A part-time model, online store entrepreneur, and bag and accessory designer, Ayla Gomez may be a laidback boheme with an invitingly easygoing deameanor, but Zee Lifestyle finds out nothing about her success is accidental.
It’s a windy afternoon just off the holiday season, and the team is trying to keep the makeshift white background for the photo shoot from flying off the rooftop of Harold’s Hotel. Once we have the billowing sheet under control, Ayla Gomez emerges on the balcony for her first shot. She’s smiling shyly and comfortably quiet, carrying her outfit in the kind of cool girl nonchalance that everyone tries so hard to emulate. She brushes her long hair off her face and bobs along to the music of Two Door Cinema Club. “I listen to a lot of indie bands, some folk, old school rock, chillwave, house, and of course, we can’t resist some pop,” she shares, before listing Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Feist, Toro Y Moi, Girls, The Drums, The Horrors and Kings of Convenience as bands she’d seen live and loved. Finally, the photographer motions that the shoot is officially starting, and we see her relaxed charm turn into steely confidence once the camera starts clicking.
She moves in front of the camera with an ease that comes from years of experience, having worked as a model for various magazine and newspaper editorials since her first photo shoot for the cover of Zee Lifestyle’s February-March 2005 issue. Then, she had just graduated from high school and preparing for her move to Manila to study early childhood education in De La Salle University. “I think I look younger in this one than in that first shoot,” she laughs. “I think I was a lot stiffer then, and really conscious about how I looked. I definitely wish I knew my angles and facial expressions more— basically just how to work the camera.”
Today, it’s clear that she’s learned to do just that, moving and posing fluidly through each layout. It might have helped that the photographer Emman Montalvan is a childhood friend, and the one who got her into modeling in the first place. “He was my neighbor during college. He was taking up production design in Benilde, and he would ask me to model for him for his school projects.” She’d since done campaigns for Spruce, a consignment store in CDO, since 2010 and Sueno de Espadrilles in 2011, and did a photo shoot for Vanilla Label by fashion designer Vania Romoff—though she admits she doesn’t see modeling as a main career choice. “I never really signed with an agency, because I didn’t really think of it as a job. It was just something to do every now and then.”
Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy doing it. “The best part is getting all dolled up and being styled, and who doesn’t like a good photo of themselves?” she laughs. “I enjoy doing different looks, which I normally wouldn’t wear or think of putting together. I have definitely learned how to dress, and picked up a few tips here and there from stylists and make-up artists.” She does admit that she has a lot to learn, but also dares to dream when thinking about who she would model for in the future if given the chance. “I’d have to say Marc Jacobs, Topshop because I frequent that store a lot, and Zac Posen! I love his gorgeous gowns,” she gushes. “I also would really love to model for a great Cebu gem, Cary Santiago. There’s really nothing like his intricately detailed dresses and the workmanship that goes into each one.” After the interview, she sends an email to add, “I would have to add Chanel and Roberto Cavalli!” that was ended with a sheepishly cute “hehe.” That little exchange showed off the bright and bubbly persona that emerged from the reserved Ayla infront of the camera. Off-duty, she transforms into someone who answers questions with a flurry of sentences that are excitedly strung together. “Most people think I’m shy and very quiet, which I can be at times. But I’m very easygoing and I love to goof around.” The open and animated way she shares her life stories projects a youthfulness that seems to defy her age of 26. “Honestly, I still feel like I’m 21 inside, and sometimes even younger when I’m with my nephews. I won’t lie though, I’m also a bit freaked out about the idea of turning 30.”
In truth, she’s further from her 30’s than she thinks, which makes her list of accomplishments even more impressive considering she’d just emerged from the younger half of her roaring decade. She’s started two online stores, models for various brands, and is the marketing manager for her mom Melinda Garcia’s Club Serena Resort in Moalboal. “I’ve been going there since I was a child,” she says of the family property. “It’s my happy place, specifically underneath my favorite tree next to our beach house.”
Whether it’s her dad Quintin Gomez waking her up on weekends by bringing the family’s dogs into her room or the elaborate Theme Park birthday parties she had in her backyard and later at theme parks, Ayla’s been gifted with a childhood of normalcy that attests to how much family plays an important role in her life. “My best memories were from when our whole family would spend Holy Week together at the Moalboal beach house, my tito’s farm in Bohol, or at our close family friend’s ranch in Bukidnon,” she recalls fondly. Of course, time has seen the group of cousins growing up and having their only families, which means less time to spend basking in the sun and playing shato, but Ayla still looks forward to the Christmas holidays spent at her grandmother’s house. “Every year she serves a huge feast, but the staples are always roast beef, turkey, lechon, and her famous callos and bacalao.”
