(Full text of the article published in The Philippine Star (Lifestyle section), January 31, 2014)
It is perhaps a reflection of the country’s precarious economic state that most of the questions directed to Marites Allen, International Feng Shui Association (IFSA)-certified feng shui master, are related to ways to increase income opportunities. The queries raised on her websites and during public talks since she started practicing feng shui are variations on the same theme: how to make more money, how to facilitate work travel abroad, how to grow one’s business, and how to get rid of negative energies that prevent one from having a better life.
Makes one wonder: Do these concerns even figure in the lives of those who have millions or billions to their names?
“Yes, and even more so, the richer one gets,” comes the quick reply from Marites. “Rich people have much more to lose and so the pressure that comes with their large fortunes is commensurately great.”
Marites is uniquely qualified to make that observation. She is, after all, known as the go-to feng shui consultant of famous persons in business, media/entertainment, and politics. Months before the coming of the Chinese New Year, she is invited to their houses to chart lucky and unlucky sectors—an activity known as feng shui audit, and to recommend solutions such as the proper cures and enhancers.
Auditing the Bookkeeper
Recently she was at the office of SGV founder Mr. Washington Sycip, to conduct her annual feng shui audit. The Ramon Magsaysay awardee for International Understanding (1992), Mr. Sycip is dubbed as “the man to know in Asia;” yet, he refers to himself as “Only a Bookkeeper,” which is also the title of his biographical book. The 92-year-old business icon has been a regular guest in all annual feng shui events of Marites, and is all praises for co-host Boy Abunda for making every convention even more amusing. Mr. Sycip has given the feng shui maven many valuable business advice. At one time, he jested that perhaps Marites should think about putting ‘sexier’ messages inside fortune cookies to make them more interesting.
Mr. Sycip has even found time to share his thoughts on feng shui, which is posted on Marites’s official website:
“I do thank Marites Allen for keeping good feng shui at my home and office for many years now, especially for briefing me on ideal days for important decisions.
I remember that in choosing a date to celebrate my 90th birthday with friends and business associates, the odds favored Thursday, June 30th. As it turned out, the day was extremely lucky. On that day, President Benigno Aquino III conferred upon me the Order of Sikatuna, the highest presidential award. I was also able to raise funds amounting to Two Million Dollars (U$ 2 million) to be used for basic education and microfinance projects. For my health and longevity offering, Marites together with my family released 168 birds at our home in Forbes last June 30.
As I’ve said, there’s no harm in getting to know about feng shui and there’s every possibility that you might benefit from it.”
Marites notes that Mr. Sycip has several symbols of the turtle in his office. Stone turtles also adorn a park in the central business district named after him. In feng shui, turtles are known longevity symbols. The Rooster-born tycoon sometimes graces formal occasions in dressy barong tagalog adorned with roosters, his zodiac animal sign.
Feng shui for health
Another post on the feng shui master’s website concurs with Mr. Sycip’s comments.
“We met Marites Allen at Wash Sycip’s birthday celebration five years ago. This meeting turned into an introduction to feng shui.
Subsequently, we have been fortunate to be able to tap Marites Allen’s expertise and this has been very helpful, even CRUCIAL in the precarious health issues Joly has been battling with in the past decade and a half, exacerbated by almost nine years of kidney dialysis and recently heart and lung complications in addition to psoriasis in its extreme case.
The medical team headed by veteran Dr. Claver Ramos has successfully given superb medical care to date ‘over and above’ the statistical norm. Yet, they have accommodated the additional input from feng shui master Maritess Allen. All these plus the prayers have kept the family hopeful that ALL the forces are being explored for Joly’s well-being.
We agree with Wash Sycip…it can’t hurt, but it has definitely helped us, so far!
The testimonial was shared by Joanne de Asis Benitez, the New York investment banker wife of Dr. Jose Conrado “Joly” Benitez, former Human Settlements Deputy Minister. Dr. Benitez had a surgery done just over a year ago for a kidney ailment for which he was earlier given a slim chance for survival. The Benitez couple had sought the help of Marites who recommended favorable dates for the operation. Now up and about again after his long ordeal, Dr. Benitez thanks the medical team for accommodating the dates suggested by Marites. “It was probably Marites’s day, because had it been any other day I think I would have been gone,” the former Deputy Minister says.
The American heiress
Never in her growing up years had Marites imagined herself rubbing elbows with highly influential people. Owing to her feng shui practice, she has memories of her encounters with many important personalities, a virtual A-list of Philippine society, including two former presidents (Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada). Those are occasions that she considers the perks of her craft.
Her close association with the Benitez couple led her to being invited to a pre-celebration for the 92nd birthday of Mr. Sycip in New York last year. The exclusive gathering was organized by Ms. Joanne de Asis Benitez, a long-time New York resident who honed her financial skills on Wall Street for over 20 years. It was a very exclusive group of less than 20 that included people who, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “are different from you and me.” In this gathering, Marites met the likes of Bill Dudley, the President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, as well as Sondra Gilman, whose family donated a wing at the prestigious New York Metropolitan Museum and who chairs the famous Tony Awards (the Broadway equivalent of the Oscars) and found herself in a conversation with Alice Walton, heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune and the richest American as per Forbes Magazine. Marites was then wearing a formal dress designed with antakahrana prints, which caught the attention of the American heiress. Marites had to explain the significance of her luck-enhancing dress and her newly launched Frigga fashion line. Fascinated, the black pantsuit-clad Alice Walton was soon asking Marites for some fashion advice.
Weeks later, Marites received an e-mail requesting for her updated contact details and other information to be included in the personal database of the sender’s employer. The message came from the personal assistant of the Indian princess Jeet Nabha Khemka, another distinguished philanthropist Marites met at Joanne’s New York reception.
Feng shui, indeed, knows no social bounds.