Latest Stories

Filipino art takes on a different level in new hotel


HALA Jaber with Edwin Wilwayco’s “Scherzo” XXIV and XXV at the lobby

Edwin Wilwayco’s arresting diptych of ambiguous figures  in strokes of reds and browns surprise visitors upon entering the Raffles Suites’ lobby, in Ayala Center, Makati.

As they look closer and hear the strains of piano music from the adjacent lounge, they realize they are abstractions of musicians and the paintings are odes to the scherzo.

Likewise, Daniel de la Cruz’s sculpture of a woman’s body inside a cello echoes the musical theme. While sipping tea or cocktails at the lounge, guests  savor “Harana” (The Serenade), a group of six paintings setting the romance.

Small paintings of a leaf-blower, a pianist, harmonica-player and a violinist surround a barong-clad man wooing a long-haired woman. Beside their portrait is a magician suggesting the “magic of the moment.”

DANIEL de la Cruz’s “Magnificat” at the lobby

Lebanese art consultant Hala Jaber explains that since the lobby lounge is a venue for entertainment, musical-themed artworks would enhance the ambience. The experience stands in for the custom of Filipinos greeting foreigners and balikbayan with music.

Beyond decoration, art is interlaced with the guest’s or inhabitant’s experience at the Raffles Suites and Raffles Residences. They have a collection of over 1,700 commissioned artworks, which is unprecedented in the hotel industry.

Hotel identity

A sociologist, Jaber approaches art in a cultural context. While living in Ghana, she wanted to furnish her home with African art. However, African art  can be overwhelming. Thus, she started researching on the culture, the local artists, and incorporated her knowledge of Western aesthetics.

“I worked on concepts and color combinations,” she recalls.

Every painting had a theme that complemented the activity or the mood of a house.

Her curation made such an impact that she was hired by Kingdom Hotel Inc. (KHI), the investment company of Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, which develops and manages high-end properties in the hospitality industry.

Her first job was to select the art for historical Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana. The collection reflected the soul of Ghanian culture.

“THE SINGAPORE Sling” is localized with a bartender making a cocktail from
San Miguel Beer.

When KHI was building the Fairmont-Raffles property for the Ayalas, Jaber was tasked to source artworks for the Raffles hotel and service apartment.

She visited the main galleries and museums and dined with local artists. One day, sculptor Ramon Orlina lent his driver to take her to St. Luke’s Global City. Jaber was impressed by the diversity  and how managing director and art connoisseur Dr. Joven Cuanang integrated Filipino expression as a fundamental element in the hospital design.

Jaber observes most artworks in other hotels seem dispassionate, leaving the visitor cold.

“Here we make it personal,” she says.

When she collaborated with 35 artists, she told them art was a part of the hotel’s identity. It should cohere with the architecture, design, concept, the spirit of Raffles and the vibe of the culture.

“I checked every artwork myself. There was an easel in my office, which turned into a studio. We talked to artists about last-minute changes so that some colors would suit the place. Even the framing was done in a homey feel.”

Jaber’s concept was to depict Philippine culture in unexpected ways and to invite guests to think more deeply about their experience. The hotel location, the activities and its clientele were considered.

Pop-culture homage

At the elevator foyer, “The Explorer” by Gerry Joguico portrays trade during colonial times. A Spanish galleon is surrounded by images of banana trees evocative of the tropics; old stamps; the travelers’ palm logo of Raffles; an antique crest; and 19th-century elite which suggests the hotel’s upscale clientele.

DELPHINE Delorme’s collage of boxing images at Long Bar

The painting, which portrays luxury travel in the Spanish times, suits a high-traffic area such as the vestibule.

“People come and go here,” Jaber says.

The Long Bar represents icons of Filipino culture. Cebu-based French artist Delphine Delorme’s Pop Art collages reveal our fascination with beauty contests, Manny Pacquiao, and social pastimes.

In the boxing collage, Pacquiao’s features are softened.

“He mustn’t look aggressive as this is a bar,” maintains Jaber.

His portrait is superimposed with images of “Thrilla in Manila” and a poster announcing Pancho Villa. It is contrasted with a feminine collage of Carnival Queens.

The third is a pastiche of turn-of-the-century cigar and alcohol labels and a couple dancing.

JOJO Austria’s “Metropolitan Manila” shows Manila Bay and the visual cacophony of the city, along the corridors of the ninth floor of Raffles Hotel.

Cartoonist Sherwin Gonzalez and artist Anthony Palomo pay homage to an original print on the making of the Singapore Sling, a signature cocktail at the Raffles Bar in Singapore. The local version humorously shows a series on how a bartender makes a cocktail with San Miguel Beer and a tiger getting drunk afterward.

Even the restrooms at the bar are enlivened with amusing artworks. The men’s room has an ambigram of “Joy to You,” which reads the same backward on its mirror reflection. An animé of a woman with big eyes and red lips suggests that the female powder room is a place for touch-ups.

Along the corridors, guests feel as if they’re touring the city with earth-toned abstractions of buildings, electrical posts, bancas, jeepneys by Jojo Austria.

Since Raffles is at the heart of the Central Business District, the artworks are subtle and relaxing, yet reflective of Filipino sentiment.

“Every suite should tell a story,” says Jaber.


To show the Philippines’ historical link with Spain, all suites are furnished with Rafael Cusi’s triptych of a bailaora, a Spanish dancer and portrait of a matador, done in soft washes and ink.

The romance of Clarence Eduarte’s  “Lumina” and “Flora” in the living and dining area plays against the urban mixed-media abstraction of Max Balatbat.

Another suite displays idyllic themes such as Cusi’s “Old Spanish Town”;  Leopoldo Aguilar’s “Lady Ukkil”; laced with Maranao patterns, Palomo’s diptych of travels; and Carlos Rocha’s sculpture of a fisherman.

These integrate seamlessly with the theme of vacation and make the stay of the guests more enjoyable.  They feel part of an experience without knowing exactly why.

RAFAEL Cusi’s bailaora doing a flamenco turn is an homage to our Spanish influence.

As the elevator opens to the hallways of the Raffles Residences, the inhabitant or guest is greeted by powerful images of the Pahiyas, embroidery, the sorbetero, the banig, bamboo, weaving, the carnival, street vendors, Maria Makiling and pintados.

On several floors, Balatbat sets chicken wire and geometric patterns against stenciled tiles, portraying amorphous images of Makati.

“Some paintings are more obvious than others. This looks more like a map,” defends Jaber.

A triptych of Japanese artist Wataru Sakuma’s mulberry-paper art is found in every bedroom of the service apartment. As one wakes up, Palomo’s painting of a bicycle amid a background of leaves stirs feelings of vigor and activity.

“It inspires you to exercise. You want to feel fresh, and it’s whimsical,” says Jaber.

When the person comes home to the unit, Rocha’s painting of a large piano with wine, roses and a date lends a welcoming presence in the loving room.

“You have to feel good—that’s the story of my art,” says Jaber.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Art , Hotels , Lifestyle , Raffles Suites

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  5. Almost mugged on Chino Roces Avenue
  6. How healing waters accompanied my journey of faith
  7. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  8. ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  9. Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  10. Philippine novelist wins US book award amid cancer and ‘Yolanda’
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  • Group: Bataan cop killed to stop him from exposing colleagues linked to drug ring
  • Chemical Engineer licensure examination
  • Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
  • Palace: Our concern is to ensure MRT runs smoothly
  • Sports

  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics