Dios Ti Agngina

Thank you in Ilocano

A gathering place of great ideas, inspiring stories, faith, family, fashion, food (with a slant on CLEAN, healthy Filipino cooking), and much more!  Welcome to Dios Ti Agngina!

Summer In Syracuse And Beyond

Just like last year I happen to be reminiscing of how short our summers are here in Central New York.  I can't stop time but I can manage to put together a collage of my favorite summer moments during cold and flu season.

2017 was our first summer together in Syracuse and we sure had some good times.  We got to spend time with family and good friends in some wonderful places.

This year our son, Constantine, had many firsts.  This summer was Constantine's first time to take up violin and karate and to watch fireworks.  Constantine and I went hiking together for the first time with one of his meetup groups at a place called Whiskey Hollow.  We were mighty proud of ourselves for climbing that steep side of a hill.  It was our first time to visit Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands, Lake Placid, and Lake George.  We had the best food at Saint Lawrence Spirits Distillery and Château near Alexandria Bay (we enjoyed this place so much that we went twice this summer), Generations, Lake Placid Lodge, The Good Bite Kitchen in Lake Placid, and Farmstead Flatbread and Caffé Vero in Lake George.  All are, of course, farm to table.  Farmstead Flatbread makes the best flatbread pizza and wings!  For fun it was our first time to meet Syracuse's mascot, Otto the Orange, at a Syracuse football game.  (I never saw so much orange in my life!)  Since we are very much a Chevy/General Motors family I would be amiss if I didn't mention the beautiful day we spent at Vettes at the Beach at Sylvan Beach.  Constantine was able to sit inside a very rare Corvette beauty with the permission of its owner.  We also checked off our list the ever so popular New York State Fair.  

While in Hershey, Pennsylvania we got to bring my parents for fun and play at the Hershey Lodge and got to see our dear friends who were visiting from Texas.  We also made the long drive to Virginia Beach for a long awaited Javier family reunion as well as Constantine's godmother's 50th birthday bash.  It was a very special summer because it was Constantine's first time in a long time to see his paternal grandma who he lovingly calls "Lola."  He last saw her in person when he was a year old in Manila.  His Lola made the trip all the way from the Philippines to the east coast.  

This summer we spent a lot of time visiting and patronizing local, organic farms.  Our favorite farms in Central New York are Black Brook Farm in Skaneateles, Fruit of the Fungi in Earlville, Elderberry Farm in Auburn, Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia, and Main Street Farms in Homer and Cortland.  The farmers at Elderberry Farm and Greyrock Farm were so kind and generous to carve out time from their very busy schedules to conduct special tours for Constantine's meetup group.  In Central New York we are so blessed to have this education available.  Without farmers who understand and use organic farming methods we have limited to no access to quality, organic food.  

It was quite a busy summer with the start of our homeschooling year, Constantine's many activities, and the family trips.  We are so grateful for the time we have together and for our dear family and friends.  We hope to enjoy more summers in Syracuse in the years to come.

Alexandria Bay, The Thousand Islands, And Saint Lawrence Spirits Distillery And Château


Homeschooling, The Arts, Syracuse, Vettes At The Beach At Sylvan Beach, New York State Fair, And Meetups




Lake Placid, Lake George, Generations, Lake Placid Lodge, The Good Bite Kitchen, Six Flags, Farmstead Flatbread, And Caffe Vero


Javier Family Reunion In Virginia Beach


Farms, Farms, And More Farms, All Organic, Of Course!

I can’t stop time but I can manage to put together a collage of my favorite summer moments during cold and flu season.

A Summary Of Summer

This year went by way too fast.  It always seems that way, I know, but this year that seemed especially true.  I never really had the chance to look back at summer and reminisce.  So now despite the snow on the ground and the chilly temperatures, or maybe because of it, I find my thoughts wandering back to the wonderful summer my family and I enjoyed. 

In each place we visited, we were blessed to be able to spend time with family or good friends.  From Washington DC and Virginia to San Francisco, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, we hit both coasts!  And what vacation would be complete without great food?  We enjoyed great food in an eclectic mix of eateries, all of which I would recommend!    

So here is a summary of our summer in pictures.  Each one brings back good memories of people, places and food!  Enjoy!

So here is a summary of our summer in pictures. Each one brings back good memories of people, places and food!


From generation to generation we pass on our most cherished core values and beliefs to our children.  It's our legacy to our children; an intangible gift that we give with all of our heart.  

