Describe yourself in three words.
Determined. Independent. Epicurean.
Tell us your story.
I was born in the Philippines and raised in Switzerland. My parents were world travelers; by the age of 10 my passport had already run out of pages to stamp. I arrived in New York with a head full of dreams and there isn’t another place where I could have checked them all off my list. I worked in fashion. I opened, owned, and ran a restaurant. I taught kids about food and health and, while doing so, met the most brilliant people and made friends for life. I feel at home in the melting pot of New York. The maelstrom of cultures, people, cuisines, and the energy of the city suits me. It’s relentless but if you find your lane, the city will energize you.
Nowadays, I’m the director of a non-profit catering company. We hire graduates from our sister operation, a culinary arts training program, and our profits go back to their network of shelter and support programs. I found a niche where I can combine my talents and passions for food and bringing people together. I feel blessed to have forged my own path!
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment to date?
I’m most proud of the life I've built in a foreign country with my husband of 20 years and having a little piece of the American dream. It doesn’t always feel that way when you're younger, but the journey really is the destination in life.
What do you like the most about yourself?
I finally like myself after years of trying to figure out who I am and where I belong. I’ve always felt like a bit of a mutt—not quite at home in Switzerland or in the Philippines, always awkwardly trying to fit in. New York City allowed me to spread my wings. It took a minute (but not a lifetime) to realize that being different and independent could be an asset. My big lips and high cheekbones no longer set me apart.
What are your greatest passions?
All aspects of food fascinate me. I love street food as much as fine dining and am passionate about cooking, teaching, discovering cuisines, and grazing my local farm stands. I’m also a bit of a tomboy and love vintage trucks and sports cars.
Which women inspired you as a young girl?
I loved 80s music and pop culture. My obsession with Madonna had my parents worried! As a teen, I admired my boyfriend’s mom, who was the incarnation of the perfect bourgeoise. Her effortless elegance fascinated me and intimidated me slightly. She also wasn’t above a glass of Champagne at 11am!
Which women inspire you now?
My mom continues to inspire me. She has always been her own woman and a trailblazer who worked hard her whole life, but who also knows how to kick back and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Have you had female mentors?
Yes! I’ve always worked with strong women who are bigger than life, tough, and self- assured. These are qualities I’ve always admired.
THOUGHTS ON AGING
What do you like most about getting older?
Perspective: As you get a little older, you don’t sweat the small things as much and you learn to enjoy the simple things.
Do you think older women are valued and celebrated?
I think there’s been progress during my lifetime. Our voices are heard and respected, but we had to learn to speak up. We paved the way for future generations and I’m proud to have been part of the change. My generation is the first to be valued and celebrated as mature women. Women in their 40s are now celebrated and are regarded as being in their prime years. We don’t have an expiration date!
Which women do you admire for aging with grace and integrity?
My close friends, whom I’ve known my whole life, inspire me. Veronique is a wonderful and ageless woman who just became a mom and a newlywed, when most women would have given up on that dream. My friend Caroline is a pediatrician and one of the smartest (yet most self-deprecating) people I know. I love having friends I look up to and can’t wait to grow old together.
What advice do you have for today’s young women?
Explore the world and don’t be afraid of facing challenges to pursue your dreams. Trust your instincts and make the best of what life throws at you. Be versatile and have the ability to adapt and be your best even when the tides shift. Slow down, put your phone away, and enjoy the moment. Be carefree and experience richly. Be kind to other women. Root for your friends and surround yourself with women who empower you and cheer you on.
What is your perfect day?
A day in the Springs in East Hampton. Early morning paddle-boarding followed by a trip to the local farmstand, making dinner for friends with the inevitable bottle of wine.
BEAUTY RELATED QUESTIONS
Who is your beauty inspiration?
Both my grandmothers were great beauties. As for celebrities, Lisa Bonet and Vanessa Paradis.
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Five minutes tops. I’m a no-fuss person and always in a hurry to get out the door!
Do you enjoy wearing makeup?
I would if I had more time and knew how to apply it better.
As you get older, do you wear more or less makeup?
I used to wear a lot more when I was younger, thinking it would enhance my beauty. But nowadays, I am a firm believer in working with what you've got. So, I keep it minimal.
A FEW OF MY FAVORITES
Losing my Mind by the Black Crowes has a special place in my heart.
I love nothing more than a good beach read :). I wasn’t a bookworm when I was younger but loved my collection of Tintin graphic novels. I love revisiting them for sentimental reasons—they’re my Proustian memories.
Anything that comes my way with a large preference for Filipino and French comfort foods. A one-pot dish is my favorite but I equally adore a good steak frites, which led me to start running—a lot!
Place in the world:
Both Chuck Close and Athos Zacharias have been my neighbors in New York. They are two of my favorite artists. I love Cindy Sherman’s work. I can gaze at it and get lost. Also, I’d like a Gerhard Richter in my parlor, if I could afford it.
Anything bergamot, whether in tea, candles, or perfume.
Peonies and hydrangeas remind me of a perfect summer day. I always try to have a bunch to come home to.
I love Danish film noir and the early works of Buñuel. Just kidding! It’s not important to be highbrow in all aspects of life. Growing up, I loved the comedies of Louis de Funès. Some of my best memories are belly-laughing with my friends on the couch while watching them over and over. Otherwise I love a good rom-com—all-time high scores for Pretty Woman, Beaches, The Way We Were, etc.!