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Cebu Dreamin’

Kenneth Cobonpue needs no introduction to Zee Lifestyle readers. We’ve featured him often enough—his repeated collaboration with Hollywood star and activist Brad Pitt, the containers of yin-yang loveseats, croissant sofas, Pigalle beds bound for celebrities’ homes. His latest endeavor is a 324-square-meter lifestyle store carrying his label at Makati’s uber trendy Greenbelt area. Set to open in a few months, it will make accessible for the first time a three-dimensional view of his obsessively Filipino creative psyche, and the opportunity to buy them.

Kenneth Cobonpue needs no introduction to Zee Lifestyle readers. We’ve featured him often enough—his repeated collaboration with Hollywood star and activist Brad Pitt, the containers of yin-yang loveseats, croissant sofas, Pigalle beds bound for celebrities’ homes. His latest endeavor is a 324-square-meter lifestyle store carrying his label at Makati’s uber trendy Greenbelt area. Set to open in a few months, it will make accessible for the first time a three-dimensional view of his obsessively Filipino creative psyche, and the opportunity to buy them.

We wanted to convey a tropical park to greet arrivals, their first sight would be of palm trees and flowering plants as soon they step outside the luggage area,” Kenneth Cobonpue answered when asked what would be different in their proposed plan of the NAIA 1 rehabilitation.  Gone would be the dark and bulky concrete square that faces the main airport terminal. In fact, that would be the first to go if Budji Layug, Royal Pineda and Kenneth would have their say.

“This is really about a dream, a vision, of creating a better image of the country through a series of projects in which people could participate and relive the spirit of bayanihan,” Kenneth told us. “We talk so much about our country being a tropical paradise but reality could be brutal to visitors. We wanted to change this experience by allowing a quick glimpse into a lush garden and a verdant canopy of trees in the arrival area itself.”

Sadly, this will not be the case anymore.

BACKTRACK The National Competitiveness Council (NCC), a public-private sector advisory council set up to address the need to improve the Philippines’ image, was reorganized last April to boost the country’s international ranking from the bottom third to the top third by 2016. The public sector members of the NCC are the Secretary of Trade and Industry (who serves as co-chairman), the Secretaries of Finance, Energy, Tourism, and Education, and the head of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

A month earlier, Kenneth was asked by some members of the Economic Cluster of the Cabinet to host a meeting to brainstorm on how we could pursue a new image for the Philippines. That meeting took place on March 20, 2011, with some members of the Cabinet—Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Greg Domingo, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, the then Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, and Press Secretary Ricky Carandang, and people from the private sector, among them Josie Natori, Emily Abrera, Fernando Zobel, Brian Tenorio, Junie del Mundo, and Jeannie Javelosa, and Budji and Royal.

Among the ideas discussed, two projects were identified: the creation of a new country brand and the renovation of the NAIA-1 and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Each project would serve as a means of conveying a new message about the country—one that would capture our attributes and qualities while symbolizing progress and development at the same time.

They met again on March 25 to discuss both projects, during which two groups were created—one for the country brand and one for the renovation of the NAIA 1 and the Mactan Airport. Visiting the Cobonpue showroom in Cebu, the group made a unanimous decision in taking the lead set by Kenneth’s design sensibility in creating the “face of modern Philippines”.

On April 6, the first meeting of the airport renovation team was led by Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angelo Honrado, with NAIA Terminal Manager Dante Basanta, architect Royal Pineda, and designers Budji Layug and Kenneth Cobonpue. They studied the situation of the entire Manila International Airport Authority before the actual design process started.

MIAA is composed of four terminals: NAIA 1, Terminal 2 or the Centennial Airport, Terminal 3, and the Domestic Airport. NAIA-1, designed by Leandro Locsin who was posthumously declared a National Artist for architecture in 2008, was constructed in 1978 and completed in 1981. At 67,000 square meters, it was originally designed to handle 4.5 million passengers per year. It has long reached itsmaximum capability, and with some improvements and additions its capacity has been extended to 6.0 million passengers per year. It served over 7 million in 2010. Today, the four terminals services over 27 million passengers, with NAIA 1 and 2 the most highly congested.

