Ladies, Wine, and Design in Manila

By Chem Torrente and Thea Castro

Balancing life and survival in a world that’s full of competition, gender inequality, and instability can be tough for a lot of women out there. Aside from the external conflicts that each of us experience every day, we also fight inner battles that we talk with very few people about. 

My name is Chem and I’m one half of LW&D Manila. I’m no stranger to the general disadvantages presented to me as a woman, but it’s my personal journey that defines much of the growth I’ve done. You see, I had to deal with a lot of struggles and sacrifices growing up. I had to face realities right away and had to grow up as my dad passed when I was twelve years old (2012). I had to adjust together with the rest of my family, and it was anything but smooth and simple. Pursuing art and the creatives didn’t seem like a logical choice for me to take as it didn’t directly correlate with the kind of lifestyle I aspired for that could uplift myself and my family. In retrospect, having surpassed all the storms that came our way, I’m blessed to say that it’s still possible to pursue a meaningful life with the family you’re born into no matter what obstacles may become present.

I started out wanting to be everywhere and do everything at the same time. I wanted to dive right into the creative industry even if my only background was my deep interest in photography and music. I ended up beginning my career in a bank, then taking a risk and moving to a startup company. That’s where I met Thea – you could say that it was meant to happen, but back then I had no idea we were going to create a beautiful partnership that would combine our multipotentiality. Now, I believe I’m closer to where I’m meant to be aligned and at the same time, I envision a bright future ahead with a slew of possibilities. The pursuits and pains that I’ve experienced have allowed me to distinguish the things I can control from the things I need to learn to let go. Realizing this has helped me understand a lot of things easily. At the end of the day, it’s the family and friends that accept the truths in your life that make living so worth it. 

Passing on the stage to Thea, the other half of LW&D Manila.

My name is Thea and I grew up living a comfortable life. It was a Brady Bunch type of family – my siblings and I were well off, had very supportive parents, and each other to play with and learn from. My personal struggle began when my parents separated because of our financial challenges. It was a complicated transition that took years of suppressed anger, depression, and constant questions of why that level of comfort was taken away. That experience changed my perspective in life. I’ve learned how to be content and grateful for what I have and how to make better decisions. That experience pushed me to see the silver lining and opportunity in every situation.

When it comes to my career life, I’m a typical millennial that wants to be a jack-of-all-trades. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but never had the guts to explore this after university. I worked first as an HR assistant in an insurance company, then worked in Events and Operations at a coworking startup before moving to Sales in real estate. I felt like cruising through different jobs while trying to find a career I can identify with. 

Now that I’m older, I’m more settled and peaceful with myself knowing I have multiple potentialities. Rather than finding one true job, I’ll stick to forever finding balance in all these passions and having the guts to work for myself. Going through these different changes, I always felt scared to try something new. But I think I had to go through it – try many different things until I’m settled into the balance of all these things I actually want to do. 

As the duo that started the Manila Chapter of Ladies, Wine, & Design, we seek to share that change can start with something as simple as a conversation. We are so engrossed with what happens in our daily lives that we forget to check in with ourselves and the people next to us. Our aim is to cultivate connections by having an avenue where creatives from different industries and fields can reach out to each other personally, in a more intimate setting. Manila is a goldmine of creatives. It’s about time that it gets its due spot in the blanket of stars in the sky.

LW&D Manila is something new. It’s specifically geared toward those who need that push to realize their multipotentiality, or just a stroke of inspiration – for this new venture they’re about to start; this career shift they’re about to take; this project they’re about to make; how to get off an emotional rollercoaster they didn’t sign up for, or even a seemingly small routine change they are looking to do. It’s for people who want to receive practical and professional advice in life, creativity, and business while making new friends at the same time.

