I have this friend Mia.
I met her when I had been blogging for about a year or so, and she gifted me with So True Natural soaps for my kiddos. During that first lunch that we shared in Molito, I remember thinking to myself how quickly that meal went from an introduction to feeling like a catch-up sesh with an old friend.
Flash forward to 2017 where I see my friend team up with HER girlfriends/support group to start sharing some goodness in this very small world that we live in called Manila.
They are all entrepreneurs. They are all mommas. They are all Proudly Filipina.
They also all live in this little bubble which we call “The South.”
Together, they are called Life and South.
This past Saturday, they invited another group of women to learn more about Ito Kish, for their second installment of “Life and South.”
It was an afternoon spent learning the story behind Ito’s brand while noshing at Un Cuenca’s afternoon buffet and sipping on Sangria.
Because Molito was the host of this gathering, guests enjoyed two establishments which I have always seen packed to the brim with people on Friday and Saturday nights.
I was excited to be among the select few guests to enjoy the company of other women and of course to hear more about Ito’s story and his journey as one of the most sought after designers in his field. This handsome fella of 54 years was as down to earth as he was charming. His honesty while sharing his story, his inspiration, and what continues to drive him, left me feeling inspired, and even more in awe of the man that built his brand which has been internationally awarded and lauded as an industry leader.
Apol opened up the very loosely planned program by asking all of us to bring forth our exchange gifts. (Part of the invitation was to bring something that spoke of you, or your business.) I thought this was a brilliant way for each of the ladies to showcase the work that we all do.
We introduced ourselves by presenting an exchange gift for the person who came before us in a lottery style drawing. This was the time for each of us to share snippets of who we are and what we represent. Many of the women are involved in more than one business, endeavor, or cause, so it was really interesting to see the wide range of ladies that this five-some brought together, making it a quintessential networking mixer.
I was happy to share some homemade goodies from my kitchen exemplifying a little bit of who I am. From the apple dish towel signifying that I am from New York, to the three different spreads which can be used for pandesal during brunch, my favorite meal, and the Best Buddies Philippines refrigerator magnet, I knew that whomever received my exchange gift would certainly have created a small understanding of who I am, and where I am from. (Shucks. I realize only now, that I didn’t take a photo!)
After the gift exchanges, we were given time to mix and mingle with the other ladies in attendance. Seeing as how I was seated with some pretty amazing women already, I knew that the rest of the women would certainly offer me more insight and tidbits of knowledge than I wouldn’t normally have access to.
When everyone settled in for their late lunch, Apol invited Ito to share parts of his story. With the casual and warm program style, and from what I gather that Apol and Ito are close friends, it started out as more of a question and answer forum.
From Ito’s sharing, I felt like I could put together some really important principles that I was reminded of while listening to his journey.
Never forget where you came from.
Ito really began at his very humble beginning. He shared what it was like growing up in a small town where his mother was a elementary school teacher, and his father a security guard in the local high school. He shared what it was like growing up in a family where gender roles and stereotypes were alive and well and honored. He shared how he found his creativity as an escape to the unhappy parts of his childhood.
This creativity would later be fueled and furthered when he landed a job at The Cultural Center of the Philippines as an usher.
Surround yourself with people you can learn from.
This part of Ito’s story reminded me of my own. The Cultural Center of the Philippines opened up a whole new world for Ito. He experienced culture and met people whom he said he would have never have been given the opportunity to meet and this expanded more than just his horizons. It reminded him that while he may have come from simple beginnings, he had the power and the choice to bring himself to a place where he could be proud of all of his successes in life.
When I was younger, I was given different opportunities that expanded my horizons as well. Throughout each of these opportunities I grew into a different person, and my ideals changed. The people who I chose to surround myself with changed as well. Things shifted. And I evolved.
It’s all in the sharing of our stories.
Sharing is CARING.
