Our eldest sister, Andrea Roa Lazaro celebrated her 75th birthday four days ago. At about the same time last year her children brought up the idea of preparing for a special celebration since it was to be a milestone of a birthday, a diamond event. As she was wont to do she told her children not to make too much of a fuss about it and just celebrate it in the usual way, dinner with the family in some restaurant. And so it went, a year later the family set off to go to Tender Bob, a nice restaurant known for its steak offerings and other fine edibles. On the way somebody suggested that they stop by Teatrino, a dinner theater outlet in the Greenhills area because it was still early for dinner. It must have come as pleasant shock for her to see that the whole place has been dressed up especially for the occasion of her 75th birthday.
The event was an elaborately hatched conspiracy by her children and their spouses, the planning of which really had its start a year ago, in her last birthday. Master planner was Jay, the eldest son who probably did a CPM (critical path method) to progress the grand plan. It probably would not have been pulled off successfully without the assistance of the rest of brood together with willing participation of the in-laws. Bambi, Jobert and Mimi, Jet and Shelly, Gigi and Arnel and Jay summoning all his management skills to see to it that no snags will be encountered as they worked towards the big day. With all the myriad activities in the preparations it was a wonder how they were able to keep it a secret from their Mom for such a long duration.
The celebration opened its curtains as Jobert, the second to the youngest in the family, walked the boards of the Teatrino stage to announce the event and to lead the invocation as well as the saying of grace prior to the fun and the food to be partaken by all present. Jobert was the right choice to do this since he is a stalwart of the “Lingkod Ng Panginoon” congregation.
The celebrators included close relatives and guests who were of significance to the 75 years of Nits’ existence. Her only daughter, Gigi, flew in from LA together with her husband Arnel and the two boys Toby and Mark, Me and my brothers Tito and Dado, my wife Alma, our children Eric and Lyn who with husband Andy flew in from Saigon were in attendance. Sisters Patty and Angge had expressed their regrets but were there in spirit as they have sent their well wishes earlier on. Also present were Boots, son Joey, and daughter Chiqui with husband Congressman Robbie Puno. Nephews and nieces, including TV and radio host Ariel Ureta, husband of Lydia, the daughter of Dado. Other close relations Lulu Sarabia, Alma’s sisters Cely and Lot, La Escuela staffers and teachers, Pedrita, Romy and Hilda; the family of Iking, a close family friend, Sally Maranon, Gigi’s in-laws who flew in from the States were among those who came. Of special importance to Nits was the attendance of her batch mates in Maryknoll College from the forties in Pennsylvania St. in the Ermita district in Manila and through to the late fifties in Maryknoll of Loyola Heights, Quezon City. I am sure that I am guilty of having omitted scores of other guests but I am only relying on what I can remember of that heady night.
Dinner was served immediately after Jobert announced the opening of the event.
The catering was done by the popular restaurateur, the Arce family, well known for their food preparations for special events as well as for their fame in ice cream confections and concoctions. The buffet was a carefully chosen array of sumptuous offerings which included a lengua dish, fish preparations, pasta, meat dishes, lechon de leche, and a delectable array of desserts. Truly a dinner fit for the occasion.
And then there was the after dinner entertainment!
Showtime consisted of special numbers rendered by the children, solo songs of specially written lyrics for the occasion by Jay, duets by the other children and their spouses, the violin pieces, with the encouragement of Bambi, their mom, were done by Timmy and Rain, lively hip hop dance number by Toby, Mark and a cousin, the special dance choreography presented with much enthusiasm and love by La Escuela teachers and staff. A trip down memory lane through an AV presentation showing Nit’s cute baby pictures, as a pretty young girl and as a blooming colegiala most of which were rendered in sepia (not true that these were unearthed with the Dead Sea scrolls), pictures with the then debonair Eng. Juanito Lazaro, and with the brood in their preteens. There were also two film clips with Nits and Ito dancing like the Keystone cops in a creatively done animation. Jay told me that they had prepared much more but he decided to edit out some of the more sentimental ones lest the affair turn into a sob session.
Beverly Salviejo, a popular comedienne, did a stand-up comedy act which set the guests rolling on aisles. She interspersed her gags with nicely rendered songs. Her jokes were sometimes a bit off color but, all in all, hilarious with everyone loving every minute of it. I guess the guests who brought along small children had a hard time muffing their ears to spare them from the naughty jokes. Beverly and Jay was a great team playing the role of emcees. Jay could easily have a lucrative night job doing the comedy circuit. Give up the stuffy suit and necktie and don the comic’s cap and the singer’s tees.
So after the end of the amateur hour the professionals were ushered in. The Rainmakers, a singing group “resurrected” from the early seventies sang a few Lettermen songs. Despite their slightly graying and slightly balding toppers they managed to shine and thrilled Nits senior guests no end while nephews and nieces looked on seemingly clueless as to what was being raved about. Kidding aside they have not lost the ability to blend their voices superbly and did justice to the Lettermen songs. The leader of the group is a certain Mr. Macanaya who happens to be the father-in-law of Andy Belmonte’s cousin Manuel and also Andy’s golf mate.
The last group to perform was the Replay band. The owner of the band is the husband of Arlene Arce, the one who prepared the sumptuous buffet dinner. The Arce’s are friends of Jay, Lyn and Andy.
The party evolved into a rollicking revelry from the start of the first drumbeat struck by the Replay band. Almost all the young folks gathered in front of the stage and started moving and gyrating at the rhythm of the beat. It also signaled the exodus of some of the older guests who made a beeline towards Nits to bid their goodbyes.
A few numbers later, all in good fun, Lotlot, the wife of Romy was coaxed into doing a number with the band. She did very well and received an ovation from her cousins and the other guests. Emboldened by the successful number of Lotlot Shelly Lazaro joined in and did a number herself with the band. I think that we probably have two newly born stars in the entertainment world using Nits 75th birthday party as their vehicle into glitz and glamour of showbiz. Actually, three if Jay, who also sang with the band later, decides to give up the drabness of the board room in favor of the glittering allure of the klieg lights and the sound stage.
Wow what a blast! It was something that one would least expect a “Nits happening” would be. But, then again, I may be wrong, as the party drew to a close I espied a satisfied, ecstatic, happy gleam in her eyes. It may very well be her kind of night and her children were spot on in gifting her with this kind celebration.