Famous designer Ernest Santiago found dead

by Karen A.P. Caliwara
Dec 17, 2007

One of the stars' most sought-after fashion designers in the '80s and renowned furniture maker Ernest Santiago, 68, was found dead inside his room this morning, December 16, at 10:00 a.m. A source said that the estimated time of his death was between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m.

His body bore no stab or bullet wound, but a gash at the back of his head was the most probable cause of his death. A hard object, according to the theories of local authorities, was used to hit the back of the victim's head.

Santiago's place was in a mess when the police arrived at the crime scene. The investigation is presently pointing to robbery as the motive for murder. His Mitsubishi pick-up van, an undetermined amount of cash, expensive jewelry, and other valuables are missing.

"Mag-isa lang siya sa house niya. Wala namang kahina-hinalang nangyari. A friend went to his house to deliver a gift last night [Saturday]," claimed one of the victim's colleagues in the fashion industry.

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Investigators have a hunch that the suspect was a friend of Ernest. There was no sign of forced entry or struggle.

His body is presently undergoing an autopsy.

Interment will be at 7:00 p.m. Monday, December 17, at the Sanctuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park in Makati.

Ernest, or more popularly known as Santiago de Manila (his signature as a couturier), is the man behind Coco Banana, a famous disco in the '70s. The singing group Hotdogs even mentioned it in their hit song "Annie Batungbakal": "Sa umaga, dispatsadora/ Sa gabi, siya'y bonggang-bongga/ Pagsapit ng dilim, nasa Coco Banana/ Annie Batungbakal, sa disco isnabera Sa disco, siya ang reyna!"

In the early '80s, he became one of the prime movers of Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines. When it held its first induction rites in 1981 at La Concha, Hyatt Hotel, he was sworn in as the group's chairman of the board.

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After retiring from the world of fashion, he became a furniture maker, and his works reaped rave reviews from both the local and international press.

He also owns 83 Gallery Café, a place referred to as "Ernesto's little corner of heaven," in Pagsanjan.

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