Much too chic

We were in Cebu on a holiday with very good friends and we were staying in their family’s spectacular estate called “La Col*na” [ “The Hill” ] overlooking the city and the sea…

One lazy afternoon, our wonderful hosts remembered that we were invited to dinner that evening by their friends, a young couple engaged in the furniture export business.  We were tired from a day of swimming at our hostess’ sister’s beach house, plus the fact that my good friend and I had practically devoured an entire “Cebu lechon” by ourselves for “merienda” leaving just the other “lechon” for our hosts and their families.  We wanted to decline the invitation and just stay home [ sleep actually ], but our hosts absolutely refused because they just knew that their friends, “the young couple,” were “exactly our kind of people”!!!

We drove to a compound.  Our hosts had forgotten the exact house their friends were staying in so we stopped randomly at one house.  Some people were chatting on a driveway lined with plants in old milk cans… 

Our hostess exclaimed:  “This is not the house!  I’m sure it isn’t!  Plants in milk cans… it just isn’t their style!!!”

And so some distance from the first house, we drove up another driveway.  The other house was aglow with incandescent light from numerous lamps.  Huge Maranao drums flanked the entrance door.  All sorts of chic, ethnic Filipino things put together in the chicest way littered the verandah.

“This is it!!!  This is it!!!  I just know it!!!”  our hostess insisted.

Just then, the front door opened with a bang and out came running a squealing, pretty, barefoot little girl being chased by her dark-haired Italian-looking father.  The father called out:  “Wretched, miserable child!!!  You come back here or Dada isn’t going to play with you anymore…!!!  Wretched child!!!”  The pretty little girl just continued running and laughing, knocking down all sorts of interesting things along the way… 

Little did we know that that was only a prelude to a most enchanting evening with some of the most enchanting people in the world living the most enchanted lives…

“Oh hello darlings!!!  How have you been???”

“Isn’t the weather just dreadful???”

She was a Filipina, albeit a very cosmopolitan one, and was descended from very rich and prominent Ilonggo and Batangueno families.  He was Cypriot Greek and was of affluent family and aristocratic descent.  They had serendipitously met in Paris and struck up an unlikely artistic partnership.   

They were based in Paris.  They owned a very chic furniture store on a major Parisian thoroughfare. 

Just as our hosts expected, we “clicked” with the couple.  Automatically.  We were simply interested in the same things.

They had just spent a few days in Manila.  While they did meet some interesting people there “so very, very few…” according to the wife,  they found most of the crowd “parochial” and “sooooo last season” said the husband.   

There were some other guests so we wandered around the house.  The whole place was exceedingly chic.  Very stylish and very contemporary in a very French way!!!  At the lanai, their beautiful Golden Labrador was snoozing on what, at first glance, looked like a 19th century Filipino “mariposa” settee [ Victorian butterfly-shaped sofa ].  Our host and I, both connoisseurs of antique Filipino furniture, exchanged knowing glances.  We approached it slowly and realized, rather breathlessly, that it was not only a 19th century Filipino “mariposa” settee, it was perhaps the most magnificent example of its kind in existence!!!  Although of perfect European proportions, it was massive with crisply carved details:  three imposing ball-and-claw feet in front, fully-scrolled arms, fantastically articulated floral and foliar carving, and a very fine crest of a Chinese crane with a crown and a scepter.  And the magnificent museum piece was only being used as the Golden Lab’s bed!!!  We giggled as the Chardonnay spilled from our stems.  How terribly chic!!!    

“What a beautiful antique settee you’ve got!!!”  we exclaimed.

“What???!!!  We do???”  asked the incredulous couple.

“That one!!!”  we pointed to it.

“Oh.  That.  Bloody sofa.  Uhm, it just isn’t us, if you get what we mean…”  derided the husband.

“Perhaps it wouldn’t look so schmarmy if it was lacquered in red.”  *giggles*

“We don’t know what to do with it…”  said the wife.

She had inherited it from her father; it had come from his mother’s family.  Actually, it had been forced on her by her father.  They had shipped it to London but found that it didn’t jive with their decor so they sent it back to Manila.  Then it was shipped to Paris where it didn’t fit either so they sent it to New York, where it looked worse.  Back to Manila it went.  And then to Cebu, where it was now the Golden Lab’s bed.  A very well-traveled antique sofa it was.  *lolsz!* 

“Well, why not just send it to the museum he is building???  It will be a fabulous museum!!!”  I suggested, pointing to my good friend.

“What a wonderful idea!!!  Let’s talk about it!!!”  rejoined the couple.

[ It turned out much later that her father was a grandson of the legendary Solis clan of Lipa, Batangas.  The family had become unimaginably rich during the brief 1880s coffee boom of Lipa when the town was the sole source of coffee beans for the whole world { a virus had attacked all the other coffee plantations }.  The uberrich Solis clan spawned the aristocracy of Lipa, whose various descendants are affluent to this day.  The family was practically shod in gold and diamonds from head to toe.  Their European tableware was entirely in gold and they could have thumbed their noses even at America’s legendary Isabella Stewart Gardner.  The interiors of their immense houses looked like European palaces. ] 

[ And it was most likely from the storied mansion of the grande dame Dona Catalina Solis where the magnificent 19th century “mariposa” settee had come from.  It was in all probability the work of a master Chinese craftsman, perhaps the famed “Ah Tay” of Binondo, who crafted furniture for the late 19th century Filipino rich. ]

They didn’t care what it was, whatever it was.  It was a dated, unwieldy, and unchic piece of furniture as far as they were concerned…           

The chic twosome invited us to spend time with them in Paris, saying that they had a nice and commodious pied-a-terre.  Anytime except, of course, in August when it was not chic for Parisians, or anybody stylish for that matter, to be in Paris.

The gregarious couple were in the whirl of Paris nightlife, and they knew all the right people and went to all the right places.  When I casually mentioned that the way to go around Paris at night was to be with Eric de ********** on his Harley-Davidson and end up at his uberchic digs along the avenue Marigny, I unwittingly spawned the recitation of a whole list of options of very stylish things to do with all their very stylish friends.

That time, they were on their way back to Paris through Morocco, to the Amanjena Resort outside Marrakesh [ when it was so new that no one had even heard of it ].  They asked us to join them there, as they felt that we were precisely the stylishly dissipated company — ala David Herbert, Jean Genet, et. al. — so perfect for Marrakesh.  *lolsz!*

And so began a friendship.  A very stylish one.  Much too chic.

5 Comments

  1. Bambina C Olivares said,

    March 27, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    les deux sont dans la nouvelle vogue usa (march). un page! belle photo!

  2. Myles Garcia said,

    January 18, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Who dese? Just sent you an email.

    m.

  3. January 15, 2007 at 6:11 am

    myles:

    Just one. About a week in Cebu when we met a young, incredibly fun, and tres tres tres chic couple.

    Toto Gonzalez

  4. Myles Garcia said,

    January 14, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Toto,

    Did u mix up 2 stories here — or r they one and the same?

    myles

  5. Myles Garcia said,

    January 11, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    And…? :blink:

    U r such a c*ck-tease! U start out with these marvelously tantalizing set-ups and then just drop the curtain like a dead fly. There should be a law against bloggers like that… !LOL!!

    myles


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