Luna van der Linden and Lotte Edwards give a sneak peek into the easy camaraderie of being twins, and divulge their individual fashion and beauty preferences—showing how to tell them apart despite being identical.
The sun was barely rising over the horizon at Panglao Island, and already the Zee Lifestyle team is abuzz with activity. One of the Dream Villas at Be Grand Resort had turned into a boudoir of sorts—the four-poster bed had dresses hanging from its frame, while the comforter was covered with swimwear and accessories.
Despite the early hour, twin sisters Lotte Edwards and Luna Van Der Linden are cheerful and energetic, dancing to salsa music and admiring the outfits that were being laid out for them. The atmosphere is pretty pleasant, considering the good amount of traveling both women had to do the day before just to make it to the shoot—Luna had flown in to Cebu after an event in Boracay, while Lotte just got off a plane from Singapore.
Although identical twins, their individuality extends to their personalities. “Lotte is very feminine and glamorous, while I’m adventurous, spontaneous and sporty,” Luna explains. “As sisters, we challenge and learn from each other. She’s the best twin I could ever wish for.” To this, Lotte adds, “Our personalities are different, but we are also so much alike. Our cores are very similar. We are that close.”
The phenomenon of being twins will always stay interesting since most people will never know what it’s like to have, as Luna phrased, a wombmate. “There is an uncanny connection. I somehow feel what she is feeling,” Luna says. “When she is in pain, I know when to reach out and be there for her. It’s double the pain, but double the happiness too!”
“You’re never alone; you’ll always have that one person who connects with you at every level,” Lotte adds. And what’s the worst part about being a twin? “You’re never truly alone,” she laughs.
Their closeness is palpable as the two sit in for hair and makeup—Luna playfully teases Lotte for her looping playlist, and in return gets offered vitamins for sun protection by her sister. Now and then, they practice posing in front of the full-length mirror. “I haven’t done this in a while,” Lotte laughs. “I might not know how to do it anymore.”
Having modeled in their younger years, the twins are no strangers to the world of photo shoots. “Monch Ceballos groomed us,” Lotte recalls of their early days in the industry. “I’m very thankful for it—I wouldn’t know how the industry works nor the etiquette of the business without him.”
Although Luna continued on that path, Lotte found herself pursuing another passion, albeit in the same industry. “I became a buyer,” she shares. “After that, I realized I had a talent for design. It excited me. I would play around fabric and draping. Eventually, I got formal classes from
Oj Hofer, and with his support and my newfound talent, I opened my own business.”
With her breezy and elegant resort wear, Lotte’s creations were carried in Shangri-La resorts and hotels around the Philippines, and at designer Ana Liew’s SKYE Boutique at Orchard Central in Singapore. “My designs were very fluid and graceful, elegant and colorful.”
In pursuing another career, fashion designing had to take a backseat—Lotte is now the Brand Ambassador at ΟΝΕ15 Marina Club, an upscale marina in Sentosa Cove. “I handle all the events at Asia’s finest marina club,” she explains. “I handle the planning and creative stage, execution, inviting members and guests, and even hosting it. It’s mostly PR work, but I also do the planning of themes, which is really fun.”
Just last year, she brought in Cebu designers Jun Escario, Mia Arcenas and Dexter Alazas for a trunk show at the Singapore Yacht Show. Supporting Filipino talent on the Singapore stage means much to her. “I believe in the Filipino talent. I think it’s world-class and if we all work together—with none of this crab mentality—we can definitely show the world what we’ve got.” In the spirit of giving back, Lotte is an advocate of Style Your Soul, a movement which organized relief operations from Singapore for affected regions and victims of typhoon Yolanda.
Since starting out at ONE15 Marina Club, Lotte has been at the helm of several events and theme parties. “I also launched the only floating bar in Singapore, the Boater’s Bar, on weekends. So far, it has been successful—it’s become a weekend habit for some of Singapore’s glamorous set.” When she’s not busy working, Lotte does yoga regularly.
