Sunday, September 21, 2008


No, this is not the house of my childhood years. Ours was not grand or opulent, though the memory of which I will treasure dearly.

However, in retrospect, the one thing I wish we had in our house back then was subdued or recessed lighting as in this photograph of the Legardas' home in San Miguel, Manila. The ceiling lights that my father favored cast functional illumination, indeed, but fluorescent lighting just doesn't exude warmth.

One of the jobs I had during my early years in New York was as a stock clerk at W & J Sloane's Lamp Department
wherein I learned the art of interior lighting. W & J Sloane was then the premiere furniture store in America that catered to the wealthy. Its window displays alone incited much excitement especially during October's furniture industry market week.

Because of the wonderful mix of co-workers who made it feel like one big family, this store became a second home to me, so to speak, for almost four years. The bunch of fellow students who were also working there made it even more fun; one was Billy, an Irish kid from the Bronx who was our department's technician. A few months prior to his graduation from the New York School of Visual Arts, he taught me the craft of assembling and wiring those crystal chandeliers from Italy and Chekoslovakia. When he quit, I took over his position.

At least two days of the week I was over at the customers' apartments assembling chandeliers. Their Manhattan apartments -- from Park Avenue to Fifth Avenue and from East End Avenue to Central Park West --
were a sight to behold. These were the celebrated abodes of Manhattan's old money and the noveau riche (mostly Wall Street's star traders). For the most part, it was like walking into a movie set or right into the pages of Architectural Digest.

One memorable experience was when I had to assemble two humongous crystal chandeliers at this four-level penthouse apartment of El Dorado's north tower on Central Park West. I was there for almost five days. The lady of the house was a handsome blonde woman of no more than forty who resembled Kim Basinger. She was a kind lady who would chat with me for a couple of minutes before she went out around eleven. And just before stepping out, I would always hear her asking the housekeeper to prepare a nice lunch for me, which I would enjoy at the terrace overlooking Central Park.

On the day I had completely finished the job, after calling the store's electricians to let them know that the chandeliers were ready to be installed, I decided to walk out the terrace to enjoy the spectacular view of Central Park for the final time -- from above this penthouse apartment on the 30th floor.

I was startled from my entranced state when the lady of the house walked out to the terrace to join me, holding two glasses of what appeared to be orange juice; turned out it was screw driver. Within a few minutes, I was just as animated as she -- pointing towards the tennis courts inside Central Park where my friends and I played, including the spot we called Frisbee Hill. She, on the other hand, told me about Fredrick Law Olmstead, the man who designed Central Park.

"You must see the park when lit at night'" she said. "Ah, that would be a treat, indeed" I replied. And before I knew it, I found myself embarrassingly declining her offer to stay for dinner. But the second glass of screw driver weakened my resistance; hence, the lady of the house, the housekeeper and I relished a light dinner of tossed salad and pasta out in the terrace, while enjoying the view of Central Park after dark. It was enchanting.

As I was leaving the apartment, she handed me a check which I refused. But she jolted me with a remark, "Young man, in life, you must learn to appreciate and accept praises that come your way." With that I accepted the check as I bid her and the housekeeper a fond farewell. The check was for a hundred dollars!

By the way, the El Dorado at 300 Central Park West is an Art Deco-style luxury cooperative apartment building, which overlooks the Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.
It has been associated with entertainment figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Faye Dunaway, Groucho Marx, Tuesday Weld, Bono and Michael J. Fox, who have had apartments there. In 2007, Moby, the singer, put his penthouse in the south tower on the market with a price of about $7.5 million.

Barbra Streisand, Jerry Seinfeld and Calvin Klein also owned apartments in the nearby buildings along Central Park West.

And while working at W & J Sloane's Lamp Department, I had met in person Frank Sinatra, Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, Beverly Sills, Neil Simon, Jerry Orbach, Truman Capote, and many other members of New York glitterati. Greta Garbo (otherwise known as the the "I vant to be alone" actress of the silent film era) also used to walk in to browse around but never bought anything. We left her alone.

