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In Memory of Priscilla

The author pays tribute to the most elegant Filipinas, particularly the late Priscilla de la Fuente Sison, with whom he began his career in portraiture, and his wife, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle columnist Tina Hidalgo Jacinto

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By Rupert Jacinto

 Priscilla de la Fuente Sison had it all, the total picture of an elegant woman. Effortlessly, she carved out a solid niche in the world of fashion, having been a Best Dressed Hall of Famer, with the likes of Chona Kasten, Elvira Manahan, and Imelda Cojuangco. Hers was the gracefulness of a swan.

I have always been fascinated with women of elegance and, when I met her, I knew she would be the perfect subject to best project my trademark. Good friend George Sison broached the idea to her one day, and Priscilla asked: “Magaling ba ‘yan (Is he any good?)?” She agreed to pose with her dog Cognac and, as they say, the rest is history.

  • The Epitome 2016 awardees with their Priscilla statuettes, from left: Tina Jacinto, Criselda Lontok, Gemma Cruz, Consul Helen Ong, Michelle Tan, Nicole Tantoco representing her mother Crickette Tantoco and Vicky Morales.

  • Portrait by Rupert Jacinto

  • Ditto Sison Reyes and Camille Sison Reyes

  • Rupert Jacinto

  • Michelle Sison and Raul Sunico

  • Epitome 2015 Priscilla awardees Zelda Kienle abd Jan Krenn

  • Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Anna Sobrepeña, and George Sison

  • Mario Katigbak and Kit Zobel

  • Jojo Zabarte and Arlette Teucher

  • Jesi Mendez

  • Manoling Poblador and Sandie Poblador

  • Ito Curata and Consul Gen. Fortune Ledesma

  • Marilou Kahn Magsaysay

  • Hayden Sison

  • Louie Sison and Triccie Sison

    My wife and I enjoyed her free spirit, her warm and buoyant personality, to the point where we would have frequent cocktails at her sprawling residence at Forbes Park. We ate, we laughed, we sipped champagne, and we informally called ourselves the DBF, with her daughter Margarita. Jokingly, George would jokingly say that DBF meant no “de Buena de Familia,” but “Divided by Five,” refering to how we would divide our expenditures whenever we would go out. We shared invigorating experiences and enjoyed the simple pleasures of wine and hors d’oeuvres, more than dinner; and we would do this whenever we had the chance, from Manila to the bars of New York. At times, Tina would make pasta with anchovies, which Priscilla loved, and we would relish this with Pouilly Fuisse, her favorite. Not one to follow de rigeur, she would on occasion put ice in her wine, when it was not properly chilled.

    Fast forward to the present, we aptly still call our group DBF, “Divided by Four,” as we still continue the fun, especially to celebrate Priscilla’s birthday or death anniversary.

    Priscilla loved New York, from which she drew amazing energy and inspiration. The city kept calling her and she would frequent it, staying at the well-appointed Lyden Gardens.  We have fond memories of bar-hopping across New York. One night, we would be at the Sign of the Dove, where Raul Sunico, currently the CCP president and dean of Music at UST, would play, and he would regale us with his masterpieces. Then there was the Plaza Café or the Russian Tea Room.  I’ll never forget the night we were at Alo’ Alo’, a stone’s throw away from Bloomingdale’s. It was just Priscilla and me. We sat at the bar stool facing the street outside, and through the glass window, she looked up at a building across the street, which was still under construction. Sipping her wine, she said to me, out of the blue, “Rupert, let’s decree to buy a suite in that building, and we can continue our cocktails there.”  She was always game for fun, like eating Rays Pizza dressed in her mink coat. Ahh, the joys of life then.

    As a tribute to his mother, the fashion icon, George has created the annual “Epitome” Priscilla awards. This year’s awardees, the third batch since the inception, who have received the Priscilla statuette in memory of Priscilla de la Fuente Sison are Gemma Cruz, Helen Ong, Criselda Lontok, Vicky Morales, Michelle Tan, Crickette Tantoco, Gina Lopez, and my wife Tina Jacinto. As I said in my speech at my Faaabvlous ball last November, I have always considered Tina to be one of the most elegant women I know. If I were to make my own Rupert award for the three most elegant women of all time, it would go to Priscilla Sison, Imelda Cojuangco, and Tina Jacinto.

    It’s only been three years but George Sison’s Epitome has given recognition to the Philippines’ most elegant, most dynamic women, among them Mandy de la Rama, Nanette Medved Po, Karen Davila, Amparito Lhuillier, Maricris Zobel, Bea Valdez, Kaye Tinga, and Tina Ocampo from 2014 and Beng Dee, Bianca Araneta Elizalde, Heart Evangelista Escudero, Kai Lim, Kit Zobel, Mariquita Yeung, Marivic Vazquez, and Zelda Kienle.

    Famed writer Rosalinda Orosa once wrote of Priscilla: “…she was both gentle and genteel, soft-spoken, poised and refined. She was soigne, chic, and elegant…everything that she did had a touch of class or nobility.”

    As they say, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” Indeed, Priscilla brought more than smiles to our lives.

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