The position has landed her in what seems to be a beguiling lifestyle, but Lotte takes her work seriously. “Everyday always brings a new challenge, sometimes a welcome one and sometimes one I can do without. But I learn to cope,” she says. What’s one challenge that she usually finds herself facing? “For somebody who handles events and parties, the rain is my number one nemesis!”
“I love that [Luna is] very strong and loves adventures. I live vicariously through her. She always advises me to think positive all the time, and tells me the best is yet to come.” – Lotte
Being a Brand Ambassador in a yacht club where thousands come in from around the globe allows her to meet so many interesting people. “I like learning from them, seeing the world through their well-traveled eyes, learning about their culture. It’s very enriching!” Lotte shares. As a wine connoisseur, she finds meeting winemakers a particularly enjoyable experience. “I love learning about their wines and how each vineyard is different from another. It’s interesting!”
With everything that’s on her plate, she still hopes to be able to return to designing when she can. “I dream about going back, all the time. It’s always at the back of my mind. Maybe someday,” Lotte says, also admitting that her kaftans remain in circulation in her wardrobe. “It’s such a cliché, but they are perfect for Singapore’s humidity. But I guess I also designed them for lazy days when you don’t want to think too much about what to wear but still look stylish.”
For her part, Luna describes her occupation as, “Currently co-running the Chameleon modeling agency while being a housewife.”Although still modeling herself, Luna also manages models, booking them for events and shows. “More than that, I serve as their mentor,” she shares. “I teach them what I’ve learned over the years. It’s not just about grooming or walking the runway, but more about professionalism and how to handle yourself in public.”
Luna’s modeling experience certainly comes in to play as she poses for the lensman. “I actually enjoy photo shoots the most—from the creative aspect and the makeup, to playing with the lights and complex poses. But what’s important to remember, and I always tell my girls this, is that we shouldn’t be too critical of ourselves. In the end, we are all God’s beautiful creatures, flaws and all.”
With that in mind, Luna is actively pushing the Chameleon Modeling Agency into molding better talent. “The Chameleon Modeling Agency handles a number of beauties who all practice professionalism,” she shares. “We’re hoping to get our name out there for more collaborations
with top Filipino designers at the upcoming Manila Fashion Week, and we would like to participate in the Singapore Fashion Week more actively.”
Like Lotte, Luna is in a field that requires her to be extroverted, something she clearly excels at. “Meeting new people—models, designers and promoters—and being part of the creative aspect of the fashion world,” she enumerates as the things she enjoys most about her job. “It’s not all glitz and glamour, it’s a lot of hard work too. But then again, that’s the fun part.”
In between work, Luna remains on the move by subscribing to different fitness regimens. “Almost everyday is gym day, so I’m always in my sportswear. On any given day, I do yoga, boxing, running, skateboard, tennis, wall climbing—sometimes two things in one day.”
Their similar industries allow them to work together on some projects, an opportunity the twins thoroughly enjoy every time it comes up. “Some of the best events I have done were those with Lotte,” Luna reveals. “More recently, we did a fashion show for Fit for Fashion. We usually don’t walk for runways anymore, but it was for a good cause and it was styled by Queen Melo Esguerra in Singapore.”
The busy workload does take its toll as trials come with an active career. “Balancing my work life with my personal life is a challenge. We have to work around each other’s schedule and manage our calendars to make sure there is time for the things that truly matter,” Luna says, referring to Stephane Van Der Linden, her husband of almost six years, and their pets, ragdoll cat Paris and shih tzu Cosette. “In the end, I am aiming to combine a successful career with being a devoted wife. Luckily enough, we share the same passions—diving, traveling and trekking—which keep us closely connected.”
