Rebirth of Romance
By Walter Ang
March 30, 2003
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tucked into the heart of San Juan, the cozy and relaxed atmosphere of the "The Aviary" once attracted countless couples in search of good food and romantic evenings. Many were disappointed when it stopped operations.
However, managing partner Ferdie "Pido" Villanueva would still receive inquiries to book the space for wedding receptions long after the fine-dining restaurant had closed shop.
Even former customers and friends all continued to espouse the virtues of the location. Encouraged by their constant prodding, Pido rounded up a new group of partners and set forth to renovate the place into its new incarnation, "The Registry." No longer a restaurant, but now a venue to be rented out for special occasions.
Like a glorious phoenix reborn, The Registry formally opened with a grand affair complete with a pair of models dressed up as newlyweds alighting from a silver Jaguar before they proceeded to the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The opening also featured a photo exhibit of "Ninangs" photographed by Dominique James with the 30 x 40 prints produced by Imagesetters.
"We wanted to highlight the importance of Ninangs in weddings," said partner Bong Lozano. "This is our tribute to them." Featured Ninangs were prominent personalities that included UNIFEM Phil. Committee chair Olga Martel, National Commission on Women president Nona Ricafort, S Magazine publisher Aster Amoyo, Mandaluyong City first lady Carmencita Abalos and Pasig City vice mayor Lorna Bernardo among many others.
Guests to the opening were the first to see The Registry's facelift. "It's now softer and lighter. The antiquated atmosphere of 'The Aviary' was brightened," explained partner Bing Bernardo. Apart from some cosmetic retouching, much of the old-Manila charm still pervades the space. From the grand white wrought-iron gate, one can already glimpse the delights inside: several areas with personalities of their own.
The Patio (capacity to fit 180 pax) is the first area, filled with towering bamboo and rows and rows of horsetails. The most appealing part of the patio is that its landscape can be customized to suit whatever whim or fancy one may have.
An accomplished garden designer, Pido explained, "The look can be changed depending on what our clients want. Tropical, Asian Zen, rose garden, there are endless possibilities!" The look can be continued into the Indoor Garden that fits 250 pax.
The adjacent garden is lush with wildly exotic foliage of the humongous varieties. Bromeliads from Hawaii and Florida, as well as ferrox cycads from Africa, flank the ground while gigantic staghorn ferns (one of the hardest to culture) adorn the elevated gazebo. It's a most romantic spot for garden weddings, with a 25 foot high two-layer waterfall at the back, flowing into a pond filled with giant kois as long as 3 feet.
Beside this is a flight of stairs that lead up to even more function areas. The Gothic Hall (150 pax) is replete with candelabras, chandeliers, and elegant antiques from ancestral homes. This hall includes gold-leafed wooden arches, tiled floors, and french windows that lead to the stately balcony.
Beside the hall is the Green Alcove, which can comfortably fit 50 pax. Both these rooms, including the downstairs Indoor Garden, overlook the aviary filled with brightly hued macaws and talking cockatoos from Australia and the South American rainforests.
The stainless steel kitchen is also on the second floor and will be home to several affiliated caterer: Auffrance Catering, Batis Asul Catering, Hizon's Catering, Josiah's Catering, Juan Carlo Catering, Nina's of The Aviary, Portico 1771 of Malate, and VS&F.
Just outside the Gothic Hall is a bridge that crosses to the Bamboo Hallway (25 pax) and right beside it is the Bridal Room where the newlyweds can take a breather away from the crowd. All the different textures, colors, atmospheres, flora and fauna stems from Pido's wish for people to have a sensual experience.
"The sound of the waterfall creates such a serene and soothing sound. The flora and fauna are a delight for the eyes. This is a wonderful environment not only for wedding receptions, but as well as the ceremony itself, theme parties, debuts, and other special occasions," he said.
"In fact, children's parties would also be wonderful. For them, we bring out the snakes and tarantulas. They have a great time since they see and touch plants and animals they would only normally find in picture books."
With such accouterments, The Registry truly is a feast for the senses. The partners are all confident that their hands-on approach to managing the venue, from design to coordination, will surely make any blushing bride beam with joy and pride.
The Registry is at 233 J. Abad Santos St., Little Baguio, San Juan. Call Bing Bernardo (0917 523-2368) and Bong Lozano (0917 891-7805).