The House That Tim Yap Built

An eclectic collection of art, and mementos rich with stories, distinguish the event specialist’s home

by Paolo Enrico Melendez, photo by Patrick Diokno
For media and society figure Tim Yap, putting together his new home has been a series of happy accidents. “This is it, at its most organic,” he says as he welcomes Rogue inside. He sweeps one extended arm across the space around him, looking as unguarded as a decade-long homeowner—although Yap had moved in just under two years ago.

            “I don’t even think this is shoot ready,” he continues. “Wala pang John Robert Powers before facing the world.” Yap says travel, work, and social commitments have kept him from completing his house.

            It doesn’t look it. The space feels accomplished, intuitive, and once inside it looks nothing like the uniform design of this exclusive subdivision’s towering townhouses.

 

In the 20 or so months since he moved in, Yap has been slowly adding to the details, both interior and exterior. “I didn’t know it would take so much effort!” he laughs. He had been happy with his condo living, but recently something ticked, like an alarm clock: the need to build a proper house for himself. So he started looking. He picked his current location because “A lot of my friends are here,” he admits. His first pick for an address was reserved, but he put in a strong bid. When the dealine for the initial buyer lapsed, Yap made the downpayment in half an hour.

Things got rolling fast before he even moved in. Anthony and Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan came over to pray over the location in blessing. Yap went around the neighborhood, knocking on doors to invite friends to the ceremony. Even the cats were quick to make themselves home. Yap fed four strays, which are now regulars to the home during meal hours. “Ginawa na akong canteen,” he says.

Yap asked his good friend, architect and visual artist Carlo Calma, to help him put the house together. He had only one rider: that the theme was to be Man on the Moon. “Since I was a kid, I’d always been fascinated by the man on the moon. We lived in Binondo and we would pass by Roxas Boulevard. At night I would look up at the moon and just wonder.”

At a young age, Yap knew that he wanted a cylindrical house, to evoke the curves, sweeps, and crests so usually associated with things lunar. But given the design constraints with his new home, he opted for circles. The first conversation piece he brought in was a round, multicolored, Ugandan fertility mask. Playful and brash, it now adorns the last staircase landing fronting the dining space, right before one climbs to the house’s more private areas. “We didn’t have a design plan. We’ve always gone with individual pieces,” he says. Everything has been falling into place since.

The most striking first impression of Tim Yap’s home is the wall’s color palette. Or the sparseness of it. Carlo Calma had convinced Yap to go with just three: black, gray, and white. His friends had balked. “Tim, you? No!” they had said, remembering Yap’s former home, which was all bright colors and busy patterns. “My former apartment was like someplace Willy Wonka would hang out at,” Yap says. But Calma had chosen the colors because he wanted Yap to go minimalist. “He didn’t succeed!” laughs Yap.

Indeed. His front door alone is full of cheek. A heavy, circular installation accessed by biometric security, the circular door was inspired by New Zealand’s Hobbiton, the movie set used in the hit “Lord of Rings” films. The door holds the owner’s initials in the interior side.

His receiving area and kitchen are straightforward if still handsome. There are wedding ceremony figurines from Africa; a playful plastic bust of Beethoven with horns; a leather seat shaped like a elephant, its back heavily scratched by Yap’s favored cat, Juanita. Yap’s new Pomeranian puppy, Panda, is the life of the ground floor.

It is on the second floor where Yap’s home begins to open up. As soon as one steps on the landing, one’s vision is led to an astronaut sculpture hanging from the ceiling. Copper-hued and with glowing, alien nodules on the suit’s points of articulation, the figure floats dominantly not just over its immediate space but the entire floor, an otherworldly mix of playful and serious: gravity and gravitas. Sculpted by Leeroy New and called “Mesayang Masaya,” it hovers over a gray, curving customized sofa which evokes lunar landscapes. Highlighting the floor in a blood red circumference is a large carpet, which Yap reveals to have been one of the last design’s by Evelyn Forbes.

