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Divine Maitland-Smith and Megan Campbell are the Coolest Girls You’ll Meet

Cool, smart and beautiful–those are just some of the words we can use to describe Megan Campbell and Divine Maitland-Smith.

“And we get to have beer?” Divine Maitland-Smith exclaims excitedly as we pop open a bottle of San Miguel, some refreshing relief from the heat wave on the sunny Saturday afternoon of the shoot. She pours herself a glass and raises it to Megan Campbell, who she’s sharing the cover with and was at the moment getting her makeup done. “This is already like the best shoot ever.”

Laid-back and fun aren’t the top two words that would come to mind when describing photo shoots—especially a full production such as this, which involved both newly bought and improvised equipment, 12 people in the studio, and a clothing collection that designer Yves Camingue brought over from Manila for the weekend. But somehow, the group of people who had come together and the concept for the shoot made it one of the most enjoyable productions we’ve done recently—and honestly, the beer might have helped too.

DIVINE MAITLAND-SMITH

It seems like just yesterday when Divine won audiences over on Pinoy Big Brother, even though, much to my disbelief, her stint on the popular reality show was five years ago. “I know. It’s crazy,” she laughs. “I’m so old.”

“Going into PBB, I didn’t how what it was,” Divine recalls. I’d never even watched PBB before getting on the show—it was a platform I could use. I wanted to show people that you could be gay and comfortable in your skin, that you could be feminine or masculine or whatever.” She pauses, then adds with a laugh, “Also my mom made me do it because she was like, you need to do something with your life!”

One of the most genuinely friendly and happy people I’ve met in the city, Divine has a candid and easygoing demeanor that makes it easy to imagine her charming national audiences. It also helped that her close friendship with fellow Cebuano Slater Young had inspired an army of fans who shipped their make-believe romance. “We have a book based on us. It’s fan fiction,” she shares, shaking her head. “My fans gave me copies because I had no clue that this was happening. There’s a guy and girl kissing on a cover, and I’m like, that’s not us!”

Despite many fans’ hopes, though, Slater and Divine remain just good friends, but being part of the series has certainly affected her life even now, five years later. “It really changed my life completely,” she admits. “I was with ABS-CBN for three years doing TV series, and it’s just not for me. Being involved in the industry allowed me to see that I didn’t want to be in the industry that way.”

Instead, Divine spends most of her days waking up at five every morning to get ready for her culinary classes at ISCAHM. “I never wanted to go back to school, you know. School sucks,” she admits. “But it’s different when you’re passionate about something. I go to class excited, and I don’t wanna be late.”

The change in career might be something of a surprise for most people, but it’s actually one that’s a long time coming. “I’ve always been really into food. My favorite shows to watch are cooking shows—Masterchef, Top Chef, all that stuff. I love food, and I’m such a critic of restaurants that I go to,” Divine shares. “It’s kind of something that my ex pushed me to do. She was like, ‘You seem so passionate about it, why don’t you just do it?’”

The decision seemed to be the right one. Divine is animated as she talks about her favorite dish to cook, and the restaurant she hopes to open in the next year. “It’ll be healthier food, but still really good. I’m into lighter food—I mean, you can make fish and chips but with a lighter batter so it’s not so heavy, not so fattening. My school right now is very technical, so it’s very French. There’s a lot of butter and cream, a lot of the bad stuff. It’s great to learn the proper technique, but I wanna change.”

Change includes taking four months after graduation to move to Thailand, where she hopes to pick up more of Thai cooking techniques. “I want my restaurant to be Thai-influenced, because I lived there for so long and I love Thai food. They have texture—bitter, sweet. It’s like everything in one dish,” she explains.

The restaurant venture will also help her get back into her other passion—tattoos. “I design tattoos but I just don’t tattoo anymore,” Divine says with a sigh, adding that she might have a little corner in her studio dedicated to that.

Besides food and art, music remains a very big part of Divine’s life—she still flies to Manila regularly for DJ gigs, although it’s become a lot less frequent since she started school. Her main project, though, is a new music movement. “I’m trying to introduce house music, something not so mainstream. I feel like Cebu lacks diversity, and we need people to influence and show what else is there,” she says.