Her familial ties carry over to her business life, when she opened The Lost Nomad with cousin Paolo Sarmiento. “Like how most things start out, it was over drunken talk,” she jokes about the beginnings of the brand. “Whenever my cousin visited Manila, we would always find ourselves talking about how cool it would be to collaborate and work on a store that sold bags.” After more discussions over coffee, the duo dove right into the project, looking for manufacturers that could create their concept of usable but stylish travel bags. Created to represent the modern day nomad, The Lost Nomad’s collections are on display on the website www.thelostnomad.com.ph, which show the collection of roomy duffels in bright primary colors, or clutches and backpacks in prints that bring to mind exotic locales. Their bags marry form and function, deceptively compact but in truth providing a good amount of space to carry travel essentials, while maintaining a design that maximizes on beautiful details and quality materials.
The inclination to designing bags stemmed from a recent realization that she’s turned into a shoe and bag lady, the kind who immediately gravitates to those specific accessories when entering a store. “Every girl turns into one sooner or later, I think,” she laughs. “I guess that’s where designing bags really started, with my love affair for owning nice-looking bags that didn’t hurt the pocket too much.”
Her first creation and current favorite is the Hatra, a weekender bag made of colored canvas and faux carabao leather accents. “Paolo and I discovered that there aren’t a lot of stores that sell nice affordable weekenders of good quality. So our first design was one that showcased a certain style. We made the blue and red for the more classic traveler, and the teal and yellow with stripes for those who like color and prints.”
“The Lost Nomad for me is laidback, but has a good sense of style and what looks good without sacrificing functionality,” Ayla says about the brand. “It’s a store that will hopefully inspire you to travel and explore beyond the four walls of your personal comfort zone. It’s also about spontaneity and the awesome stories a good adventure can bring.”
Creating The Lost Nomad, though, might have proved less of a challenge than it would have been for most, considering Ayla already had experience with putting up The Little Pinky Store after she graduated from college. The store boasts of a collection of quirky accessories, the kind that immediately adds a sweet kind of spunk to any sort of outfit or room. “Having a lot of time on hand after graduation helped me realize I had more of a creative brain than I originally thought,” she says. “The items that I sell are generally a reflection of my personal style and things that I would wear myself, or would like to have in my own home.”
Actually, The Little Pinky Store feels very much like an extension of Ayla’s closet, a collection of her own designs and items picked up from her travels that properly encapsulate the alluring character that she makes up for the brand. “A TLPS girl is most definitely someone who likes the sand between her toes and the sun on her skin, has a knack for traveling, a fun outlook in life, likes to dress up and wear cute little things. She loves color, bold prints, appreciates good music, food and handmade things,” which sounds very much like Ayla herself.
“My personal style would have to be a little boheme chic—sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine but mostly casual. I love the way Kate Hudson, Rachel Bilson and Alexa Chung dress.” The laidback look is evident in her daily uniform of denim shorts and a white tee with flats, and her closet filled with pieces from Zara, Topshop, Renegade Folk, Lulu Swing, Spruce, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and clothes found while rummaging through tiangges and local markets. For nights out, she sticks to keeping it simple but fashionable in a sense that best represents her personal look. “It’s always jeans with a plain top, topped off with a great bright or printed blazer, then some sexy black heels and a few bangles,” she enumerates. “I take literally ten minutes to do my face—just some mineral foundation, a subtle smoky eye with eyeliner, and maybe a red or nude lip to balance it off.”
When traveling though, her The Lost Nomad luggage will always have a bikini and pair of shorts packed, along with her favorite pair of Keds. “Unless of course I’m going to be in New York for the winter, then it’s just all sweaters and socks,” she adds. “I’m a very organized packer and actually take pride in my packing skills!” She breaks out in laughter before saying, “That sounds funny. Anyway, I know how to make a lot of things fit into a small maleta. I’d like to say I pack a few days before the trip, but that’s really not true. I’m good at packing, but also hate the idea of it, so I usually just start the day before and finish a few hours before I have to leave.”
