They traverse the globe seeking inspiration and bring epiphanies back home to Cebu. They are increasingly in-demand with a growing number of celebrity and society clients from all parts of the world. Their diligence at their craft, and undying passion to improve it, has earned them the name fashion designer. Banded together, they are the Fashion Council of Cebu.
For some time now, Cebu has been producing world-class designers. Los Angeles-based Monique Lhuillier leads the pack and serves as inspiration. There are more Cebuano designers wowing the crowds at fashion shows like Philippine Fashion Week, Metro Wear, and Fashion Watch and getting standing ovations; more fashion editorials from magazines and national papers, and a vibrant clientele from all over the globe. As Oj Hofer, who also happens to be this magazine’s fashion editor for the last 15 years says, “Cebu is a hub. We can fly up to Manila or down to Davao for clients easily. We can also source out fabrics and seek out inspiration in Hong Kong or Shanghai through direct international flights”. Add to that is the background of the local furniture industry’s active involvement in international markets like Milan, Paris and New York, and one can easily get a glimpse of a truly global perspective in the design scene.
Of course, it is not all parties and champagne, or celebrity clients and jet-setting, there is a lot of hard work involved, and an extremely meticulous eye, an unyielding talent and an ability to be constantly inspired because being in a cut-throat industry such as fashion can only make or break you. That is why this group of Cebuano fashion designers got together, to be there for one another as a support system, to have each other’s back, and to prosper together. They call each other regularly to compare notes, share shows, and discuss projects.
The Fashion Council of Cebu, or FCC, first got together in 2007, initially calling themselves the Cebu Designers Guild–now, with ten members: Cary Santiago, Arcy Gayatin, Oj Hofer, Yvonne Quisumbing, Jun Escario, Philipp Tampus, Jojo Romoff, Vania Romoff, Albert Arriba, and council president Philip Rodriguez. Just because one can sketch and sew does not guarantee admission. It is by invitation only, through standards that may include talent and dedication to craft, coupled with a growing clientele.
The Fashion Council of Cebu has come up with a foundation that supports women who want to work in the fashion industry as cutters or embroiderers with general dressmaking skills. Unlike robotized factory workers, the designers want to produce a new breed of artisans, and the FCC are eager and willing to share their time, resources, and expertise to help support the industry this way.
It is also a pleasure to be in a room with these designers when they band together. Each one has their own character that is reflected in their creations from time to time, no matter what their current inspiration. Arcy Gayatin, for instance, injects her ironic wit into conversation and keeps it going; Cary Santiago’s flamboyant candor magnifies his forthright nature; and Oj Hofer and Jun Escario are catty with a cheeky sense of humor that never fails to get people into bawls of laughter.
But there are more facets to being a designer aside from character. For one, there’s the designer’s muse. Cary Santiago’s muses are women who are strong, confident, successful in their field, and well-respected in society for her contributions. “And she must have the body,” he quips, referring to Charo Santos, Christina Ponce-Enrile and perennial favorite Mariquita Yeung. Cary’s sparse atelier is a contrast to his passionate nature which he spreads to a group of acolytes that count a number of make-up artists and models seen lounging around at any given afternoon at his shop while well-heeled ladies in their chauffeur-driven cars come in for their fittings.
“My muses are the ladies who inspire me to create clothes, paintings, or floral arrangements,” says Oj Hofer, rattling off a bevy of society ladies such as Dorla Villalon, Jojo Ongsiako, Gretchen Baretto, Joy Onglatco, Bernie Aboitiz, Rosebud Sala, Amparito Lhuillier, Carla Yeung-McKowen, Jackee Gullas-Weckman and Ball Dominguez, to name a few. But it wasn’t always so, for Oj. “When I was eight, I went to painting lessons regularly on Saturdays. I always wanted to become a painter who would be internationally recognized,” he said. But on his way back home to Davao after finishing a degree in Fine Arts from UP Diliman, Oj was invited by his Cebu-based cousin Ann Hofer, to be the designer for her small atelier, Chiaroscuro. “I decided to stay for a couple of years to get into fashion design,” but he has never left Cebu since.
If seniority was a crown, then this can only be worn by council president Philip Rodriguez, who counts Rey Santos and Felix Jacinto as associates and whose shop at Ramos Street has seen a large number of people since the late 70’s. Every fashionable lady in this city, and a number from out of town, has visited that shop filled with exotic fabric, at one time or another. Appropriately, Philip envisions Audrey Hepburn as his muse. He is a master when it comes to making clothes that are timeless, clothes that can be handed down through generations. Just ask his multitude of clients.
