THE two-year stint of Japanese Consul Shoji Otake and his charming wife, Naomi, in our Queen City ended all too soon. And before they knew it, it was time to say “sayonara” (goodbye).

The double occasion was farewell to the Otakes and welcoming his successor, Shigeyuki Hirakawa. The event also brought together His Excellency, Kazuhide Ishikawa, Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, and his wife, Yoko. From the local side, our very own Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III made a rare special appearance with better half Jobelle.

There was the symbolic and traditional giving of the Key of the Province to the ambassador, and local souvenirs to both outgoing and incoming consuls.

Indeed relations between the two countries have never been warmer and more cordial, what with more Japanese investments being poured into the country.

And it might also be worth mentioning here that our nation’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), has just introduced direct flights from Cebu to Osaka and Cebu to Nagoya. It certainly makes bonding between the two cities easier and more enjoyable, don’t you agree?

Among the guests were Cebu-based Japanese executives, who lauded the bustling economy. We also noted the presence of ladies from the local Ikebana chapter, who have invited Madame Naomi Otake and her husband to grace many an Ikebana exhibit. “Sayonara” then, Consul and Madame Otake. ‘Til we meet again!

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On the subject of consular and cultural bonding—this time of Filipino-Canadians—it took envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Ottawa (Canada) Francisco Benedicto to be the moving spirit for this historic visit of close to 200 balikbayans to Cebu.

“It was most nostalgic and sentimental to drop by familiar landmarks in many Cebu towns of our childhood,” they enthused during the dinner that followed at White Gold House, hosted by the genial Ambassador Benedicto.

Greetings were exchanged between the current Philippine Ambassador to Canada, Petronila Garcia, and the former one, Leslie Gatan. It was also an appropriate time to present a book about Cebu to City Mayor Michael Rama.

The evening’s agenda culminated with more surprise musical numbers from the incomparable Mila Espina, who gathered the University of San Jose-Recoletos theater group, the talented scholars of the Amparito Llamas-Lhuillier Educational Foundation, and the Benedicto College ensemble, to dance and sing in true Cebuano fashion and passion… and to join them too… Adelante!