1. Check out the highlights of High Life July 2014 at www.highlife.com.ph. Out in stands today. 


  2. In his profile of Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Sarge Lacuesta writes that the soulful leadership and persistent innovation of Alfonso Zobel y Roxas and Joseph McMicking led to the to the creation of Makati as the country’s central business district, and to the early dominance of Ayala in the real estate industry. See pictures from the city’s recent past. 


  3. Drawn on tissue, a rough, amateurish spectacle of inkblots and jagged lines is the abstract beginning of an object.

    Designing life

    From the sketches of Kenneth Cobonpue


    An industrial space with unpainted walls and concrete floors is the quiet host of Kenneth Cobonpue’s art. Its only marker is a black signboard with red and white capital letters that spell out his name. A succinct facade with an all-glass exterior exposes a woven polyethylene rickshaw, a seat made of Rapunzel’s braids, a stool inspired by a dreamcatcher, and lighted clouds hanging from the ceiling.

    Mr. Cobonpue’s showroom in Greenbelt Residences in Makati was unveiled late 2013, after he was convinced he had enough pieces to showcase outside his Cebu studio. There is a coffee table with pockets of greenery, chairs that look like palm fronds, and a daybed that tempts sleep. Amid the abundance of furniture, the absence of “please refrain from sitting” signs is conspicuous. Made of rattan, textile, and steel, Mr. Cobonpue’s pieces have been purchased by royalty, both Hollywood and real. His furniture can be found in top hotels all over the world: the Beverly Hills hotel in California, the Ritz-Carlton in Florida, and Radisson Blu 1835 in Cannes, to name a few. This March, he added to his numerous accolades “Designer of the Year” from the first edition of Maison et Objet Asia.

    A Kenneth Cobonpue creation begins with an image only he and his designers understand. Drawn on tissue, a rough, amateurish spectacle of inkblots and jagged lines is the abstract beginning of an object. “I think that drawing is not one of my strengths, not really my forte,” he sighed. When he was an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines, he was rejected by the College of Fine Arts because he “didn’t draw well.”

    The son of renowned designer Betty Cobonpue, Mr. Cobonpue was drawn to solid objects from a very early age. “I think very, very well spatially and three-dimensionally,” he said. While most children stained walls with crayons, the young Cobonpue built his own toys from the scrap materials scattered in his mother’s workshop. Playing carpenter with wood, glue, and paper made him the happiest boy in the world. “Now that I am all grown up, all that I do is an extension of what I did when I was a kid,” said Mr. Cobonpue, who finished his industrial design degree at Pratt Institute in New York. “I see it all the time with my designs. The joy that I give to people makes it so fulfilling for me.”

    In his Makati studio, Mr. Cobonpue, fresh-faced and dapper in a button-up shirt, showed High Life how his creative process begins with a sketch.

    HL : Do you have a sketchpad?

    KC : Actually, I draw everywhere. I draw on any paper I can find so it’s a problem to collate my work. Creativity is spontaneous so I’m not the kind of person who keeps one sketchpad. I just have stacks of paper beside my desk and I just scrap anything. It poses a problem for my designers because I’m like, (pulls out an imaginary sheet of paper) “hey, here’s an idea!”

    HL : What part of the process does sketching fall under?

    KC : The beginning. You have to constantly sketch. I mean, after you sketch something, it becomes three- dimensional, then I’ll go back again to drawing it. It’s an exploration. After you sketch, you work with different materials, it’s back and forth. Two-dimensional then three-dimensional.

    HL : Are you a messy sketcher or a neat sketcher?

    KC : I’m a messy sketcher. In the exploration of ideas I tend to make a sketch and go over and over again.

    HL : When do you feel the urge to grab a piece of paper and sketch?

    KC : Whenever I need to come up with a design.

    HL : Not when you just get randomly inspired?

    KC : Sometimes. But creativity is really a discipline. So when it’s time to think of something, I will make a sketch.

    HL : So it’s something you work on. When you start, you have to finish something?

    KC : Yes, that’s right. That’s right.

    HL : How does a sketch start?

    KC : Usually an image. An image in your mind that you put on paper. See how it looks. You draw something from different angles, or sometimes it’s a sketch I want my design team to try.

    HL : How much of the sketch ends up in the final product?

    KC : It depends. Usually there’s no rule for these things. Creativity really has no formula, there’s no process that’s defined. So each thing can take different steps in order to get there.

