Metrobank Art & Design Excellence


Earlier this year, Metrobank Foundation invited me to be a member of the Board of Judges of Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE). It’s a very prestigious annual art/design competition. I had to be sworn to secrecy and not reveal myself as a judge. I was among the company of academics, artists, architects, designers. Ramon Orlina was chairman of the board of judges for sculpture. I was one of the judges for the Interior Design category – I suppose because of my exposure Urban Zone. I approached the “job” as a consumer and editor, as I am not a professional interior designer. I could just as well have judged painting as art is my first love and I secretly buy art. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Specialist in Fine Art History from the University of Toronto (Urban Studies was my Major). It was a great honour to have been invited by Metrobank Foundation. The MADE awards’ past recipients include celebrated artists like Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Gabby Barredo and recently Ronald Ventura, whose work sold at Sotheby’s for $1.1 million US dollars.


There was a little part where all the judges would be called on stage. Initially the organizers told me the attire was “formal.” Good thing I double checked. Formal means gown. But what they meant was business cocktail. As I don’t do business attire well, I opted for something cocktaily-artsy. This dress is from K&Company’s current collection. Wore them with nude pumps in vegetable tanned leather, can’t get any simpler than that. And a little minaudiere in purple, a gift from Katherine Cheng of K&Company. Grabbed my hair in a high ponytail and put make-up on in the car.


Just wanted to set the record straight. I am not a TV producer in the Philippines, US and Asian region. I’m just the producer of Urban Zone. But I have won awards for my work in the Philippines, US (Gold in US TV and Film Awards in Los Angeles, CA) and Asian region (two Asian TV awards). Sorry to toot my own horn, I have no publicist or manager, LOL.


Aniceto Sobrepena, President of Metrobank Foundation, with other VIPS, awarding the MADE winners.


Touches of Varekai…


Alexander Roxas, 2nd Prize winner for painting. His work, “Uncorrupted.”


A lot of people go shopping for new artists in MADE. I was interested in this but it got bought on the spot.


Interesting interpretations of social realism in a very Filipino way. I met one artist who wasn’t among those that competed. She said that she wouldn’t do well here because her art was “too happy.” Cute. Not to say that the art was all dark though. They all had deep socio-political messages, but some were approached with wit, humour and irony. I was on the lookout for technique. I love that there seems to be a move towards photorealism.


Great turnout.


One of the semi-finalists.


I loved the “uniform” of the Metrobank Foundation female staff. They looked distinguised and sophisticated.


The grand prize winner for Interior Design, IDr. Angelo Del Mundo. We picked two finalists out of a batch of 18. We reviewed their plans and sketches and deliberated amongst ourselves for one day. Then the two finalists, Angelo and Childy Elamparo, worked on an empty model unit of a Federaland condo for about two months. Then we went back to see the actual space and judged based on the actual. It was fun and taxing at the same time. I thought it would have made a great TV series…


MADE 3rd Prize winner Julmard Vicente and his winning piece “Prosti-Tuition.”


Sorry for the incomplete photos. I flew solo that day and as you can see, ended up carrying lots of things like my awesome plaque from MADE, a few magazines and stuff. I had to convert my minaudiere into a little bag (it had lapiz lazuli beads as handles).
Congratulations to all the winners and participants of MADE. Thank you Metrobank Foundation for inviting me. Long live Philippine art and design!



Urban Zone: The real Design Doctor



Last Friday we featured a 4-year old house that was renovated by new homeowners. They didn’t hire an interior designer or architect, just a contractor to do re-do the paint and changing of some windows. The couple, both doctors, had brought with them many of the furniture from their family’s home in an older part of town – mostly heirloom pieces and antiques. The husband, a cosmetic surgeon by profession, has a knack for designing spaces and a strong sense of style. I asked him why he didn’t hire design professionals, he said he would have been a tough client because he knew exactly what he wanted and what he didn’t want (plus they already had beautiful pieces to begin with).


When the couple bought the house, it was an all-white building. The family added brown borders to frame the windows and eaves trough.


