Since I met Toni Villaraza Gregory Palenzuela several eons ago — no details please, to avoid red-faced situations — she has been perpetually enveloped by all things stunningly pretty.
Her well-appointed, exuding-nothing-but-warmth homes here and abroad, and efficient, customer-driven offices from her heyday as a hotelier to present-day challenges as a PR practitioner, among others, are our personal testimonies to such aesthetic surroundings.
Whenever we got together during pre-Covid days for our Eating Club luncheons and the dine-outs with the Best Friends Forever group composed of pillars of the tourism industry, Toni would, without even trying, immediately catch the eye of the ladies and the admiration of gentlemen on how she is well-put-together.
From beaded zapatillas, a summer frock, a unique necklace, an enhanced native bag and a new tint on her hair, she is a pretty sight — bar none.
So, would it even be a surprise to discover her passion for years — earnestly collecting empty bottles and jars, all a sight to behold? These were collected from travels for work and pleasure in the cities and provinces of the country and the four corners of the globe.
And then the dreaded lockdown came.
Out of the chaos and confusion, anxiety and fear in everyone’s daily life, Toni remained a perennial optimist. This nothing-dampens-her-spirit woman began her locked-in journey at home.
She immediately decluttered rooms and spaces, cabinets and closets, drawers and boxes. She discovered some forlorn yet still beautiful solitary earrings, loose pearls, precious stones, broken broaches, now-too-small bracelets, discarded tassels, abandoned bottle caps, singular buttons, lustrous beads and still-shimmering gems, all once-relevant standouts of better times.
Basura? No! Treasure trove? Yes!
And so, out came her tubes of acrylic paints, palettes of gouache colors, a variety of brushes, canisters of ink, an array of pencils and their failsafe eraser companions and trusted crafts glue sticks.
Her decorative bottles became her modern canvases, as her creative juices flowed — a stroke and dot here, a swirl and twirl there, a finishing dash elsewhere.
Embellished with all the recovered oddities, it slowly came together to become a distinctive personal bottle, now bursting with new life.
What do you expect from this original arts project? Certified all obras maestras!