On her frequently updated Instagram, award-winning broadcast journalist Ces Drilon poses a pretty repackaged deal. Enough of the three fourth sleeves and jeans combo—here, on a normal day, Ces Drilon 2.0 breaks the newswoman look by donning workwear that interestingly fuses designer and street. She deliberately demystifies every “tita” illusion with her choice of outfits and accessories—a monochromatic suit there, a patterned dress here, a fanny pack slicing through a floral number, a pair of ugly sneakers today and then a pair of loafers tomorrow, colorful, rimmed glasses and statement earrings as accent, hats—lots of hats.
This perhaps and very fittingly marks the transition of Ces, who has left the newsroom years earlier. Her move in late 2017 from hardcore to the other end of the storytelling spectrum—now as executive editor of affluent-marketed lifestyle website ANC-X—surely was at least met with a jolt. But to those who knew her better, it was the inevitable. Ces, then anchoring late night news show Bandila, had already retired from reporting anyway. She too was attending more to her duties as a mom and a businesswoman, and being the partner of Ricky Carandang—also a journo who detoured to politics as Noynoy Aquino’s erstwhile presidential communications secretary—consequently limited her hard-hitting ways that have shaped her method of reportage for decades.
But again to those who knew Ces way back, heading to the lifestyle beat signalled no surprise. She personally grew a distinct interest in fashion and art as a kid—the UP Integrated School girl who would stand out “bihis” in a sea of T-shirt-clad students on casual Fridays. Ces, as an adult, also owned a gallery featuring selections of accessories, bags, knick-knacks, abubot, and more—then opening her eyes further to investing in fashion-rooted business ventures. She truly enjoyed this side of her that’s rather playful, mindful of style, appreciative of life’s finer things, easily superficial and unorthodox perhaps to some.
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Yet, Ces, now in her 50s and past a fruitful, mainstream-set career, is more driven to developing this instinct—and it’s not just on how she mixes and matches from her closet or how she chases more upmarket-targeted content for her new website. She’s now, too, a designer and owner of an e-commerce brand—Ces Style.
Launched online last May, Ces Style holds a selection of eyewear and accessories for the “everyday power woman.” The brand has Ces as the chief creator and image model, partnering with other Filipino brands on thriving digital platform Lazada to develop nifty items that satisfy the trend-savvy, practical women. It has Ces’ kids forming the brand’s rather small team—her son Gian, currently based in China, taking care of the back-end and Andre, spearheading the marketing efforts. Its brand essence, of course, is Ces.
“Women always asked me, Where’d you get that? So I said, maybe, okay I can finally cash in on me being so called ‘stylish.’ And then I attended this lecture by Google. The country head of Google was talking about e-commerce and how it's going to explode in the Philippines. But it hasn't yet. You know, (the Philippine market) is so small, it's the tip of the iceberg you are seeing now!" she enthuses.
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Ces Style’s first collaboration is with Peculiar, an online eyewear brand. Its premiere collection has six frames, thoughtfully named after people and things related to Ces. Ranging from PHP 299 to PHP 499 each, a pair has been modified to filter blue light—the light emitting from everyday gadgets that may cause eye strains or imbalance in your sleep patterns if overexposed to. Each arrives in a case next to a card and blue light devised like a tester.
“You know, it's acknowledged there's even a growing incident of nearsightedness because of people being on their gadgets longer than before. I was at first resistant at the computer thing. Sabi ko, ‘Gimmick ba yan?’ But I asked a cousin of mine who is an ophthalmologist and he did say that, ‘If you don't buy the glasses, you simply just get up from your computer, or your stop for 15 minutes—but who does that right?” Ces explains. “Plus, glasses frame your face. You know you have to be stylish with your glasses!”
Ces Style’s other collaboration is with Gian’s accessories brand, comprising bags, earrings, and socks.
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Meanwhile, Ces teases a new collection of Peculiar eyeglasses next year, and maybe, the dog lover in her speaking, stuff for pets. While she has all these on her vision board, she admits e-commerce is proving to be a challenge for her months-old passion project.
Ces narrates, “My son Gian, the one who encouraged me to do this, well, he moved to China. But he realized he could still do business with China without having the need to live there, so he's coming back. You know what’s amazing there? Even a little hole-in-the-wall is naka-QR code na! Cashless sila! You know, we felt so, ‘Kung wala kang Wechat na yan, wala kang mabili!’”
“It's hard to sell. It's not that easy. You would think because I'm Ces Drilon, people would give in, but no!” she laughs. “Because there's so much competition.”
Lazada, reported ASEAN UP May 31 this year, is the number one e-commerce site in the Philippines with a monthly traffic estimate of 25,000,000. Also selling in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the site operates under Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
All said how e-commerce platforms like Lazada level the playing field and pushes for homegrown products among independent Filipino owners, Ces only finds everything as motivating and inspiring as it is challenging. (Ces Style, in fact, is a participating brand at The SM Store’s OODOO or “Online Done Offline.” The pop-up fair, which runs from September 26-29, is held at the 3/F of SM Makati.)
“You have to be quick in responding to questions. You have to respond to reviews. There's all these metrics that they measure—which is good for the customer. It's amazing! And imagine, you can just play with your store without having to put up so much capital. It's so exciting!"
The journalist in her then goes on with a newsworthy story she had learned herself on the job. "You know the one behind Peculiar used to sell Good Morning towels in Luneta? Nagkakariton lang sya sa Luneta dati!”
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Photos courtesy of Ces Drilon