I entered the Blu Bar & Grill at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu not knowing what to expect. I received a gracious invite from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Manila to join the new Ambassador of Germany to the Philippines, His Excellency, Dr. Andreas Pfaffernoschke and his wife, Marina for dinner.
“Don’t even think about bringing up Oktoberfest in any way, shape or form,” this was a crucial tip I gave myself.
It’s not often I find myself dining with dignitaries. However, I fancied the opportunity of listening to successful people, and learning along the way. So I sat there not knowing what to order when His Excellency asked the rest of us what we wanted to drink.
“I’ll have a beer because I’m thirsty,” he said with a smile.
Suddenly, and somehow, I knew that His Excellency was a one-of-a-kind communicator. In fact, I should’ve known this when the dinner invite stated “Smart Casual” for the attire.
What I also thought would be a large party in a ballroom was instead an intimate dinner with leaders from different sectors in Cebu: Past Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. president and chief operating officer Dominica “Domi” Chua; Pages Holdings Inc. chairman and chief operating officer Bunny Pages; American Consular Agent Glenn Loop; and a German gentleman who, after spending decades in Hong Kong, has chosen to retire in Cebu and called it his home for the last 17 years, Peter Trankner. Completing our table of eight was Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Cebu, Dr. Franz Seidenschwarz.
I can no longer recall who said what or how it was said, but I believe His Excellency preferred meeting people this way, as smaller groups make for better conversation.
“I am happy to meet you during my first visit to Cebu,” said Dr. Pfaffernoschke who arrived in Manila in July. “Cebu is a nice place to be — allow me to say that after 24 hours that I’m here,” he quipped. “I have to learn a lot not only about Cebu but about the Philippines in general. After seven weeks, I think I understand a little bit of what’s going on but there’s much more to learn.”
Questions were asked and opinions were shared. His Excellency displayed a level of confidence that can be attributed to his knowledge, wit and experience. The dinner went on and we covered a range of topics from geopolitical tension to Germany bagging gold in the recently concluded 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup in Manila.
“Yes, I was there,” Dr. Pfaffernoschke gently nodded before switching gears, recalling how close the games were and how late the Championship Party ended. He sent me a photo of himself and his wife enjoying the games at the SM Mall of Asia Arena holding a huge flag of Germany.
We expect to see more of His Excellency in the next three, four years. Perhaps, the Olympic gold for basketball then, His Excellency? Cheers!