‘A joyful Christmas’

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
âA joyful Christmasâ
Christmas is everywhere at The Manila Hotel. With the embroidery of manton de Manila as his inspiration, Rachy created a festive vibe in every corner of the hotel.
Walter Bollozos

Christmas at The Manila Hotel is in full swing, in full spread, in full spirit. Jolly is the mood at the lobby as reverie and reverence are hanging from the chandeliers with red-leaf paper. The red-and-gold motif is found in every corner; and in very turn is the atmosphere of abundance, of yuletide, of revelry.

The Christmas spirit of the oldest hotel in the Philippines is courtesy of its resident Ho-Ho-Ho man: Rachy Cuna.

For several years now, Rachy, the style and creative director of Manila Hotel, has been on top of the hotel’s look. Those in the know always say that the major transformation of the hotel was felt and seen when Rachy’s creative genius was infused into every nook and cranny of the building.


“The art I create is always an opportunity for me to show Filipino pride, to showcase Filipino art,” says Rachy, dubbed as the “floral architect of the Philippines.”

So proud is he of the manton de Manila, the Filipino silk shawl, that he made it his inspiration for creating the hotel’s Christmas theme this year. With the able help of his team at the hotel, little Christmas trees wrapped in silk adorn every table at the famed Champagne Room, the Ilang-ilang restaurant, the Tap Room and Red Jade. Every outlet has a different character with manton de Manila embroidery inspiration as a cohesive factor.

The 40-foot Christmas tree at the lobby welcomes guests to the hotel. A closer look at the tree will reveal oversized red buli-buli birds in buri, huge Christmas balls wrapped in embroidered silk, capiz garland and other intricate Christmas ornaments. The tree is a conversation piece, causing human traffic to cluster at the lobby because of people lining up to have their photos taken before it.


“I’m always excited to create something new for the hotel but I am most excited every Christmastime,” says Rachy.

“I’m always excited to decorate for Christmas because it is an avenue for me to display the happiness of my spirit. I like making people happy. It brings me joy, too, when I see a smile on their faces when they appreciate what they see. That’s already a Christmas gift for me,” he says.

He labels the whole Christmas atmosphere in the hotel as “A Joyful Christmas.”

“‘A Joyful Christmas’ is everything about the hopes of people for the season. This year we can have new hopes after two years of the pandemic. This year we can renew our joy. This year, and hopefully in the years after this, we can always have that smile.

“The smile I see in the eyes of our guests, even if their faces are covered in masks, is also the smile of my heart. The happiness they have as they look around the hotel, as they enjoy every Christmas décor they see, is also my happiness. I am happy. I am very happy,” says Rachy, whose artistry is always, always a joyful pursuit of a soul that’s known happiness since he was a child.

Rachy might as well be the design ambassador of the land because “when I create my design for Manila Hotel, I think of the local market, yes, but I also think of what impact it will create among the foreign guests. Again, it is an opportunity for me to showcase our holiday culture for the foreigners to see and appreciate.”

How long does it take Rachy to create a design concept in his mind?

“One minute,” he says in a heartbeat. “In one minute I already know what to do. I have already visualized the look, the materials, the design in one minute.” Inspiration for a design comes to him like a spring; he never runs out of ideas. And he never repeats his ideas. Planning and execution take about six months.

Whether he designs for a hotel, a house, a public place or a company building, Rachy always makes sure he is in constant communication with the owner. Normally, his design and concept is always approved. The tweaking happens in the color preference of the person commissioning him to do the design.

“Colors for public spaces, say in a hotel, should be red, gold, green silver for the holidays. For private spaces — it depends on the mood of the owner,” he says.

“I always use local materials. I believe that Filipino Christmas should use materials sourced from the community,” he adds. Many of his designs are resplendent with woven baskets, bamboo sticks, coconut leaves that are tweaked and twisted to give a celebratory look.

Rachy’s “C” is both for “Cuna” and “Celebration.” Every design he creates is a celebration.

“It’s because I like to celebrate life. I’ve known good times. I’ve known bad times. (In) good times, it is easy to celebrate. But in bad times, I always rise to the occasion to celebrate still,” he says.

Rachy, whose mantra for his own happiness revolves around giving more and expecting less, is a fountain of creativity matched only by his generous spirit.

Creating Christmas drama through his design — big or small — is not new to him. He creates it every day. So it is joyful Christmas every day for Rachy.


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