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A Journey to Paradise

The story of Hervé Lampert and his wife Tess is a story of lives as intertwined as the DEDON story is to Cebu. Perhaps the love story of the dynamic couple, with Tess being the wife of the CEO, could arguably be the unseen force that makes DEDON and Cebu a successful match.

The story of Hervé Lampert and his wife Tess is a story of lives as intertwined as the DEDON story is to Cebu. Perhaps the love story of the dynamic couple, with Tess being the wife of the CEO, could arguably be the unseen force that makes DEDON and Cebu a successful match.

I first met Tess through my dear friend Jun Escario at a birthday lunch at Anzani’s. Without uttering a word, she reveals something extraordinary about herself with her soulful almond eyes. As I gazed into them that time, I already thought, “This lady is special,” and then hoped that we both could find the time for more than a mere chit-chat.

The next time I saw her was at the Red Cross Ball at Makati Shangri-La. She was wearing a beautiful gown created for her by her close friend Cary Santiago. With such a huge crowd and all the champagne served that evening, all we managed to talk about was the DEDON showcase in the Salone de Mobile that I attended last year in Milan. It was a short conversation before we said our pleasant goodbyes.

Then, at Zee Lifestyle’s Black and Bling party at the Rizal Library, I saw Tess again and this time with her dashing husband Hervé. I couldn’t help admire how beautifully in sync they were on the dance floor. They were like yin and yang as they swayed their bodies in harmony to whatever genre of music was playing— from the 70s disco, to tango and mambo.

“We met in Mi Vida, a dance club in Cebu, more than a decade ago,” Hervé recalls with a smile. The unexpected meeting led to another evening of music and dance.

“I did not waste anytime,” remembers Tess with laughter. “I invited him to celebrate my birthday with me in an intimate dinner.” Apparently, the moment they first hit the dance floor, they never stopped dancing—eventually to the rhythm of life as they became man and wife. Finding each other in Cebu was the beginning of living in paradise for both Hervé and Tess.

Hervé Lampert grew up on a farm in France. Even at an early age, he dreamt of running a business his own way. He worked shortly in the Marketing Division of an American company in Paris whilst still finishing his business degree from the Graduate School for International Business Administration in Strasbourg. In 1997 he met Bobby Dekeyser, the founding chairman of DEDON and moved to Lüneburg, Germany to help build the company.

In 2000, at the age of 24, he made a big leap into unknown territory and moved to Cebu, to set up DEDON’s manufacturing facility, which would address the recurring problems with quality in the company.

Hervé confesses, “It was the hardest in the beginning because of the trust we gave to this couple who was supposedly our partner in building the company but who failed us in more ways than one.” Nonetheless, he looks back with pride at how challenges became opportunities for him to move on and succeed. His secret in life, he says, is “living with passion and inspiration.”

Starting with seven employees, Hervé saw the growth of DEDON Cebu within a span of 8 years, providing fair and gainful employment to 3,600 employees in a part of the world where such ethical practice is an exception rather than the rule. He is the force behind DEDON’s commitment to their employees and their social responsibility. But for the record, DEDON is not comfortable with the term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ or CSR.

‘’For one thing, we don’t think of ourselves as particularly corporate,” Hervé says. “‘Corporate social responsibility’ can sound like a PR obligation—something a company does because it’s expected to—whereas at DEDON, positive social action is an everyday expression of our culture.

“There are certain values, such as respecting others, that we hold in our own lives,” he explains, “so why shouldn’t they be the foundation of the organization as well? When you look, for example, at the work people do here in Cebu—the time they spend, the processes involved, the beauty they create—you have to respect it by allowing them to share in the success of the organization.” For Hervé this means not merely complying with local labor standards but, as with everything they do, setting their own standards and continually raising them.

“We’re not in Southeast Asia because it’s cheaper, but because of the competency and skills here, weaving in particular. So for us, it’s natural to show people that we care about them, the same as we do care about our partners everywhere. The respect is real. We’re all part of the same team.”

Hervé’s ultimate commitment nevertheless is to his family. It is the same respect that he accords his team in DEDON that he extends to his partner in life, his wife Tess.

Tess, a true-blue Cebuana, grew up with her lola when her parents separated early on. She recalls her childhood with nostalgia: “My journey in life is very colorful. I’m a lola’s girl. I grew up in a simple life with her but very conservative and religious.’’

She admits that as she was growing up, life was never easy, but then she also never saw her cup as half empty nor half full; instead, to her, it was always more than enough.

“I never complained,” she says. “I accept things as they are and do my best to make things better.’’ It is this positive outlook in life that makes Tess extraordinary.

“It was a dark period in my life when I met Hervé. I was just healing from a previous relationship that had scarred my inner core.’’ The most colorful part of her past had made her the woman that she is today—confident, certain, committed, and passionate.

But what I find most fascinating and inspiring is how Tess talks honestly about her life lessons and how, despite all the moments that she was down and broken, she was able to keep her heart whole.

