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Leap of Faith

Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Yeung who play significant roles in the fundraising campaign for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod need no introductions. But few know the inner workings of the minds and hearts of these two ladies, so alike in circumstance and yet so different in temperament and discipline.

Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Yeung who play significant roles in the fundraising campaign for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod need no introductions. But few know the inner workings of the minds and hearts of these two ladies, so alike in circumstance and yet so different in temperament and discipline.

How can I refuse Pedro? He was my room mate in Rome!” Thus began a most candid interview with Edna Diago Lhuillier, the wife of former ambassador to the Vatican, Philippe E. Lhuillier.

It was, for me, a distinct pleasure to be given this assignment to meet and interview two of Cebu’s prominent personalities. For the Zee Lifestyle shoot on a warm summer Tuesday, Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung were dutifully enduring the instructions of the photographer even up to two hours beyond lunchtime. Mariquita looked svelte in her black linen Gianfranco Ferre gown and Edna was queenly in her black Cary Santiago ensemble. They must be used to this kind of activity as no one heard them complain, ask for a break, or saw them get uncomfortable the whole time they were being photographed.

The residence of Ambassador and Mrs. Lhuillier in the mountains of Cebu, resplendent with European ecclesiastical artworks, was the perfect backdrop for the two ladies. Befitting too for Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Monsignor Roberto Alesna, the two members of the Cebu Church hierarchy who were assigned by Archbishop Jose Palma to lead the fundraising campaign for the canonization expenses for Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Pedro is the endearing name Cebuanos call the soon to be declared saint from the Visayas. The Cebuanos relate very intimately to Blessed Pedro Calungsod, a layman; he is somehow regarded as one that they call on to. The Cebuanos cannot call him San Pedro, as that pertains to St. Peter the apostle, so Pedro it is.

Msgr. Alesna first asked Mariquita Yeung to co-chair the fundraising drive that, so typical of her, she accepted without any qualms. Two weeks later, she helped Msgr. Alesna in asking Edna Lhuillier to join the project, who couldn’t refuse Pedro and consented to Msgr. Alesna’s request. For indeed she kept the image of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in their bedroom in Rome when the Cebu delegation to Pedro’s beatification asked the then Philippine Ambassador’s wife if she can take care of it so they won’t have to pay extra freight on their way home to Cebu. “Besides, Msgr. Alesna told me that the canonization of Pedro will be on October 21; why, that’s my birthday!” So the die was cast for Edna Lhuillier, the quiet and retiring mother and wife.

Talking to Edna Lhuillier, I found that behind the soft voice is a steely resolve to do the right thing. She is known to personally deliver aid to victims of calamities and will not back down on her resolve to keep politicians out of her way when she does it. This lady has a heart but will not be taken advantage of by people who think they know better.

Her well-ordered world shows in the impeccable service and attention a guest is given in her home. She gaily admits to her love for cooking and entertaining in her homes, no wonder the generous food served that day was beyond reproach. These traits are perfect for an ambassador’s wife who has to entertain a lot and well.

I sensed that Edna Lhuillier would do the right thing even if it exacts a toll on her. She knows her place is beside her husband, and that being an ambassador’s wife takes leaving her comfortable homes in the Philippines. Because of her stringent requirements, it took them two years to find a place befitting an ambassador’s residence in Rome. She talked about how lonely the first two years were in Rome. She missed her children, her grandchildren and her friends in the Philippines. It took some time for her to develop friendships among the other diplomatic wives. But she soldiered on, staying by her husband’s side. Later, both she and the Ambassador found solace in the special friendship they had with the late Cardinal Sanchez.

The Ambassador’s stint in the Vatican lasted eleven years. Edna Lhuillier recounts that for her, the most unforgettable events during those eleven years were the two instances when she met Pope John Paul II. The first one was when they were presented to the Pope as the new ambassador to the Holy See. She remembers that she wanted to cry in the presence of the Pope and reminisces, “He had this aura of goodness and holiness. He was already bent from his affliction but he made sure he would make eye contact. His gaze seemed to bore through you in intensity. I felt so blessed to be near him.” The second time was when the Pope said Mass in St. Peter’s Square, and there were many Filipinos present. All of a sudden, Cardinal Sanchez called them to come to the front and they received Holy Communion from the Pope himself.

Her life after Rome is filled with familial duties, the family business, and the numerous charitable foundations she is actively involved in. She supports seminarians and deserving college scholars. She never forgets Bais, her hometown in Negros Oriental, and extends help to people in need there.

Needless to say, the fundraising for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod will surely have her zealous attention. This lady will do the right thing for Blessed Pedro.

The afternoon was coming to an end but graciously, Mariquita told me that we could schedule her interview later in the week at her home. The interview with Mariquita on a Friday afternoon was revealing. I saw Mariquita wave from her front door who was a refreshing sight in her tan jeans tied with a sash below the waist showing off her reed-thin figure. She told me that she exercises, plays golf and tennis, and goes horseback riding. She adds that lately, her grandson also takes up a lot of her time and energy.

“Do we really have to make it an interview? Let’s just have a nice chat!” That statement set the tone for that afternoon. She was relaxed and in her element in her lovely home, and what a place it was; comfortable chintz-covered settees in the living room, a grand piano lined with beloved family pictures, and a marvelous view of the flamboyant bougainvilleas tumbling all over the walls of the house from the open French doors. Mariquita brought us to the cool comfort of the kitchen cum family room where she talked about her charities, her civic involvements and her children.

A strong presence in her family, she makes sure that everyone is taken care of and happy. Although generous of her time to other causes, Mariquita makes sure that family comes first.

This lady is the force behind the eponymous MSY (Mariquita S. Yeung) Foundation that takes care of indigent children, as well as a special project called “Operation Smile” that gives free operations for cleft-lipped children. For her extensive contribution to society and those in need, the Pope raised her to the Order of St. Sylvester.

Last year, she was tapped by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to head the Beautiful Cebu Movement. Since then she has not stopped asking, cajoling and charming others to help with the rejuvenation of Osmeña Boulevard, the only ceremonial street in Cebu City. The Masquerade Ball, which Mariquita conceptualized to raise funds for the Beautiful Cebu Movement, was a great success. She was able to gather so many people from society and the business world, who generously pledged financial support for the project.

Immediately after consenting to be the co-chair of the fund drive for the canonization expenses of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Mariquita got Brian To on board, a noted strategist from Hongkong. To’s credentials include having graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon, and some other business schools; being a Senior Fellow of the Wharton School, and being a strategist for more than twenty years to some of the Fortune 500 corporations, among others. With his expert guidance, the fund drive should be a successful endeavor.

Only a few privileged women would go out of their way to lend their names to such a massive undertaking; it would have been so much easier to donate a certain amount and be done with it. But these two ladies should be commended for taking on this project, for it is one that intends to raise an amount that runs in the millions, which also raises the question in a lot of people’s minds about the expense for canonizing a saint.

Be that as it may, the fundraising group has embarked on a massive campaign. To whom much is given, much is required, and consciously or not, Edna Lhuillier and Mariquita Yeung live by this principle.

I asked Mariquita if she regretted accepting the gargantuan task. She was sitting languidly in a sofa sipping a cold glass of orange juice.

She softly patted a loose lock of hair back in place and said ever so softly said, “I’ll do it again if I have to.”

  • by Louella Eslao-Alix
  • sittings editor Katsy Borromeo
  • photography Jan Gonzales  
  • hair and make-up Romero Vergara
  • hair and make-up assistant Jessi Egos and Jay Failanga

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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