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A family affair

A shining, shimmering, splendid toast to jeweler, antique collector, art patron, and philanthropist Benjamin Yap on his 70th birthday

There were enough people to fill the newly refurbished Fiesta Pavilion at the Manila Hotel, over 500 people dressed to kill, each with a special reason being there, the 70th birthday of jeweler, antique collector, art patron, and philanthropist Benjamin Yap, Ben or Benjie to his closest friends and family. Self-effacing, almost reclusive, and not one to throw flamboyant parties on flimsy occasions, the celebrant pulled out all the stops to make this milestone one to remember not so much for himself but for every one of his guests who sat at 60 tables for 10 set thematically like a winter wonderland with silver lace, frosted trees, and mirrored balls to reflect the “shining, shimmering splendor” of the life he has lived as a jeweler enamored of the most sparkling of gems, from diamonds and rubies and tourmalines to sapphires, unheated preferably.

  • Ado Escudero, Albert Avellana, Marivic Vazquez, Joemari Treñas, Nening Manahan, Josie Kho, Paul Campos, and Rita Tan

  • Fr. Sulpico Boyd, Emil Yap III, Ben, Ezra, and Enoch

  • Basilio Yap, Edna Camcam, Marivic Vazquez, Kourtney Camcam

  • Benjamin Yap

  • Matriarch Lydia Yap

  • Sadie Poblador and Joe Mari Treñas

  • Ben and Elena Coyiuto

  • Rachy Cuna and Dr. Elenita Binay

  • Nancy Ty and Cynthia Ang

  • Margarita Delgado and Tats Manahan

  • Baby Arenas

  • Mikaela Ley, Janet Ley, and Naty Yap

  • Nancy Yang, Pricilla Go, and Olive Ang

  • Tingting Cojuangco

  • Dr. Jose and Maybel Abaño, Ben, and Berna Lomotan

  • Nikki Coseteng, Doris Ho, Ben, and Jun Camcam

  • Gloria Climaco and Dra. Binay

  • Bernise Cua

  • Ben,  Imelda Marcos, and Cory Quirino

  • Mary Tiu

  • Cap and Annie Gieger, Ben, Dinky Consunji Laperal, Albert Avellana, and Desi Laperal

  • Ivy Yao Santos, Ben, and Emil Lim

  • Ben with Mike and Connie Toledo

  • Lolong Lazardo, Ben, Nene Leonor, Mellie and Louie Ablaza

  • Ben with the House of Refuge Kids

  • Jimmy Laya and Danny Dolor

  • Fermin Reyes

  • Jed Madela

  • Robert Sena

  • Tess Tan

  • Isay Alvarez

  • Tricia Amper Jimenez

  • Joe Fabregas

  • Noel Gaw

  • Raymond Lauchengco

  • Freddie Santos (director)

