolate story and the circumstances that led to her passion for creating products out of cacao. These are not limited to artisan chocolates or even chocolate-flavored food and drinks but include beauty products as well.

“The mountain where I came from, it was beautiful. The river was clear, it had a lot of rocks. I remember swimming there. In that mountain, there were a lot of treasures,” she added, recalling how they would collect banana leaves to sell for one peso a sack and coconut shells to turn into charcoal just to be able to buy kerosene for the house lamps.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

RICE CRISPIES and peanuts make for a tasty chocolate snack.

Tablea beginnings

The mountain lass left Balamban but she would return decades later, grown up and married with eight children, to her grandma, Nanay Nila, and her other grandmothers, Nila’s sisters, to remember her childhood and learn more about the tablea that had featured prominently in her younger years.

“I got married when I was 16. I became a housewife. I stayed home and raised my children. I brought them to picnics in Ayala and I painted. I’m an artist by heart. I became an interior designer. Then our house in Cebu City was burned down in a fire. We had to stay in Lutopan for two years while we recovered. My kids had to transfer to La Salle,” she said.

It was there that she developed a friendship with the mother of her daughter’s classmate who was from Argentina.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

CHOCOLATE PAINTING. Raquel Choa shows a painting done by a friend and using chocolate lava, one of her latest products.

Chocolate journey

Choa introduced the tablea to her Argentinian friend who had reservations about it at first because it looked dirty. She recalled how they decided to produce quality tablea and make a business of exporting it but it never took off because her friend had to return for good to Argentina.

“She left me with 300 kilos of tablea. I said to myself, ‘I’m a fighter’. I’ve been through so many challenges in my life. I can’t afford not to tell the whole world that we Filipinos know how to make chocolate in our own way,” she added.

She vowed that once her house in Cebu City was finished, she would focus on making chocolate as her artist’s canvas. About five years ago, she organized the first chocolate buffet at Casa de Cacao and that had been the beginning of her chocolate journey.

Chocolate Chamber Batirol

PAINTINGS. Raquel Choa and her kids with their paintings that use chocolate lava.

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International hotelier Brian Connelly to lead Marco Polo Plaza Cebu

Marco Polo Hotels has appointed international hotelier Brian Connelly as general manager of its deluxe urban resort hotel Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Connelly served various leadership roles spanning over 38…

Marco Polo Hotels has appointed international hotelier Brian Connelly as general manager of its deluxe urban resort hotel Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Connelly served various leadership roles spanning over 38 years with prominent hotels and resorts in Asia Pacific, Middle East and the United States, making him the ideal successor for Cebu’s hospitality landmark perched atop the hills of Cebu city.

A Bachelor of Science graduate in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Oklahoma State University, Connelly most recently held the position of general manager for Angsana Laguna Phuket & Angsana Villa Resort in Thailand. Earlier in his career, Connelly held senior management roles around the globe with Hilton Asia Pacific and Middle East, Oakwood Asia Pacific, Fairmont Hotels Middle East and Intercontinental Hotels in Thailand and China respectively.

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu general manager Brian Connelly.

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu general manager Brian Connelly.

Enhancing the brand

“It is exciting to be on this beautiful island of Cebu. I am honored to have the opportunity to be General Manager of this wonderful hotel, Marco Polo Plaza. I look forward to continuing the success of the hotel and working with the team to grow and enhance the operation. Marco Polo Hotels has a fantastic reputation in the Philippines and I look forward to further enhancing our brand,” Connelly said about his new position.

Connelly’s goals will include ensuring the hotel continues to deliver profits across all market segments and build the brand’s presence in the Cebu and feeder markets.

Passionate leadership

“We are delighted to welcome Brian to our award-winning Marco Polo Hotels family. Brian’s penchant for Asian hospitality embellished with his eagle-eye vision for driving profitable business and passionate leadership will help guide the property in its continuous improvement programmes as well as strengthen its leading position in the city of Cebu,” said Philippe Caretti, Vice President for Operations of Marco Polo Hotels.

Connelly is a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the International Food & Wine Society, and is the founding member of Son of Bacchus. He is an oenophile who enjoys reading and working out at the gym.

More information on Marco Polo Plaza is available at mpplaza@marcopolohotels.com and marcopolohotels.com. Real time social media updates are posted on facebook.com/marcopolocebu or on Twitter at @5StarInCebu.

