Partying at the MaArte Fair

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LET’S TAKE you back to the late ’90s and early 2000s, when climate change was a far-off fear, spaghetti straps were de rigueur, and we all had hope for the future (which is why we all dressed in plastic and glitter). The Syquia Apartments in Malate, once some of the most luxurious in Manila, served as a home for upmarket bohemians. The residents — photographers, actors, editors, writers, designers, artists, and other creatives — opened up their apartments for wild block parties, with each apartment having a unique theme. The parties were eventually put to a halt after a series of petty crimes.

From Aug. 16 to 18, the spirit of the Syquia Apartments lives again, this time in the Peninsula Manila, with MaArte oPen House. The MaArte fair — the annual fund raiser of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI) — will see 41 guest rooms of the storied hotel closed off for about 60 exhibitors, recalling the parties of the past.

The press was given a taste of what to expect as The Pen’s Salon de Ning hosted some of the brands that would be participating in the MaArte oPen House.

We’re already in love with some of the items: a crab-shaped golden clutch by Aranaz, ceramics by Bangay, jewelry by DSV Studio, watches by Ibarra, old-fashioned tambourine jewelry by Natalya Lagdameo, and scents by Oscar Mejia.

Upcoming new brands include FDCP members Joel Escober, Lally Dizon, Maco Custodio for Pinoy ManCave, Coco and Tres, Pika Pika + Pinta, Vesti, and Evangeline Austria are also participating. This year’s fair will also feature fine edibles by Auro Chocolates, Green Babes, and Felicisimo Gourmet Homecooking.

“It’s a celebration of our culture,” said the hotel’s Director of Public Relations Mariano Garchitorena. “The potters from Sagada, weavers from Lake Sebu, bag makers of Davao, and jewelers from Muntinlupa create beautiful objects while creating jobs. When you purchase something at the MaArte Fair, you never know what this might bring into your life — a thing of beauty and function, and maybe even a renewed love of country.”

Alongside its annual fund raiser, the MFPI will also hold the MaArte Talks, a series of conversations with select business owners who can offer new entrepreneurial tips and insights.

“I attended quite a number of parties in North Syquia as a guest,” said MFPI treasurer Mico Manalo. “These were in various apartments in the different floors of the building, so no two setups were the same. Aside from the food and drink, there was a lot of music, and a it was like crossing different environments and miniature cultures.”

While none of the exhibitors were members of the Syquia set, Mr. Manalo did note that artist Phyllis Zaballero, MFPI Vice-President, owned a studio in North Syquia and was one of those who opened their doors during those legendary parties.

The world is a lot different now, and there was something in the air during the 1990s and 2000s that was heady and invited a sort of raucous recklessness that kept you alive, and would wake you up in the morning for more. Mr. Manalo says that the spirit of Syquia can live again, but, “Community is the key! It can be done anytime, anywhere, but you have to have people who feel that they belong to a place, that they take care of, and watch over each other. People who delight in the presence of friends and neighbors. Its an extended family.”

Speaking about how the theme translates into the MaArte fair, Mr. Manalo says, “MaArte has grown to become a community of merchants and patrons with the common goal of preserving the traditional crafts in the country. Many of the merchants know each other, bring their friends and family over. It feels very familiar.” — Joseph. L Garcia

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