Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fitness - Lifestyle Not a Fad!

Scottsdale, AZ - When I braved the Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco alone on October 19th 2014, mental toughness was what I had left that dragged my legs across the finish line!  Limping as I collected my finisher prize, a limited edition Tiffany Necklace (not too shabby!), I missed Carrie (my sister-in-law) and Kirsten (my cousin) who ran the same race with me 4 years ago.

Desperately longing for company, I briefly forgot my aching body when I caught a glimpse of the Philippine flag just past the runners’ exit.  Amongst other Filipino athletes, I met Rolly Loreto who, after only a few minutes of chatting, made me feel relieved and energized.  Such a supportive co-athlete!

Fast forward 4 weeks later, Rolly came to the valley to volunteer together with friends and families, and support Fil Am Tri (FAT) Club’s 45 delegates for the IRONMAN Arizona (IMAZ) on November 16th 2014. 

IMAZ 2014 FilAmTri delegates

Photo courtesy of Fil Am Tri Club.

IMAZ kicked off with a 2.4 miles single-loop swim in Tempe Town Lake, followed by a 112 miles three-loop bike course through the Sonoran Desert, and finished with a 26.2 miles flat and spectator-friendly course through Papago Park. This southwestern race is so popular that for the first time at an American IRONMAN event, it had a record-setting sellout of 2015 entries!  After completing their volunteer shifts,  Rolly, already a 12-time triathlon finisher in quest of IRONMAN, and several FAT members, received their wristbands to be among the first to sign up for next year’s IMAZ.

It's official for Rolly Loreto and Rica Enrile! The will be back next year for IMAZ 2015.

On the night before IMAZ, the team converged by the hotel’s poolside; the competitors loaded up with carbs early so that they could snooze soon, while the volunteers mapped out their course to barhop Old Town Scottsdale! For those who know me well, you’d figure out which group I hung out with =) It was a gathering filled with positive energy, fun and a whole lot of food, it was a Filipino get-together after all! 

Eve of IMAZ 2014 Fil Am Tri Carbo Load

Photo courtesy of Mario Alvior.

Amidst all the excitement, I managed to have one on one conversations with a few IMAZ participants, with one burning question in mind. How do they fit their triathlon workout plan into their daily lives, when I found it very challenging to keep up with my meek half marathon training?

Former model turned long distance runner, Carla Dorotheo, simply said, “It does not feel like I have to fit the training into my life because running is already part of my life.  I chose to do it and keep up with it because I feel good when I workout. It is good for my body! I run 4 times a week, varying 4 to 6 miles on weekdays and usually 8-20 miles on weekends."

Fitness and sports have always been part of Carla's and her family's life. Her mother is also a runner, and still logging miles to date.  Her body-builder grandfather, Elpidio Dorotheo, was Mr. Philippines 1952.  Mr. Dorotheo opened one of the first health clubs in Manila; among his clients were President Marcos' family.  He also pioneered and served as president of the Philippine Weightlifting Association and Running Club Association of the Philppines (RUNCAP).  Carla is one of the last 200 pioneers who run the Nike Half Marathon in the streets of San Francisco annually, for the last 11 years! She checked off the IRONMAN from her bucket list, which she completed last year in Whistler, Canada. Next up for her is ultra distance, 100-mile race.”  Impressive! I'm already tired just hearing that.

Carla Dorotheo's 1st IRONMAN! Whistler, Canada. 2013

While Carla is not participating in IMAZ this year, she is here to cheer and support her fiancĂ©, Rodino Tucay. What started as a joke with his co-worker to sign up for a swim, bike and run, ended up with now running his 2nd IRONMAN in 2014.  Dino also conquered over twenty 13.1-mile races last year… makes me feel silly whining about my pains after finishing just 1 race this year =) Dino says his mantra is, “Just finish it and have fun.” What a great feat for Dino, considering that he broke his leg in a softball accident just 2 years ago, which by the way had to be fixed with metal plates and screws. So no excuses for the rest of us! This proves the old adage that “mind over matter” really works.  Dino continues, “It is just what we do, what we chose to do. A typical day for us includes a run and/or a bike ride. Even at home we have stationary training bikes that we ride side by side while watching TV. It is quality and productive time together.” Carla and Dino met in a race, Dino proposed to Carla in race and they plan on getting married during a race. Talk about fitness being part of life!

