Borne(o) Identity

While revisiting old favorite places is always fun (read about our Coron adventure here :-) ), making new discoveries are always part of the excitement of travel. When Ito and I flew into Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, this summer we didn’t know much about the island of Borneo. We were simply looking for a relaxing beach getaway that wouldn’t be too crowded! As it turned out, Borneo pretty much fit the bill. The largest island in Asia, Borneo is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and is home to wide stretches of beach, ancient rain forest jungles, and an incredible diversity of wildlife. Since we were just there to chill–not go diving in Sipadan or climbing Mount Kinabalu–we took our time strolling around, satiating our appetites and our wanderlust.

Before heading for the beach, our first day around Kota Kinabalu reminded me of going around Manila more than a few years ago. The similarities were even more apparent in the small stores selling various handicrafts (we didn’t visit the ‘Filipino market’, although we heard about it), and our shared Malay ancestry showed itself in the fabrics, carvings, and even the dances and musical instruments that we saw. It was a little strange seeing things that seemed so familiar, and yet not easily understanding what people were saying.

The next few days Ito and I spent enjoying nature, admiring the colorful, exotic wildlife and soaking in a little more of the Malaysian vibe. We woke up early to explore the loooooong stretch of beach at sunrise, enjoyed our overflowing breakfast buffet with several stations including, of course, laksa (but no pork bacon!) and had teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) made with much ceremony at our table. We explored rocky coves where the jungle met the sea, feasted under the stars after a traditional ceremony played out at sunset, and discovered our Malaysian server’s fondness for Pinoy teleseryes. In the end, we found out that within our 7,100 islands or beyond it, we are all not that much different from each other.

It’s truly wonderful how travel takes us to different places only to bring us closer to home! Have you been to Borneo? What were your impressions of it?

My next travel blog post will be sharing some of our adventures as first-timers in Siargao :-)

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*Photos by Ito

Follow Your Heart

Ahhhh, Coron! Ito and I just can’t get enough of this lovely corner of Palawan. It is, without a doubt, one of the places that we love most. Last February, we once again found the lure of the islands too hard to resist and made our way back to stay for a week. On that visit, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the endangered dugong (or manatee) which had eluded us in our previous trips.

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The dugong is a gentle herbivore, said to have been mistaken for a mermaid by fishermen in the past, and can often be found peacefully grazing at the bottom of the ocean. The recent typhoons had apparently wiped out much of its usual feeding grounds, so we were told that our chances of seeing one was hit-or-miss. After a delicious Valentine’s day buffet breakfast at dawn, we set off as the early morning fog still crept through the mangroves and clung to the coastline. It was early enough that the sea was still unmarked and as smooth as glass–we could see right to the bottom, where we caught sight of a pawikan (sea turtle) swimming by.

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As we headed off into open waters, the surface was suddenly marked by a small cluster of bubbles, and to our surprise, we found ourselves beside a mid-sized whale shark! We quickly put on our snorkeling gear and jumped in to swim with the gentle giant as it feasted on plankton. Back on the boat, we were getting ready to head off again, when a pair of sting rays glided past. Then as if that wasn’t enough, we had continued on our journey for only a few minutes when the spotter on our boat suddenly called to us and pointed to a large fin emerging from the water–it was a minke whale! They cut the engine of the boat and guided it closer to the whale as it swam around us for a while. Off in the distance, we saw another minke whale swimming further out.

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Finally we arrived at the feeding grounds where the dugongs had moved to, and as we snorkeled with our guide, we finally caught sight of a murky figure on the ocean bed. The adorable dugong was munching on sea grass, enjoying a mid-morning breakfast while we happily looked on. And although the water in the feeding grounds wasn’t clear enough to take any pictures, we were positively thrilled. We finally said good-bye to the dugong, and as a farewell treat, a squad of translucent baby squid swam by.

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What a magical adventure! We had set off a few hours earlier holding no expectations and ready to just enjoy the boat ride, with only a slight hope of catching sight of a dugong. Instead, we had come across an abundance of sea creatures, big and small, that left our hearts positively brimming with wonder at the amazing world we live in (I even hashtagged it #COEURon since coeur means heart). It’s amazing what presents itself to us when we allow ourselves to be surprised :-)

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I will be sharing more of these serendipitous adventures with you in the next posts (our other summer trips took us to the islands of Borneo and Siargao). What about you, have you had experiences that weren’t planned that blew you away?

