Makati Garden Club shop



Garden Club tile



Do not let this old sign fool you.


Within the gates of the Makati Garden Club is a beautiful patch of greenery – garden, pond, flowers, trees. It’s hard to imagine that this sits right on the corner of EDSA and Ayala Avenue. In the many years I’ve been living in Manila, I never knew this piece of paradise existed.


The Makati Garden Club is a private club that caters to a few (of mostly) women members who share the love for plants and landscaping. Members get discounts on plants.


This past year, the former quiet little cafe at Makati Garden Club got a makeover and became one of Manila’s best secret restaurants. Read about it here.


A great surprise is a little shop in the garden called Melograno. This one’s open to the public.


The tiny workshop is filled with fashion, furniture, art and accessories curated by Mrs Ruby Roa.


I zeroed in on that gorgeous wooden desk.


Click to see more…


Mini Melissa



Set up


Wow, thank you for your response to my previous post about getting back to basics and telling more stories. I really appreciate that you’re all still here. Thanks for the comments in Disqus below, in my Facebook page, and even in Instagram. We will try to tell more stories.

It took me days to complete this post. Haha. Because after all that, here is another product launch. But hey, really, this happened to me and Stella, and we had fun, so I’m telling this story. In fact, I enjoy this brand so much they recently made me brand ambassador (full disclosure). So this is about Mini Melissa, the kiddie line of Melissa shoes. I’ve been a fan of the brand for over five years. They are comfortable and stylish… and lots of fun. I can’t remember exactly when I first bought Melissa. But here is my favourite pair.


Wearing K&Company dress and Melissa shoes
This one, my happiest shoes! Vivienne Westwood x Melissa. From an Urban Zone shoot in 2010.


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Apparently I wasn’t the only one who loved Melissa. When Lily was 4, she would borrow them.


Ooh, when Stella was a baby, she also played with them.


Shoe shopping with the girls
In 2010, the mother brand Melissa launched Mini Melissa. We bought the first generation Mini Melissa x Vivienne Westwood for Lily. It got handed down to Stella. These are a major upgrade from the jelly shoes we grew up with.


Click to see more Mini Melissa…


Albertus Swanepoel x Bench



Sarah Lahbati wears a camouflage knit cap with multicoloured pompom from the Albertus Swanepoel x Bench line, P399.


I was so honoured that Bench asked me to host the launch of their collaboration with South Africa-born, New York-based master milliner Albertus Swanepoel. Instead of the usual fashion show extravaganza, Bench set up a beautiful exhibit of Albertus’ creations that included pieces from his archives and the presentation of the current Bench hats. He gave a very generous talk about his design principles, his inspirations, and his methodology to an enthusiastic audience of students.

Albertus Swanepoel is known in fashion circles as the master milliner. He started his career as a fashion designer after receiving a Fine Arts degree and studying fashion design in Johannesburg. In the late 80’s he moved to New York City and found it difficult to find work as a fashion designer, so he started a glove company. He eventually went back to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology and studied millinery. In 2004 he became the hat-maker of Marc Jacobs, and eventually other designers became his customers — Proenza Schouler, Erin Fetherston, Carolina Herrera, Peter Som, Tuleh, Nathan Jenden, Costello Tagliapietra and Thakoon. In 2006 he started his own collection for women which now sells at Barneys New York, Tomorrowland in Tokyo and 10 Corso Como in Seoul to name a few.

In 2008 Albertus was a runner up at the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. Part of the prize was a special line produced and sold by Gap. This was the turning point of his brand. He eventually did more collaborations with retail giants like Target, J. Crew, Stetson, Club Monaco, and now Bench.


Bench invited design students from St Benilde, SoFA, Fashion Institute of the Philippines and Slim’s. Photo by Miguel Pastor


Albertus and me. I was so inspired by his humility when he told his story of his career path. I learned about his perseverance and dedication to his craft. He has a small studio and workshop in New York where everything is still made by hand. Photo by Miguel Pastor


This collaboration took over a year to plan and manufacture. At the exhibit, Bench showed the “mood board” submitted by Albertus Swanepoel to Ben Chan. It came in a lovely blue box with his logo. Photo by Miguel Pastor


Inside was a hand-written note and sketches. Photo by Miguel Pastor


Albertus Swanepoel sent loose sheets of sketches, drawings, and photos. Everything was written and drawn by Albertus himself. A true master and artist. Photo by Miguel Pastor


He is known for his fedora hats that sell in Barneys for over $400. Now at Bench, you can buy his hats for 400 pesos! These are incredible prices. Photo by Miguel Pastor


The Albertus Swanepoel exhibit at the Bench Tower in BGC.


Select pieces of millinery his archives. You may see these now at Bench in Glorietta.


