Maria goes to TOWNS

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Women, women, women everywhere and this may yet be the year of the woman.
This is also the year when TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) once again goes into high gear, as it adds to its roster more women who deserve this once-in-a-lifetime recognition of one’s worth as a Filipina.

DITTA Sandico, TOWNS 2004 awardee, develops modern designs for accessories and native textile with indigenous craftswomen.

Although not a loner, Ditta has mostly worked on her own as she constantly developed her designs

If you have in mind a woman who rocks, as my favorite woman photographer, Mandy Navasero, would describe any woman of TOWNS caliber, well, it’s time to send her to TOWNS, which, they say, is better than the Senate or the House of Representatives even in this election year.

Why, if I were Mocha Uson, I’d rather be a TOWNS awardee than a legislator. How that’s going to happen is another matter, though. Yet, you can’t be sure about how the judges for the search will think.

TOWNS alumnae, chosen from as early as 1974, are known to fight bravely where they think they have a good cause, although they also have differing views.

Like not every one of her TOWNS peers may necessarily agree with Lorna Kapunan all the time in her so-called fights for justice. And, of course, her peers in the profession may shrug her off as a publicity-seeker given the controversial and high-profile cases she handles. But then again, that’s each to one’s own, so who are we to argue? She’s in TOWNS and you are not. But whether she’s of the ranks of the great pediatrician Fe del Mundo, or the diplomat Rosario Manalo, or the feisty director Zenaida Amador, or the international concert pianist Cecile Licad, all TOWNS awardees beyond compare, may be an idea formed without proof or sufficient evidence. But then again, who are we to say?

Fans of the awardees say making it to TOWNS anoints one with the elixir of gravitas, and makes one even more powerful than the Speaker of the House. Anyone could be taller than the Speaker of the House, but more powerful? Don’t be fooled by her, as one magazine columnist has pointed out. She could be running the whole show, the columnist hints, but no one seems to notice.

While giving local communities a source of income, her work helped raise the value of our indigenous abaca, which was once used just for rags, utilitarian rope and so forth, and made it into one of the most coveted fabric in the fashion industry.

Paying tribute to banaca

I interviewed Fernandina “Ditta” Sandico, known for designing and crafting casual daywear and formal attire made of native handwoven textile, and I must say she is one TOWNS awardee who is consistently right. The judges, for sure, took note of her work with the local communities in the field of fashion that’s why they gave her the nod in 2004.

To Ditta, the award wasn’t an end in itself, “but an honor that helped propel my craft. To me it was the beginning of another pursuit — to develop more designs that would take the use of the banana-abaca, banaca, fiber to another level.

“It was already challenging to just be able to grow and help sustain a livelihood community of Baras, Catanduanes, while breathing new life to the humble abaca fiber. But the award presented more opportunities of growth.”

While giving local communities a source of income, her work helped raise the value of our indigenous abaca, which was once used just for rags, utilitarian rope, and so forth, and made it into one of the most coveted fabric in the fashion industry.

Said Ditta, “We did a massive campaign on turning this fabric to not just wearable clothes, but also suitable for high fashion and haute couture wear. We reap the fruits of our labor today — an educated local market with a transformed mindset about Filipino fabrics and design, and a loyal following in the international and local scene that help sustain this endeavor.”

I asked her how the TOWNS award changed her as a person, and she replied, “The TOWNS award opened up wonderful possibilities, which I turned into goals. It challenged me to continuously grow my craft.

Be proud of what you already have, take advantage of your beauty and turn your imperfections into strengths — it will make you stand out wherever you are.

“More than just transforming the use of the banaca fiber, I had to sustain it and continue to make it meaningful. Now that everything is fast and most people look for instant gratification, the award inspired me to take a step back and savor the beautiful story in each fiber that is woven to realize my designs. It built on the importance of telling that story, to develop designs that are relatable and relevant to every generation that comes and goes – one of the ways that can preserve our heritage.”

For sure, Ditta’s passion for arts and culture “continues to bring me back to the Mangyan communities, our tribal communities that taught me all that I know about the ancient art of weaving.”

Although not a loner, Ditta has mostly worked on her own as she constantly developed her designs. She shared, “My art goes all the way back to the Hanunuo Mangyans of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. I have used their fabrics through the years and I’ve recently come up with a collection of interesting, almost architectural, yet wearable designs inspired by today’s modern style.”

To Ditta, it’s not just about selling a dress. Hers is a pursuit beyond commerce in this world where numbers, read as dollars and cents, count. As she has aimed in the past, she continues “to maintain the relevance of the banaca fiber in the current fashion trends while preserving our heritage through product and design development, and ultimately, to sustain the livelihood communities in Catanduanes that we now consider family.