As I tell her about Joachim Go’s trance playlist and how people don’t seem to appreciate it, she shakes her head. “How can you not appreciate someone putting their love and passion into what they do? It’s hard to do it here, but it’s time for a change.”

Staying in your comfort zone is something that Divine feels strongly against. “That’s my motto—do one thing that scares you everyday, because it pushes you to be more,” she says. “How can you grow if you’re stuck?”

Megan and her fight against that stagnation by spending their free time exploring new activities. “We always try to do something for the first time, even just here in Cebu,” Megan quips.

And what was the last thing they did together for the first time? “Today,” Divine grins. “This was definitely a first.”

MEGAN CAMPBELL

The first time I’d seen Megan was in the lookbook for Elated Industries’ 2016 Surf and Turf collection—and with her sharp jawline, her strong brows and piercing eyes, it’s hard not to notice her. There was just something about her that seemed mysterious but relaxed that was undeniably eye-catching.

“Modeling has always been my passion. It’s the only thing I feel is like my calling in life,” the 19-year-old admits. That passion certainly shows—at the shoot, she thought about each pose carefully and asked to have a mirror right in front of her, so she could critique her every move before finally directing her gaze to the camera. Her dedication pays off, considering the image we use in this spread is actually the very first one of this photoset.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to model, I think ever since I was a toddler,” Megan admits. “Obviously it’s a hard career but I like the challenge, because it makes me realize that this is for me.”

“Yeah, you put a camera in front of Megan, and she just transforms,” Divine adds candidly.

Besides modeling, Megan is also a radio jock for Monster Radio, a job that she’d gotten with the help of Raine Baljak. “She was working at Monster at the time, and she got me the connection,” she recalled. “It just went on from there. I’ve been very lucky.”

The entertainment industry is one that Megan is set on joining, but for reasons that are more endearing than just fortune and fame. “One of the reasons why I wanted to join radio, or entertainment and the media at all, is that you get to influence somebody—hopefully for the better,” she shares. “You can influence them by changing their mindset, by making them happy if they had a bad day. You get to use your voice for something hopefully good.”

Megan’s drive to do good and succeed in her endeavors is inspiring, and she’s planning on making the next year a platform to really start her career. “This year is a big year,” she declares. “This year is my year to really make it in modeling, and maybe going into acting and more entertainment. I don’t want to be 50 and look back, saying that I never tried. But also, I want this year to be something like a journey of self-discovery—to learn more every day.”

For someone who had just moved to Cebu from Hong Kong a little less than two years ago, Megan had already found a support system and a lifestyle that she felt she needed. “It was the most beautiful change I’ve ever had,” she admits about the move her family had done after she graduated high school and her mom retired from Cathay Pacific. “Compared to Hong Kong, coming here really humbles you, and it makes you see that there’s more to life than just working and paying for stuff. Moving here made me realize that life is about finding your own happiness. Life is about finding who you are as a person.”

Her life in Cebu has brought on a lot of changes and discoveries—such as introducing her to her favorite new restaurant Joed’s (a small hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Mabolo), and hidden spots she’d discovered on a recent road trip up north to Daanbantayan. For Megan, these are all stories that she collects and hopefully will share with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the future. “I want to have these stories where I’ve walked these different paths of life—then I understand people more,” she says. “I always tell myself, and my friends whenever they’re going through something: imagine your life to be a storybook. Make it the best damn storybook that anyone has ever read.”

 

Photography, hair and makeup by Arnauld | Styling by Blaq Mafia | All clothes by Yves Camingue

Originally published in Zee Lifestyle April 2017

Lifestyle

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thanksgiving with the Woolbrights

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

The holiday season kicks off officially with Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful for family, friends and blessings. Although this is not usually practiced in our tropical country, there are, however, families like the Woolbrights for whom this is a time-honored tradition.

by Janine Taylor sittings editor Katsy Borromeo fashion stylist Mikey Sanchez food stylist Nicolette Gaw-Yu production manager David Jones Cua intern Danica Ronquillo hair and make-up Jessie Glova assistant Jojo Embalzado photography Joseph Ong locale Woolbright Residence

 

Eddie Woolbright was among the thousands of G.I.’s that landed on the shores of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. After the war, a few enterprising American soldiers came back, including the 24-year old Eddie who made Tacloban his home, before settling down in Cebu in the 1950s and opened a restaurant and a hardware store downtown—Eddie’s Log Cabin and Eddie’s Hardware and Auto Supply, respectively.

