Can Manila House make its zone free of FB and Instagram posts?

“Wake me up after five years and nine months,” said someone over lunch, who was obviously keeping track of the political calendar.

Unfortunately, we had to remind her, it doesn’t happen that way. You either die or be in a coma to tune out that long; sleep doesn’t allow that luxurious length of time. Of course, she was miffed that we ignored her figurative way of expressing horror at today’s events, and that we took her word literally.

How one wishes that what is going on were just a figure of speech, a hyperbole. But it’s not. In fact and in truth, we are in messy times. How did we go from being Asia’s rising tiger to being its laughingstock again (enough to land in a fictitious US TV series featuring a state secretary giving a Philippine president a good whack on the face)? How did we go from stability to uncertainty and anxiety, from a sense of decency to a sense of impunity?

Simple. People believed the brand was crisis, just like the movie of the same title. It was as if their vote was made or lost based on the Edsa traffic and how it was rubbed in into the social-media consciousness 24/7.

The 1986 Edsa Revolution brought down a strongman; the 2016 Edsa traffic brought a strongman to power—that is, if by strongman, one referred to guns blazing and mouth spewing machismo talk.

Strength of character

It’s not yet too late to teach our children how and what a strong man should really be—
it is strength of character. And strength is tested by how one lives by and fights for one’s sense of values, for character is the sum of one’s values.

It is that set of values that informs one’s decision and commitment to society. It gives one that ability to resist temptation, to say no to bribery and corruption, to uphold justice and fairness, and to protect and fight for the rights of others.

It is one’s sense of values that leads one to respect and to protect human life, not only one’s own—a most basic right. It is what makes this world worth passing on to one’s children.

Inner strength in a man and a woman is what you look for, and is not the same as braggadocio. We mistook glibness for inner strength. After all, what is machismo? Is it pulling the trigger or fighting for one’s principles?

‘Can’t sleep’

“I don’t feel safe, not when my kids are out at night. Can’t sleep (until they get home),” said one mother at the table.

“Can’t sleep”—that must sum up how a good part of the population feels, simply because killings are in the atmosphere, everywhere, if not in your middle-class neighborhood, then in your news and social media. Nakakaumay.

In truth, we saw that fear of summary executions under this war on drugs, even in a lifestyle A-lister. One A-lister, whose initials had been mentioned often enough and early on in the drug war (a “war” whose statistics are dubious, much more its “list”) as being on the target list of druggies, simply didn’t know what to do or where to begin, or whom to approach, because he/she didn’t know which list he/she was really on—PDEA, PNP, NBI?

If not on any of these, he/she was advised, he/she could be on a vigilante’s list, and that could be anyone or any group lurking in the shadows. How do you survive such barbarity?

While our friend has survived, thank God, some relationships haven’t. The belligerent times have created fissures right down the family dining table. Never has there been greater division, clutter and confusion as now—a perfect breeding ground for falsehood.

One “tita” of Manila—as ladies who lunch are now sometimes called—found a way to a stress-free lunch in this era of discord. “I lunch only with like-minded friends,” she said. “I can’t stand listening to someone defend the indefensible. It spoils my appetite—good for my diet but bad for my sanity.”

Indeed it’s getting harder to defend the indefensible, and harder still to sleep soundly. Filipinos comprise a race known for its forbearance, as if to be colonized and conquered were in our submissive DNA. We must face current realities and confront our demons—in their literal sense, unfortunately.

From the indefensible, we go to what is perhaps un-implementable.

New exclusive club

There’s a new exclusive club in Manila that people are beginning to talk about, for good or bad (that’s life).

Manila House at Net Park, Bonfacio Global City, soft-opened late last year with the fun birthday party of Anton San Diego, Lifestyle columnist, Tatler editor in chief and one of Manila House’s shareholders. Since then, people have been going to the club to dine and to attend events, the latest of which, last weekend, was the fashion show of Rajo Laurel.

Done by iconic Belgian designer Gert Voorjans, the 5,000-square meter space is the ultimate design showcase. Although some parts are unfinished, it is beautiful, tastefully done, perfect as an urban haunt, especially the veranda backdropped by the skyline.

The concept behind Manila House is that it is an exclusive, very exclusive, private haunt of the metro’s A-List, who must be willing to fork out a six-figure sum to own shares.

It now has a vast dining room with private corners along the side, a Japanese restaurant, with the sought-after chef Gilbert Pangilinan of Kai fame at the helm. A Filipino restaurant is opening soon.

Its founders also intend Manila House to be the venue of interesting activities that will draw a good quality crowd. The highly successful Art Fair just had a satellite event there.

The catch

Naturally, given such beautiful interiors and well-attended events, people have been posting photos on Facebook and Instagram.

The catch? You’re not supposed to, because the place is private and exclusive. You’re supposed to post only photos of the event.

One night I was there, for Dr. Vicki Belo’s dinner for ex-Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, I was snapping away, drawn to so many lovely interior design vignettes, when a Manila House insider reminded me that photo-taking wasn’t allowed and we couldn’t post photos. In this day of Instagram and Facebook? I asked her.

Others have been given such reminders, a case or two yielding not-so-happy results. (Don’t ask me to elaborate.)

Work in progress

Indeed, how do you implement a no-Instagram/ Facebook rule in this day and age? Somehow, those posts will give a glimpse of the setting.

I can’t but sympathize with the Manila House people who are supposed to implement this rule.

Manila House is a curious work-in-progress, which lifestyle kibitzers should enjoy watching from the side, with a few questions:

How does one market an exclusive place which, its founders say, isn’t supposed to be marketed in the first place? By word of mouth, I guess.

How does one create an aspirational haunt in a city teeming with options?

Indeed, how does one build an exclusive and private club? Exclusive clubs around the world aren’t built in a day. It takes generations to build one, usually bound by some fraternity.

Manila House founders want it to be just a place where members can relax and dine in utmost privacy.

How does one balance snobbery and exclusivity with desirability and viability?

How successfully can a place screen guests? How does one build a database of friends without making enemies—in such a small town?
Who will be the exclusive members of Manila House?
You won’t find the answers in FB or IG. (And I won’t tell.)

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