Today's blog post is by my loving husband Martin.  Here he writes about his dad.

What Would Dad Do?

by Martin Javier


My earliest childhood memories are very happy ones – family outings, good friends, and of course mom and dad.  Dad was a strict parent by most standards, and certainly by the standards of our friends.  Though regarded with great affection, dad commanded a certain respect that many other parents did not.  I don’t know if it was because there were nine of us kids and dad had to run a tight ship, or because his countenance, though kind and often smiling, could still manage to convey a very no-nonsense attitude especially with us.  Regardless the reason, dad’s reputation and standing in the community were beyond reproach. 

That sentiment of esteem also carried over to us.  Growing up, I could think of few worse feelings than disappointing him.  Dad didn’t have a loud voice, in fact he is rather soft-spoken, but his directions and intent of his actions were always clear.  Dad taught us what was important more by what he did than what he said.  We treasure family time (perhaps more so now because we are so geographically scattered) because excursions to the beach and picnics at various cherry-blossom festivals were so fun.  Being present for family dinners was a must because that meal was always an important one in our house.  Perhaps most importantly, our faith was so ingrained, thankfully, by countless masses, rosaries, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament – all things valued by dad and mom.  

Some years ago, during a family reunion, one of my brothers spoke about being a father.  He said that when facing a problem with his kids, he would think about dad and ask himself, “What would dad do?”  -- not because the issue at hand was so difficult, but because dad was such a positive influence, such a good example for us.  Dad’s influence in our lives, from childhood on, is evident.  I am sure, even without polling my siblings, that he remains such an influencing factor in so many of our decisions.  

Now with a little boy of my own, and experiencing the challenges of parenthood firsthand, I am fortunate that I don’t have far to look to find a great role model – dad of course!  As my dad celebrates his 106th birthday today, I can think of no better way to honor him than to follow the example that he has set all these years.  If one day many years from now my son faces some challenge and thinks to himself, “What would dad do?”, then I believe that I will have succeeded.  Happy, happy birthday dad! 

As my dad celebrates his 106th birthday today, I can think of no better way to honor him than to follow the example that he has set all these years. If one day many years from now my son faces some challenge and thinks to himself, “What would dad do?”, then I believe that I will have succeeded.

Saving Grace

I think of Frank Capra's classic movie It's A Wonderful Life a lot this time of year.  It's the perfect Christmas movie.  Here is a man who is loved by his family and friends, and yet that love is not enough.  He wants more!  He wants the recognition and adventure of a lifetime.  He's caught up in worldly things.  Then he decides he wants to throw all that he has away including the most precious gift of all -- his life.

God sends him an angel named Clarence to show him how life would be if he had never been born.  Have you ever wondered how life would look like if you were never born?  It's interesting how each life is connected to the next one.  As the angel Clarence says in the movie, each life touches so many.  We are all connected. 

On Christmas we celebrated the birth of the most precious little baby who was born to save mankind.  On December 27 my husband and I celebrate the birth of a very special little boy, our son Joseph Fulton Constantine.  He turns three and is our saving grace.

When my mom was in her mid-twenties she was fighting for her life.  She had cancer and her doctors told her her chances were only 50/50.  She needed a blood transfusion but because she had a rare blood type,  it was challenging to find someone with the same blood type.  By the grace of God, her brother-in-law -- my late uncle -- was the blood donor who helped save my mom's life.  My brother and I lovingly remember him as being always so generous and kindhearted.  We can never forget him.

Throughout my life my mom has safeguarded me from harm and danger.  When I was a child she saved me so many times as I was accident prone.  During my young adult life she was concerned for my eternal salvation always asking me if I was going to Mass on Sundays.  Even though I went left when she told me to go right, I found my way back.  I'm most certain it's because of my mom's constant prayers and rosaries that set me straight.

This past summer I struggled horribly with debilitating fatigue and heavily relied on my husband, mom, dad, and even my little boy for help.  My parents stayed with us for a few weeks at a time to help me.  In late August my parents had to return home but they felt bad because my condition still had not improved.  My mom offered to take care of Constantine for two weeks at their home.  

It was a very long two weeks.  I missed my boy every single day but I knew that I needed rest and time to recover.  It ended up being the best decision for everyone involved.  As I spent the days slowly getting better, my son enjoyed running around having Grandma and Papa chase him all over the house.  

