Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fantasy Bow Tie… A Million Dollar Dream Come True!

Hollywood, CA – World traveler, published author, horticulturist, philanthropist and international fashion designer, John Ablaza, successfully launched his Bow Tie Couture Collection at the Celebrity Theatre International on 28th of November 2015. 

The Dream…

It has been John’s long time aspiration for his humble bow ties, impeccably hand crafted by the Mangyan tribal women from Mindoro, Philippines, to have a touch of luxury… diamonds perhaps.

The Launch…

John’s dream came true, with the help of Emma Tiebens, and made possible in collaboration with equally talented designer/jeweler, Jules Barba, Founder and President of JB Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, Inc. in Newport Beach, CA. 

Fantasy Bow Tie final quality check by John Ablaza and Jules Barba
Photo credits Desert Rh1no Photography

Fantasy Bow Tie collaborators, John Ablaza and Jules Barba
Photo credits Desert Rh1no Photography

Admiring the stunning Fantasy Bow Tie up close and personal
Photo credits Desert Rh1no Photography

L-R: Sheila Vertuno, John Ablaza and Jules Barba
Photo credits Desert Rh1no Photography

A top secret mission, known only to a handful of accomplices, I was thrilled (and nervous, not to make a mistake) when John asked me to go live during the fashion show finale and announce the unveiling of the million-dollar Fantasy Bow Tie donned by Filipino-Swedish Bow Tie Couture Signature Model, Devon Spence. 

Fantasy Bow Tie donned by Devon Spence

The unveiling of the Fantasy Bow Tie with 
John Ablaza (center) and models, Devon Spence and Sheila Vertuno

By the numbers:

7450 – Air miles travelled by the bow tie from Mindoro, Philippines to Newport Beach, CA to Hollywood, CA.

446 – Number of bleached coco beads hand-stitched on the bow tie.

20.9 – Carat Total Weight (ctw) or combined total weight in carats of all the diamonds in the bow tie.

19 – Number of 0.5 Carat Weight (ct) round brilliant GIA certified color D internally flawless triple excellent diamonds encrusted on the bow tie.

11.44 – Carat Weight (ct) of the round brilliant GIA certified color H internally flawless triple excellent diamond at the center of the bow tie.

10 – Total number of hours to make the bow tie; 3 hours to embroider the coco beads (not including manual labor to prepare the materials) and 7 hours to set the diamonds.

5 – Number of people discreetly involved in the Fantasy Bow Tie covert operation. Devon was the 6th to know when he wore it.

1.3 – The amount in million dollars, which the bow tie is worth. Again I say, the Fantasy Bow Tie costs $1,300,000.00!!!

It was a crisp sundown filled with anticipation… upfront, the guests walked across the red carpet frequently facing the spotlights posing for nonstop camera snaps while backstage, the models got styled in dressing tents and bundled close to the heater to stay warm.

Manny Pacquiao Foundation VIPs red carpet reception (L-R): Kevin Samejon, Leonard Espra, Lilia Lao, MJ Racadio and Ryn Canolo. 

VIP red carpet reception (L-R): Erlina Dioquino, Emma Tiebens (Bestselling Author and Show Host), Marc Anthony Nicholas (Producer of CBS "The Talk”), Elena Lapid-Salonga (Lapid Foods, Inc.), Dr. Tess Mauricio (M Beauty Clinic), Hannah Joya (Miss San Diego North County) and guest star Lisa

Christine Love and Andy Z. Edralin

Past the media wall, the limited edition Bow Tie silent auction and sumptuous hors d'oeuvres were spaciously set up, conducive for guests to bid/shop, meet and greet familiar faces. 

Intimately attended by VIPs and friends, the program commenced promptly with Christina Love’s knock out rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and The Sound of Music medley, followed by the “Manny Pacquiao Foundation” all-action live auction of signed PacMan collectibles including a pair of gloves, boxing shorts, training shoes, etc. 

Special performance by Christine Love

Special performance by Christine Love

And for the much-awaited segment, a life-story video presentation introduced John Ablaza, queuing the fashion show and officially launching the Bow Tie Couture Collection.  Mainly highlighting the neckwear, the models sported an un-contoured look, pale lips and lightened brows, and paced in long subdued cyclical runway sequence, with movements intended only to draw attention to the bow ties, leading to the jaw-dropping Fantasy Bow Tie for the finale.

Bow Tie Couture Signature Model, Devon Spence

Opening number by Devon Spence

John Ablaza’s Bow Tie Couture was launched in cooperation with the Manny Pacquiao Foundation.

Sponsors: Jules Barba of JB Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, Inc.; Jush Andowitt of GMA News/Life/Pinoy TV; Dr. Tess Mauricio of M Beauty by Dr. Tess; John Pham of; Norberto "Jojo" Reyes and Mildred Deang of Bb. Pilipinas USA; Nonie Bellarmino of iDance Studio; Gloria Uy of Eriel's Cafe; and MJ Racadio of BlogTalk with MJ Racadio (Publicist/Media Relations Manager).

