by Joseph Peralta/Asianjournal.com
SAN FRANCISCO – A jampacked Social Hall at the Philippine Center Building in downtown San Francisco on May 13 witnessed the United States launch of “Cebu, Pride of Place,” a coffee table book celebrating the province’s beauty, its people and the many things that make Cebu one of the most distinctive islands in the Philippine archipelago.
Cebu, Pride of Place, published by Marissa Fernan and Elvira Luym, is a collaborative effort of the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation, Inc., the Camera Club of the Philippines’ 2005 Master Photographer E. Billy Mondonedo, editor Thelma Sioson San Juan, writer Alya B. Honasan and art director Norinno C. Hernandez.
The book’s US launch will only cover one other city after the Bay Area event, which is New York.
Consul General Marciano Paynor, a self-confessed adopted Cebuano, welcomed the huge crowd who came to the Social Hall. He described himself as a Cebuano not by birth but by choice, and disclosed that his fondness for the province is borne by a very good experience that he had while in Cebu.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia was the evening’s keynote speaker. The two-term governor, who established a record margin of victory in the last gubernatorial elections in Cebu, is credited with spearheading the incredible transformation of the province. She is currently in the US to help launch the book, and also has scheduled visits to Washington, D.C. and San Diego, California.
In her speech, Gov. Garcia disclosed that “pride of place” is one of Cebu’s defining traits, and is one of the things that make Cebuanos tick.
She added, “[This book] invites you to a small, beautiful island which has an interesting story to tell. It gives you a chance to not only discover what travelers see, but invites you to do more… to convert seeing what’s in the book to a memory.”
When asked by the Asian Journal what she hoped the book would do for overseas Filipinos, Gov. Garcia said she would like FilAms to “leaf through the pages of the book and understand why Cebuanos are very proud of Cebu… I invite the community to come and experience for themselves why Cebu is the number one province in the Philippines.”
Fernan, for her part, feels that Cebu, Pride of Place has successfully captured the spirit of Cebu, and credits photographer Billy Mondonedo, who used only Leica equipment, with having a special eye for capturing the images used in the book.
“This whole process took about five years,” she revealed to the Asian Journal. “It took time to interview people and find the right time. I am extremely proud of this book because it is a labor of love.”
Asked if another book or perhaps a sequel is in the works, Fernan said that although the Department of Tourism has asked them to make another book, she is giving this a lot of thought since “we are not book publishers. I was very passionate about this book…maybe if I find another subject where Cebu is concerned.”
Cebu City First Lady Margot Osmena, meanwhile, gave her take on why Cebu is a premiere destination for many Filipinos, and why she believes Cebu is second to none.
“Cebu is a very good place to be in,” she said. “The quality of life is very good. Cebu has a very good balance and feel of a hometown and a big city. Where else can you be where you can still go home for lunch? You don’t have to rush all the time. I don’t really have to convince people to come to Cebu.”
Mrs. Osmena also said that aside from Cebu’s prime location and its people’s ingenuity and resourcefulness, what makes Cebuanos extraordinary is their devotion to the Santo Niño, which is celebrated annually via the Sinulog which takes place in January.
Released just last December 2007 and with only an initial print of 2,500 copies, Cebu, Pride of Place has found instant acceptance and success in local and international circles.
According to Fernan, the book has been nominated for book awards both in the US and in the Philippines. Cebu, Pride of Place is also being included by its printer, Singaporean-based Tien Wah Press, in its worldwide catalog.
Even Tourism Secretary Ace Durano has given Cebu, Pride of Place the thumbs-up. In a video shown at the launch, Durano described the 7-lb. book as “the only coffee table book that captures the different faces and facets of Cebu, and is a welcome addition to the tourism materials available on the province of Cebu.”
The San Francisco launch attracted a cross-section of the Filipino American community, including many Cebuanos who have made the Bay Area their new home. According to a release sent to the Asian Journal, dignitaries from the province of Cebu and outside of the Bay Area also flew thousands of miles to attend the event, including photographer Billy Mondonedo and his wife Marlene, Mrs. Teresin Mendezona, Mrs. Annie Aboitiz, Mrs. Annette Osmena, Mrs. Chary Aboitiz, Mrs. Noni Uy, Mr. Jaime Chua, Mr. Manny Fernan, Mrs. Anita Mercado (and children Tony and Christine), Cherie Mae Onate and husband Tracy, and Mica Granthom from Wyoming.