Eddie’s Log Cabin quickly became the hub of social, political and even military scene. It was the first air-conditioned café in town, and more importantly, it offered American diner food including a soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. It was patronized by one and all for its reputation for good food and service.

It also didn’t take long for the fearless Eddie Woolbright to realize that the real estate in the sleepy hillside suburbs was ripe for development. “I will show Cebu what a good planned subdivision is,” Eddie had said, when the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, then a young legal counselor for Columbian Rope Co., took Eddie to see the property. Pretty soon, Eddie had purchased over thirty-three hectares of otherwise undeveloped land from the heirs of the late Arlington Pond.

“Buy land,” Eddie Woolbright was known to quote the late humorist Will Rogers, “because they ain’t gonna make more.”

With his added access to army surplus, he bulldozed tracts of land, and a decade later, Beverly Hills, the first major subdivision in Cebu City, was created, and marketed to the city’s growing well-to-do locals, with the subdivision’s connotations of Hollywood and colonial American aesthetic. Eddie’s belief in the business potentials of central Cebu city enabled him to see much growth in his investments in land development, water drilling, construction, and general trading.

ON THE COVER The Woolbright sisters, Joy, Karen and Alice don Jun Escario’s Holiday Collection, photographed in their home by Joseph Ong. Hair and make-up by Jessie Glova.

 

Eddie had nine children: Rick, Anita, Marc, Gilbert, Alice, Kathy, Kristy, Karen and Joy. All recall that each holiday was as important to them as Christmas. Turkey Thanksgiving dinners, for example, as it was known in the Woolbright household, began when Eddie’s mom, Nell, came to visit sometimes in the 1960s. Eddie would buy a butterball turkey from the American base in Clark and she whipped up a traditional feast complete with cornbread stuffing, cranberry jelly, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes and her famous giblet gravy which was poured literally all over the bird, as they do back in her home in Oklahoma. Grandma Nell also taught the cooks at Eddie’s Log Cabin to make the famous Coconut Cream Pie, another Eddie’s Log Cabin standard. Kathy also recollects, “It was also dad’s idea that the restaurant and the hotel should serve breakfast 24 hours, and since I loved my Mexican omelet, sliced ham, buttered toast I enjoyed being able to eat breakfast any time of the day.” 

My dad taught me how to be humble. He told us stories about his younger days jumping trains, eating nothing but grapes for days just to go pick cotton. He had a hard life growing up and I guess he wanted us, his children, to know the meaning of hard work. He would say, “Nobody owes you a life in this world”. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. -Alice Woolbright

 

FROM LEFT ON JOY Nude dress, models own; ring and bangle by Gladys Young; ON ALICE Sequined LBD, models own; ON KAREN Grey pleated shift dress from Loalde; ring and necklace by Gladys Young.

Shortly after, turkey was introduced in the menu of Eddie’s Log Cabin, both Americans and Cebuanos, with a penchant for this wholesome meal, look for it when November came, and more especially on Thanksgiving Day. “Dad loved quality meat, and passed on this fondness to us, his children,” noted Karen, “So special meals always consisted of a good steak or the tender Prime Rib Roast. Of course, the year was never complete without a Turkey once or twice.”

As the sisters change into various outfits for the photo shoot in their childhood home, each one recalled the happy memories this holiday brings.  

ON KAREN Teal pantsuit from Loalde, belt by Gladys Young; ON JOY Plum cocktail dress, model’s own; ON ALICE Teal corseted dress by Jun Escario, belt by Gladys Young.

