Classic silhouettes in a printed top and jersey palazzo pants.

Working with family is tricky, just as it is working with friends. I’ve come to realize that when I shoot people I’m close to, the dynamics change. They tell me what to do, which shots to choose and demand to take their best angle. You guys know who you are and I love you in spite! Being a tough critic on myself, I know how it can feel so exposed (physically and emotionally) to put yourself out there for everyone to judge. This particular shoot was one of those because the subject is close to my heart. My Tita Jo is someone I’ve admired for as long as I can remember. I took notice of her obvious beauty in my pre-teen years, during my Tita Ga’s despedida de soltera. I was just discovering my love for dressing up when I noticed her in a glam cocktail dress effortlessly working the crowd. That image left me forever in awe of her, not only of her looks, but even more with how she carried herself with such confidence and ease. I discovered what made a woman stand out that night, how powerful self-assurance was, much more than physical appearance. I asked about her brief modelling career where she was literally plucked from home, inexperienced and flown all over the world to model collections from the country’s most respected designers. She told the story with such nonchalance as if it were yesterday, like she couldn’t believe her luck to be amongst fashion’s most glamorous. I loved revisiting it with her. And once more, loved how unaffected she was.

I was curious to see what my Tita Jo would put together for the shoot. I knew she wasn’t a trendy dresser and that she loved accessories—just how much, I was about to discover. On the rack, apart from some colorful printed pieces, her choices were the usual separates, nothing remarkable. But once she donned the clothes and added her signature (accessory) creations, the mundane garments suddenly looked glam and polished. Such is the magic of real personal style that not everyone is born with but as I’ve come to discover, can be honed and practised with the right guidance. Tita Jo’s innate chic style is definitely inborn and will remain eternal throughout her existence.

What she does housewife, erstwhile jewelry maker

Personal style casual chic, understated elegance, free and easy

Her days be like I try to fill up my life with a diversity of activities. Socio-civic-religious organizations like Martha’s Vineyard for civic awareness, charity work and a deepening of faith and values; playing golf for health and leisure and even learning the Argentine tango for fun.

Favorite designers and shopping haunts I hate shopping. I hardly do.  If I ever do, I like to shop with my daughters (here or abroad) because we usually have exactly the same taste for clothes, shows, even books.  It’s like shopping with three pairs of eyes and we usually end up buying the same things—only in different colors or sizes! It’s always a source of consternation for them that I have the ‘bad’ habit of buying all colors of anything I like. But I do believe that one should stick to what looks best for you.  I don’t believe in following fashion blindly.  It’s not the ‘brand’ you wear that matters but what makes you look best in that matters – pricey or otherwise.  I don’t ‘dress up’. I dress down. My go to brands are Issey Miyake, Jones New York, Uniqlo among others.

Top 5 closet staples pants, skirts, scarves/jackets, knits and accessories, accessories, accessories!

Online surfing news channels, CNN, cooking shows, home decor and renovations

Current uniform mostly knits – tees and pants, accessorized. I hardly wear ‘high fashion’. I do believe one can look elegant even in the simplest of clothes.

Mixing prints like a pro!


Earrings acquired from her travels and a matching necklace and bracelet she designed and made herself.


A shirtdress she layers over slim pants accented with punches of red and gold.


Her home is filled with varying shades of blue, down to the beautiful table setting.


A lariat necklace she created.


Posing before a personal Manansala sketch.


Gorgeous antique earrings!


More of her original creations.


Her workstation where she makes beaded accessories.


Just a few of her vast collection of original creations. There were boxes and boxes of them!


Simply stunning in jersey separates and flat sandals.


Her usual golf uniform.


A vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag she purchased in Japan.

Choosing Local

Ever since I watched the documentary The True Cost, a film that follows the lives and working conditions of the workers, mostly women, who make garments for high street brands like Zara, H&M and Forever21, and saw the horrible situations the women live through day in and day out, I made a conscious decision to buy more local brands. Fashion people, watch it on Netflix! It’s high time these start-up businesses get the recognition they deserve and given the good quality, positive feedback and true Pinoy ingenuity, our all-out support is what they need to make it big.

I’m ecstatic to have these choices in our shores at a time when there are staggering options from international brands that can overpower smaller entrepreneurs. I often worry about how our local businesses survive and how newbies can get the break they need. But with new names popping up all the time, there is room for all the players, old and new. Here are some of my personal favorites, whose websites I often stalk for the latest offerings and sale announcements. This is in no way a paid post, I simply just love them.