Carla Dorotheo and Rodino Tucay

Phew! I feel both exhausted and encouraged by their stories.  Now would be a good time to contemplate and plan what healthy activity to add into next year's lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be an IRONMAN; it could be as simple as getting up from the couch during commercials.  Healthy life is a choice, just make the decision. And then commit! Don’t be part of the 92% who fail their new year’s resolution

Many thanks to Rhonda “Bootsy” Bagarino, a triathlon athlete and proud IRONMAN herself, for keeping in touch and inviting me to meet these fine sports men and women!  She is uber sweet and seemed to be the favorite of the team. Afterall what would the FAT competitors do without her famous spam musubi, their easy and fave chow during the race.

Rhonda, who completed her first triathlon in 2010, gave us a run down of the very emotional race for the team, "Unfortunately, not all of our FAT athletes crossed the finish line.  The water for the swim was very choppy which made the swim very difficult for the racers. We had a few just barely made the cut off of 2 hours and 20 minutes for 2.4 miles.  The winds on Sunday made the 112-mile bike a very challenging ride.  Bikers were fighting cross winds and debris flying. As the sun died down, the cold weather met our athletes for their run."  She continued to narrate about the overall outcome, "For some it was not their day. And for the rest, they earned their IRONMAN bragging rights. I am happy to say that all the FAT athletes are safe."

It was indeed a tough day, not only for the FAT team but for all 3,000 competitors.  But the positive spirit prevailed and their morale kept high! This team will go back to their bases and train once again for the next race.  In the meantime, they celebrate their comradeship and support for each other.  Kudos to the FAT Club for garnering 3rd place in Division 3.  And great job FAT volunteers and supporters. What an inspiring group! 

First Row: Noriel Simsuangco, Thomas Zaide, Carlo Marcelo, Rica Enrile, Nancy Hwang, Che Chua, Mario Alvior, Richwood Borja, Rolly Loreto, Andrew Tiotuico

Back Row: Julius Estanislao, Geoffrey Chua, Greg Uy, Rhoel Rosales, JR Calanoc

Photo courtesy of JR Calanoc.

Fil Am Tri Club was founded in 2006 by a small group of Filipinos in NY/NJ. Since then, FAT (Fil Am Tri) has grown nationwide and global having members throughout the mainland US, Canada, Hawaii, and of course the homeland in the Philippines. Although comprised mostly of Filipinos, FAT is a non-denominational club accepting all friends and families of Filipino Americans with the mission to grow a network of Filipino triathletes worldwide building a sense of community and fellowship through the medium of endurance sports.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rocky Gathercole – The Avant Garde Knight Returns!

Written by Sheila Vertuno for F Magazine, Oct/Nov Issue

Scottsdale, AZ - By invitation, Rocky Gathercole returned to the desert and resided unnoticed in the V.I.P. section all 3 nights of Phoenix Fashion Week.  Incognito to most, I’d smile at him across the runway, while his name was thunderously announced every night, building the anticipation as the closing designer of the event. 

On the last night, I watched proud, front and center, as Rocky Gathercole’s “Celebration of Colours” collection hit the catwalk during Phoenix Fashion Week grand finale at Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale Arizona on October 4th 2014. 

The 25-year anniversary collection was a reflection of the dark, colorful, playful and glamorous phases of Rocky’s personal and professional life. Like always, he pushed every boundary to deliver his own cutting edge unapologetic designs.  He used industrial metal and colorful loom bands for that innovative look and combined them with fringe beads, pearls and Swarovski for a feminine touch. I said it before and I will say it again… it was dashingly ferocious!

Photo by Desert Rh1no Photography

Photo by Desert Rh1no Photography

Photo by Desert Rh1no Photography

Photo by Desert Rh1no Photography

Click here for more Rocky Gathercole photos by Desert Rh1no Photography.

Many described it as a jaw-dropping collection, and I couldn’t agree more.  It was bold, entertaining and glamorous, all at the same time.  While tyro fashionistas may find his creations overwhelming, Rocky Gathercole Atelier is internationally acclaimed and a go to for Hollywood A-listers, the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez …too many to list. 

When I asked him to describe his fashion designs, Rocky told me, “I’m a scene stealer and I want to leave a mark. I’d rather be flamboyant than boring.”  In a league of his own, Rocky said, “Women’s fashion is boundless! However, most people only see what they want to see.  My creations are not for everyone, especially not for the ‘boxed’ mind.' It captivates those with inquisitive and artful taste.”  Very Gathercole, I say!

