Handpicked to be part of this year’s Generation T group, these five individuals have contributed to the growth of their respective industries. Immensely talented, they have put in years of hard work and dedication to pursuing their passions and mastering their crafts. We ask them about what they value and how they approach the task of being positive role models
Innovative, astute, and equipped with a keen business sense, FooDee Global Concepts Managing Director Eric Dee has contributed a great deal to the country’s fast-growing food industry. Dining aficionados have him to thank for the presence of establishments such as Tim Ho Wan, FO’OD by Davide Oldani, and Todd English Food Hall, all of which have become favourites of local foodies.
Well-trained by his father, entrepreneur Rikki Dee, Eric knows the ins and outs of being in the business. He enjoys the daily grind, though, enthusing, “My sort of work doesn’t feel like work at all. I get to try the best dishes—and I absolutely love to eat.” He believes his biggest responsibility to his fellow foodies is to keep bringing in great food at great prices, and to ensure the Philippines gets the attention it deserves as a culinary destination.
As a modern restaurateur, Eric has some tips and tricks of his own. For him, it is vital to stay organised and to put effective systems in place, especially when it comes to running day-to-day operations. “Our generation is smart because we know how to handle time constraints,” he says. “By this, I mean we try to find the quickest ways to initiate proceedings or solve problems. Others may perceive this as the laziest approach, but it could be the most efficient as well.”
Born to a family of fashion designers and garment manufacturers (her grandmother holds the honour of being Cebu’s first couturier), it seems only natural that Vania Romoff would go the same route to follow what has always been her passion.
“I see fashion design as grasping onto a thought, putting it out there, and seeing someone fall in love with that thought,” says Vania. “It’s such a beautiful thing.” She feels fortunate to have always known and understood her aesthetic; the first dress she sent down the runway for Philippine Fashion Week—a blush brocade cocktail dress with a big ribbon around the neck—still holds the same soul as her current garments.
She admires the work ethic of young designers who are thriving not just because they are pushing the parametres of design, but also because they acknowledge the need to change with the times by creating RTW lines. “I’m trying to pattern my business in such a way that I won’t get stuck as a bespoke atelier,” she adds. “Though it is important to stay true to my core, I also have to branch out and embrace the concept of e-commerce through my web shop. People are often online, so it’s an effective way of reaching out to customers.”
As she is getting married this year, Vania hopes to take some time off to enjoy being a wife as well as a mum to her one-year-old daughter. Once she’s back in the saddle, she’s looking to cross a few more items off her work list such as relaunching her website and setting up a brick and mortar shop. “There’s still a lot to learn,” she reflects. “The moment you stop because you feel you’re at the pinnacle, that’s the moment you get left behind. It’s a must that we always strive to be better versions of ourselves; if you’ve done a great collection, give yourself a pat on the back, but push yourself to make an even better one.”
Ian Paradies’ fondness for craft beer dates back to his university years when the big American brands were beginning to enter the Philippine market. Ian worked for several years in the transportation logistics and port industries before deciding it was time to move back home to pursue his dream of starting a premium craft beer brewery. Teaming up with his business partner, brewmaster Josh Karten, Ian buckled down to work—and Engkanto Brewery was born.
As the name of their beer suggests, Ian is set to debunk myths and allow Filipinos a taste of what good beer can be. “All our formulas have been developed specifically to cater to the local market,” he says. “I don’t want to push a Western style on my countrymen, but I do want to facilitate an easy transition by getting them to appreciate our beer, and hopefully elevate the taste levels.” He plans to open a bar in Poblacion, which will serve as a test lab for Engkanto’s new concoctions. Brewing classes for patrons will also be made available later on.
At this stage, Engkanto is still a young company; Ian is tasked with ironing out the kinks that come with a starting new business, but takes it all in his stride because he loves what he does. “Oftentimes, I welcome the mistakes because they’re what I learn from,” he admits. “Going through all these birthing pains might not be for the faint of heart, but I personally find it fulfilling and even fun.”
Throughout her career, Cris Villonco has won several accolades for work in musicals and plays, the latest being her fifth Gawad Buhay Award for Female Lead Performance in a Play for Red Turnip Theatre’s Constellations. She is often lauded for her versatility, which she acknowledges as an imperative requirement for all stage performers. “To succeed in the business, you must be knowledgeable, dedicated, and professional,” she adds. “You have to know your lines and be ready to do whatever the director requires because it is their vision being realised. People have attempted to enter the industry without having studied, only to fall short.”
She is no stranger to stage fright, which she freely admits she has. “Each time I do something new, I’m always a bit scared,” she says. “I start questioning if I will be able to deliver. But everything melts away when I go onstage—kind of like magic.” She often finds herself rising to meet challenges, too. In November 2016, she took on her most difficult role to date, playing a 43-year-old lesbian in Atlantis Productions’ Fun Home. To fully immerse herself into the character of Alison Bechdel, Cris made the difficult decision to live apart from her husband, Paolo, for some time.
For Cris, artists have responsibilities outside of entertaining, especially in the face of today’s sociopolitical climate. “As artists, we must be able to express our opinions in the most diplomatic way possible,” she says. “It’s good to be honest, but the truth sometimes hurts. Above all, I believe in being kind.”
A bonafide free spirit, Madrid-born visual artist Eduardo Zobel Eduardo tried his hand at business school for a year and a half before dropping out to enroll at an art school, realising that it was possible to make a career doing something he was truly passionate about. He did plenty of digital work in the beginning, but felt more inclined to pursue an avenue that required him to learn outside of school or through practice. And so he turned to the fine arts.
When he came to the Philippines for a visit, he met the owners (Mike Kervelliant and Andie Ngan) of the up-and-coming outdoor space in Poblacion called The Social, who commissioned him to do the murals. “It was a massive, open canvas where I could showcase what I could do with the tools I loved using,” says Eduardo. “It felt amazing to be five feet above ground on that scaffolding. It freed me and made me feel alive again because I felt clustered in when I first arrived in Manila.”
Catch the behind-the-scenes coverage of the cover shoot in this video:
Photography: Shaira Luna | Creative Direction: Anton San Diego | Styling: Monique Madsen | Set Design: Princess Baretto | Make-up: Al de Leon, Raf Manosca and Ryan Wong of MAC | Hair: Jaymar Lahaylahay and Cats Del Rosario | Clothes and shoes: Brooks Brothers, Reiss and Salvatore Ferragamo | Accessories: Lanvin