MassKara Festival national chair Jojie Dingcong celebrated his nth birthday over the weekend at Okura Manila in Resorts World, hosted by his dear friends, Megaworld’s Kevin Tan and wife, Michelle.
Considering Jojie’s stature as an image-builder of stars and politicians, the birthday celebration was quite intimate with just close friends in attendance, led by First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos and a group of friends from Bacolod including Mayor Albee Benitez and wife, Nikki.
Jojie’s star-studded birthday brought in social media sensation, Small Laude and husband, Philip, Vicky Belo with Hayden Kho and daughter, Scarlet, Korina Sanchez, Pops Fernandez, Vina Morales and a bunch of well-dressed socialites and politicians. Jojie himself was resplendent in his floor-length kimono to jive with the restaurant’s Japanese ambience.
I am very flattered to have been invited and although I’ve known Jojie from way back as we grew up in the same neighborhood, it wasn’t until last year’s MassKara Festival that I reconnected with him. Thus, to be part of that celebration and get to rub elbows with the crowd was very overwhelming.
Of course, not to be outdone were the party people from Bacolod who literally danced the night away. Spotted among the crowd were businessmen, Leo Ray Yanson, William Chua and wife, Chole, Andy and Jannette Gonzaga, Dupert and GinGin Locsin, and Bobby and Mia Gonzaga, and Nicholas Golez.
Victorias Mayor Javi Benitez was also there with girlfriend, Sue Ramirez. By the way, a little birdie told me that Javi is being groomed to vie for a much higher position in the next election. So I made my way to him and asked him bluntly whether it is for congress or the governorship, but he just laughed and did not affirm nor deny any of the rumors. Hmmmm.
The ‘Marites’ in me prodded him with some observation that it may be beyond his district as he has been very visible in visiting other towns and cities around the province. He smiled and just said, it comes with the territory as president of the Negros Association of Chief Executives to attend their festivals and not to read too much into it.
So much for politics. If ever there is some truth to the talks, I am pretty sure we will know in the coming months.
The birthday party opened with sumptuous appetizers and an open bar. Thus, when Mrs. Marcos arrived a bit late after visiting first the wake of lifestyle writer, Maurice Arcache, the party was already on the roll. Jojie also asked the crowd to say a silent prayer for his good friend, Maurice.
Kevin Tan gave a very moving speech which gives you a glimpse of the close relationship with the celebrator. He recounted how Jojie helped him as he was building his own name, “introducing him to the right people and the right circles,” in the last twenty years.
It made me admire Jojie more and remembered his words of wisdom that it is all about relationships. Jojie never hid the fact that he grew up in a small community and worked through college before moving to Manila where he eventually created a name for himself, “without any hint of stain or scandal” as he would always say.
Indeed, the love and affection showered upon him by his close friends showed how respected and admired he was by the upper-Manille crowd and an affirmation that he has definitely made it.
Thank you Jojie for letting me take part of your special day and again, a happy, happy birthday!*