The Manila Hotel’s romantic Champagne Room turns into a crystal-and-silver forest for magical times at Benjie Yap’s birthday
Images by NOEL PABALATE
You have to hand it to bon vivant Benjie C. Yap. His parties always reflect his cheerful nature, his natural inclination to be happy and share good times, or what’s a party for? And, as the song reminds, what are friends for? Friends are what and who matter to Benjie.
Indeed, every birthday party that he gives is a work of love, a combination of art and delightful slavery (as he calls it), an orgy of work and preparation. From getting the venue done to drawing up an elegant menu, the goal is a few hours of fun with friends. What are friends for if they cannot be happy together?
Manny Samson, architect and interior designer renowned near and far, “curated the whole thing from beginning to end,” said Rachy Cuna, stylist of Manila Hotel.
On the night of Jan. 8, Benjie’s friends walked into a crystal-and-silver forest that had temporarily shed its identity as the hotel’s romantic Champagne Room. Anything that was not crystal or silver was temporarily removed and replaced with glass, glass all around you could hear it tinkling like silver bells in the back of your head. Streams of glass dripped like leaves hanging from a branch caught in the rain.
The goal is a few hours of fun with friends. What are friends for if they cannot be happy together?
Benjie’s theme was “Celebrating Silver Linings”—a reference, he explained, “to rising from the ashes of the pandemic.” Appropriately, he decreed that his guests come in black, white, or silver; black and white being the colors of a formal event, silver referring to the brighter side of rain clouds.
Benjie’s family—chairman Basilio Yap, vice chairman Emilio C. Yap, Fermin Reyes, Mio and Michelle Yap—welcomed the guests, every one of whom seemed to have obediently followed the color coding, to be matched on the ladies’ gowns by their diamonds all a’glitter. Under the soft lights of the crystal trees glowed Baby Arenas, Edna Camcam, Marivic Vazquez, Janet Yap, Fortune Ledesma, Gina de Venecia, Nikki Coseteng, Ching Cruz, Rennie Andrews, Evelyn Tan. The gentlemen were at their best behavior in their formal wear (I had fun admiring the myriad color combinations of their neckties). Among the handsome couples were Amb. and Mrs. Joey Antonio, Tony and Tina Torralba, Ricky and Olivia Yap, Putch and Joy Puyat, Niwa and Olive Ang. Jun Palafox was in a white suit that stood out even in the shadows. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon sat at an all-guys table.
On his birthday, 35-year-old septuagenarian Benjie wore an oversized butterfly studded with diamonds on his black silk brocade jacket, a brilliant counterpoint to his shoes—when will I see such an army of twinkling stones marching in perfect formation ever again on a man’s footwear!