THE annual feast of food and fun that is the Best of Cebu party took place last Friday night.

Various food establishments, hotels, and service providers showcased their best offers in the ballroom of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel, the official venue partner, to over 500 guests. 

A total of 60 establishments and brands received awards in this annual recognition and exhibit of Cebu’s best, organized by the SunStar Publishing Group and now on its fourth year.

The top winners in the 2016 search were L’Artisan French and Mediterranean Cuisine, named Restaurant of the Year, and SM City Cebu, hailed as Mall of the Year.

The event was co-presented by AirAsia and Korean carmarker SsangYong Motor, in cooperation with ArthaLand. 

“Best of Cebu is here to showcase to everyone that Cebu is world-class, and to encourage Cebuano companies to up their game and become globally competitive,” said SunStar President Julius “Jayjay” Neri Jr.

Categories featured in the latest search included food and drinks, shopping, rest and recreation, services, hotels, beauty and wellness, as well as People’s Choice (done by online voting) and Cebu’s Favorites.

In addition, there were Grand Slam winners, or those who consistently won the Best of Cebu Award since it started in 2013 in their categories. These include Pino Restaurant, the best budget buffet; Big Tom’s, the best burger; Tin Gow, the best Chinese restaurant; Kalidades House of Flowers, the best florist; and SM Imax, the best cinema. 

Open to experience

The search also gives new and rising brands a chance to reach a bigger audience with their exceptional products and services, like Diet in a Box, Sulbing Dessert Café, and Ate clothing line, among others. SunStar also introduced in the 2016 search a new category, Cebu’s Favorites, which honors companies and brands that are not homegrown but are the top go-to places for many Cebuanos. These include Jollibee, Starbucks, Shakey’s, and H&M.

“There’s no denying that as much as Cebuanos love their own, they are just as open to those that are from all over, whether from the capital or abroad, big brands or small,” said Noel Villaflor, SunStar Weekend editor. 

The Best of Cebu results are featured in a special issue every December of SunStar Weekend magazine, which is then redistributed during Sinulog week to guide visitors.

Among those spotted in Friday’s party was business leader and Netherlands Honorary Consul Gordon Allan “Dondi” Joseph. His D+B Wineshop won the Best Wine Selection prize in the latest search. 

“It’s very impressive. It’s good to know that there is a recognition like this for Cebu brands. Being named as one of the best, that is just great!” he said. D+B Wineshop has a stock of over 300 wine brands in its wine cellar at The Crossroads on Gov. M. Cuenco Ave. in Banilad, Cebu City.

Diet in a Box, an online-based food business, was recognized as Cebu’s Best Wellness Food Delivery service.

Proud to be a Cebuano

Chime Bell Osabel, who was spotted in the Diet in a Box booth last Friday, said the Best of Cebu Award has attracted more followers and customers. In its packaging, Diet in a Box has incorporated the Best of Cebu logo.

“SunStar makes me proud to be a Cebuano. It’s my first time to attend the event,” said Cebu Bankers Club past president Maximo Rey Eleccion. “I can say it was very creative, original, and innovative.”

While the guests checked out the offers of each exhibitor, Cebu’s own Missing Filemon played their all-time hits. 

Having reviewed most of Cebu’s top food destinations and establishments, Cebu Bloggers Society President Sinjin Pineda commended the location and lineup of this year’s Best of Cebu Awardees.

Annual search

“Once again, this year, SunStar recognized the best of what Cebu has to offer. From Cebuanos’ all-time favorites to fresh new finds, the SunStar Best of Cebu showcases what stood out, what impressed and what surprised us in the year 2016,” wrote May Godino in a review posted on her Facebook account.

Every year, the search begins with a survey done anonymously by the Best of Cebu committee. Guest judges who are experts in their fields are also invited to weigh in on some categories.

“Winners in the Best of Cebu are chosen by a panel of judges who visit the contending establishment anonymously and try their products and services, paying full price,” said Neri. 

While everyone has his or her favorite, the Best of Cebu is a recognition of Cebuanos’ talent and creativity, as manifested in their products and services. 

“The Best of Cebu has been growing bigger and better every year. This year’s event was the best ever with so much good feedback from our winners, sponsors, and guests. We are looking forward to many new and exciting things for next year’s event,” Neri said in his message.