    For the full story on Kenneth Cobonpue, visit http://www.highlife.com.ph/Issue/110/Designing_life.php


  4. Flashback Friday: The sons of Jaime Zobel de Ayala


  5. Throwback Thursday: Jaime Zobel de Ayala through the years


  6. White jumpsuit with peacock detail by Sidney Perez Sio.

    When the Queen of Songs met the King of Rock and Roll

    Pilita Corrales as Elvis Presley


    Pilita Corrales, Asia’s Queen of Songs, met Elvis Presley in 1961. He caught up with her in her dressing room and asked her out on a date. She turned him down.

    The encounter took place in Las Vegas, where Ms. Corrales was part of Steve Parker’s Philippine Festival. Staged in the Arabian Room of the Dunes Hotel, it was a glittery affair that included Katy de la Cruz, Baby Aguilar, Bobby Gonzales, Shirley Gorospe, Elizabeth Ramsey, and Alice Reyes. “We were all starstruck—everyone to the last dancer. He was so good-looking. You see that face and—oh, my God! He was tall and slim. It was during his best years,” said Ms. Corrales.

    Presley, who was vacationing in Vegas, saw the show and liked it so much that he invited Ms. Corrales to dinner. “I wanted to [say yes],” she admitted, “but our producer said no. They were very strict with us. No one could date.”

    In a conspiratorial tone, Ms. Corrales said that Mommy Kate (as de la Cruz was affectionately called by her charges) was adamant about preserving the image of modesty. “Too bad,” Ms. Corrales said, and jokingly called the missed opportunity with Presley “the worst experience” of her life.

    Asia’s Queen of Songs, who turns 74 in August, still has moves that would make Elvis the Pelvis proud and the pipes to go along with them. She’s incorporated several of his hits into her concerts. “I really like ‘Love Me Tender’ because you can make different arrangements of that song. You can even make it into cha-cha,” she said. “Another is ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ because everyone knows the last line and the audience can sing along.”

    (Ms. Corrales is the inaugural subject of a recurring section called “AS,” in which High Life asks people: “Who or what would you want to be if you weren’t you? Ms. Corrales chose the King of Rock and Roll. This August, the singer is releasing Duets, an album under Viva Records that features Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, Martin Nievera, Vic Sotto, Sarah Geronimo, Joey Albert, Chad Borja, Basil Valdez, and The Company.) 


  7. Sidebar: “The counterpoint of Daniel Libeskind” | Issue No. 110 | July 2014

    The center of the world is not a geographic center on a map, it’s where the soul of its citizens is. This thought was expressed by architect Daniel Libeskind at the launch of Century Spire: a 245-meter-tall, 60-floor glass-clad tower that expands with a dramatic crown of three differently sized branches, soon to change the landscape of Makati City. With hope, the architectural piece will enhance the skyline, elevate the city, and consequently, improve the lives of its citizens.

    Century Spire is a collaboration of three forward-thinkers: Mr. Libeskind; Jose E.B. Antonio, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Century Properties; and Giorgio Armani of interior design firm Armani/Casa.

    Mr. Antonio and his son Robbie Antonio, Century’s managing director and project head of Spire, were impressed by Mr. Libeskind’s works, which they had seen in their travels abroad. “He will set the bar even higher for condominium design in the Philippines,” the younger Antonio said. Century Spire, which should be complete by 2018, is to be the eighth and last tower to rise within the 3.4-hectare Century City in Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City. It houses Gramercy Residences, Knightsbridge Residences, Milano Residences (interiors designed by Versace Home), Trump Tower, Centuria Medical Makati, Century City Mall, and the Forbes Media Tower.

    For the architecture, Mr. Libeskind said he wanted to built something practical and economical. “A building that speaks with the light of Manila. A building that opens itself out to the new horizons that everyone here will experience more and more into the future.” He created a “design crescendo” at the top of the tower, by placing a glass-clad form between the two highest tower shafts. This provision provides an expanded floor space for the light-filled penthouses, that will have spectacular views of the city and Manila Bay. The slim tower profile at the base of the building maximizes the public space to the east of the tower for a landscaped public plaza. The diagonally braced structure creates distinctive spaces and floor plans, and a fully glazed facade opens up the interiors to light and views. The tower is clad in a semi-reflective glass curtain wall, articulated with balconies and terraces that create a rhythmic geometric pattern on the façade.

    The design of the common spaces by Armani/Casa did not stray far from the exterior. The decoration of walls emphasizes the bold geometry of the space. The main lobby features a pattern of oblique pilasters that enclose a system of indirect lighting. A similar pattern is used in the library, whose split wall contains a collection of books. The pool’s juice bar incorporates large screens that make the space look modular. On request, residential apartments can be delivered with Armani/Casa design, finish and furniture as a special commission. “I think that the combination of my vision with that of Daniel Libeskind will lead to the creation of a truly special place, characterized by elegance and a unique charm,” President and CEO of Armani Group Giorgio Armani said in a statement.

