Balai Isabel

The most beautiful house in Manila

In view of the spirit of Christmas, some of my neighbors came up this year with a project which I’d like to describe as an Open House Christmas Cocktails series. Basically, about 15 people have signed up and are taking turns to host a Christmas cocktail in their home, so that the neighborhood will have many opportunities to socialize and at the same time people will be able to see each other’s homes and decor.

It’s really nice that our neighborhood has really gotten into the spirit of Christmas this year. At the end of this month, we have a big Christmas party that will involve lighting our neighborhood Christmas tree. We’ll start with cocktails and a Christmas performance by the Ateneo Glee Club; and this will be followed by a big dinner organized by the neighborhood association in cooperation with Travelife Magazine and Peninsula Manila, wherein everyone will share their food specialties and just have fun.
Apart from this, those of us who know each other well have organized this informal series of open houses. Basically we’ll have 15 open houses and everyone who hosts an open house will be able to join any or all of the open houses hosted by everyone else. It’s a really nice concept, and such a great way to kick-off the holidays.
Well, last night, we had the first of our open houses — and appropriately (although perhaps unfortunately!) it started with wonderful cocktails in what is perhaps the most beautiful house in Makati. No exaggeration. I wish I could post photos but there’s a privacy issue involved here; but let me just tell you that this house simply took my breath away. I was speechless for about 30 minutes, just taking everything in.
And I say “unfortunately,” because this beautiful house and this ever so stylish way of entertaining has simply raised the bar for everyone else. Now we feel the pressure. “This house should’ve been the last on the circuit,” we all commented jokingly, but not quite. And how unfortunate especially for me, as my house is the last on the circuit, and I’m hosting the last Christmas cocktails on December 18.
This is a Carribean resort,
but it reminds me of some aspect of the house last night.
Now Makati has a lot of grand and beautiful houses, especially in the area I’m talking about. And I’ve been to lots of stunners, as well. But I’ve honestly never been to a home put together so beautifully and with so much style and creativity. It’s not so much about the money — although I’m sure there’s a lot involved — but it’s more about the ability of the owners to craft together a place with so much charm and personality, from objects and accents from literally around the world. If I had to choose a house to live in as a dream house, this would most certainly be it.
My other neighbors felt the same way — which says a lot, because all of them are very well traveled and they all have their own beautiful homes. But we were all floored by House # 1 on our cocktail party circuit. And I don’t think any of us will be the same again.

I, for one, felt like rushing home after the party and spending the rest of the night turning my own house upside down after with a new look, after such a visual and all-over sensory stimulation. And of course, we all teased each other that this kind lady and her husband, hosts of Cocktail party # 1 in our circuit of 15 cocktail parties, had raised the bar so high for the rest of us that the pressure was certainly on. All in good fun, however, as of course everyone has their own style and taste, and way of life; and each home is just as interesting as the others.
This is a Carribean resort,
but the bedroom reminds me in one way of the house last night.
And, in fact, that’s the beauty of this idea. We all get to see how our neighbors live, considering so many of the factors are the same, but each has interpreted things in their own particular style. It’s so interesting and at the same time surreal, not to mention loads of fun.
But I really must say that none will ever stick in my memory as this beautiful, beautiful house. We spent the evening drinking endless champagne and having wonderful cheeses, pate and dessert. Some people stood around the courtyard, others sat by one of the massive dining tables, and still a couple like me sat in their very beautiful bohemian living room.
“I can’t even place where I am,” I said. “This is bohemian, but it’s also a room I could place on a very intellectual person, a very cultured person. It’s Asian, but it’s also French, and it’s also Carribean.”
Yes, I’ve traveled all over the world but for once I didn’t know where I was and I was speechless.

This is a photo of an Aman resort,
but the trees remind me of the lush foliage around the courtyard
Most of the people left at about 11 pm but I was one of those who stayed on way past midnight drinking wine in their courtyard straight out of a Four Seasons resort in a Caribbean setting, or an Aman resort in Asia, laughing and exchanging stories. It was filled with lush and rare foliage that simply took the place out of this world.
And then just before 1 am I had to leave as last night was also set-up night for the Travelife Christmas tree at the Dusit lobby, in time for the light-up ceremony on the 15th, Tuesday. So we were doing an all-nighter for that one as well. And, in fact, I’ve just returned from the Dusit and it’s 6 AM.
This is an Asian spa resort,
but it reminds me of the home last night.
But back to the beautiful house. I can only describe it as Filipino with touches of everywhere, and with that feeling of being the home of a very sophisticated, cultured, intelligent and bohemian person. It was part Caribbean plantation, part stylist apartment of a Parisian intellectual (or perhaps the kind of villa you’d find for a French aristocrat in the posh suburbs of Neuilly in Paris), part oriental with a Jim Thompson House kind of feel, part Aman Resorts, and part Filipino in the best possible way — all in one.
Jim Thompson’s house in Bangkok, too,
reminded me somewhat of the house tonight.
Nothing matched in the house, so it was a complete riot of color. But everything worked so perfectly. And every corner had an interesting object or item on display, which ordinarily would result in clutter in other people’s homes. But in this home, there were a million things on display and everything looked wonderful and in good taste.
This is someone else’s bohemian living room.
But it reminds me somewhat of the home last night.
The lady of the house loves shopping, and on her last trip to Spain, she’d brought back about 6 chandeliers from Madrid. And I don’t mean the gaudy types full of glass and light, but truly interesting one-of-of-kind conversation pieces. I don’t know how else to describe it except to say that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d walked in and found Catherine Deneuve sitting in that very bohemian living room full of books, world-class artworks, carpets, objets d’art and just lovely accents. This living room reminded me somewhat of the backdrop of the award-winning French movie Indochine starring Catherine Deneuve.
The house itself, covered all over with individually painted bricks, is U-shaped which is quite unusual, but it works wonderfully because this means there’s a lovely courtyard in the middle for socializing. And at the end of this open courtyard is the kind of pool that is so full of wow factor that not even the best resorts would have one. Truly a beautiful house and such a charming couple. We really enjoyed just sitting around all night exchanging travel stories.
And one of the best parts of this house with a thousand different beautiful nooks and crannies was its very flat rooftop that afforded a simply amazing eye-level view of Makati. It was a humongous entertaining space and, if this was my house, I could imagine having people over every night for dinner and drinks on this terrace.
Wow. The last time I’d been on such a terrace was about two years ago, when I’d climbed up to the top of the Jesuit residence in Rome and the top of the residence had a similarly flat venue that afforded the best view of the Vatican and the Papal apartments. Well, this rooftop had a similar feel.
This rooftop reminds me of the one last night.
On Saturday, one of my friends and neighbors attended Travelife Magazine’s fully-booked travel writing workshop and I was convincing him to open his equally amazing house for the open-house. He told me: “I’ll decide based on tomorrow night.” Yes, he was attending Cocktail Party # 1 as well, you see.

I had looked at him quizzically then. But then he continued: “Have you ever seen the venue for the party tomorrow?” I nodded to indicate no. I’d been to the former home of this couple and that had been full of the wow factor; but they’d just moved into this current house so I hadn’t had an opportunity to see it yet.

“I need to see how she’s done up her house and what the entertaining’s going to be like, as she might raise the bar so high for the rest of us,” he’d told me, referring to our first host. He was being quite modest, of course, as he has an amazing house as well, although in an entirely different style.
But tonight I realized what he meant.
Just another evening in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife. But this time, it was spent in the most beautiful house in Manila.
Travelife Magazine’s
Oct-Nov 2011 Issue



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.