The “Avant Garde Knight” is the title that I coined for Rocky Gathercole when I first saw his AH-MAH-ZING collection last year.  No hiding behind the shining armor, Rocky is shy, soft-spoken, selfless and wears his emotions on his sleeve… so authentic!  His humble beginnings keep him grounded and grateful for his achievements. I asked if he dreamt of making it this far, and recollecting his younger years, he said, “Kapag nasa kalye ka, wala kang pangarap. Ang nasa isip mo lang ay kaligtasan ng buhay.” (Translation: When you live in the streets you have no dream.  Your only focus is survival.)  He is slow to claim what he has now as success for “success has a different meaning to everyone,” he said. 

Comforted by vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake, we laughed and cried as we shared each other’s life stories.  I will never forget his words, “Yung ngang wala puede, yun pang meron!” (Translation: If one could make it with not having anything, one could certainly make it with a little bit more.) Truly inspiring!

On a lighter note, here’s a quick Q&A with Rocky:
  • Who is your fashion icon(s)? Thierry Mugler, Bob Mackie, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen
  • If you could talk to anyone, past or present, who would it be?  Princess Diana
  • Who would you like to dress that you haven’t yet?  Barbara Streisand
  • Who is your favorite science fiction character? Mystique
  • Daytime or nighttime? I am an early bird
  • Coffee or tea? Tea

From London Fashion Week, Phoenix Fashion Week, and recent Los Angeles photo shoots with For the Stars Fashion House, Rocky jets back to Manila for Halloween by Rocky Gathercole at Solaire Grand Ballroom on October 31st, 2014.  Next month, Rocky will support the Filipino Designers Association of the Philippines (FDAP) fashion show scheduled on November 26th , 2014 while he prepares as the official designer of Julie Anne San Jose for her Hologram Concert at the MOA Arena on December 13th 2014.

Mabuhay ka, Rocky Gathercole.  You are blessed with a genuine heart and incredible talent.  You are absolutely one of a kind!  My love and respect to you always!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Philippine Couture Takes the Desert by Storm

This year’s Phoenix Fashion Week, held at Talking Stick Resort on October 2-4, 2014, was a record breaker in many ways.  Attendance hit a record high; 7 out of 13 emerging designers vying for the 2014 Designer of the Year are locally based; and, for the 3rd year in a row, Philippine haute couture graced the runway for the finale.  In fact, a total of 5 Filipino couturiers took the stage, with 3 of them closing each night of the event! How cool is that!?!   

Albert Andrada

Click here for more Albert Andrada photos by Desert Rh1no Photography.

The crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed as the “Cultured Couture Eveningwear” by Albert Andrada, closed the first night. Absolutely red carpet worthy!  Who could forget Paris Hilton in Andrada’s fully sequined ivory dress sans undies at the 2014 Grammy Awards?

A true visionary, Albert was tapped by the luxury furnishings brand, Ethan Allen for an unforgettable collaboration.  When I asked about his inspiration behind "The New Eclecticism" launched in September 2014, he said, “This is one collaboration I will never forget, a very challenging project for me. Ethan Allen collaborated with 3 designers. One coming from the Interior design industry, another is an Accessory designer and myself from the Fashion designing industry. They decided to come up with a different concept, ideas coming from artists in different fields. My inspiration is the blue and white china porcelain. The whole concept of the design is oriental and old Hollywood glam.”

Albert will be representing the Philippines in the upcoming prestigious, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Asia to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 20-22, 2014.

Aris Pico

Click here for more Aris Pico photos by Desert Rh1no Photography.

Growing up, Aris was inspired by dresses donned by “sagalas” (translation: maiden) in traditional Flores de Mayo or Santa Cruzan.  He then dreamt of creating magical gowns for the women in this once a year novena procession remembering St. Helena’s mythical finding of the cross.  Dreams came true for this talented and hardworking young designer, who debuted his first collection in Philippine Fashion Week. 

Aris’ inner lacing, vine-like embroideries and embellishments, pearls and crystal details that screamed feminine glamour was a dazzling finale on the 2nd night of Phoenix Fashion Week. The final dress reminded of a fairytale ending!

Kenneth Harion

Cebu native, Kenneth Harion is quickly making a name in America and Middle East.  While currently based in Kuwait, he has stimulated interests in Hollywood, attracting celebrities the like of Beyonce.

Kenneth's collection can be described as artful glitz and glamour.  The dancing colors of aurora borealis hotfix, sparkling Swarovski crystals and intricate beading details are hard to miss! I won't be surprised to see these gowns in major red carpet events. 

Yen Bari

Click here for more Yen Bari photos by Desert Rh1no Photography.

