Series 7 Project Manila

 

 

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I hosted the launch of the exhibit of Fritz Hansen’s collaboration with esteemed Filipino architects and designers at Studio Dimensione at BGC.

It is the 60th anniversary of the Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen whose collaboration with Fritz Hansen dates back to 1934. The Series 7™ was designed in 1955 and is by far the most sold chair in the history of Fritz Hansen and perhaps also in furniture history. It is made of pressure moulded veneer with four stackable legs.

Each of the Filipino architects and designers were given the task to re-interpret the timeless and classic Series 7 Chair by Arne Jacobsen. It was a celebration, of not just the chair, but also of the local Filipino architecture and design ingenuity. It is taking a design made way back in 1950s and showing how it is still relevant to us. The classic silhouette of the Series 7 transcends time and space.

 

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From left to right, Dean Yupangco, Ed Calma, Carlo Calma, Andy Locsin of Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Fritz Hansen’s Dario Reichl, Ben Chan, Gil Coscolluela, and Bong Recio.

 

 

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I hosted the official opening of the exhibit which will run until March 31st at Studio Dimensione. (I wore a K&Company dress.)

 

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Dario Reicherl, VP for Asia Pacific for Fritz Hansen, gave a brief talk about the history and relevance of the Series 7 chair.

 

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Gil Coscoluella wrapped the Series 7 in purple calfskin leather.

 

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Ed Calma kept the Series 7 form but added different colours and layers of wood veneer.

 

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Architect Juan Carlo Calma worked with three Series 7 chairs, superimposing them creating layers that represented a grotto.

 

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Andy Locsin of Leandro V Locsin Partners paid homage not just to Arne Jacobsen, but to his own father Leandro V. Locsin, by creating a mold of the Series 7 in poured concrete.

 

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I asked Andy if I could sit on the chair.

 

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Dean Joey Yupangco dressed up Series 7 in “leggings”.

 

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Bong Recio worked on a fusion of the Series 7 and the Filipino “batibot” chair.

 

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Suyen Corp’s Miguel Pastor and Nenita Lim.

 

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With fashion designer Joey Samson.

 

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The event was followed by a lovely dinner at Blackbird Restaurant.

 

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Seated, Lucy Torres Gomez, Ben Chan, Bong Recio. Standing, Robert Mananquil, Carlo Calma, Millet Mananquil and Dario Reicherl.

 

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With Dario.

 

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With old friend Keren Pascual and the Mananquils.

 

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Barbie and John Rey Tiangco.

 

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Suyen Corporations’ Noel Manapat and Keren Pascual.

 

The Series 7 Project Manila exhibit runs til March 31, 2016 at Republic of Fritz Hansen in Studio Dimensione, One Parkade, BGC. Photos by Miguel Pastor.

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SM Seaside City Cebu

 

 

1 SM Seaside City Cebu
SM Seaside City Cebu. A New Lifestyle Mall Above All Else*

 

SM Seaside City Cebu is the newest architectural landmark that is set to become the mark of a phenomenal experience in Cebu. Inspired by a nautilus design, SM Seaside City Cebu is a visually dynamic yet functional concept, adapting the spiral shell with a pale pearly partition including a series of expanding, concentric arcs.

SM Seaside City Cebu is a state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable urban center on the waterfront of the new South Road Properties development in Cebu, the Philippines’ second largest city and a major tourism hub in the country.

The 470,486.31 square-meter mall is SM Prime Holdings’ 56th mall and the third in the Queen City of the South, after SM City Cebu and SM City Consolacion.

SM Seaside City Cebu is one of the first developments in the master plan of SM Prime Holdings for their 30-hectare space at the South Road Properties (SRP), a prime property development project on reclaimed land located a few meters from Cebu’s central business district.

Designed by Arquitectonica, an international architecture, interior design, and planning firm from Miami Florida, the development will be a benchmark in the region, and when completed, the complex will include residential towers, hotels, a convention and exhibition center, a school, hospital, and a world-class marine theme park.
With a harmonious perspective of creating an environment, which unifies fashion, dining, Cebuano culture, leisure and entertainment, SM Seaside City Cebu is truly above all else.

 

15 The Mall
The Mall. SM Seaside City Cebu will house local and international known retailers such as The SM Store, and global retail brands H&M, Uniqlo, Forever 21 and Sfera.

