Monday, June 2, 2008

Islamabad's "Fortalice boutique"

One of the pleasant surprises of my visit to Pakistan
was the couple of nights spent at Islamabad’s
“Fortalice ”, an up scale bourgeois house ensconced
in a Makati-type village and converted into a boutique
That was where the Islamabad Policy Research
Institute, our host,billeted us -- Lyn Resurrecction
(Business Mirror),Natalia Diaz (Philippine Daily
Inquirer), Ellen Tordesillas (Malaya), Fatima
(People’s Asia), and Dante Francis Ang ( Manila
Times)— shortly after an animated session with the
frightfully outspoken journalists of the Karachi Press
Club. Our hosts probably wanted to keep us out of
harms way; we were joking of course, the Pakistan
trip was definitely not a “guided tour”.
The “Fortalice” was pure nostalgia. Somehow, it
reminded me of the Araneta mansion “MARA”, on McKinley
Road, where my husband and I lived during the first
two years of our marriage. In fact, I had given my
father-in-law’s sedate, paneled study adaptive re-use
by converting it into Fatimah’s nursery. Living at
“Mara” was like being in a sublimely lusurious hotel
but with the warmth of a large, cheerful family.
Not quite as grand as “Mara”, Islamabad’s “Fortalice
Boutique ” was just as elegant what with chandeliers,
a sweeping main staircase, lots of carved panels and
grills and marble slabs. When the original owners
lived there, they probably had an enviable collection
of art and a fine library like my in-laws. The
elderly waiter in a brocade vest, probably the family
mayordomo, guided us through the menu and explained
special features of the house.
After my mother-in-law passed away, late last year,
her children did not quite know what to do with the
palatial “MARA”. I was afraid it would suffer the fate
of other ancestral homes so I suggested that they
turn it into a boutique hotel much like the
“Fortalice” of Islamabad.

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