POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pity Tim, stylish son of Gen. Garcia in NY

KAWAWA NAMAN: All you flood victims contemplating our wretched lives, read this report on the curtailed lifestyle of Tim Garcia, 25-year-old son of Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia who is facing charges arising from his alleged amassing of illegal wealth.

This article titled “Fashion’s Night In” was written by Peter Davis, editor-at-large of Paper. His articles on style and celebrities have been published in Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The New York Observer.

I begged my Editor for extra space so readers will not miss the juicy details.

* * *

DAVIS’ ARTICLE: Timothy Mark Depakakibo Garcia, a 25-year-old publicist for Marc by Marc Jacobs, has a court-ordered Fashion Week curfew.

Perched on a sleek white Armani Casa chair in his apartment in the modern, gilded Trump Plaza at 502 Park Avenue, Garcia is decked in head-to-toe designer: a supple caramel leather Alessandro dell’Acqua jacket, Alexander McQueen jeans, a thin white LnA tee shirt and YSL boots. His wrists are adorned with a big Cartier gold and silver Tank watch, a Cartier Love bracelet, a white enamel Hermes bangle and a $1,000 dollar large gold-plated spiked Hermes cuff called the Collier de Chien.

The ankle bracelet limits Garcia’s fashion choices. “I can’t even wear my knee-high croc boots by Sergio Rossi for the fall,” he laments.

Then Garcia daintily rolls up his jeans to reveal one accessory he’d rather not be wearing: an electronic monitoring house-arrest ankle bracelet, code number “HGM94472.” The thick plastic black box, the size of a pack of cigarettes, is snug up against his tiny ankle. Garcia’s movements are recorded by Homeguard 200, a big black machine connected to his angular, futuristic Bang and Olufsen phone.

“I’m sorry it’s so messy,” he frets. His good friend, the outrageously outré Manila-based fashion blogger Bryan Boy is staying with him. Near the kitchen in the cozy, all-white one-bedroom apartment, Bryan Boy’s massive Louis Vuitton steamer trunk explodes open with designer duds. A white mohair Gucci dog bed, for Garcia’s five-year-old Yorkshire Terrier “Cartier,” rests under a an enormous flat-screen TV. On the kitchen table, two laptops are open and towers of fashion magazines, costume jewelry and beauty products are everywhere.

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ON MARCH 6, 2009, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) barged into Garcia’s apartment — purchased with his mother, Clarita D. Garcia, in 2004 for $765,000 — and handcuffed him “right in this chair I’m sitting in,” he says. Garcia couldn’t stop crying. He was taken to the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, and then moved from a special housing unit to the general population. The only thing he could see from his cell window was a cemetery.

Garcia was arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the business dealings of his father, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, a former comptroller of the armed forces of the Philippines. The elder Garcia stands accused of racking up more than P303 million ($6.2 million) of ill-gotten gains, in the form of cash, real estate and other property. General Garcia is not an American citizen and is in jail in the Philippines where the scandal has taken on Imelda Marcos-like proportions in the local press. General Garcia’s wife and their three children (all American citizens), Timothy Mark, Ian Karl, 30, and Juan Paulo, 27 are all facing plunder charges in the Philippines, which carries a penalty of 30 years to life. They are all also subject to extradition.

Tim Garcia remained in lock-up for 95 days. “It was the doorway to hell,” he remembers, in his soft voice. “I was in with trannies who needed hormone treatments,” he goes on, spinning the Hermes cuff like a toy. “Pete Gotti, the brother of John Gotti, was there… organized crime families. It was a long time, a chunk of my life.” His friends tell him he is resilient. And for someone being threatened with extradition and losing everything, he seems somewhat calm. “It’s life altering. Imagine yourself being secluded and out of sight and out of mind and being trapped. Imagine living a comfortable lifestyle and than all of a sudden you’re forced to coexist with armed robbers, organized crime people and people who sell drugs. The cream of the criminal crop. They put me with pedophiles. I was trying not to get raped every day. It was scary.” At the same time, Clarita, Garcia’s mother, was also in prison. “That hurt me the most. She’s 60 and to put her in prison in conditions like that is difficult for a son. She was in prison longer than me.”

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IN APRIL, Garcia says he was asked to hand over his “apartment and bank accounts.” He protested. “I knew that it was all bullshit. I was like, ‘No! I will never waver in the conviction of my father’s innocence and doing that would just hurt my father’s case.” The government still contends that some of that $6.2 million went into purchasing the Trump Plaza apartment. The government also says the Garcias transferred $2 million from the Philippines to the United States.