He especially enjoyed teasing my mom whenever he needed his diaper changed.  There was a moment when, in the excitement of the moment,  he kicked his Grandma's abdomen quite hard -- hard enough so that she still hurt much later, and even had some bleeding.  This was a warning sign that forced my mom to go to her doctor soon after that.  After consulting a number of specialists, my mom underwent exploratory surgery.  The diagnosis was cancer.  As is so often the case, timing was everything; the doctors told her that it was a blessing that Constantine kicked her when he did.

So my uncle saved my mom's life.  My mom saved mine.  And Constantine saved his Grandma's life, in a manner of speaking.  You see, anyone can save a life, even a two year old.  Every life is so precious in the eyes of God.  It's important to remember to thank God for ours and for every soul that has positively affected us.  I thank God every day for our little boy who is our saving grace and constant reminder of God's greatness and mystery.

Happy birthday to our beautiful baby boy!  God love you!  With love, Mama and Daddy.


He turns three and is our saving grace.


Growing up my dad ran a tight ship.  He was stern and strict with my brother and me.  Many times I was at odds with my dad.  I just couldn't understand him.

One day I started to understand.  When I was in the second grade I realized that school and good grades were very important to my dad so from that moment I set out to do all that I could to make my dad proud.  I started befriending the smart kids in my class and making at least the honor roll every quarter.

When I was about seven years old I asked my dad why he had so many lines on his forehead.  He simply said, "Because I care."  Dad expected order and obedience from his children.  Being in the military it was a part of him and that's how he ran the household.  Now that I am a parent I have more appreciation for his perspective.

My dad is from a generation known for its sacrifices, dedication to hard work and family, old-fashioned values, and quiet wisdom. Years ago I sent this poem to my dad on his 55th birthday.  It represents my dad and how he raised us.  It is my favorite poem.  To me it sounds like the sea when read in Spanish, so calm yet dramatic.


Tú eres el capitán, padre


La cuna, la madre y el padre

están en el rincón del cuarto

La cuna es un barco de papel

que flota en una poza de lluvia


Del barco varonil entre dos patrias

Pasando en el río

Y las olas ondulantes contemplan

Es el sacrificio para la tripulación

que continua  el espíritu eterno

Tú eres el capitán

Heroico y grande como el sol paternal

Y las piedras de tantos obstáculos

no pueden luchar contigo

El relámpago y el trueno se enojan


Pasa en paz

Para oír las olas profundas y aprender mis hábitos

Tú eres el capitán, padre

Eres la fuerza atada del mar familiar.


You are the captain, father


The cradle, the mother and the father

are in the corner of the room

The cradle is a paper boat

that floats in a puddle of water


Of a manly ship between two countries

Passing in the river

And the undulating waves contemplate

It is the sacrifice for the crew

that continues the eternal spirit

You are the captain

Heroic and great like the paternal sun

And the rocks of many obstacles

cannot fight with you

The thunder and lightning get angry


Pass in peace

To hear the profound waves and to learn my ways

You are the captain, father

You are the tying force of the familiar sea.


Happy Father's Day, Dad!  You truly were the captain of our lives growing up and you still are.  You steered us during calm, sunny days and steered us clear from danger.  Love from all of us -- Elaine, Martin, and Constantine.


You are the captain, father


She reminds me of a Filipina Mona Lisa; this picture captivates me.  It somehow draws me closer and I wonder about this fair lady who was my father's mother.

Interestingly, the picture was found by my mom's youngest sister Josephine after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 in my maternal ancestral home.  For the longest time, my aunt asked who this lovely lady was.

In the early 1960s my dad had this picture framed with the money he earned as a young Navy sailor.  Though he visited my mom's house when he was home, it is still a mystery how her picture ended up there.   Countless valuables were destroyed with the volcano eruption.  It's a wonder how this small yet sentimental image survived!

My dad is the third of four sons  -- Felipe, Emerito, Jorge, and Buenaventura.  The oldest and the youngest have passed on.  My grandmother gave birth to my dad on February 22, 1942 in the midst of a suffering world.  World War II was happening and my grandmother and her family were in hiding in the mountains in Castillejos.  She was very ill and so was my dad who was just a newborn baby.  By the grace of God, my dad was able to survive because my dad's aunt was able to breastfeed him.  She had lost her baby during that tumultuous time.