Though she never pursued her career as a nurse, so she can be there for her family, she feels that being a mother is her most important role to date. Hervé and Tess have two beautiful girls, Veia who is six, and Maori who is four. The Lamperts are a typical family; Hervé is the doting father who insists that the girls clean up after their toys, while Tess enjoys dressing them up. With a mixed background, conversations in the family slide effortlessly from English to French and Visayan, and meals are a hodgepodge of croissants, pasta, and bangus with rice. The girls’ nanny, Dorothia Galolo, has been employed by Hervé since he was a bachelor and she is a valuable member of the family already. Tess, however, is in her element at the kitchen where she can whip up French and Filipino dishes befitting even, the French ambassador.

Quite the multi-tasker, Tess continues to pursue her other passions as she fully embraces the roles of being a mother and a wife. Currently, she is wrapping up two special projects that she also considers her two babies. One has required her creative instincts in transforming an old house that they purchased four years ago into a French country home. Her constant travels to France, Hervé’s first home, have exposed her to the authentic colors and textures of the homes outside of Paris.

When the tenants vacated a property that they own in Maria Luisa, Tess immediately got the idea of doing a total makeover, not just with the structure of the house but also its interiors, furniture and fixtures included. The result is an elegant French country home with gray walls with white detailing.

Tess proudly shares her feat. “I am very happy with this project. I poured into it blood and sweat looking at every single detail till the entire process of renovation finally paid off. Now I can’t wait to bring in the furniture to finally complete the transformation.”

The other “baby” of Tess is something even more special—the most anticipated DEDON Island Resort in Siargao island in Mindanao. January and February had been the most intense for the Lamperts preparing for this.

“Dedon will offer its services as bespoke travel—from limo service at your city of origin, to a stopover in Cebu where we have chosen abaca as our partner, or in Manila, whatever the guest prefers,” Hervé points out.

Indeed, the site’s remoteness makes it a truly private island. Although the local government has taken notice and has built a sparkling new airport there, and a local airline might increase its number of flights as well, the resort will still operate in the strictest sense of exclusivity, dictated mainly by a price range that makes it prohibitive except to a few who can splurge its four-figure euro daily rate. The island houses nine private villas, which can accommodate 24 guests at a time.

Taking the Friday shuttle to Siargao almost weekly, it has been Tess’s job to usher a team of French architects and designers ever since the resort was acquired from its previous owner, Nicholas Rambeau. Tess, who speaks the local dialect, was tasked with the Herculean job of polishing the existing structure, as well as augmenting it with four new villas, into DEDON luxe. It involves the entire DEDON team to actualize this project, including Hervé’s brother Vince Lampert, who is responsible for creating all the special DEDON product exclusive only to the resort and who also serves as the Managing Director of DEDON.  Tess is only more than happy to get her creative hands into the project. She has also taken time to travel from Cebu to different parts of the country in order to discover artisan products that she can integrate into the lifestyle of the resort. We are not just talking about furniture here.

When the company pursued the philosophy behind the name which goes beyond the indoor and outdoor furniture that they are known for, a bigger idea came to life—DEDON Places.

“DEDON Places is a budding collection of one-of-a-kind accommodations around the world,” DEDON founding chairman Bobby Dekeyser says, “each with its own outdoor orientation, from a ski chalet to an island hideaway, an African wilderness lodge, a tree house, an igloo, a boat or a city harbor hotel.

“In many ways, these accommodations are a reflection our company’s nomadic spirit,” he explains. “Because we’re always on the move, meeting up with partners, team members, and friends in so many different parts of the world, we’re always discovering incredible places. Now we want to let others know about them and share the experience, too.” And the first to open in this direction will be DEDON Island Resort on Siargao Island in the Philippines.

“Remote and exotic, with clear blue waters and lush tropical flora, it’s a destination we’ve been visiting for a decade,” Bobby Dekeyser says. “Having acquired it earlier this year, a group of 30 of us, including the celebrated designer and DEDON collaborator Jean-Marie Massaud, his architectural partner Daniel Pouzet, and their families, spent 14 days living on the island. Based on our shared experience there, Jean-Marie and Daniel are adapting the property to match the vision of DEDON Places.” Massaud is known for his contemporary minimalistic and at times futuristic furniture such as the Aspen Sofa from Casinna and the Kennedee Modular Sofa which he design for Poltrona Frau. Together, they designed the architecture behind the Chivas Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico. Both are currently the in-house designers of Dedon.

And this is where the journey of Tess to paradise continues. ‘’I have made Siargao my second home,” she says, “ever since we started developing the DEDON Island Resort. After the French architect Jean-Marie Massaud and his partner Daniel Pouzet worked on the amazing architectural design of the entire resort, it is now all in my hands to complete the picture. From the purchasing of every minute detail to personally hiring and training the staff and immersing our foreign staff into the local culture, my heart and soul are involved.’’

More importantly, she has helped increase the environmental awareness of both the locals and the resort management—to ensure their commitment to creating and preserving an ecological consciousness that would be a way of life not just in the resort but in the rest of the island as well. After all, in her very words, ‘’Siargao is more than a surfing capital of the country. It is paradise!’’

Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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