Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Ben Chan takes pause in Savannah

The quaint city of a Clint Eastwood movie and of André Leon Talley memoirs becomes our virtual discovery in this lockdown

Savannah, a city bottled in time (Photo by Migs Pastor)

Ben Chan, the indefatigable world traveler, in Savannah early August (Photo by Migs Pastor)

In the daily avalanche of posts in social media, even in this pandemic, what caught our eye were the travel images of Savannah that Ben Chan has posted in his Instagram (@bcbench, 237k followers). Why? They were not of a common destination, certainly not for Filipinos, pandemic or no pandemic. They didn’t have the chic hustle and bustle of the beaten tourist track, but instead, they were images of a quaint, laidback time.

Without doubt, retail visionary Ben Chan is one of the most traveled Filipinos. Even as he has been caught up, all these decades, in the race to build Bench into a global Filipino brand, helping set the agenda for Philippine fashion retail (e.g. the collaborations with K-pop idols and K-drama stars), he also has been all over—from snow-covered Iceland to wildlife Africa, name it, Ben Chan has gone there. Honestly, it would be interesting to run memes like “guess where @bcbench is now,” and the photo collection of architect Miguel Pastor (@migspastor) must make a jaw-dropping compilation of a book, if and when a compilation is indeed published.

Ben Chan and Miguel Pastor exploring the American South (Photo by Migs Pastor)

When the pandemic struck, Ben, like everyone else, had to park his luggage for some time. But the moment travel was allowed, however, Ben was up and away, first to the more accessible Dubai, then to a nearer Thailand, and recently, to New York and off-the-beaten track Savannah, the city of Georgia, in the deep American South.

“I chose Savannah as it’s always been a recommended destination by my friends from NYC,” said Ben in a text chat with “It’s a small town with a lot of historical sites.”

His was a brief trip to Savannah and Charleston. “Savannah and Charleston are roads less traveled,” Ben said. “It’s a step back through time. Life is a much slower pace. Nothing is done in a hurry. Relaxing. A bit much of a slowdown.”

What used to be a power plant repurposed into mix-use contemporary building in Savannah (Photo by Migs Pastor)

Movie buffs would remember Savannah for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the movie that Clint Eastwood produced and directed, starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. Based on John Berendt’s novel, this non-fiction was set in a Savannah whose customs, tradition and superstition were bottled in time. That movie was a haunting visual introduction to Savannah, its historic architecture and old South vibe.

Savannah is also associated with fashion icon André Leon Talley whose bestselling books detailed a childhood and growing-up years in the segregated South. Talley was raised in Durham, North Carolina, by his grandmother, a cleaning lady, who, humble the circumstances were, trained him on the gentility of life. Talley considered Savannah his second home—for years he has been in the board of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and was involved in the SCAD Museum of Art, with its André Leon Talley Gallery.

While majority of us cannot yet travel, indeed can’t even step out of the house in this lockdown, travel posts like those of Ben Chan allow us the vicarious enjoyment of going places.

So Savannah it is this week. Experience it on this page.

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