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Confluence of Characters

Bernadette Aboitiz, Rochelle del Rosario and June Alegrado are accomplished ladies whose worlds revolve around family, work and civic responsibilities to a younger generation to which Andrea, Kristy and Krystle belong. Their commonality? Comfortable elegance that transcends the age gap…

Bernadette Aboitiz, Rochelle del Rosario and June Alegrado are accomplished ladies whose worlds revolve around family, work and civic responsibilities to a younger generation to which Andrea, Kristy and Krystle belong. Their commonality?  Comfortable elegance that transcends the age gap…

Dinner is to be hosted by Kathy Tesoro, the exclusive distributor of Brazilian brand, Grendha. It is the eve before the cover shoot and in an effort to, as she puts it, “break the ice,” we await the six ladies handpicked to be the faces, or rather feet, of the footwear line known for its chic designs sculpted ingeniously from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – that soft rubber that’s surpassed trends for many years for its comfort and water-repelling magic.

The first to arrive at Maya Mexican restaurant happens to be the youngest of the pack, fifteen-year- old Andrea Aldeguer, the eldest daughter of entrepreneur Jay Aldeguer, and the former Camille Villarreal. She brings two endearing accessories – a close friend and the timidity that comes with youth. Of course, later that evening, she would also be the earliest to leave, as our cheery teen, who is a junior at Sacred Heart School – Hijas de Jesus, has a nine pm curfew.  “I own five Grendhas,” she admits, sporting a pair of cute flats that evening. She wears the boho chic style of High School Musical star, Vanessa Hudgens. For someone who hasn’t reached sweet sixteen yet, she has no qualms about wanting to someday be part of the fashion world. After all, she was only seven when she designed her first dress for their specialty retail boutique, Loalde. “I used to spend every weekend at the office.” She would also travel with her grandmother to Hongkong to select merchandise that would best suit the brand’s image. The self-confessed shopaholic and blogger has her sights on being a stylist ala Rachel Zoe.

Next to arrive was Zee Lifestyle’s very own budding stylist, a girl you probably will never catch without a little eyeshadow to offset her almond-shaped eyes or sans her hair in perfect, soft curls. A fresh graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University, Krystle Uy is already making a name for herself in the industry through her styling and directing stints for dailies and glossies, recently adding Zee Lifestyle to her growing resume. “Don’t ever think you can’t do it, because anything you put your mind to, you can achieve” is the mantra she lives by. Having spent a semester in Paris to take a fashion course at Mod’art International, Krystle has had a taste of living in a foreign country where she ultimately developed her street smarts as well as fashion savvy. She belongs after all to a family that owns the retail chain of Rosita’s, and surrounded with two equally fashionable sisters, Jacklyn (who also photographs for Zee Lifestyle) and Diane. Au courant with the latest fads, she is currently co-manning the new campaign for her sister’s rapidly expanding clothes shop, What A Girl Wants (WAGW). And when she’s not running in heels to see to WAGW’s fashion shows and the like, Krystle laces up her ballet shoes and pirouettes. “I’ve been a performing artist for eight years now. Dance, like fashion, helps me express myself in a liberating way.”

The mood in the restaurant begins to liven up as one by one the guests arrive.  The svelte Bernie Aboitiz comes with Zee Lifestyle’s Eva Gullas, her next-door neighbor. She is shortly followed by Rochelle del Rosario, who planed in earlier from her Davao home. By now, everyone is aware that Grendha’s two other chosen endorsers can’t make it – Kristy Tesoro who was taking the last flight from Davao to Cebu that night, and June Alegrado who was feeling under the weather. Still the table is abuzz on June’s bagging the most coveted prize of a brand new car raffled at Radisson Blu’s grand opening two nights ago, and where the photo shoot was to set for the following day.