It was a struggle to jumpstart this in Manila. We were just a tiny speck in the sea of interests and activities in the city. We approached big and established wine brands, but the ones who supported us were those like us – fledgling businesses focused on building community. We held our first LW&D Conversation Series night on May 31, 2017. We were overwhelmed with support from Belle & Dragon who sponsored our venue and Rezonate TV / Flux Design Labs who sponsored our wines, even labeling wine bottles after the chapter. We held our second event at The Bowery, before finally getting to partner with Estate Wine who has supported us with their venue and fine selection of wines for two years. Pre-pandemic, our LW&D monthly Convos are held at Xception – a cafe and curated designer lifestyle shop.

In 2018, we expanded our team and were joined by Alecs Ronquillo, Denise Dalusong, Shannen Tabanao, and just this May 2020, Kaela Olindan. We started out with a volunteer team with simple roles in helping execute our events. This time, we’re shaping it up and providing roles wherein the team can really play to their strengths, discover new interests, and create roles that matter that have never been set up before. We give light to each other’s talents and we push ourselves to learn more, cultivating our own multipotentialities. We hoped that the value we offer is something that aligns with our respective team member’s values and creative pursuits, and our collective advocacy on women empowerment.

The whole concept of LW&D is what inspired our current intimate format in Manila. Our conversations start shy, but as the night unravels, the speakers and guests get more comfortable and begin to share more of their experiences. It has become a place to share new creative ideas without the fear of judgment, but rather a safe space for openness to suggestions, potential leads, and supportive criticism. More so, it has become an avenue for people with more “traditional” careers and lifestyles to start exploring unconventional routes.

LW&D’s main tool for advocating change are conversations. We hold talks and meet-ups to gather like-minded individuals. We thrive in rediscovering the art of shared conversations and foster relationships and create authentic connections by learning about topics that matter – the ones that make you laugh, cry, remember, and take action. Conversations help you learn about connecting with others and most of all, with oneself.

At this moment, we are zoomed in on our surroundings and it’s really a matter of going where we are needed. We feel that we need to continue to serve and to always remind everyone (even just each other) that we are all about creativity, conversation, collaboration, and community. We also give importance in caring for mental health, and a bit of comedy is always welcome. We still have a laundry list of dreams and plans for LW&D Manila, but we’re in no rush; we know it’s one wild journey with countless diversions rather than a straight race. 

We’re both very happy just to see connections take off and courage build up from our guests and would-be friends. LW&D Manila also gives us something to look forward to. At the end of each month you know you can be proud of expressing yourself, be reminded of your Whys, and have hope in the opportunity of creativity in Manila and beyond.

Chem loves to sleep and helps in creating new expressions of the weaving tradition in the Philippines. She loves to celebrate women empowerment through various platforms. She is fond of traveling, listening to good music, and coming up with hit playlists, and she has a knack for taking photos. Chem believes in the power of the Filipina Spirit and a good cup of coffee. Follow her and her work on Instagram!

Thea is a true multipotentialite and is an empowering crafter. She built the brand Dreamweavers Studio that started out selling dreamcatchers and has evolved to supporting students in Tanza, Cavite. Her love for crafts has now led her to build Tahanan Furniture, a local source of contemporary and functional pieces for a photogenic home. Thea is currently taking her Masters in Clinical Psychology in DLSU, works for a Maritime company, and runs multiple businesses in parallel. Follow her and her work on Instagram!

Below are some of their ongoing events & campaigns:

  1. Monthly Convo Series – You may find our previous events here. We’ll share with you our last 2 events for the year this Oct and November once we’ve confirmed out topic and speakers. 
  2. #FilipinaCreative – we share works and what we love about our talented Filipinas. We want our community to know and discover more of our creatives that thrive in our country.
  3. #FromMyPOV – Our aim is to share a #FilipinaCreative’s profile and takes us through the day: (1) starting in the morning, balancing home load with workload at home during a pandemic, (2) sharing a recent project in progress as the main feature of the IG story takeover, and (3) ending the IG story takeover and go on IG LiveMonthly Convo Series.

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