Balik Cebu returns

BALIKBAYANS were warmly welcomed on their arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, following the relaunch of the Balik Cebu program in relation to the Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog Festival.

Tetta Baad, Balik Cebu committee chairperson, told reporters that the activity served as a relaunch after a two-year hiatus of Sinulog events, particularly the Balik Cebu events, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Baad, however, said there are no pre-booked group arrivals this year, adding that this will serve as a promotional activity to raise awareness among balikbayans that Balik Cebu is back.

“We expect group arrivals that are pre-booked in 2024,” she said.

For the last 22 years, Baad said they always had an airport welcome reception for arriving international passengers.

“But there is no way that we can track the exact number of balikbayans that arrived in Cebu because many of them come home in December during the holidays,” she said, stressing that this is the function of the Balik Cebu booth at the Ayala Center Cebu Level 1 concierge desk area.

Balikbayans could show their passports and identification cards to be given a welcome dinner ticket for free at the Ayala Terraces grounds on Thursday night.

She said it is a total experience of everything that a homesick balikbayan longs for: the fiesta food, including lechon, chicken, and other Cebuano dishes.

“In a nutshell, Balik Cebu makes it easier for the balikbayan to have access to all of these. They don’t have to scramble and ask around who do we call, how do we get this etc.,” she said.

Baad said the Balik Cebu program is not exclusive to Cebuanos but also to people from other parts of the country.

Consolacion town native Aylen Ibale, who came home from California, brought with her the image of Señor Sto. Niño on Thursday and even danced the Sinulog during the welcome for balikbayans at the airport.

“After five years sa among pag flight from Philippines to USA, karon pa mi kabakasyon. So amo ni siyang gidala kay amo man ning gisaaran nga kuyog ta padung didto, kuyog pod ta pagbalik,” said 54-year-old Ibale, stressing that her family intentionally came home to Cebu in time for the Fiesta Señor.

(Five years after our flight from the Philippines to the USA, this is the first time we have gone on vacation. We brought this image with us because we had promised that we would go there together and also return here together.)

Officials of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority led by general manager Julius Neri Jr., Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and other stakeholders graced the event.