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Architect cries forgery, denies designing Binay rest house

MANILA, Philippines The architect who had allegedly designed a rest house in a farm
estate in Rosario, Batangas strongly denied the allegation on Thursday, saying his
signature on the supposed design proposal was forged.
Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado named architect Rodolfo R. Bongato as
the one who allegedly made a design proposal for the construction of a rest house in
the controversial Batangas property, which was being linked to Vice President
Jejomar Binay.
But in an affidavit executed this Thursday, Bongato attested that he never submitted
such a proposal, saying it was a clear case of forgery since the signature that appeared
above his name is not even remotely similar to my real signature.
I have never designed a rest house for JCB Farms in Rosario, Batangas or in any other
location. The signature over my printed name as appearing in the proposal is not mine.
It is a clear forgery as I have never signed the same, Bongato said in a statement sent
to reporters by the Office of the Vice President.
Bongato also noted in his affidavit that the price quoted in the proposal was not the
normal price which he charged for the scope of services stated therein.
I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of the foregoing facts and belie in the
strongest possible terms the genuineness and authenticity of the said proposal and
anyone who will be peddling the same as (sic) genuine is committing a blatant lie, he

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Ernest de Leon Escaler becomes 1st Filipino to receive Order of the Star of Italy
The edifice is massive, yet the floors seem like floating volumes that welcome the
sunlight and cool air, the seeming trademarks of his friend, the National Artist for
Architecture, the late Leandro Locsin.
Asked if the building was designed by the late architecture icon, Escaler says yes,
Doesnt it remind you of the CCP?
He is referring to Locsins obra, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which shows the
architects mastery of scale and proportion.
When hes not in Rome, his home away from home, the 64-year-old businessman
holds office at Escaler and Co., the holding firm of the Philippine Interactive Audiotext
Services, Inc, (PIASI) and Gourmet Farms. For more than two decades now, Escalers
businesses have maintained community engagement, particularly with the arts and
religious circles.
In appreciation for his generosity of spirit and recognition of his enterprise, the President
of Italy has conferred on Escaler the Order of the Star of Italy (Ufficiale nellOrdine Della
Stella dItalia), given to expatriates and foreigners who have contributed to Italys
The first Filipino to get this award is self-effacing. I play golf, and Ive managed sports
teams. The victory from preparing for a championship is different. To get an award you
didnt even aspire for is very humbling, he says.
Escaler was one of the countrys pioneers in business process outsourcing (BPO) in
Close friend Antonio O. Cojuangco, then chairman of the Philippine Long Distance and
Telephone Company, facilitated Escalers first BPO venture with an American
company. In the early 2000s, PIASI launched a call center service for embassies to
handle visa applications and appointments.
We stopped the queues on Roxas Boulevard when we started with the US Embassy,
says Escaler. The embassy clients list initially included Canada and Australia.

Eventually, these countries have turned to global outsourcing. PIASI provides a host of
services to the embassies of Japan, New Zealand, Schengen, Belgium, France, United
Arab Emirates and Italy.

Giving comes naturally to Escaler.

His father, industrialist Ernesto Sr., founded Phinma Group and Bacnotan Consolidated
Industries and taught law at Ateneo and Assumption. His mother Luisa de Leon comes
from one of Pampangas most affluent families, whose fortunes were derived from real
estate, insurance and banking.
The de Leons established the first locally-financed sugar central in Pampanga.
Escalers economics degree from Ateneo and MBA from the International Management
Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, enabled him to get a job as a commodities trader in
New York.
Then he was asked to come home to establish Bancom Commodities Services under
the Bancom Group. When the company folded up, he went on his own with his
management consultancy, Escaler and Co.
Escaler also inherited positions from his fathers businesses such as Wayfair Tours Inc,
which was originally formed by his father, tycoons Enrique Zobel and Consuelo
Madrigal Collantes and Rene del Rosario. The tour operator introduced Alitalia, Italys
flag carrier, to the Philippines.

Gentleman farmer
He began with coffee trading in 1975, when he represented an American company.
Escaler then introduced Philippine coffee, Gourmet Coffee, to the global market in 1978.
Escaler acquired a huge tract of land in Silang, Cavite, in 1982 which started out as an
orchid farm. Escaler was inspired by California cuisine, and in 1986, ventured into
organic farming.
The Gourmet Farms (GF) was one of the first to advocate a holistic system of food
production that was attuned to the environment.