Alice, recalls disliking the giblet gravy as a child but since her dad would serve her at the dinner table she had no choice but to eat it. She adds, “He would get upset if we did not try everything.” Funnily enough, she now looks forward to the giblet gravy and can’t imagine turkey without it.  Her dad, she said, employed the same tactic with his customers at the restaurant so after a while, they ended up getting used to it, and will not have their turkey any other way.

Between brothers and sisters coming home from out of town and family members in the States, there was always some degree of traveling or entertaining company. Dad valued the family bond and holidays were the best time to reinforce that. –Karen Woolbright

Happy hour with the Woolbright siblings.

The family pet Chewy joins in on the annual Woolbright Thanksgiving dinner.

Joy Woolbright-Sotto fondly remembers watching her dad carve the bird. “He made sure that each one of the kids learned how to do it properly, with the white meat sliced thinly enough, and followed last by the dark meat,” she says. A feat she now does with ease. Future doctor Karen says that her dad would always carve the wings and serve it to her, which is still her favorite part of the fowl. Kathy though, considers turkey her comfort food. But she says that she loves the Coconut Cream Pie, which is also served on the restaurant’s menu, and that as a child she could eat half a pie in bed. 

 

Old fashioned roast turkey

Cebu in the 60s and 70s was a very small town, if you wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, you went to Eddie’s. Eddie’s Log Cabin, like its owner was a trailblazer, the balut dice game originated there, many singers’ careers such as Elizabeth Ramsey’s were given their first break there.  

The torch has been passed on to his children, and they too celebrate it with turkey dinners and all the trimmings, ensuring that the restaurant still serves the traditional menu, down to the Coconut Cream Pie.  Thanksgiving will always be celebrated at their homes, and the Beverly Hotel, the last legacy that Eddie Woolbright gave his children to run.

Another legacy that Eddie left to his children was a love for food and Alice was quick share that she got it too, “I’m usually home during the day and I find myself in the kitchen trying to cook up new dishes to serve.”

 

Back at the Woolbright ancestral home, which is also now Alice’s home, the dining table has been set, evoking autumn and harvest, the candles are lit, the wine is being poured, the buffet table is groaning under the weight of the Thanksgiving repast. The sisters are seated at the table, each with a glass of wine discussing whose turn it is to carve. The annual Woolbright turkey dinner is about to start and I am glad to be invited to join them at their family home. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s November 2011 Entertaining Issue, “The Gift that Keeps on Giving” on pages 72-77.)

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LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.

Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic.  People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu.  More and more are joining the ride.  Many are quite serious about cycling.  I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.

How did you get into serious cycling?  What was your motivation?

Blinky de Leon.  Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer

“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”

 

“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”

 

Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant

“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”

“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”

 

Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative

“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”

Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…

by: Zen

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#CebuPride:  Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films

Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts

By:  Allain Dumon Fonte

 

Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ.  Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies.  In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society.  The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more.  Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people.  Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia.  At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.

ZEE’s Allain Fonte with the casts of the top-rating Thai BL series (2019) “Cause You’re My Boy” of GMMTV (from L-R) Amp Phurikulkrit Chusakdiskulwibul, AJ Chayapol Jutamas, Neo Trai Nimtawat, Frank Thanatsaran Samthonglai, ADF, Drake Laedeke, Phuwin Tangsakyuen, and JJ Chayakorn Jutamas.

The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s.  Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide.  A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!

 

1. Lingua Franca

 

Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval.  Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay.  Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent.  When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”.  While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.

The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media.  Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.

 

Isabel Sandoval wearing Marchesa at the Venezia Red Carpet in the Venice Film Festival (2019)

Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines.  In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU.  She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.

 

2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan.  Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz.  However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee.  Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.

 

Darren Criss with his dad (left) Charles William Criss, and his mother (right) Cerina Criss. Source

Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA.  Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools.  He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan.  Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines.  When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother.  Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.

 

3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

     The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film.  It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall.  It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends.  Raquela  is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines.  The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.

 

Raquella Rios in Bangkok’s MRT (a scene in a Thai film).

Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology.  Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.  She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies.  Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.

Raquella (right) with film director Olaf de Fleur (left) receives the Best Feature Film Award at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. Photo grabbed from Berlinale archives.

There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have  brought Cebu to world.  They truly are #CebuPride.

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