A strict disciplinarian who couldn't cook well was how my dad always described his mother.  But nevertheless he loved her and ate her home cooked meals.  Life was not easy.  My grandmother was constantly caring for her sickly son throughout his youth.   

I used to spend time perusing old family pictures, fascinated by  another time and place.  Among my dad's photo collection were pictures of his mother as a young school teacher.  She and her colleagues would travel to different parts of the Philippines most likely for teacher training programs.

When I visited the Philippines in the summer of 1998, I met two elderly women who were neighbors and friends of my mom's family.  As we sat in their porch, they reminisced their school days as young girls.  They recalled, "Your grandma was very strict and tough but we cannot forget her because she was a very good teacher."  She had a competitive spirit; she expected her children and students to perform to the best of their ability.  Maybe that was why academics was so important to my dad.  His late brother Buenaventura (Ben) once told me that my dad never got a mark below a "B".

Discipline and work ethic were very important to my grandmother.  I remember looking at the back of an old photograph.  I was scrutinizing the beautiful, perfectly straight penmanship that was so familiar to me.  I realized that my grandmother had written it.  Both mother and son's penmanship were almost identical.  My grandmother taught my dad how to write among other things.  In their home they had a wealth of educational resources which was uncommon those days.  My dad said they had numerous textbooks that many of his cousins and relatives would borrow.

There are so many endearing stories about my grandmother.  She was a business woman who made and sold bagaong, salted fish paste, because teaching unfortunately could not feed her family.  She and my grandfather were also very thrifty, never wasteful.  My dad used to tell me to eat every piece of rice on my plate because that's how he grew up.  His mother never let her family waste a single rice grain.  To this day I eat every single grain of rice on my plate.

My grandmother was also the reason why many Fabunan family members converted to Catholicism, including my grandfather Pastor.  Previously the family was Aglipayan, an Ilocano Christian sect.  She's the reason why the faith is so important to my dad.  She's the reason why my dad is a loving husband and father because she taught him love.  When I watch my dad during Mass I see how reverently he kneels during consecration.  Through all of my mom's health problems (she had cancer in her mid 20s, rare tumors by 50, and an acoustic neuroma at 60), he has been there steadfast and prayerful, always devoted and caring for my mom.  I am sure that these critical moments in my mom's life served as a reminder of his own mother's illness.

Gliceria R. Fabunan died on May 26, 1960 leaving behind her husband and four sons, the youngest just 6 years old.  She was 52 years old.  She had been very ill and at the time the doctors in Manila could not treat her ailment.

My dad was in high school when he lost his beloved mother.  I can only imagine the heartbreak.  I still remember his dark brown wallet when I was little.  He always carried small pictures of my mom, me, my brother, and his mother.  

The story of my remarkable grandmother sparks a desire in me to homeschool my son.  I believe that she and my dad were close because she devoted her time teaching my dad.  That is a mother's love.  She will do all that she can for her children the best possible way she knows and my grandmother did just that.

After all these years, her enduring spirit still lives.  Her strong will, her dedication to her family, her faith -- all of these have been instilled in her descendants.  This month of May we remember you, Grandma Gliceria.  We remember you with love and gratitude.


After all these years, her enduring spirit still lives. Her strong will, her dedication to her family, her faith — all of these have been instilled in her descendants.


Her name is Maria Carmina or simply Ria.  I love this young trendsetter who always manages to bring a smile to everyone she meets and greets.

When I first met Ria I remember thinking what gorgeous skin she has.  She's like a beautiful porcelain China doll plus her winning personality is complimented by her spunk and can-do attitude.  

Ria is now in her second year with Marc Jacobs in San Francisco, learning from one of the best in the fashion industry and getting to travel to coveted events like Fashion Week in New York City.  Lucky girl!  Recently I was able to chat with this amazing style and fashion pro about her most exciting fashion career.

Cheers, Ria!  Here's to more fun and fabulous fashion adventures ahead.  We love you and are so proud of you!


A Conversation with Ria Javier


What is your position at Marc Jacobs?  What does a typical day look like?

I am a Retail Merchandise Coordinator.  My day starts with checking/replying to emails, going into department stores and communicating with management, sales associates and specialists.  In most stores, I merchandise the floor, change mannequins, and work on recaps about my visit.


What is Marc Jacobs like?  What do you think sets him apart from other fashion designers?

I personally haven't met Marc Jacobs but I hear he is a very nice and humble guy.  I think he involves himself with everyone around him as if he's just another regular person who's a part of the team.


