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Iya Villania: Lady in Waiting

Away from the craziness, in the dimly lit, eerily cool and plush Salon de Ning, host, actress, and model Iya Villania fixes her gaze on our camera. With Arcy Gayatin’s gown enveloping her every curve, Iya shows us her moves and proves to us why showbiz is lucky to have her.

(assymentrical gown in slivered tweed with hand-sewn lace collage by ARCY GAYATIN, fashion accessories by SM DEPARTMENT STORE)

Show business, with its mass-based appeal, has the power to elevate its denizens to incredible heights, cloaking them with a degree of self-importance and even inaccessibility.

Some thrive with this awareness; some bask in it shamelessly. But there are a few who, somehow, manage to remain untouched and unaffected by the attention and you can count Iya Villania as one of them.

The bright-eyed, Australia-born, pure Filipina (as she likes to stress since she always gets mistaken as a “half-breed” beauty) will be the first to issue a disclaimer about her “popularity.”

(Dress in dotted chiffon and crochet bodice with yellow underlining by ARCY GAYATIN; snake skin clutch with coral and turquoise detail by MIA ARCENAS; shoes by SHANDAR; fashion accessories by SM DEPARTMENT STORE; Abalone minaudiere by REME JEWELRY)

But to say the 25-year-old Iya (Raelene Elaine Ebaler Villania in real life) is “not popular”—her words, not mine—is an understatement. Popularity is not just measured by the crowds that gather at your every public appearance nor by the number of endorsement deals you strike and seal; it is gauged by how in-demand you and your talents are in the ever evolving and highly volatile industry that is show business.

The youngest of three girls, Iya—whose parents hail from Pampanga and Bicol—was discovered in Sydney after doing a front act for visiting Filipino artists in 2004. To break into mainstream Philippine entertainment, however, was beyond her imagination. Iya says with a laugh: “This is what my mother has always wanted for me. I think I’m living her dream.”

Seven years after, Iya can very well stake a claim as one of the busiest “Kapamilya” ladies from ABS-CBN to date, as she successfully juggles her time among her five current projects. She is a veejay on the MYX music channel and does hosting duties on Studio 23’s lifestyle/fashion show Us Girls, ABS-CBN’s daily morning program Umagang Kay Ganda, and Sunday variety show ASAP Rocks, plus the newly launched, first-ever “reality serye” on Philippine TV entitled I Dare You. She also scored acting projects and released a studio album in 2008.

Asked to tick off other career highlights, she recalls, “When I got my first job (a texting game show on IBC 13); when I first got into theater, doing Footloose and The Wedding Singer; when I discovered my love for dancing (via the reality dance show U Can Dance)…”

(Black leather sheath dress with macro floral appliqué by ARCY GAYATIN, fashion accessories by SM DEPARTMENT STORE, cracked abalone clutch by REME JEWELRY)

Nevertheless, it isn’t hard to notice that her charm certainly lies in her being a host. And her charm as a host lies in her ability not to take herself seriously. Even the “controversies” thrown at her, she dismisses them all with effortless humor. Not that her career is brimming with controversies; in fact, she’s one of the few who has reached her stature with nary an issue.

She’s oft described as wholesome without even trying. “I don’t know why,” she says, “because I wear short-shorts, etc., but perhaps it’s the attitude.”

Well, with her curves and toned figure, she could easily stir the pot by say, posing for men’s magazines.

“Actually, I already did for Uno,” she admits. “But I won’t pose for the other men’s mags because of their content. They have pictures which you know what their purposes are for, and I don’t want to be part of that.”

Even her love life (her boyfriend of seven years is Drew Arellano, a host for the competing network GMA)— usually the tabloid fodder for many a celebrity—is running smoothly and issue-free.

(Black body-con dress and degrained tweed coat embellished with lace by ARCY GAYATIN, fashion accessories by SM DEPARTMENT STORE)

Iya concedes that issues and controversies come with the territory. Take for example, in one showbiz-oriented talk show, she was queried if she was feeling any “insecurity” over being “left behind” by her contemporaries like dramatic actresses Bea Alonzo and Anne Curtis, and she jokingly addressed the question on TV.

But away from the cameras, and at the Manila Peninsula where this interview is unfolding, she puts on a serious tone and shares, “I’m very, very happy with my career. It’s funny that I was asked that but I really have no reason to feel insecure because I’m lucky to have work that keeps me busy. Popularity comes with my work and I’m glad that there are people who appreciate me. I’ve always known that I’m not going to be an Anne Curtis, Bea Alonzo, or Angel Locsin and I don’t want that because I’m not an actress. I love hosting, dancing, and singing. So, there’s no reason for me to ever feel that way.”

