Rodeo Drive.
Photos by Joanne Rae Ramirez
Alice in WonderLAnd
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2019 - 12:00am

When I told the Philippines’ “Woman of Steel” Alice Eduardo that I was visiting relatives in California, she invited me to visit her in her home on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, her home away from home.

“Los Angeles is my happy place,” she told me. “When you visit me here, you will know why.”

Los Angeles also used to be my happy place, because I had always associated it with my parents Frank and Sonia Mayor, shopping, and Disneyland (about an hour from LA).

But when my father Frank passed away and my mom more or less uprooted herself from California, I found no excitement in visiting LA-La Land anymore — at least, not the same level of excitement I used to have in the past. I had outgrown Disneyland, and LA just made me miss my dad more. But my sister Mae and her son Diggy, and my uncle Junar Reyes still live there — reason enough to visit.

***

Alice lives about seven minutes away from Rodeo Drive, in a Mediterranean villa whose grounds are lush with olive trees imported from Italy.  Her main living room, her bedroom and her kitchen have a view of orange and olive trees and a marble fountain circled by a ramp that ascends to the front door of the villa.

“I can work here, and unwind at the same time,” she tells me when she welcomed me to her house. In Beverly Hills, Alice takes the wheel of her car (her favorite among them is a G-Wagen SUV) and sometimes drives herself to her appointments — unthinkable in traffic-choked Manila.

She sits comfortably on the couch of her formal living room, tucks in one foot under her lap, and goes through a thick wad of plans for her upcoming development in C-6 in Taguig. She was also monitoring plans for a brand-new aquatic sports facility at the National University, Inspire Sports Academy  that will house an Olympic-size swimming pool and two tennis courts, courtesy of Sta. Elena Construction, which Alice founded 22 years ago.

She often works until 3 a.m. in Los Angeles because she synchronizes her hours with the working hours of her Sta. Elena Construction staff in Manila.

But since  Aug. 21 was a holiday in Manila, she graciously invited me to her home, where we were joined by “Concert Queen” Pops Fernandez, who was also in LA for a series of sold-out concerts with ex-husband Martin Nievera. 

Since Alice wasn’t staying up late to work since her staff was on holiday in Manila, we had dinner in the popular Mexican restaurant Frida, touted as “your ambassador to authentic, artisanal, and traditional Mexican cuisine… the best Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles.” That night, we (including Alice’s sister Small Laude) were like children playing around the 202  restored street lamps  grouped symmetrically by the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The lamps, called the Urban Light, are not identical, and from afar, they look like a shining temple.

The next day, Alice planned to inspect the billion-dollar mega-mansion project in the mountains of Beverly Hills being developed by her good friend Mohamed Hadid, also known as the father of supermodels Gigi, Bella and Anwar Hadid.

“Oh, you’re still visiting construction sites even in LA?” I asked her, thinking she was mostly on vacation in LA.

“It’s my passion, so it’s not work to me,” she smiled.

Alice, Pops and I had lunch at The Ivy, a restaurant on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles known for celebrity sightings. It has a cottage feel and carries the floral theme from the fresh roses on your table to the floral pattern on the waiters’ ties. We were served champagne while waiting to be seated then we savored seafood platter, risotto, and The Ivy’s piece de resistance, the Banana Split. I was too busy enjoying my food I couldn’t ogle the celebrities in nearby tables. Besides, they really look different when they step down from the silver screen.

After lunch, Pops was off to rehearse for her concert while Alice went home and changed into jeans and rubber shoes.

“We are going to a construction site!” she said excitedly.

***

The 70-year-old Hadid, who was born in Nazareth, is known for building luxury hotels and mansions, mainly in the Bel Air neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in Los Angeles County, California. He’s been developing extravagant LA properties for many years, including Le Palais, an almost “unbelievably opulent Beverly Hills mega mansion” that was sold back in 2013 for about $33 million.

Hadid is developing four more mega mansions on a 100-acre (40-hectare) property on the mountains of Beverly Hills. Each 20-acre (eight-hectare) mansion and its grounds are reportedly going to be sold for $300 million each. According to Hadid, each house will be built into the mountain, and not replace its peaks and slopes.

Hadid took the wheel of a Honda 4WD and deftly drove us through the twists and turns as we ascended a series of slopes. At times, I felt we were teetering on the edge of a cliff as we negotiated a sharp turn, but both Hadid and Alice were cool.

“I am used to this,” Alice assured me. “I am used to climbing mountains.”

At the top of the peaks we visited, the view was breathtaking.

Is the Philippines’ Woman of Steel lending her expertise to this multibillion mega-mansion development? Is Alice building a wonderland in LA? 

My lips are sealed. All I know is that Hadid is flying to Manila soon…

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com.  Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

 

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