Even if Terminal 3 were opened for multiple airlines, there can be no way of shifting all of NAIA 1’s capacity to Terminal 3 alone should the former be shut down. The possibilty of  opening Clark Airport would somehow decongest Terminal 1, but still it would be inconceivable to divert all traffic there, regardless of whether or not a high-speed rail link could be established between Metro Manila and Clark to support it. Besides, such a project would take years to complete anyway.

Thus, fixing NAIA 1 and getting Terminal 3 fully open makes so much sense now. The needs are immediate. With that in mind, Kenneth, Budji, and Royal’s team set out to create a renovation design for NAIA 1 in conjunction with the airport’s own engineers and architects.

THE PROPOSAL In designing the changes, the basic mission was to transform NAIA 1 into a boutique airport, a modern gateway that would give passengers a better travel experience in terms of service, comfort, and facilities. Maintaining the structural integrity of the building was given paramount importance; hence, no thought about changing the structure of the building or expanding its present size was ever entertained. The solution was to clear some design structures and to streamline some of the steps which passengers have to undergo in the airport.

One such problem, often cited by passengers, is the lack of food outlets and restaurants in the area. The team’s solution was to create a park with world-class Filipino restaurants and cafés around it. This could become a waiting and receiving lounge for the passengers and their greeters, a welcome change from the only amenity that exists today: the open-air parking lot blocked off by a fence from the arrival extension area that keeps the greeters away—either sweltering in the heat or soaked by rain.

Presently, passengers have to work their way down a steep ramp to the arrival extension level so they could be picked up by their cars or relatives. For most people walking down that ramp, the experience is more like being dragged down by your own luggage. Hence, part of the proposed design was a walkway lined with trees and shaded by modern sculptural concrete canopies that would go around the park. Passengers could be picked up along the entire length of the walkway, which would be ten times longer than the existing pick-up point—a convenience that could readily be pursued since space is available to begin with.

Discussions on construction were started based on NAIA’s own plan to renovate the airport section by section. A decision was made to hold off any renovation until a full plan could be drawn up. Even the redesign and renovation of Duty Free Philippines, to be done at its own expense, would be timed to coincide with NAIA’s overall plan, to make sure that everything would fit into the larger design. A review of office structures, procedures, and flows, including the locations of conveyor systems, terminal fee booths, passport control, security screening, immigration booths, and baggage claim areas were also considered. As the design process progressed, discussions came to include lighting systems, air conditioning requirements, and even the retail mix and locations for specific types of concessionaires.

Another decision made was to differentiate the services available within the airport system, so a review of the staff’s service delivery was also started. For this purpose, the hotel staff of the AIM Conference Center was invited to design a training program for the airport service staff. Plans for inviting Filipino designers to create new uniform designs for the different staff positions, as well as getting curators to manage art installations within the airport terminal, were laid down.

The total cost of renovating NAIA-1’s interiors was estimated at P500 million, while another P500 million would be needed for the creation of a better outdoor arrival extension area with a park, restaurants and shops, and a three-storey parking garage that would replace the present sprawling, open-air parking lot.

After fully engaging the NAIA staff in a series of discussions on budget limitations, the team of Kenneth, Budji, and Royal presented their proposal for the design concept to the MIAA Management Committee on May 24 last year and to the Economic Cluster on May 25. They also made a presentation to the MIAA Board on May 26, which adopted the proposal subject to the availability of funds. The Board formally created a Project Management Office (PMO) and an organizational structure for the project.

The design team worked as pro bono consultants as they guided the NAIA PMO and its own team of in-house architects and engineers in preparing the proposal’s detailed architectural drawings. All technical drawings were automatically owned by the NAIA including all architectural perspectives and floor plans. All the plans and material specifications were used by the PMO for cost estimates as it prepared the bid documents and Invitations to Bid needed for any work to proceed.