Acknowledgements: Jade Pearl Tan & Fermin Alberto, Hair & Make-up; Edward Candido, Wardrobe Manager; Cristina Rosel, Catering; Alex Tupaz, Alex Tupaz Photography; Jhenny Evans, Jhenny Evans Photography; Jophel Morales, Jophel Morales Photography; Cesar Moscoso, Sound Mix; Mary Antoinette Ceniza, VIP/Guest Relations Manager and Production Assistant; and Sheila Vertuno aka Chasing Sheila – Fashion Show Director and Stage Manager.

And as expected, the party continues back at the red carpet!

The Legacy…

Mindful of the true reason for this defining moment, John Ablaza Couture is not only known for glamour and fashion as he designs for the society matrons and celebrities in the Philippines all the way to the royalties of Middle East. The brand is also admired for its advocacy to protect the environment and help preserve Mother Nature’s bounty.
John is highly inspired by the native environment that surrounds him and all the beautiful things nature has to offer. His fascinating designs incorporate earth-friendly and organic elements such as coconut shells, wood beads, plant seeds, tree barks, reed grass fibers, sea shells and many more.

Expanding his vision from eco-conscious fashion to creating a sustainable livelihood for his “kababayans,” John collaborated with the grand matriarch of the Ayala clan in the Philippines, Dna. Bea Zobel Ayala who championed the Iraya-Mangyan Project. Committed to educate and train the indigenous community of Puerto Galera Oriental Mindoro Philippines, John dedicated his time to mentor the tribal women and local artisans to hone their beading and embroidering techniques utilizing natural materials.

With locally sourced and manually processed organic substance, each and every piece of John Ablaza Couture, including the Bow Ties, is delicately handmade and embellished by the Mangyans, with a mission and promise to continue to bring them more work and improve their welfare. While the designer gowns are bespoke pieces for evening wear and red carpet events, John launched his Bow Ties as lifestyle accessories to create and sustain the Mangyan livelihood program.  Help support this worthy cause and advocacy by visiting the and use limited time exclusive promo code “ChasingSheila10” at checkout to get 10% OFF of already reduced Bow Tie prices. Ideal stocking stuffer for the holidays, it’s a gift that gives!

Here's a clip about the Bow Tie Couture's humble journey...

The Work Continues…

It has been a rewarding year for John Ablaza, with his brand and advocacy continuing to grow recognition and patronage.  John’s work-life balance takes him back to the Philippines for a few days of holiday bash with his family, alongside business and production meetings.  With notable accomplishments, John is inspired to do even more…

May 2015 - John Ablaza’s “Couture & Culture” U.S. tour debut at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix AZ.

June 2015 - “Jose Rizal Travelling Museum by John Ablaza” at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale AZ. Chosen by the National Centennial Commission in 1998, John was appointed to recreate a replica of the wardrobe of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, in conjunction with the 100th year celebration of Philippine Independence. 

July 2015 – “Couture & Culture Gala Fashion Show” and “Jose Rizal Travelling Museum by John Ablaza” with Ryan Cayabyab’s Noli Me Tangere – The Musical presented by Teatro Pilipino USA at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA.

November 2015 – “Rizaliana Collection” by John Ablaza presented by the Philippine International Aid, in partnership with Western Union and Philippine Airlines at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, Ca.

November 2015 – “Bow Tie Couture Collection” official launch event at the Celebrity Theatre International in Hollywood, CA.

March 2016 – U.S. west coast event to be announced (TBA)

April 2016 – U.S. east coast events TBA

May 2016 – Canada events TBA

Summer 2016 – Western Europe events TBA

Fall 2016 – Asia events TBA

Definitely more eco-couture to look forward to! What are your fashion fantasies for 2016? Let’s connect online, send me a message or tweet me at  “Chasing Sheila” on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest

‘Til the next ish dolls. In the meantime, get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene!

Photo credits: Jhenny Evans Photography, Desert Rh1no Photography and Oliver Carnay


Tea World... No Reservations Needed

San Francisco, CA - Exploring the suburbs of San Francisco alongside new acquaintances, I found myself at Eureka Square Shopping Center off of Pacific Coast Highway near the corner of Eureka Dr. and Ocean Blvd. I imagine it would have been a scenic drive by day as I smell the ocean breeze only 2 blocks away, but it was dark outside and just about store closing time.  Except, this tall, dark and handsome dude calling us, “Come in, I’m still open, just cleaning up.” I guess I am not missing the best view after all!

