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Man of the Hour: Sen. Chiz Escudero

More a series of impressions than a direct political portrait, a conversation with Senate reelectionist Francis Escudero, better known to the public as Chiz, reveals the ideals and goals that move a man who could be president one day.

More a series of impressions than a direct political portrait, a conversation with Senate reelectionist Francis Escudero, better known to the public as Chiz, reveals the ideals and goals that move a man who could be president one day.

Senator Francis Joseph Guevara escudero wears his stature easily, making it look so effortless and so apt. Yet his being likeable goes beyond having his very down-to-earth nickname—Chiz being a youthful moniker that immediately signifies new blood. He gives off a sense of the “everyman,” and with it that trust factor that wins people over or blunts any sort of misgiving. As a senator who does product endorsement as favors for friends who own businesses, as he told Manila times earlier this July, his smiling face is seen on billboards and buses just as his serious countenance is on television during televised senate hearings. Curiously, both sides to his persona make him seem all the more accessible. In fact, at a recent photo shoot for another endorsement, Chiz had barely stepped out of the studio for a short break when a few women burst from the adjacent office to ask for a photo. Gamely, the senator indulged them. The reaction he elicits is a little bit like a rock star, albeit in a subdued way, with his presence inspiring giddy smiles from people waiting to take a photo with him.

When the flurry of activities dies down, he notes, “I’m not used sa ganung klaseng atensyon (to this kind of attention).” it’s a little surprising, if a tad self-effacing, considering he does look the part of a self-assured public figure. He even jokes, “Madalas ko ngang sinasabi nung high school ako, lahat ng mga crush ko walang crush sa ‘kin e. (When I was in high school, everyone I had a crush on didn’t like me back)” More seriously, he admits, “Pinagpawisan ‘yung kamay ko at may kaba pa rin ako ‘pag nagsasalita. (I still get nervous whenever I have to speak.)” Still, he welcomes this uneasiness as a “good feeling,” going on to say, “it keeps my feet on the ground, makes me more real and in touch with who I was before I entered politics. A day will come soon that I’ll no longer be in politics and be back to who I was before I joined it.”

In the face of many politicians who see the impression of retirement as an alien concept, this one thinks of the day he would leave public service behind, leaving the impression that he would voluntarily do so when the time comes. “No one sits or holds a position forever. Kung hindi ko kayang gawin ‘yon (when I won’t be able to do the job), someone will step up to the plate and perform the job perhaps even better than I have or will ever be able to.”

Senator Chiz is an articulate, self-edited speaker who delivers his words rapidly. It’s a little disconcerting, this speaking cadence; it makes most of the things he says sound like a practiced speech instead of an impromptu answer, but that’s just a manner called for by his position. During the shoot, the senator laughs and talks easily, but that might seem inappropriate when he’s on duty. “’Yung salita ko kasi, nanggaling sa pelikulang Pilipino na mahilig manood ‘yung yaya ko nun (I learned how to talk from Filipino movies that my nanny used to like watching).” he adds, “Kasi inimbento naman ang salita para magkaintindihan tayo, hindi para magandang pakinggan. Mas mahalaga na maintindihan ka. (Language was invented for us to understand each other, not for it to sound good. It’s more important to be understood.)”

Coming from a middle class family, he proudly says, “hanggang ngayon ‘yon pa rin ang pananaw at pagtingin ko sa sarili ko. Lumaki ako sa ordinaryong bahay, nag-aral sa pampublikong paaralan, nagba-basketball sa kanto—lahat ‘yon pinagdaanan ko. (That’s still the way I see myself. I grew up in an ordinary house, went to public school, played basketball on the street—I went through all that.)”

The senator is a fourth- generation escudero to serve as a pubic official, his father the late Salvador Escudero, Marcos-era Minister of Food and agriculture before moving on to become the Secretary of Agriculture in 1996 and later a congressman. The family name, he notes, is what makes people assume wealth, because of the popular Villa Escudero, a plantation and resort on the border of Quezon and Laguna that belongs to distant relatives.

Tt’s one thing to build a reputation, and another to keep it. The senator enjoys a high public approval rating, winning his seat in the senate with the second highest number of votes, only slightly behind Senator Loren Legarda. Running for a re-election in 2013, the senator topped a Pulse Asia survey published in December 2011. His highly public persona has been met with criticism, as has been his designs for the highest seat in the land. “Anyone who’s in politics right now who says they do not have an eye for the presidency is lying through his teeth,” he says. “Wala namang masama roon. (there’s nothing wrong with that)”

Still, when asked if he thinks he is ready for the job, he quickly says, “no one is ready to be president. Walang isang taong kayang gawin lahat ‘yan. (there’s noone who can do all that) I think it’s a question of having your heart in the right place, and of being in government long enough to know its limitations and what needs to be done, but not too long to be eaten by the system and not be able to effect meaningful change anymore.”

One thing he learned from his father is to live a simple life, its importance especially emphasized during the EDSA Revolution in 1986. “Noong panahon ni Marcos, akala nila wala nang katapusan ang pagiging nasa pwesto nila. Pero hindi ganun ang tatay ko at sa murang edad nakita ko ‘yon. Mula sa pagkakaroon ng maraming kaibigan, maraming nagbibigay ng kung anu-anong regalo, biglang nawala lahat ‘yon. (During Marcos’ time, the politicians thought there was no end to their terms. But my dad wasn’t like that and i saw that at a young age. having a lot of friends and receiving a lot of gifts, it was just suddenly gone.)” But he recalls still having a relatively normal life compared to those displaced by the former president’s loss of power.