 

2 The Cube
The Cube. SM Seaside City Cebu’s iconic landmark is The Cube, a stainless steel 21 by 21 meter sculptural piece that is a symbol of strength and stability. It is a tribute to the resilience of the Cebuanos in particular and the Filipino people in general.

 

The Skypark
This green park, with several intimate amphitheaters, will provide a welcome break from the bustle of city life, featuring diverse dining outlets situated among greenery and soothing water features. The 1500-seater Sky Hall can accommodate large functions, corporate events and concerts. A children’s park, designed by renowned Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue, will delight kids and their families when completed.

Seaside Tower
Considered a focal point of SM Seaside City Cebu is a 148-meter tower, to be completed in 2016, that has a viewing deck, a bar and a restaurant with an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the city and its surroundings

 

4 Cinema
The SM Cinemas gives you the choice to watch your movies the way you want to with its newest Large Screen Cinema powered by Christie’s that has a 30% bigger screen. There are 2 Director’s Club Cinemas with the most intimate cushy recliners, a 350-seater Large Screen Cinema with state-of-the-art laser projection system and 4 regular sized cinemas with PWD-friendly features

 

5 Cyberzone
Cyberzone, the popular tech hub of the SM Supermalls open its 40th branch at SM Seaside City Cebu with a full range of shops and service centers, for the latest gadgets and electronics to suit today’s digital lifestyle.

 

3 Chapel
The Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod was the first structure built in the complex. This is reminiscent of Spanish times when towns were built around a Church.

 

16 Bowling
SM Seaside City Cebu will have an Olympic size ice skating rink perfect for all aspiring Olympians in Cebu and a 16-lane Bowling and Amusement Center with 3 KTV rooms, a billiards area and a snack bar.

 

6 Foodcourt
The well-appointed Food Court on the third level has an unparalleled view of the Seaside Tower and a host of international and local fare sure to please friends and family

 

14 STT and Mitch So
Mitch So, Andreas Johansson (H&M Expansion Director), Steven Tan, SCMC SVP

 

12 Ribbon cutting with priest
Hans T. Sy, Mayor Mike Rama, Gov. Hilario Davide III, Archbishop Jose Palma, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Antonio Ranola, Mrs. Felicidad Sy, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, Herbert T. Sy

 

13 SM Supermarket ribbon cutting
Jojo Tagbo (Savemore President), Ashwini Nagpal (Kimberly Clark Philippines Managing Director), Jeff Go (J &J Philippines Managing Director), Robert Kwee (SM Hypermarket President), Fabricio Ponce (Coca-Cola Philippines Country Manager) Rohit Jawa (Unilever CEO), Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, Evelyn Lao (Benby CEO), Archbishop Jose Palma, Mrs. Felicidad Sy, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Jacques Reber(Nestle Philippines CEO), Stephen Lao (Colgate Philippines GM), Shankar Viwanathan( P&G GM), Jerome Ong (Foodsphere CEO), Carla Valderrama (Ms. Earth Fire 2015) Herbert Sy (Vice Chair SM Retail), Joey Mendoza (SM Supermarket President).

 

10 ASG with General Luna
John Arcilla, Annie Garcia (SCMC President), Carole Sy

 

7 Guests
(L-R) SM Women: Andrea Aldeguer, Meannie Alcordo-Solomon, Amparito Lhuillier, Quennie Amman, Alice Woolbright

 

Scheduled for launch in 2017, the 1-hectare Cebu Ocean Park will be the first educational, interactive and experiential oceanarium in the VisMin region. It will feature a 360-degree tunnel aquarium, sea lions, an exotic Birds of Paradise show and a Penguin Park.

*Source: SM Seaside City Cebu

 

 

Neri & Hu

 

 

 

I first met Lyndon Neri in mid-2014 in Cebu. We had both been invited by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce to participate in their Design Week celebration and Salon Talks. Lyndon spoke about his work as an architect, Professor Dan Boyarski of Carnegie Mellon spoke about design, and I moderated the discussions.

Lyndon is one half of the extremely talented and celebrated Shanghai-based architectural firm Neri & Hu, together with his wife Rossana Hu. Born in the Philippines, educated in the United States, and now living and working out of China, Lyndon considers himself a citizen of the world. He is of Chinese ethnicity and his family’s roots are in Cebu, where his parents still reside. He was actually born in Ozamis.

