When it comes to summer, one cannot help but conjure up images of turquoise waters, bleached white sand, a fresh coconut or a margarita (or two), and in my case, lots of bright colours and fun prints. Being married to a true blue Cebuano means that Cebu is now my adopted home. My family of four, including my husband and two young children, splits our time between the urban jungle that is Singapore, and the lively resort city of Cebu.
As a primarily visual person and having been trained as a painter from an early age by a renowned Fine Arts lecturer and, as a young adult, attending the Art Institute of California for Interior Design, fashion is a big part of my life and a channel of self-expression. Apart from painting, I collect fashion and curate my wardrobe as an extension of my artistic self. I love the stories behind each piece that I own, and to me, fashion is wearable art. Summer looks are a personal favourite of mine, and I cannot resist bringing some of my special pieces with me as I enjoy the sun and the sea with my family
Cebu is an island in Central Philippines known for its sandy beaches and beautiful ocean views, and for its stunning and world-renowned diving sites. Its central position attracted the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan to land there in the sixteenth century, bringing with him the Christian influences that has shaped the religious and cultural landscape of the Philippines up until today. Out of the many remarkable islands of the Philippines, Cebu is known for its strong Spanish-influenced traditions which permeate many of its cultural life. This concoction of Visayan-Cebuano culture with traditional Spanish influences, coupled with the rapid growth and expansion of the city thanks to the influx of commercial investments, adds an energetic and upbeat energy to Cebu that makes the city an irresistible destination for many travellers.
This June I visited Cebu with my family and my maternal family in tow, to enjoy the sun-soaked beaches for quality time with the children before their school term begins. We made a quick jaunt to Palawan, where my husband’s soon-to-open resort is situated—at the drop-off point of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, known as one of the world’s seven wonders of nature. I enjoyed selecting my outfits for the vacation, knowing that the Filipinos are some of the most stylish people I know when it comes to summer and resort wear—especially with their artisanal woven fabrics, worn like a second skin under the warm, balmy sky.
The cheery, positive vibes of the friendly and fun-loving Filipino people are contagious, and I could not resist choosing my looks to reflect our happy mood on the vacation. I am partial to heritage Italian prints for the summer, and I am a fan of the playful take on sunny season dressing from several of the fashion houses. After all, it is the season of summertime fun in the sun. Below, a curation of my favourite looks from the trip.
Vacation mode is on. My best friend gifted me these fun Loewe sunglasses last year for my birthday, and it has become a staple accessory all summer season. My colourful necklace was a gift from my five-year-old daughter, Bella, who made it by herself and strung the alphabet to form the word “‘Mama”. It is my most cherished piece of jewellery now, I can safely say.
Such is my excitement to go out with my Cebu girlfriends that I had to dress appropriately to match my mood. Jean Paul Gaultier is known for its daring trompe l’oeil prints, and this cheeky dress was just what I needed for an evening of laughter and catching up with friends. I also love Fendi’s basket-woven rendition of its timeless Peekaboo bag, which lends a laid-back, artisanal vibe to the look.
Form And Function
This utilitarian-inspired set from Fendi is the perfect outfit for a jaunt to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, its many pockets coming in handy. We went into the cavern on a tiny boat in groups of ten, and navigated through the winding river path looking at dramatic limestone formations, and the incredible fossil remains of a twenty million-year-old sea cow.
I have been a massive fan of the Italian house Emilio Pucci ever since I read Plum Sykes’ Bergdorf Blondes in 2005. Almost two decades later, Pucci’s signature print is still embedded in all my visions and narratives of summertime life. I packed a Pucci pareo this time and it proved to be the MVP of my vacation wardrobe, with endless styling options. I wore it as a halter neck dress while lounging with a fresh coconut at the Four Points by Sheraton resort in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, after our visit to the Subterranean River.
Make A Statement
There’s something about funky shoes that I find irresistible—could it be the allure of the ugly-core shoes trend? Nevertheless, I adore this pair from Loewe’s spring/summer 2023 runway and the way it injects a heavy dose of playfulness, an off-kilter vibe, and a slightly foreboding line of questioning (does that leaf look like it could be poisonous?).
One of my best friends in Cebu, Claudia, is an international runway model of Brazilian descent who has settled down in Cebu and is now an accomplished resort wear designer. Her clothes are made by local artisans with ethically sourced fabrics, limited in quantity and lovingly produced. A day out on the boat calls for an easy, flowy look, and this dress from Claudia’s line, BEZZA Wear, fits the bill. With the wind blowing in my face, I tied a scarf from Hermès on my hair to keep my hair in place, à la Jacqueline Onassis in her post-Kennedy era.
I channelled my inner Italian screen-siren bombshell with this Dolce and Gabbana swimsuit to frolic in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Middle Pass sand bar in Cebu. An ice-cold bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen is de rigueur for an outing such as this, and I am sure Sophia Loren would approve. This sand bar is only accessible by boat during moments of low tide; an hour after this photo is taken, this strip of sand was to be completely submerged, unseen and undetectable.
Cocktails by the beach hit different, most especially when you are sipping on your margarita in a cave bar. I am continuing on my Emilio Pucci streak with this matching top and stretch-mesh shorts from the fashion house’s latest collection. Although today the brand might be associated with summery looks and colourful swimwear, the designer Emilio Pucci is credited with designing the first one-piece ski suit in 1947. His first collections were alpine sportswear, and by the 1950s he pioneered the free-moving, stretch fabrics, that we know and love today, most notably embodied in this pair of printed shorts that I donned. I love clothes with a story behind them, and my choice of a handbag for the evening was a nod to the contradictory nature of my outfit – a shearling Bottega Veneta bag for the summer may not be a bad idea after all.
One last breakfast overlooking the majestic ocean views that Cebu has to offer. Throughout the past week, I have hauled most of my children’s things in this roomy Saint Laurent bag. Crafted in the softest leather, it is an unlikely contender for a summer vacation bag, but I can attest that it is the epitome of chic in the heat.