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.

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