In the adjoining dining area, a sleek marble desk by Nix Alañon awaits guests. At the head of the table, Carlo Tanseco’s winged Icarus Chair threatens to take its occupant on a fancyful ride. Beside that is a mirror escutcheon by Cos Zicarelli, and a stunning if nonfunctional seat by sculptor Daniel Delacruz, whose mixed metal clockwork mechanisms have been a big hit at Makati art fairs as of late.

Yap admits that his expenses have shifted from clothes to art. “I enjoy it. Uupo ako diyan, parang sira, titingnan ko lang, mag-eenjoy.” The walls around the stairs leading to the third floor acts as his gallery. Two heavy hitters welcome the visitor. The first is a Ronald Ventura, in a throwback to his earlier work,Watchmen, this time a polygonal golden bulul called Anito-Kristo, rendered in gold polygons and a gesture both messianic and cynical. The other is a commissioned Kenneth Cobonpue welcomes the visitor: woven figure of a man hanging upsidedown as on monkey bars, holding on each hand a lampshade painted like one half of the moon.

Some of paitings date back to Yap’s old apartment, where he didn’t have a proper wall for hanging. “Some of them I gave away. I didn’t have much knowledge of art at the time. For example, KC Concepcion and I call each other Kitty, Kitty Cat. So I gifted her a cat painting. Would you believe it was a Valeria Cavestany?”

Yap has built his collection from the usual auctions, but some of the pieces he had received as gifts from friends. “We’re in media. We have access to so many designers, artists, who are in the know. Support ka lang ng exhibits, mapupuno na ang space mo.”

Among his collection is an Egg Fiasco sketch given to Yap by Secret Fresh during that gallery’s heyday, a shimmering Neal Oshima time lapse landscape photograph, a Minnie Mouse as Sto. Niño by the iconoclast Mideo Cruz, and an Andres Barrioquinto sculpture peeking from the corner a bursting wardrobe like a hidden joke.

Even his most private spaces, where performativity counts for less, are punctuated by art. In his office is a fur rug printed with primal patterns by actress Solenn Heussaff. A geometric metal lattice by sculptor Jinggoy Buensoceso serves as the ladder to a makeshift fifth floor, where Yap strikes bell and chime before meditating to either dawn or dusk. And, as a more personal conversation piece, tucked inside one of his bookshelves is a plaster cast of his late cat Juanita’s paw.

Maganda yung feeling na wala ka nang space,” Yap says. Bahala na!”

There is an undeniable collection to the house’s vibe. Rogue brings this up with Yap, who agrees. “Well, my life can be frenetic. I need a place to regroup. Like my room in my old house. It was the most calm, contemplative spot. So I made sure that despite my little jolts of color, I still had a place where I could be serene.” His old master bedroom door now adorns one of his walls, “In memory of my old debauchery!” Yap laughs.

“Sometimes I make it seem like I have a grand plan,” Yap continues. “But a lot of it is spontaneous, a series of happy accidents.” Yap’s friends would sometimes tell him, “Tim, do you remember, when we were kids you told me, you wanted this or that. And now you have it.” And Yap would go, “‘Really?’ Sometimes there’s no plan. Like this house.” He says that the Leeroy New sculpture’s pose mirrors Yap’s as he bungee jumped in Africa months before the commision. He points to a rectangle of mirrors arranged into angular but paradoxically warm ramps and angles. “That’s by Micaela Benedicto, who turned out to be the sister of my old friend Bobby.” And, in a final example of coincidences, he explains that a pink and green acrylic sculpture shaped like a brain was made by a Thai artist, and not by Louie Cordero, as Rogue initially thought. “I attended the launch of Nardon Tae, way back,” Yap says. Cordero had given one of the works on exhibit, which was number 52 on the catalog. “That adds up to my lucky number.” And no, Cordero and the Thai artist don’t know each other.

This article first appeared in Rogue’s September 2016 issue.