After leaving his nuclear medical profession in 2009, Yen Bari realized his passion and talent in couture designing. Quickly noticed by the ruling families in the United Arab Emirates, he would exhibit his collections only to high profile dignitaries before releasing to the general public.  Previewed only to royalties, I would love to witness the dramatic execution of his "Ode to Melancholy" collection, made of recycled materials such as rubber and plastic, and inspired by his sad and dark side.

While he showcased only a few of his white dresses in Phoenix, Yen’s whole bridal collection is elegant and sophisticated. That I would also like to see!

Yen is the first Abu Dhabi designer to historically showcase at London Fashion Week.  In less than 5 years, his captivating designs have landed in London Fashion Week, Metropolitan Fashion Week, and Los Angeles Fashion Week runways.  Phoenix Fashion Week now also adds to the list.  

The House of Yen has branches in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

Rocky Gathercole

Click here for more Rocky Gathercole photos by Desert Rh1no Photography.

Just 2 weeks after London Fashion Week 2014, Rocky jetted back to the desert by invitation, again for the grand finale of Phoenix Fashion Week. This time, Rocky Gathercole Atelier brought his jaw-dropping 25-year anniversary collection, “Celebration of Colours.” Rocky’s creations were bold and unapologetic; reflective of the dark, colorful, playful and glamorous transitions in his life and career journey. 

The Avant Garde Knight is grateful for a roster of A-list celebrity clients like Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Jordin Sparks, Bai Ling and many more.  Yet, Rocky is so down to earth and always quick with a punch line.  He is quite funny!  Read about my one on one with Rocky here, including a full video of his collection. 

A league of his own, Rocky says, “Women’s fashion is boundless! However, most people only see what they want to see.  My creations are not for everyone, especially not for the ‘boxed’ mind.”

From Phoenix, Rocky will make a quick stop at his atelier in For the Stars Fashion House in Los Angeles before heading to Asia to support the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines (FDAP) runway show in November.  

Rocky Gathercole’s flagship store in Quezon City, Philippines houses elaborate wedding gowns, eveningwear, editorial creations and art pieces. By popular demand, Rocky’s atelier is set to hit Canada and New York before the end of the year.

Thank you Phoenix Fashion Week and For the Stars Fashion House for bringing internationally renowned haute couture to the Valley of the Sun.  Rumor has it that Phoenix Fashion Week will continue to showcase Filipino designers in the future. Can't wait! Applause!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fashion and Tech Mash Up

Decades before Google Glass hit New York Fashion Week’s runway with Diane Von Furstenberg in 2012, wearable technology was first seen in Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond movies. 

How cool are the homing beacon timepiece in 1964’s Goldfinger, the sunglasses integrated with headphones and music player in 1985’s A View to a Kill, and the ultra-high-frequency pulse glass shattering ring in 2002’s Die Another Day. No better character could rock these fashionable apparatus than Agent 007 himself. You get the idea!  I wouldn’t mind having Q (aka Quartermaster) creating well-designed high-tech custom accessories for me too.

As more fashion brands take the leap into making wearable gadgets equipped with smart Bond-like accoutrements, the designers’ creations are becoming chicer and visually less “techie”. 

To be present and appear unplugged yet still connected, I am majorly crushing on this limited edition Dive Bar, a tourmalated quartz alert flashing and vibrating Ringly jewel, which notifies of incoming calls, texts, and emails.  This smart statement ring is beautifully crafted in 18K matte gold with precious and semi-precious stones.  Tough decision – do I pre-order now or do I wait until more selections are offered in Fall?

Ringly Limited Edition Dive Bar, Tourmalated Quartz 

Ringly Wine Bar, Pink Sapphire

As I gear up for Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October, I came across this swanky workout tracker fashionably concealed in a solid brass necklace or bracelet jointly launched by Tory Burch and Fitbit.  I am not about to drop some greens for a gold plated bangle tracker, as it simply does not fit my running get up.  However, it’s silicone siblings with casual prints in fuschia and navy, may just do the job!

Tory Burch for Fitbit Silicone Flex Band in Navy

Tory Burch for Fitbit Metal Hinged Bracelet

Tory Burch for Fitbit Metal Hinged Bracelet

Tory Burch for Fitbit Fret Pendant Necklace

Finally, expect Rebecca Minkoff to debut her double-duty jewelries, to be available at in November.  Developed in collaboration with Case-Mate, a mobile device charging cuffs and a light up text/call alert bracelets is scheduled to hit the runway with her SS15 collection in the upcoming New York Fashion Week.  At the Pavillon on September 5th at 3pm EST to be exact.  Not in New York? No problem, find details on #NYFW LIVE streaming here!  

