The Wenger Penthouse



I have said this before. I’ve met some of the most interesting people through communities online. Before Livejournal, Facebook and Twitter, all I had was Flickr where I “met” Rachelle Wenger, a Filipina married to an expat, Chef Thomas Wenger.

Rachelle is currently a contributor to Town & Country’s society pages. She is a stay-at-home mom who does volunteer work by  teaching CCD (Continuing Catholic Development) and being a lector in Santuario de San Antonio. She also does interior decorating and event planning sometimes.

Rachelle invited me to her birthday party at their new penthouse which she had been working on for many months. The result is stunning. She was very hands on in the design, decorating and project management. Rachelle is not a formally trained designer. She took one semester at PSID but discontinued because of mommy duties. For her penthouse, she worked with architect Dominic Galicia and her contractors Chris Chua & Jam Ngkaion.

I hope you enjoy the (gazillion) photos I took. Rachelle was kind enough to play along with my Q&A.


Our dinner was beautifully set up on the roof deck. Unfortunately, it started to rain. So the party moved into the living room.


This is the Wenger’s penthouse. It spans two huge floors, both with extremely high ceilings, with mezzanines in between. The space at the bottom is the living room. Above it is the family room. Rachelle gave us a tour.


The incredible windows on the 12-metre height of the penthouse.


Your penthouse is very big. Did you know exactly what you wanted when it was turned over to you, considering it was turned over as a blank shell?

As soon as I stepped into the place, I still remember that vividly, 3 years ago, I fell in love with it already. And yes, I know this was it and what and how I wanted it to look. I couldn’t stop thinking about it eversince I saw it and fortunately, my husband was impressed as well. We really liked the high ceilings and the roofdeck sealed the deal. There were some ideas that got added on along the way but basically we got what and how we envisioned it from the first time.


From the roof deck, this door gets you back to the top half of the unit. There’s a family room, a study, the boys’ room and the stairs lead to the master bedroom.


This is the highest part of the unit. These steps lead to the open bathroom and open master bedroom. The walk-in closet is still a work in progress awaiting wallpaper, window treatment and a runner.


Just to give you an idea of how open the space is. There are no doors or walls in the bathroom, closet and bedroom. Being the highest part of the unit and of the actual building, no one but the birds will see you here.


Lavatory is a Mexican cabinet from Hong Kong. The plumber was very careful in installing the pipes so the drawers can still be used. The shower and toilet are in enclosed doors fronting the lavatory.


Bedroom is still a work in progress. Rachelle plans to put an armchair in the corner by the window and bedside tables.


Your bedroom is at the highest point of the building, you decided to keep it open without walls. Why?

That idea came from our architect. I guess he wanted to push the design envelope. Admittedly, I, at first, was wary about it. The privacy, the noise but my husband liked the idea. He’s European and if you go to Europe this is common in modern homes. They don’t have a lot of inhibitions. Design is a big part of our life and what we both do, it’s a reflection of who we are and since it’s in a different dimension, it feels private.

Interesting master “bathroom”. What’s the idea?

That evolved from a lot of different ideas. From the plumbing constraints to my downsized walk-in closet, etc. In the end, we went for a bathroom that’s very modern but still with respect to our lifestyle. We decided to separate the shower from the toilet and the Mexican cabinet was still from our home in HK. It was great that it fit the space hence giving us the appropriate cabinet to house the sinks and toiletries.


The den on top of the dining area, is enclosed in glass sliding doors. This can be converted into a guest room. Rachelle says she’s still looking for a more appropriate rug. Rachelle says the den is the most feminine part of the house and she does a lot of computer work from the here. It has a sofa bed where she can lounge and read. Also has a good view of the kids when they’re in the family room, the hills and the river. Very calm & serene.


Chandelier is from Rome. Table is antique narra. Stool from Soumak.


Click “More” to see the rest of this penthouse…



Rockwell’s starchitect, Carlos Ott



A while back, Rockwell Land sent me an invitation to meet a “starchitect” with whom they are working on a project. The text said, “Do you want to meet the architect of the Burj al Arab?” Of course I wanted to.