“There is an uncanny connection. I somehow feel what she is feeling. When she is in pain, I know when to reach out and be there for her. There is double the pain, but double the happiness too!” – Luna
Lotte too finds getaways the perfect time to connect with her husband Jason Edwards, and kids, eight-year-old Ethan Curtis and six-year-old Isabella Rose. “Family vacations are always the best! When I bring the kids to new places, they’re like me—they also love to swim, and play in the sand.”
Their close affinity to the sea becomes obvious in how comfortable they both are by Be Grand’s wide, sandy waterfront. “I remember how often we were at the beach when we were growing up,” Luna shares. “I learned to swim because my dad would throw coins into the sea, and we would dive down to get them. She also vividly remembers her tall Spanish grandfather, who she reckons was around 85 at the time, as he sat quietly by the pool. “I think he was either meditating or contemplating about life,” she muses.
With six other siblings in the brood, their childhood memories were ones of fun, as they recall how they developed an early taste for fashion and liked playing dress-up. Lotte adds, “We would dress up in our mom’s clothes and pose in front of the mirror.”
Both girls took up Tourism at the University of San Jose Recoletos, which had been their mom’s decision. “I was more attracted to the Arts, so I shifted to another course. My mom only found out two semesters after!” Luna laughs. “I guess it does somehow match what I do now, since I have dabbled in modeling, interior design and also took up makeup artistry classes in Singapore. All of those speak of my love for art and anything creative.”
On the other hand, Lotte ended up taking Political Science as a secondary course. “It’s pretty different from where I am now,” she admits. “Instead, I went on to open my own business in design, and designing is my passion.”
“I believe in the Filipino talent. I think it’s world-class, and if we all work together with none of this crab mentality, we can definitely show the world what we’ve got.” – Lotte
Although based elsewhere now—Singapore for Lotte and Manila for Luna—Cebu remains very much their home. “Cebu will always be home,” Lotte says. “My mom, my family and my loyal friends are there.”
“We are very lucky to have properties in Cebu, so we usually fly back on weekends and take the car to Mactan and buy fresh mangoes, lechon manok and hanging rice by the road, and hire a boat to go diving in Pandanon, Mactan Wall or any of the nearby sanctuaries,” Luna enthuses. Speaking of Cebu’s food and restaurants, she says, “My husband and I recently discovered a hole-in-the-wall on the road leading to Mactan. I’m not sure what it’s called, but they sell the freshest fish and seaweed at very reasonable prices.”
Lotte in turn mentions, “Anzani. The view from up there is amazing, and they serve really good wine. They have Quinto do Zambujeiro, my favorite wine. The food is always good, and you know that everything they serve is fresh.”
Their common favorite in Cebu is still the beaches. Both sisters would choose a tropical holiday over an adventure somewhere cooler, which explains their excitement about the shoot being at the Be Grand Resort in Panglao. “Something about the sound of the waves refreshes me,” Lotte confesses.
Luna found her second stay at Be Grand Resort equally enjoyable as her first time during the Christmas and New Year season, commenting about their friendly staff and the amazing facilities. “It’s beautiful,” Lotte adds. “The rooms are spacious and very chic. The staff are very welcoming and hospitable, and the seafood they served was mouthwatering.”
Having just opened the previous year, Be Grand Resort has become a preferred getaway place in Panglao, just off Alona Beach and tucked away in its own private cove. Its well-appointed rooms and a man-made river connecting the luxurious villas have all the makings of an indulgent beach holiday.
“It’s a perfect island paradise,” Lotte quips, also citing Boracay as another favorite. With those tropical vacation spots in mind, sunscreen and other skin protection products rank high on her list of travel essentials. “I also always bring my hats. They’re specially made in Ecuador and are perfect for any outfit.”
Both women are fond of wandering and Luna names Prague and Santorini as the next destinations on her list, while Luna shares that she’s always wanted to see the pyramids in Cairo.
