Sunday, November 13, 2011


Joyce Pilarsky: inspired by Las Vegas

The glitter and glamour of Las Vegas—with its beckoning neon lights, towering palaces of leisure and luxury that gleam against the desert skyline, the excitement of the casinos, girls decked in feathers and dripping in sparkling stones, and big time rollers ferried to and fro in sleek limousines—have provided inspiration to countless movies, songs and music videos.

Bewitched by the city’s alluring electricity, Filipina designer Joyce Pilarsky culls from the razzle and dazzle of Vegas in her Holiday 2011 collection. The delectable compilation is rich in tailored dresses cut close to the body, but fashioned from decidedly feminine materials such as stretched tulle, lace and taffeta. Making the outfits more alluring are the well-placed details like embroidered flowers. The overall look is provocative in reflecting the key elements of haute couture.

The collection, describes Pilarsky, “takes on the exciting and colorful Las Vegas scene, epitomizing the sexy and daring attitude of those who frequent the strip.”  The rich, the famous, the fashionable and trendsetting that color the landscape of this colorful city provided the designer her most compelling motivation. The city’s rich palette of people are evident in the collection’s color mix—from bright jewel tones to pleasing pastel colors, and of course, the classic sophistication of black.

In the end, the collection is a crystallization of the fascination that Vegas casts on all those who behold it—captured in a style that is at once dreamy and bold.

Text by Vix Sev
Photos by Neilson Elesis & Melvin Sia

Monday, November 7, 2011


Every year, when Taal celebrates its annual fiesta, members of some of the town’s illustrious families throw the gates to their ancestral homes wide open to re-acquaint town mate and stranger alike with their hometown’s elegant and rich past.

The Villavicencio’s twin mansions are among the most popular destinations during the season of the “open house” and the reason is understandable. The original owners of the handsome ancestral house—Don Eulalio Villavicencio and Dona Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio are recognized as two of the staunchest supporters of the Philippine Revolution in the country’s struggle for independence against Spain.

Don Eulalio Villavicencio

Dona Gliceria Villavicencio

Don Eulalio was a ship captain who owned a large and airy manor built before the 1850s. Standing on the northern slope of Taal, the mint and blonde house was hemmed by manicured gardens and protected from the outside by ornate wrought iron gates. From the expansive sala visitors are gifted with an alluring view of Balayan Bay and the cool breezes fanning in from the sea.

In the old mansion, wide windows allow the breeze from Balayan Bay to cool the interiors.

Graceful furniture and intricate detail add old world charm to the colonial house.
 Wide floor planks polished to a gleaming shine and the thick mulawin posts provide the first indications that this is a house of affluence and prominence. In the olden days, when the gentlemen came a-courting, the azoteas functioned as a safe gallery where young ladies discreetly observed the harana.

Graceful bentwood seats from Vienna form a charming seating area.

The breakfast nook in the large dining area features intricate furniture made from Philippine hardwood.

Azoteas line the wall of the newer mansion Don Eulalio built for his lovely wife.

An antique silver carroza is being stored inside the zaguan.

The receiving room downstairs in the foyer has a gallinera and a mirror table with hooks for coats and umbrellas.
Inside the Villavicencio’s zaguan (the hall before the main patio) a century-old carroza made of hammered silver is kept—dressed and used only during the Lenten Season prusisyon. The twin houses, built largely in the dainty style of the Victorian era, also boasts of a whimsical tin ceiling from America and graceful bentwood furniture especially made in Vienna.

The escalera, or the main staircase, leads to the sala on the second floor.

Victorian details--such as the stylized iris paintings on the wall and dainty carvings above the doorway--add exquisite charm to the capacious mansion.

Despite the trappings of wealth and a charmed life, the Villavicencios were passionate in their nationalism. They actively supported the Revolutionary movement and donated their own money to help fund the subversive campaign of Dr. Jose Rizal during his exile in Hong Kong.

For their anti-Spanish actions, Don Eulalio was arrested and incarcerated in the Old Bilibid Prison in Manila. According to historian Paz Mendes, the colonial authorities tried to entice Doña Gliceria by asking her divulge the Katipunan’s activity in Batangas in exchange for her husband’s immediate freedom. Staunchly and with no mean courage, the headstrong woman answered, “I love my husband very much as few wives do but I would consider it insanity to carry his surname if I should obtain his liberty by betraying him and his cause.” Released in 1898 due to grave illness, Don Eulalio died three months later.

Not one to give up the nationalistic cause in the face of her husband’s tragic demise, Doña Gliceria continued her work for freedom. She donated the family ship, the “SS Bulusan” which became the first warship of the Revolutionary Government. She held secret meetings for the revolutionary leaders right under her dining room which saw the attendance of such political luminaries as Andres Bonifacio, General Miguel Malvar and General Marasigan.