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Turning Wheels brews fine handcrafted beer in Cebu

Michael Nikkel of Turning Wheels Craft Brewery has big plans for craft beers in Cebu. Not only does he want to put up a taproom where people can drink beer and observe the brewing process, he intends to come up with home brew kits so people can learn to do it on their own.

Michael Nikkel of Turning Wheels Craft Brewery has big plans for craft beers in Cebu.

Not only does he want to put up a taproom where people can drink beer and observe the brewing process, he intends to come up with home brew kits so people can learn to do it on their own.

“Before I moved here (to Cebu) in 2013, I was already interested in craft beers. I’ve always wanted to open my own craft beer bar. When my wife suggested that I push through with it, I started brewing in May last year. I have to admit the first few drafts I brewed were not that good,” Nikkel said.

Turning Wheels craft beer

CRAFT BEERS. Turning Wheels Craft Brewery produces an average of 1,500 liters per month of such handcrafted beer styles as Summit Wheat Ale, Skyline White India Pale Ale (IPA), Derailed Pale Ale, Singletrack IPA, Turning Point Double IPA and Singlespeed Imperial Stout.

 

The beer eventually got better and better that it was ready for commercial distribution in June of 2014. When it opened, Turning Wheels was the first craft beer brewery in Cebu, he said. Now there are four, he said.

Beer, cycling passions

Before making his move to Cebu in 2013, Nikkel was working as a respiratory therapist for over eight years in Los Angeles.

Nikkel’s passion for cycling and beers led him to name the brewery Turning Wheels. Like many other cyclists, he loves to indulge in good beer after a strenuous ride as a way of rewarding himself for achieving his goals on the bike.

Turning Wheels craft beer

ROOM 801. Anya Unchuan, Cebu White Sands operations director, and Michael Nikkel of Turning Wheels Craft Brewery serve craft beers during the formal opening of Room 801. The restaurant in Cebu White Sands is among the few places in Cebu where you can buy Turning Wheels craft beers.

 

His brewery produces an average of 1,500 liters per month of such handcrafted beer styles as Summit Wheat Ale, Skyline White India Pale Ale (IPA), Derailed Pale Ale, Singletrack IPA, Turning Point Double IPA and Singlespeed Imperial Stout.

“We’re currently distributing to several places in Cebu, Manila and Iloilo and soon in Dumaguete and Boracay. We understand it’s a new style and people here are not that familiar with handcrafted beer. We want to create more brand presence in Cebu,” Nikkel said.

American style of brewing

According to him, what sets the Turning Wheels beers is its focus on the American, specifically West Coast, style of brewing.

West Coast ales are known for being citrusy, more of the pineapple flavor, compared to the malty taste of their East Coast counterparts, he added. The cost per bottle of craft beer produced by Turning Wheels ranges from P250-P300.

Turning Wheels craft beer

LAUNCHING. Turning Wheels Craft Brewery unveiled their website during the launching of Room 801 in Cebu White Sands.

 

Where you can buy Turning Wheels beers

Nikkel, who hopes to release his home brew kits by December, said he wants to make it easier for Cebuanos to make their own beer by providing them the necessary resources. There’s a strong community of craft beer lovers in Manila and Cebu adoption is not that far behind, he added.

Want a taste of fine handcrafted beer? Check out Turning Wheels brews at Irie Gastropubliko in Cebu IT Park or Room 801 of Cebu White Sands in Lapu-Lapu City. Learn how to order online from the Turning Wheels Facebook page or Turning Wheels Craft Brewery website.

Turning Wheels craft beer

CRAFT BEER. Turning Wheels craft beer are brewed in Cebu and can be bought in Irie Gastropubliko in Cebu IT Park or Room 801 of Cebu White Sands in Lapu-Lapu City or online.

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New Shangri-La Mactan GM to focus on quality customer service

As new general manager Nicholas Smith takes over the helm at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, he intends to build on past achievements to ensure that visitors continue to have unique experiences. The new Shangri-La general manager, a seasoned hotelier, said the resort’s overall focus will continue to be customer service.

As new general manager Nicholas Smith takes over the helm at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, he intends to build on past achievements to ensure that visitors continue to have unique experiences.

The new Shangri-La general manager, a seasoned hotelier, said the resort’s overall focus will continue to be customer service.