The dynamic between the two is interesting to watch, their contrasting personalities actually somehow complementing each other. “Luna is the crazier one. She always love adventures and brings me for the ride,” Lotte shares about growing up together. “There was always some mischief everyday, and we never had a dull moment.”
That obviously didn’t come without a share of sibling squabbles. “My favorite memory of growing up with Lotte would probably be the fighting and the making up,” Luna laughs.
The differences they see in each other have actually become what they appreciate most now. “I love that she’s very strong and loves adventures. I live vicariously through her,” Lotte admits. “She advises me to think positive all the time, and tells me the best is yet to come.”
On Luna’s part, “Lotte’s very generous, direct and frank with me. She acts like my older sister, even though I was born ten seconds ahead of her.” She shares the best advice that Luna ever gave her: “Marry him.”
Both equally fabulous and hardworking, committed to career and family, and definitely empowered, the Delima twins may live separate lives in different cities but somehow stay connected. Despite being apart, that special bond that only twins share remains undoubtedly strong. After all, when you start your lives as “wombmates,” there really is no cutting those ties.
Everyday beauty regimen?
Luna: Sports. Sweating it out.
Lotte: I wash my face every night, even if I’m very tired. I always wash my face to let it breath while I’m sleeping.
A beauty product you can’t live without?
Luna: Chanel Les Beiges sheer powder.
Lotte: Tweezers. Grooming is very important.
Your favorite beauty look?
Luna: Dark eyes, dark red lips, dark hair and tanned skin.
Lotte: Curly big hair, dark smoky eyes and nude lipstick—dramatic and yet the nude lip gives a good contrast.
Whose beauty look do you admire?
Luna: J.Lo because she’s the best. I saw her at one of her concerts and she was amazing. She can get away with any look.
Lotte: J.Lo because she can just about get away with any look.
What looks makes you feel sexiest?
Luna: Tanned skin
Lotte: Red lipstick
Your personal style?
Lotte: Very experimental. I like mixing styles, trends and looks. I accessorize and dress to have fun and be myself.
Most used item in your closet?
Luna: Recently, I wear a lot of hats in different styles, shapes and colors.
Lotte: Not surprising, I suppose, but I wear my kaftans and other designs all the time.
Oldest thing in your closet?
Luna: I change my wardrobe regularly, so I guess the oldest thing I have in my closet is my wedding dress for obvious sentimental reasons.
Lotte: I still have stilettos from decades ago. They are good brands, so I can still actually wear them.
Your power outfit?
Luna: I don’t have a particular power outfit, but I believe that if you put a woman in the right shoes, she can conquer anything. So I do have power shoes—when I wear my YSL Tribute heels, I feel I can do anything.
Lotte: A suit from YSL. It’s all black, with slim pants.
Luna: Chanel and YSL
Lotte: Valentino and Balmain
Favorite local designers?
Luna: John Lasala, Oj Hofer and Jun Escario
Lotte: Oj Hofer and Jun Escario
Favorite place to bargain shop?
If you were a fashion accessory, what would you be?
Luna: A hat, because it’s functional and pretty.
Lotte: I’d be a watch. You need it everyday, and the style always represents the wearer.
Best fashion advice you’ve received?
Luna: Be yourself and dress like a proper lady.
Lotte: Try not to wear brown with green—you will look like a tree.
by Shari Quimbo photography Jon Unson stylist Blaq Mafia makeup Lola Ley and Sumie Belbachir hair Jesse Egos locale Be Grand Resort Bohol
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, June 2016. For back issues, subscribe via Magzter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Congratulations to Our New DOT Secretary! The Story of Cebu’s Power Couple
Congratulations to Our New DOT Secretary!
The Story of Cebu’s New Power Couple
Whether it’s spearheading progressive efforts in Liloan or spending weekends with their kids, Christina and Duke Frasco do things as a team. On their ninth year as a wedded couple, they share a side of themselves we haven’t seen before.