On June 12, 1898, when the Philippines raised its flag for the first time as a free nation, General Emilio Aguinaldo paid tribute to the woman who fought bravely and defied great dangers to help free the country. He named her Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios—the Matriarch-General of the Revolutionary Forces.

Today, the twin houses still stand as mute testimonies to the heroism of two people in love in the time of war.

Text and photos by Vix Sev

Saturday, November 5, 2011


She is that superior an actress that many who grew up at the time of her imperial reign over showbusiness instinctively think of her as unglamorous, worn out, visibly rough at the edges. Thanks in no small measure to the roles she made famous—the downtrodden Nelia in Atsay, the obsessively fixated Bona, the hapless Elsa in Himala, the disregarded child-woman Babette in Bakit Bughaw ang Langit, and in film after film where she essayed ill-fated characters in the margins of society.

In truth, away from the glare of the limelight, Nora Aunor is an elegant creature. In the number of times I was privileged to observe and engage her in conversation, Nora came across as a woman of grace. Perhaps it is her early training in music and her instinctive talent to interpret even the most mundane lyrics into gripping auditory experiences that have given this diminutive woman the timing of a prima ballerina.

The Superstar mesmerizes on the cover of Star Studio.

With master photographer Jun de Leon behind the camera, Nora makes an elegant pose--looking relaxed and languid yet exuding electric energy through her riveting gaze.

Whether seated on a couch or standing in front of a mirror, Nora moves deliberately and with careful calculation—like a jaguar stalking its prey, or a butterfly with wings unfurled in the middle of flight. Away from the prying eyes of the public and the press, it is as if she is in the middle of a command performance for the queen as she gracefully articulates with her hands, as she languidly crosses her legs and turns pensive, or even as she lets out a hearty laugh.

Her unerring elegance is most breathtakingly captured on celluloid in the dance rehearsal scene of Laurice Guillen’s quiet drama Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo where Nora portrays a star on the rise. I have never seen her dance so gracefully, so full of meaning and yet so precise and intentional. She shows this grace again in the musical scenes of Mario O’Hara’s Kastilyong Buhangin and in the opening of Lino Brocka’s Binata si Mister, Dalaga si Misis where Nora sings a medley of Canseco classics all made up and looking divine in a flowing, skin-toned draped gown.

Stylish, glamorous and absorbing--Nora in high fashion on the cover of Preview.

Critics almost always praise her eyes—those two compelling globes that have the ability to turn from fiery to frosty in a millisecond. Few realize that Nora is a peerless physical actress who can turn ordinary scenes into moments of cinematic brilliance with her mastery of movements.

In Bona, when she first encounters Raquel Montessa in the constricted kitchen-cum-dining room, she moves quickly in rhythm with her terse and tense dialogue. These two brilliant actresses exchange verbal missiles while crisscrossing the limited space in utter fluidity of motion. Finally, when the emotions explode, the two characters spill onto the street to sweep the audience with  their full, ferocious force.

Another unfair advantage that the Superstar has is her perfect bone structure. The fluid curve of her nose, the gentle rise of her cheeks, and the distinct jawbones facilitate her effortless facial expression. A gamut of emotions pass through her visage like clouds passing over the earth.

In Himala, the explosive assassination scene that terminated Elsa’s sermon showed once again Nora’s brilliance in physical acting. With one hand clutching her heart and the other outstretched as if grasping an invisible support, the actress wisely showed the complete silhouette of her body against the cloudless sky. With that, she was able to paint a transfixing picture of dying in the span of a few, quick frames. Through that short scene, she gives the audience a vicarious experience of being assassinated so that the viewer flinches in  horror and imagined pain.

Nora in a trench--few realize that she has one of the best legs in showbusiness.

After nearly eight years of self-imposed hiatus in the US, Nora is back and the younger generation of photographers, stylists, makeup artists, hairstylists, and clothes designers—people who were hardly around when she held the public awestruck in her hands—are discovering Nora’s unique beauty and elegance. In her recent covers for the glossies such as Star Studio, Yes and, most recently, Preview, Nora’s timeless allure and magic are again being put on view.

Even the simple act of pulling her hair becomes a moment of beauty--note the tension in the fingers and the smolder in her eyes. The pose is akin to a powder keg that can explode any minute into spectacular fireworks.

These new images are reasons enough to celebrate—especially for her new legion of fans that can’t get enough of the Philippine’s most brilliant star. Indeed, Nora’s enduring radiance, and her powers of physical poetry shine bright and clear… even from the flat, single dimension of a magazine cover.

Text by Vix Sev
Photos from Star Studio and Preview magazines

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The antique house that designer Lito Perez transformed into the charming Villa Tortuga sits on a quiet section of Taal. The capiz windows and ventanillas--all Filipino design innovations--remain intact in this mansion.

