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…

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

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