Were you—or were you not—at the Tatler Ball this year?

Published December 8, 2022, 2:00 PM

by AA Patawaran

With a guest list smaller by half, Tatler Philippines’ 21st-anniversary benefit proved to be the event to close 2022’s ball season

Tessa Prieto and Pia Wurtzbach

Nothing spells “We’re back” more eloquently than the Tatler Ball, which returned with its signature flair at the grand ballroom of the Shangri-La at the Fort in late November after a two-year hiatus on account of the pandemic lockdowns. It was in fact the last act in the triptych of events in this year’s lean ball season, preceded by the Pink Ball, the Estée Lauder charity gala, and the Best Dressed Ball, a Philippine Cancer Society benefit, both of which were held in the same venue.

But this 21st-anniversary gala, more thoughtfully put together by Tatler Philippines managing director Irene Martel-Franciso and her team in the interest of safety,  did wrap up the season on a high note, albeit with a controversial touch. The guest list, acknowledging that, despite the easing of restrictions, we are still in the middle of a global health crisis, had been slashed by half, which helped in the layout of the ballroom with tables stylishly—and maybe even safely—apart. The buzz in the runup to 2022’s most prestigious event revolved around who was in and who was out (of the guest list), but the Tatler team proved more than discreet and diligent, if not a little clever, in trimming down the list. With the exception of those who had prior commitments abroad, no one was conspicuously absent at the ball.

Stephanie Zubiri and Scott Woodward
Eric Dee and Bea Soriano Dee
Javi Martinez and Tim Yap
Ria Prieto and Paolo Prieto
Nix Alanon and Rajo Laurel
Chito Vijandre, Ricky Toledo, Linda Ley, Rikki Dee, and Beng Dee
Small Laude
Antonio Ressano and Rocio Olbes-Ressano
Mark Bumgarner, Lovi Poe, and Earl Semitara
Joel Rama del Prado and Carla Larrazabal-del Prado
BJ Pascual, Anne Curtis, and Isabel Martel-Francisco
Aivee Teo and Z Teo

The program was refreshingly short, with Tim Yap and Stephanie Zubiri as hosts, who were joined at the auction by the self-confessed newbie Small Laude. Tatler Philippines editor in chief Anton San Diego, with Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, was called in to announce the recipients of the Tatler Awards, given to individuals who had made enough contribution to making the community a better place, which this year had been reduced to only three major distinctions—The Impact Award, which was received by broadcaster, journalist, and breast cancer awareness advocate Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, the Cultural Icon Award, which went to painter Ronald Ventura, and the Diamond Award, which was given to tycoon Ramon Ang.

Little did he know that of all the blings that made the night shine, the ‘shiningest’ of all were the checkbooks the guests brought with them to the Tatler Ball.

Dinner was a simple five-course menu whipped up by Shangri-La The Fort executive chef Joris Rycken. Entertainment, highlighted by an endearing performance by the Mandaluyong Children’s Choir, was subdued, that is, until powerhouse singer and theater actor Bituin Escalante went on stage toward the end of the evening, getting the guests, dressed in voluminous gowns mostly by choice designers Inno Sotto, Rajo Laurel, Mark Bumgarner, and Puey Quiñones, sometimes with long, heavy trains, up on their feet on the dancefloor.

Randy Francisco, Irene Martel-Francisco, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson, Nedy Tantoco, and Patrick Jacinto
Mariana Zobel de Ayala and John Wood
Ramon Ang and Anton San Diego

While stylish restraint might be the phrase to use for this year’s ball of all balls, the sky was the limit at the Tatler Ball 2022 auction. The target for the evening was to raise ₱8 million for U-Go Philippines, headed by Marianna Zobel de Ayala, whose principal, U-Go Global founder John Wood, flew in for the event, promising on behalf of an Australian donor to match the target should it be reached. Little did he know that of all the blings that made the night shine, the “shiningest” of all were the checkbooks the guests brought with them to the ball. As of writing, the auction has raised over ₱40 million. That’s a lot of money to serve the evening’s purpose, whose modest aim was only to raise enough money—just ₱8 million—to send at least 1,000 well-deserving Filipinas to school.

Having a ball has not been this good.