*Photos by Ito

The Spirit of Adventure

It’s the first week of August, and it feels like an appropriate way to welcome the month are with the things we love to celebrate–and one of those things, based on the number of hashtagged Instagram posts, is #adventure. But what is adventure? Is it only about ticking off bucket-lists or chasing after impossible-to-reach places? Is it always about somersaulting off cliffs or falling head first into extreme experiences? Maybe. But to me the spirit of adventure is about so much more.

Adventure to me connotes an openness to trying something different, a fresh way of seeing the world, a willingness to step outside what feels comfortable. It involves discovery, and a surrender to the surprises of the unknown. Adventures don’t always have to be epic–they can be everyday ones, like experimenting with a new look in the morning or taking a different approach to a daily task.

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These past months, Ito and I purposely took a step (or several!) back, and while unnerving at times, the new vantage point gave us an altered way of viewing–and doing–things and a revitalized eagerness to explore and uncover new things from the old and familiar. While big-ticket adventures are always exhilarating, we found out that a day doing something creative, or heading off on a simple road trip, or revisiting places we hadn’t been to in a while, could unearth something awe-inspiring. The important thing was learning to keep our hearts and minds wide open to whatever came our way.

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So as we move forward into the year, we hope to continue carrying this spirit of adventure into everything we do. And while we may not always know how or where things will end up, we hope to share things with you and take you along for the (sometimes bumpy) ride anyway! :-)

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*For fashion, style, and simple everyday adventures follow me on Instagram @tippiocampo :-)

**Photos by Ito

Be a Little MaArte

It’s been a while since my last post (over four months!), and summer has come and gone. But even with the rainy season here, I’m always in a sunny state of mind as far as my fashion designing is concerned :-) So apart from being kept busy with design work in my drawing room–and taking time over the summer to explore some of our beautiful islands (which I will post about next time)–immersing myself in our local crafts and culture has been something I’ve been enjoying lately.

Which is why, when I was invited once again to a sneak peak of this year’s upcoming MaArte Fair, I was only too happy to indulge in an afternoon of previewing artisanal pieces from one of the best, most prominent craft fairs in the country. Currently on its 8th year, the MaArte Fair is a fundraiser for the National Museum organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines. Headed by Maritess Pineda, the MaArte Fair aims to not only raise funds, but more importantly, to raise and evolve the Filipino craftsman–and, not to mention of course, raise the bar for the discerning shopper.

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As a fashion designer, I know only too well how important developing and elevating our local crafts are to the fashion industry. The cultural heritage and painstaking handwork that go into our crafts, combined with our savvy design sense, are what elevate and differentiate our products from the flood of run-of-the-mill, mass produced items.

With this in mind, I happily made a mental list of all the cool, drool-worthy pieces that caught my eye, telling myself it wouldn’t really be considered shopping, it would be considered preserving our culture and helping maintain the National Museum–natch! ;-) I’m sharing just a few of the items on my wish-list with you, although I’m pretty sure that with 70 retailers joining the fair, everyone will be spoiled for choice…

L1040404Dreamy watercolor artwork from Baguio digitally printed onto 600 thread count sheets by Tara Designs ( I think I’d be tempted to turn these sheets into a lovely dress!)

L1040407Gabby Sarenas tells stories beautifully by craftily embroidering local folklore onto the piña sleeves and panels of her wearable pieces

L1040422Textures abound and contrast wonderfully with the structured tailoring of this sleeveless duster coat by Joel Escober

L1040425Vivid colors and patterns inspired by the vintas above the ocean and the vistas beneath it are found in Ken Samudio’s gorgeous accessories

L1040421Graphic renditions of the traditional Maskara are hand-carved and hand-painted into hip, cool & very chic minaudiéres by Joanique

L1040419Originally from Mangyan basket designs, these wonderfully patterned bags and accessories by prolific designer Zarah Juan are on my personal wish-list :-)

L1040412This amazingly intricate Tboli hand-embroidered jacket by Filip + Inna is one of my favorites (imagine it with faded jeans!), especially when combined with this beaded leather bag by Rhett Eala & Zarah Juan. Winner combo!