The interview was with Carlos Ott, an Uruguayan architect based in Canada. He first became famous when he won first prize in 1983 (among 744 architects from all over the world) for the design and construction of L’Opera Bastille in Paris, France. He has since designed and built other landmark projects around the world like the Federal Court Building in Ottawa, Canada, Simcoe Plaza in Toronto, Canada, the Jiang Su Opera House in Nanjing China, National Grand Theatre of Hangzhou, China and many more. He claims to have been the one who originally designed the Burj al Arab in Dubai – a very interesting story. He currently has offices in Toronto, Quebec, Shanghai, Dubai and Montevideo.


Carlos Ott by the Rockwell skyline
Carlos Ott, Uruguay-born Canadian architect to design Rockwell’s newest development, east of Estrella Street.


Carlos and I broke the ice by talking about his and my old home, Toronto. He told the story of how his conservative neighbours in the posh North Toronto district would throw eggs on his house because he built a “monstrosity” of a cube. I googled his house, very interesting.


My interview with Carlos Ott. With us were Rockwell Land execs. The Carlos Ott project for Rockwell Land will focus on the new extension of Rockwell east of Estrella Street.


I have a video of this interesting Q&A conversation. I will upload it soon and share with you. For now, I hope you enjoy highlights of our conversation. Intelligent architects. I could talk to them for hours. Here are snippets from our conversation…


Daphne:  You’re a starchitect. You’ve made landmark buildings around the world. Is this something that’s going to be another landmark building?

Carlos:  Everything is relative. I’ll tell you a secret. But don’t tell it to anybody. I will try to do a landmark  building. The only thing is I hope that Rockwell doesn’t think it’s too crazy. And shuts it down. My interest is to try to do something unique. Having said that, I’m quite confident that Manila, Makati is developing very fast. There’s a lot of Starchitects coming in designing buildings here. As a matter of fact, Rockwell has before me, used very well known architects from all over the world to design buildings. So I guess I’m integrating to a process whereby the city of Manila, Makati are coming into a new era with the growth of the country and looking for newer, better, more interesting buildings.

Daphne:  A lot of cities now are starting to look the same. As an architect is that something you participate in or would you like cities to have their own characteristics?

Carlos:  I love cities to have their own unique look. It’s a pity. It’s one of the negative sides of globalization. I think that Manila, you Filipinos are very unique people in the world. Filipinos look different from other people in the world. Their cities should look different. And hopefully we remain that character. On the opposite side, we will be bringing theories and images and looks that are very international. But hopefully, hopefully, the work we do will have its Filipino character.

Daphne:  So what have you come to realize about Manila, about the Philippines that so far you think you will work into your design – characteristics that are Filipino?

Carlos:  The Filipinos I knew – the diaspora of the Filipinos I know overseas until I came to the Philippines and met Filipinos who live in the Philippines – they all have a common denominator I would say. And they are very warm people. Very intelligent people. Very ambitious people. They all love music. They all sing. They all play a ukelele or piano or whatever. They are very artistic. That character hopefully will be included somehow in a venue in this building. Because Filipinos should be able to sing or to paint wherever they are. Here you go out in the restaurants at night, at least here in Rockwell, they’re full. People are all over. I think all that externalization which is a character of Filipinos and perhaps is a character also of us Latin Americans – we’re very outgoing people. We have to create buildings that are not for Danish people or for Eskimos or for Americans. We are different. Filipinos are different. So we need outdoor spaces. Meeting places. Lot of places where a crazy Filipino can come with a guitar and sing. Don’t you think?


L’Opera de la Bastille, Paris, France, 1984-1989.


L’Opera de la Bastille. Carlos Ott won the first prize in this international design competition.


Daphne: When you built the L’Opera Bastille you were ahead of your time, it was a building that stood out, glass and steel in the 1980’s. Now the rest of the world’s caught up. It’s all the same materials. Where do you think your architecture is headed in the next 20 years?