I remember him when he was with Perry Ellis.  He is so talented and has expanded his name brand extensively.  Where do you see the company going?

I see the company evolving and continuing to be a trendsetter.


When will we begin to see the fall collection?  What is trending?

Our fall collection will begin to deliver in August.  You'll see a lot of amazing coats, leather fanny packs, and berets!


Which ones are your favorite pieces?

I love his selection of clothes, especially the dresses for spring.  It's very easy to wear and very versatile.  My all time favorite piece that I seem to wear every day is my jean jacket called Iconic Jacket -- it's ripped and torn and has holes and fits a bit over sized but I love it.  I can pair it with anything.  The distressed look gives it character.


What is one Marc Jacobs must have fashion piece every woman should have?

Our New Q Natasha handbags.  That is, if they don't have it already.  It's absolutely our best selling bag that is functional and easy to wear that can fit all the necessities in a bag.  We have many color choice options depending on the season and it's only going to get better.


Describe Fashion Week.  What is it like?

Fashion week was definitely an amazing experience.  It was work -- but for someone who is in the industry and has the position that I have, it's fun work.  My team and I attended several presentations that covered Women's Ready To Wear, Women's Handbags, Jewelry, Shoes, Sunglasses, and Watches to introduce the Fall Collection.  The designers and buyers discussed in depth details about the entire collection.  This was a great way for me to relay that information to associates that work in the department stores that I oversee.  Overall, everyday was a very busy day.  My team oversees many stores throughout the country so most of us met each other for the first time during that week, which was so great.  We worked as much as possible as a team and visited stores in the vicinity.  On the very last day, we made our way to the Marc By Marc Jacobs Fashion Show.  It was incredible to see the whole show come together after week long presentations at the corporate office.


Describe your personal style.

My style is all about dressing simple with a unique touch.  For example, a plain tee, jeans, and a leather jacket.  In this case, my leather jacket is unique and stands out because of the quality, color and style.  Right now, I live in white shoes but specifically Adidas Stan Smiths shoes.  I wear them with dresses, jeans and culottes!  I love feeling comfortable and confident with my outfit and I believe that dressing simple with a unique twist is the right style for me.


Why do you love fashion?  Who has inspired you?  Who are your fashion icons?

I love fashion because it is a form of expression.  I love how people can get very creative and I find inspiration in other people that have their own sense of style.  My Lola (grandma) Ising has inspired me.  She was a a school teacher and was by no means aware of the gems she had in her closet.  At the time, I was heavily into vintage, and her closet was where to go to get some good stuff.  My style has changed since then but that was definitely what got me started and helped get my creative juices flowing!  My fashion icons are Miroslav Duma, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, and Alexa Chung.


What would you recommend to someone who is interested in a career in fashion?

Definitely build up your resume, whether it's working in retail, internships or volunteer work.  Whatever you add to that resume will only be a good thing to have.  NETWORKING!!  It's how I got my job.  It's important not to be shy but also not to try too hard.


If people want to shop for Marc Jacobs merchandise, what are the best stores?

If there is a retail store near you, I would recommend to go there.  They have a lot more selection and cover everything from Men's, Women's, Little Marc, and Book Marc.  In a Marc Jacobs shop, you get to experience the inspiration of the collection based on the windows installation, key looks on their mannequins and the set up of the merchandise.  As far as department stores goes, it really depends on where you're comfortable shopping.  There are several stores that sell our product but most are very limited to selections.


If you could do a makeover for your Tito (uncle) Martin, how would you dress him?  

I wouldn't change him one bit.

...and here's my real answer, haha!  I would like to see him in a different set of frames.  A long sleeve button up, a tie, a light weight sports coat, jeans and some nice white sneakers (i.e. Adidas Stan Smith, converse).  Or a striped shirt, light weight sports coat, rolled up khaki pants and vans.  Or a chambray shirt, khakis and sneakers.  Take your pick!


And what would you pick out for me?

I'd love to see you in an A-line floral skirt, a chambray button up or plaid button up and casual sneakers or plain cute pointy flats.  Or a fit to flare dress in a pattern of your choice, a denim jacket and white converse shoes.


Marc Jacob Favorites

I love this young trendsetter who always manages to bring a smile to everyone she meets and greets.


Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!  This day I'm thinking of my beautiful mom.  She is a survivor who has battled many rare health problems but with faith and proper medical attention she is doing just fine.

