THE Neri siblings (children of the late Jesus “Dongdong” Borromeo Neri and the late Paz “Chiching” Litonjua Zamora) always have their get-togethers in New York because of the six, four are US-based (two in New York—Teresita “Chichit” and Paz “Chuquit,” and two in Illinois—Ma. Victoria “Vicky” and Emmanuel “Manny.”) Only two are in Cebu, Julius and Trinidad “Ninette.” This year’s gathering was no exception.
The reunion began on a warm summer night in Manhattan when Chuck Neri Gabutina, only son of Chuquit, hosted a delicious paella dinner at a cozy Spanish meson. That was the day Vicky and husband Dr. Lou Valdez with grandaughter Lexi as well as Manny and wife Ninet (Reyes), arrived from Illinois, while the Valdez son Michael had come from Boston. Julius, Ninette and husband Alvin Garcia had jetted in days earlier, all the way from Cebu. As for me, I flew in from Toronto where I had stayed for a week. We were an excited group chatting the night away.
Chosen as the official reunion venue was Mountain Creek, a scenic mountain resort 47 miles away from the city where we headed to the next day. We rented a state-of-the-art van that could accommodate all of us and designated Manny as driver (thankfully competent and patient). Meanwhile, the “New Yorkers” (Chichit and Chuquit) had thoughtfully prepared all sorts of goodies for all-day snacks.
Mountain Creek is a four-season resort with a bike park and a water park, and four skiable mountain peaks for the winter season. Several restaurants and lodges dot the beautiful rolling terrain. And among them is the quaint-looking The Appalachian at Mountain Creek where we stayed. It had a charming old fashioned ambience.
We occupied spacious suites (with well-equipped kitchens) on the same floor so it was easy for us to congregate in one suite as we did for the home-cooked dinner Betito (son of Chichit and the late Arturo Ravelo) prepared with the help of wife Romanie, daughter Shan and son Drei; and the yummy breakfasts whipped up by Tachi Ravelo Parrel, eldest daughter of Chichit.
Card games along with endless reminiscing and lots of laughter marked the evenings at our mountain hideaway. Daytime found us going around the environs in Vernon Valley. There was a surreal feel to the place because of the misty atmosphere and little raindrops falling every now and then. All too soon, the three days at Mountain Creek came to an end.
Back in the bustling Big Apple, Chuquit and partner Dr. Michael Greenbaum hosted lunch for us at their well-appointed condo by the Hudson River. The view of the Manhattan skyline from the balcony was breathtaking.
On the final night of the get-together, we took in a Broadway show and then leisurely walked back to our hotel, savoring the sights and sounds of New York, the city that never sleeps...a world away from the sleepy little town of Mambajao, Camiguin, the beloved hometown of the Neris.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 13, 2017.
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