Within the quiet walls of the National Museum’s National Art Gallery sits the hallowed but empty room of what used to be the Session Hall of the Philippine Senate. The generous mid-day sunlight streaming in from the massive windows interplays with the shadows within that carry the weight of history in this proud, almost mysterious setting.
“The Senate has held its session in this historic hall since 1926,” the plaque reads. Even though the Seat of the Senate is currently in the GSIS Building in Pasay, with a room steeped in such history in the repository of the country’s cultural legacy, it seems quite fitting, then, that a short distance down the corridor, we find one senator’s efforts in preserving Filipino history and heritage encapsulated in an exhibit called “Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles.”
It is even more fitting that in the midst of this old Congress building, a few whispers away from the glorious former Senate Hall, we are to meet with the main proponent of “Hibla,” who also happens to be the only female senator to top the Senate race twice, and the only woman to become the Senate majority leader.
Behind Senator Loren Legarda’s stature is her tireless effort as a public official. Serving the country through the Senate, she is chiefly responsible for the passage of a number of laws that she authored, among them the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act (RA 9501), the Barangay Kabuhayan Act (RA 9509), the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), and the Climate Change Act (RA 9729). Her concern for the welfare of women and children championed with the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208), and the Anti-Child Labor Law (RA 9231).
The list is longer and far more encompassing; and her work never stops. In fact, stockpiled on top of her already overwhelming number of responsibilities, the senator also chairs the Committee on Climate Change, Committee on Foreign Relations, and Committee on Cultural Communities. In 2008, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction appointed her as its champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaption in the Asia and the Pacific region.
Walking With Loren
A flurry of activity mildly interrupts the stillness in the air in another room where the production people wait. Senator Loren arrives with her staff and it seems that even with the simple act of walking, the lady senator is multi-tasking, conferring with her staff before she reaches the other end of the room.
Time is precious for the busy lawmaker and, at barely even lunchtime, one can sense she already has fulfilled several duties for the day, and is set on tackling the next ones on her agenda. Central to this day’s to-do list for the senator is a photo shoot for Kultura and Zee Magazine’s cover story. Wasting no time, the senator rushes off to change and, with a lot less time it takes for a model to be primped up for the cameras, the senator returns with a different outfit, simple hairstyle and make-up.
The shoot is fairly quick but marked by some discussions about composition, art direction and how she generally looks in the photos. Senator Loren, a former broadcast journalist and an award-winning anchor and producer of two of the country’s most popular and respected news programs, clearly knows the power of an image, whether it is a clip on television or a photograph. She has been, after all, a commercial model in her teenage years—seemingly a lifetime away, really.
If there is anything this exercise has shown us, it is that she is a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to speak her mind. Although confident in front of the cameras, having been around them for a good part of her professional life, the lady senator nevertheless also discovers something new about herself during the shoot. Used to being photographed a certain way, the senator is genuinely surprised with a picture of her taken head-on. The photo, her face to the camera, exudes quiet power. Hers is not a pose, it is a declaration; the shot near-perfect that it almost needs no words.
Weaving Her Story
Born Lorna Regina Bautista Legarda to Antonio Cabrera Legarda and Bessie Gella Bautista in 1960, she is the eldest and only girl in a family of three children. With the blood of newsmen and public servants running in her veins—from her paternal great grandfather Potenciano Cabrera, the first Mayor of San Pablo City, Laguna to her maternal grandfather Jose P. Bautista, an editor of the pre-Martial Law newspaper, The Manila Times—she seems truly destined to find herself answering a higher calling; of treading the same path. But for this achiever, she becomes both a newswoman and a public servant.
There is a veneer of perfection to Senator Loren, and there is no doubt this something she aims at in everything she does. A woman fighting in a man’s world, so to speak, she is tough and demanding even, but to an extent that she would also impose on herself. A former vice presidential candidate who, according to a May 6, 2012 article by Philippine Star columnist Babe Romualdez, “no longer has any ambition for higher office,” she has just recently filed her Certificate of Candidacy for the senatorial race in 2013. She aims once again for a job not for the meek, one that could cower a lesser man even, and she’s glad to do it again.
But a rarely seen softer side to the lady senator comes by way of an article called “The Loren Legarda I Know,” written by none other than her younger son Leandro (Lean) Legarda Leviste in his column for the Philippine Star in May this year.
A “mom before anything else,” he begins, Lean also lightly reveals that his mother “sometimes thinks she’s Martha Stewart,” owing to her penchant for planting her favorite herbs in their garden and playing “interior decorator in the living room.” Painting a more human figure of Senator Loren than anyone ever could, he lovingly describes her as a micromanager in the kitchen “even though she can’t cook, because she can do just about everything else,” and calls her on her lack of rapport with technology—although she now apparently “swears that the iPad… changed her life.” Like many of us, sad movies make her cry, romantic ones turn her to mush, but she “avoids action flicks at all costs—except if they’re starring George Clooney or Harrison Ford.”
But perhaps the most personal aspect the son reveals of her is the senator’s extreme closeness to her mother. Senator Loren was once quoted to have said, “I am a mother first and foremost,” and it is evident that her own relationship with her mother has greatly shaped how she’s has cultivated her own bond with her sons.
In a Philippine Star column by Joanne Rae M. Ramirez dedicated to Mother’s Day also in May this year, she quotes the senator as saying, “My mother Bessie was my best friend. I am so much like her. But she died so young, at 61.” Yet the senator has never lacked for a mother figure thanks to her “yaya” of 50 years, Felicidad “Fely” Balagtas, whom she considers her second mother.