Fine antiques at the entrance of the house. The oil painting dates back to the early 1900’s. The doctor says it’s always been hanging outdoors, even at their old house. I love gallineras. We have a few at home, and one of them is also outdoors, as seen in my BC mag cover early this year. A gallinera basically is an old wooden sofa with a caged storage space below, originally to hold live chickens. It’s the best space saving piece of furniture with a lovely story.


I asked the doctor what look he wanted to achieve when decorating their space. He said he grew up in southern subdivisions where a lot of his friends’ moms had comfortable homes and huge lanais. The peg was “Lanai Tita” – another term I so love. Haha. Can’t argue with that. Southern lanai living rocks! This house had a lot of outdoor living spaces, a huge garden, a pretty pool and lots of fresh air.


There used to be three small windows in this part of the house. The doctor consolidated it to create one huge picture window visible from the living and dining areas. He also personally managed the layout of his gardens.


The most used part of this house… the kitchen. I love the size and layout. Very comfortable. The lady of the house loves to bake.


The master bedroom. He defied the conventional relaxing room and painted a red accent wall. Red is the colour of energy and excitement. Hmmm, makes sense in a bedroom too. LOL. He also broke another feng shui rule of putting the headboard against a window. To remedy that, he hung these huge wooden screens that slide to the side whenever they want to open the window for ventillation. The wooden screens “disappear” as wall panelling when drawn to the side.


If you watched the show last Friday night you would see the cute feature of their lavatory. Instead of the conventional faucet and basin, the doctor sourced a lovely porcelain dish-like lavatory and installed a spray-type spout directly on the dish. The result looks like a little fountain that juts out of the lavatory. Cute.


Second-floor balcony where the kids do their arts and crafts.


He says the pool was just a bonus. It wasn’t part of their initial criteria when house hunting.


A major highlight – his “man cave” which housed his awesome audiophile equipment. I didn’t understand a thing, but I knew those things were very very valuable.



Urban Zone is seen on ABSCBN every Friday nights after SOCO and internationally via TFC The Filipino Channel. Please check with your local cable carrier regarding the schedule. The show is available online through by subscription.



Islands Stay, Cebu



A couple of months ago I was a guest of the Department of Trade and Industry at the Creative Cebu Summit. There I talked about my little creative enterprises. Why Cebu? I was part of the team put together by the British Council to assist in forming Creative Cebu in 2009. During that time I met Jay Aldeguer, who was also part of the same British Council program. Jay is the man behind The Islands Group – clothing, souvenirs, banca tours, water sports and more. Back then he had just launched the Islands Banca Cruise – a hip reincarnation of the traditional banca retrofitted with ipod docs and speakers, comfy beanbags and packed lunches. He told me his next dream step was a value chic hotel. Early this year, two branches of Islands Stay Hotels became a reality.

Just like all the existing Islands Group products and services, Islands Stay bears the bright orange logo (what is the name of that cute font?) and hip reincarnation of a traditional hotel/motel/inn. It has chic minimalist and CLEAN interiors. No-frills approach and yet all the basic necessities are there if you need them – including espresso and free wifi. The punchline is, you get all that for as low as P950 per room. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Read on…


So while I was in Cebu a couple of months ago, Jay Aldeguer CEO of The Islands Group, invited me to cut the ribbon of Islands Stay Hotel. Also with us was Cebu City Tourism Commissioner Marco Protacio.


No fancy concierge or reception area. Just a straightforward lobby-slash-coffee shop. Since opening, they’ve been enjoying an 85% occupancy rate during dry run, whereas hotels usually average 20% six months after opening. They have a 50% walk-in rate.


How cute is that? Incidentally, the group is targeting Palawan, Bohol and Baguio next.


“We pride ourselves on good design & service. We’re a value hotel but we make sure to make our guests feel relaxed and comfortable, and we’re the only hotel in Cebu that provides cold towels upon check-in,” – Jay Aldeguer.


Instead of using hotel terms like deluxe, standard, suite (which no one really understands why deluxe is not actually luxurious), Islands Stay classifies its room like Tshirt sizes – Small (P950 promo), Medium, Large and Extra Large (P2150). This is the Large room in the the Mactan branch.


