Gentrified Shanghai – Tianzifang



Taxi cabs are really cheap in Shanghai. Language is an issue if you don’t speak Chinese. So it’s best to ask your hotel to write your destinations/itinerary in Chinese characters. But I loved that the cabs were so cheap, we were able wander around without a real plan.

Every single person who knew we were going to Shanghai said that we should go to Xintiandi. And I agree, it’s not to be missed. It’s a very posh shopping, eating and entertainment district – which I didn’t really care much for because everything felt too international. At one point I felt like I was in Hazelton Lanes in Toronto. Xintiandi deserves it’s own post though (later), because it’s a great example of a gentrified redevelopment of what used to be traditional row houses/shikumen. It was beautiful and perfect. But on our first day, I was looking for charm and more local colour. So we went to Tianzifang.




Beautiful sycamore trees at Xintiandi. Why can’t we have tree lined streets?


My friend Lylah Juinio has been living in China as an expat for over 10 years. She was responsible for awakening my interest in Shanghai. On her list of recommendations was Tianzifang, knowing that I like artsy fartsy stuff. Here’s my impression of Tianzifang – the gateway entry and narrow streets reminded me of the Cashbahs in Morocco (from what I remembered when I was 16); the many hipster creative entrepreneurs had a very Williamsburg, Brooklyn vibe; the handcrafts looked like a fun 3D Etsy site; and the quaint small international restaurants at one point felt very Boracay D’Mall. It’s like Malugay’s The Collective if more hipster artists moved in. And I mean all that in a good way. It was a total contrast from the perfectly manicured Xintiandi. Though both redevelopments were planned by the government (nothing here is accidental, everything is perfectly planned), Tianzifang felt a bit more organic.


One of the many entrance gates into Tianzifang, along Taikang Road.


Taikang Road had buildings that looked like this.


Very interesting use of wire mesh/screen.


We wandered around Tianzifang’s narrow streets until night time.


Patrick went shopping in this quaint antique shop that specialized in eyewear.



Click “More…” to see my gazillion Tianzifang photos.


Our Spark day



Our SPARK cover is now on the stands. I hope you get your copy – any one of the three covers. It was a rare opportunity to be in a cover with my close friends Bryan and Ingrid. The fact that they were both in the Philippines when this shoot was scheduled was even quite a feat. I read my interview, and it’s felt different. Something happened, I don’t know (maybe age). But I feel so free to speak my mind now.


Here are some behind-the-scenes from the day of the shoot. Ingrid and Bryan already wrote about the outtakes. It was a wonderful day – great company, good food, wonderful architecture and incredible scenery. The SPARK House in Batangas was spectacular. I’m kicking myself for not making time to shoot this house for Urban Zone while we were still on air. I’m sure many urbanista viewers would be in awe. But all is not lost. We have some photos here and we’ll definitely make epic time for a reshoot of this house in the future.


The Spark House


Stunning property with a 360-degree view of the peninsula and the sea.


Beautiful staircase and lots of glass to maximize the view. It wasn’t a heat trap because of the generous windows that allowed the cross-ventillation of wind.


I finally got to wear my Rick Owens long dress. Ingrid, Bryan and I each had a solo in this field of weeds. Lovely.


The master bedroom has a glass roof with fully retractable blinds, so they have a full view of the sea, the sky and the stars at night. I was a little scared of wearing those heels on the glass floor/roof. That is a full shot of the dress I wore in one of the covers. It’s the same beaded dress I wore to Angel’s party. It’s from Antik Batik.


Click, click, click “More…”  to see more.


My booth at WorldBex





This experience has been incredible. And I still don’t know what the outcome will be.

Ever since I agreed to put up a booth at World Bex (Building and Construction Expo), my life has never been the same. I’ve increased my involvement with my product development. Last week I was at the factory of my furniture line, choosing colours and developing new shapes. Last night I was sanding some inexpensive black frames and spray-painting them metallic silver. It was a success. But now I can’t breathe well and I have cuts in my hands.