“We will provide our guests tailor-made offerings, whether they’re for wedding, birthday, anniversary, or beach celebrations,” he said during a recent event at the resort to welcome him to his new post.

At the same time, Shangri-La in Mactan plans to work closely with existing partners to further develop overall experiences that will serve to attract a diverse group of clientele, he added.

Cebu attractions

According to Smith, the local touch adds an element of uniqueness to destinations and the beachside resort aims to capitalize on the many things that Cebu has to offer.

“We will look at how we can bring our offerings up to date. We have a fantastic chef at Cowrie Cove who can easily arrange farm-to-table and sea-to-table dining experiences. Over at Acqua, we’re putting together cooking classes for our guests. We have one for children already. Our guests can go out and explore Cebu and even cross the water to other islands,” he added.

TOUR DE MACTAN. Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa general manager Nicholas Smith joins the Tour de Mactan event at the resort held to welcome him to his new post. (Contributed photo)

TOUR DE MACTAN. Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa general manager Nicholas Smith joins the Tour de Mactan event at the resort held to welcome him to his new post. (Contributed photo)

 

Smith said there are unique attractions and activities in Cebu, citing its Spanish period churches, spectacular sea and mountain views, whale shark watching, and sea fishing.

The hotel is also constantly renovating to meet the demands of the market, and it intends to focus on bringing the Ocean Wing rooms to new standards. The renovation work, according to him, will involve 186 rooms and take from 18 months to two years.

He added that Shangri-La’s recent hosting of several of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 top-level meetings also reinforces its reputation as a world-class facility for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events.

Shangri-La Mactan visitors

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa guests are an eclectic mix of nationalities, led mainly by visitors from Korea and Japan but with an increasing number coming from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia as well as some countries in Europe.

“The domestic market is very healthy as well. From what I’ve heard, it seems that you get to meet half of Cebu during weekends,” he said.

Smith had just come from leading a renowned hotel in cosmopolitan Shanghai, according to a press statement from the resort. It added that he has been with the Shangri-La family for several years and has managed several of the hotel group’s properties across Asia.

In the span of his 20-year career in the industry, Smith opened a total of total of three reputable five-star hotels across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He was the hotel manager of Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai, a post that succeeded tenures at Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai and Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen, both of which are in mainland China, and at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu.

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Explore Cebu City’s highlands on a mountain bike

On the fringes of Cebu City’s urban landscape are wooded trails that lead to rustic hangouts. People unfamiliar with the city might find it hard to believe that a few minutes away from the high tech enclave of BPO companies and big shopping malls are rivers, waterfalls, and other scenic spots.

On the fringes of Cebu City’s urban landscape are wooded trails that lead to rustic hangouts.

People unfamiliar with the city might find it hard to believe that a few minutes away from the high tech enclave of BPO companies and big shopping malls are rivers, waterfalls, and other scenic spots.

The most convenient way to explore these uphill sites is on a mountain bike and your best bet for a guide would be biking fanatic Gene Faelnar, who is behind the Cebu Mountain Bike Adventure tours.

Faelnar’s love affair with mountain bikes started in 1990 and he has been trail riding since 2005. It was only three years ago or in 2012, though, that he made a business out of bringing guests to explore the mountainsides.

Gene Faelnar

“In Cebu City’s mountain barangays, there are 52 trails and counting. There are campsites where you can relax before moving on to other destinations,” said Faelnar.

MTB Adventure rates

Faelnar organizes biking tours to the mountainsides for people of all ages. He picks the trails based on whether his guests have beginner or hardcore biking skills.

Trail biking rates depend on the number of persons joining and already include rent for the bike and other gears, food, and guides.

kiddie-trail-party

He charges P4,000 to bring one person on a biking tour, P2,500 each for groups of two to three, P1,500 each for four to six, and P1,250 each for seven and up.

According to Faelnar, the ideal biking group is from 8 to 10 persons.

“I’ve tried handling 27 persons in one tour and it posed a lot of challenges. There were experienced riders who went on ahead and beginners who lagged behind. It was difficult to keep track of them,” he cited.

gene-bike-shop

Gene Faelnar is the man behind Cebu Mountain Bike Adventure tours.

