When the man of the hour is the evening’s guest of honor, no one turns down the dinner invitation — even if you happen to be one of the busiest CEOs at the helm of one of the top business empires in the country. In this case, the host and hostess, Kim and Feli Atienza managed to gather the tycoons of four of the country’s top developers and conglomerates in their sprawling Malate home to meet new Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.
From the pictures posted in Mrs Atienza’s Instagram account, it looked like a relaxed casual gathering—despite the powerhouse casting. “It was a get together so they just get to know Isko,” the collector and TV host Kim Atienza tells ANCX. “They were all excited to get to know the guy. It was very easy to invite them because they were all excited.”
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The guests were Co-Chair of SM Investments, Tessie Sy-Coson, Ayala Corporation CEO Jaime Zobel and his wife Lizzie, Aboitiz Equity Ventures COO Sabin Aboitiz and his wife Bettina, Alliance Global CEO Kevin Tan and his wife, Michelle, former journalist and now AEV Vice President, DJ Sta Ana and ABS-CBN news anchor Karen Davila.
Atienza and Moreno are former Manila City councilors, both serving for nine years. Atienza, son of former Manila mayor Lito, says they managed to keep their friendship despite coming from opposing political camps. After a political setback, Atienza shifted careers and became known as Kuya Kim of the long running show about science and adventure, “Matanglawin” on ABS-CBN, while Moreno remained in politics, suffering quite a blow himself, when he ran for the Senate in 2016 and lost. Now that he is Manila Mayor, famously unseating former mentor Erap Estrada, Moreno is capturing the adulation not just of his constituents, but the entire nation’s as well.
But more on the party: Guests arrived at exactly 7:30 that balmy Saturday evening for pre-dinner drinks, and to get acquainted with some of Atienza’s pets—among them his beloved turtle and an iguana—while waiting for the honoree. The Atienza home has a beautiful garden; the property once belonged to the couturier Joe Salazar.
Mayor Moreno arrived at 8 pm, after getting a haircut at his favorite barbershop in Malate. Dinner was served at 8:15 and, according to the host, Moreno regaled them with stories until the party broke up at about 1:20 AM. “Walang tigil si Isko, kuwento nang kuwento!” Atienza says it was the first time for JAZA (Jaime Zobel) to encounter a persona like Moreno. “They were so enamored by the folksiness, the humor, the way he views politics, his statesmanlike views, honed by many years in the street.”
The Manila mayor was very animated, getting the tycoons at the dinner excited about his plans for Manila. He talked about his life story, his rise from poverty and his political career. “It was quite impressive because clearly Isko has a vision,” offers Kim. “The reason why he hit the ground running was because he knew what he wanted to do from Day One. Ikinuwento niya how he started. His first break was when he was councilor in 1995. He knows the ins and outs of city hall. Alam na niya, aral na aral.”
The tycoons found him refreshing,” says guest Karen Davila. “Isko was being himself—non-stop sharing of how he wants to revive Manila, and how he wants developers to come in. Mayor Isko spoke both in English and his baligtad Tagalog style—which was funny because they kept asking ‘what does that mean’?”
More than asking the help of the high powered dinner guests, Atienza said Mayor Isko got them excited about his plans. He wants them to invest in Manila, like in Escolta which he plans to turn into something like Singapore’s Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Atienza says, “But it will not be possible unless the big developers get in the act. He was talking about building vertical gardens all over. Ganado siya. Masarap siya kasama.”
Dinner was catered by the restaurant Kai and while guests feasted on prime rib and pork belly, oysters and ebi tempura, the mayor enjoyed the roasted grapes and tomato salad with sesame dressing and shiitake bacons and a green juice prepared for him by the host. “Feli and I organize dinners in the house. It so happened everyone wanted to come early. It became a perfect evening, nothing could have been better that night, everything just fell in place: the guest list, the food, the energy, the vibe. Everyone was just so animated.”
Photos from Felicia Atienza's Instagram account and courtesy of Karen Davila.