My booth is being put together by a professional contractor. Interior designer Nina Santamaria of Gruppo Santamaria helped me with my booth design. The Purpose Store created my wall paper. My UZ team prepared a nice AVP that’ll loop in my booth. Isabel Gatuslao created my print collaterals for me to handout. It all looks great in concept. But I won’t know how it’ll come together until tomorrow. I won’t post the perspective drawings just yet. I’ll do that once the booth is up.

Oh I wish I found a baker who could do mini cupcakes or cookies with little Daphne chairs. I wanted to have them on March 14 to give to media and on the weekend to give to Urbanistas and Daphne readers. But I didn’t get to do that.

I hope to see you this weekend, March 17 and 18. It’s open to the public then and admission is free. Anyone who’s planning to build or redecorate should come to WorldBex. I’d go even if I didn’t have a booth. We have a leaky roof and we really need to get that all fixed. Plus my kitchen. That renovation has been of epic proportions… I need to source more suppliers.

See you this weekend! Come say hi to me at the DAPHNE® booth.



House of Gene Flancia, Architect



I was the UST Architecture department yesterday. They invited me for a talk-show format speech. I love speaking with students. I get so wide-eyed as they do. Yesterday’s event was particularly overwhelming. We had a full house. So many UZ fans! Thank you.

One of the UST professors, architect Gene Flancia, was at the event. And I remembered that his house was one of those that I loved. It was streamlined, modern, “successfully” tropical (not all tropical homes are created equal) and beautiful. He built on 1/3 of the property and left the rest open and green. I also loved how he used the existing surroundings to his advantage like the leafy canopy of the tree across the street. And most importantly, he built a glass house that wasn’t a heat trap.

I love conversing with architects. It would be a shame to paraphrase their thoughts, so I will publish our email exchange in quotes. Here are some photos from that Urban Zone shoot last year.


House of/by Gene Flancia (architect)
Mr. Flancia built his house on the edge of the property to allow green open space in 2/3 of his land. “It’s cool that you take interest in my house. They say that one of the most challenging design projects for an architect is his own home. I found this to be partially true because a lot of people are expecting much from what you are going to produce, based on what they have seen as you design for others. It is more challenging if you have a strict budget and you will be spending your own money.”


House of/by Gene Flancia (architect)
“So with a tight budget at hand, I started constructing the house three years ago and finished it within a year, I went for the simplest lines that will exhibit a lot of design character, tropical, easy to maintain despite its sculpture white color.”


House of/by Gene Flancia (architect)
“I actually was flattered when you told me you can discern its sophistication in its design simplicity, despite its predominantly glass walls. I did that so I can appreciate my tropical garden. I am able to enjoy tons of natural light and use its shades and shadows as a design tool. You noticed that it’s not so hot either despite all the glass, it is because of the generous eaves that I have on the south west solar exposure and a lot of sliding glass doors and awning windows.”


House of/by Gene Flancia (architect)
Living room


Click “More…” to see this elegant tropical home.


UST Architecture



I’ve never been busier in my whole life. And I love it. Everyday my creativity is challenged. And there are days when I actually convert those creative juices into tangible products. I feel exhilarated. The past week was insane. Traveled to China. Got back and prioritized my eldest daughter’s theatre activity at school. Planned my booth at World Bex. Juggled my two younger daughters’ play activities. This week is pretty much the same minus the musical theatre. We are approaching exam week. My World Bex booth needs to be finalized. The two young ones will have pre-school moving up day programmes. I’m getting back into my first medium – video production. So excited about that. In the middle of it all I managed to get a facial at Belo and a new haircut at Alex Carbonell’s Studio Fix salon.

So while all this is happening, I added more by accepting the invitation to give a talk to UST Architecture students. This will be different. It’s interview-type. Not the usual talk for two hours. I’m looking forward to this. And hopefully I can make sense and impart some wisdom or at least useful information.

I love the promotional material the UST Architecture students made. (Don’t mind the photochopping. Not their fault. It’s a file photo).


UST Architecture invite


Daphne Oseña-Paez will Bare It All from Ian Dung on Vimeo.