Beautiful Life

12/20/2012 | By: Cristina Gomez, Lifestyle Asia

A brand-new year deserves brand-new hair color. My hubby Dennis has lately been sleeping with a copper-headed chick. That’s me after weeks of bad-hair days followed by a good-hair overhaul with Laurent Hebert of Franck Provost at the Fort.

I took the total-hair opportunity on the same day that Franck Provost himself opened his latest salon at The Peninsula Manila’s Basement Arcade. It was a photo op with the Parisian hair master, followed by cocktail celebrations at Salon de Ning.

Elegant lady Baby Cruz is head of Franck Provost Group Manila. She is one of the finest ladies I know, with such wonderful social graces that we all should emulate. Thanks to her team, my hair is now vibrant and colorful.

With such frequent color changes, my hair needs special care. For this I go to Svenson Hair Center. As the leading company and research vanguard for hair and scalp issues, Svenson is the most trusted brand for hair care. They have over 50 years of expertise in the field, and their center can scientifically determine the hair issue and devise a personalized hair and scalp-care program to address the problem.

Balesin for Bobby Ongpin’s birthday

Brand-new hair deserves a brand-new beach. So Dennis and I hied off to Balesin Island Club ( for the 76th birthday of Bobby Ongpin, the mercurial chair of Alphaland Corporation, developer of Balesin. We stayed in the newly opened Phuket Village, nestled along a wooded beach on the southern tip of the island.

There are now five completed villages on Balesin, so choosing which ambience to try for the weekend is becoming difficult. The signature village, Balesin, is where we usually stay. Set among the sands and coconut trees of the main beach, the Philippine-style villas have view decks that face the blue ocean.

Now the choices include Mykonos, St. Tropez and Bali, and in two months, two more villages will be added: Costa del Sol and Toscana, bringing the total to seven. I wrote all about Balesin in my column in Property in this paper on Saturday, so just check that for full island details.

This is a society column, so I’ll focus on RVO’s birthday party. Among the luminaries at the party were VP Jojo Binay, San Miguel chair Ramon Ang and former Finance Secretary Gary Teves. My mom Marixi Prieto was accompanied by Papa Alex.

Most of Bobby’s siblings and a host of Dennis’ Ongpin cousins were around, as well. RVO’s younger brother Rene was our godparent when Dennis and I got married, as was Bobby’s wife, Monica. To the birthday celebrator, though, it seemed the star of the entire affair was his first and only grandchild, Sebastian.

At the dinner, we sat with the Alphaland team that has worked magic to develop the island-dashing president Babes Oreta, finance whiz Hannah Yulo, jolly island GM Bolly Bolton, suave architect Rico Sison and lovely interior designer Monica Olbes.

We were joined by Bobby’s ever-loyal assistant, Jojo Manalo, who also recently celebrated her 70th birthday with a beautiful, family-centered affair at the Alphaland Tents. Jojo told me how RVO, who was ensconced on Balesin, had not RSVP-ed to her birthday, but showed up to surprise her.

‘Barefoot elegance’

Speaking of birthdays, I recently attended the milestone of Jun Parreno, the virtually brand-new minted COO of the Discovery Leisure Company. Jun celebrated his big bash at Discovery Suites in Ortigas.

Jun has indeed much to celebrate. His baby, Discovery Shores Boracay, was ranked fifth in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels list, surpassing hundreds of hotels from different parts of the globe. It got a score of 96.77.

Gushed the mag, “barefoot elegance is undoubtedly the vibe on this tiny island, where the 2 ½-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for being the softest in the world. The 88 spacious suites all have large glass walls that look towards a scenic rock garden, but chances are you’ll spend more time by the water.”

I read the entire T+L list and noted that No. 17 is Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, at the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, where Dennis and I went for our 10th anniversary. That was a brand-new trip for us, as we had never experienced a safari before.

This year, we will check out No. 49 on the list-the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest, Hungary. This will be another brand-new trip for us, as we will be visiting Eastern Europe for the first time.

T+L’s World’s Best Awards come from their extensive reader surveys, and shows that it really is more fun in the Philippines. Travelers to our islands now come from all over, but best of all, I see that more and more, we Pinoys patronize our own homegrown destinations.

This surge in local travel is probably the reason why The Travel Club is doing so well as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. From its maiden store at SM Megamall, it is now a multi-branch outfit carrying international brands like Tumi, Ace, World Traveller, Victorinox, Delsey, and Mendoza, to casual brands like JanSport, Timbuk2, Hedgren, High Sierra, Eastpak, and Healthy Back Bag.

The Travel Club’s owner, the Primer Group, recently launched The Travel Club Platinum Mastercard, an effort created in partnership with Allied Bank. The Primer Group also mounts an annual event advocating practical and environmentally friendly ways to travel called “Mad About Travel.” The “Mad” travel expo is a most-anticipated gathering for travelers.

It’s a brand-new year, so we all have to think-what’s our brand-new destination for this year?

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