On January 25, 2019, family, architects, and cultural advocates came together with the National Museum of the Philippines to celebrate Pablo S. Antonio’s contribution to Philippine architecture.
In a ceremony of receiving the Important Cultural Property marker, Ana Labrador, Deputy Director-General for Museums of NMP gave the Statement of Declaration of Remarks. From the cobblestoned driveway, guests witnessed the marker unveiled on the left of the door – cornering a marker by the Cultural Center of the Philippines placed decades prior.
In no way is the house at 2650 Zamora a product of its architect alone, the gardens and interior spaces carry the creative stamp of his wife Marina Reyes Antonio. They complemented each other, with Pablo’s shyness balanced by Marina’s outgoing nature.
It was her sense of style that attracted to him to her after they had been introduced by mutual clients; he was the architect of Chief Justice Jose Yulo Sr. while Marina was the designer of Cecille Yulo. He was charmed by the way she had fixed her home and later said he could never have married someone who did not have an artistic eye for such things.
Born Marina del Rosario Reyes in Binondo, September 19, 1910 to Francisco Baptista Reyes and Adriana del Rosario, was the niece of Rafael Roces, who had married her father’s sister Inocencia Reyes. Her father’s other sibling was Nicanor Reyes who founded Far Eastern University. She was also a first cousin of brothers Alejandro Reyes Roces, National Artist for Literature, and Alfredo “Ding” Roces, a contemporary painter and writer. But Pablo Antonio was already the architect of the Roces clan even before he and Marina married.
Very often both architect and fashion designer shared clients.
Marina began her career in the 1930’s. She was one of the pioneers of pre-war ladies’ fashion, and in a career that spanned span of fifty years she would design Filipiniana and wedding gowns for some of Manila’s most prominent women.
Her clients have included Nini Quezon, Mrs. Cecilia Yulo, Mrs. Tessie Yulo, Mrs. Douglas Mac Arthur, writer Claire Booth Luce, Mrs. Ateta Gana, Mrs. Cecilia Magsaysay, Senator and Congresswoman Loren Legarda, the first Miss Philippines Chita Zaldarriaga-Arnaiz and many more.
Marina was known for her Filipiana gowns, and for her delicate embroidery, beadwork and hand painted designs. Her details were fine and intricate, and she would create roses from bias strips of organdy. Her silhouette was figure flattering and feminine.
She would always entertain her clients with merienda so that her designing career was as much social as it was a business. Brides became close friends and she would gift them with a christening gown when they had their first child.
Marina loved the garden, tending to it carefully with her longtime gardener Paquito. She enjoyed entertaining and cooking for family and friends. She would create her signature rimas (breadfruit) with her harvest from the garden, cooking it carefully so that it emerged like maron glace (candied chestnuts).
Marina’s mother had taught her that if one knew how to cook and to sew, one would never lack for anything and she made sure to pass these lessons on to her children and grandchildren.
Her passions for fashion, food and flowers were inherited by first born Malu Veloso also pursued a career in design, as did her granddaughters Vicky and Letlet Veloso. Her sons Luis (Chito) and Ramon were already handling landscaping jobs while they were still in college. Pablo Jr., Chito and Ramon became architects while Victor [now deceased] became an engineer and the youngest, Francis (Pancho) is a visual artist.
Marina passed away peacefully in 2006 at the age of 96, but her spirit lives on in Zamora’s lush gardens, in the display of her gowns in one of the rooms and in the atelier now used by her daughter Malu and granddaughter Letlet.
Joaquin, Nick. “Mr. F.E.U.: The Culture Hero That Was Nicanor Reyes.” Far Eastern University, Kyodo Printing Co., 1995.
Get to know more about Pablo S. Antonio in Gerard Lico’s Arkitektura ng Bayan documentary series. In Episode 1 : Pablo Antonio, Lico visits the Pasay residence to discuss stories of Antonio’s personal life and architecture with Malu Antonio-Veloso, the architect’s daughter.
