The country’s most successful and influential personalities rarely open their homes to the public and prefer to keep their lives private, but seasoned broadcast journalist Kara David gets the privilege to take a peek into the homes of these celebrities and discover their inspiring stories through the lifestyle program of GMA Network titled Powerhouse.
As featured personalities open their doors for Powerhouse, David and the rest of the televiewers get to know the real individuals behind their public persona by hearing about their inspiring stories of struggles and triumph.
As the host puts it, while she marvels at the creative and artistic interiors of their living quarters, she discovers the secrets behind their success, as well as the valuable lessons that led them to where they are today.
The Peabody Awardee further enthuses that the program does not only feature luxurious houses but also shows the lifestyle of the rich and powerful. Powerhouse aims to humanize them, that despite their stature, they could very well live simply like most Filipinos do.
“More than the houses, Powerhouse is about the lives of the owners,” reiterates David. “More than having a luxurious home, they have to have inspiring stories to tell. We have people with rags-to-riches stories.
“When we feature celebrities, we don’t talk about their on-cam persona or showbiz intrigues, but their life behind the camera, their struggles, which can be inspiring.
“While we ask difficult questions and talk about political and social issues when we feature politicians, we try to show the human side of them.”
When asked to choose which among the houses featured in her show stands out for this special The Sunday Times Magazine anniversary issue, David cannot provide an immediate answer. Rather, she begins by explaining some houses stand out because of the design, while she finds other homes remarkable because of the stories they tell.
The host admits she prefers minimalist homes. “I like it when people try to live and blend their concrete houses with nature. I believe that is how things should be—a co-existence with nature, not killing nature just to build a house.”
She then singles out the home of world-class furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue. “His home exudes that resort living ambiance. It has an all-white, minimalist interior,” describes David. “Of course, one can see his signature furniture pieces inside the house. Like, when you enter his home, there is a dragnet chair and it is just there—one chair as a center–piece. In his living room, there is a paint–ing that complements the motif of the room.”
She continues, “I like Kenneth’s house because the space is continuous and close to nature. He has a small pool, surrounded by two or three big trees. What I like most is how he didn’t cut the trees. Rather, he built the house around those trees. Each room has a nice view of the garden.”
Another house that made an impression on her was that of real estate tycoon Victor Consunji and his wife, actress-turned-beauty-queen Maggie Wilson. “Theirs was a perfect example of maximizing space. It was actually a town house with limited space, and yet they were able to make the most out of it. They were able to make it look spacious and not congested,” admires David.
“What really amazed me is Victor’s garage. In his basement, he has what he called a ‘man cave,’ where one can find all the toys for the big boys like motorcycles and other mechanical stuff he is busy tinkering with. He also has his photography studio there. His garage is just big enough for one car. Kapag pinasok mo na ‘yung car, wala kang space para magmani-obra palabas. Medyo steep pa ‘yung papasok, kaya kailangan mag-backing all the way. So, gumawa siya ng mechanism para makalabas-pasok ‘yung car niya without any hassle. [When you bring the car in, there is no space left to turn it around and drive out. The entrance is steep so you will need to back up all the way, but he came up with a mechanism that allows the driver to get in and out without hassle]. When I saw it, I was ‘Sino ba ito? [Who is this guy?] Tony Stark, Iron Man?’”
The house of Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares also caught her eyes. “Her house is quite spacious. It has glass walls from the living room to the garden. What I like in her house is the den. She has a bookshelf filled with books, but you can push it to open a secret door that leads to the bathroom. It actually reminds me of My Love from the Star [a Korean soap series on GMA Network]. The lead character has a door in his house that leads to the secret library. Secretary Henares’ den is quite small, but it is an intelligent use of space.”
Even though it cannot be classified as a minimalist, David reveals that socialite-politico Tingting Conjuangco’s house is something she would like to revisit.
“Everything is a conversation piece. It is not minimalist at all. Her house is like a museum. It is filled with artefacts she got from Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines. Some items came from indigenous communities like the burial jars and kris (sword), as well as different traditional clothes of various indigenous people. Wherever you look, there is something interesting to talk about. The pieces in her house somehow make you appreciate the rich heritage of the Philippines. You can see how rich and diverse the Filipino culture is,” discloses David.
Meanwhile, she finds the home of Sen. Cynthia Villar as another place for an arts and culture lesson. “I’m amazed not with the house itself, but with the paintings. She has Picasso, Rembrandt, HR Ocampo, a Renoir, and two Amorsolos. It is like a small gallery.”
David then touches on her own Kapampangan heritage when she visited the house of Cabalen restaurateur Maritel Nievera. “I enjoyed that visit because we are both Kapampangan. She has a huge kitchen, which is typical in a Kapampangan home because cooking is such a big part of our lives,” David enthuses.
“A Kapampangan home is also close to nature. Sometimes we put a water feature or build the house near a tree or a garden. In Maritel’s living room, there is a sliding door that leads to a fabulous garden. The sliding door serves as a trellis. It has these vines and plants crawling down. It makes me feel like the house and the garden are united. I like how the nature and the concrete structure harmoniously blend.”
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.’s house is another revelation for David. “I did not expect that he is such a funny man. When he welcomed us to his home, Chairman Sixto was wearing white pants, a red shirt with a big medallion on his chest, and a cap. It was so groovy! I was amazed when we toured his room and it was washed in peach. His bathroom is all red.”
David adds that the Comelec official has a small cabinet which houses his collection of stuffed toys, wine bottles, and love letters from his wife who had passed away.
“He even cooked pinakbet for me and the team. It was really different from his public persona. Here was an old man who heads the Comelec and exudes a strict aura when you interview him. But when you visit him in his home, you get to see a totally different side of Chairman Sixto.”
When asked what makes a house a “Powerhouse,” David concludes: “It is not the size of the house or how luxurious it is. We have interviewed simple people who live in a simple house. Like Gawad Kalinga’s Tony Meloto. You would expect that someone who builds houses for the less fortunate would have a big house, but on the contrary he lives in a middle-class house. The principles that the owner lives by and the inspiring stories he has make his home a Powerhouse.”
Powerhouse airs every Wednesday at 4:15 pm on GMA Network.