Lyndon received his Master of Architecture at Harvard University and his Bachelor of Architecture at UC Berkeley. Rossana received her Master of Architecture and Urban Planning at Princeton University and her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture at UC Berkeley. They are also designing products for brands including BD Barcelona Design, Classicon, Gandia Blasco, JIA, LEMA, Meritalia, MOOOI, Parachilna, Stellar Works, and neri&hu.

 


At Maison et Objet Asia 2015, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu were one of the keynote speakers and were awarded 2015 Designer of the Year.

 


Lyndon and Rossana talked about their work as architect and designers based in Shanghai. They draw inspiration from everyday life on the streets of Shanghai, “We like to stroll, observe and examine objects, furniture and buildings. We are sensitive to the crossing of different design disciplines.”

 


Our paths crossed again this year at Maison et Objet Asia in Singapore last March. Neri & Hu Design and Research Office was awarded 2015 Designer of the Year. “In our quest for the Maison&Objet Asia Designer of the Year, we seek out designers who represent the essence of Asian culture, Asian roots and with an international approach to their works. Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu have distinguished themselves through their work and also with numerous international accolades. They exemplify the very qualities we seek,” said Mr Philippe Brocart, Managing Director, Maison&Objet.

 

Here is my conversation with Lyndon and Rossana of Neri & Hu. We talked about restoring buildings, being an Asian designer, working with your spouse, having Filipino roots, and Lyndon’s deep sense of spirituality.

DAPHNE: Congratulations on winning Designer of the Year. How significant is that to you both?

LYNDON NERI: I think all awards, no matter where it’s coming from is definitely an honour. It’s a humbling experience. We didn’t expect it. Some people thought that maybe we would have predicted this given that we were inducted into the hall of fame and that we won the Wallpaper Designer of the Year, but to be honest with you Rossana and I never really look into all the award categories and say, “This year, I think we’re going to win this or not,” I think we spend a lot of time focusing on our projects. So it was a pleasant surprise, but more importantly definitely a humbling experience for the two of us.

 

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The ZISHA tea project “We removed the traditional dragons and snakes from the Chinese teacup to magnify its original natural material: purple clay from the Jiangsu Province.”

 

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The MING COLLECTION and UTILITY COLLECTION for Stellar Works. The Ming Chair is a play around the iconic chair. The design was tweaked to make it stackable and painted it imperial red, whereas traditionally the wood is left dark. The Utility Collection is a combination of “old style” leather and simple metal curves. This line of chairs is an ode to the industrial boom of the 1920’s, a transitional era that saw decorative furniture take on a more utilitarian aesthetic.

 

DAPHNE: A lot of Asian designers, and I’m sure Western designers as well, look up to you as the new breed of designers. How does it feel to sort of set the standard for the new direction of design?

ROSSANA HU: We are not quite conscious of how others perceive us. In some ways we almost have to not think about it or not look at it. Like Lyndon said, it’s more important for us that each project is better than the last. And for us, focusing on the project will just be better for our own work and our own growth. What we want to spend time to nurture and focus on is just that the project will hold its own integrity. That we continue to grow as designers. Whether or not the position is good within a larger context, or how people see us, we try our best to pay back through lectures or participating in various events. Particularly there has been a lot of different mentorship that we are participating in like the Lexus Award Mentorship. So these things bring us directly in contact w a lot of young designers And that’s what we like to do.

LYNDON: I’m more stressed out whether the work we are doing now is done well. So often times some of the projects that we are doing now, some people might not understand or people might feel frustrated that we have changed direction. But I think we have to be true to ourselves. If we are trying to do things to please the general public or a particular group or set of designers or set of media thinkers, then if we are not true to ourselves, then eventually it would not be significant.

 


JIAN collection for Gandia Blasco. This hybrid collection of outdoor furniture was inspired by the Chinese character Jian, meaning “in between”. This poetic living space seems to float between time and space.

 


The Camper Showroom, Shanghai. “Drawing inspiration from the surrounding urban condition, the Camper Showroom / Office in Shanghai recalls both the spatial qualities and the vibrant activities characteristic of life in a typical Shanghai alleyway, called a “nong-tang.” The exterior lane extends into the showroom creating a physical sectional cut of the new house and a gathering space used for presentations and talks.” Source: Neri & Hu website

 

DAPHNE: Lyndon, you were born in the Philippines. How Filipino are you?

