If there’s such a thing as a humor check, best to do it with US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson during Halloween. Her residence in Makati is filled with decorations that speak volumes of the woman who knows how to have fun.
We caught up with her again during the US Embassy’s Great American Halloween Feast on Oct. 13 at Carlson’s home. The date was likely chosen because it fell on Friday the 13th. She was easy to spot in the crowd because she wore a long dark gold dress, topped with a striped gold and black long shawl and a lacy pointed hat. She put together a bunch of accessories to finish off her look, including finger wrap rings.
“I got them (rings) a long time ago from Xi’an, China, around 15 years ago or so. They’re not meant for Halloween!” she said. But neither was the rest of her look.
This was very Carlson. She’s a DIY enthusiast and likes to put ordinary things together to come out with something surprising.
There were raven cutouts glued on the walls of her dining hall and fabric ravens hanging from the ceiling. It appeared like a murder was headed toward you. Edgar Allan Poe would be proud.
Carlson said that there was no specific theme when she decorated, but there were recurring elements throughout her residence. If visitors looked under the tables and cabinets, they would spot two protruding witch legs, wearing black-and-white striped stockings and ruby red shoes—a clear reference to “The Wizard of Oz’s” Wicked Witch of the East.
Hence, we asked if she dressed up as one of the witches from the same book. She playfully replied, “I’m a witch every day!”
A sunbathing skeleton could be found in her pool. She said, “Halloween need not be scary all the time. It can be funny, too.”
We spotted more of these macabre but hilarious interpretations in her library, where another skeleton sat by the piano, dressed like it was going to a party. At a corner table, another elegantly dressed skeleton was holding an1 ouija board. Guests kept making up stories about them the entire night. Some heads were squeezed inside dome glasses to make it appear like they were shrunken.
The frames hanging on the walls were skewed. Some on frames were filled with pictures of classic American monsters.
“If you look around, this is a collection of Halloween decor that I’ve been amassing over three decades. I love Halloween. People always ask how much time it took (to decorate). I always say it’s the wrong question to ask. Ask, ‘How much fun did you have?’” Carlson said.
The envoy worked on these decorations until the wee hours of the morning, but some items she and her daughters had worked on together, like the pumpkin papier mache. Carlson has an open cabinet where her Halloween plates are proudly displayed.
At the center of it all was the food. Chef Ivory Yat Vaksman of Chef Ivory Catering and Raintree Group chef Kalel Chan worked together to come up with the feast using 50 distinct products from the US, specifically 18 states. These included the meat, wheat milled into flour, and the wine, beer and the cheese from California. Vaksman said that she shifted to California cheeses because Filipinos like the less gamey, salty cheeses.
The two chefs introduced two new pizzas for the night—sisig pizza from Chan and a cheeseboard melt from Vaksman, which she also topped with local preserves. Chan said that all the meat was imported from the US and was easily available in grocery stores.
He noted that there’s a lot of commonality between Filipino and American celebrations: Both cultures like to celebrate with a huge spread and gather friends to partake in it.
“American food is not about being fancy, but it’s about good food,” said Carlson.
Pretty soon, her Halloween skeletons will make way for her Christmas decorations.