 

Biking tour inclusions

In the beginning, Faelnar said he served as the only guide and brought tools in case of flat tires and other problems. He hired multicabs to transport his guests and the bikes to where the trails start.

mtb-trail-hardcore

Today, he has bought his own truck and hired staff to bring with him on the mountain biking tours. He now assigns one person to every four to five bikers and also has someone to act as sweeper to stay at the end of the line and make sure all are accounted for.

“I developed my system through experience. Hangtud karon, sige lang gihapon nako og improve ang tour,” Faelnar added. (Even now, I’m continuously improving the tour.)

A pit stop in the biking tour is Faelnar’s campsite on the mountainside. Bikers have their lunch — it’s boodle, Filipino style — and take a break or even shower at the cottage in his one-hectare property planted with mango trees. Faelnar hires his own cook to prepare food like native chicken soup and grilled pork belly.

Guests get to climb and enjoy the view of urban Cebu City at the Tops Lookout in Barangay Malubog, swim in the waterfall-fed pool in Barangay Bonbon, and crisscross the mountain trails on bikes.

mtb-tour-waterfall-break

Bike shop services

At the start, those who went on Faelnar’s tours were mostly foreigners, Europeans in particular, and visitors from Manila. In the last three to four months, there have been call center agents in Cebu joining his tours.

To provide convenience to out-of-town guests, Faelnar recently opened backpacking accommodations at the back of his bike shop in Guadalupe, Cebu City. He has a total of three rooms and has also set aside a small space for a restaurant.
gene-backpacking-room

Aside from guiding bike tours, Faelnar sells custom-made mountain bikes and provide bike spa services, which involve tune-up, greasing, and overall maintenance.

He said his parents used to be critical of his business but now support him wholeheartedly.

For the growing number of tourists coming to Cebu, Faelnar’s Cebu Mountain Bike Adventure tours provide more than the usual travel experience.

gene-mountain-bikes

Interested in this activity? Contact Gene Faelnar’s Cebu Mountain Bike Adventure group to book a tour.

Cebu MTB Adventure
1298-B V. Rama Avenue, Guadalupe, Cebu City
Contact number: (032) 238 6813 (tap on your phone to call)

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Cardinal Vidal recounts many roles as Cebu archbishop

He hadn’t wanted the task of overseeing the Catholic Church in Cebu but has come to love the Cebuanos. When Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of…

He hadn’t wanted the task of overseeing the Catholic Church in Cebu but has come to love the Cebuanos.

When Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cebu in the 1980s, he begged off from the job.

He hailed from Luzon and did not speak a single word of Bisaya and foresaw a problem communicating with his parishioners.

But from 1981, when he first came here as parish priest of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, to his formal appointment as Archbishop at 54 years old and all throughout his tenure, he led and grew the Church during some of Cebu’s most turbulent times.

Peacemaker

Cardinal Vidal

Cardinal Vidal, Cebu archbishop emeritus, says Cebuanos are a special people.

He took on the role of peacemaker, negotiating with labor protesters and rebel soldiers, advising presidents, and taking on roles that some might view as outside of the purview of the Church.

“In my second year as Archbishop, there was a massive transport strike that ran for days,” he recalled, narrating it got so bad he had to bring five spare tires when he visited the parishes because of the spikes placed by protesters on the road.

Cardinal Vidal, who retired in 2006, said the Cebuanos were suffering so he had to do something, he told us during an interview at his retirement house in a quiet suburban village in Cebu City.

He said he called all parties to a meeting that went on from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., listened to what they had to say, and presented his solution.

Mactan standoff

Unknown to many, he played a big role in ending the weeklong impasse that occurred when rebel troops seized the Mactan Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City in December of 1989 as part of an abortive attempt to overthrow President Corazon Aquino’s government.

During the negotiations with the mutineers that took around a week, Cardinal Vidal said the rebel leader at Mactan, Brig. Gen. Jose Commendador, would only talk to him.

“No one could cross the bridge, only me, and I had to prominently display the Vatican flag on my vehicle,” he said, referring to the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge that connects Mandaue to Lapu-Lapu City, site of the Mactan Air Base.

This went on for four to five days, according to Vidal.

In a last ditch attempt to convince Commendador to surrender, Vidal said he told the rebel leader: “General, look at your eyes. They’re red and your face is pale. This means you’re not sleeping. You will
drop dead from the way you’re going soon.”