LYNDON: That’s a very good question. I was born in Ozamis. Then I left when I was five years old for Cebu. For my first 15 years, I was practically a Cebuano. I speak the dialect and I went to a Chinese school. So within that context…. That’s a very good question. When I went to America, after many years, some people ask, “How American are you?” Then we went to China, after 10 years, I’m very much Chinese, obviously, and they ask, “How Chinese are you?” So there’s really no sense of home for me, as much as I like for all of them to be my home. But in many ways, that’s a blessing in disguise. Because I do believe that the problem we are solving today is a global one, and not a national one. However having said that, I then become very sympathetic with things that are very much Spanish or Latin-based just because I’m from the Philippines. And often times people say, “My goodness you are not so Chinese – you know, the way you express yourself it has that La Bamba spirit.” And of course when they find out I’m from the Philippines, they go “I got it. Ok.” And yet when I go to the Philippines sometimes they say, “Why are you so serious? Why do you think too much? Why are you such a conceptual thinker? Too much like an American.” So there’s always that tension. And it depends. Some of my Filipino friends would probably say, “He’s very Pinoy” some of my Chinese friends will say I’m very Chinese. Some of my American friends will say I’m very American. And vice-versa. I don’t know. I think I am who I am. And people will have to judge who I am. I’d like to think I’m a person of the world.

 


With Lyndon at the 2014 Cebu Business Month hosted by Cebu Chamber of Commerce. Lyndon was invited to give a talk by Cebu-based designer Debbie Palao, head of the Creative Industries Committee of Cebu.

 

DAPHNE: Can the Philippines claim you as a “Filipino” designer?

LYNDON: I would hope so. It’s very interesting. I’d  love to work in the Philippines. I’d love to have projects there. But you know there’s a saying that says you’re never loved by your own country until you’ve proven yourself elsewhere. And there’s some truth to that. It’s not just the Philippines, it’s everywhere. The towns that great thinkers are from are often times are ignored until they made something out of themselves.

 


Design RepublicCommune is located in the center of Shanghai. It is  as a design hub, a gathering space for designers and design patrons alike to admire, ponder, exchange, learn, and consume. The building was once the Police Headquarters built by the British in the 1910s. The project took somewhat of a “surgical approach” to renovation. “First, gently removing the decaying wood and plaster, then carefully restoring the still vibrant red brick work, while grafting on skin, joints, and organs onto parts that needed reconstruction. And finally with the attachment of a brand new appendage which, like a prosthetic, enables the existing building to perform new functions, the nearly abandoned building begins its life again.” Photographed by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 


Xi’an Westin Museum Hotel. “In an ancient capital of China, Neri&Hu Design Research Office’s design of the Westin in Xi’an emerges as a tribute to both the city’s importance as a hub of burgeoning growth in the region, as well as its long standing status as a cradle of Chinese civilization. With 3,100 years of history embedded in the layers of the city, Xi’an is not merely a formidable backdrop to the building itself but has provided the architects with design inspirations that inextricably link its past to its present and future.” Photographed by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 

DAPHNE: At your talk last year in Cebu, where I moderated, you talked about your involvement in preserving and working with older buildings and preserving the character of the city. I realized that that’s what we need in the Philippines. You were living in Shanghai, a city that was rapidly destroying traces of the past. Currently in Manila that’s been happening and there seems no end to it. And it seems the only conservation that people know is museum-fication. Very little in terms of the way you guys do it — stripping a building but keeping the integrity. How did you, a global architectural firm, influence the mindset of cities, governments and people.

LYNDON: I think the problem is there’s money involved, unfortunately. With everything that deals with projects in general, there’s money involved. The natural instinct to make fast money is to tear down the old and start new and to have greater FAR (floor area ratio), and to build taller buildings, to sell as many. But we know in the long term, that’s not going to do a country justice, nor a city good. Because once you erase part of the history, a lot of what keeps the spirit of that particular city will disappear and we have to think far, instead of be short-sighted about the whole process. How do you convert people? It’s going to be very hard. People need to have a certain conviction. Developers need to understand that in life, it’s not just about making more and more and more. Sure they’re going to be making more and more. But they need to understand that there is meaning in purpose in the short life they live in this world. They have to decide whether they want to give back or they want to continually take. For developers who want to continually take and take, no matter how much we convince them it’s not going to get through to their head. Because to them its all about the P&L (profit and loss), it’s all about that final number. And I’m not even going to try to convince them and say, “If you have good design, you will make more money.” Because in reality, maybe you wont. But what you get back is something that’s intangible. What you get back is something will give people joy and certain happiness that this world can never give.