Meanwhile, news broke that the NAIA-1 got the ignoble award—that of being the worst international airport in Asia and fifth worst in the whole world. The label went viral on Facebook in a matter of days, on the heels of the furor over the plagiarism committed in Tourism Secretary Albert Lim’s Pilipinas Kay Ganda campaign, and shaking the government out of its stupor.

Away from the glaring lights of publicity, Kenneth, together with Budji Layug and Royal Pineda, forged on and quietly worked on polishing their final plans for the redo of the tired-looking NAIA 1 terminal. In October, the team unveiled a plan that was highly aesthetic but also real and concrete. They presented it to an excited social network community where they were enthusiastically received and welcomed.

THE DECISION TO CHANGE HANDS The momentum towards NAIA’s renovation was unexpectedly broken however, when former Senator Mar Roxas, appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the new Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary on June 7, 2011, dismissed the meticulous plans, in a meeting with Budji and Royal, together with NCC Chairman Bill Luz early last November. The NAIA 1 project falls under the DOTC jurisdiction.  Roxas made the decision to award the project to the original architect of NAIA-1, the firm of Leandro Locsin, citing as his reason that they would have access to all the original drawings. This  negating all the eight months of work that included construction plans and documents ready for bidding, and reversing the directive issued eight months earlier by Trade Secretary Greg Domingo, Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad, former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and then Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, and the decision of the MIAA in May 2011 to adopt the team’s design.

For a government that demands our support and understanding, they sure know how to put an end to any form of volunteerism from willing citizens.

CEBU’S TURN It’s the new year and we move forward. Kenneth is fresh from his family holiday in the US, and we reminded him on the side note of the Mactan Cebu airport, part of the original rebranding plans. Mactan International Airport’s last incarnation was in 1998, and since then visitors, and accompanying revenues, have more than doubled. Just like NAIA 1, it is crying for a major overhaul, with international visitors streaming in from the spic-and-span Hong Kong, Narita, Seoul, and Singapore airport terminals.

The local airport authority, headed by Paul Villarete, is as anxious as well to jump-start the project. “I am just waiting for Kenneth’s group to present the plans,” he said. “It will then be reviewed at a local level before it’s submitted to Manila for final approval.”

Rene Almendras,  the Cebuano cabinet secretary and close advisor of the President, on a recent visit home, also mentioned the same thing. “The local level has a lot of say on what direction the Cebu airport renovation will be heading. The Department of Finance will still bankroll the project, but they have more or less voiced their approval of Kenneth’s group at the very start,” he intimated.

Redesigning the Mactan Airport has its own peculiar challenges, Kenneth confessed, due mostly to its narrow dimension. “Nevertheless,” he said, “we already have some ideas on where to start, like opening up one wall to glass and raising the ceiling—those are the ones that are easy to fix. The hard part will be the basic infrastructure. Because of its age, we will probably need to update all hardware.”

The Mactan Airport Authority, according to Villarete, also expressed the three main concerns similar to those in Manila—first, the travelers’ security; second, the basic infrastructure and how to update it to meet current standards; and third, the aesthetics, how to offer the same convenience and style to make the airport measure up to similar ones around Asia.

There are hurdles ahead.  A proposed plan by Congressman Tomas Osmena will build an airport from scratch at the southern tip of Mactan Island using mostly reclaimed land, might just affect the project. There is a need for a second runway that would only be possible through expansion.  Airport authorities are confident this can be done in eight years or less.

And yet, whatever these may be, the people already have a lot to anchor their hopes on while dreaming of a better airport soon in Mactan. For one, Cebu is not as bureaucratic as Manila, where political chess is always being played. For another, the project would not be as expensive and so is not likely to attract the big players.

The biggest gain would be a beautiful concept that we could all expect from Kenneth, Budji, and Royal. With them having offered their services and vision pro bono, what

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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