The W & J Sloane Corporation, which operated a chain of 33 furniture stores in eight states, filed for bankruptcy in September of 1985; blaming over-expansion for its cash problems. The flagship store
building on Fifth Avenue and 38th Street where I worked has been converted to a commercial and luxury residential building.

* * *

San Miguel, Manila

Focal Length: 18 mm
Shutter Speed: 1/13 sec
Aperture: F/3.5
ISO: 100

* * *

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:22 AM


Blogger BCS said...

Such a beautiful story :)

September 21, 2008 7:48 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

your story is so fascinating, Eric! And that you have a rich background of experiences and know-how (this time in lighting )is something to also admire! And usually, it comes with having an open-mind and going-for-it my husband would always term it :-).

Lighting interiors and even stages have held a fascination for me. In the CCP, I would listen attentively when the lighting director would explain the various lighting techniques for specific performances like plays and ballets, etc. My stint at shadow puppetry also made me buying books on technical lighting techniques as well.

I also got to know of a Jewish guy providing lighting fixtures for the Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. His lamps were quite Art Deco with subtle hues and tones---aquamarines, salmon pinks, turquoise-blues, lapis-lazulis... It was such an education for me! And now you!

September 21, 2008 8:58 AM  

Blogger dailyphotographer said...

hi senor. off-topic, heard you won in the 2008 Phil. Blog awards. A huge congratulations:D Keep it up.

September 21, 2008 8:31 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

congrats, congrats, congrats.

September 21, 2008 11:56 PM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Congrats Eric!!!

You did it again!!!

ka tony

September 22, 2008 6:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, BCS. Glad you like it!

September 22, 2008 8:34 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

To Agnes, Eric and Ka Tony:

Maraming salamat po!

Your support and friendship are highly appreciated always.

September 22, 2008 8:36 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

What a wonderful story... I though it would turn out to be a "The Graduate" story... heheheee. But a nice and big (at the time) $100 tip... wow.

The picture also captured the essence of the story, and what a wonderful and grand house. Can one tour that Legarda house?

I am sure you are "appreciating and accepting" all these praises and congratulations as you win again three categories in the 2008 Philippine Blog Awards.


September 22, 2008 8:39 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

Read the La Cocina de Tita Moning link. Thanks for adding that bit of information to an excellent article and photo. That answered my previous question.


September 22, 2008 8:47 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, Bernadette!

I enjoy everything about lighting, Bernadette. Actually, part of the allure of my going to all those concerts and various stage performances while in NYC was to marvel at the impeccable lighting designs.

I had an officemate who was attending NYU's stage lighting program. Her greatest challenge in getting a foot in Broadway is her being a female. She claimed that opportunities in stage lighting is controlled by gays. Not sure, though, if she were being truthful.

By the way, I told my sister a while back: if in case I dropped dead somewhere in the streets of Quiapo while on one of my street photography adventures, don't ever feel any sadness for me because I died doing what I love. And most of all, I had a wonderful life despite the bitter disappointments and challenges that peppered it :)

September 22, 2008 8:51 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I guess, Mario, I was never as cute as Dustin Hoffman ... hehehe.

That check was more than my one week's salary at that time, serious ... hahaha. She was just a very nice woman who probably thought I could use the extra money being a working student at that time :)

I've somewhat overcome the embarrassment that I used to find myself feeling whenever being praised. Nakakahiya din nga, di ba?

September 22, 2008 10:25 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Mario, next time you're back home, check out this place. They do serve excellent cuisine!

September 22, 2008 10:26 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

your blog is a daily read for me and am glad to see you're a prolific writer. your subject blend of manila old & new, heartwarming observations, reflections and personal anecdotes are moving. i live in france and rarely return as i see family members frequently when they visit. your blog is my link to "home". kudo's to your recent wins!


September 22, 2008 9:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Merci, Mikel!

Perhaps, someday I will get to visit France and write some stories as well about my observations of it. :)

September 22, 2008 11:13 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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