For her 50th birthday celebration I presented a poem in her honor.  It was later published in "The Gallery" (the spring 1998 issue) at the College of William and Mary.  Here I share it with you to give her tribute once again.  My mom is the reason for my love of the Philippines.  She inspired this poem.  I first wrote it in Spanish and then translated it in English.


A Las Filipinas

Volveré a la isla.  Y hallaré los mosquitos picando

en el jardín de peñascos blancos,

y en los cocoteros altos,

y con el agua frio del pozo bajo.

Veré el ocaso rojizo y anaranjado

durante la merienda de caña dulce, coco y mangos;

y voces murmurán oraciones con manos

para el día de todos los santos.

Se cayeron los días viejos del pasado;

y miraré la provincia de arrozales destacados

donde los niños serán arriba del carabao montando,

mi alma buscará recuerdos, soñando...

Y volveré a la isla, al barrio,

al hogar de palo,

al homenaje de mis antepasados,

y hallaré los mosquitos picando.


To The Philippines

I will return to the island.  And I will find the mosquitos stinging

in the rock garden,

and in the tall coconut trees,

and with the cold water of the well.

I will see the red and orange sunset

during the merienda of sugar cane, coco, and mangos;

and voices will murmur prayers

for All Saints' Day.

The old days have passed;

and I will watch the old province and its rice fields

where the children will mount the carabao,

my soul will search for old memories and dreams,

And I will return to the island, to the barrio,

to the bamboo hut,

to the homage of my ancestors,

and I will find the mosquitos stinging.


Dios ti agngina, Mom!  Thank you for the gifts of life and our Catholic faith.  There are no words to express how much you mean to us.  All of our love -- Elaine, Martin, and Constantine.


My mom is the reason for my love of the Philippines.

Tres Marias

Any mother would be so proud to have any one of these young ladies as her daughter.  I am proud to call each one niece.  I'd like to introduce to you Lani, Sarah, and Alexa.

Since I've known them, I've admired their sweet manner, bright and happy demeanor, and their individual sense of style.  Each differs in her taste but in summation I would describe theirs as flirty, pretty, and polished.  Think of classic style icons Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, three cherished Hollywood favorites who graced the silver screen and countless magazine covers.  Lani, Sarah, and Alexa exude a brilliant mix of fun, sophistication, and demureness.

Here the three sibling fashionistas model their individual looks and talk about a few of their favorite things -- career, fashion, and food. Thanks for doing this, Lani, Sarah, and Alexa!  We love and miss you! xoxo


A Conversation with Lani Brillantes-Quiazon

Lani got married just over a year ago, so I asked her to share her inspiration and thoughts on designing her wedding dress.    

Place of work?

Philippine General Hospital, Manila



Dermatology resident


What was it like to plan your wedding?  What was your inspiration?

I would have to say that designing my wedding gown was one of the hardest things I've had to do! I had so many ideas and so many things I wanted, I wasn't sure how to put everything into one.

I would have to say that in the end, the deciding factor was the church. The church we picked was new and modern and clean, but still had some elements of an old, grand church. That set the whole tone of the look of our wedding, and not just my gown but the whole entourage's. 

Similarly, that became the goal for the whole look: elegant and beautiful, with some modern and rustic touches. 

I wanted something that felt old world romantic, so I knew I wanted lace. I also knew I wanted something a little more traditional, so instead of a tube top I chose 3/4 sleeves. My non negotiable point was I wanted something with a lot of volume for the skirt! It took me a long time to decide if I wanted a tulle or taffeta skirt. In the end, I was afraid it might look like a prom dress, so I decided on taffeta. To make it a little different and a little more current, I decided on having a cut out in the back. :)


Who are your favorite wedding designers?

Some of the designers I enjoyed looking at were Marchesa, Monique Lhuillier. I also loved Grace Kelly's wedding gown! :)


A Conversation with Sarah Brillantes

Place of work?

I work for a social enterprise called GET or Global Electric Transportation. We create electric vehicles made to replace the common gas guzzling “jeepney” public utility vehicle in the Philippines. Aside from replacing the number one cause of air pollution in the country, we also aim to provide jeepney drivers with better livelihood by providing them constant employment and full benefits.


Fashion icons? 