It may not be a surprise considering her line of bags, but it must be said that Ayla loves to travel. “It has a lot to do with how I view life now,” she shares. “I used to be quite close-minded when I was a lot younger but now I’m more open to trying new things, discovering new places, and am more accepting of other people’s views and ways of living.” She has fond memories of trips around Europe, including her irst time in 2005 with her grandmother, aunt and a large group of cousins. “We ate frankfurters in Germany, visited Disneyland and went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, chowed down a whole paella in Valencia, Spain, visited relatives in Barcelona. The list just goes on from that trip!”
The wonder at new places clearly hasn’t stopped with age. Just last year, a trip to New York to visit her brother led to her first experience with snow. “It was always a childhood dream of mine. Happiest day ever!” she gushes. As for big travel plans and extreme destinations she wants to have on her passport one day, Ayla lists down Angel Falls in Venezuela, Corsica, the Maldives and Africa with her dad. “I’ve always wanted to go on a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti. I would also say Antartica, although I don’t know how well I would do with the bone- throbbing cold winds.”
For now though, Ayla is happily content to stay put, though she shuttles between Cebu and Manila, where she’s based. “I love Cebu because my family is there, and that you can easily go to the beach for a day out. And in Manila, there’s always something new to do or go to. There are also a lot of art events and galleries, plus the concert scene is getting better. Plus my dad and my boyfriend live there too.”
Having been with her boyfriend since her sophomore year of college, Ayla is happily committed to someone who supports her endeavors and allows her to let out her goofy side when they’re together. “We’ve been dating for six years now. Yup, that’s quite a long time but it doesn’t feel that long. So that should be a good sign,” she says as if expecting the usual awe that comes from hearing about long-term relationships at a young age, especially now in the age of social media. “I think in a way the internet can be bad for dating because some of the mystery is gone because you can easily look someone up on Facebook. But then, it can also save you from going on a really bad date by doing a little research first. But what would I know about how it is now? I’ve been dating the same guy for years,” she laughs.
That might be true for the dating scene, but that doesn’t mean Ayla isn’t as online as the rest of the population her age is. “I haven’t been as active on Facebook as I used to,” she admits. “Looking back at my old status’ makes me cringe sometimes, like I really said that or why the hell would I post that?” She laughs before adding, “But I am active on Instagram! I love taking photos, so go figure.”
At the enthusiasm over her Instagram profile, there’s a glimpse of how young she actually is—part of the generation of 20-somethings who are now comfortably shuffling between addressing grown-up responsibilities and indulging in bouts of responsible immaturity. Of course, she’s recently gotten a lot more laidback. “Lately I find myself wanting to just be at home and spend time playing with my nephews or hanging out with my cousins,” she says of her days in Cebu. Now, she’s also gotten into archery, though her plans include concrete ones to address her growing business portfolio. “I want to take a short design course at Parsons for The Little Pinky Store and The Lost Nomad,” she says. At the mention of opening an actual store in the future, she turns giddy. “That’s the big dream! As of now, online is the best thing, but we’re definitely going to make that happen in the future. Fingers crossed!”
- by Shari Quimbo
- sittings editor David Jones Cua
- photography Emman Montalvan
- make up Angela Montalvan
- hair Romero Vergara
- assistant Jessie Egos
- fashion stylist Dominic Sy
- assistant Lor Yutico
- locale Harold’s Hotel Rooftop
EXCLUSIVE: Never Been Released Behind-the-Scenes photos of Zee Lifestyle’s Emerald Issue Cover Shoot
We celebrate the strength and resilience of womanhood in this year’s Mother’s Day by looking back at these never been seen before behind-the-scenes shots of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s Emerald (20th Anniversary) Issue cover shoot featuring the “Leading Women” of Cebu.
To celebrate the 20 beautiful years of Zee Lifestyle as the ultimate source of lifestyle news in Cebu, we handpicked 12 strong and stylish women of Cebu from every age group. These women show us that independently building one’s strength of character and living one’s passion knows no age. From the beginning, Zee has always been empowering women, providing the Cebuanas a platform to express their beauty and confidence, share their passions, engage in economic and political participation which yields to viewing women with equality and respect that we deserve.
photography Jan Gonzales
creative director Melo Esguerra
art director Doro Barandino
sittings editor Shari Quimbo
beauty director Romero Vergara
makeup Arnauld, Janice Barillo and Nicko dela Peña
hair Jessie Egos and Jake Arias
fashion styling Clint Potestas
production assistants Patty Taboada and Katrina Labra
locale Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Cebu
Twelve women, two sets and one afternoon. That is how the Zee Lifestyle team decided to celebrate the title’s 20th anniversary issue—with a challenge that, in some ways, is one of our biggest productions yet.