    The starting price for a space is Php250,000 per square meter. Unit sizes range from 30 to 40 square meters. The best are, of course, the Penthouse and Upper Penthouse units. Clients can buy an entire floor.

    Although critics have already weighed in (an online post about the project on Dezeen drew commenters who judged Mr. Libeskind’s design as “trapezoidal foolishness”), the architect is thrilled to see his work rise in Manila. “[This is an ode] not only to the people who are lucky enough to live in this building, but really, to the sense of what a culture of architecture and design can do,” he said. “Don’t worry if people criticize. You don’t worry if people think you’re crazy. You’re off to succeed.”

    For the full story on Daniel Libeskind, visit http://www.highlife.com.ph/Issue/110/The_counterpoint_of_Daniel_Libeskind.php


  8. With the trend for extravagant parties on the up and up, party organizers are more than happy to oblige.

    Throwback Thursday: “Party 0f one” | Issue No. 37 | April 2008


    It was the ancient Greeks who first subscribed to the idea that celebrating birthdays—which came to mean mounting festivities and inviting well-wishers for the newborn’s first year—was meant to protect the child from evil spirits.

    If this belief still holds true today, then the Greeks would probably conclude that the world we now live in must be teeming with many undesirable elements. With the lavishness and frequency that today’s parents throw children’s parties nowadays, the Greek’s ancient beliefs will probably lead them to think that this is, indeed, a dangerous world we live in.

    Nowadays, birthday celebrations for children as young as a year old have gone beyond the traditional blowing-out-the-candle ritual held at home. Especially among members of high society, today’s kiddie parties have become major stage productions, high-value events orchestrated by detail-obsessed parents who don’t stop at anything to create an unforgettable experience for their child’s birthday.

    In a status-obsessed culture, getting a birthday cake, putting up a few balloons, and inviting a few children from the neighborhood as guests no longer suffice. For parents who can afford it, a good birthday bash these days would have the following requirements: an invitation, formal catering (for the main course), free-standing food kiosks (for finger foods, and preferably from a popular snack shop), a multilayered cake as a centerpiece, elaborate balloon décor and slides, guest performers, elaborate party favors, and fun activities to keep the guests entertained.

    Even the venue has changed: it is not unheard-of to rent huge spaces such as function rooms at five-star hotels and exclusive clubhouses to make room for mechanical rides, balloon slides, and the numerous guests.


    Psychologists believe that children’s birthday parties have become an affirmation of one’s social ingenuity: the degree of lavishness of the celebration is relative to the parents’ popularity. Within the circle of the elite, keeping up with the Joneses has come to mean more than just getting the latest model car (preferably more expensive than the neighbor’s); today, it is trying to outdo other people in hosting the most elaborate birthday parties for one’s children.

    With the trend for extravagant parties on the up and up, party organizers are more than happy to oblige. That parents are pushing the limits has created an industry dedicated to children’s parties, with scores of party shops, entertainers, cake designers, and party-favor specialists now doing brisk business. It’s now easy to turn one’s fantasy birthday concept—including the most outrageous—into a reality.

    Ricky Lim, owner of the birthday party specialist All4Fun Party Maker, said that this wasn’t the case 10 years ago. “When we were just starting in the business, we were satisfied with organizing one themed party a month. Now, we are holding one party every week,” he said.

    Lim, who was (and still is) a Karatedo trainor, discovered the potential of the business with his wife in 1997 when they hosted a themed birthday party for their eldest son. He believes, based on experience, that the reason most parents would rather relegate the task of hosting birthday parties to event organizers is that the planning can be too stressful. “Cost is not really an issue for them. They just want a hassle-free party. They want to be there as guests and not as hosts. They even leave the entertaining of guests to us,” he said.

    For one-year-old parties, Lim said that it is the new parents who usually have a clear picture of how the event is going to be like, and they just hire party experts to execute that idea. “These are clients who, for example, would want to have eight high-end mechanical rides, including a Ferris Wheel, inside the venue.”

    The danger of that, he explained, is that the party might turn out overdone or flamboyant. “[At some point,] we have to water down some of their demands to make everything run smoothly.”

    Then there are parents who want everything to be perfect—so perfect, in fact, that the party could well be in the society pages. Television viewers will never forget the highly publicized birthday party given in honor of Princess, the one-year old daughter of boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. Held at the New World Renaissance Hotel in Makati City, the highly publicized (and currently controversial) Php1.3-million birthday bash had over 200 guests who went home with gift bags and prizes like iPods, toys, chocolates, and pet bunnies.