Jeffrey Manalang, just like his father has a sweet tooth and is a boba fanatic prompting him to open Tea World, which offers flavored bubble teas or pearl milk teas and Mitchell’s Ice Cream on its menu. It came about when Jeff scouted for a location to expand his sausage business and found Eureka Square in Pacifica. Since it is in a commercial area, and he wanted families and children to visit his store, he thought why not open a small take-out milk tea and ice cream store.  Tea World was then born!

At this point, it is past store closing time while Jeff’s humble demeanor, motivating stories and positive outlook made us hang out longer which he didn’t mind, anyway there’s a lot more after hours cleaning up to do. A self-made entrepreneur, Jeff has an inspiring life story defining success as, “…when you feel inner peace, contentment and happiness in life, as well as when you receive love and be able to give love to others.”

Sheila: What is Tea World’s philosophy?
Jeff: Our philosophy is to provide the community with premium quality milk tea drinks and award winning products, such as Mitchell’s Ice Cream, at a reasonable price and a commitment to excellence and friendly customer service.

S: What is Tea World’s best selling item?
J: Horchata, Taro and Thai Tea are our best sellers. New flavor combinations that we design and offer as monthly specials are also popular.

S: What would you recommend for first time guests? And what is your fave item on the menu?
J: If you love milk tea, try our hose special Chocolate-Caramel Milk Tea with Coffee Jelly.  Other than that, my favorite is the Honeydew-Lychee with Coconut Jelly.  While we tell our customers the best selling flavors, we can customize their drinks based on their preferences.

S: What are the biggest challenges that you faced in starting and running Tea World? Do you have any advise to young entrepreneurs?
J: The biggest challenges in the beginning are looking for the right location, dealing with property managers, applying for business/building/health permits, etc. My advice is, be patient and persistent in doing this tedious process. On a daily business, we face hard-to-please customers, employees who commit petty crimes in the store, finding the right suppliers and keeping up with new products out there.  To overcome these, screen employees well and never stop learning and making things exciting for the store. 

S: It is evident that Tea World is not only a fave local hang out, but also by word of mouth a “must visit” snack bar for out-of-towners like me.  Has there been any celebrity sighting at Tea World?
J: Some beauty queens, model friends and fashion designers have visited my store.

S: OMG! That is why you look familiar!  We’ve walked in a fashion show together in San Francisco! With your looks, I have a feeling that you are in fashion and/or film industry. Could you divulge more?
J: Back home, I was a member of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines (PMAP) and did modeling abroad on European tours for Filipino designers and Middle East for famous brands, as well as locally on ramp, print, and TV commercials.  For small roles, I appeared on Philippine TV as an actor alongside top caliber artists. When time permits, I still do modeling.

Jeff Manalang's previous modeling work for Renee Salud, Patis Tesoro, Barge Ramos, etc.

S: How was the adjustment from walking the runways to owning a business?
J: Growing up with a business-oriented family, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit actively seeking out change and growth.  Aside from modeling and acting, I used to own and operate multi-million-PHP (Philippine Peso) businesses in the Philippines as a restaurateur, feeds distributor, trucking business and operated fisheries.  When I came to the US in 2004, I started from scratch “with no reservations” and worked very hard to move my way up. My first job was at Neiman Marcus in Dallas and got an award for my dedication and hard work.  I was able to buy houses as investment properties in Texas and hope to buy more houses to get into house flipping business.  Before, Tea World, I started a sausage business, producing “longganisa” (Asian sausage) and supplying supermarkets and restaurants. I’m still making “longganisa” and looking to expand different kinds of meat products. I was also a specialist in the US Army (a veteran now).  These prove that anything is possible as long as you put your mind and heart in achieving your goals.

S: I admire you and your energy! Who is your role model or inspiration that keeps you going?
J: My mom is my role model! She inspires me to excel in whatever I do because when I was a kid, I saw how hard she worked to provide for us and send to the best schools in Manila.  I remember her braving storms and floods just to continuously support the family.  She’s a supermom despite of her lack of education; she did not even finished high school.

Jeff with his mother.

Jeff came from a family of entrepreneurs and servicemen.

S: What is your mantra?
J: The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, your dream and how you handle disappointments along the way.  Through hard work and unwavering determination, anything is possible.

  • Quickly on a lighter note…
  • Morning or Night - Night person
  • Name your fave super hero – Superman
  • Coffee or Tea – both love milk tea more
  • Fave food – Burritos and Vietnamese Pho
  • Personal Style – Classic casual… shorts, comfy shoes & plain tees
  • I you could speak with one person, past or present, who would it be?  - Pope Francis
  • Finish the sentence:
  • You will be surprised to see _____! – the amount of shoes I have, I’m a male version of Imelda =)
  • I will never get rid of _____. – Shoes!

I forgot to ask this fine guy if he is single or available. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to visit Tea World at 90 Eureka Square, Suite E. No reservations needed, they are open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tell Jeff you read about him here at F Magazine via "Chasing Sheila" and you’ll get a special discount on your order.

(Photo credits Jeffrey Manalang)