Tatler Time Travel: Revisiting Tessa Prieto Valdes' Iconic 2002 Cover
When the unparalleled Tessa Prieto-Valdes graced the December 2002 cover of Tatler Philippines, she dressed up as a fully ornamented Christmas Tree. Understandably so, the tree being the best symbol of the season for her. “The tree is the central point of my themed decor. Since I change themes every year, I make sure it matches the look with its ornaments, lights and colour scheme. I normally spend half my decor budget on my tree because it always sets the mood of the season!”
The 18 years that passed have been good for the Sea Princess (her moniker, from the title of her lifestyle column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer). She and her husband, Dennis Valdes, have celebrated three anniversaries in this span of time: 15th in Africa, 20th in a Game of Thrones-inspired celebration and the 25th with an African theme. She has had one daughter born, now 15-year-old Athena, and one grandson, Louie Malachi Crespo Prieto, born to eldest son Bryan and his wife Tinkay Crespo. Son Tyrone is now 25 while Annika, 22, just graduated Film from Chapman University last May.
She has completed two international marathons (New York and Paris), several half-Ironman races and the Camino in Spain, where she also took intensive Flamenco classes. She joined Bikram Yoga competitions and did scuba-diving in Palau, Fiji, Maldives and all over the Philippines.
She also joined a TV singing contest (“even if I sound like a frog!”) and won. She hosts Philippine Realty TV and still writes two weekly columns for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
But she never forgets to give back. The Red Charity Gala is her annual project that supports numerous charities including Philippine Red Cross, Assumption 81 Foundation, Gifts & Graces, Saves the Seas Foundation. She shares, “Kaye [Tinga, her co-founder] and I are celebrating the Red Charity Gala’s 12th anniversary, and proud to feature 10 of the most brilliant fashion designers in the country.”
Prieto-Valdes has been successful in creating her flamboyant signature look through these years. “I feel my style has become more defined, even more outrageous,” she comments. “My designer friends are always challenged to come out with more elaborate creations for me to wear. I always support local for my shoes, hats, bags and other accessories. I have also discovered more weavers for my home furnishings and house decor! Taking this passion beyond fashion, I have created lots of artsy face masks to sell for charity.”
A confessed travel bug, she bemoans, “This pandemic has really cramped my style and essence!” Yet, she remains unbowed. “I still dress up and go overboard during Zoom meetings, and wear my evening clothes. Since I can spend weekends in Tali or Balesin, I have shifted my wardrobe to resort wear and chic casual—but still with tons of accessories,” she shares.
In the months of lockdown, Prieto-Valdes says that she was able to “refocus and assess what my true purpose is”. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she has become a full-time mum and wife since she hardly has any social events to go to. “I have never been so domesticated, but I am wonderfully embracing and totally enjoying it!” she enthuses, even as, she says, she is “still figuring out how to budget family expenses”.
It will be an extra special Christmas this year because of Baby Louie. “He was born a month before the full Covid-19 impact on Metro Manila. He is our centre of attraction, the family’s silver lining. He cheers us up amid all the uncertainty, anxiety, fear and confusion,” the delighted grandmother shares.
For Louie, she put up a tree (even if she was not planning to), surrounded by small ones, with the help of Cyndi Fernandez of Moss Design House. Her theme? “Travel, of course, with ornaments based on our favourite destinations [Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Peru, Palau, Australia and Japan] and anything that symbolises travel [planes, landmarks, safari decor, etc].”
She sees Christmas this year to be family-centred. “I am thrilled to celebrate the merriest time of the year together as a family. This would not be happening if there was no pandemic because we would be all away in different locations!”
- Photography Wig Tysmans (Tatler Philippines December 2002 Cover)
- Photography Grace Milliscen Lim (2020)