My grand-mother, Lola Carmen, was a jeweler. She was one of those elegant women who lived in caftans and muumuus and wore jewelry every day, whether she had guests over or not. That was simply how she was — she wore them mainly for herself and not for anyone else. She would mix white and yellow gold together, and would pile on many rings on many fingers all at one time. When she held out her hands to butter bread or accept a hug from you the bracelets on her arm would tinkle a happy sound. She would unapologetically wear elaborate dangling earrings while watching her favorite daytime soaps, especially The Bold and the Beautiful and Santa Barbara, while seated in the bright, breezy balcony fronting the driveway. She always carried many different sets in her bag, arranged and kept in no particular way. It was a system comfortable and known only to her. Lola Carmen was such an engaging character, perplexing and loving and hilarious all at once, on any given day, as faceted as the many beautiful jewels she sold so well.
Long summers in Cebu in her home on a hill in Martinez Compound would be spent mainly frolicking under the sun, yes, but some of my fondest memories also involve Lola Carmen taking us, her grandchildren, along with her whenever she did house calls. It was nothing short of magical for me how these shining, shimmering beauties could light up the eyes instantly, and how grown-up women get all excited like little girls let loose in a toy store, as they tried on jewelry one after the other.
Back home, I remember how she would allow us to try them on ourselves, how she would “ooh” and “aah” along with us while we paraded in front of her, our little ears and little fingers laden with pieces much too big and too grown up for the tiny people we were back then. We would amuse her no end and it pleased her that we loved precious accessories as much as she did.
When the rains came, we would stay indoors. She would allow us to rearrange glass-topped tables from the living room sets; we needed them because we loved to pretend we had a jewelry shop with customers of our own.
Sticks leaves and stones we picked from the garden we would cover with aluminum or gold foil. Already, they were gems as far as our little hearts were concerned. We would have shiny chocolate coins and glittery plastic accessories also in our display. For customers we had our very tolerant and cooperative uncles and aunts — Tita Liclic, Tito Gabby, Tita Monette, Tito Rico. Oh, what fun, what joy it was to dream and play, and not even know the difference.
Many, many years later today, I am happy to say that the little dream I used to play out with my cousins and my sister in our grandmother’s living room has come true. I am a great fan of the craftsmanship and design sensibilities of Jul B. Dizon Jewellery Salon, especially that of Candy who I collaborate with a lot for my personal pieces. Candy asked me one day, out of the blue, if I would be willing to design a capsule collection in time for their yearly July anniversary show. In a heartbeat I said yes, of course, I would love to. And that was that. I bought one of those sketchbooks from National Bookstore and in between breaks during taping I would draw and color to my heart’s content, not being bound by any theme, not thinking of any market, not being pressured by anything or anyone outside myself. Based on the stones that were readily available I just did what felt right, and what seemed nice to me. What I could not draw I tried to explain in words and arrows, scribbled here and there in the white spaces of the blank book. I submitted the drawings to Candy and, before I knew it, they had leapt off the pages to enter the realm of tangible reality.
It was so much fun to do. It was especially a thrill to find out how almost all of it stayed true to the original design, given my very raw illustrations. Most of the pieces have already been taken home and stamped as owned by some of the many women who attended the show last Wednesday at the Garden Ballroom of Shangri-La Edsa. It is my hope that each piece makes you smile each time you wear it. More than ever now, I understand the true romance of jewelry. It looks good winking and blinking at you from behind class-covered counters but once you wear it, as the piece sits against the warmth of your skin, it is then that it truly comes alive.