Have you been to past years’ MaArte Fairs? What were some of your finds? Let me know what you think of my picks :-)

*By the way, this year’s MaArte Fair will be from August 26-28, at 8 Rockwell Penthouse

Just Chill (No Freon Required)

There’s no doubt about it, summer is definitely upon us! I’ve found that the past few months were the perfect time to cool our heels, but as temperatures rise (and the globe warms) it’s time for fashion that moves and breathes, and allows us to feel as cool as we look.

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Modern Filipiniana piña, jusi & lace patchwork bib, jersey lounge pants, Japanese cotton patchwork print jacket & cullottes: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Anja-Vanessa Peter/ Hair & makeup: Iya Yujuico/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

K.I.S.S. (Keeping It Sleek & Stylish)

In a world seemingly obsessed with ‘peacocking’, sometimes the best way to stand out is to keep things uncluttered and streamlined. Simplicity has always been part of the Filipina’s DNA, but the modern Filipina carries it with sleek, stylish, and highly-polished aplomb. She intuitively understands that superfluous excess is often not necessary in order to make a striking, lasting statement.

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Beaded nude lace gown & black jersey ‘barong’ gown with piña bib: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez/ Makeup: Iya Yujuico/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

PASSIONista: Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez

There are more sides to fashion, and many, many more sides to the people in fashion, than meet the collective eye. Beyond the shows and catwalks, we discover people with a myriad of interests and dreams who aren’t just fashionistas, they’re passion-istas.

If there’s a model who’s done it all, it would be Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez. From when she started as an ingénue model, to product endorser, to actress, to designer, and most recently, to Project Runway Philippines’ unflappable host, she’s remained a force in fashion. To top it off, she’s a wife and a mother to a beautiful brood that’s ready to join her–if they can be cajoled–on Manila’s runways. So what’s left for a Superwoman to do? Apparently, if you’re Tweetie, a lot more as she plans to further hone her passion for accessory/industrial design and add yet another feather to her (very fashionable) cap.

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Dove gray caped jersey gown: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez/ Makeup: Iya Yujuico/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

The Beauty of Deconstruction

As the Filipina fashions her future, she knows that the only permanent thing is change. With every cycle comes a dissolution of the one before it, leading to the birth of something new–it’s all about progressing ourselves and our style. As tattered, frayed and unfinished elements gain the fashion spotlight, imperfect becomes the new perfect, and deconstruction is celebrated as part of the transient nature of our constant evolution.

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Tattered French lace and patchwork tulle dress: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Ria Bolivar/ Make-up: Aimee Guerrero/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

PASSIONista: Ria Bolivar

There are more sides to fashion, and many, many more sides to the people in fashion, than meet the collective eye. Beyond the shows and catwalks, we discover people with a myriad of interests and dreams who aren’t just fashionistas, they’re passion-istas.

From the moment she opened her first runway show in Manila, Ria Bolivar’s career has been on an upswing. Yet beyond relentlessly ‘working it’ in onstage and in front of the camera, she keeps a beautiful balance by taking time to pursue other things. From learning to ride waves, to hiking trails, to regularly practicing yoga, she merges her passions and infuses what she does in fashion with what she does outside of it. No matter what she does, there’s no stopping her from fiercely taking things to the next level.

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Brocade terno coat/dress, bustier with copper wire & printed palazzo pants: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Ria Bolivar/ Make-up: Aimee Guerrero/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

Festival Style

Taking it from the fiesta to a new kind of global festival, the Filipina of today rocks any style…and the only fashion dictates she follows are her own. Spirited, and with the confidence to know that some rules are meant to be broken, she mixes high-and-low, new-and-vintage, couture-and-street. Because she understands that when it comes to fashion, it’s less about impressing others and more about expressing yourself.DSC_4223

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Lilac lace mini ‘terno’ with zipper details: Tippi Ocampo/ Model: Valerie de los Santos/ Make-up: Iya Yujuico/ Photos: Ito Ocampo

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