Heritage
Meet Manila's New Generation of Jet Setters
The cover stars of our first ever Downtown&Country issue discuss their individual journeys and successes.
IMAGE JOSEPH PASCUAL
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Marion Branellec


On Marion: Gucci dress and shoes, Greenbelt 4, 757.6297; Jewelmer earrings and ring, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862. De Gournay Portobello Pitch wallpaper, Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

Some of Marion’s earliest and happy childhood memories are of her visits to the pearl farm in Palawan started by her father, Jacques Branellec, and his business partner, Manuel Cojuangco, back in 1979.

“We would spend our summers there on the island. We had our Christmas parties there too. We grew up with the children of the people who worked at the farm,” says Marion. “We were one family. The farmers were all so hardworking, so dedicated to their jobs, giving the pearls what we call ‘tender loving care.’ So many of them have been there for many years. What I remember most is that feeling of passion and family and camaraderie.”

Some of the children Marion had played with as a little girl never left the farm. They grew up, and like their parents, decided to work on the farm as well, working as pearl farmers, researchers, and marine biologists, among others.

Marion too grew up, and moved to Australia for eight years, for schooling at the University of Melbourne, and later on, for work in multicultural marketing. While she knew she would eventually move back home to be with her family, she had never expected it would be so soon, and that she, like the island children she had grown up with, would also be working with Jewelmer.

“It just kind of happened organically. I believe in the values the company stands for, I saw how much potential there is for it to grow, and the timing was right,” says Marion, who has been home a little over a year. An opportunity had opened up for her fiancé, Martin de Guzman, in the Philippines, and it felt like the right time for her to move home as well.

“We’re both very happy to be home. I never planned to be here, but I’m loving it,” says Marion, her sparkling eyes reflecting her words. “Everything about the company is very attractive, it’s sustainable, and the jewelry is so beautiful. ”

“The pearl is such an incredible miracle, the world’s only living gem. The way it’s created takes so much passion,” she explains. “It takes 377 human steps to create one single pearl and if any of those steps goes wrong it’s irreversible. And even if you do those steps absolutely accurately, there’s still a chance that you won’t get the perfect pearl because of so many environmental factors. So whenever I see that one pearl, I see all the hard work, all the passion, the interaction between nature and people.”

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Marion, the youngest in the family, says at first she was a bit apprehensive about the idea of working with her father, brother, Jacques Christophe, and sister, Gaelle, day in and day out.

“I thought it would be very emotional, but when we come together at work, we’re very aligned,” she says. “I respect the way my family works together, and I look up to all of them. I really enjoy it.” YVETTE FERNANDEZ

Brian Poe Llamanzares


On Brian: Avino shirt, Carmina shoemaker shoes, and Simonnot-Godard pocket square, Signet, Shangri-La At The Fort. De Gournay Saint Laurent wallpaper Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

Growing up in America, Brian hadn’t a clue about the fame his grandfather, Fernando Poe Jr., held back home. He distinctly recalls how in the first grade, his mother handed him a newspaper clipping from the Philippines for him to take to show and tell. But his grandfather’s fame still overwhelmed Brian when he returned to the country to attend the veteran actor’s funeral in 2004.

“I was completely shocked when I saw the multitudes of people lining up to say goodbye. I knew him but not well enough. It was nice to get to know him through the stories of others. The first time I went out on the campaign trail in 2013, I met so many people, each one telling me a different story of how they met him and what he’d done for them. It started painting this larger-than-life image of who my grandfather really was,” says Brian.

He and his two younger siblings, Hanna and Anika, were reared under the radar, which gave them all a chance at a normal childhood, free from the constant publicity their family would later receive. Looking back, he remains grateful for that opportunity because it allowed the family to grow closer together. His parents, Neil Llamanzares and Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, used to drop the children off at school and pick them up. They used to care for the dog and tend to chores together. It was that bond that got them through the trials of two elections, he shares.

Brian is now in New York working on his master’s degree at Columbia University, where he is taking Climate and Society. The program marries two interests he’s nurtured the past few years. He’s seen how climate change and natural calamities have taken their toll on the country and seeks to study public policies and environmental sciences to create preventive measures in the future.

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On Marion: Gucci dress and shoes, Greenbelt 4, 757.6297; Jewelmer earrings and ring, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862. On Brian: Avino shirt, Carmina shoemaker shoes, and Simonnot-Godard pocket square, Signet, Shangri-La At The Fort. On Selina: Gucci dress and shoes, Greenbelt 4, 757.6297; Jewelmer earrings and ring, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862; Patek Philippe Twenty-4 watch, Greenbelt 5, 756.0566. On Sofia: Gucci dress and shoes, Greenbelt 4, 757.6297; Jewelmer earrings and ring, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862; Patek Philippe Twenty-4 watch, Greenbelt 5, 756.0566. De Gournay L'Eden wallpaper Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

While studying, Brian reveals he’ll still be in and out of Manila, monitoring the progress of a budding business and a few investments. He says that after the elections, he felt uncomfortable returning to his career as a journalist, so he tried his luck as an entrepreneur. Among his ventures is a recently launched timepiece brand called Time Master, which he conceived at the end of the 2016 campaign season. After months of designing the watches then traveling around Asia to source the materials, he finally unveiled his “passion project” in May. An advocate for education, he adds, “When it was complete, I went to my friend Alex Eduque and told her that for every watch I sold, I would give a portion of the sales to MovEd.” The MovEd Foundation seeks to provide quality, values-formed primary education to children.