Carlos: To start with, it must be a green building. When we did those glass and fancy buildings that were on the cover of all the architectural magazines, we forgot that operating costs were a very key role. Today the cost of oil keeps on going up. And the buyer, the intelligent buyer, will not only look at the glossy and glassy façade but how much it’ll cost to cool it and to operate it. So we have an ethical obligation to minimize the use of non-renewable sources of energy and use sun, wind, rainwater. So definitely we’ll do that.


Ott - China
Hangzhou Grand Theatre, China. 1999-2004. “A pearl in it’s oyster’s shell. This moon-shaped building formed only by curvilinear planes incorporates teh green open area surrounding it.” – Carlos Ott website.


Ott - Fan
Wenzhou Grand Theatre, China. 2001-2009. This was inspired by a golden fish in its water pond.




Daphne: I can say this because I live here and I’m Filipino. Manila is not the best city in the world. But you see pockets of beauty and progress. What do you think is your role as an architect in improving cities like this?

Carlos: I’m an architect, I’m not God. And I’m a so-so architect. But let me go back. True, Manila is not Rockwell project. Makati is not Manila. And there’s pockets here and there. But believe me, you go to Sao Paolo it’s exactly the same, Rio is exactly the same. You see pockets of the rich, well to do, maybe superficial showy architecture. You see some favellas where poor people live that perhaps are more interesting. You have old parts of the city that’s decaying, the new part of the city growing. Manila is very similar to old Latin American cities. We learned a long time ago, and probably you did too studying as an Urban Planner in Canada, that the architect has a limited role. There’s many other issues. There’s a limited amount of work you can do as an architect but yes, you have to create (if you allow me to use the theatrical language) the stage for this to happen. To that extent, we will achieve our goal.




Carlos: And the other thing we must do is make buildings where you integrate different uses, different levels of people different activities. So I don’t think today, would be a right to do just a residential building. We learned from the cities in Europe for example, or maybe Manila. A vibrant city is a city where the resident lives where the doctor is, where he works, where he shops, eats. Nothing is worse than the dichotomy of the downtown area where people work and the suburb where people sleep.


All photos of architecture from

For more information on Carlos Ott’s project with Rockwell Land, click here.



Fete de la Musique at Sofitel



Last Thursday, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel hosted Fete de la Musique at the newly renovated Imperial Residence. It was my first time to see the new look.

From what I remember of the Imperial Suites, it was grandiose – a mix of Neoclassical style and Filipino mansion-living. It used to be the temporary residence of Mrs. Marcos when she and her family came back post-EDSA. The new Imperial Residence is more streamlined and adapts a contemporary and less-Filipino feel. There were touches of luxury in the materials but it wasn’t done in an ostentatious manner.

“The 576 sqm Imperial Residence is comprised of 5 distinct rooms: 4 Luxury Club Millésime rooms and the magnificent Imperial Suite. A residential concept that features unrivalled versatility and flexibility in accommodation options.” – from their website.

I took the opportunity to snoop around and shoot the five rooms of the Imperial Residence.


The only thing left over from the original Imperial Suites is the capiz ceiling. This grand room used to have an atrium-like mini garden in the centre of the space. Now it serves as a cozy living room. The capiz chandelier is a nice modern rendition of our traditional lamps.


For the cocktail reception, the sofas were taken away and the living room was converted into a lounge.


Very intimate set up. It felt like a house party… a super sophisticated one.


The only Filipino touch I saw other than the capiz lamps were these bronze sculptures by Ed Castrillo. The interior designers were Japanese.


The door at the far end leads to the open kitchen.


This place is perfect for hosting small parties.


Bumped into Aimee Marcos who was there for her love of music. Even she didn’t recognize the old residence. Shariza Relova kept us company.


There is this very sexy bathroom off to one side of the main room. I can’t remember if it’s connected to the master suite. But here we go. For the night, the island jacuzzi was filled with ice and champagne.


The beautiful Sofitel managers – Assistant Food and Beverage Director Bernard Krishnan and Marketing Communications Manager Shariza Relova.