Republished from Zee’s Digital Issue dated January 2018
by Gia Mayola photography Dan Douglas Ong sittings editor Shari Quimbo hair and makeup Arnauld stylist Vanessa East
Despite it being a day for family, Christina and Duke Frasco gamely accepted our Sunday-scheduled photo shoot. Not that they had any choice, considering that most days found their schedules fully packed.
The dynamic couple is hard to pin down for a reason. Christina is the mayor of Liloan, a first-class municipality in Cebu. On the other hand, Duke was appointed Cebu Port Authority Commissioner by President Rodrigo Duterte just last year, willingly giving up his position as Liloan’s vice-mayor alongside his wife. While they have a lot on their plate because of work, having three young children is an added responsibility.
Driven by her administration’s goals for sustainable and inclusive development, Christina has introduced various innovations to public leadership, focusing on stakeholder participation in community governance and equitable access to government service.
She established the Liloan Community Action for Reforestation and Environmental Sustainability (LILOAN CARES), which brings community stakeholders together to periodically engage in environment programs. She also put up a Green Points System, which grants incentives to businesses that implement environment-friendly measures. Additionally, she has introduced an engaging approach to recycling in schools, and prohibits the use of plastics on certain days of the week. She has also founded Operation Second Chance providing rehabilitation and livelihood to drug surrenderees, and the Liloan Leading Empowered Action Against Drugs Summit (LILOAN LEADS), among many others.
On his end, Duke is a dynamic and engaging leader who thrives under pressure and focuses on realizing long-term goals and sustainable development. His governance has garnered him multiple awards—The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines Award 2014 for Public Administration, from the Junior Chamber International (JCI), Inc. and the Gerry Roxas Foundation.
With his first two terms as mayor, Liloan elevated from a third-class municipality to a first-class one. He boldly spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of the municipal tax code, and the modernization of local business processes.
THE LOVE OF LILOAN
Goal-driven and full of ideals, the couple has helped develop Liloan into what it is today. The municipality is one of the most progressive in Cebu, even establishing the Liloan Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Federation during Christina’s term, the first in the country spearheaded by a local government unit. Liloan prides itself in having the first LGU-established gender-neutral public restroom in the country.
“Our dream is to become a city,” Christina divulges. She envisions Liloan as an ideal place to live, study, work and invest. “In preparation for that, we are focusing on improving public infrastructure, opening up and improving road networks, and ensuring strict compliance with our Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Land Use Plans to ensure that development is regulated, deliberate and sustainable.”
This year, Liloan is launching tour packages that will feature its cottage industries and various tourist sites. Health services are being professionalized, scholarship programs expanded, and more investments channeled into its law enforcement and disaster response programs.
“We are also enhancing our community governance programs focused on protecting the environment, providing economic opportunities through livelihood, and reaching out to all sectors and stakeholders by incentivizing participation and compliance with our laws and regulations,” Christina adds.
Duke shares that every now and then, he offers input to his wife. “I advice Christina on various matters, especially regarding the projects started during my term, such as our scholarship program and purok system,” he says. “Being the party chairman of our local political party, I am also in continued contact with our local leaders.”
THE PORT AUTHORITY
Beyond Liloan, Duke is enjoying his new position. “Since the thrust of the Cebu Port Authority spans the entire Province of Cebu, I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to improving the transport of people and goods throughout Cebu, through the continued improvement of existing ports and establishment of new ports.”
New ports, such as the plans of moving the Cebu International Port north, off the coasts of Consolacion and Liloan to decongest the city.
“A port is always a welcome development considering it will further boost the economy of Liloan and Consolacion, and the entire Northern Cebu,” Duke says. “It provides livelihood opportunities for our people, which are relevant factors for cityhood. Moreover, the more ports, international or domestic, that we develop here, the better it will be for the people of Cebu.”