These are hats he made for his fashion designer clients like Carolina Herrera.


From the Albertus Swanepoel archives, an exaggerated cloche for Narciso Rodriguez.


And here’s what Albertus Swanepoel designed for Bench. Really cute beanies/toques with pompoms on top.


One of my favourites is the pork pie hat. Photo by Miguel Pastor


Sketches and board for the turban-inspired baseball cap.


The fedora sketch and description.


And here’s what they look like. All these hats except for one are priced under P1000.


With my Bench family. What an honour it is to be able to say that. Mr Miguel Pastor, Mrs Nenita Chan Lim, Mr Virgilio Lim and Mr Ben Chan.


Richard and Lucy.


Albertus, me and that hat that all fashion people loved.


Model/Photographer Joan Bitagcol rocking the same hat I bought.


Couldnt decide so I bought four. Ha! Check out #AlbertusXBench at @benchtm. You will love the collection.
The hats I bought. It was hard to choose because they were all really good. And I do wear hats when I need it for practical reasons – to ward of the sun and extreme cold. The baseball cloche with the big embroidered “B” was signed by Albertus. That one is a bit of a statement hat. I’d need a lot of attitude to pull it off. It was too beautiful not to buy so I got one.


Dingdong Dantes wears the short-brimmed seersucker fedora, P899.


Marian Rivera in the soft draped baseball cap, P399.


Joseph Marco wears the fedora hat in knit fabric and straw material, P899.


On Enchong Dee, mixed pattern knitted cap, P349.






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I’m not an expert on bags or luxury goods. I’m sure you’ve noticed via Flickr or Instagram that I own only a few good bags which I hardly rotate. About “it” bags, I just don’t have enough disposable income to spend on big ticket items. Plus, I wear my bags to death. So I can’t be toting around anything too precious. Ever since I had a steady income, I was always committed to more practical and lasting heirlooms like insurance payments, retirement packages, and real estate. Haha. Boring stuff.

But I do love a good bag. Especially those that are well structured, of good leather, and are unrecognizable. Enter Rabeanco, a name that sounds more like a trade name than a luxury brand. Rabeanco is actually an international luxury bag line established in 2004, using the finest quality hides and skins. “Rabeanco has East-meets-West philosophy that combines artisanal leather-craft traditions of Milan with the stark simplicity and innovative silhouettes of Hong Kong.”

The wonderful thing about Rabeanco is you get urban, current designs and great quality leather minus the price tag of a “designer” bag. So from my end, there would be less guilt if I bought a few in different colours. Check out what they have at the moment…


Rabeanco at Shangri-la Plaza East Wing. There is also a Rabeanco in SM Aura and Trinoma.


How cute is this sling bag? I could totally share this with Sophia.


Rabeanco’s most popular bag. This bag has it all – versatility, style, quality, friendly price. The bag can be carried open like a tote. It can be locked with that dangle. And it can be further drawn in with a hook on the opposite seams. This is a good bag.


Look at the leather.


I have been thinking of back packs. On the left is the Cube and the red one is the Tiara. Both so soft and supple!


I am starting to obsess over the Tiara backpack. It has double-faced smooth leather, drawstring closure, zip closure on both sides and adjustable shoulder straps. I’m hoping they have the midnight blue colour. How do you feel about backpacks? I haven’t used one since the early 90s. But I know this would be great for traveling.


Loving the colour and shape.


Various clutches that come with chain straps as well. The Ripple is beautiful. These are the woven leather mini bags. It has a nice unique shell turn-lock.




I told myself I should stop buying hobo bags. I have a few of them. But really, they are the most practical schlepping bags ever.


I got this Cosmos Envelope in black with pink edges. It’s made of Saffiano leather and comes with adjustable and a detachable shoulder strap.


1 Hail hobo; 2 Ripple Woven mini; 3 Coil clutch; 4 Shell small; 5 Trail small shoulder


6 Ripple clutch; 7 Cosmos envelope clutch; 8 Trail


9 Cube;  10 Tiara backpack


11 A group of Seam hobos;  12 Shell large shoulder;  13 Granville.


Rabeanco is available at TriNoma Level 3, SM Aura Mall Level 2, Shangri-la Plaza Level 4 East Wing. Follow Rabeanco in Facebook and Instagram.



Religioso’s Black and White



This season, Religioso’s holiday collection focuses on the stark contrast between black and white. Sisters Choc Religioso-Dayrit and Yvette Religioso-Ilagan designed their signature feminine silhouettes with bold graphics, animal print, and fluid patterns. Also in the collection are a few pieces embroidered with iridescent pearl-like sequins, done in patterns of Tboli weaves.


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Sequined tops made by Tboli groups.


A dark tartan skirt with beaded geometric patterns.



Religioso is at Greenbelt 5, Makati.