A birthday party fit for a Dragon Lady

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
A birthday party fit for a Dragon Lady
Family photo of Hazel Villaflor and Ging Soriano with kids Louie Boy, Louie, Dresh, Izer and grandkids.

Last Nov. 11, I attended the 50th birthday celebration of my friend Hazel Villaflor, a hardworking, tireless, and successful entrepreneur. Quoting her daughter’s description of her, Hazel is a “Dragon Lady.”

Hazel has never celebrated any of her birthdays as an adult with a party. She didn’t even have a debut because she was already a mom when she turned 18. All these years, she has been busy building a business empire and raising three kids.

Hazel waited until she turned 50 to finally celebrate. She spent a year planning her golden celebration, and boy, did she pull all the stops! No expense was spared, not for the invitation, décor, flowers, food, and certainly not for the music and entertainment. She made sure everything was planned down to the minutest detail to ensure that the evening was perfect for her 200 closest and dearest family and friends.

Ian Veneracion serenades Hazel.

Before entering the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-la Hotel in BGC, guests walked down a pink carpet with fresh white gladiolas and baby pink flowers along the aisles and cascading from the white canopy ceiling. It was so breathtaking and magical that many guests — including yours truly — couldn’t help but take photos. From there, we were led to the foyer where a photo booth and a cocktail table serving assorted cold cuts, appetizers and cheeses was waiting as waiters handed out drinks.

The quintessential host for the evening Robi Domingo.

By 7:30 p.m., the doors to the ballroom were opened, with dancers dressed in European floral ensembles greeting the guests. The ballroom itself was similarly stunning, transformed as it was into a beautiful oasis of pink and white flowers as live music was played by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra! As we were led to our tables, I couldn’t help but marvel at the meticulous attention to detail; even the charger plates were pink, while the cutleries were white. The fresh floral arrangements on each table were a dainty combination of pink and white roses and carnations, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was choice florist and events designer Gideon Hermosa who conjured the elaborate arrangements. 

Proud ate of Hazel, Jenet Villaflor, an equally hardworking and tireless entrepreneur.

The sit-down menu was likewise a gastronomic delight. For starters, it was a composition of Caesar and roasted duck breast, croutons, with Caesar dressing with grana Padano shavings. This was followed by a seafood medley of smoked beetroot-cured salmon, seared scallop, octopus, and marinated mussels enhanced by radish, arugula, burnt orange, black pepper, kalamata cream and ikura. Then came the mushroom cappuccino with truffle shavings and smoked bacon crisp.

Asia’s songbird Regine Velasquez-Alcasid with celebrated interior designer Cecil Ravelas.

The appetizers didn’t stop there, with lobster tagliatelle (grilled lobster tails topped on tagliatelle tossed in extra virgin olive oil and capers with lemon zest and almond butter). After these four dishes, a tiny scoop of lemon and mint sherbet with a dash of vodka was served to cleanse the palette. Then came the main course, which was a serving of seared Australian wagyu beef tenderloin with a very generous slab of foie gras, porto jus, Manchego potato gratin, green asparagus spears and confit garlic.

The Megastar with the lovely couple Hazel and Ging.

Though I was almost full by this time, the meat was so juicy and tender I couldn’t help but eat most of it. Even the foie gras was so buttery and melt-in-my-mouth delicious that I was afraid I was going to have a heart attack from all the cholesterol! Unfortunately, I had no more room for dessert, which was valrohna Manjari oabika gel, yuzu cream tartlet, matcha mousse with matcha truffle and assorted macarons and pralines.

As dinner was being served, the host was introduced, and it was Robi Domingo in a pastel pink suit. Robi is the quintessential host, gracious, professional and charming. After he made his introduction, he announced what surprises were in store: a cash prize of P5,000 each for the “how well do you know Hazel” trivia contest winners, a raffle prize of P50,000 each for five winners, an iPhone 15 each for five lucky winners, and three stellar stars as surprise guests!

After the guests’ oohs and ahhs died down, Robi announced the grand entrance of Hazel, who was resplendent in a fully beaded red and silver gown with an intricate dragon tail at the back, with little dragons by Leo Almodal on her shoulders. 

As the evening progressed, Robi called in the first guest performer, whom he introduced as a versatile singer, actor, and certified pilot. When Robi said this, I knew that it was none other than Ian Veneracion, who appeared on stage looking dapper and as handsome as ever. After his first song, Ian got down from the stage and approached the audience to serenade the ladies and gamely pose with guests who wanted selfies with him.

After Ian’s songs, a dance number from Hazel and her nine-strong high school barkada from St. Scholastica’s Marikina followed. It was a delight to see 50-year-olds having a fun time and dancing their hearts away. Hazel’s “crew” were decked in black sequined dresses while Hazel was in a black sequined pant suit all designed by Banggo Nui.

After the dance performance, there was a video presentation about Hazel that chronicled her journey from child to adult, showing her family life and travels along the way. There were also video greets from family members who were unable to make it that night. After the video, Hazel made another dramatic entrance, this time in a gold sequined gown by Michael Cinco and she was stunning! She was joined onstage by her three beautiful children — Louie with husband Louie Boy, Dresh Ann and Izer — and the love of her life Ging Soriano (who reminds me of Lloyd Samartino when he was younger). Ging confessed that he and Hazel were only in Grade 3 when he fell in love with her.

After the family members gave their heartfelt messages to Hazel, it was the celebrant’s turn to thank everyone for coming and celebrating with her. And right on cue, the seven-tier giant birthday cake was brought in as the guests joyously sang “happy birthday.” 

Robi then introduced the second and third surprise guests, who were none other than Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez and Megastar Sharon Cuneta, who was dressed in a beautiful off-shoulder black velvet gown that showed off her svelte new body! As the two divas performed four songs each, guests sang along, took selfies and photos, and just had a great time. After these wonderful performances, Robi then announced that he was raffling off to five lucky winners the tidy sum of P50,000 each, and five iPhone 15s to five supremely fortunate attendees!

Though I didn’t win in the raffle, I went home in absolute awe of Hazel’s 50-years-in-the-making event. And what a privilege it is to have been part of such an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime celebration.  

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