She came into my life like a happy song, bringing with her an arsenal of arts and crafts. Tita Inday is my dad’s sister, and because she is my baptismal godmother I have, through the years, been the very happy and fortunate recipient of all things nice and pretty. See, Tita Inday is one of those people who never just gives a present as is. Always she slips it into or wraps it with something handmade and pretty, making something already nice and special even more so. The way she does it feels easy, almost nonchalant, as if she just put everything together as the gift was on its way out the door. She used to make and give me hand-painted porcelain plates and trinkets, all of which I have kept. They are precious to me. She makes beautiful bookmarks from scratch and by hand, with the nicest quotes. I never tire of receiving them. When she would visit Lolo Tingting in Ormoc it was always a happy time for me, as she would afford me the chance to also play with whatever new craft she would be into at the moment. I remember making artificial flowers and putting veins and texture on artificial leaves using some special heated tool. She was Martha Stewart even before I knew there was a Martha Stewart.
It came as no surprise then that it was also through her some eight years ago that I came to know of Portia Leuterio, she who can not only make anything pretty but do so from scratch. Portia lives in this lovely space that is some kind of wonderland, and teaches all sorts of delightful things that can be done with both hands and heart. Her ways are a throwback to gentler times, when people said their thanks with words scribbled carefully on pretty notecards, when gifts were not just tossed into paper bags in a huff, when most everything given was wrapped and bowed, the paper carefully chosen to match and complement the present, the recipient, the occasion, all at once. Tita Inday and I, together with my friend Cathy and Tita Ping (Tita Inday’s good friend), enrolled in a module called “The Art of Creative Packaging.” Those days were carefree, fun and wonderful, the way summer must be for every child. We would be holed up for an entire afternoon in a room that housed a cornucopia of lovely paper, ribbons, flowers, beads, baubles — everything imaginable to create all sorts of wonderful! Where before we thought gifts always had to be in boxes, all of a sudden a world of possibilities opened up before us. Items can be wrapped with scraps of beautiful fabric that was just always lying around waiting to be used, tucked into pretty envelopes and then embellished with quilled flowers, slipped into glassine sleeves as if they were cookies, except that they are not. There were so many wonderful, unexpected ways to make something pretty, it made the heart expand and the mind run. Really, the best kind of giving is when we also give a little of ourselves and making an effort to give a well-dressed present, so to speak, is a literal example of that. The medium is the message, always, and the delight a beautifully wrapped present brings never grows old.
It was Portia who taught me how to make beautiful paper flowers. For some of Juliana’s kiddie birthday parties, her school projects, and my parents’ anniversary I remember making some. What I learned in Portia’s classes I still use to this day. I know when I am 85 years old already I will find delight running my little ice cream shop with Richard, and making paper flowers for the parties that will be held in the ice cream shop. That does make for a very delightful thought.
Portia Leuterio is already very well known within a tight circle of Manila’s high society for her delightful gift-wrapping. They send a present for her to wrap and she sends them back after she has worked her magic on them.
Asked where she got the inspiration and the wind to do what she does so well, Portia attributes the same to the environment she grew up in, her father being a statesman and diplomat. Her exposure to all things refined and elegant further developed when she was growing up in Washington, DC and New York, enamored as she was with the gift-packaging of stores like Bergdorf Goodman and the like.
Today, Portia spends many of her days crafting with a small group of friends. Luckily for you and me, she has once again agreed to open her doors to others who take after her own heart. If you want to learn how to make something pretty and special with your own hands (and have loads of fun while doing just that!) look no further. At the moment, there are five whole-day workshops to choose from:
- I. Accessories to Give
- II. Fancy Containers
- III. Flower Making
- IV. Creative Packaging
- V. Something for Christmas
Because her teaching style is very personal, slots are very limited and on a first come, first serve basis. Call 896-3839 or send an SMS to 0917-8319390 if you want to know more.
There are days when life can be quite rough and the soul feels weary. At day’s end I go to my big wooden work desk where most everything I need is at the ready, tucked neatly into many drawers. I go to my gift cabinet right by it and pick out something to wrap. For whoever. For anyone I need to thank for something, or someone I just suddenly remember with fondness. I wrap the present with beautiful paper, I seal folds with stickers or old-fashioned wax seals. I write a handwritten note. By the time I carefully knot the bow and attach the card, thankfully the world (and life) again starts to feel like a gentler place.