 


The Waterhouse Boutique Hotel at South Bund in Shanghai, China. “We created this hotel in an abandoned warehouse. Enhancing the natural original materials was our way of emphasising the importance of preserving traces of the past in urban projects.” Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

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Lyndon placed a very Filipino antique furniture — a gallinera bench — in the lobby of The Waterhouse. Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

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Neri&Hu was also responsible for the design of the hotel’s interior, which is expressed through both a blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior, as well as between the public and private realms, creating a disorienting yet refreshing spatial experience for the hotel guest who longs for an unique five-star hospitality experience. Photo by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 

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Another example of the blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior, as well as between the public and private realms. Photo by Derryck Menere

 

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The Waterhouse in South Bund, Shanghai. This was once an abandoned warehouse, adaptively re-used as a five-star boutique hotel.  Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

DAPHNE: Is there a point where a building is too late to be saved?

ROSSANA: Of course. It’s not like we believe that every building should be saved. If that’s the case, then there’s no progress. I think it’s about balancing what you keep. And even within one building, you don’t necessarily need to keep everything. So being able to accept that life is about fragments and these fragments – some have value some don’t, some are worth saving, worth keeping, some are not. You just have to cut them away and throw them away and put new stuff in it in place of what used to be there. And that fragment of the past are ok in a city. And hopefully we build our future on our past. And that’s why we have to save some because otherwise there’s no memory of what happened in the past for our next generation to see.

LYNDON: But what’s also important, Daphne, is the fact that you just have to do good work. And you have to have a certain conviction in what you do. So you could preserve all you want. If you don’t do it with much conviction it is another form of Disneyfication. That’s what I call it. So it’s just another replica of another past. So it becomes a decorative exercise. Now, there are new buildings that are built by very good designers with good conviction. They add value to the city that we are in today. So I’m not all for progress at all (sic). In fact if there’s the right opportunity you need to build new buildings. However what we’re saying is that there’s a lot of good old buildings that could be re-used and have this new adaptive renaissance within its old structure.

 

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The Cluny House, a private residence in Singapore, shows Neri & Hu’s modern take on the Chinese courtyard house.

 

DAPHNE: You showed us a lot of your projects. Could you describe your own home?

LYNDON: Our home is constantly under renovation. We’re now on our third stage. We’re in an old house. Old lane house. We didn’t show a lot of images because we made a pact ten years ago that our house will be private. And so our children live in a house that is very much black and white with a lot of paintings and etchings by great masters. (Rossana: Furniture is everywhere.) And initially when they came with their friends, often times their friends always say “Wow the ceiling is so high” or “Wow this is a really strange looking house. And so when they were young, they were really conscious because they feel like their house is so different. Perhaps non-traditional. So they were really concerned. But my youngest son who is 12 now told me the other day in the car, “you know actually all my friends really find our house very interesting. It’s cavernous. It’s very unique so now all of a sudden there is a sense of pride. Is it crazy? A part of it is. And we are continually developing it. This last stage will probably be our last. We are renovating it right now. And it’s probably going to be the craziest addition.

ROSSANA: It’s very much like one of our projects where we took an old house, an old lane house. We sort of gutted the inside. So the interior feeling is quite modern. But you can’t see it from the outside. So it’s like a lot of our projects.

LYNDON: So from the outside it’s this three-storey lanehouse and nextdoor is one and it grows ivy all over it. So in the spring time there is no resemblance of a house. The whole project is dematerialized. It’s this green thing. Absolutely gorgeous but hard to maintain, beyond belief, because there’s a lot of bugs that crawl into the wall. And for a certain conviction there’s a lot of pain. But what we’re trying to do, is now they’ve grown older, so after this last phase we might actually show part of it to the public.

DAPHNE: And who is designing that?

ROSSANA: Whoever has time. That’s why it’s never done because we never have time. And its our last priority. Clients are more important.

LYNDON: We do have time. The little time we have in our house, we argue like mad. We agree on certain things, while other things, it’s hard for us to agree on.

DAPHNE: You work together, you’re a team, you’re collaborators. But who does what and who’s the boss?

LYNDON: Oh she’s the boss. Good question.

ROSSANA: We overlap on many things.