She adds that hosting does give her a sense of stability, which is true since acting in soaps have longer breaks in between. “Some of my shows have lasted for three years. I hope my other shows now will also last long.”

There’s also another remarkable thing that Iya has accomplished while pursuing her showbiz career, and that’s finishing her Psychology degree at De La Salle University almost graduating with honors; truly a girl with brains and beauty.

(Black and white printed jersey gown degrained on the bodice by ARCY GAYATIN, shoes by SHANDAR, fashion accessories by SM DEPARTMENT STORE)

“A lot of people doubted if I could do it,” she says, “and I wanted to prove them wrong. But I really believe in education—that with knowledge, you can deal with the world and get by. It can empower your decisions in life and in your career.”

One thing is certain: she has had no regrets entering the business and she is happily in it for the long haul.

“The pressure here can get very crazy, but it’s not something that you cannot cope with. It’s the industry where your craft is and if it bothers you much, you find something else and let go of the thing you love. But for me, I’m really grateful and really enjoying where I’m at.”

by Nathalie Tomada sittings editor Katsy Borromeo creative direction Mikey Sanchez fashion assistant Karla Ynzon hair and make-up Roman Gravador and Ken Pagaspas photographer Jan Gonzales locale Salon de Ning at The Peninsula Manila 


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Arcane: League of Legends: Netflix Review

Rating: *****/*****

League of Legends a very popular video game that’s been around for over a decade has now been adapted into an animated series on Netflix.  The series, Arcane: League of Legends was just released on November 6, 2021 and starring Hailee Steinfeld.  As a person who doesn’t play LoL, I was very surprised by Arcane’s story and the quality of the animation.  The title theme song is by Imagine Dragons and soundtrack is very cool.

Rottentomatoes gives the series a 100% score!  Here’s what they say:

“Newcomers should be equally enthralled by Arcane’s compelling narrative, richly developed characters … “

 Critics Consensus

“Arcane makes an arresting first impression, combining a spectacular mix of 2D and 3D animation with an emotionally compelling story to deliver a video game adaptation that could become legendary.”

Well then, this is a must see for me!  Now out on Netflix

… zen

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ALBUM REVIEW: Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

RATING: ★★★ / ★★★★★

You probably don’t need to be reminded of why Taylor Swift has decided to release re-recordings of her previous albums, starting with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) last year and now with Red (Taylor’s Version). However, if you somehow missed one of the biggest music controversies in recent history, here’s a quick summary: in 2019, talent manager Scooter Braun acquired the record label Big Machine and as part of the deal acquired ownership of the master recordings for the first six studio albums by Taylor Swift. Swift has been trying to buy the masters to her songs for years but she’s been offered nothing but unfavorable conditions — therefore, as a countermeasure, she is re-recording all of her six albums and so far has released two.

It’s a bold move on Taylor’s part, but lucky for her, the re-recordings have done incredibly well especially with the re-recording of her 2012 album Red. On its first day of release, Red (Taylor’s Version) has broken two Spotify records: one for the most-streamed album in a day by a female and another for the most-streamed female in a single day both in Spotify history.

It’s hard to review an album like this when Red (Taylor’s Version) is, for the most part, just a recreation of the songs of Red. There are new songs, of course, but the majority of the tracks are simply re-recorded versions of her already existing songs. The Immaculate Collection by Madonna, this isn’t — save for All Too Well, there are no new instrumentals or parts of the song here, just plain re-recordings of her previous songs.

Unfortunately for Taylor Swift, some of the songs don’t really benefit from being re-recorded. The original version of We Are Never Getting Back Together, for instance, while far from Swift’s best song at least had the energy and emotion you’d expect a bitter break-up song like it to have. In the new version, Taylor Swift just sounds lifeless and bored, especially when it comes to her spoken lines.

It’s difficult to blame her when she’s expected to still give convincing performances of experiences she’s had over a decade ago. How do you expect a singer in her 30s to sing a song about how excited she is to be 22 and still make it sound as convincing as she made it when she was actually 22?

That being said, some of the songs also benefit from being re-recorded. There’s a sense of nostalgia added to many of these songs. Taylor Swift sounds older and, in a way, that adds even more emotional depth to some of her tracks. And for anyone not wild about these songs simply being re-recordings, Swift has six new “From The Vault” tracks which should be enough to tide you over.

All in all, Red (Taylor’s Version) doesn’t always work, but for Taylor Swift fans, it’s a way to listen to versions of her songs that are hers. It’s why the “(Taylor’s Version)” at the end of these songs are so important and it’s great to know Taylor Swift finally has versions of the songs she wrote which she can call hers.

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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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