ONE of Pampanga's oldest social organizations, El Circulo Fernandino, known for its grand and fabulous balls, is set to have its 99th annual reception and ball on May 4, 2019 at the gilded Kingsborough International Convention Center in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. This historic organization continues its colorful and purposeful legacy as it takes a step forward to its centenary next year.

El Circulo Fernandino is one of the remnants of "peace time," the seemingly golden age of the American colonial rule in the Philippines, when Filipinos started to prosper and interacted in unprecedented ways with their benevolent colonizers who encouraged the formation of youth clubs and social organizers, in contrast with the more severe and subservient atmosphere during the Spanish colonial period. In the early days, the balls served as meeting places for scions of old families to meet their peers. The annual balls had a brief respite during the Second World War but resumed during the liberation period, with photographs

from as early as 1946 which included the presence of liberating forces at that time. These continued until 1980s, surviving even Martial Law, until ceasing in the late 1980s and early 1990s following the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and lahar flows.

In 1997, under the leadership of Engr. Angelo David, scion of one of the city's founding families, and eminent civic leader Dr. Leticia Yap, the El Circulo Fernandino revived its annual reception and ball, which became bigger and better at the dawn of the new millennium. Because of the dynamic social fabric of our city, new faces started joining the organization, and it realized a more responsible engagement and involvement in the community with the establishment of the El Circulo Fernandino Foundation in 2004. Past presidents of the ball become trustees of the Foundation.

At the helm of this year's El Circulo Fernandino 99th Reception and Ball are noted engineer and businessman, former public servant, Alex Patio as the president, with the lovely lady President Carla Espinosa, a renowned realtor, entrepreneur, and kitchen goddess. Tito Alex has been a constant participant in the annual balls since its revival in 1997 and ate Carla has been an active mainstay since 2009. I look forward to seeing ate Carla look even more stunningly beautiful in a fiery red beaded Filipiniana ball gown designed by Marco Madlangbayan. In El Circulo circles, the lady president is given priority in choosing red for the color of her gown.

This year's Rigodon de Honor participants who survived the rigorous weekly practices under the patient tutelage of highly regarded choreographer Ms. Dalah Pia feature a mix of old and new blood, from Rotary and realty circles especially, and Fernandino families who continue to support the El Circulo through generations. The participants will be dancing the traditional rigodon accompanied by Marcy and His Band.

To lead the rigodon are presidents Alex and Carla, followed by Past Presidents Architect Menchi Manalo and Councilor Angie Hizon, Cong. Dong Gonzales and CSFP First Lady Malou Santiago, Jun David and Dr. Charlotte Dizon, Mark Chua and Divine Tulio, Capt. Boy Pacla and Vilma Dungo, Councilor Ruping Dumlao and Kaye Pineda, Puring Tanglao and Justin Javellonar, Ed Panlilio and Gertie Villanueva, Dr. Fernando Rivera and his lady Linda Cuyugan Santos Rivera, PDG Tony Bautista and Susan Czudai, Jerry Mercado and Zelinda Soto, Martin Cunanan and House of David scion Christine Carlos, Manny Ocampo and Chuck Gueco, Diosdado Mallari and Suzette Sy, Bert Batac and Cathy Humilde, Jurie Roa and Puring Bamba, Alex Magsino and Riza Mae Macam, Bong and Roshiel Cugtas, Alfer Evaristo and Michelle De Vera, Joaquin Lorenzo Santiago and Arlene Canlas, Carlo Santiago and Leony Santiago, Jimi Espinosa and Agnes Garcia, Jaycee Jimenez and Jaja Lazard, Dwayne Lingat and Eleanor Dionisio, Marty Ocampo and Amelia Woo, Leo and Michelle Viacrucis, Arthur and Alice Crespo, Jovy Tulio and Jennifer Basilio Dayag, Allan Patio and Eileen Aquino, and Alvin and Lorna Mendoza. It will be my second year as a Rigodon participant and I am fortunate to have my high school BFF Edward Sayre as my dance partner for this year.

On a personal note, I am grateful to my good friend and kuya Glen Canlas for always exceeding my expectations whenever he designs Filipiniana gowns for me, and this year's El Circulo gown is no exception. I hope to bring sunshine with me at the ball tonight. My make up fairy godmothers Georgina Baluyut Gabrillo and Mary Grace Manalang will dolling me up again, but beyond our weekly tapings, for the first time ever in my El Circulo personal history.

Tonight's 99th El Circulo Fernandino will badly miss one of its pillars, past president Levy Laus, who would have made a perfect comeback as the Centennial President next year. We pray that you will be joining the festivities from your heavenly side.

Let's be merry and have a ball at the El Circulo Fernandino and let the Pyestang Fernandino season begin!