He also remains pragmatic when it comes to working within the system. “Most people think: ‘ayaw ko pumasok sa gobyerno kasi ang dumi nila (i don’t want to be in the government because they’re corrupt.)’ Kaya siguro madudumi nga ang ibang nasa gobyerno dahil ang malilinis ayaw pumasok e. (Maybe officials are corrupt because the good ones don’t want to go into politics.) Secondly, you can’t change anything from the outside. to change things, the effort should come both from the inside and the outside. Third, siguro ‘yon ang dahilan kung bakit ako maaga pumasok sa pulitika at kung bakit ayaw kong tumanda sa pulitika. Kasi kung katulad ko rin sila, dapat umalis na rin ako rito. (Maybe that’s the reason i entered politics early and why i don’t want to grow old in that position, because if once I become like those who are corrupt, then it’s time for me to go.)”

The outlook on the government might come from the televised hearings that deal with those accused of corruption and inquests into missing funds by the millions—figures that are a travesty to be thrown in the face of many living in poverty. “It is frustrating sometimes, but also unfair,” says Senator Chiz, before arguing that the media often reports only the most sensational. “Hindi namin kasalanan kung ang kino-cover ng media lang ‘yong away at ‘yong kontrobersiya. (It’s not our fault that the media only covers the fights and the controversies.) that it’s seen on tV does not necessarily mean that that’s the only thing we’re doing. That’s just how it is, we cannot impose on media what they will air on tV or radio, or write in print.”

Of all his work, he says he is proudest when, as a Congressman, he was instrumental in providing electricity in barangays in Sorsogon, even connecting them via a road network–things taken for granted in cities. Meanwhile, as a member of the Senate, he values having given voice to a good number of Filipinos in the various issues of government. Like most citizens, he decries the lack of continuity in projects, believing that there should be career officials in certain departments. “Certain departments should have career officials, for continuity regardless of who the president is. Otherwise, ‘yong bagong palit na Secretary, ire-review to death ‘yong mga ginawa ng nakaraan, hahanapin ng butas at kaso. (The new Secretary would just review the programs of the previous, looking for something to build a case on.)”

Believing that “government is about allocating scarce resources,” the senator says that when he does choose to run for higher office, “Kwentas klaras,” he saus pointedly. “What you see is what you get. Our platform would be based on the national budget. Kung hindi mo naman popondahan ‘yan, ‘wag ka nang magaksaya ng laway. (If you’re not going to put money in, then don’t waste your breath.)” He cites the examples of the government choosing to allocate one billion pesos per province to 80 provinces. “We have a budget of nearly two trillion persos already. One billion lang ang pinaguusapan natin. Walongpu lang ang probinsya mo eh. Kada probinsya, iba ang pangangailangan. Habang tumataas and pwesto mo, mas lalo ka dapat magtanon kung anong kailangan ng pinaglilingkuran mo. (We’re only talking about one billion for just eighty provinces. Each province has its own needs. The higher office you hold, the more you should be asking about the needs of the people you serve.)”

As for future political plans, he keeps it simple. “In general terms, I just want to continue to represent the people. I also want to focus on education. I haven’t been fortunate enough to the chair of the Committee of Education in the Senate. Hopefully this coming Congress, I will.” Of course, an elected official has additional burdens that he is accountable for, and Senator Chiz has more ideas about how things should be run within the system. As he champions the plight of the less fortunate and to address the inequalities in the government, what really drives him to public services is simply: “I’ve always wanted to be remembered for having dones something while remembering that I should keep my name clean.”

His personal life may have recently become entertainment and internet fodder, thanks to a new relationship with actress Heart Evangelista, but Senator Chiz points out, “It’s not coming from us. Hiwalay naman kasi ‘yon e. ‘Yong personal kong buhay, walang kinalaman sa trabaho ko. (That’s a separate matter. My personal life has nothing to do with my work.)” He is clear that, even while still married, he refuses to take his work home with him. Outside of the job, his family is his motivation, making a point to spend time with his kids, fraternal twins Maria cecilia and Joaquin cruz. Especially now as a single parent, he comes home between appointments and even makes an effort to instill discipline, for them “to have a sense na hindi lahat ng gusto nilang gawin, pwede nilang gawin. (that they can’t do everything they want to do.)” In fact, this holiday season, the thing he most looks forward to is to see “the look on my twins’ faces when they open their gifts.”

There really is a sense of lightness in how Senator Chiz carries himself, perhaps the lack of a self- important air. During the interview, he arrives without a coterie of staff fussing over him or a hound of bodyguards to keep anyone from getting too close. The truthfulness of a public official isn’t in rhetoric, it is in action; and Senator Chiz is an idealist with a vision to change the system
to serve people better. Whether he succeeds or simply ignites hope for future leaders, hopefully what he’s done so far as a true public servant will hold when put to the test, especially in light of the hard work that has chosen him.

  • by Annie S. Alejo
  • photography Doc Marlon Pecjo
  • art direction and styling by Melo Esguerra
  • shot on location at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila Hotel
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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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People

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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