CENTURY Park Hotel Manila general manager Anthony Wai Kwok Tan was all over the place to ensure the revelers were truly taken care of by his staff.

“The elements of my designs change, it may be structural or I may work new materials in it, but the pursuit is the same. I’m running the same race in changing environments — it’s about never giving up on my God-given craft and aim for continuous growth and improvement.”

This 2019, for Ditta, “will be a year of pushing our limits to create better designs. We’re also opening new markets abroad to bring our humble handwoven indigenous fabric to greater heights.”

Her advice to young women who would like to reach the top of their profession: “Discover your talents and own it. Don’t be defined by your circumstances – overcome it. Be proud of what you already have, take advantage of your beauty and turn your imperfections into strengths — it will make you stand out wherever you are.”

THE Century Park kitchen lived up to its superior reputation by presenting delicious cosmopolitan festive fare to the countdown crowd.

So, there, if Mocha comes any close to Ditta, her millions of fans should make sure she makes it to TOWNS this year, whether she gets enough votes to become a representative of AA-Kasosyo Partylist in the House of Representatives or not.

The nomination for the Search for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) is now open. The nominee must be a Filipino citizen, at least 21 years but not older than 50 by 31 October 2019. Any person or organization may nominate one or more women who meet these criteria. Deadline for nomination is 31 July 2019.

For more details, e-mail townsfoundationinc@gmail.com, visit http://www.facebook.co/townsfoundationinc or call 637 5535. Nominations may be submitted at 2004 B, 20th Floor, West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Center, Exchange Road, Ortigas Commercial Center, Pasig City.

Welcoming 2019

Despite the downpour that marred the countdown to 2019, Century Park Hotel Manila gave its guests a memorable celebration that featured exciting music provided by the good looking and vibrant BoyBand Ph and delightful food that is the trademark of this famous hotel at the heart of Manila, a stone’s throw away from Roxas Boulevard.

Owned by multi-billionaire Lucio Tan, Century Park was all bathed in tinsel and red that beautiful, gentle yet sparkling night as the guests were reveling at the lobby, not minding their plans for the night by the poolside did not materialize.

With the resourceful and ever-ready hotel manager Anthony Wai Kwok Tan ensuring that everyone had sufficient drinks and eats, it was as though nothing like the rain got in the way of the hotel’s guests enjoying New Year’s Eve.

As for the firecrackers the hotel readied as the midnight spectacle to watch from the pool, Tan promised his guests they would still see and enjoy them come the Chinese New Year in February, which is not too far a date from now.

When you’ve seen and done it all, just come and enjoy. Who knows what great surprise may life still bring

The place to be
Sunshine Place, a senior recreation center under the Felicidad Tan Sy Foundation, has become the place to be for the seasoned 60s-of-age-and-above who are truly deserving of life’s proverbial sweet and just rewards. Those who want to relax and smell the roses, as it were, come to this one-of-a-kind venue either to participate in a learning activity or a physical fitness session, or watch a performance whether of guest artists or of the talented and highly spirited members themselves.

THEY came in green, red and gold. Felicidad Sy (seated in red) and Tessie-Sy Coson (standing, in golden green) graced the Sunshine Place’s Christmas Party with Porcelain painting instructor Mee Lee Casey (next to Tessie) Sunshine Place members (front row, from left to right) Tess Castañeda, Nancy Lee and Gloria Pe.

Intended for retirees and the childlike, as well as the plucky and the stouthearted, this elegant and most exclusive place provides a relaxed atmosphere where each one can shine by showing off their talents, or engaging in warm conversation. Or if one much prefers it, one could just listen to the raconteurs who, of course, have much to share from their life’s experiences. If you’re the shy type, come here too and just relax while keeping to your tightly-knit company. They’ve got it all here, the out-going and the introverts. When you’ve seen and done it all, just come and enjoy. Who knows what great surprise may life still bring?

THE effervescent legendary beauty and gifted artist Vicky Fernandez Zubiri.

The Christmas get-together hosted by Sunshine Place for its members was very well attended, with businessmen and socialites enjoying the spirit of the season. The crowd applauded the classical piano performance by virtuoso Atty. Antonio Pastor who also had a duet with his brother Rafael. Christmas carols by Jose Mari Chan were sung by the Adeodatus Children’s Choir from Baseco Tondo, which got everyone into both lively spirit and pensive mood as they recalled Christmases of yore with their loved ones.

ATTY. Antonio Pastor playing a Mozart composition.
A TRIO of beautiful women — Conchitina Bernardo, Clarita Cabochan and Tess Colayco.

Indeed, there is life after 60 at Sunshine Place!

SUNSHINE Place’s president Lizanne Uychaco (third from left) with Porcelain painting instructor Mee Lee Casey (second from left) and Sunshine Place members Sandie Smith, Rebecca Cagurangan and Carminda Regala.

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