Rebel surrender

He said Commendador agreed to end the siege the day after this conversation. The time and venue: 9 a.m. at the top of the bridge.

The Cardinal said the general’s decision made him very happy but he couldn’t help thinking at the time that Commendador certainly had a flair for the dramatic, noting his choice of site for the surrender.

At 20 minutes to noon, Vidal said he and the governor, some mayors, and military officials walked up the bridge to meet Commendador.

There were pictures taken but Cardinal Vidal opted not to join any. Why? He said the church and state should be separate but on equal footing. When the state is down, he cited, it is the duty of the
church to bring it back up to the same level.

“The Lord has given me this job,” he said, in reference to his role as Cebu’s peacemaker.

Aquino encounter

His first encounter with the late President Aquino was when she called him and asked him to come to Manila.

A newspaper column written by the late Louie Beltran had accused the President of hiding under the bed during a 1987 coup attempt against her administration.

Aquino asked for his help in setting things straight and showed him that the style of her bed allowed for no crawling space in the bottom so there was no way she could hide under it.

“I saw the the bed. How could she hide?” he told us in the course of an interview for our digital tourism project.

Estrada ouster

In the days leading to the removal of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada from office, Cardinal Vidal said a helicopter came looking for him while he was saying mass in Toledo City and caught up with his
group at the Transcentral Highway.

He was told to proceed directly to the tarmac and board a plane for Manila sans any preparation. His task this time was to convince Estrada to step down.

Many people had talked to Estrada but he adamantly refused to leave Malacañang. What he remembered of that meeting with Estrada was the ousted president asking him, “Why are you here?”

Cardinal Vidal said his reply was a plea for peace: “For the sake of the Filipino people, to avoid bloodshed, I urge you to leave Malacañang.”

He visited Estrada a few times after that, upon the request of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at his detention cell in Fort Santo Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, especially to ask about his living
conditions.

Mother Teresa

He recalled quite clearly, too, when Mother Teresa came to Cebu in 1987 for the inauguration of the Gasa sa Gugma-Home for the Dying Destitute, which is being run by the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.

Cardinal Vidal narrated how he showed her around the home and failed her standards on leading a life of simplicity.

“She saw the cabinets and want to know what they’re for. I told her they are for the sisters’ clothes and she told me to give these to the poor and replace them with cardboard boxes,” he recalled.

Mother Teresa also told him to donate the serving dishes and have the sisters use plastic ones. The sisters should also fetch water using a pail rather than have a reservoir pipe in the supply to the home.

Rich patrons of the Church who were present tried to donate money to the Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa founded, but she refused it.

Cardinal Vidal laughingly shared how he went after the patrons and asked for their donations as he would like to give the money to the church-based foundation Caritas.

Cardinal Vidal

When it’s for the good of Cebu Archdiocese, the Cardinal is not one to back down.

He said the National Historical Commission in 1990 warned him he could go to jail if he would proceed with his plan to expand the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral but went ahead anyway. Cardinal Vidal explained that he saw that his parishioners were growing and needed a bigger church.

In 1981, the structure was only the middle part and a small baptistry connected to its right side had destroyed its symmetry. It was upon his orders that the two sides were added in preparation for Cebu’s
400th anniversary celebration as a diocese in 1995.

Aside from the new exterior paint, other changes he introduced include the construction of another level as a meeting place of the clergy, addition of a pipe organ from Holland costing only P3 million, and improvement of the plaza in front of the church.

“Nobody could tell me that I didn’t do anything here to meet the growing needs of the diocese,” he stressed. One thing’s for sure, no one can certainly accuse Cebu’s longest serving Archbishop of that.

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Jessie shares secrets to delicious Argao torta

Baking the perfect Argao torta requires a confluence of several things, revealed one of the town’s top makers Jessie Magallones. The tuba (coconut wine) must be fresh and fermented just…

Baking the perfect Argao torta requires a confluence of several things, revealed one of the town’s top makers Jessie Magallones.

The tuba (coconut wine) must be fresh and fermented just right so it is neither too sweet or sour. A clay oven or what Cebuanos call the “hurno” gives the best Argao torta results. Cooking temperature should be kept at moderate levels all throughout the baking process.

She said these were the things she learned as she grew her Argao torta business. Magallones, who runs the popular Jessie’s Homemade Torta in Argao, said she remains true to the traditional methods of torta making.

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