The party scene is back with a vengeance. While the genteel society prefer intimate dinners at home or artsy events, there are hosts who pull out all the stops and serial partygoers who either attend to be photographed (and get upset if they are not mentioned in the society columns) or just want to have fun. Sycophants (mambobola) or phony friends are perennial fixtures.
The Old Guard is still around and stand out in the crowd for their presence—entrepreneur/dancesport proponent/society columnist Becky Garcia and loyal husband Dr. George Sarakinis; charity fundraiser Helen Ong; socialite Connie Garcia and husband Vic, a former diplomat; Noel Oñate; Mellie Ablaza, who was cocooned during the pandemic and is slowly spreading her wings again; Virgie Lane, and Nene Leonor, who’s pushing 91.
We asked partyphiles what motivates them to keep a busy social calendar.
Unabashed about wooing the limelight, Agile Zamora is a “hyperachieving lady of leisure,” the Wall Street Journal’s term for women who socialize to the hilt. Exercising some propriety, she churns out a weekly society column pro bono for a newspaper and is active in the Best Dressed Women of the Philippines fundraising for the Philippine Cancer Society.
Although she turned 55 last January, she will cocelebrate her birthday with entrepreneurs Luis “Cocoy” Cordoba and Irene Montemayor on July 28 at Cove Manila in Okada. Zamora will bring in some 200 guests. Titled “Wickedly Wild 2,” it is the sequel to Cordoba’s racy birthday party in 2022, which had nearly naked foreign models as decoration, but with a no-touch policy.
Zamora’s preparation for this party is extensive. She undergoes an average of six antiaging noninvasive treatments and Botox for maintenance, beauty IV drips and stem cell therapy from Villa Medica, as well as several laser treatments for body contouring.
“I don’t count how much I spend,” she says, since her adoring husband, Amando “Wopsy” Zamora, dotes on her.
After the parties, her favorite designer Dobie Aranda brings her wardrobe at midnight to her place. Bedtime for her is 11 a.m. and she’s up by dusk for another event or for retail therapy at Greenbelt.
A natural raconteur, she could be the heir apparent to the octogenarian spinner of yarn, Johnny Litton.
“Parties are my Vitamin F—fun and friends,” she says.
Decorator/entrepreneur Cocoy Cordoba made news in 2004 when he celebrated his house blessing in Punta Fuego with a lavish Mediterranean party, replete with tents laden with Persian carpets, belly dancers, fortune tellers and Middle Eastern-looking models. With lighting, fireworks and horses, the bill amounted to P3 million. Cordoba had since been in every guest list until he kept a low profile in 2009.
Weary of the pandemic isolation, he hosted several parties in his home in Muntinlupa that earned him the title “King of COVID.”
Last year, Cordoba spent P5 million for his birthday bash, “Wickedly Wild 1,” for two nights. The coterie of 26 models, 30 ledge dancers and pole artists in various stages of undress titillated the guests. The talent manager of the foreign models, who wore a sheer lacy outfit, won the only prize—a 60-inch flat screen TV—for the sexiest attire.
His forthcoming 67th birthday party will be “wilder.” The banquettes will be turned into beds. Twelve models in strappy bondage costumes will slightly reference the sado-masochistic scene from “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Cordoba notes that there are no explicit sex scenes since these would violate the rules of any hotel. By popular demand, the sushi bar with models lying on tables with sushi and sashimi on top of their flesh will return.
“People ask why I spend so much for parties. I believe in giving 100 percent or I don’t do it at all,” he says.
Cordoba will be saving a little this year, since Irene Montemayor will share the bill as a cocelebrator, despite being born on May 3.
Montemayor marked her 44th birthday at Bar 9 in Molito Mall, Alabang, last June. With the theme of “Game Night,” she organized a hybrid event—a live baccarat card game and online billiards and casino. The 200-person capacity bar was reduced to 120 guests in order to accommodate the card tables, gaming assistants, live band and the dance floor. Guests were given P1,000 worth of credits for the two online games. The jackpot was P5 million given by the online casino partner.
Montemayor has been known for throwing pageants, milestone parties and fashion shows at the Shangri-La at the Fort where she is on the VIP list.
Last year, when her daughter Sophia held her debut, she wore a resplendent gown by Michael Cinco, whose designs could buy a car. Stylist Robert Blancaflor put up an enchanted garden at the ballroom.
“I always make sure the parties are fun for my kids,” says Montemayor. One of the debut souvenirs was a glossy magazine, conceptualized by editor John Pascua and photographer Dookie Ducay. Sophia and Montemayor modeled at the Dior and Louis Vuitton boutiques. “Dior requested me to be part of the shoot,” she says.
“People think my parties fetch P30 million. The expenses aren’t even a quarter of that amount. There’s a way to organize parties where you get value for your money.”
Making up for teenage deprivation is the raison d’etre for going to town with parties. “I wasn’t allowed to party when I was growing up. My curfew was at 9 p.m. Tumatanda ako nang paurong. (I’m aging backwards),” says Montemayor.
Mache Torres Ackerman
Educator, philanthropist, motivational speaker, life coach and Rotarian Mache Torres Ackerman parties with a purpose.
“I want to give back,” she says. Ackerman leads the Rotary Makati Business District, which branched from Rotary Makati. She and her husband David are in the international Rotary Foundation’s highest tier of donors, the Arch Klumphe Society. These benefactors have contributed at least $250,000 in their lifetime.
Ackerman recruited chef-patron Jessie Sincioco to the Rotary Club and contributed to the chef’s charity, The Hapag Movement, the hunger alleviation and livelihood program of Globe. When Ackerman celebrated her birthday at Chef Jessie’s in Rockwell, 50 percent of her bill was donated to The Hapag Movement.
For 15 years, Ackerman has been spending her birthdays at the Mandaluyong Correctional for women. Last year, she likewise marked her birthday with the launch of her inspirational book, “Explore the Essence of You,” which is available on Amazon.
“Aside from the Rotary events, there are birthday fundraisers, the Philippine Cancer Society events, monthly gathering with Johnny Litton, among others. Sure, there are politics. Matira, matibay (survival of the fittest). When there is negativity in the parties, I pull out. I’m allergic to intrigues,” she says.
At the height of pandemic restrictions, Leonor bided time by fixing up the garden and building a swimming pool.
“I was afraid to go out because of my age and was afraid to catch COVID. But I became lazy staying at home. I decided to dress up and feel better,” she says. Leonor continues to host intimate events at her home. Plans are afoot to hold a bigger party soon. “I have so many friends. When you invite one, they bring their group.” —Contributed INQ