To eat or not to eat before the big day? This was a question that got mixed responses from the women. Who could ignore the occasional ooh’s and aah’s over the melt-in-your-mouth signature vientre de tuerco dish. By the end of the night, whether it was a margarita or a glass of Chardonnay in one’s hand, a single dynamic rang true: there was no way the merriment wouldn’t spill over to the next day.

The morning of the cover shoot. While the vanity cases are disassembled on the tables to create makeshift make-up counters, a dose of “yuppie-ness” greets us in the form of Kristy Tesoro, Kathy’s younger sister. She seems well-rested from her late-night arrival and is ready to get down to business in a sensible pair of black wide leg trousers with a sleeveless fuschia blouse. She is classic with a twist personified. “I think it’s all about detail.  You will most likely find me in an outfit in basic colors. However, there will surely be a piece of accessory like a necklace, cocktail ring or bib that will complete the outfit.” Also a graduate from Ateneo de Manila, Kristy is currently a marketing manager for a multinational firm. “I have been independent for so long. Living alone has really helped me be more confident to take on the things that life throws my way.” After a long day of hard work, she likes to have a short run and meet with friends after. “Aside from my day job, I’m also into business so that takes up most of my time.” She helps sister Kathy manage their Grendha outlets and given her love of shoes, she helps choose the styles that will be available for the next collection.

As the morning progresses, the women enter the room as if by an unspoken roll call.  Each waits patiently for her turn on the make-up stool. Some choose to browse the net on their laptops, others prefer to chat with their friends over a cup of coffee or tea while occasionally admiring FTV’s coverage of São Paulo fashion week flashing on the room’s flat screen telly.

When June Alegrado breezes in, there is an immediate exchange of hellos. June is one whom you instinctively sense is very comfortable in her own skin – and perfectly bronzed at that. Her sheer animal print caftan and long ebony mane emphasize this vixen’s raw sensuality. “I like clothes that have clean uncluttered lines. I like elongated silhouettes that follow the form, and accessories that are unobtrusive,” June declares. The Alegrados hail from Butuan City, where the family ran a lumber business before relocating to Cebu City. Her dad has since expanded the business to include beach properties, notably the luxe resort of Maribago Bluewater in Mactan, the Almont chain of hotels and resorts in Mindanao, Sumilon Bluewater Beach Resort – an island paradise at the southern tip of Cebu and an upcoming resort project in Bohol. The resorts are ably managed by June’s sister, Julie Alegrado Vergara, but June was given the responsibility of running the spas (for this, she goes to Thailand for continuous training), as well as the gift shops.

She stops to say hi to Andrea, who is batchmates with her daughter. “My children keep me busy. Whenever possible, spending quality time with them is a priority. Being a single mother is very challenging and demanding,” she confesses.  To prove that point, June was juggling a tight schedule that day, trying to catch an afternoon flight to Manila to be with the two younger kids, Izarra, fourteen and Iñigo, thirteen, who were competing in a soccer tournament.  In between sips of tea, she also had to sign a footlong pile of checks for the company’s payroll. Just a few months ago, June was spotted at a local builder warehouse choosing tiles—she had to refurbish two bathrooms for her second son, Basi, who goes to school in the US and was bringing in four friends for a vacation.  June planned out an itinerary to keep the kids get a wonderful holiday—checking on the bathroom, the breakfast menu and everything in between. “My oldest son, Domiku, is my rock, he’s been there for me and his younger siblings,” June proudly credits her 22-year-old son who is currently a student at Enderun College in Manila.

On the side, she’s been quietly working quietly with the resort’s employees for their adopted advocacy. “Through our family’s foundation, we’ve been sponsoring deserving students for more than ten years.  We started with children of our employees. By 2011, we will complete our training center for basic hospitality skills and expand our educational advocacy.” A mother who has had her share of life’s ups and downs, June radiates optimism when she reveals that her strength, just like any other woman’s, is a product of a lifetime’s worth of hits and misses. “The more misses you recover from, the better person you become.”

