A sure-bet, no need to gamble on this Casino

The palace is a mansion. With a ballroom that can seat 500, a fine dining enclave called El Comedor, a poolside that will rival Plantation Bay, two tennis courts, six bowling lanes, two badminton courts, billiard tables, dining tables, buffet tables, and the decades-long-popular “Bar Mixto,” is there any mansion that can rival this palace? There is none.

Built in 1920, it’s modern and contemporary. 1920? Modern? Contemporary?

How, you ask, can an 88-year-old be newborn? Simple. Seven years ago, the old palace was bulldozed, shredded, and pulverized to ashes then, from the remaining dust and barren sand, construction began that finished with a gleaming new mansion: the Casino Español de Cebu.

Is there any dining, socializing, and sports-loving facility that’s better? Where, when you sit beside the pool and whisper love notes to your spouse, your mind thinks, “Ah, my second home.” Where a water fountain sprinkles to greet you at the entrance and the classic Spanish design gives you a feel of Barcelona and Madrid? There is none.

My first visit to Casino Español was around 25 years ago. Residing in Bacolod City, whenever my family and I vacationed in Cebu, our hosts—my uncle Jefren and auntie Deena Pages—would drive us along V. Ranudo St. to this club where we’d swim, roll duckpin bowling balls, and eat their famous Mexican Hotdog. With my cousins Anton, Giandi and Ezra Pages, my brothers Charlie, Randy and I would fly back to Bacolod reminiscing of our fondest memory of Cebu: Casino Español.

Years passed and, when 1986 arrived and we relocated here, my dad Bunny wasted no time becoming a club member.

HOORAY! we yelled. We swam. Munched on more Mexican ‘dogs. Ordered tempura from the then-Japanese restaurant, Kado. Tennis? It was at Casino Español, together with the now-defunct Cebu Tennis Club, where I first learned how to swing backhands.

TODAY. Fast forward to 6 p.m. last Monday, March 31, 2008.

The venue was the poolside and, surrounded by dozens of friends, we were ready to launch an activity that hundreds of members and guests join: The Copa de Casino Español.

Four hundred players. Seven events. One month. There’s golf (at the Alta Vista), tennis, badminton, Texas Hold ‘em poker, billiards, and two new events this year: swimming and bowling.

“The Copa de Casino” is an annual sports activity of the club that started out, for the first six years, as a purely-golf event. But last year, through the initiative of Nonoy Tirol (the event chairman), it extended to other sports. The Copa will run the entire month of April and will culminate with the awarding ceremonies and dinner on May 2.

Louie Moro was the “2007 Most Outstanding Player” for having won the most number of points by entering and winning in golf, badminton, billiards and poker.

Back to last Monday: Manny Sainz, the new Casino Español club president, gave a short but rousing speech; then Nonoy Tirol followed by explaining to all the different sports events. Next, I took the stage as the new club Sports Chairman and announced that, “just like the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, we will also have the symbolic ‘Lighting of the Torch.’” Joe Camaya and Heidi Mesina, dressed in tennis attire, jogged from the bridge of the swimming pool then sprinted to light the torch. Finally, I declared the event “open” as the club Vice-President Gabby Leyson, house chairman Nonoy Alba, and Cultural Affairs Chairman Jimmy Escaño applauded.

From left: Sports Director John Pages, Casino Español President Manuel Sainz, Vice-President Gabby Leyson, Copa Chairman Nonoy Tirol, Director Nonoy Alba, Copa Committee Member Bunny Pages, Copa Ways and Means Chairman Boy Limkakeng, Copa Golf Chairman Ekeng Jereza and Copa Vice-Chairman Edgar Chiongbian

By the time the night was over, we were all-smiles and ready to sweat and play in Casino’s most-awaited sports party. You see, in this Casino, everybody’s a sure winner.

(Want to join? The Copa is open to all members, dependents and guests; call Rudy Rubi at 2531260 local 501 or Ivy at local 103.)

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!


  1. Hey John!
    You know, I pass through this place a lot. I have always wondered why they call it a casino even if there’s no gambling. I have never been in it, just saw it from the outside. Those pictures are the first pictures I have ever seen of Casino Español and I must say its a lot better than what I envisioned on what I thought would be inside. I don’t think anyone in my family but my tito Ronnie (I think he’s a member there) is a member there. Btw, is the Texas Hold ’em Poker tournament style? As in no real bets but uses play money in chip form.

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