post-title The doñas in pambahay – Manila Bulletin

The doñas in pambahay – Manila Bulletin

The doñas in pambahay – Manila Bulletin
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How Manila’s Best Dressed dress down in quarantine

There are many reasons to get dressed. For an occasion, for brunch, for a fundraiser, for each other, for ourselves. The pandemic, which has forced us to stay home for the last six months, is another reason. Getting dressed to sit on the couch or to putter around among the plants on the terrace is no different from getting dressed for a ball. If it feels good, wear it, but at home comfort is a plus point because, unlike the usual dress-up occasions of our pre-Covid days, a good time at home doesn’t need to end. 

Here we ask some of the headturners of pre-pandemic Manila’s most glittering events what they wear while the parties are on hold.


I’m comfortable dressing down as I am dressing up. In these times, we’re going “back to the basics.” Dressing down is donning T-shirts and shorts or jogging pants to strengthen resistance, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It gives a feeling of a fresh morning, of adrenaline running through your veins. But I also miss dressing up. Dressing up usually means there is a full night ahead and there are many people to meet and share common interests and insightful conversations with over a glass of good wine. Well, we can also do these nice things dressed down. So, it’s really a matter of making the most of what we have.

Agnes Huibonhoa


In quarantine, I wear more comfortable clothes, less makeup, but I still try my best to continue to fix myself, to continue to look and feel good. Yes, I do miss dressing up, going out on socials but this new normal has also given me the chance to see the things I took for granted and the things that really count. I also realize that one need not have too many material things. What is important is to spend more time with the family and the people I love.

Carla Llarazabal-del Prado


I always try to keep things simple. Even when dressing up, I always take several factors into careful consideration—the occasion, the venue, and the people there. Accessories play a major role. I pick jewelry carefully to enhance or tone down an outfit so, when worn together, they still give me that simple yet elegant look. My typical pambahay would be soft, flowy kaftans and comfortable sundresses. In the colder months, I’d wear pajamas. I miss dressing up nowadays, even if I really enjoy staying home. There are times I just grab my makeup brushes and palettes and put on nice clothes—and that makes me feel good!

Duday Tuason


Generally, most women love to dress up! I am no exception. I love to shop for clothes and shoes in my travels, but this pandemic is beyond our control. It has affected our social lives where dressing up was our normal. It is important also to still continue to dress up—and take care of ourselves, our skin, our wellbeing. Looking good makes us feel good! I also dress up for our constant Zoom meetings! Dressing in comfort has always been a second nature to me, whether in a formal gown or a cocktail dress or a pambahay. Indeed, these are trying times. I pray very hard that this will soon come to pass. Meanwhile, I try to help the less fortunate. We just did a coffee table project to raise needed funds to help the cancer victims who are sometimes also infected with the COVID 19 virus.

Helen Ong


We decided to move back to our Seattle home after four and a half months of quarantine in Manila. I’ve been busy renovating because we haven’t spent much time in this house in 14 years. Living in the US, you pretty much do all the errands so most of the time I wear pambahay that’s always ready to go. In Seattle, one should dress for the weather, which means you can have two or more seasons in a single day. I usually wear a long dress when it’s summer and fall, and then sweatpants and pullovers during winter and spring. But I always have an extra jacket in case it’s chilly outside. Dressing up, especially, when there’s an occasion has become a ritual. I miss the ritual somewhat, but I truly miss my dear friends, the laughter and camaraderie, and the late nights at the lobby of the Peninsula Manila after an event.

Hera Geriene


Even if I’m just at home I still want look good because it makes me feel great. It sets my mood and gives me happiness. I prefer light and colorful pieces in cotton and washable silk fabrics. I have to admit that, in the beginning, I missed dressing up and prepping for a glam evening out. But now that I’m well-adjusted to the new normal, I realize what a joy it is to be stress-free and not have to worry about dressing up and wearing high heels for hours!

Linda Ley


Staying home is relaxing and peaceful. I do look forward to when things will normalize again. But for now, what’s important is keeping healthy and fit and having a positive attitude. Since March, I have not worn any makeup and I have to say it is very refreshing. I don’t really miss dressing up. What I really miss is lunches and dinners with intimate friends. But I believe in keeping yourself looking good not for others but for yourself. In the mornings, I wake up early, put on my shorts and T-shirt, and walk for an hour. Then the rest of the day, I putter around the house tending to my vegetables in a house dress. A good pambahay is something you are comfortable in.

Marivic Vasquez


Loose tank tops and shorts are my favorite go-to attire when just at home. Home is where you let your guards down. It’s a safe haven, a sanctuary where you feel accepted and it’s OK just to be yourself, living among the people you love and the people who love you back. IMHO, there is a silver lining to this pandemic. It has allowed me to be more patient, tolerant, accepting, and loving toward my family. 

Mela Mosqueda Bengzon


These days, it gives us the normalcy of putting together an outfit even if we’ve got nowhere to go. Quarantine fashion is all about lounge wear, loose-fitting casual clothes suitable for relaxing and lying around at home, but still refined. Lounge wear can be simple and minimal and maybe a little bit colorful to add a splash of cheer and whimsy. Comfort is foremost, and lounge wear gives you that without being drab and depressing.

Mellie Ablaza


Home is a place of comfort and love. I make an extra effort to take care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health, not only for myself but for my family. I keep myself active by allotting about two hours for exercise, so I am in full gym attire even at home to make sure I take it seriously.  I follow this with my daily prayer meeting with my Cenacle friends from the Ministry of Santuario de San Antonio Parish via Zoom calls in the afternoon. This is the time I put on my comfortable lounge dress, the closest thing I can do now to dressing up. I definitely miss doing my OOTDs and wearing my heels, accessories, and gowns. The biggest blessing to me now is my pretty baby grandaughter Amarisa. I visit her as much as I can but in full PPE gear, mask, and face shield. Amarisa keeps us all hopeful of brighter things to come.

Nympha Javier Valencia


It’s been a long while since I took my going-out clothes for a spin around town. As of late, I have to admit it has been a refreshing change to dress down. My daily uniform, if you would call it that, consists of a pair of black leggings and a black tee for days I exercise, and pajama sets and lounge wear by Natori and Techie Hagedorn for most days. I truly miss having gettogethers and dinners with family and friends, and that includes dressing up whether for casual or formal events.

Tina Cuevas


I’ve not been out since March 13. It’s been six months, but I’m happy to stay at home! On lockdown, I appreciate my home, my family, my grandchildren. I want to be comfortable while my family and I cook together, order stuff online, accept deliveries. I’m also busy cleaning my cabinets, my study, my papers, trying to discard the things I don’t need. I admit I don’t miss dressing up and putting my make up on.  Sometimes I feel low because I miss my friends, my relatives, especially my daughter in the US. I’m also sad because so many friends are dying. So, I take comfort at home. It’s nice to be home, but not for much longer. I’m just helping our government to keep the numbers down. I’m enjoying Netflix, Zoom, and many others. I don’t need to go out, for now. It’s not going to be forever. It’s taking too long, but I know this pandemic is temporary.

Yoli Ayson