Post #NYFW, here's a recap of the smart jewels in the runway, including Opening Ceremony!  Leave a comment and tell us what you think, thumbs up or thumbs down?

Get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene. Visit and LIKE “Chasing Sheila” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and stay attuned to chic stories and happenings!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School Syndrome Solution: Tantrum!

Transitioning from an often laissez-faire family fun-filled summer fiesta to a routine-driven school year isn’t always easy, not just for kids but also for the already busy mommies. 

Preparing and staying organized is key… stylishly organized that is! While mommy duty calls may no longer allow the luxury of time for dry bars and pedicures post summer, she can still be in style by accessorizing with the perfect “it” bag!

Talking about busy, former Ralph Lauren intern in New York, now Scottsdale-based designer, motivational speaker, published writer, wife and mother of 9-year old boy/girl twins, JR Marriott sums it up well, “I had to design these bags because I needed them to simplify my life.  I craved a stylish leather bag where I could find what I was looking for and that’s what a Tantrum handbag does.  Now when it comes to the rest of my life -- work, dinner, the kids activities and alone time with my husband, I of course take time to plan ahead, but if something comes up that I didn’t plan for then I’ve become super efficient at quickly figuring out what to do right then and act on it or do nothing.” Did I also mention?  She sits on the Board of Directors as a Programs Chair for the Fashion Group International of Arizona.

JR Marriott, Designer and CEO of Tantrum

Flaunting my Lone Survivor Tote with Tantrum Designer JR Marriott

I met JR Marriott, Designer and CEO of Tantrum a few months ago when I won the Lone Survivor Tote by Tantrum, which I adore for its chic looks, posh quality, and its functional interior details. The lavish leather and stud embellishment in vibrant plum hue contrasted with gold chain straps, screamed modern and edgy while the inside pockets and compartments are perfect for sophisticated personal effects.

JR Marriott tells us more about Tantrum:

SV:  What type of woman does your brand cater to?
JM: I design for the 21st century woman.  This woman currently creates outfits by pulling together items from multiple designers instead of how the 20th century woman pulled looks together from one designer to achieve a ‘matchy-matchy’ head-to-toe look.  A cohesive look with unique parts that stand out from one another, yet coordinate and look beautiful together.  This modern-day woman is a multi-faceted woman who wears many different styles for varying meetings or events she attends. Therefore Tantrum offers multiple handbag styles to meet the needs of this woman to coordinate with her ever-changing looks.

Dress/Top by Prabal Gurung
Jaclyn Skirt by Bri Seeley
Pumps by BCBG
Sunnies by DKNY
Lone Survivor Tote by Tantrum

Long Sleeve Top by Target
Skinny Pants by JC Penny
Flats from SM by Parisian
Sunnies by Ray-Ban
Lone Survivor Tote by Tantrum

Long Sleeve Top by Target
Shawl/Poncho by Shawl Dawls
Skinny Pants by H&M
Flats by Zara
Sunnies by Elizabeth Arden
Necklace by Juicy Couture
Lone Survivor Tote by Tantrum

Photo source: Desert Rh1no Photography

SV:  What makes Tantrum handbags unique?
JM:  My intention is to design, select resources and create bags that will last a long time. Therefore we use materials that are beautiful and resilient.  All of our bags are lightweight yet have this incredible depth and feel to them that says luxury.  Our distinctive signature leather from our core collection coupled with our wisely designed interiors proves to be a winning combination. Two innovative features are: (1) every bag is appointed with a unique key chain that magically attaches to our bags in the same spot for reliable access; (2) We call our pockets ‘Pockets with Purpose’ since they come in varying sizes for different items, i.e. iPad, sunglasses, mobile phones, wallets, ear bud pockets, etc., to keep them in place.

Tantrum magnetic key chain and 'Pockets with Purpose'

SV:  What can we look forward to in the next season?
JM: We are currently working on a line of leather bound notebooks that women can carry in our bags. These books will continue the look of a beautiful, organized woman when they are in meetings or out and about that complements their Tantrum handbag.

Use code “CHASINGSHEILA” at checkout to get $75 OFF when you shop online at I’m currently crushing on the jet black “Connected Individual Hobo” which comes with a padded iPad pocket! 

Get yours now and be a trendsetter before Tantrum hits Bloomingdales Beverly Center in Los Angeles, California on September 20th, 2014.

Jet Black "Connected Individual Hobo" by Tantrum

Get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene. Visit and LIKE “Chasing Sheila” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and stay attuned to chic stories and happenings.