Wednesday, October 14, 2009

cambodian connections

The great thing about living in Cambodia is being able to welcome people you'll probably never have a chance to meet at home or anywhere else in the planet for that matter. I guess it's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time...

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed the group of Ben Chan, creative director and founder of Bench, the Philippines' largest retail group with clothing stores stretching from San Francisco to San Fernando, Dubai to Divisoria, Beijing to Boni Avenue. He was with Miguel, the head architect of Bench; talent managers Arnold and Rey; Xander Tantoco and Mons, daughter of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo.

They visited our shop, Poetry, and did a big shopping spree. Ben got a couple of stuffs and was especially fond of the book I did. He asked me to collaborate on him on some design projects for Bench and Pinoy Lab. My designs will be available on Bench this December!

Had dinner with them on the last night at the Aman House. T'was such great fun.

The next couple of weeks, I got a call from the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh to welcome and help out Senator Pia Cayetano on her trip to Angkor. She came with friend Anne who happens to be a triathlete like the senator.

Senator Cayetano was here as a speaker for a United Nations-sponsored conference. A young driven politician, a great mom and a health buff, she is truly an incredible person that it's hard to believe she exists in the flesh... my wife and I have just become a big, big fan.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

three countries, one calamity

You've probably seen it in the news, or you've probably been one of those affected ones brought bu what is now dubbed as "Asia's Katrina" or the storm that broke records. Typhoon Ketsana will definitely be on everybody's books and until now, countless people are still picking up the pieces. I was "unlucky" enough to experience its wrath... in three countries nonetheless.

It started on the morning of the 25th of September, when I was still in Manila. I was preparing for my trip home to Cambodia, so I went to Greenbelt and Glorietta to do my final shopping as my trip is not until 2:30 in the afternoon. I left at around 8 am and the rain has already stopped. At around 10:30 am, the rain was absolutely beyond control and it was impossible to get a cab. After an hour of trying, I was able to find myself one but when we reached San Lorenzo Village in Makati to get my luggage, the house where I was staying at is already flooded to the waist. I was able to get my 40-kilo luggage from the flood waters all the way to the waiting taxi almost a kilometer away (the driver wouldn't plunge his car to the water even of I paid him a million bucks) and off to the airport we go. I was drenched to the bone. My Issey Miyake sneakers were squishing and I was shivering from the cold. I told myself I'll change when we get to the airport.
But as luck would have it, 80% of Manila was already underwater and we were stuck in traffic trying to find our way out in a little more than 4 hours. At 3:30, I gave up and asked the driver to take me to any hotel in Makati.

This is the scene right after the rain subsided, but it was just total havoc in the city.

The next day, I was able to get myself to the airport and was able to finally board the plane. The flight though was delayed for 4 hours as there was no electricity in the international airport. All baggages have to be loaded manually as the conveyors weren't working.

When we arrived in Bangkok, Ketsana has caught up on us and we were on standstill at the runway for an hour because of the lightning unfolding. I got out of the airport at almost midnight and Silom road was drenched to its knees.

When I went back, the airport was almost a ghost town. I finally made it to the flight the next day and was home in Cambodia at around 9 am.

But I was on for another surprise. Ketsana made it to Cambodia. This is the first time this ever happened as Cambodia is literally typhoon free. Everyone was caught by surprise when rain poured like crazy for 2 days. The river overflowed for the first time in history and this monk was trading the East River Road where theOrient Express Hotel is located.

Waters reached an alarming level and this motorcycle almost didn't make it.

Pub Street was still littered with toursits, but was also virtually a canal.

The Old Market Area is almost impassable and my car almost stalled in the middle of it this morning.

Don, my wife (both still toting Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood in the middle of the calamity) and myself have to go out to shop for supplies as we have no electricity in the house in the past 2 days. I also had to get money from the bank to pay for my staff's salaries, so we had to brave the raging flood waters... in style...

Our fashionable New Yorker friend Eliz was still in vogue in the midst of it all. She deserves to be n the next cover of the September issue.

The biggest drawback here is that the Cambodians were totally unprepared for this storm. This has never transpired here and that was actually one of the reasons why we moved from the Philippines to here. I guess we all have to brace ourselves for global warming...