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Beso-beso is back with a vengeance—and how

From the Tatler ball that raised P40M to private dinners—it’s a people’s fearless revenge

Jonathan Matti dinner at Manila House: Christmas is back in a pandemic-weary world. (Photo by

Thanksgiving dinner of Jonathan Matti, with guests Minnie Osmena, Bea Zobel, Jr. (Photo by

From self-isolation? Or from congestion? Choose your stress these days, in the runup to the holidays and in a world that’s rushing out the door to leave behind the pandemic—with a vengeance.

Like much of the world, Metro Manila is in revenge mode—traveling, shopping, malling, dining, dating, meeting up, working out. Name it, there’s a queue to everything, even for coffee in BGC’s cafes. The notorious metro traffic is so back—even on Skyway.

People were going batty living in home confinement, so now they better get used to living again with the world at large. People continue to wear masks. The irony is, they wear masks on the streets, in the malls, outside the homes, but they take them off the moment they step indoors and proceed to do beso-beso.

Beso-beso is back with a vengeance. And so is fearless living—it seems.

In this year’s Philippine Tatler Ball (Nov. 19, 2022), the first since the pandemic, people slipped into their red-carpet ballgowns and black ties (is it now the vogue to wear necktie in black-tie affairs?). The crowd had been downsized to 300, so there were far slimmer chances for you to step on another’s train (but I still did). Many welcomed the breathing space this year’s shorter guest list allowed. But give it to Tatler Philippines founder and head, the indefatigable and gracious Irene Martel Francisco, editor in chief Anton San Diego and the staff, who stayed the course even during the pandemic. The ball, with U-Go Philippines as beneficiary, was able to raise Php12M, way beyond the initial target, and which today has gone up to a little over PhP40M. U-Go provides scholarship grants to driven and promising young women of developing countries.

Tatler head Irene Francisco, Dr. Randy Francisco, business titan Ramon Ang: Tatler grateful to benefactors led by Ang for helping raise Php40M for U-Go Philippines scholarship grant. (IG of Irene Francisco)

Days earlier that week, the Philippine Cancer Society’s Best Dressed event raised Php17M in one night, according to its helmswoman Helen Ong.

If a dinner could raise tens of millions in one night—especially when guests dress up to look their red-carpet-best, and be post-ready for IG/Tiktok—then the world is indeed back with a vengeance.

Clubs, especially at BGC, are said to be raking in revenues higher than in pre-pandemic. Retail shoppers, particularly the more mature market segments, are back to brick-and-mortar stores. Digital or online shopping, according to a retail executive, has plateaued—at least in the luxury brand market.

People feel not only as survivors of the pandemic—but also as victors.

We are impressed with people who, in the midst of victory and success, spare a moment to give thanks. Among them is one of the country’s foremost interior designers, Jonathan Matti. Thankful for a most successful 2022, Jonathan hosted dinner for a few friends at Manila House that’s now so richly decorated for Christmas—Bea Zobel, Jr., Minnie Osmena, Egypt Ambassador Ahmed Shehabeldin (who loves to cook), Singapore Ambassador Gerard Ho, Egypt Consul Dr. Amin Shaaban, Bing and Kathy de Guzman, Anne Marie Saguil, Karen Santos, Montse Cuervo, Bambina Olivares, Joe Miro, I and my son Luis Carlo San Juan, who was the token millennial that night.

“I just want to give thanks for this year,” Jonathan gave a toast to a year that is almost over and when almost everyone tried to make up for time lost to the pandemic.

Minnie, who would be flying out for her Harvard commitments a few days after the dinner, shared with us how she has the prayer of the Sto. Nino de Cebu with her everywhere she goes, mindful of one’s mortality and one’s faith.

Indeed while the post-pandemic mood is one of merriment, it comes, for many, with a sense of prayer.

Switching back to the here and now, our table got busy defining what is an influencer, and how and why Small Laude got to be so big. Small’s friends Karen, Jonathan and I were more than happy to talk about what makes Small connect to more than 1M subscribers in YouTube. Indeed, why and how. Interesting topic for a masteral thesis indeed. Speaking of which, Bambina is in the thick of doing her doctoral thesis on culture (not on Small).

ICOS room at Manila House designed by Jonathan Matti (Photo by JJ San Juan)

Jonathan Matti’s design of ICOS room at Manila House

If you happen to be at Manila House, see the richly interiored ICOS room designed by Jonathan. It’s an alchemy of colors, graphic images and furniture clusters. Only a designer with a good eye, highly developed taste, and confident knowledge of objects—to separate the superfluous from the significant accents—could pull that off. And Jonathan is one such designer. He has the seasoned curatorial eye which Metro Manila is so in need of today when, given the many artworks and collectibles on the market at one’s disposal, many people can’t tell the difference between hoarding and collecting, the difference between tasteful display of one’s possessions and visual diarrhea.

About author


After devoting more than 30 years to daily newspaper editing (as Lifestyle editor) and a decade to magazine publishing (as editorial director and general manager), she now wants to focus on writing—she hopes.

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