Tres Chic was a collaboration between the Pablo Antonio Ancestral Home Project and the Ambassade de France aux Philippines (French Embassy) on April 21, 2018. It was all about French culture and high style in Filipino architecture: a presentation of the Manila edition of Gallic fashion designer Clivia Nobili’s 16-piece Spring/Summer 2018 work wear collection.
Yves Zobberman, French cultural attaché to the Philippines and wearing an ultramarine blue overall designed by Nobili, gave an opening speech on celebrating Philippine and French friendship.
The salon show took place in the sala packed with guests, most notably French citizens living in Manila. Jumpsuits, jackets, denims, sailor shirts, separates, artist’s smocks, and day-dresses evoked the simple yet bold cuts and shapes of French craftsmanship – Nobili’s take on elegance, comfort, and sophistication in the workplace.
The collection highlighted Marithé et François Girbaud shoes, Nobili’s trademarked bleu de travail (working blue), as well as inspirations from artists and designers Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Yohji Yamamoto, Nouveau réalisme pioneer Yves Klein, and Mexican architect Luis Barragan.
Nobili was invited by former designer-turned-culinarian Vicky Veloso-Barrera who viewed Nobili’s first shows in the Philippines at SM Aura by the French Embassy and in the School of Design and Arts by Fashion Design & Merchandising program of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
After the show, guests were welcomed by Chef Dino Ferrari and Paris Délice to the dining hall and exhibition rooms to enjoy classic Parisian hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
Meanwhile, more artworks celebrating Filipino and French heritage have been added to the exhibition spaces.
In the early 80’s, designing sisters Vicky and Letlet Veloso held a salon type fashion show at the Zamora house. Vicky and Letlet made their mark in ready to wear, a concept that was very new at that time, as well as bridal gowns.
The layout of the house, where open spaces flow freely from the large sala to the dining area and beyond, made it perfect for a private show.
This ready to wear collection of semi formal short dresses featured hand painting and ribbon details modeled by the likes of Cathy Veloso-Santillan, Ona Lopez-Chung, Maritess Totengco, Cecile Diaz and sisters Gigi and Baba Anido.
Art is central to Antonio’s family and home. His father, Apolonio, was the architect’s first mentor and the source of inspiration in pursuing a career that envisioned worlds through art and design. His wife, Marina Reyes, designed romantic dresses for the ladies of Manila’s prestige, and at the same time decorated the house’s interiors. By following his father’s creative footsteps and being together with a spouse whose bespoke career revolved around fashion and entertainment, Antonio lived a life surrounded by art. And his experiences would be passed down – reflected in his descendants’ endeavors and the house’s well-kept artistic environment.
The house became Antonio’s workspace and his wife’s atelier. Their children and grandchildren continued the function by not only creating their crafts on-site, but on occasion hosting salon-styled fashion shows and gatherings that celebrated the family’s works of art.
In 2008 the home was promoted as the Garden Room which began to transform old bedrooms and lounges into couture and bridal showrooms for the portfolio of Malu & Letlet Veloso, a label run by Antonio’s daughter and granddaughter. Art and antique collections including watercolor paintings by Edgar Doctor, both permanent and for sale, were also displayed in hallways – making the home a small, alternative art institution.
Yet, the family has always aspired to push the boundaries of adaptive use in a heritage site – a dream for the house to neither be simply known as the dwelling built and lived by a National Artist nor an atelier of the Veloso fashion clan. By looking at the bigger picture of things, an insight arose: the house is a place where art is nurtured and shall thrive.
It was in 2017 when the Pablo Antonio Ancestral Home Project, an initiative consisting of family members and community of creatives, historians, heritage advocates, and enthusiasts, came together to launch the residence’s art spaces – a revival of the home’s underlying roles and practices like that of an art gallery and museum.
Beginning with what family refers to as the ‘Yellow Room’, a master’s bedroom with a foyer converted into an air-conditioned dining area for My Mother’s Garden, it became the room for exhibiting and selling fine art. This commemorated the opening of the first art show on Antonio’s death anniversary, 10th of June, entitled HEARTH: Heritage and Art at the Pablo Antonio Home.
