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Leading Lady: Carla Abellana

Soft-spoken and with the kind of bright-eyed allure that any ingénue would covet, Carla Abellana brings a sweetness to the TV screen—even when her characters find themselves in situations that are anything but.

Soft-spoken and with the kind of bright-eyed allure that any ingénue would covet, Carla Abellana brings a sweetness to the TV screen—even when her characters find themselves in situations that are anything but.

Carla Abellana walks into the hotel suite, exuding demure femininity in a floral dress, a shy dimpled smile, and just a hint of sleeplessness in her eyes. “I only get a day off if a miracle happens,” she later explains, shrugging it off casually in a way that shows she’s understood and accepted that the fact comes with the job. The job, of course, has become a little more demanding since the success of the controversial My Husband’s Lover, where she plays a conservative woman whose husband turns out to be in love with a man. The show tackles themes that have never been so directly addressed on Philippine television, and has catapulted its stars into new heights—something that should be noted when you consider acting wasn’t Carla’s first choice of a career.   

Although she counts actress Delia Razon as her grandmother and 80’s matinee heartthrob PJ Abellana as her father, show business didn’t seem immediately appealing to Carla. “It was never part of the plan,” she shares, sharing that though she started modeling at 12, she was instead more inclined to more scholastic pursuits. Driven by her mother’s mantra on the importance of education, she admittedly took her studies more seriously than most might expect. “I was a nerd in college,” she confesses. “After school, I went straight home to study some more.” That’s, of course, not to say that there weren’t any admirers—her natural good looks would often merit date invitations, which she would graciously turn down. It was worth it though, when Carla graduated cum laude with a degree in psychology.

She’d taken a job in human resources before her mother and grandmother’s support convinced her to try a hand at acting. Carla had auditioned for the role of one of the leading ladies on GMA’s Zorro, when the producers saw her potential and instead cast her in her own show—a remake of the popular 90’s telenovela Rosalinda, originally portrayed by Thalía. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she admits. “It was difficult because there were no warnings or crash courses. Everything I learned, I learned the hard way.” Channeling the same perseverance she’d had as a student, she filled her already busy schedule with dancing, singing and acting lessons to continuously hone her craft.

Since then, Carla’s appeared in TV shows and movies in a variety of roles that showcased her acting chops,  while also hosting variety shows that allowed her charm to shine through. And it’s not just the fans that have been taking notice—she was nominated at the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences as best actress for her role as a mobster’s wife in Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story in 2011, and a Luna Awards Best Supporting Actress nominee for My Neighbor’s Wife , a film that studies marriage, friendship and infidelity. She’s clearly not one to shy away from the more emotionally provocative roles, something that’s reinforced when she played Lally in the recently concluded My Husband’s Lover , her biggest role to date. 

Critics have been raving over her turn as Lally, a character whose emotions are subtly but visibly bubbling beneath the surface. Carla gives her a nuanced personality—making  Lally someone who the audience will sympathize for her predicament, but who never actually calls for pity. “It was about time,” she says when asked about her reaction to the role. “We knew that it would be controversial and different, but we had no idea that it would this big and that people would receive it with such warmth and support.” The show is something she considers a blessing, even more so for the people she’d had the opportunity to work with. “God really put them together in this soap opera. You can just imagine all the fun that we had,” she laughs. 

Admittedly, though, she considers herself among the old-fashioned types. “The wife should take care of the husband, and should do anything for the family,” she says, something that she shares with her character. There’s the desire to be a  perfect wife, but when Lally sees it as swallowing her own sadness and dissatisfaction for the sake of harmony, Carla thinks there should be some room to be a little selfish. “It’s so hard to imagine, to believe that there is such a person. I wouldn’t be like that. I would  give myself respect and dignity. The pain has to stop at some point.” 

Fortunately, her own love life is less than dramatic—at a press conference for the show, she’d slipped some details of her relationship with Geoff Eigenmann who “has been nothing but supportive of my success.” The couple had recently celebrated their third year anniversary with a simple dinner and exchanging gifts, echoing their usual date nights of staying in and watching a movie while Carla makes him dinner. “He’s so persistent in making an effort and making sure we grow together,” she gushes, sharing that he’d gotten her a pair of shoes she’d been wanting for their anniversary.

It was obviously a good choice, as Carla confesses to a love affair with shoes. At the photoshoot, she brought along an arsenal of Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton and Manolo Blahnik pairs, among others, collectively embodying a style of classic sophistication. Off-duty, though, she prefers to slip into a girly maxi dress, making no qualms about the names on the labels. “As long as it’s comfortable and it fits me,” then she’d put it on. Of course, being a celebrity  comes with a certain scrutiny on her appearance, so she makes it a point to shop at least once a month. 

Those trips have become increasingly rare as Carla’s recent success has filled her schedule with shoots, tours and appearance that have left her little time for herself. But when she does find some hours to while away, she chooses to spend it with her biggest supporters, her family. “I have two nieces who I adore, so I try to spend  as much time as I can with them,” she shares. “I cook for them, or take them out to eat somewhere nice.” She also makes it a point to travel with them once a year, having a certain wanderlust that she’s inherited from her mother. Bohol is a favorite destination, though she also loves shopping in Bangkok and spending time in Toronto, which reminds her of New York. “I would love to go to Santorini in Greece or see the Northern Lights in Alaska,” she says of her dream destinations, although she’d already scheduled a family European cruise once My Husband’s Lover wraps. 

The same constant movement can be said for Carla’s career—already she’s working on a romantic comedy opposite Tom Rodriguez, another horror film, and a TV role. “I don’t think I’m in the position to choose,” she jokes about her next projects. “If there is, I leave it to the hands of my manager and my network. I’ll do whatever they see me doing. I’m giving them my full trust.” The earnestness of the words is matched with her doe-eyed friendliness, and we’re all the more charmed by the sweet vulnerability. As she makes her way through the lobby after the shoot, the groups of fans that start buzzing excitedly at the sighting prove that we’re not the only ones.

  • by Catherine Castañares
  • sittings editor David Jones Cua
  • photographer Filbert Kung
  • stylist Charmaine Palermo
  • ssistants John Rufo and Samantha Chan (  
  • makeup Dino Lazaro (MAC Cosmetics)
  • hair Felicity Son
  • locale Solaire Resort and Casino 

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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


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

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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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