But Onie, Ka Onie, Tito Onie among the younger set , and friends, despite the long, grayish white hair and the solemn demeanor (when not smiling, which is rare) is hardly stern nor hard to read. Born with the name Honesto, he is anything but the quite type. Conversations with him can start with one simple thing, and then expound into a galaxy of art, bonsai, gardening, travel and music. There are no boundaries when you sit down with him and just discuss the known universe, and then some that are virtually unknown, punctuated with humorous anecdotes and side-splitting punchlines, there is no boring moment with him.
His creations – Patio Papa, BKD (bahay Ko Din), Ka Boy Grill, Bamboo Grande, Kalye Luna in Baguio City and the two most dear to him Bamboo Giant Malate and Bambu Intramuros – are products of a mind that never cease to discover new things. Driftwood and strange artifacts often find themselves on display in and around these restaurants. And what with his botanical skills (he has designed gardens that has the acclaim of not just institutions, but a queen once congratulated him for a job well done!) Bambu Intramuros along with Bamboo Giant Malate are testament for his love of colorful plants, beautiful music and art. These are his concepts for ingredients of what a good dining experience should be. Indeed, you could call Onie the beating heart of his creations.
His creativity is fueled by music – jazz, classic rock,folk, country, world music and rock and roll. Add to these his keen eye for art in all its forms and disciplines, sulpture, painting, drawings, from the avant garde to the traditional and more of the found-talent types. He has friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, be it politics, public service, musicians, painters, poets, the common man, all are in thrall when the man walks. No, that is not lip service, you have to meet him to know what Bambu Intramuros is all about.
From concept to execution, choosing the right stuff for the right spot, hanging positive words to engage the diner on what could be just another meal and turn it to a whole intellectual experience, picking meticulously the musicians who perform every night, less electronic, more on acoustic, not just elevator music, these are but some of his passionate hands working. He disagrees with extravagance, but the lushness of the leaves and trees, poetry in music, collecting art and the open arms he extends to those who are looking for work is the unspoken lavishness of the man’s character. His organic farm elsewhere is a foundation for his altruism. His bonsai is the incarnation of his soul.
Enigmatic maybe too heavy to describe Onie in one word. Ambiguous? Far from the truth. Let’s just say that Onie and his creations are free-spirited, cannot be labeled with a single tag, but an amalgam of all the things his passion can visualize. You might chance upon him when you come and visit Manila.