LYNDON: What’s needed at the moment will have to be taken care of. She writes a lot more. Although I also write. Because every project needs to have a definition in order for the core to be done properly. I tend to sketch more maybe. But she does sketch as well. So there’s a lot of – both of us come up with the basic concept. I might be spending more time on the schematic part of a project, she comes in on the design development side of the project. But obviously in the end when we come in and we do the detail, we do it together.

 


Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu. Photo by Andrew Rowat

 

DAPHNE: Lyndon you seem to be always grateful. There is a spirituality about you that you are not embarrassed to show. What is that all about?

LYNDON: Uhm, what is clear to me is that what is given to us today… I know for a fact that what is given to both of us to day, is from God. Without a question. I was fortunate enough at a young age to be introduced by my father to have a relationship with God. So I read the Bible every day. And that to me is the most important thing in my life. Every thing we do today is not us. (Lyndon’s voice starts to break. He pauses.) Sorry, I’m just a little emotional. But there are a lot more people more talented than we are. There’s a lot more people more connected than we are. There’s a lot more people more educated than we are. But I think Rosanna and I are given a platform. And this platform is a responsibility given to us by God. I think it’s easy for us, in the height of adulation and when we’re given a certain accord to start saying maybe we work very hard, we went to the right school, or maybe we were talented, or we maybe because we made the right strategy. Seriously at the end they all came from Him. And if we don’t acknowledge Him, while these blessings are being poured to us, then we’ve really missed the point. That to me is the end. And it goes without saying I think people often forget this, and when I add that aspect of this story, sometimes people say, “Lyndon you’re always asking, you know. You’ve worked hard enough, you’ve done this.” Well that all is true but there’s also a lot of people who work just as hard. There are people who are also talented or more. People who went to the right school. But Rosanna and I have been given this platform. And we have to remember that this platform is a blessing that has been given to us. And we have to be able to give back. Because if we don’t God will use other people to do it.

 

 

Click here more information on Maison et Objet Asia.

Barcelona churches

 

 

Barc Faith Tile

 

My trip to Barcelona was one of my lovely surprises in 2014. I had a big year of travelling for work – Bali, Taiwan, Silicon Valley – and didn’t really expect more. But in December, DAPHNE Diaries in Barcelona happened. This was the initiative of Lifestyle Network, supported by Samsung Digital Home Appliances, which I had been a long-time brand ambassador for. It is my first collaboration with a TV network as a blogger (I have been a presenter and producer before).

The days leading up to our trip, Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) was brewing near the Philippines. Reports said it would be another deadly storm. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave my family knowing that the storm could potentially directly hit Metro Manila. But I couldn’t bail out of the trip. A lot of prayers were said before, during and after. I believe a miracle happened. Typhoon Hagupit got weaker as it hit land.

I share this little anecdote because I really believe in the power of prayers. Ok the typhoon weakening may not have been due to divine intervention, but I have been blessed with a few real miracles already. I also think that everything happens for a reason. While I was full of anxiety as our plane took off before the storm hit, I was a picture of calmness on our first full day in Barcelona. The travel agent “coincidentally” planned our Montserrat visit on December 8th, the Feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, not knowing that I have a special devotion to the Virgin Mary.

My DAPHNE Diaries will give small portraits of the city of Barcelona – food, museums, urban life. I didn’t actually mean to do a whole story on churches in my blog. But as I was reviewing my photos, I found I had more than enough to piece this blog entry together. Don’t worry, I don’t get preachy. This is an architecture and design story… with a little history.

 

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The morning of December 8th, 2014, our car brought us to Montserrat. You can take the train or cable car to go up the mountain. Our car brought us right up to the monastery.

 

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Montserrat actually means “saw (serrated, like the common handsaw) mountain” in Catalan. Source.

 

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The mountain tops look so surreal with its many peaks, some look like silos.

 

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The monastery began in 1025 as the Hermitage of Santa Maria, the Mother of Christ. It became a very well known shrine in the Christian world. In the early 1800’s, most of the monastery was destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. The church and monastery we see now is a result of rebuilding.

 

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The short walk to Santa Maria de Montserrat. This is a good tip. Try getting there no later than 9am. Trust me, the crowds get thick.

 

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The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of Saint James). Montserrat is part of the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela.

 

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There are some restaurants, a hotel and a museum in Montserrat. But we only went there for the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat itself and went back to explore the city.