He met Alex through Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization he easily could’ve chosen to partner with but it was the appeal of a local charity that started from the ground up that helped him decide. “I wanted to see more people our age making their dreams a reality. It’s important to me that my success would help others.” —HANNAH LAZATIN

Sofia Borromeo


Balenciaga dress, 8 Rockwell; Jewelmer earrings, bracelet, and ring, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862. De Gournay Earlham wallpaper Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

Sofia Borromeo started her fashion course at the Savannah College of Art and Design with zero technical skills. “I looked at the sewing machine on my first day at class and I freaked out,” she recalls. “It was so alien to me. I didn’t know how to sew or even iron.” Surrounded by more experienced classmates, Sofia, who had excelled more as an athlete in high school, was the underdog. Later into her fashion design course, however, she worked hard and improved. On graduation day, out of the work of over 1,000 students, her collection of clothes inspired by architecture and Filipino craftsmanship was awarded and chosen to be reviewed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “That was a major confidence booster,” she says.

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Sofia then moved to New York, where she worked with three fashion houses. After eight years in the U.S., she returned home to Manila, working as a fashion buyer for SM, where she stayed for two years. “I already knew the design aspect of fashion, and I wanted to understand the business side,” she says. “So I went back to SCAD to pursue my master’s in Fashion Management.”

After finishing graduate school and a brief stint back at SM, Sofia launched the brand, Sofie.B, in August of 2015. “I always looked back to the Philippines—I saw it as a hidden gem,” she says of her design inspiration. “So with Filipino design elements in place, I found my other inspiration, which was architecture. Now it has become my manual in life. It helps me understand form, structure, volume, mass, everything. Once I have architecture in place, I start to draw.”


Philux chair, Power Plant Mall, 898.1974; De Gournay Le Chasse de Compiegne wallpaper, Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

With the help of a Hong Kong-based PR firm, Sofie.B was also launched at private events in the region, allowing the brand to have a constant international presence. In Manila, Sofie.B is sold through a mix of private trunk shows and public popup stores.

Sofia believes that young Filipino designers have a bright future ahead of them if they can learn to make the most of their talents. “My biggest dream is to be a bridge for them and be able to get their voices heard in the global industry,” she says. “The biggest challenge is for designers to find their brand DNA and their own aesthetic,” she says. Teaching them such values and exposing them to an international level of play are what she tries to do as a part-time instructor for fashion design at the College of St. Benilde. “I realized that the biggest misconception about fashion is that it is glamorous. A lot of the top designers of the world are not social people. They’re introverts, they don’t really crave recognition. Everything is about their craft,” she says. “I tell my students that it’s not enough to like clothes or love dressing up to be a designer. To be a designer, you have to be an artist.” —NICOLE LIMOS

Selina Ocampo


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Balenciaga top and pants, 8 Rockwell; Jewelmer earrings, The Peninsula Manila, 501.5862; Patek Philippe Twenty-4 watch, Greenbelt 5, 756.0566; Philux chair, Power Plant Mall, 898.1974. De Gournay Coco Coromandel wallpaper, Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics, DPC Place, 2232 Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue, Makati, 889.8972.

After graduating from high school at the International School Manila, Selina enrolled at Eugene Lang, the liberal arts college of The New School in New York City. Undoubtedly influenced by her parents and older sister, she later found herself drawn to the arts and cross-enrolled at Parsons to pursue a dual degree.

Fascinated by the food industry for some time, she decided to get a job and pursue her interest. She worked as a hostess at Rue 57, a popular restaurant in Manhattan, and later did the rounds working as both waitress and bartender. “I was the worst bartender,” she admits. “They gave me the Saturday brunch shift when everyone was ‘boozy brunching,’ and let’s just say it was really bad, but I really loved where I was.” With the encouragement of her father, Selina enrolled at the International Culinary Center to make a career out of her newfound passion. “My parents were very supportive and they always told us that passion needs to drive what you do,” she says. “I’m lucky that my dad made me go to culinary school. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

For a year, Selina juggled both work and school and finished her culinary course. She then decided it was time to move back to Manila. She found her way to Manila House, the exclusive members-only club, and became its very first employee, working under the direction of chef Gilbert Pangilinan, the head of the club’s dining establishments. “I’ve had an amazing experience so far and it’s been a wonderful new way of connecting with food. Chef Gilbert and I mesh so well and I appreciate that he lets me express myself.”

Selina is involved with all the aspects of running restaurants and has been a part of seeing each of the club’s five dining concepts through, from construction to operational finished product. On a day-to-day basis, she is heavily involved in the research and development of the menus and is responsible for developing and maintaining the recipes for all of the restaurants, including banquet functions. She is also involved in activities that demand aesthetic attention, such as table settings and flower arrangements. “It’s a very different platform of creativity and I get so much inspiration from my parents.”

Down the road, Selina would love to open her own restaurant, but she knows that there is still so much to do and learn before then. “I am still finding within myself what I want to say and what drives me. Having a strong philosophy is so important to a restaurant,” she says. “I definitely know that it will be a farm-to-table restaurant because that is the future of food and there is still much opportunity to take that concept further here in the Philippines.” —ALICIA SY

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This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Town&Country.

Makeup by Byron Velasquez for M.A.C. Branellec, Llamanzares), Apple Faraon for M.A.C ( Ocampo, Borromeo). Hair by Jan Edrosolan (Branellec) and Jerry Javier (Borromeo, Ocampo). Shoot Assistants: Anne and Ednalyn.

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