The addition of more ports will complement the project he has been working on the past year, the ferry boat system. He laments the terrible traffic that Cebuanos experience each day, comparing the travel time it takes from Liloan to Cebu City ten years ago and now. The ferry boat system includes developing ports in strategic locations in the Province of Cebu, connecting ferries or boats that can accommodate 80 to 200 people per boat. That includes room for motorcycles and possibly vehicles.
Duke expects this to be a game changer for the Cebuano. “Hopefully, it will relieve us of the stress and frustration we experience each day going through Cebu traffic,” he says. “I can just imagine our fellow Cebuanos feeling relaxed on a boat, feeling the sun and sea breeze on their faces, as opposed to the honking of horns and uneasiness of sitting in a PUJ or in your vehicles, not knowing whether they will arrive on time at their destination.”
Aside from his work with the Cebu Port Authority, Duke is also involved with his family’s business Titay’s as the Chief Financial Officer, and as a member of the Board of Directors.
A GREAT PAIR
It’s evident that the two make a great pair. They met back in June 2007 at Gwendolyn Garcia’s—Christina’s mother—inauguration as the re-elected Governor of Cebu. Duke was among the officials invited to attend, having just been elected into his first term as the Mayor of Liloan. Christina had just recently passed the bar exams and became a lawyer.
“I suppose you could say that we met at a time when both of us were at a turning point in our lives,” Christina recalls. “It is a blessing that our paths crossed at a time that it did. I was taken by Duke’s charisma. To me, he exuded kindness and humility. Of course, bonus sad gyud na guapo kaayo siya (it’s a bonus that he’s so handsome)!”
“I thought she was beautiful, elegant and well-spoken,” Duke adds. “When we were introduced, I was speechless!”
They’re naturals in front of the camera, effortlessly settling into the poses the photographer asks them to do. At one point, they’re locked in an intimate embrace and looking into each others’ eyes. Duke sweeps in for a kiss that makes everyone in the studio coo.
“I couldn’t help it,” Duke defends himself with a laugh, holding Christina closer as she giggles.
“He can’t resist me,” she tells us with raised eyebrows.
The couple comes from political families, and it’s interesting to note that neither of the two had initial plans of running
for office. Duke was in the audit and finance industry in the US, working for global consulting firm Protiviti right after finishing his double degree in Business Administration (Finance and Business Law) and Accounting at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
“I had no plans at all,” Duke admits. “My father, who had been Mayor then Vice-Mayor, died unexpectedly. The barangay captains of Liloan contacted me because the wanted to have me run for the position. It took me a couple of years before I finally decided to come home and run for Mayor in 2006.”
On Christina’s end, she had spent nearly ten years focused on building her career as a lawyer. After graduating from Ateneo Law, she practiced litigation, international arbitration and corporate law with one of the top-tier law firms in the Philippines, Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & Delos Angeles, being the head of its Cebu office.
“I knew that I wanted to make something of myself out of my own achievements, outside of and away from politics,” Christina shares. “I must say though that being exposed to public service at a young age led me to an inclination to help others. I always felt a sense of duty to my country, because that’s what I saw in my family as I was growing up.”
Despite initially having no plans to follow in their family’s political path, they both express a deep appreciation and admiration for their respective families’ contributions to Cebu. “He was Mayor of Liloan for close to a decade, but served Liloan all his life,” Duke says about his father, the late Panphil B. Frasco or Dodong Daku. “He was a man of the people, and Liloanons still speak of his kindness and humility to this day. I also greatly admire my uncle Gerardo ‘Dodong Gamay’ Frasco, for his pragmatism and wisdom, which has guided our family to carrying on the Titay’s legacy spanning 111 years.”
“For me, they have set the bar to which I would like to contribute to Cebu as a Cebuano,” Christina says of her own family. “For his statesmanship and brilliant legal mind, my grandfather, former Governor and Deputy Speaker Pablo P. Garcia. For her passion towards community development and social justice, my grandmother, the late Judge and Cebu CFI Community Cooperative founder Esperanza F. Garcia. For her great love for Cebu and legendary work ethic, my mom, former Governor Gwen F. Garcia.”
