By Mozart Pastrano, Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY society, 2009 was the year the book came out.

A power crowd of invited guests trooped to Liceo de Cagayan University for the book launch of Nelson Navarro’s “Rodolfo and Elsa Pelaez: A Legacy of the 20th Century.” The beloved couple who founded the university 55 years ago will be celebrating their birth centenaries, so the book launch served as the kick-off of the three-year Rodelsa Centennial. (Rodelsa is a contraction of the first syllables of their first names.

The book talks about how a legal separation and annulment (at a time when such things were unheard of in polite provincial society) led to the collapse of a Pelaez scion’s political career. And that’s only a tidbit in this well-researched and well-written tome.

Before the guests got their copy of the book, they trooped to the founders’ old house. It has now been refurbished as La Castilla, the university’s lifestyle museum. The guests were enthralled with interior flower arrangements by the ladies of Ikebana International-Cagayan de Oro Chapter. This was the Ikebana ladies’ way of honoring their founder, Elsa Pelaez.

A short program launched the book. Rafaelita Pelaez, the founders’ daughter and board chairperson, welcomed the guests; Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula talked about how he personally witnessed the founders’ commitment to their vision of holistic education for all; and Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno discussed in brief the impact of the University in Northern Mindanao.

After all, the group of companies running the university is now poised to develop Rodelsa Circle, a rotunda at the foot of the newest bridge in the city. A convention center, a hotel and a slew of commercial establishments will rise from the rotunda to the riverbank, spilling over to the cathedral and city hall. To be called Paseo del Rio, the whole enterprise is designed by architect Felino A. Palafox Jr.

Amidst the fanfare during the book launch, the Pelaez grandchildren— Rudolf Caesar, the prize-winning pianist who has been selected as soloist by the Philharmonic Orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Marc Alain, the gentleman-businessman on the rise—unfurled the Rodelsa Centennial.

And that was it: The guests got their copies of the much-awaited book (it’s not for sale) and sought out the book author for an autograph. Tanya Golez made sure the cocktails, catered by Eric Yap’s ever-reliable Sentro, was delectation to the max.

Afterward, everyone went up the grand staircase of Rodelsa Hall for a concert by the distinguished pianist Peter Porticos and the prize-winning tenor Randy Gilongo.

Truly classy—and classic.

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