I follow a few of my favorite fashion bloggers: 

  1. Nicole Warne         www. garypeppergirl.com
  2. Kristina Bazan         www.kayture.com
  3. Wendy Nguyen         www.wendyslookbook.com

I love how they are able to integrate classic styles with trendy pieces, and vice versa. I especially like how they are able to mix up corporate looks for the work week with casual outfits for the weekend.


Who is your favorite designer?

No favorite designers, yet, tita! 


Who has inspired your style the most?

My sisters! We all wear the same size, so we all share clothes. We also have different styles so I love to mix and match different pieces from each other’s closets.


What’s one piece of clothing/accessory that you must have?

I love a crisp white button down blouse. Aside from being a staple for the office wardrobe, it pairs really well with jeans or shorts. For shoes, definitely a nude pair of pumps!


Favorite place to shop? 

Favorite stores are H&M, Forever 21, Mango, Cotton On and Zara (mostly for inspiration!). 


Favorite place to eat?

At home! I love my mom’s cooking and there’s nothing like eating a home-cooked meal.  I also love Filipino, Chinese, Japanese and Italian! 


A Conversation with Alexa Brillantes

Place of work?

 I work in a real estate company called Rockwell Land. I work in the Design & Planning Team as a Landscape Architect, so we take charge of the landscape design of our new projects (mostly we are known for our residential condominiums, but we have office and retail buildings as well).

Fashion icons? 

I like the classic styles of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy because they always looked chic. But when it comes to modern time fashion icons, I really like the famous fashion bloggers Kristina Bazan and Nicole Warne. Their styles are very classic and effortless. 

Who is your favorite designer? 

I don't have a favorite designer, I just have my favorite stores to shop from (Mango and H&M).

Who has inspired your style the most? 

I like to look at the styles of the fashion icons I mentioned. But I also think my sisters, mom and Amma (grandma) have also influenced my style. Actually the three of us have kept some vintage pieces from Mom and Amma because they're such timeless pieces! 

What's one piece of clothing or fashion accessory that's a must have? 

A pair of nice fitting basic jeans and/or black flats.

Your favorite place to shop is... 

Mango and H&M.


Your favorite place to eat is...

Any Italian restaurant!

Each differs in her taste but as a culmination I would describe theirs as flirty, pretty, and polished.

A Love Story

The most in love couple I have ever met happens to be my mother and father-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Jose P. Javier.  I would venture to say that they are the sweetest, most loved, and revered couple I know.  After all, they have nine children, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.  Now that's a lot of loving to go around!  Their love story spans more than six decades.  Theirs is a true testament to what love is all about.

When I first met Dr. Javier, there was an impressive presence about him that commanded respect.  Upright, distinguished, and handsome, Dr. Javier at 97 years of age was energetic and youthful.  As soon as I walked into the room, he made long, graceful strides to greet me.  Before I knew it he was welcoming me, holding my hand with both of his hands.  And he had the most beautiful, gentle voice that I had ever heard.  Soon after I met Mrs. Javier who was just as gracious and welcoming.  I soon came to learn she's a perfect lady who emulates our Blessed Mother.

This was the summer of 2007, the summer that the Javier siblings planned a special family reunion to also celebrate Mrs. Javier's 79th birthday.  It was a most momentous, fun, and amazing time with the Javiers.  I remember the laughter, smiles, food, and more laughter.  I remember Butch, Tina, Ana, Lulu, Judy, Gerry, Rosa, Francis, their spouses, and nieces and nephews.  For me, it was pure excitement since I come from a family with one other sibling. My then boyfriend Martin, who is number 7 and now my husband, and I had just started dating three months prior.  I saw the immediate resemblance between father and son.  And my mind was already made up!  I really wanted to be a part of this one-of-a-kind, close knit family.  I had a grand and marvelous time with such wonderful company.  This was what I hoped my future would look like.  Rich in faith, hope, and love.  I said to myself, "I want to be a Javier!"

This was also the first time that Martin's parents and my parents were to meet.  Then, my parents owned a beauty salon.  They invited the Javiers for some "merienda", light Filipino fare.  During the meeting it was the first time that I had ever heard the phrase "Dios ti agngina".  A curious thing.  I have a gift for languages and my comprehension of Ilocano is excellent.  But I was not familiar with that phrase.  Dr. Javier respectfully said those words to my parents who were quite overjoyed and surprised at the same time because it's not common everyday Ilocano.  But when it's spoken, I suppose one feels blessed and humbled.  The words seem like a benediction of some sorts.  When one is giving the gesture, he or she does not know when or how they can repay the person for what they have done for them.  So one invokes God for assistance and asks for a blessing upon that person and his or her family.  

