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A tour of celebrity homes

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A close friend asked me recently why I agree to have my house featured in magazines and TV shows when I guard my privacy like it’s the most precious stone in the ceremonial crown of the queen of England.


Tomorrow, my newly-renovated home (badly damaged by Typhoon Milenyo) will be shown on The Ricky Lo Exclusives (QTV 11 at 8:30 p.m.) along with the residences of Ali Sotto, Christian Bautista, Nadine Samonte, Pauleen Luna, Onemig Bondoc and Alfred Vargas.

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I used to frequent that home of Ali in Loyola Grand Villas — especially when I was still spending time in the family residence in La Vista, which is just a spit away. But that Loyola Grand Villas property had been torn down and replaced with a new structure. I’m not sure what phase of the renovation they’re in at the moment, but I do know that it is an Omar Bsaies production (Ali’s diplomat husband). Between the two of them, it is the multi-talented Omar who has the keener eye when it comes to finding items for the home (like a table in his study room that was being sold practically for a song, but which turned out to be a gem). I’m very excited to see what Omar and Ali are doing with their property — and I don’t have to drive all the way to Quezon City for that. I’ll just tune in to The Ricky Lo Exclusives tomorrow to find out.


Christian’s home in Cavite is also said to be fabulous. Now, that place must really be special for Christian to travel all the way down south every day after work (although I think he has a halfway home somewhere in Manila). I know personally his manager, Carlo Orosa, and perhaps I can get myself invited there (I like looking at beautiful homes). But then, that’s in Cavite. I hate long trips but how wonderful that I don’t have to do that — thanks to The Ricky Lo Exclusives, which I will be watching tomorrow.


But back to the question why I allow my house to be shown to the public. For sure it is not to show off because I keep no expensive pieces (no Laliques, no Muranos). What I have are wooden frames made by my Dad as a school project when he was in the grades. He grew up to be a lawyer — not a carpenter and he absolutely has no fine skills in carpentry. The pieces are crude, but I treasure these dearly because my father made them.


The best piece in the house is a turn-of-the-century mirror from my Aunt Dolly Lim, who in turn got it from her mother. Maybe it wasn’t all that expensive when my late grandmother purchased it in her time, but it has become priceless because it had been passed on from generation to generation — and I have it in my home.


What I’m proud of about the house is the fact that I’ve dealt with different interior designers and I’d like the public to know about their works — in the same manner that the lifestyle section of all newspapers features the masterpieces of talented visual artists.


This place has undergone three renovations. The first time around, I worked with contractor Francisco de Leon and young interior designers Peter Reginio and Gemma Cui. I couldn’t do what I wanted that time because my funds were limited since I had just purchased the property.


The second time I worked with the team of Santi Santos, Alex and Mariz Medina and Jon Robles. Santi Santos is one of the best interior designers in LA and had done homes of Hollywood celebrities. During the renovation, however, I was holding back because of the inconveniences involved — the dust, the noise and moving of furniture, appliances and even personal items and lack of funds, too.


But Typhoon Milenyo left me with no choice, but to overhaul the house late last year. Since I live on the topmost floor, I was the hardest hit. A piece of cladding as big as a regular door blew off and the wind pushed down the ceilings of practically everything in my house, except for the bedroom.


Rosa Rosal promptly recommended architect Francisco Bernabe and Tats Rejante Manahan. Tats Manahan? As in Mrs. Johnny Manahan? You got the name right — Tita Rose told me. But isn’t Tats Manahan a TV writer? (Actually, she was one of the best on TV in the ’70s and ’80s).


As it turned out, she had shifted careers and for a time flew to Venice to take up art studies (16th century lime, plasters and lacquer) and, later, went to New York and San Francisco to learn about decorative paint techniques.


Tats and I hit it off right away. She asked me what I wanted — a home with a Filipino motif — and got my commitment to go all the way and over-the-top. She also showed me designs and it was love at first sight for me when I saw her drawings of anahaw leaves. I thought that was very Pinoy.


Work wasn’t easy. To put stripes on my hallway wall, it took her team two weeks of doing nothing but put tapes to serve as marker. It was tape, tape and more tape. But when they finished, it was worth all that effort.


For the ceiling of my hallway, Tats Manahan suggested clouds — English clouds. How different are they from Spanish clouds — or Filipino clouds? Oh they’re different — she pointed out. English clouds I suppose are stiffer — like the stiff upper lip of your typical Briton. Tats Manahan knows what she’s talking about. They taught her that in school.


This most recent (and hopefully final) renovation of my house took three months and a week with me in the hospital (aside from being inconvenienced, I had to look for funding by saying yes to all TV and personal appearances that deprived me of precious rest). But I’ve never been this happy and satisfied — and that’s saying a lot because I’m quite finicky when it comes to my house. I have to thank Tats Manahan for this most wonderful job.


I hope you appreciate her work when my humble home is featured in The Ricky Lo Exclusives tomorrow.


I worked hard for it and what the heck, I’ll show it all.

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