The walls fronting the house depict life-sized drawings of old Filipino costumes inspired by the paintings and prints of Damian Domingo.

A giant sea turtle hangs on the wall of the foyer leading to the accessoria below and the main house above.
If its name suggests the pace of life within its archaic windows and weather-beaten walls, then visitors who wish to escape the frantic pace of city living will find a welcome lull waiting for them at Villa Tortuga. Located in a quiet neighborhood in Taal, Batangas and sitting just above the bank of a meandering river, this haven created by noted fashion designer Lito Perez, offers a refreshing stillness. In a mansion filled with old photographs, icons and statuaries that date back to Spanish colonial times, and furniture that have withstood the passing of time, it is as if one has stepped back in time.

An art nouveau mirror and assorted portraits greet visitors at the landing near the main seating area.

The breakfast table is all set for an early morning breakfast that includes longganiza, fried daing, eggs, sinangag, pan de sal and quesong puti.

The main salon is made romantic by the graceful art nouveau couch with a periwinkle leather seat and heavy brocade drapery in bright crimson
Blue-and-white antique jars flank an old piano that stands against a bright wall painting of a rural scenery.

“Tortuga” is “turtle” in Spanish and here one can ruminate on the dated relics, and marvel at the skill of native artisans who carved every ornate detail on each of the delicate furniture and architectural detail at a leisurely snail's pace. At Perez's hardwood dining table, guests can  take their sweet time savoring classic Batangueño and Filipino cuisine until the appetite and taste buds have been fully satiated. Perez, who is also an antiquarian, has assembled an assortment of furniture, mementoes, relics and objets d’art to give his guests an intimate experience of living in a past where leisure and luxury were the orders of the day.

At Villa Tortuga, one gets a sumptuous encounter with the former glory and charms of an illustrious Philippine town.

At dinner, Lito served a feast of tinolang manok, pork loin in pineapple halves, manok sa gata, fish flakes served in tomato cups and fragrant rice.

And what’s feasting in Batangas without the flavorful and succulent sinaing na tulingan?

Text and photos by Vix Sev

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


In front of the magnificent altar gleaming in gold, the union of a man and a woman in love becomes a dramatic spectacle of romance. San Rafael Parish Church, trim yet elegantly designed—evoking time-honored ecclesiastical elements and classic concepts in architecture—presents a picture-perfect venue in which to express a lasting vow of love. With a penchant for the romantic and breathtaking, couturier and bridal finery specialist Leonardo Dadivas creates some stunning wedding day masterpieces for a man and a woman in love.

Leonardo Dadivas' atelier is located at L&M Apartments 3734-C Bautista St., Palanan. Makati City.

Text by Vix Sev
Bridal finery and groom’s outfits created by Leonardo Dadivas
Image styling & grooming by Randy Ulnagan
Photographed by Ramil Lopez
Digital editing by Irish Taberna
On models Queenie Bautista & Luis Paulo dos Santos (courtesy of John Brillantes/Reco Modeling Agency)
Concept & direction by Victor Sevilla


Because of the overdrawn skirmishes between the military and the ragtag band of rebels in Lamitan, the town’s foremost expression of artistry has been sadly overlooked.

Piña asymmetrical robe cinched by a white and ash gray Yakan cummerband. This is worn over bitter chocolate trousers also in Yakan.

The Yakan women, long-recognized as the most prolific and imaginative weavers in Mindanao, have been producing fabrics rich in zoomorphic symbols. Called “dream weavers” these women are said to sit in front of the loom only after communicating with their deities through dreams. Guided by these spiritual beings, they weave to interpret the messages from the divine world.

Slim fit jacket with matching retro pants both in blue and white Yakan fabric.

Blue hooded bomber jacket with cut out detail on top in pink. This is paired with flat front black pants, all in Yakan.

Cream and caramel double-breasted jacket with outstitching detail over off-white rolled-up trousers.
Inspired by the magnificence of the Yakan cloth, designer Nono Palmos sought ways to bring this ancient art into contemporary fashion use by introducing new fiber blends and colors—making the classic Yakan fabric more comfortable, easier to cut and sew, and able to move gracefully.

Irish linen collarless bomber jacket paired with terracotta Yakan pants with gray reverse side.

White tuxedo jacket and formal pants
Recently, the inventive designer came out with a line of modern and extremely wearable line of formal, club and casual wear for men using the Yakan fabric. The result is a remarkable melding of Filipino artistry and Western design inspiration, of ancient weaving traditions and audacious fashion forms, of the time-honored and the refreshingly novel.

Tobacco brown and fatigue hooded jacket with slim pants
Text and photos by Vix Sev
Grooming by Ed Mamangon
Styling by Millet Arzaga
On actor and model Marvin Kiefer