In contrast, there’s the playful nature of Jun Escario whose creations can go from flimsy chiffon to solid tweeds. Always au courant, Jun spots trends like no one else and before it hits the runways of Milan, it is already at his shop in Greenbelt 5. Asked for inspiration, his quick reply is the blushing bride, and this about sums up the excitement he conjures—that of a lady about to enter a new chapter of her life: the idea of fresh and endless possibilities.
Anthony Romoff, or more fondly known as Jojo, as a young boy, was always around his grandmother Viring Romoff’s shop. The legendary dressmaker Viring was the go-to designer for weddings and big parties in the 70’s, and her busy shop was a hub of activity that was Jojo’s classroom. On his most prolific days, Jojo’s sketches evoke Valentino’s lines, clothes that make women feel sexy, and just like the late Gianni Versace, his muse is his sister, Vania, now a budding fashion designer as well. She is the youngest member of FCC and has made a name for herself in Manila very early on in her career. Proof positive that in this family’s case, lightning can strike twice.
Arcy Gayatin admits she is a big fan of Lanvin’s creative director, Alber Elbaz, for his artistic genius and humility. She says, “he understands that fashion is not only about the clothes, but it’s about giving the wearer the power to feel like they own the clothes, rather than the clothes owning them.” Perhaps it is also this philosophy that has gained Arcy a loyal following of women who appreciate her ability to create easy pieces that flatter one’s assets while concealing the undesirable, effortlessly. Arcy credits her predisposition to fashion to her mother, Remy Ancajas, who taught her an appreciation for tailored and custom-made clothes at a very young age, often taking her to the atelier of Jutie Borromeo, a local designer back in the day. With this exposure, it was only a matter of time before she started designing clothes herself. What started out as a small business in her own home has since grown into an atelier with a highly skilled workforce. Without her knowing it, twenty-five years in the industry had already passed, a seeming acceleration of time, which is actually “very typical of fashion,” she laughs. Arcy’s atelier today along A.S. Fortuna Street is a true reflection of her: elegant, put together, no fuss, but with a stylish bang.
Taking inspiration from the movement of water against the wind, “soft, feminine, effortless and light,” is how Yvonne Quisumbing’s silhouettes can be described. Yvonne took Interior Design in La Salle Benilde and took fashion design classes as electives. But with Inno Sotto as mentor, she enjoyed it and decided to shift to Fashion Design and Merchandising. After consistently winning shows with her intricate art pieces-cum-dresses and fashion accessories, Yvonne’s name was soon on the Manila it-crowd’s lips. She is also currently working on a new space in her Prince Plaza 1 atelier, in Legazpi Village in Makati City. As the newest member of the group, Yvonne feels fortunate to be nurtured by her more senior peers.
Albert Arriba pursued a make-up artistry and hairdressing career after a business course in college, but eventually fell in love with fashion. His desire to create beauty went beyond making faces and it has been so for 30 years, and counting. Albert adores Paco Rabanne, who he says has influenced the way he designs. It led him to then put up shop, first along Archbishop Bishop Reyes Avenue, then along Acacia Street, but today Albert has moved his house of beauty: a salon and atelier to the busy Mango Avenue. He says the “endless possibilities of the future” inspire his creations, which is why his dresses are more avant garde, but with a touch of nostalgia.
Philipp Tampus taught himself how to sketch while in college studying computer science. His father originally disapproved of his interest in fashion, especially after finding out he was secretly working in a local boutique along Fuente Osmeña on the side. This led Philipp to be exiled to Ilocos, to focus on his studies. There, he decided to set up shop with his sister and when it became successful, his family finally saw it was more than a passing phase, and that it was his calling. Philipp moved to the Middle East to design for big fashion houses, where he also sharpened his craft and after almost 12 years, came back home to Cebu and in 2007 joined Project Runway Philippines, which served as his introduction to the national fashion industry.
A STYLISH PARTNERSHIP
Through its fifteen years of existence, this magazine has always worked closely with the local fashion industry. A lifestyle magazine cannot exist without this component, and so for this milestone year, Zee publisher Eva Gullas called up Philip Rodriguez to partner for a grand event on December 15 with a fashion gala to benefit the advocacy program of FCC.
That’s what’s great about being in a club. Aside from having each other’s backs, when a member believes in something, the whole group can seek out the resources they need to help materialize their cause. Zee Lifestyle is proud to have grown and flourished with many of them, also while providing an additional outlet for this overwhelming creativity. Let’s drink to that.
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!