On June 8, Garcia was released from prison on a million-dollar bail. He was despondent and in shock. Then, in a strange twist of fate, he was offered the coveted job as a publicist for Marc Jacobs. He didn’t dare tell the fashion house about his court ordeal, but then Page Six broke the news for him. His bosses at Marc Jacobs didn’t blink. “I didn’t tell them about my situation. I don’t have a criminal record. They arrested me to put pressure on my family. I’m just fortunate that no one (at Marc Jacobs) cares and if anything, they are very, very compassionate to my situation.”

“My father is a government official in the Philippines,” Garcia explains carefully, his small voice growing deeper. “Basically they are accusing my father of stealing millions and misuse of public funds and me being his son, they locked up his entire family. The picture the Philippines press paints of my family is that we were dirt poor and with my father in this position for two years, we rose to astronomical riches. We are third generation despots in the Philippines.” Garcia pauses and checks his Blackberry, which makes a ping noise every few minutes. He silences his phone. “I can’t actually talk about the legalities of it all because it’s still pending.”

* * *

GARCIA shows me his bedroom, equipped with two flat-screen TVs and a wall of DVDs. By his computer are two vintage Cher dolls. Piled on the floor are a half-dozen orange Hermes boxes. At the bottom of the closet, three gigantic Louis Vuitton suitcases are filled with clothes. By the bathroom door, a rolling rack sags under the weight of a giant pile of couture. Garcia has been a fashion fiend since he was a kid. He counts YSL by Stefano Pilati, Dior Homme by Kris Van Assche and Marc Jacobs as his favorite labels. When a student, first at the University of Asia and the Pacific (run by the Opus Dei) in Manila and later at Parsons in New York, he was always dressed to impress. “I’m lacking in closet space,” he says with a groan, waving his small hand at six stuffed YSL garment bags hung from doors. Garcia cherry-picks a new, fitted black Gucci leather jacket, which he mentions Madonna wore. It’s his statement piece for fall.

“Imagine living a comfortable lifestyle and than all of a sudden you’re forced to coexist with armed robbers, organized crime people and people who sell drugs. The cream of the criminal crop.”

House arrest definitely dampers Garcia’s glamorous life. He’s accustomed to being a regular at store parties and nightclubs like The Rose Bar in the Gramercy Park Hotel. But now, Garcia has a curfew of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is not allowed to leave his apartment on the weekends, except to go to church for two hours on Sunday (a Catholic, he attends the service at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral nearby). “For Fashion Week, since I am a publicist, they extended my hours. I am allowed to come back at 1 a.m. this week,” he smiles widely. “There is a 30-minute grace period for lateness.” But after that, the Homeguard 200 alerts the authorities and Garcia could end up back in the slammer.

Despite all the drama, Garcia claims he’s adjusted to the curfew. He orders in food from Serafina and Freds, the restaurant at Barneys. Friends visit constantly.

* * *

THE WORST PART is the actual ankle bracelet. “It’s uncomfortable,” he moans, tugging at the plastic strap. “It hurts when I run at the gym. We have to pay for it too, the whole thing. My lawyer is taking care of it though.” The ankle bracelet limits Garcia’s fashion choices. “I can’t even wear my knee-high croc boots by Sergio Rossi for the fall,” he laments. “I had to make adjustments with my wardrobe. When it was hot in the summer, I didn’t want to go to Marc Jacobs wearing shorts. I just felt it was in bad taste.”

The forfeiture case against Garcia and his mother was stayed on March 10 to allow the Philippine prosecution and investigation to proceed — and possibly seize the Park Avenue pied-a-terre. While Garcia waits to see whether he will lose his apartment, his bank accounts and be extradited back to the Philippines, he continues to work hard at Marc by Marc Jacobs.

On his bedside table, under a fashion book by the street style photographer “The Sartorialist” sits “You Don’t Have to Be Famous: How to Write Your Own Life Story.” Garcia plans to pen a book about his family’s whole ordeal. But for the time being, he goes on with his normal life.

He saunters into the bathroom and sprays on his favorite scent, Armani Mania. It’s hard to imagine Garcia, now decked out in couture, in the prison garb he wore last spring. “I was in an orange jumpsuit and then after a month, they changed it to khaki,” he tells me, hanging up the “Madonna” Gucci jacket. “I will never wear a jumpsuit in my life.” His slight shoulders shiver. “The thought of that jumpsuit just makes me cringe.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 1, 2009)

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