To give the deceased a tasteful farewell, three equally chic and creative sisters have set up a company that offers customized urns and styling for wakes, Comfortscape.
It all began when their father, Antonio Bonoan, passed away in 2012. Siblings Rosario Bettina “Tina” Bonoan, Maria Paz “Mari” Escaño and Maria Leticia “Mailet” Ancheta couldn’t find a suitable urn for the patriarch’s ashes. They wanted to give him an elegant send-off, but most of the available urns looked too antiseptic or lacking in aesthetic.
Bonoan called her close friend, art consultant and gallery owner Albert Avellena, to find urns done by artists. They finally found pottery from Joey de Castro.
Two years later, their mother Leticia Sr. died. The siblings again had a difficult time finding a suitable urn for their stylish mother, who had a flair for decorating and entertaining.
For their mother’s wake at Santuario de San Antonio, the sisters sought the help of designer-manufacturer Al Caronan, who set up her ceramic urn on two tiers of purple cattleyas, atop an organic woven pedestal. The older Leticia’s smiling photograph was set on a patterned divider. Two cylindrical capiz floor lamps from their mother’s house lent the setting a personal touch. Purple cattleyas and white phalaenopses overflowed from the urns.
Bonoan said she had always wanted to style wakes, but their father once said, ”Maghanapbuhay ka, huwag hanap patay.”
Then again, the sisters are creative and entrepreneurial. Bonoan is an architect/interior designer and former editor of an architecture magazine. Escaño owns Massage by Us, which services villages in Makati.
Ancheta creates lounge wear and skincare products in Alon Island Essentials.
The siblings believe that anything connected with death need not be morbid and boring.
“The candelabras, the tacked mass cards, the litter of flowers—we’re stuck in an antiseptic aesthetic about death,” says Bonoan.
The siblings underscored that Comfortscape is not a funeral planner. The fledgling company present an alternative outside of conventional services provided by funeral homes.
Comfortscape collaborates with artists for the urns. Joey de Castro produces ceramic urns using raku, which uses the Japanese pottery technique to produce a smoky effect. Impy Pilapil and daughter Isa produce marble and stainless steel urns. Impy’s stainless steel urns include her signature wave patterns.
Pidge Reyes has made mosaic tile urns and metal accessories to personalize the urns. Bonoan designs urns as rectangles, obelisks, spheres, pyramids in mother-of-pearl, capiz, pen shell and black lip shells. Caronan provides some accessories.
The result is a unique style which combines the earthy textures of native material such as coco wood candleholders and rattan dividers, with their favorite plants such as anahaw leaves, sillom, rattan flowers and orchids, lamps, ethnic jars and baskets, glass containers and wooden stands. They call the setting the “departure area” for their next journey.
Having experienced the loss of their parents, the sisters can understand the grief of their clients. They understand that it is delicate business where one has to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the family members. Still, they’ve managed to strike a balance.
In one wake, the urn was perched on a wooden stump against a capiz wall with a vine grid. It was softened by their signature Floralscape.
Visitors said that the wake wasn’t gloomy but soothing.
Asked their definition of a consoling wake, each had her concept.
“Simplicity need not be extravagant,” says Ancheta.
“No claws for the mass cards and fluorescent lights,” replies Escaño.
Says Bonoan, “We just want to provide wakes that families and friends can remember that it was a reassuring experience.” —CONTRIBUTED