  • Goya Bulahan

  • Opera Belles

  • Long Life Prawn in Trio Sauces

  • Old Beijing Nobleman’s Soup

  • ‘Dong Po’ style Pork Spareribs

  • Homemade Spinach Tofu with Bailing Mushrooms and Scallops in Crab Roe Sauce

  • Ado Escudero, Albert Avellana, Marivic Vazquez, Joemari Treñas, Nening Manahan, Josie Kho, Paul Campos, and Rita Tan
  • Fr. Sulpico Boyd, Emil Yap III, Ben, Ezra, and Enoch
  • Basilio Yap, Edna Camcam, Marivic Vazquez, Kourtney Camcam
  • Benjamin Yap
  • Matriarch Lydia Yap
  • Sadie Poblador and Joe Mari Treñas
  • Ben and Elena Coyiuto
  • Rachy Cuna and Dr. Elenita Binay
  • Nancy Ty and Cynthia Ang
  • Margarita Delgado and Tats Manahan
  • Baby Arenas
  • Mikaela Ley, Janet Ley, and Naty Yap
  • Nancy Yang, Pricilla Go, and Olive Ang
  • Tingting Cojuangco
  • Dr. Jose and Maybel Abaño, Ben, and Berna Lomotan
  • Nikki Coseteng, Doris Ho, Ben, and Jun Camcam
  • Gloria Climaco and Dra. Binay
  • Bernise Cua
  • Ben, Imelda Marcos, and Cory Quirino
  • Mary Tiu
  • Cap and Annie Gieger, Ben, Dinky Consunji Laperal, Albert Avellana, and Desi Laperal
  • Ivy Yao Santos, Ben, and Emil Lim
  • Ben with Mike and Connie Toledo
  • Lolong Lazardo, Ben, Nene Leonor, Mellie and Louie Ablaza
  • Ben with the House of Refuge Kids
  • Jimmy Laya and Danny Dolor
  • Fermin Reyes
  • Jed Madela
  • Robert Sena
  • Tess Tan
  • Isay Alvarez
  • Tricia Amper Jimenez
  • Joe Fabregas
  • Noel Gaw
  • Raymond Lauchengco
  • Freddie Santos (director)
  • Goya Bulahan
  • Opera Belles
  • Long Life Prawn in Trio Sauces
  • Old Beijing Nobleman’s Soup
  • ‘Dong Po’ style Pork Spareribs
  • Homemade Spinach Tofu with Bailing Mushrooms and Scallops in Crab Roe Sauce

(Images by Federico Cruz, Jullie Yap Daza, Jeffrey Lim, and Manny Llanes)

Although it was a grand event, it was more than anything else a family affair, all the non-relations headed by the likes of Imelda Marcos, Dr. Elenita Binay, Baby Arenas, and Edna Camcam being considered family by choice, just like Freddie Santos, who served as master of the evening’s ceremonies, and Rachy Cuna, who styled the event in collaboration with Benjie’s nephew, Dr. Emil Yap III, who made everything Rachy dreamed up possible, and, of course, the 32 children from the House of Refuge, the foundation Benjie set up in 1986 to help find orphans six to 16 years old a permanent loving home. All 32 children were present in the bash, all dressed in celebratory red, to be with, as Freddie said, their “Lolo Ninong.” Even the performances, all drawn from Benjie’s playlist, were deeply personal—a mix of thespians and celebrities like Tricia Amper-Jimenez, Raymond Lauchengco, Isay Alvarez, Robert Sena, and Jed Madela and people in his inner circle, like his best friend Fermin Reyes, singing Benjie’s favorite songs that ranged from ’80s hits to beloved standards and immortal classics. It was thus, though large by any standard, an intimate affair, warm, convivial, almost informal, like family.

Just as personal and chosen for reasons close to Benjie’s heart was the food, glorious food—each course handpicked by the celebrant himself, that the full-course meal, prepared by a team of cooks and chefs led by Manila Hotel executive chef Konrad Walter and Mabuhay Palace executive chef Sun Bing, fondly called it “Sir Benjie’s Menu” for the evening.

The pleasures of the table began with the Long Life Prawn in Trio Sauces, a Manila Hotel original and bestseller that featured deep-fried prawns wrapped with fried noodles and served with Hoisin, fruity plum, and wasabi mayo sauces. Mabuhay Palace’s Old Beijing Nobleman’s Soup followed, a full-flavored soup with shark’s fin served in bowls covered in a light pastry shell. The Homemade Spinach Tofu garnished with Bailing mushrooms came next, a true delight, along with the Scallops in Crab Roe Sauce. A lychee sherbet was served to clean up the palate and prepare it for the main course—choice pork spareribs cooked “Dong Po” style, complemented with noodles, and served with the traditional Chinese buns. It might be improper to call these dishes “comfort food,” but with their nod to tradition, with their time-tested success pleasing palates at a hotel as historical as the Manila Hotel, and in their place among the celebrant’s memories of the good life, each course in “Sir Benjie’s Menu” was worthy of its carefully selected role in a celebration among family and friends.

By the time dessert was served, the Manila Hotel’s signature chocolate cake paired with red macarons, together with coffee or tea or more of the wine and the champagne, the revelers were in the most jovial mood, applauding the 70 lucky guests among them, some family, all friends, who, having won in the raffle that capped off the evening’s program, would leave the party not only with memories of its many pleasures, but also with actual treasures, boxes upon boxes of chocolate, some of the latest gadgets, and jewelry shining, shimmering, and splendid with the most precious, priceless gems.