Nanay Fely, as she is to the entire family, has given up “a life she could have had to be with us. Her life is us,” Senator Loren was quoted in the article. As such, even her own sons Lean and Lorenzo (Lanz) have grown up under the grace and care of the woman the senator describes as “no longer just my ‘yaya.’ She has become my partner in life.”
Of all the many facets of Senator Loren’s private life and public persona, it is the strength as a woman that becomes quite immediate to anyone who meets her, owing to the influence of such strong women in her life. One also gets the sense that the senator’s strong empathy with our history and our people is because she has had first-hand lessons from her own mother—the love for our culture chief among them it seems. In fact, the “Hibla” exhibit houses rare pieces from Senator Loren’s own collection: several Baro’t Saya with Pañuelo ensembles of Bicol “pinukpok” abaca fabric worn by her late mother; as well as a T’boli upper garment, a Maranao “malong” and the B’laan ensemble that the lady senator proudly wears during important Senate sessions.
Even more so, during the shoot, Senator Loren points out that her background in one photo is T’nalak, a fabric from Cotabato, and her accessories comprise of gold earrings from Butuan and bracelet from Kalinga—“North to south,” she says, clearly proud to be central to a single image that represents the diversity of artistry of our people.
The Fabric of Philippine History
In 2009, the month of October was declared as “National Indigenous People’s Month” through Proclamation No. 1906. Fittingly, along with the “Hibla” exhibit in the National Museum, Senator Legarda spearheaded the launch of the HIBLA website, which they held during the Manila FAME Design and Lifestyle Event at the SMX Convention Center on October 17, 2012. The site aims to further promote awareness about our traditional arts and crafts, and would prove to be an easier access for younger readers. Another highlight at the event, which closed on October 20, was the Hibla Pavilion of Textiles and Weaves of the Philippines.
“[It was] an exhibition aimed at showcasing our rich and colorful heritage through the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT), a program I supported to ensure that indigenous techniques on textile-weaving, basket-making, beadwork and embroidery are passed on to the next generation,” the senator said.
Highlighted in the exhibit were the Ivatan and Gaddang traditional weaving, Antique abaca/bariw mat weaving, Iraya Mangyan traditional nito basketry, Hanunuo Mangyan weaving, Panay Bukidnon panubok embroidery, Subanen pulaw weaving, Ekam Maguindanao mat weaving, Ata Talaingod liyang weaving, T’Boli t’nalak weaving and Blaan mewel weaving. By celebrating the artistry and grandeur of these weaving traditions, the senator steps up the focus on not just an awareness campaign, but on finding solutions to threats to these traditions, including apathy that could be a factor in their extinction.
“I have visited various provinces and communities in our country, and every visit leads to a discovery of the rich heritage of the indigenous peoples—the intricately woven fabrics, the songs, chants and dances that narrate the story of your ancestors and the distinct way of life they strive to preserve,” the senator notes on the Katutubo: Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines website. With unwavering pride for our heritage, this wonderful tapestry created by every cultural contribution of every indigenous community, Senator Loren works tirelessly to “promote this cultural inheritance and improve the welfare of its stewards,” as she states.
In 2011, the senator tells Philippine Star columnist Wilson Lee Flores, “There are 15 million indigenous peoples out of our over 100 million population in the Philippines. I care about them, because they’re marginalized and the most vulnerable also to climate change. They and their traditions are who we are as a people.”
The senator champions the cause of 110 ethno-linguistic groups nationwide “because they are among the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized. I champion their cause not only to hear their voice, but also to promote their culture and traditions, the heart and soul of the indigenous peoples,” she tells Flores.
In her interview with Flores, Senator Loren declined to talk about politics. She insisted, “The only politics I want to talk about is advocacy politics — how we can improve the lives of women, children, indigenous peoples, how to promote arts and culture, the environment, disaster risk reduction, nature, planting trees.”
At the shoot, she also waves off an interview with a smile, preferring that we visit and read up on all her office’s achievements and projects from her website and various links that detail them in full. Mind you, the wealth of material isn’t just about her work with our country’s indigenous peoples, but also her widely known environmental advocacies, what she’s done for the rights of women and children, education, good governance, as well as various foundations and programs. Action over words; it is much better to show results than to make verbose promises of things to be done.
Helping the plight of indigenous people is only one aspect of how Senator Loren hopes to preserve our national heritage. They have shaped our story as a people, reflected our courage in their music, our dreams in their art, our glory in dance, our knowledge in their skills; our self-worth seen in their resilience.
Yet, it is not only these indigenous peoples and their cultures that are in danger of extinction. An October 7, 2012 article that appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer by Augusto F. Villalon detailed the “shocking state of heritage in the Philippines” as described by Dominic Galicia, an architect and the new editor-in-chief of BluPrint magazine. In it, Galicia laments the disappearance of certain architectural icons that speak of our heritage from the streets of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Yet, he accounts being impressed by some measures taken to reverse this, especially that more people seem to be acting on their realization of the importance of heritage conservation.
To the communities she supports, defends and champions, Senator Loren is foremost in that list. Leading by example, she hopes to inspire the new generation through her own actions how truly important it is that such cornerstones of our culture are passed on, kept alive and lived.
- by Annie S. Alejo
- photography Jo Ann Bitagcol
- creative direction and styling Melo Esguerra
- locale National Museum’s National Art Gallery
- Special thanks to Kultura Filipino
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!
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