Ito shared this part of his story and how much he grew through this job. He knew it wasn’t going to be his career, and it certainly wasn’t easy. But it provided him an opportunity to grow. To expand. To become more than he was before.
If you are like me, you are looking for opportunities to do the same. I am a self-proclaimed “work in progress.” I do not know everything about anything. I am constantly changing, and looking for new opportunities to grow and make the most of this journey that we are on.
I do that by asking others about THEIR stories.
Everyone has a story.
I was humbled and inspired by Ito’s story.
Therefore, his story somehow inspires my own story…and hopefully, yours, if you are reading this post.
You define your version of SUCCESS.
I used to visit Ito’s shop in the LRI building. I loved going into his shop for inspiration. Somehow, I have had this notion that if I have small children, there are just some things that don’t belong in my home. I love pretty things, but there is a practical side to me which I cannot ignore. Especially, after having children.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to visit his storefront in Greenbelt. But whenever I would visit the LRI building I would make it a point to browse in Kish before leaving, to look for different ways I could change up my living space. Truth is, Nino is the one with the eye for interior decor, while I feel so much more at home in the kitchen and setting the tablescape for the evening. I love all the different ways I can dress up my table and make my food more appealing, even if that just means serving it on a pretty plate.
So one things that surprised me when Ito was sharing the different parts of his story that surrounded the opening and closing of his different storefronts, was not whether or not Ito enjoyed having partners, or whether or not he was seen as an in demand Interior Designer. “Making it” in the industry can be interpreted by so many different people in so many different ways.
Success for Ito comes in providing inspiration for others. Even after he has decided to close the doors to his storefront, he still continues to do what he loves, offering others the opportunity to make their homes beautiful and comfortable in their own eyes.
Which leads me to my next reminder from Ito.
Surround yourself with what makes you happy.
When Ito was younger, he would earn a little extra money by making yema to sell to his classmates. After one particularly trying day, Ito really just wanted to feel better about his surroundings. He came from a home where his mom was the sole bread winner and she provided for the family on her meager public school teacher’s salary.
Because Ito had earned and saved his own money from his makeshift yema making business, he bought pastel wrapping paper and proceeded to make his living space something he would be happy to come home to. So he “wallpapered” the interior of his very modest home with this pretty pastel wrapping paper and he knew then, at that young age of 11 or 12, that he would find a way to inspire others to change the way they lived too.
So, if I want take charge of my own happiness in my relationships, my parenting, my business, my advocacy, and in my life there is one last thing that Ito shared, which I think is one of most important messages that he shared.
Calculated risk is a necessity.
I may have taken this quote out of context.
Sorry. Not sorry.
But if I am to be reminded of some life lesson, or even morsels of insight, I must remove the “business” aspect of this actual quote that came from a conversation that Ito was having with Apol.
While I do believe in taking calculated risks in business, I also believe that these same risk taking characteristics should be applied in life.
You know how we take calculated risks in LIFE?
Step outside your comfort zone.
But wait. Does that mean I have to leave the south more often?
After Ito’s inspiring talk, we all moved next door to Ralph’s Wine and Spirits.
These Life and South ladies really know how to show their guests a good time.
My notes were not as in depth after the third glass of wine served us by Ronnie (Ralph’s brother) and Adie, but I can tell you, that I have a new found appreciation for wine because of Ronnie’s elaborate explanations about grapes, what regions each bottle was from, and what food we can serve with each bottle of fermented fruit.
Note to self: I would like to repeat this part of the event over just one more time…this time taking better notes, perhaps pictures of each wine label, and perhaps even what to serve, so that my take home tidbits could have at least been shared with Nino, as I know he would like to learn more about wine too.
Instead, Nino and I (with the kids) had dinner in another Molito favorite restaurant of ours, where I continued with some more happy vibes (and a little bit of sake) calling it an early night, so I was well rested for the next day.
Thanks Life and South for an afternoon well spent!
If you want to find out more about what these lovely ladies are up to follow them on Instagram.