Fino’s leather goods stand the test of time and are so well-made it can compete with old school Italian brands for a fraction of the price. The Verona Zip and more can be viewed at 



Renegade Folk’s sandals are hands down one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. No need to break them in! It’s hard to buy just one pair when they continue to come up with the most stylish designs. The all-leather footwear are made by artisans from Marikina, so buying from them keeps the local shoe industry alive. Her in Zebra available at 




Working women, moms and students have been going gaga over the “classic with a twist” garments of Unif0rm. Borne out of ingenuity and resourcefulness of owner Pia See, it’s a reflection of her own impeccable taste and dress sense. The Bow Topper can be ordered from their catalogue 




Nawa is a new brand of brass bangles made with love from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Every piece of bangle sold supports the Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions, preserving and promoting the T’boli culture. It also gives the women who weave the pouch livelihood and a sense of worth—reasons enough to support this brand even more. Find them on Instagram at




This online shop of my friend Mikka Padua has been a go-to of mine since their launch in 2013. Every new style story they come up with never fails to get me excited—and it seems most women agree. You need to be vigilant to acquire their often out of stock pieces like this  Azilal Embroidered Caftan at




Ever since I chanced upon R2R’s kiosk in Glorietta, I was enamored with the polished weaving skills of the women who make them. It started with a floor mat that I still use to this day to the mini Buslo bags that are just the right size and mix of chic local design. Brown Buslo from





When C2 re-launched a few years back under the helm of seasoned designer Rhett Eala, it has put the brand back on the map—literally—when he used the Philippines as a print on the shirts. It was a hit with balikbayans and as pasalubongs to friends on my trips abroad. I was really pleased with the quality and cool designs that to this day, under new designer JC Buendia, I continue to be a fan. Photo from



There’s a first time for everything, they say.

The weather wasn’t cooperating the day I went to shoot Beng at her eclectic home; the sky was grey and rain was steadily pouring on my way there. For some reason, it didn’t faze me nor did her. I had a mission to accomplish and she, ever the steady one, was game to do it despite. “I have a red umbrella”, she said. Perfect.

Beng never considered herself stylish but more of a practical shopper who only goes out to buy stuff when the need arises. I respected that, although my thought bubble was “but you’re a size 2 (with three kids!), anything would look good on you!” We jumped right in, rain and all, to their colorful roof deck and got to work.

The townhouse she shares with her artist husband Johnny is truly a creative haven. Paint cans lined the shelf in the staircase, artworks displayed in every nook and cranny, trippy graffiti adorned the walls and an arrow lightbulb that gave out serious pop art vibes was perched above the door. Everything screamed ART LIVES HERE and I loved it. What ensued was an easy banter of catching up in between shots, talking about common friends, our love of music and kids. She’d like to have more, she said. I salute her for that. Like everything else in her world, she approached motherhood with the relaxed ease and nonchalance of a seasoned homemaker, albeit a truly hip one. It reflected in her personal style: in one outfit, what seemed like a regular button-down top had extra thick cuffs and multiple buttons while a vintage floral top sported a semi-cocoon shape that made it out of the box.

These small details sums up Beng’s personality to a T: quiet and serene but packs a mean punch. And did I mention the girl can sing a mean rendition of the Juan Dela Cruz classic Beep Beep? She is also the lead singer of electronica band Drip, on hiatus since December last year after the birth of her third child, Lupe. A third album is on the works, to be released some time next year. See the looks we came up with for a glimpse on this girl’s art-filled life.

What she does wife to Juan, mother to Leon, Maria and Lupe, Marketing Director for the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) and our family business Kenstar Travel, singer / songwriter for Drip

Personal style simple, straightforward and practical

Her days be like Mondays to Thursdays I’m at UA&P. Fridays I do work for the family business at home. Weekends is for family and non-work stuff. Generally we’re up 6am and try to be tucked in bed by 9pm because kids have to be up early for school. When able, I run. Hobbies? I like surfing the net for recipes, house and DIY stuff. I listen to music too.

Favorite designers and shopping haunts I like Uniqlo. SM department store too. But nothing fixed. A lot of my stuff are also vintage.

Top 5 closet staples Blazers, jeans, polos, comfy shoes and vintage accessories

Online surfing Pinterest

Style evolution Since I work in a conservative environment, I have to follow a strict attire guide: no bright colors or tight stuff. I wear more blazers, dressy pants, dresses; t-shirts and shorts are reserved for the weekend. I dress for comfort and what’s age-appropriate, too. I constantly edit my closet, at least once every two months, so what I have doesn’t make it a challenge to get ready in the morning. It’s pretty tight and well-curated.

Current uniform Mine would be a white or striped top, jeans and sneaks. It’s a no-brainer look, plus it’s relaxed. I have three small children and so I need to be ready for a lot of movement and action.


Top, Zalora; cardigan, G2000; skirt, vintage; pumps, Anne Klein.


Her husband Juan’s plaster of paris installation makes the perfect backdrop for Beng’s accessories: a mix of vintage and rustic pieces gifted by loved ones.



Top, vintage; jeans, Details; sandals, Seychelles.


White Assemblege by her husband Juan Alcazaren


An artist’s life is literally full of color!



A Nubbin Beldia painting brings color to this corner by the staircase.


Dress, Promod; punps, Anne Klein.


Collages by Chabet


More Than This Arrow light installation by Juan Alcazaren


Top, Mango; skirt, SM; sandals, Seychelles.


Vintage pearl necklace and earrings from her mom






Top, Avocado; skirt SM; shoes, Payless.




Floral blazer, vintage; jeans, Petrol; slip-ons, Payless; top, SM.



Deer skull wall decor is a gift from her mom


Top and loafers, H&M; pants, Topshop.