A Cebu weekend with the Loops, M Lhuillier’s Michel and Vivant’s Arlo Sarmiento

The safari’s botanical garden highlights Michel Lhuillier’s flora collection.

EDUARD Loop (standing) and Michel Lhuillier on the horse.

Between the Lladro figurines, bibelots from various parts of the world and paintings by Cebuano artists that my eyes feasted on as I looked around and breathed in this cozy yet spacious home in the South — and the stories that my hostess shared of her memories of her youth and the friendships she has shared through time with the ladies of the same charming ilk, and add to this the home-prepared food, mostly traditional like pesa mayonesa, macaroni salad and her special concoction braised porkchop with mushroom — I could only feel glad and be grateful I took this trip to the Queen City of the South, Cebu,  for a few days of break interspersed with interviews with three top Cebuano businessmen of various generations and inclinations.

DINNER at the Loop’s lanai. The author is shown here with Eduard, Honey and US Consul Glenn Loop.

Michel Lhuillier, the man behind M Lhuillier, which serves to its consumers various financial products with the bulk of the business focused on international and local remittances; Arlo Garcia Sarmiento, of the old rich Hispanic Garcia clan of Cebu, whose company Vivant is a pioneer in solar energy and power production and distribution; and Eduard Jarque Loop, who is today known, admired and respected for having built and organized the Cebu Safari in the municipality of Carmen, covering an area of 170 hectares, its wilderness teeming with animals from the jungles of the world.

A DEER poses proudly for the tourists’ camera.
ZEBRAS enjoy their afternoon repast.

Indeed, a masterpiece of fauna preservation and destination. It was achieved jointly by Eduard and his mentor, boss and a father of sorts, the same Michel Lhuillier, who is also a restaurateur and an important flora collector. His orchids occupy a humongous garden that winds around a path of the most beautiful, colorful and rarest species of this most elegant and unique of flowers.

To cap my stay, I visited the Carmelite Monastery, which I make sure to do wherever I go as long as these nuns have a holy presence in the vicinity and, of course, the Sto. Niño Cathedral. In both holy dwelling places of the Lord, I prayed and thanked the Almighty for his blessings, while I asked Him to heal me of my health challenges and bless my writing endeavors. Of course, I asked him to bless my family and someone who is very special.

PAINTINGS of birds adorn the Loop hallway.

I brought home hojaldres, of course, ones that were made by popular Shamrock, and more by Hillside Bakeshop, which many prefer now, or so I am told. Of course, I also bought rosquillos and the de rigueur Cebu t-shirts. Thanks to Eduard who surprised me by saying that the safari shirts that I had purchased were his gifts to me. Such a generous host and so relaxed to be around with.

My hosts, the Loop family — US Consul Glenn and his wife, Honey, who is our DAILY TRIBUNE social columnist — invited me to their home. It was a movable visit that I had for on the first night I stayed at the new Seda Hotel in the IT Park where I invited our circulation manager, Rita, to join me because she also arrived that day in Cebu.

THE Lhuillier’s silver collection.
THE Lhuillier’s elephant collection.

I left early after a delicious and unhurried breakfast, as I enjoyed the pancake, soft and just slightly wet scrambled eggs, for which I thanked the chef. We then motored to several towns away toward the south where I had the thrill of my life admiring and getting quite close to the most exotic of birds, feeding my favorite animals, the giraffes which I have always equated with one’s lofty aspirations, and such unique plants, including Jade vine in all its bloom, which I felt augured well of a fortunate future.


And so, I had my proverbial time of my life, no matter how brief a delightful weekend, allowing me rest, recreation and a visit with Michel whom I had not seen for a long time, and enjoying the comforts of home of the Loops who took very good care of me, with a complement of staff who accompanied and drove me around, the lady members attending to my every need, including laundering and pressing my soiled clothes.

CALLOS is a favorite among Casino Espanol members.
ROADSIDE vendor selling hot and delicious bibingka.

Oh, talk about perfect hospitality. I should mention here, of course, that PAL’s Cielo Villaluna allowed me the pleasures of a pre-departure rendezvous at the Mabuhay Lounge in Manila where I enjoyed a sumptuous merienda of international and Filipino fare including arroz caldo at its hottest and most delicious. To Cielo and her staff, as well as her fellow PAL officers who met me in the Cebu International Airport, I can only extend my most heartfelt gratitude. I received as much warmth and was showered with tender loving care on my return trip, as I was wheeled around on a wheelchair, saving me time and energy which I would have used up if I had to do all the walking. What can I say except that I had a party of the most fun kind, indeed.