Louie Ablaza, the honorary consul of Zambia, had a spectacular African Safari party in celebration of his 80th birthday. The festive occasion was held at their sprawling countryside manor named after his wife Amelia, better known as Mellie, a celebrated hostess known for throwing fabulous parties.
The birthday celebrant, dressed as a Safari explorer, welcomed guests with Mellie, who was garbed as a glamorous tribal empress in fabulous feathers made by son Jun Jun Ablaza. Her gown was by fashion designer Steve de Leon, who also created the outfits for the rest of the Ablaza family. Daughter Czarina Ablaza-Syquia and husband Dr. Jofe Syquia with their children gamely dressed up in matching tribal outfits with raffia details. Jun Jun, on the other hand, was a chieftain in a colorful outfit, an over-the-top feather headdress, and his own tribal accessories. All their jewelries were made of antique ivory, with antique Philippine gold diggings from Jun Jun, as well.
The day started with a mass at the Ablaza family chapel officiated by Father Jefferson Agustin from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Guests arrived in sartorial safari and exuberant animal-printed outfits. Most of the gentlemen were dressed in safari ensembles reminiscent of Allan Quatermain, or rangers in camouflage. Grand dames wore African tribal-inspired caftans, some had colorful fowl feathers and fur, while many were decked in chunky ivories, multi-colored stones and gold jewelries.
After the mass, guests were ushered to a giant tent for cocktails, where they had champagne, Cabernet Sauvignon, canapes and a roasted suckling pig. A safari jeep and a group playing the drums completed the tribal / safari vibe.
Lunch was held at the estate’s grand pavilion, where guests gaped at the lavish and festive African themed decór. The high ceiling was draped with animal-printed fabrics, where gigantic tribal masks were suspended. Two life-sized giraffes stood by a wall, while all tables were bountifully decked in fruits, flowers, palm leaves and ferns.
The meal was made extra special and sumptuous by Chef Jessie Sincioco, a favorite culinary expert of the Ablazas. Guests enjoyed an African degustation of Kachumbari black eyed peas with warm wild rice and vegetable salad, grilled tilapia fillet yassa with coriander, frozen black grapes, suya with yaji rice and mango chutney, kienji chicken with kelewele, oxtail curry with jollof rice, and desserts of malva pudding, hertzoggie, milk tart and crunchies.
Louie and Mellie were seated on a pair of ebony-colored peacock chairs, like the king and queen of a tribal feast. Together with them at the presidential table were Ambassadors Igor Khovaev, Mme. Lizia Lu, H.E. Rolando Guevara Alvarado, H.E. Ephraim Ben Matityau, H.E. Kok Li Peng, H.E. Roland Van Remoortele, Mme. Sylvia Van Remoortele, H.E. Ezra Cankorur, H.E. Ahmed Ezzat, Mme. Mervat Ezzat, H.E. Ly Guoc Tuan, and Mme. Dan Vu.
The program started with drums rolling, and a powerful song rendition of the Circle Of Life by theater actress/story book writer Pam Imperial in a Jun Jun Ablaza feather cape and headdress. It was followed by an upbeat tribal street dance number by the Dance Royalties headed by Daniel Cabrera.
The afternoon was highlighted with a well-applauded fashion show by no less than Manila’s famed enfant of wearable art, Jun Jun Ablaza. He presented a 17-piece Neo-Tribal collection in distressed, acid-washed, and patched denims with unique accessories in shells, corals, ivory and feathers. The party’s dramatic extravaganza was successfully staged and made possible by production manager Marvin Choa and Jett Carpio, who directed the show.
Consul Louie Ablaza’s African Safari affair was more than just another grand gathering of high society’s creme de la creme. His 80th birthday party was a celebration of life and his family’s thanksgiving for God’s blessings and bounty. Marc Ablaza, his eldest son, revealed in a speech how his father overcame a health ordeal over the past few months. It was a moment that made them see clearer the beauty and importance of living every second to the fullest, celebrating love, happiness and togetherness.
The African Safari theme was chosen by Louie’s family since he currently serves as Honorary Consul of Zambia in the Philippines. A safari is an overland journey, usually to the African continent, which was once a trip to hunt. Today, it is often referred to as a trip to observe wildlife, sightseeing, taking photographs, and enjoying the glorious wonders of nature at its finest and the bounties of the Great Creator. The theme was also inspired by everyone’s love of travel, love of finding new adventure, discovering new places, and most importantly, enjoying it with loved ones. In reality, life is an endless journey of discovery with family and the people who became a part of everyone’s lives.
We knew we were in for a surprise the moment we saw Jun Jun Ablaza at their countryside estate’s grand pavilion during consul Louie Ablaza’s 80th birthday. He was garbed like a mod chieftain in a Steve de Leon psychedelic tribal mask patterned top. He completed the look with his own trinkets and an over-the-top black feather capelet. Knowing Jun Jun and his legendary flair for unique but tasteful entertainment, a celebration can never end without a spectacle prepared by him. True enough, the artistic genius, jewelry and art wear maven treated us all to a fashion show that featured a Neo-Tribal collection.
To the beat of the drums, models appeared wearing Jun Jun’s own interpretation of urban street gear-meets tribal exoticism. There were jazzed up denim jackets with patches designed as African tribal masks. The men had acid-washed denim tops with frayed edges and layered with other denim pieces in different hues. Female models sashayed flirtatiously in strips of denim that emulated an ethnic grass skirt. Cowrie shell embellishments were sewn to fabrics that accentuated the tribal designs. Finally, these were all glammed up with accessories similar to those used by the Maasai people of East Africa by utilizing thousands of cowrie shells to create interesting ethnic disc-shaped neckpieces and breastplates with feather trimmings.
The fashion show concluded with Jun Jun, who appeared in sumptuous layers of antique ivory combined with relics of our pre-colonial past over a casual denim ensemble. He once again staged a well-applauded show, which completed another talked about Ablaza celebration. We definitely had an enjoyable afternoon! It was a marvelous party with the sensuality of the exotic African safari, glamour of upscale luxury, an electrifying festival vibe, and an indulgence in fashion and artistry.
Text and photography by Lorna Lanes
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