I’m not going to say anything cliche about the details, except “Awww.”


The published rate of this room is P1650. For two people! Additional persons will be charged P300 upon check-in. There are two branches – in Mactan which is a 3-minute ride to the airport and Uptown which is a 3-minute walk from Ayala Mall.


They cater to a diverse market – 70% domestic and a healthy international clientele (30%) with different purposes like for business, to visit friends/relatives, flashpackers ie. business-class backpackers.


Free wifi in your room. (I hate having to pay for wifi at hotels).


Another “Awww” detail.


For more information,
Uptown Branch, Archbishop Reyes Ave., Cebu City (032) 266-0832
Mactan Branch, M.L. Quezon, Lapulapu City (032 )239-5456



Renovation project



Last night’s Urban Zone episode got a lot of feedback in Facebook and in my Twitter. Well, all episodes do. But last night’s was special because it featured the work of two young architects, Kellyn See and Rex Gapuz. Both are graduates of University of Santo Tomas architecture and both just got their Masters degree in Architecture at Politecnico di Milano. This was their first project after coming back from Milan.

It was a total renovation of a 16-year old house. The couple who had bought the house initially wanted their design services for the interiors only. Kellyn and Rex presented them with two scenarios – new furniture only and/or complete reconstruction of the house. The owners were impressed and went for it.

Here are the results. All photos are from Kellyn See.










Amazing, eh?

As of writing this, Kellyn and Rex don’t have a website yet. For now you can look for them in Facebook. Catch them while they’re still young and (hopefully) affordable.

EDIT:  Here are some photos from my camera before the batteries went dead.


With Kellyn and Rex


The ledge in the front of the house (it’s cement). This has the effect of continuing all the way inside.


The living room.


There’s the ledge


View from the foyer


Cute cottage


I’ve been cleaning up my iPhoto, making backups of backups and uploading them to Flickr for storage, when I found this album from last year. This is the Antipolo weekend home of Wilmer Lopez and Thor Balanon, the design duo behind the hip home store Space Encounters. We featured both their store and their house in Urban Zone. I thought of sharing it with you because it shows what you can do with a small space using vintage furniture and a lot of creativity. The lot area is around 200 square metres and the floor area is 95 sq m.


Cute little bungalow with a door painted in apple green. They left the concrete un-painted and installed newer windows.


Wilmer, an interior designer, was guided by Scandinavian design principles. While Thor’s love for oriental pop-culture from different eras is reflected all throughout the house. Check out the poster of a Chinese soldier from the 50’s a young Mao Zedong.


Wilmer and Thor scoured second hand shops in search of Danish design finds. The rest of the furniture were reproductions – either sourced abroad or made locally.


Mid-century modern furniture.


I adore furniture appliances. I remember when my parents’ old TV came in the form of a side table. This is a phonograph from the 50’s. When not in use, the top goes down and it becomes a console table.


Chairman Mao lamp made of resin. I ended up buying one at their shop.


There’s a tiny courtyard/lanai adjacent to the dining room. I love that most tropical homes find space for outdoor living. It’s very important in terms of harnessing wind (for cross-ventillation).


Sorry that these are all outtakes from the shoot. I don’t have cleaner shots. But this gives you an idea of how the limited space they had.


They tried to maximize space by using benches (instead of dining chairs), a huge mirror and that built-in cantilevered ledge. Floor to ceiling drapes also give the illusion of a higher ceiling.


Their tiny kitchen gets a boost by having exposed beams instead of an actual ceiling. There’s an opening on one side that allows natural light in. Wilmer used light veneers on the buffet/counter surface. Lights were placed inside the cupboards, lined with frosted glass.


Thor and Wilmer.


Their den-slash-TV room is a dream come true for big boys. They had vintage toys and lots of collectibles. Check out that original Bruce Lee poster written in Vietnamese (?).


One of my favourite movies of all time – E.T. I can watch this over and over (and Wall-E too). I think it’s written in Vietnamese or Khmer, can anyone ID?


GI Joes


And more…


If you like Thor and Wilmer’s taste, check out their store Space Encounters and their new coffee shop Subspace both in Ortigas.