Who hasn’t heard of the Sandiego Dance Company? What about Valentino “Val” Mancao Sandiego? Well, Val is the eminent heir to the Sandiego Dance Company, a well-respected and honored dance studio founded by his mom choreographer Luz Mancao-Sandiego way back in 1947.

But let’s fast forward to 2023, when Val was the celebrated recipient of the distinguished Pope Francis Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice Award, an esteemed commendation granted to persons who have contributed unwavering loyalty, devotion, labor and exemplary service to the Catholic Church.

The mid-morning solemn investiture was held at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, with no less than His Excellency Rev. Jose Palma, archbishop of Cebu, presiding. The occasion also honored the 2022 Knights and Dames to the Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester, Pope and Marty, another outstanding award.

Totally unassuming, Val’s initial reaction was: “When Archbishop Palma broke the news, I was really surprised and with all humility, so glad. Never did I expect that my services and contributions to the church, especially to the Cebu archdiocese, would be recognized. This award, given by the supreme pontiff, Pope Francis, is the highest achievement I have ever received throughout my career as an artist and performer.”

If we have to add our bit, Val is also an avid Sto. Niño collector!

The Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice (meaning For Church and Pope) is a singular award given to the clergy and lay people for exceptional service to the Church. Val was honoree at a thanksgiving dinner at Casino Español de Cebu that evening, with beloved family, son Andot and charming wife Ofelia, former members of the famous Sandiego Dance Company for at least seven decades and still counting, Cofradia de San Juan Bautista founder Louie Nacorda, Chona Bernad, fellow papal awardee Margie Mathieu and Dr. Joy Gerra, both members of the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission.

At another table were Msgr. Ting Ancajas, Rev. Fathers Eric Orio and Charles Henry Atayde, Ben Chua, Pacita Sode, Gavin Sanson Bagares and Kingsley Sode Medalla.

Enjoying the impromptu number by the Sandiego dancers who performed the Sinulog steps with absolute perfection were showbiz friends Junjet Primor, Ronnie Matudan and Oscar Yabut.

A musical surprise was the video presentation by “Ultimate Born Diva,” Hong Kong-based Cebuana Raki Vega, who rendered a heartwarming “Magnificat.”

Our tribute to an extraordinary personality, Val, dance and artistic director of his dance company, heritage advocate and owner of the Yap-Sandiego ancestral home in Parian. A turn-of-the-century edifice, it has been converted to a museum housing rare antiques and curios.

Val is so much more and now a well-deserved papal awardee. Toasts, Val!


Accolades once more go to Dr. Warfe T. Engracia, noted radiologist and civic club member (Rotary Club of Metro Cebu) for a meaningful and relevant award with the title Knight Grand Cross of Rizal (KGCR), the highest degree ever that a Knight could achieve in a lifetime!

The auspicious ceremonies were held at the Centennial Pavilion of the Manila Hotel during the 23rd Knights of Rizal International Assembly recently.

This prestigious organization, the Knights of Rizal is a civic group created “to honor and uphold the ideals of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.” Their awards and titles are appreciated and recognized as official awards of the Honors Code of the Philippines and ranked seventh in the Order of Wear.

Signed into law by then President Elpidio Quirino, Republic Act (RA) 646, the award is only one of four civilian honors under an RA, the others being the Boys and Girls Scouts of the Philippines and National Red Cross.

As we know Warfe to be a man of dedication and principle, he was indeed thankful to the Supreme Council for inclusion in this honored list.

“I am prouder that my achievements and long service in our community served as my credentials and not endorsements.”

Cebu is extremely proud of you, too, Warfe!