Back then, GFs new varieties of lettuces seemed esoteric to Filipinos. I was forced to
put up a restaurant, the Gourmet Caf, so that people would have a venue to try the
organically grown produce and coffee, he recalls.
Gourmet Caf
Gourmet Caf started out as a quaint log cabin which served as a stop for travelers to
or from Batangas. The two-hectare farm has since expanded to 11.5 hectares, to
include coffee roasting facilities, a store, restaurant and accommodations.
Escaler dreams of franchising his brand. The Gourmet Farms stall at the Globe
Telecom office is said to be the highest-grossing outlet there.
We offer salads, wraps and other healthy alternatives to fast-foods. Thats my passion,
he says.
At the heart of Gourmet Farms is The Sanctuary, which was built with retreat facilities
and spaces for silence.
This is my payback project. It allows people to hopefully communicate with their
Creator on a personal level, says Escaler.
His technology-driven business, PIASI, is equally impressive. PIASI installed the optic
cables and closed circuit television in MRT stations, and provides software programs for
data base management for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and
the Philippine Coast Guard, to name a few.
His leadership is based on delegation. Why do I hire key people? I hand over
responsibilities to the people who work for me.
Has he ever been deceived in business? Yes, but on the balance, Im way ahead. I
believe in karma. Recently we had a major mutiny in our IT department. People got
very ambitious. They thought they could do things on their own. They didnt realize that
PIASI has a tradition and a track record. This business is not something you can start
right away.
When theres a P10-million consultancy contract on software from a government
agency, the client wants to see the track record. After a few months, we found
replacements, and we are getting new contracts because of our reputation, he

A movie buffhe has over 4,000 movies in his libraryEscaler turned his love of film
into a business with an independent film company, Ten17P Productions Inc, run by
filmmaker Paul Soriano.
Among its award-winning movies are Transit, Dagitab and Mariquina.
Not all his ventures succeed, though. If it fails, do something else. Ive gone into so
many things that have flopped. You just forget about them and move forward.
Escaler swears that he will never invest in a Broadway show again.
In 2001, the executive director of the Los Angeles Music Center invited him to watch
The Flower Drum Song at the Mark Taper Forum. Lea Salonga led the cast, most of
whom were Filipinos.
Its critical and commercial success drove the producers to bring it to Broadway. Escaler
was invited to be a backer, and he asked friends put in money.
The musical revival opened in October 2002 to a near-capacity audience.
But with the negative reviews and the severe winter, audience attendance plunged.
The rule in Broadway is to maintain 65 to 75 percent audience share. When you fall in
that week, you are automatically put on notice, the next show is booked. There was a
week we failed to meet that quota. People couldnt come because of the weather,
recounts Escaler.
Flower Drum Song closed in March 2003 after 169 shows. All the investors lost their
Escaler recalls that before Ten17P, there were other film productions that never saw the
light of day. You try to help. But once they get on their feet, they run away. Thats life,
he waxes philosophically.
His support for the arts is unconditional. For 28 years now, Escaler has been on the
board of Ballet Philippines. Locsin, a founding member of BP board of trustees, invited
Escaler to replace Jaime Ongpin, who had left to join Corazon Aquinos Cabinet.
Aside from helping with the fundraising, Escaler would host foreign guest artists such as
Cynthia Harvey and Julio Bocca in his residence.

I appreciate what these dancers go through. They need help. After all, we have
something this country can be proud of. We are our own worst enemies. All you read in
the news is graft and corruption. Its all negativity. We speak badly about ourselves.
Whats a better way to promote the country than through the arts? says Escaler.
He is also the founding chairman of the Asian Cultural Council, a non-profit organization
that provides grants to Asian artists on exchange programs in the United States.
Escaler admits that organizations do get donor fatigue. As much as possible, we just
try to do things on our own and stop asking from other people.
That is why Im more driven. History is reflected in the arts, yet not so many people are
into it. Even after 1986, people consider Imelda Marcos the No. 1 patroness of the arts
despite corruption charges and People Power. Nobody has equalled her, says Escaler.
The arts are important. They reflect the nation, and where its going. It nourishes the life
of a country.
As if all this werent enough, he and some Ateneo alumni established the St. Aloysius
Gonzaga Foundation, which supports seminarians. It was a birthday wish of former
Ateneo high school principal Fr. Luis Candelaria when he turned 80.
Escaler believes in keeping his palm open. It comes back so I can help more people.

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