The idea came along when publisher Eva Gullas and editor-at-large Melo Esguerra were discussing a cover story that would best represent the magazine’s history. From commissioning artistic depictions on Cebu to playing with the anniversary’s emerald theme, no idea had stuck until Melo suggested putting a series of women who had already been on the cover of Zee, again on the cover all together.
Coming up with the list of names, of course, was no small feat. Our covers from the last 20 years have included several strong personalities—from philanthropists and politicians, to actors, and names to soon watch out for, our pages have seen them all. The challenge, then, was to come up with a list of women who had been driving forces in their respective fields when they had first appeared on the cover, and remain as powerful players even today.
With input from editors, both past and present, we rounded up 12 women from different age groups, fields and industries, who are all strong and passionate at whatever it is they do—Amparito Lhuillier, who remains the doyenne of Cebu society as a picture of elegance and class with her continuing efforts in business and social causes; the always-stylish Marguerite Lhuillier, herself an example of sophistication in all her efforts, whether business or otherwise; Margot Osmeña, who as a Cebu City Councilor has spearheaded many urban projects directed for the betterment of living in the city; hospitality mavens June Alegrado and Alice Woolbright, who are deeply involved in the rise of their brands, Bluewater properties and Beverly Hotel, respectively; Christina Garcia Frasco, the current Lilo-an Mayor advocating impressively progressive efforts in the area; former model Fiona King, now a major player in homegrown real estate with projects like Bloq Residences; the fitness enthusiast Danessa Onglatco who has espoused wellness with the opening of Yogahub; restaurateur Carla Yeung-McKowen who is behind the city’s hottest dining outlet, The Pig & Palm; designer Mia Arcenas, whose signature resort wear and accessories are representative of Cebu’s laid back lifestyle; Kym Maitland-Smith, who juggles efforts in swimsuit design through SOLTI Activewear and is building awareness for the vegan lifestyle; and Kryz Uy, whose online presence was a strong one even before fashion blogs were on anyone’s radar.
An impressive bunch, for sure. These women properly embody the characteristics that Zee Lifestyle looks for in one who makes the cover—beauty, yes, but also elegance coupled with individuality, and always a strong drive to succeed in whatever efforts they are directed.
This, it turns out, was the fitting tribute to the years Zee has been Cebu’s premier lifestyle bible, as well as a sign of the things forthcoming. Our 12 cover stars may have been on our pages before, but if their current efforts are any indication, our pages will continue to see more of them in the future. And as continuing purveyors of what Cebu has to offer, Zee Lifestyle will happily be seeing them in the years to come.
(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s December 2016 Emerald Issue, “Leading Women” on pages 140-155.)
La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu
La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.
Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.
There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.
La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.
Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.
Behind the Garments
Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.
Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.
Historical Awareness in Cebu
The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.
After the Razzmatazz and Razzle-dazzle: Post-Sinulog Thoughts
by Chrissy Grey Resaba
Buntings of red and yellow were removed from post to post. Streets were cleared and cleaned. Fireworks displays were faded in the sky. Beats of #prititit and tunes of tourism-booster Cebu tracks were being put to archive once again.
Contingents from different parts of Cebu and Central Visayas had gone back home. Party people had gone sober while some are still recovering. Traffic has gone back to normal. Businesses, as well, has gone back to normal.
However, all the fun and loud chants, smooth grooves, and frenzied choreographies are still replaying from the memory banks of the people who celebrated Sinulog 2020. The queen of all festivals in the Philippines has left again another mark of cultural and festive nostalgia to the people from all parts of the world and Cebuanos alike.
After all the razzmatazz and razzle-dazzle, let’s get to know what are these IG and FB personalities’ #PostSinulogThoughts about celebrating the newly-culminated Sinulog 2020 and how did they differentiate it to last year’s.