 

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The medallion in the centre of the atrium has an inscription around that reads, “Only those baptized and born in the water like fish can understand the meaning of the fish of the Eucharist.” I had to wait 10 minutes for a group of tourists to get off the circle before I could get my chance. This exact spot is believed to be very powerful.

 

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The basilica has a neo-Plateresque design (a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance) and was rebuilt in 1900. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, the French destroyed most of the abbey.

 

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We went along the right aisle past the altar to see the statue of the Virgin called “La Moreneta.”

 

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There is a giant clam converted into a holy water font — a gift of the the Filipino people to the abbey. (La Sagrada Familia also has one.)

 

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The La Moreneta or the Black Madonna is a 12th or 13th century Romanesque statue housed in this alcove behind the main altar. It usually is filled with pilgrims and tourists. The normal wait is over one hour. Our guide, Fabio Bugna, anticipated the crowd, that being December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a national holiday in Spain. We arrived at the abbey around 9am. As you can see, we had the alcove all to ourselves.

 

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There were no crowds. It was calm, solemn, and peaceful. I was so moved by the experience.

 

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And there she is. The Black Madonna. The statue is made of carved wood from the 12th century Romanesque period. It appears black because the varnish on the statue has oxidized from the effect of candle and lamp smoke. The Virgin has a ball in her hand, which sticks out of the glass compartment. I held it as long as I could until I shed a tear. I had enough time to say the Hail Mary.

 

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After my close encounter with the Black Madonna, I turned to the small oval chapel below the altar. It had a full view of the Black Madonna from behind.

 

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Again, the room was practically empty. Here, I was able to pray longer.

 

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And I lit candles for my friends and family.

 

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That morning in Montserrat was really magical. After my prayers at the altar, we even heard the Montserrat Boys Choir sing. They usually sing in the afternoons. But that morning of December 8th, they had a special performance. Nothing in life is a coincidence. I was meant to be there.

 

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Another church in the old town of Barcelona, Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar’s interior shows incredible Catalan Gothic architecture.

 

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The vaulted ceiling of Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar, 14th century.

 

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Santa Maria del Mar is beautiful despite and because of its austerity.

 

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Whether you are religious or not, Santa Maria del Mar is worth a visit even just for its architectural merit. It is a pure example of Catalan Gothic.

 

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I was so taken by this beautiful image of the Virgin Mary at Santa Maria del Mar.

 

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Santa Maria Del Mar is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors.

 

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Of course, no visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s 133 year-old work-in-progress masterpiece. It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since its beginning in 1882, the church has been built purely from donations. I will save an entire post and video blog on La Sagrada Familia.

 

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Not many people highlight the chapel at the crypt of La Sagrada Familia. It was built by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882. By the end of 1883, Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to take over the project, where he worked on his modernist masterpiece for over forty years.

 

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One can have a glimpse of the neo-Gothic chapel underneath the apse.

 

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A view of the apse above can be seen from the crypt’s highest arches.

 

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In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the yet-unfinished La Sagrada Familia as a minor basilica, a place of worship.

 

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Antoni Gaudi is buried in the crypt of La Sagrada Familia.

 

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Our walks in Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) led us to many sacred sites. I couldn’t stop being in awe. (My chukka boots have been getting a lot of FB and IG love. It is a two year old Cole Haan.)

 

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The church of San Felip Neri is in a quaint square with a fountain and some buildings dating back to the Renaissance time. Its facade shows shrapnel from a bomb thrown by Franco’s forces during the Civil War, killing 42 people, mostly kids.

 

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A definite must-see is the Barcelona Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia, established in the 15th century. Couldn’t help but pose for a touristy shot in front of the Gothic facade.

 

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The cathedral’s cloister houses 13 geese at the Well of the Geese. This represents the age of Santa Eulalia when she was killed by the Romans.

 

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So much beauty in this 14th century cloister courtyard.

 

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The cloister of Barcelona Cathedral.

 

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While the cloister courtyard is charming, the interior of Santa Eulalia is majestic.

 

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The entrance to the crypt is right in front of the altar, at the centre of the church.

 

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Here at the crypt, you will see the tomb of Santa Eulalia of Barcelona, a young girl who died as a martyr during the Roman period when she refused to dismiss Jesus as the Son of God.

 

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Back up, I explored the different chapels surrounding the nave.

 

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There are 28 chapels flanking the nave of Santa Eulalia, all illuminated by beautiful stained-glass windows.