As the six women find their best angles and balance out the cricks in their necks from holding their poses, they are proof that practice really does make for perfection.  After an hour or so, they ease into their element, finding the technique of feigned dialogue a welcome icebreaker for those candid shots. Eventually, this evolves into a genuine exchange of ideas between the women.

Rochelle Rabat del Rosario, for one, has an effervescent personality that makes you want to talk to her for hours. Although her wardrobe consists mostly of her favorite shade – white—her playful side pops out in the pleats and fringes of her feminine garments. Her clothing choices have an easygoing resort vibe but are also appropriately fit for the occasion. “I wear whatever I’m in the mood for, as long as when I look at myself in the mirror, I like what I see and I’m comfortable in it. When my thirteen-year-old daughter, Ariana, approves of my outfit, then it has passed the test.” This mother of two (her son Robertino is attending Ateneo de Manila at the moment), Rochelle was raised in Mati, Davao Oriental and belongs to a political family, from both hers and her husband’s side. Her father-in-law, Rodolfo del Rosario, is the governor of Davao del Norte while her husband, Rodney, who is the oldest son, runs Century Rural Bank. But instead of following tradition, Rochelle would rather make the world a better place through her cooking. A self-confessed foodie, she takes pleasure in preparing Filipino and Mediterranean dishes for friends at their cozy home setting. Food also takes her outside her home. “We have around sixty children in our feeding program, which was started by a good friend. Every month, they are weighed to gauge its effectiveness. One challenge is finding a kitchen-type place that meets our hygienic standards, and for this we usually used each other’s kitchens, which can be both fun and frustrating,” she admits. Her volunteer work is now part of her weekly routine, which includes managing her Coffee Dream franchise and stretching out her lithe limbs in Pilates class. How does this busy mother of two unwind? “I usually have a glass of wine with my husband. It doesn’t matter where.”

“Those are really nice,” Bernie gushes as she admires the metal detail on Rochelle’s Grendha flip-flops. She is quite a vision herself in a minimalistic ivory body-hugging gown. Her practical sensibility is echoed in the way she dresses – sophistication wrapped up in comfort, accented with a watch to, yes, tell the time. This active individual likes to take on tasks from start to finish without wasting a single minute, especially when it’s something she’s passionate about. Nowadays, Bernadette Montinola Aboitiz is on a mission to decongest our public schools and give out-of-school youth a good education similar to what her children are privileged to have. Her membership in The Lord Who Cares Foundation is a lot more than a mere pastime; it’s a calling to, as she puts it, “seize those divine moments.”

Bernie’s relationship with the foundation stems from somewhere deep. “When I was recovering from cancer, I volunteered to help out in the first year of running a school for mostly dumpsite children. I began to pursue a second degree in education to become a teacher in this school.” It was an arduous feat for Bernie to go back to reviewing for the licensing exam at her age, but it has paid off immensely. “Now, I teach a job reinforcement course prepared by an international justice mission to help disenfranchised youths either pursue college or prepare themselves for the workforce. We point them in the right direction.” In fact, one of the companies that support this program is Visayan Electric Company, where husband Jimmy Aboitiz is the SVP and COO. “Their world is small. This program exposes them to income opportunities they can aspire for. We need to reach out and help our youth!”

That is not to say that Bernie, who comes from Manila—she and Jimmy met in Los Angeles during their school days—doesn’t enjoy life.  The couple often sneak out to little trips together especially now that their three children – Liane, Rafa and Gabby – have left them with an empty nest to go to school in the US.
Such vivacity exuded by these six females from diverse backgrounds. Yet somehow, they are now intertwined by the common thread of literally the sandals on their feet that day.

  • by PIA ECHEVARRIA
  • sittings editor KATSY BORROMEO
  • photography CANDICE RUIZ
  • fashion stylist MIKEY SANCHEZ
  • make-up artist EMI AYAG and JESSIE GLOVA
  • hair stylist JAIME MONDIGO
  • hair and make-up stylist RHEY ABELLA
  • locale RADISSON BLU

Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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