IT was 1911 when Simplicio G. Adriano began making small pieces of furniture needed by the Capuchin fathers in Ermita Church. Grandson Tony Adriano recalls growing up with his four older siblings on the lot of the factory itself. Also in the vicinity was the Bayview Hotel, where Tony’s father, Avelino Adriano, met his mother, Rosario, who was running her own laundry and taking care of the clothes of the American soldiers stationed in the area. Avelino was Capampangan, while Rosario was Chinese Filipino, and although the marriage was initially frowned upon, it still took place.
Growing up, Tony divided his time between helping his mother tend her parents’ wet and dry goods store in Divisoria, where he trekked through muddy streets and their customers paid “hulugan,” and his father’s burgeoning furniture business. Avelino ran the business with his siblings. Soon it was making furniture for various embassies and rich families.
Meanwhile, Rosario had also purchased what used to be cogon-covered land along what would become Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, and in later years Adriano furniture would move to its showroom-building along Edsa.
Tony recalls his resentment at doing carpentry and even working as a bodegero “from 7 a.m. till 5 p.m.,” but, he says now, “I think my father saw something in me that was special.”
Thus, the elder Adriano enrolled his son in Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, and afterwards, sent him for further art studies in Montparnasse, Paris, France. Tony would go on to become a board examiner for interior design in the Philippines and a commissioner of the Philippine Regulatory Commission. Later, Tony would establish a factory and office in Dubai, making furniture for royalty, one-of-a-kind pieces handcrafted by skilled workers.
Tony Adriano also made a name in ecclesiastical furniture design and manufacture. Adriano Furniture made the papal chairs used by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II on their visits here.
The Adriano name lives on to this day, 111 years later, and people will see what that means as 10 pieces of exquisite Adriano furniture go on exhibit at the Philippine World Building and Construction Exposition (Worldbex), set for August 31-September 3 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. The furniture combines the intricate period design with stark modernist lines, the elaborate detailing like gilded gold with wood craftsmanship.
“I was really chosen to take over of my father’s legacy,” Tony recalls today. “And I know I can do more than what my father did. I cannot forget what my father told me: It takes years and years to build our name, and only seconds to destroy it. It is the only treasure we have. We are not rich, but we can be rich in name.”