I have pondered the phrase over and over again.  And so it became clear to me just recently that it bear the name of this blog.  Throughout my life, I have been given countless blessings over and over again.  I can attest that God has granted me favors for which I am so undeserving.  And I have nothing, nothing to repay God except for my time, love, and prayer.

I have also pondered about Dr. and Mrs. Javier whom I now lovingly and affectionately call Mom and Dad.  (Dad just celebrated his 105th birthday on February 19.)  They are quite often in our daily thoughts and always in our prayers as we hold them dear to our hearts.  They are a couple who have fervently kept God in the center of their lives; trusting in His holy will and open to life, always open to precious life.  This could very well be the secret to a long, healthy, happy life and not to mention the secret to a lasting marriage.

Mom and Dad celebrate 64 years of married life today.  That is 64 years of bliss and togetherness through thick and thin, giving glory to God every day of their lives.  The years do not wither for them.  They are just as happy as they were when they first decided to share their lives, perhaps these are their happiest years.  Happy anniversary Mom and Dad from all of us, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  You are the bedrock in our lives.  May our Lord grant you peace, strength, and much joy during your twilight years.  We love you so very much!  "Dios ti agngina" for loving us, your constant prayers and guidance, and teaching us what matters the most.


This is what I hoped my future would look like. Rich in faith, hope, and love.
They are a couple who have fervently kept God in the center of their lives; trusting in His holy will and open to life, always open to precious life. This could very well be the secret to a long, healthy, happy life and not to mention the secret to a lasting marriage.

March 23

March 23.  It is a date that is deep-seated like one's birthday or anniversary.  When I was a freshman in college I had a dream about my maternal grandmother Conchita.  She was patiently teaching me how to make clothes.  Funny how I had a dream about dressmaking since I had aspirations of becoming a fashion designer when I was a young girl in elementary school.  It was just wishful thinking on my part!  My mother set all those dreams back for the best.  My grandmother on the other hand had the talent for clothes making and design.  She made a living as a seamstress and she used to make beautiful clothes for my mother. 

Born on February 19, 1923, Conchita Mojica was the oldest of six children.  In her younger years, she was famed for her elegance and beauty in her hometown in the Philippines.  At 16 she won a beauty pageant.  In her early 20s she won my grandfather's heart.  She and my grandfather had eleven children, Arturo, Beatriz, Cesar, David, Erlinda, Federico, Gloria, Helen, Imelda, Josephine, and Junior, each one named by consecutive letters of the alphabet.  Beatriz did not survive infancy.

I had the fortune of meeting her and my grandfather when I was a toddler.  By then she was weak and wheelchair confined.  I wish I had the opportunity to really get to know her.  From the stories I hear from my cousin Lizza, Grandma was a kind lady who loved all of her grandchildren equally never favoring anyone.  She was positively the best cook around and everyone knew it.  She even convinced her father-in-law to live in their home during his last years.  Maybe he was enticed by her delicious home cooked meals and her sweet, generous personality.  Her house certainly was the gathering place always welcoming family, friends, and town mates to come and enjoy a meal. I remember the super long table made of Narra wood, the wooden staircase that led upstairs to the bedrooms, the "capiz" (sea shells) windowpanes, and the family together in the old ancestral home.  It was a home filled with love.

March 23, 1982 is the date Grandma passed away.  She was 59.   I remember the date well because when I awoke from my dream it was March 23.

Even though I did not get to know Grandma, I feel close to her because of the fond stories and wonderful memories people have of her.  She was a woman who loved life, her husband, children, and grandchildren.  She had to have lived life to the fullest seeing each day as an opportunity to love.  I realize my appreciation for beauty, fashion, faith, and food comes from my maternal line.  It's been passed on from generation to generation and now I do the same for my son Constantine.

My hope and prayer for this blog is to share all these things that I love.  I wish for it to be a gathering place for all just as Grandma's home was for so many.  Slow to anger, selfless to the end, kind beyond compare, Grandma encapsulated these and so much more.  So Grandma, I want to say "Dios ti agngina", thank you for your love and for inspiring me in my vocation as a wife and mother.  May we always keep your memory sacred in our hearts.


Slow to anger, selfless to the end, kind beyond compare, Grandma encapsulated these and so much more.