November 8, 2004 (STAR) By Tanya T. Lara - The building has inarguably the best views of Manila Bay. It sits right in front of the American Embassy, one of the few stretches on Roxas Boulevard that havenít been reclaimed to death. It has unimpeded views of Manila Bayís waters, fringed by the green lawns of the embassy complex.

Given the way things work, naturally on the afternoon that we visited its model units, there was a sudden downpour of rain, which caught everybody by surprise and running for the lobby. The rains were followed by a fog, making us see absolutely nothing of the famous views because of the thickness that was blanketing the horizon. It looked like the windowpanes on the upper levels of the building had been sandblasted for that frosted look.

Robert Ynson, president of Pearl of the Orient, the company that built the eponymous condominium building, sighed and said, "Hopefully the fog will lift."

Thankfully, it did lift a little before our staff photographer had to dash off.

The company that developed the condominium is made up of shareholders that have business of their own. Some of them, such as Willy Ng who owns Astoria Plaza, are involved in real estate development; all of them are members of the Filipino-Chinese Federation.

Pearl of the Orient the condominium was formerly named Embassy Pointe Tower. It was changed between the time they started construction five years ago and the time they turned over units to owners just this year and Ynson was candid enough to tell us the reason: Perception.

"In the beginning, we thought that Embassy Pointe Tower would be a good name, but then we realized that a lot of people were shying away from embassies because of the bombings abroad, particularly of American embassies. We thought the name might scare them to come and live here."

On the other hand, he added that if thereís a neighborhood that employs heavy security measures at all times, it would be around the American Embassy.

"Contrary to perception, its being located near the embassy is actually a plus factor."

Well, except for the traffic when thereís a rally. Or another Lova-palooza on Baywalk.

But Ynson is right. You canít accidentally leave a package near the embassy without Manilaís Finest filling up the boulevard, even if the package you left just happened to contain your lunch.

Back to the views. If the pictures in this spread look familiar, itís because the building is being used by the drama Forever in my Heart starring Regine Velasquez and Richard Gomez. Letís not discuss the fantastic storyline here, but we did get a peek at both Regineís and Richardís apartments on the drama series, which were decorated nicely. Ynson said producers simply walked into the new building and asked if they could rent some units for shooting.

It must have been the design of the building that caught their eye, especially with its striking colors and large helipad atop the roof, which I mistook for a revolving restaurant.

Pearl of the Orient was designed by the California-based firm Nadel Architects and G&W Architects of Manila. Itís a 42-story mixed-use complex with six floors reserved for office use and the rest for residential use.

G&W principal and architect Willie Yu is particularly proud of how these two functions are split right down to the lobby, providing privacy and security for both kinds of tenants.

"There are two lobbies to speak of," he said. "The left is for homeowners and the right is for office people. We have two sets of elevators for the two types of tenants."

Upon entering the lobby, guests are greeted by a fountain with a giant ball spewing water Ė one of the many elements that feng shui consultants from Hong Kong and Singapore suggested. Yu explained that they decided to have the building feng shui-ed at every stage of construction because it gave the future homeowners peace of mind, especially since the clientele is mostly made up of Filipino-Chinese. Nobody wants to live in a place flowing with bad chi even if it has killer views, right?

Yu said the building was designed using the latest technology in ensuring it against earthquake, fire, soil erosion and simply the fact of its being located in Manila "where the soil is softer than, say, Quezon City."

Inside, it employs an "intelligent building management system." The lobby is equipped with CCTVs to announce guests, there are overhead and underground water storage and supply systems, emergency power generator and all the modern facilities employed by best new buildings.

Another consideration was efficient and secure parking, a rarity in Manilaís older buildings, which expect guests to park on the narrow sidewalks. Pearl of the Orient has 10 floors of parking ó four basement levels and from the second to the seventh floors ó for tenants and their guests.

On the 13th floor is the City Club, which includes swimming pools, game rooms, function rooms, a gym, health spa, business center, and a fine-dining restaurant that has yet to be contracted out.

The building has a total of 350 units, from studios to three-bedroom units, with the largest ones ranging from 150 to 170 square meters. Ynson said the price per square meter is P70,000 for the prime units fronting Roxas Boulevard (which adds up to around P11 million for a three-bedroom unit).

He added that they wanted to cater to the middle-high market since both extremes of the condo market were saturated. On one end, you have the super luxury condos that cost from P30 to P50 million and on the other end, you have the P2 to P5 million condos that donít have the best quality of finishing the middle-high market requires.

"Our tenants are a mix of expats and locals. Some bought their units as investment, to be rented out. Others bought their units to use themselves or to give to their children who have married and are starting a family of their own," Ynson said.

The question is why would you want to live in a condo when for the same amount of money you could buy a much larger house inÖLaguna?

Ynson said that condominiums cater to a particular market. "Itís for couples who frequently travel or foreigners who come to live here. They donít have to maintain a guard to watch over their homes. They can come and go without worrying about the security of the building. Needless to say, itís very convenient in terms of security and accessibility. They can come and go as they please without having to worry about these things."

Convenience is a commodity in this urban sprawl Ė a luxury even Ė making our days longer from hours and hours of commuting from our homes to our workplaces. With a location like Roxas Boulevard you cut down considerably on those hours.

Yu argued that Roxas Boulevard is the center of the metropolis. "Itís right in the heart of Manila, near Quezon City and Makati, the airports, shopping malls, restaurants, government offices."

All right, Manila is trying to regain its former glory and bring back the very well-heeled residents. Have we mentioned the National Museum, the CCP and other cultural venues? Or the lollipop lights that dot the boulevard at night? Or the still-bohemian lifestyle of Malate? Or Luneta Park to take your Japanese tourists for some picture-taking? Or Quiapo to buy cheap handicrafts? Or Divisoria for even cheaper houseware?

And, of course, thereís that sunset that everybodyís still talking about.

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Pearl of the Orient is located on Roxas Boulevard corner Arquiza St. For inquiries, call 484-0902, send fax to 0901.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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