As two young personalities in government, they hope to be able to empower people through education. For ten years now since Duke’s first term and continuing though Christina’s current term, they have a scholarship program that has benefitted over 6,000 students.
They believe that an educated population is an empowered population, capable of becoming financially independent and discerning in their choices. “For us, this is key to breaking out of the bonds of poverty and patronage,” Christina affirms.
The Frascos hope to introduce innovations to governance, like reducing redundancies and bureaucracy through the use of technology, and being more connected and transparent through the use of social media. They also support the call for Federalism, believing that it will give local governments more leeway and funding in improving local infrastructure and creating more locally-relevant projects for the people.
Considering that standpoint, it’s no surprise how vocal the couple has been in their support for the controversial President Rodrigo Duterte. “President Duterte has political will, and he is a law and order President,” they say. “We believe that his extensive executive experience sets him apart as a leader because he knows the value of enforcing the law in order to have a stable society. At the same time, he recognizes the necessity of governing in a manner that is compassionate and responsive to the needs of the people.”
In the face of many conflicting views toward the President’s brand of leadership, both Duke and Christina acknowledge that opposition is necessary for a working democracy, but hope that Filipinos can come together and support his national agenda of building a stable and peaceful society. “We owe it to our country to set aside what divides us, and to unite behind our common goal of attaining a better life for our countrymen and for our children.”
Aside from their daily responsibilities, the couple also fosters their own advocacies. With education being high on Duke’s list of priorities, Christina also extends efforts for the empowerment of women and children. “The promotion of inclusive development as well—giving equitable opportunities to vulnerable sectors such as the LGBT and the youth,” she adds.
Being in the government means a lot of responsibility for the couple, and a typical day for them is being up 6:00 in the morning to have breakfast with their children before school, then going to their respective offices for work.
For Duke, work is either at the Cebu Port Authority to attend board meetings, or at their Frasco Group Office to attend to business matters. He also attends to pressing concerns in Liloan if need be, which shows how he is still dedicated to it even if he is no longer its Vice-Mayor.
Christina is either at the Municipal Hall to sign papers, attend meetings and meet constituents at the office, or scheduling visits to Liloan’s barangays and puroks.
To keep from getting too stressed or burnt out, Duke says, “I go to the gym and I run. I also like to Netflix and chill.”
Christina, on the other hand, makes time to paint and experiment with new dishes for Duke and their kids. She mentions that, if their schedules permit, they try to devote their weekends to their kids—watching movies, eating out, and traveling. “When Duke and I get home, we also make a conscious decision not to talk about work,” she finishes.
A COUPLE AT WORK
While some people might find the idea of a married couple working together as a possible hindrance to getting things done, the Frascos think otherwise. To them, it is an advantage because their vision and values are aligned. “We are able to enjoy our victories together, and we’re able to lift each other up in tough times, knowing that we will have each other’s back,” they share.
Duke and Christina are celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary this year, and it’s no question that the romance is still very much alive between them. They share that their marriage is anchored on their love for each other, their love for their family, and their shared goals for the future.
At the same time, they emphasize that retaining a sense of individuality is also important, along with having a healthy respect for each other’s differences. Compromise is key, and they constantly make sure to keep their values and goals in check, adjusting each other’s expectations as necessary and working out their differences.
Considering all that Duke and Christina have accomplished at a young age, we had to ask if they had plans of running for higher office. “We have great plans for the future, not just for ourselves, but also for our family and for Liloan,” they said. “As Cebuanos, we would like to continue to contribute to the development of Cebu. However, we also realize that ultimately, it is for the people to decide whether they would want us to continue to serve. As for the rest, it is in God’s hands. So we are focused on doing as much as we can in the here and now, with the opportunities that we have been given, for which we feel very blessed.”