October is my favorite season for two distinct reasons: it marks the peak of autumn's beauty, and it's also the month of my birthday. This year, however, October was exceptional in a unique way. It provided me with the opportunity to return to the Philippines, my birthplace, after a long absence due to the global pandemic.
My adventure began with a direct 16-hour flight from JFK on Philippine Airlines. As I stepped off the plane, I was immediately greeted by the familiar scents, warm hospitality, and the festive atmosphere that is uniquely Filipino. In the Philippines, Christmas celebrations kick off as early as September, and it felt like I had never left. I took two days to adjust to the time difference and immerse myself in the local ambiance, all in preparation for the main event: the Manila Fame trade show.
The trade show was a whirlwind of inspiration. Organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotions arm of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, it showcased the incredible talents of fashion manufacturers in the Philippines. As I strolled through the exhibition, I was captivated by the diverse and beautiful pieces on display. The prospect of future collaborations with some of these manufacturers filled me with excitement.
One of the highlights of my trip was attending Manila Fame's gala night, titled "Pagsibol: A Gala Night Celebrating Filipino Design Excellence," held at the National Museum of Natural History. The evening commenced with the recognition of the KATHA Awards winners in the categories of home, fashion, and lifestyle. The second part of the event featured a creative reinterpretation of the iconic Manila Carnival Queen, as envisioned by contemporary Philippine designers. The fashion pieces, influenced by the Manila Carnival Queen's style from the 1900s, were awe-inspiring. It was an unforgettable evening, and for the first time, I had the privilege of wearing a Filipiniana, a traditional dress known for its distinctive puffy butterfly sleeves and long skirt. Every moment of that night was pure magic.
While the initial part of my journey was business-oriented, I couldn't resist the allure of the Philippines' pristine beaches. I flew to Cebu with family members to relax and rejuvenate. We explored the city, and on my birthday, I indulged in a spa treatment featuring a traditional massage called "hilot." The warm banana leaves placed on my back were incredibly soothing, and their fragrance was delightful. Later in the day, we enjoyed a sunset cruise along the Mactan Channel, followed by a delectable seafood dinner at a restaurant with a breathtaking ocean view.
My jam-packed two weeks in the Philippines felt too short, and I can't wait to return next year. This trip was a perfect blend of business opportunities and leisure, reminding me of the beauty and culture of my home country. October is now even more special to me as it marks the time when I reconnected with my roots and explored the endless possibilities in the world of fashion.