Fashion Can Empower, says CEO of Lapanday Foods

By day, Rica Lorenzo Davila runs Lapanday Foods. On the side, she has dabbles in fashion.
IMAGE Dan Harvey

What time do you start working?
Usually 9 a.m., then I go home between 7 to 8 p.m.

You’ve ventured into clothing. Can you tell us about that?
We opened Idée, which means “idea” in French. It germinated in my mind around May two years ago. I had just quit smoking cold turkey, and after 41 years of smoking, I lost my crutch. I had smoked all the time—it was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did before sleeping. I needed something new.

Why clothes?
I’ve always made time to choose my clothes. It was always something deliberate, however much time I had for that choice. Clothing was a logical thing for me to want to do. I wanted my life to be better without the smoking, but something that wasn’t as stressful as my day job as CEO of an export company. Then space opened up in our building, and I thought, there’s my store.


Tell us about the Idée aesthetic.
It’s a go-to for something to wear to any occasion, whether casual or dressy. We specialize in tops that lend themselves well to any type of bottom, whether a skirt or a pair of pants. You could dress them up with accessories, shoes, or a bag. There are a lot of women who like things coordinated, but that’s not what we are.


Describe your own style.
The store is me. Since I work in the corporate world, I veer toward basics and the feminine-corporate style, with a bit of the unexpected in the combination or accessories. I’m always dressier than I have to be. Even when I’m feeling particularly blah that day, I know that if I put on something I like, I’ll feel better.

Do you think fashion can empower?
Oh yes. When women see that they look good in something, all of a sudden they stand up straighter and their smiles are wider. Dressing is powerful. It’s part of wanting to put your best foot forward and caring not so much about what people think of you, but about how you feel about yourself. When you allow yourself to experiment and not be so apologetic of your physical imperfections, you will have increased confidence.

Favorite designers?
Locally, Pepito Albert. I also like Tom Ford.


Favorite things to shop for?
I used to buy a lot of shoes, but I’ve stopped shopping. I like wearing either very high heels or flats.

What qualities do you like most about yourself?
I’m very efficient and dependable. People—my kids—take advantage of that. They know I’ll get things done. I like depending on myself. I have a bit of a soft heart that I don’t necessarily act on, but I like knowing that I’ve not been hardened by the years. One thing I wish I were more of is appreciative. I’m more critical than I should be, but that also allows me to act fast.


Best advice you’ve given?
I tell my kids to stop taking things for granted. Their generation feels entitled to a lot, like the help and the resources that are available to them.

Tell us about your children.
I have three. Bea, my eldest, works for the Department of Foreign Affairs. She’s very smart, dedicated, and is absolutely faithful to this country. She’s very straightforward and logical. She has a good sense of right and wrong. My second daughter, Cecilia, will walk anywhere if we’re talking about shopping. When she wants to do something, she goes all out. She can’t be told what to do. She’s her own person. I admire that about her. She’s hilarious and she doesn’t realize how funny she is. My third, Gabriel, can be very gentle, but also very confident and sociable. He knows how to make bola. He’ll say to his grandmother, “Lola, you look so young today”—even though she doesn’t. He’s a good golfer, very athletic, and for a guy, he’s very organized. They each give me their own sets of problems but they also make me happy differently.


Thoughts on marriage?
I’m separated. I got married at 23, and after 19 years it was finished. In my case, we drifted apart. Marriage is work. Can you imagine how much you have to concede, accommodate, adjust to when you’re dating? With a husband, all the more. Don’t even think about getting married until you’re 30.

Qualities you like most in a man?
Kindness, sensitivity, and true consideration. Hopefully, my daughters each marry someone who’s funny. Someone who’s sensitive enough and not so self-centered that he can’t see what my daughters are feeling on a certain day. I want them to be with husbands who are smart enough to know how to live life and are able to succeed in whatever it is that they do. Men who won’t rely entirely on my daughters for their happiness, just as I don’t want my daughters to rely entirely on their husbands for their happiness. They have to have a sense of themselves before they have a sense of being a couple.


How do you spend time with your kids?
We travel a lot. We eat out together, but that’s also because they like me to pay for their meals. The day my daughters offer to pay is the day I’m going to roll over and die! Don’t get me wrong—they’re great kids. They’re not perfect, but they’re not terrible either.

Favorite restaurant? What do you order?
As we speak, it’s Green Pastures in the Fort. It may be different tomorrow. But I’m such a creature of habit that I have about 10 places that I go to, and at those restaurants, I will always order the same thing.

Rica, wearing her own dress and neckpiece, inside Idée.

Favorite magazines?
Town&Country. I’ll pick up Vanity Fair, Vogue, and InStyle at the salon. I used to pore over heavier publications like The Economist and Time in my younger years, but now all I want to see are pictures. I’m not embarrassed to admit it: the lighter the stuff, the better. I prefer more human-interest stories over political or economic analysis.

Last book you read?
Books by Philippa Gregory.

Drink of choice?
I always ask for a fresh dalandan shake. I never acquired the taste for alcohol, though I will order wine to keep someone company—I can nurse a glass throughout dinner and never finish it.

How do you recharge on your own?
I wish I could still smoke. I used to skip a meal if all I had time for was a cigarette. Now it’s a movie, a book, or a good meal. Sometimes my day’s work takes me away from my own hang-ups.


Guilty pleasures?
I don’t feel guilty about loving coffee and chocolate. Lately, Facebook. I used to look down on it and think it was such a waste of time. I’m amused at myself because the very thing I used to judge my children for is now something I find quite entertaining.


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Manica C. Tiglao
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