HEARTH featured the works of printmaker Pandy Aviado and young emerging artists, which included Antonio’s great-grandchildren. Later in the year and following the exhibit’s success, a second edition alongside a family-fashion show paying tribute to the works and house contribution of Marina Reyes-Antonio took place in September, her birth month.
From then on, the Pablo S. Antonio Home hosted many more events such as exhibits, art markets, workshops, book launches, and fashion shows – continuing the site’s story as a home for creativity, art and design. Indeed, its rooms became a House of Dreamers.
A love letter from the memories of Marina Reyes-Antonio:Love, Marinawas an art exhibition and fashion show opened on September 30, 2017, paying tribute to the fashion designer’s creative eye during her birth month.
Family, friends, fellow fashion designers, and lovers of art and heritage gathered on a lovely Saturday afternoon to celebrate the things Marina loved: art, fashion, food, flowers, and gifts.
The living room became the salon-styled runway. From the narrow walkway connecting to the dining room and bridal showroom came models, one by one, walking around tables and lounges of viewers to upbeat tracks.
The collections featured vintage Filipiniana pieces by Marina Reyes-Antonio, white and pink pastel bridal dresses by Malu Veloso, and embroidered floral ball gowns for debuts by Letlet Veloso.
Following the success and the launch of the home’s first exhibition Hearth: Heritage and Art at the Pablo Antonio Home, young artists Nigel Villaceran and Joshua Barrera returned for a second exhibition at the Yellow Room. Their paintings and sculptures evoked dream-like scenes imagined at the home’s garden.
On June 10, 2017, the Pablo S. Antonio Home opened its very first art exhibition to the public to remember the Architect’s death anniversary (June 14, 1975) and his lasting legacy passed down to those who create, live, and wander within his spaces.
Entitled HEARTH: Heritage and Art at the Pablo Antonio Home, the group exhibition was a celebration of artistic generations that sprung forward from Antonio’s contribution. Marge C. Enriquez, a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, noted: “The Pasay City residence of National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio has been hearth, home, and atelier to his family of designers, artists, and even chefs.”
The exhibition was curated by Cynthia Estrada and Richad Tuason Sanchez-Bautista.
The featured artist was Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado, a pioneer in contemporary Philippine printmaking. He used mixed media consisting of charcoal, monoprint, and old stamps to pay homage to the designs and personal memories of the Architect – from the Ideal Theater in Escolta and the emboldened facade of Far Eastern University Manila’s Nicanor Reyes Hall to a recreation of Antonio’s family portrait.
The works retold Manila’s “La Belle Epoch” era – a period of grandeur, rapid shifts in aesthetic and industry – as images of clear yet fading memories. Aviado brought back beauty and heritage lost as time went on, to raise the question of preserving built-histories among viewers: “Where are the structures today?”
Aviado’s works were joined by paintings and sculptures of young artists in their first exhibition – filling the walls and furnishings of the then-master bedroom-turned-gallery with diverse forms and expressions. Two of the artists were Antonio’s great grandchildren: siblings Joshua Barrera and Hannah Barrera, who both displayed their skills in stylized paintings of summer garden and pop culture themes.
While Hannah took on a realistic approach using watercolor, acrylic, and oil to paint film stars from the 1960s and earlier, her older brother Joshua interpreted flowers, trees, and sceneries with an uncanny style fusing pointillism and ethnic-futuristic shapes.
They were joined by Nigel Villaceran whose seamless metal crafts made from scrap materials reimagined local flora, fauna, and folkloric characters such as the Tikbalang.
A New Beginning
With more than half of the works going to new homes, its success further inspired the family and community to continue art projects in efforts to support the house. The Pablo S. Antonio Home formalized its role as an art space – starting a new chapter in its history.
The exhibition ran until mid-September 2017, a few days before a second installment at the end of the month.