Sunday Lifestyle

My office in Congress


I’ve never been much for ugly spaces. Call it petty, but it’s true, and I’ve learned not to make apologies about it. I’m one of those who can and will make anything look pretty; my imagination does not fail me in that department. It is not even a question of money. Even if I cannot buy anything new I will find ways and means to make old things shimmer in a new light. 

I often say that one day I want to be as rich as Oprah so that I can have a big space upon which I can spin, and share, joy. Lots of pretty joy. That space that I dream of, smilingly, on any given Sunday will have neat rows of the prettiest wrapping paper, gay spools of ribbon, grosgrain being foremost, lovely accents and gift tags, and a big cabinet spread out across one full wall filled chockfull with gift items I can give out “just because,” whether there is an occasion or not.

Now you understand why I have to be as rich as Oprah — because I would want to have something nice to pick from the gift cabinet, and wrap, and then give away with my fondest thoughts Every Single Day. If I could give out half a dozen happy packages every single day then all the better. That room would have pretty lemon-colored wallpaper, a cushy sofa in a floral or striped print where I can sleep when I get too tired (perhaps around Christmas time when the amount of gifts I want to wrap will naturally increase by the hundreds), a wing chair with a matching ottoman in a plain fabric where I can curl up with a good book, a wide window across one wall that will allow the sunlight to come in, fresh phalynopsis orchids in little blue and white planters here and there. Rod Stewart’s “Great American Songbook Volumes 1-4” will be playing softly non-stop and there will be one or three Geraldine Javier artworks hanging from the walls (I will have to save up for that).

The artwork will be inspired by pretty little girls in even prettier dresses, their skin and hair lit by the morning sun. Why children? Because they are the happiest people. They should have a place in my happy room. Everywhere I look a lovely thing will smile back at and inspire me — a nice soap dish, a blue and white plate, a pile of favorite books, nice frames, vases, my daughter’s artwork. Nothing will be matchy-matchy but the jumble of things will come together somehow and will complement each other. It will smell good and will be comfortably cold and sparkling clean at all times. The room will be scented with candles and eucalyptus sprigs. I have not figured out the flooring. I would also have a huge table, made of nice wood that will have belonged in someone else’s home at some point in the past because the size that I want is almost impossible to find now, and on it nice trays that will hold my scissors and pens and double-sided tape and cutters nicely.

Obviously I do not have my gift-wrapping room just yet (the dream just gets bigger and better as time goes by), but I do have… my office in Congress. 

The moment I walked in the box assigned to me I knew I wanted to make it look prettier. It was new and cold and painted all throughout in a lonely creamy beige color. The floors were made of vinyl tiles that look like wooden planks, which I liked but secretly hoped could be in white. In totality it was not bad at all but I knew that I could make it better. I figured that if I were to stay there for several days a week for the next three years, I might as well make the space as pretty as can be. That said I also did not want to spend too much even as I acknowledged how a pretty space would really pay off in terms of inspiration and productivity, for me at least. The fact is, when you work on a limited budget you naturally become more creative and bullish about finding a way to make it happen, in spite of obstacles. So the question is, where does one shop for furniture and accessories when on a budget?

At home, naturally. In my case, our basement and a few of the container vans we have been using as storage for our excess stuff became my wonderland. But first, I prepped my canvas. I had the walls and the floor painted a bright white, semi-gloss latex on the former and rubberized paint on the latter. It was easier to imagine things in it now that we had a bright white box as a base. To fill the imperfections and gaps where the ceiling and floor met the walls, I asked that cornices and baseboards be placed where possible. I consulted a big batch of books that were a gift from Kris two Christmases ago: Elle Décor’s So Chic, Style by Thom Felicia, Celerie Kimble’s To Your Taste, and the Domino Book of Decorating. I also looked through Hue by Kelly Wearstler that I had just ordered form Amazon. In just one evening I got a pack of Post-its, settled in the couch while I was having a pedicure and manicure, and tagged away madly and spontaneously. I did not limit myself yet to a particular theme because I was not so definite about what I wanted; I just marked whatever it was that jumped off the pages to speak to me and linger in my mind even as I slept that night. When I was done I went through all the marked pages a second, third, and maybe even fourth time, looking for a recurring design inspiration. My Post-its showed that I was indeed attracted to white walls and a white floor, with furniture and artwork that did not necessarily match but somehow worked together. It was also obvious that I wanted the room to feel as if it had evolved — not like we just bought and chose everything in one day from one store, even if it did have to come to that in reality (it didn’t, thankfully). I also knew I wanted blue accents, that being my favorite color forever and ever.

