Whose APEC chair will fetch highest bid?

Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - On Wednesday, Unicef (United Nations Children Fund) Philippines opened the online bidding for six of the chairs used during the APEC Leaders’ welcome reception held last month at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Designed by Kenneth Cobonpue, the APEC Yoda chairs on auction were used by President Aquino, US President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The bid starts at the chair’s retail price of P75,000 and bidders must pre-register on unicef.ph to bid on a specific chair. Bidding ends on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. with a live online broadcast.

Cobonpue said he was sure Obama’s chair would fetch the highest bid because after the historic APEC welcome dinner, everyone “from government officials to corporate titans wanted to buy it. One even asked me if they could buy 40 chairs for their office because to be able to say that their conference room has the chairs used in APEC is such a big deal.”

Cobonpue designed the APEC chair based on his bestselling Yoda chair, which was first released in 2007, and named after the Star Wars jedi because of the way “it sits serenely on the ground like in a meditative pose and also because of Yoda’s famous quote, ‘Bend but not break’.”

For APEC, he modified the design to be wider, added armrests, cushion and swivel function, and lowered the reeds that made up the backrest.

When Obama first saw the chair made of rattan reeds, nylon and steel, he remarked, “Is this some kind of a massage chair?”

Cobonpue was commissioned last year to design the official Malacañang gift to be given to the leaders. He was then appointed creative director of the event at the MOA Arena. “Malacañang only borrowed the chairs, so I was left with the burden of selling them afterwards. In the beginning, I thought, who’s going to buy these chairs if they’ve already been used? I asked Malacañang, can you just pay for them even for a small amount? This was a year ago, I didn’t think there would be so much hype over APEC or that there would even be ‘APEC hotties’.”

Cobonpue says that after APEC, the chairs sold really fast. “Most people wanted the Obama chair or the ones used by the APEC hotties. I thought, I might as well auction them and give the proceeds to charity.”

Hours before the APEC dinner, while he was setting up the Banaue rice terraces-inspired table, he called up Unicef Philippines Ambassador Daphne Oseña Paez and asked her if she wanted the Obama chair for Unicef. Along with Unicef, Paez has been organizing “Auction for Action” starting in 2011 and has since raised P8.1 million. Cobonpue was the first designer Paez asked to donate a piece for the auction in 2011.

This year, all proceeds from the auction will fund Unicef’s program the First 1,000 Days, a global initiative by Unicef to provide babies the nutritional, health and mental support they need to develop in their first 1,000 days starting from conception.

(Full feature story appears tomorrow in Lifestyle’s Modern Living section)

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