    Bing Madridejos, co-owner of Party Station, said the pressure to be unique in any aspect of the party is so strong that some parents have gone the extra mile to buy the design of their birthday invitations so that no one else can copy it. Although she rarely encounters such clients, she admitted that there have been a few who approached her, asking if she could do something that beats the birthday bash previously hosted by friends. “They want the party to be bongga (fabulous),” she said.

    Dr. Angela Jao, a clinical psychiatrist, confirmed this. “[Parents] feel that they have to be “in” with what the other superrich parents are doing, even if, by doing so, their child may not appreciate it or even remember [it],” she said.

    In any case, these kinds of demands always translate to good business for hotels, events venues, caterers, and, of course, party organizers. Depending on which aspect of the party the host wants to splurge on—be it the food, venue, balloon decor, entertainment, or party favors—the cost of a themed birthday party can range from Php50,000 to nearly a million pesos.

    Madridejos said, “People have this impression that during parties, it’s the adults who complain a lot. So the main concern of our clients when they come to us is if the food would satisfy the adults. It’s like one of their top priorities. The food should not only please the kids but also the adults.”

    As a result, party organizers are now tapping restaurateurs like Chef Gaita Fores and expensive caterers such as VS&F Classic Food International and Alberto’s to make food served at children’s parties a bit more exciting, not just for the kids but also for the grownups. The menu selection has also been revamped to include international cuisine and some grownup favorites like more exotic pasta, steak, grilled prawns, tempura, or even sushi. “I even had a client who wanted to have a Starbucks booth in the party,” said Madridejos.

    If the food falls short of memorable, the hosts can also impress their guests—young and old—with the venue. Party organizers say that renting a venue usually eats up 15 per cent of the overall expenses. While the celebrant’s home still makes for an ideal setting, especially for parents who prefer an intimate gathering, other locations offer more exciting possibilities. Renting out exclusive, members-only venues like the Manila Polo Club, for instance, scores several points for the parents’ social standing. Choosing a large and varied venue opens up several possibilities for creative birthday party concepts, such as outdoor park installations or even mechanical rides.

    For the sophisticated host, the venue of choice is a hotel. Five-star hotels often put a higher price tag on a venue-catering deal compared to clubhouses. Because menu choices in hotels can cost as high as Php1,000 per plate, Madridejos said that venue expenses in hotels can reach Php500,000 for a single event.


    With all these spendthrift examples, the obvious question is, is it worth spending all that money on a child’s birthday party? All4Fun’s Lim said that often, money is no object for parents who like spending on children’s parties. “There are clients who are willing to spend while there are those who find it ridiculous to spend. In my case, for example, my daughter’s recent birthday party would have bought me [the latest-model] Honda Civic. But my wife and I chose to do it because we’re having fun planning it. It’s good business, but it is also an art that we take seriously,” he said.

    The fondness for parties is not the only reason some parents pull out all the stops when it comes to their children’s birthday party. “Some parents, especially if they were never given such lavish parties during their younger years, would want their own kids to experience what were just in their fantasies,” explained Dr. Jao.

    Madridejos agreed. “As a mother, I want only the best for my kids—even if they may not be aware of it or they might not even remember it. Experience-wise, it’s sort of addicting, especially for new parents, to plan a kiddie party. You look forward to holding the next birthday bash of your kid. Especially if you’ve already started a fabulous party, people would expect that the next one would be better,” she said.

    Dr. Jao advised, however, that like in all things, splurging on a child’s birthday party must be done in moderation. “If you have the money and time for the preparation, why not? But if you have to raise money for it just to show off, perhaps you should re-think your plan because you can use your hard-earned money for something more worthwhile, like ensuring the good education of your children.”


    Dr. Angela Jao is a clinical psychiatrist specializing on child development. All4Fun (Ricky and Giselle Lim), can be reached at tel. no. (632) 802-3382. Party Station (Bing and Marius Madridejos) can be reached at tel. no. (632) 916-6198.


  9. A selection of images from XYZ: The Creativity of Jaime Zobel, a large-format anthology of photographs taken by Jaime Zobel de Ayala, the subject of High Life’s July 2014 cover story.

    Unveiled in 2011, the book celebrates the artistic talent of the chairman emeritus of Ayala Corporation, who was the first Filipino amateur photographer to be confirmed “Licentiate” by the Royal Photographic Society.

    To view more of his art, visit www.jaimezobel.com. Images courtesy of the artist.