 

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As we walked around the Gothic Quarter, I found these little charming places of worship, such as the small cappella in Placeta d’En Marcús.

 

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Little chapel at Placeta d’En Marcús had a Romanesque figure of Our Lady in an outdoor niche.

 

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We chanced upon La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs, though the caretaker was closing up.

 

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This pretty image of Our Lady at La Basílica dels Sants Màrtirs caught my attention. I just love the pop of her blue veil against all that gold. So pretty.

 

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One doesn’t have to be particularly religious to appreciate these churches.

 

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We were lucky that during the time of our visit, there was a 2-week Christmas market outside the Barcelona Cathedral and La Sagrada Famlia. I had lost sleep over these miniature hand sculpted terracotta Nativity figurines I saw at the market, so we went back another night.

 

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The little terracotta figurines wasn’t all about the Holy Family and Three Kings. The local artisans sculpted Catalan villagers and village scenes.

 

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I bought a miniature stable and nativity scene. The clay pottery was made by this woman. I asked her to give me her name and she wrote it on the brown bag packaging. But sadly, we were careless when we unpacked and I lost her name.

 

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There is our miniature Catalan nativity scene. I also bought a smaller matchbox nativity.

 

For my blog on Barcelona food and restaurants, click here.

 

 

Army & Navy Club

 

 

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I got this disturbing update from our friends in Coconuts Manila. What is happening to the Army and Navy Club building?

 

I have wonderful memories of this place. As any of the old members of the Army and Navy Club will remember, we used to swim, play tennis, attend parties here. My dad was a member and this was our weekend hangout. It was beautiful then. There was a formal dining room where I learned how to eat with multiple forks and knives. The waiters used to wear white jackets and white gloves. When I was a small girl, my dad would tell me that I would celebrate my 18th birthday at the ANC. Fancy. Grand. It never happened, of course. Because in life, not everything really goes as planned. We ended up staying in Canada for good.

When I came back to visit the Philippines, one of the places I had to see was the old Army and Navy Club. In the mid 90’s it was already starting to look decrepit. When I was a reporter for ABS CBN, I took special interest in this building and did a few reports about it. I recall back then that the City of Manila had declared it a condemned building. And despite that, it housed the Museum of Manila. In the early 2000’s there were plans of converting it into a restaurant/casino complex by the Estrada government. It was never really clear to me who had ownership of the building and why it was allowed to run itself to the ground.

In 2006, Janine Dario, former editor in chief of People magazine featured me for the antique jewellery that I was designing and reworking. I had requested that we do it on location at the Army & Navy Club so we could also channel some attention to preserving the building. A big surprise to me, my photo ended up being on the cover. The publisher, the late Max Soliven, chose to put me on the cover with the lines “Cultural Chic: Preserving Our Heritage in Style.”

Here are photos from that shoot at the Army and Navy Club in 2006.

 

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Beautiful main foyer

 

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The octagonal dome above the main foyer.

 

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The main foyer/lobby had two grand staircases around it.

 

Above the main foyer
The second floor decaying balusters

 

It was leaking everywhere and it wasn't even raining
Leaking roof

 

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Old wall sconce

 

Army and Navy Club -- what used to be quarters of American military officers
Corner office. It used to be the quarters of American military officers.

 

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I love these hanging lamps!

 

Spook fest at Army and Navy Club
During our shoot, my colleagues and I played spook-fest.

 

Second floor
More leaks and puddles inside. Why it was allowed to get this way, I will never understand.

 

"This building is DANGEROUS". Because they allowed it to be!
The only sign that said someone actually cared.

 

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One of the side stairwells where we shot my photo for People Asia.

 

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Iron balusters.

 

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The list of members in brass plates.

 

By the 1970's select members of the Philippine military were invited to join Army and Navy Club
My dad’s name was still on the board. (One of the Manila councillors asked me if I wanted to take it as a souvenir. I told him, “No thanks. It should remain in the building as part of its story. Please do not take it down.”)

 

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People Asia’s creative director Tatum Ancheta and photographer Sara Black.

 

Cover, People Asia, Oct 2006

 

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If anyone has accurate information about what’s going on at the Army & Navy Club, please share the info in the comments section or send me a private message. I just want to know what’s going to happen to this beautiful building. Is this a restoration or demolition project?

 

EDIT: Apparently it’ll be turned into a boutique hotel.