Very important for VIP guests from the business or state level — a private office. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was one of the VIPs who stayed here.


The rooms are designed such that they can be converted to other uses. This office can be set up as another room. It can also be made to be a private gym or spa. I love the vertical wooden slats. Here you can see the influence of Japanese design.


The other side of the divider is a private hallway that leads to other parts of the residence. Shariza showed me the rest of the space.


The master suite.


Here’s what the ensuite looks like.


This is the public hallway that connects the four rooms to the main suite. This part can also be closed off.


Another bathroom


I wasn’t able to take a lot of food shots. Everything was excellent. Loved this squid ink risotto.


More yummers. On another note, I keep falling deeply in love with my Olympus OMD. It’s just so powerful, fast and steady. This was a quick snapshot.


And so was this. I was just on Automatic Setting here. Hello bokeh and macro! Love love love my Olympus OMD.


I remember this part used to be like a “sunny office”. There was a presidential desk and little reception area. The new designers opened it up as a lanai and extra entertaining area. It was lovely that night.


On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice this girl looked so much like actress Kim Chiu.


She was part of the Veuve Cliquot team for the night.


Patrick with Executive Class host David Celdran and Sofitel’s Resident Manager Carl Gagnon


Sofitel’s GM Goran Aleks.


It was a lovely evening – as Sofitel really knows how to entertain in a beautiful way. I know this is what we are all waiting for – the reopening of Spiral. It’s going to be incredible!


While waiting for my car in the back entrance, I shot these in very low light. I love my camera.


Noticed this wall garden. Is that just ivy or something else? I’m obsessing over vertical gardens. I think they are so chic and beautiful.



Organic & holistic food



This was lunch at home a couple of weeks ago. Had some left over New York steak from The Farm Organics from the night before. So this was already reheated. And guess what? The beef was still soooo tender! This meal was a hodge podge but it all tasted so good together. The vegetables are all from Hindy Tantoco’s farm in Sta Elena. Our girl cooked it the way my mom taught her “laswa” and it was perfect – alugbati, okra, kangkong, eggplant, shaved green papayas. The pickled mangoes were made by our tita/neighbour. I loved pickled mangoes. On the side, pink peppercorns and coarse sea salt from General Santos.


Hindy sent me a thank you package from Holy Carabao holistic farms. Lovely!
All these goodies are from Holy Carabao Holistic Farms. If you went to Balik Bukid, you’d know how beautiful and happy this farm is. I feel healthy just looking at the photo of fresh produce. Haha.


The Farm Organics sent this New York steak over to my house when I won their impromptu contest on Facebook. Their question was – guess which billionaire eats The Farm Organics beef? And I got it right. Wild guess. I’m a huge fan of The Farm Organics beef – it makes a huge difference in taste (and in my psyche) that we’re eating organic grass-fed beef from local farms.  For info on where to buy The Farm Organics, like their Facebook Page. They also do deliveries.


On days when we can’t access these premium products, we shop in the local markets near our house. As much as possible we buy local vegetables. Sometimes they are more expensive and much smaller (like onions, pechay, garlic, tomatoes) but I still prefer local than imported. At least they’re not genetically modified food stuff. And markets have fresher produce than groceries. I’m still on the lookout for healthier chicken. I’m really concerned about the hormones issue. But then again we eat bacon like there’s no tomorrow.

How are you guys managing to keep your choices healthier? Share tips please…




Fifty Shades…?




First published as an e-book, it has outstripped both JK Rowling’s boy wizard and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code by selling 550,000 copies quicker than any other paperback. Source

What’s all the fuss about?  Don’t expect a literary gem, it’s just fan fiction. It’s been called mommy porn. It’s going to be turned into a movie. I’m reading it. It’s been talked about so much, that I wasn’t shocked. The writing style and characters are cheesy. But cheese sells. It’s good fun.

Interested in 50 Shades? National Book Store has the gift box set. Click here.

Who has read it? Feel free to share your reviews.