Businesswoman, philanthropist, mother and Mrs. Asia International Metropolitan 2015 Jennifer Helen Weigel Sarmiento proves that age is simply but a number especially when it comes to style.
The past few years have been nothing but incredible for Jennifer Helen Weigel Sarmiento. In 2014, the Philippine Cancer Society honored her as one of the ten most well dressed women in the country, and inducted her as one of its Ambassadors for Life the following year. In 2015, Jennifer brought home the crown as the very first Filipina to win the Mrs. Asia International Metropolitan pageant held in Malaysia. Her national costume, designed by Philipp Tampus, won over the judges enough to recognize it as the best.
Jennifer graced the cover of Images Asia, and was included in books such as Faaabvlous V, shot by the legendary Rupert Jacinto. She has also walked down the runway for exclusive fashion shows by top brands in Manila—all these at the age of 50, proving that it’s never too late to always look and be your best.
Jennifer, fondly known among family and close friends as Penny, defines her sense of style as simple but elegant—a sentiment shared by son Andrew Phillip and twin daughters Jennifer Elaine and Jasmin Ellen. While Penny demurely admits that she liked dressing up when she was younger, Jasmin elaborates that her mom’s friends would always say that back in high school and college, Penny was already known for being quite the style icon. “The reason she was always dressed up was because the late Philippine president Carlos Garcia is her uncle. She would go to all these functions in Manila,” Jasmin shares. “She was always the muse in [University of] San Carlos back in college. She was the It Girl back in the day.”
Her daughters have always known their mom to be stylish. Jasmin credits her mom for a little bit of fashion education. “Mom used to buy me bags and shoes, but I honestly never recognized brands before,” she fondly recalls. “I was just shocked that people would ask, “Is that a Balenciaga?” or “Oh, that’s an Hermés!” Meanwhile, Jen would hear stories from stylists who have worked with Penny for over thirty years. “They said she would be so stylish, even back when she was pregnant with us!” she gushes. “She’s the only one who can pull off a picture of a swan in her outfit and make it look very expensive and classy.”
“I’m a very reserved person, but I do want to look good and pleasing to other people’s eyes,” Penny explains. She usually gravitates towards warm tones such as orange, red and yellow, and veers away from prints The excitement is unmistakable in her voice as she enumerates her favorite brands: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, BCBG, and Hervé Léger, with Hervé as her ultimate favorite. She’s also a fan of Emilio Pucci and Stella McCartney. “Arte gyud ko’g sanina,” she says with a laugh, admitting that buying them is her guilty pleasure.
For gowns, Penny turns to Jun Escario for his simple pieces, Cary Santiago for his elaborate creations, and Philipp Tampus for feminine designs. Her footwear preferences include Prada and YSL for their comfort, Fendi for their colors, along with Louboutin, Givenchy and Jimmy Choo. She cites a pair of Prada shoes as the oldest and most used item in her closet. “They’re seven-inch heels, but they’re so comfortable that I can walk for three hours and not feel any pain!”
There’s more to Penny than just being a style icon and a fashion enthusiast: She is an accomplished entrepreneur, serving as the vice-president and majority shareholder for O.R. Sarmiento Construction, a triple-A construction firm involved in major infrastructure projects around the country. She is also the president of Jemstone Global Recruitment Agency, an international manpower organization providing brighter futures to overseas Filipino workers.
Additionally, since she was 23, Penny has been working hard to raise funds for organizations of various advocacies, including cancer patients, people who can’t pay hospital bills, and providing education for abandoned children.
Even with the busy schedule, Penny never fails to turn up for a day’s work in style. “I don’t really like wearing pants to work,” she says. “I like to look formal.” Her work essentials consist of pieces from Calvin Klein, Burberry, Armani and Zara.
Penny lives and breathes in style, and it’s something that also plays a hand in family dynamics. She’s wife to Edgar and mother of three—four, if you count her youngest daughter, dog Lucky (“I dress her up too, but not designer!” she exclaims with another laugh), and all of them have been there for her throughout her accomplishments. Jasmin and Jen also acknowledge that Penny’s style has influenced theirs. “She always tells me to dress as myself and not to follow anyone else,” Jasmin says. Jen, who Jasmin cites as being the more stylish one of the pair, adds that the best fashion advice she received from Penny was to love herself and be confident.
Businesswoman, philanthropist, beauty queen, style icon, wife, mother—Penny is quite the well-rounded woman, and by managing to be all these things successfully, she proves that a lot of style goes a long way.
by Patty Taboada sittings editor Melo Esguerra production manager Shari Quimbo photography Mark Philip Dales makeup Ramil Solis hair Ariel Tatoy locale UVNS
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, December-January 2016. For full access to our current and back issues, subscribe to Magzter.