The first new thing we ever bought for the office was my writing desk, a slim wooden table made of molave that had pretty carving on the legs and nice details on the drawers. We did not have anything like it in storage; the smallest was a dining table. We got it from Mrs. Napa of Century Woods (if you like beautiful wooden furniture go to her, for sure she will have something you will love, call 0918-9015812 or 776-2162 so that you will be tempted). Under it went one of the many Persian rugs Richard had back when he was a bachelor, one of the many he won in a spontaneous auction he joined during a trip to Singapore with Tito Douglas who has since passed. It has shades of blue and was damaged by the rain while in storage a long time ago but with the writing table on top of it, the flaw quite adds to its charm. From there the rest of the room grew. There is a long, big window by one wall that could use an almost equally long low cabinet under it. It was too expensive to have one long piece custom-made so we opted for something from Dimensione, two shorter versions of it pushed together to make one long piece, colored red and lacquered. It beams at me like candy does to a seven-year-old child. I know it will beautifully store things out of sight. On top will be a smattering of photo frames, the coffee machine, and off to one side my Mama Mary and Padre Pio statues, my two great intercessors of all time and especially during the elections.

From our basement out came a mirror, also from Dimensione, that we loved and had bought some time ago but never used because there just was no more space in our home. That went up one wall over the sofa, that once upon a time belonged in the office of now Senator Bongbong Marcos. It is owned by Congress and has made the rounds of different offices through the years. For this term it will be in ours, loaned to us. I just had Gari of Margharita Soft Furnishings reupholster it in white leather so that it is easy to clean. I retained its tufted style so that it really looks as old as it is, and I had the wooden frame finished in white lacquer to match the rest of the furniture. On it will be pillows in different prints, all in varying shades of blue. There are two ghost chairs in front of my desk, both of which I will have fitted with cushions in plain blue linen cloth to complement the pillows on the sofa. Richard and I have also dragged out one artwork that up until then was hanging in our home. It is predominantly yellow and, again, looks happy. Happy is my design inspiration, the moving force, the underlying theme. As an accent, I had the wall behind me papered in white with tiny black designs that, from a distance, just looks like white with black dots. It would take two weeks for an indent order and this design was readily available. The happy-looking yellow frame will be set down in the middle and on either side are bookshelves — to the right is a wall-mounted installation with five adjustable shelves and to the left is a grid-like number that you can play around with to make interesting compositions.

It is coming together quite nicely, if I may say so. I like it. It is a work in progress. Next I will work on the room of the staff, which is adjacent to mine, then the bathroom in my office. Offhand, though, as desks for the staff we just refurbished those that were issued by the Procurement and Supply Management Service of Congress — wooden tables with broken locks and chipped wood showing wear and tear. But I liked the vintage design, the curved edges, and using that also meant we did not have to spend too much on brand-new ones. Like diamonds in the rough, they did sparkle under the all the dust with potential and promise. They are now white and bright and fresh for new use. What sandpaper, putty, and white paint can do! I had corkboards framed in a happy color and placed over their tables so that the staff could tack reminders and notes and photos and whatever they need or want to stay happy on the job. All I’m asking is that it has to be something that makes them smile. A happy workplace makes for efficient workers, that much I believe. Tomorrow, shelves will be installed, and there will be writing on one wall, literally. There’s much to be done still, the mini pantry to organize and stuff I brought from the house to be unpacked from the box and put in its proper places, but like I said, it is coming together nicely. I also have to get some serious office supplies. And a mirror to put over the sink in the toilet. I have none lying around the basement, and I already looked everywhere.     

Congress has started. The real hard work has begun. How do I feel? Like a schoolgirl planted in the middle of the schoolyard. Schoolbag in hand I look up and around me and everything is huge and strange and unfamiliar and new. But they say possibility never disappoints. All I know for sure is that I am mandated to do well, and do good. I have kind wishes behind me, prayers and a dream in my heart, the future before me, my husband beside me, in this very unfamiliar place where it is said that my hopes for the district I represent can come true. There is much to learn and even more to do but armed with good intentions and the inspiration that a pretty room can bring, I am positive all will fall into place as it should. I am entering this new phase of my life with an open mind and great expectations. I will do my best to not only learn and deliver but also enjoy the journey as much as the destination. So help me, dear God.










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