Eva Psychee Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2018 @evapatalinjug
I celebrated my Sinulog with my boyfriend and some of my close friends, we decided to choose a place where it’s not very crowded where we can see the whole Cebu, talk, and chill the night away. We went to Verified Lounge – Cebu’s newest premier sky lounge – located at the rooftop of the Avenir Building. It was something new for me as the night was calm as I was away from the busy streets of Cebu. It’s definitely one way of enjoying such festivities.
Kim Covert @kimcovert
The Sinulog celebration this year has been one of the most memorable events in my life. Not only was I invited to perform a few of my own songs during the weekend’s festivities but I also turned over my Binibining Cebu Tourism crown to my successor. Last year, I was busy with work and was not able to completely grasp the events. This year’s festival was more organized which is a great success for Cebu. Many have flown in and had spent time with their families in the “Pit Senyor” spirit, others have enjoyed spending time off with friends and colleagues. It was a great way for me to start my New Year and close my Cebu chapter before I leave to the US in a week.
Alem Garcia @thealemgarcia
Well pretty much, I was still busy doing shows and events for Sinulog. But what made it different this year was the religious celebration made me believe even more that Sto. Niño is indeed miraculous and that He is meant to be celebrated. Even though you are successful in your chosen field, furthermore, everything will be meaningless if you do not have the faith.
Philip Pingoy @almostablogger
We all have a Sinulog story to tell. It may be a story of losing faith and finding hope. But what is important is our devotion to the Holy Child Jesus (Señor. Sto. Niño). This year, my Sinulog experience was very different since I am already based in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the internet I was still able to watch the mass and all the festivities in Cebu. I am in UK because I prayed to Sto. Niño. So, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Sinulog and let us continue to share to the rest of the world why Sinulog is the grandest festival in the Philippines. Pit Senyor everyone! I hope you had a good one!
Lyssa Amor @lyssaamor
Sinulog celebrates Filipinos’ acceptance of Christianity. This year, I celebrated Sinulog by hearing the word of God. I went to church which I do every Sinulog but the difference now is that I am not in Cebu. It’s my first time to celebrate Sinulog away from home because I’m currently in Japan. Although I didn’t dance the traditional Sinulog dance this year, I wasn’t able to watch the fireworks in Ayala, and didn’t spend time with my friends in Mango and IT Park. Snr. Sto. Niño will always be in my heart and I am forever grateful that our ancestors accepted Christianity and we continue to embrace it up until today.
Kevin Geniston @kgeniston
Sinulog will always be a highlight for me as a Cebuano. This year has been fulfilling as I was able to brave the crowd in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu three times to attend the novena mass which had also become like bonding time with my family, daughter, friends and loved ones. I ended the celebration of the Sinulog festivities with a bit of the usual partying and/or clubbing.
Carlo Andrew Olano @kalamicebu
My Sinulog this year was a great mix of religious and secular activities. I was able to go to the church and somehow witnessed the Traslacion and the fluvial procession. I also went to many side events like parties, mall events, and fireworks exhibitions. Sinulog 2020 had a fantastic balance of fun, faith, and festivities.
Danna Bacolod @dannabacolod
This is the second time I spent Sinulog with Cebu Pacific. We had series of events prepared during its entire week and participated the grand parade by having a float last Sunday. I always feel excited to join Sinulog Grand Parade and see a lot of people celebrating their own way of Sinulog along the streets of Cebu. Guess it’s safe to say that I had so much fun. Even if this was work-related, I didn’t feel like I’m actually working as it was always joyful doing events like these.
Nimo Hideki @nimo_scheming
You prolly knew this already but, Sinulog 2020 was by far the most phenomenal Sinulog experience: more laidback than the previous years’. The music in every corner of the streets were still there to help you let loose and enjoy the experience. The surge of people had tested you both mentally and physically. But it was an experience you cannot miss like mingling with people from different walks of life and shouting out “Pit Senyor” to everyone. Summing up my Sinulog experience, I was able to get crazy and enjoy all aspects of the fest.
Michael Rey @michaelsomewhere
I had the most relaxed Sinulog experience this year. I did not party and preferred to witness the grand parade instead. I do think that this year’s celebration was more colorful and much safer as establishments strictly abided the rules imposed by the Cebu City Government. I was also amazed at how the festival of fashion here in Cebu has evolved throughout the years.
Now, how about you? What are your #PostSinulogThoughts this Prititit 2020? Viva Pit Senyor!