Katrina Ponce-Enrile: Looking and feeling fabulous at 51

- Tetta Matera () - May 18, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I have met many people in my life but few have left a good, lasting impression on me. One of them is Katrina Ponce-Enrile.

And it’s not because of her last name or the influence that it carries, but rather it is because of her genuine warmth, generosity and joie de vivre that have stayed with me for the almost three decades I have known her.

I first met Katrina when I was 17 years old, a newbie in the fashion industry just like her. She was launching Options, a fashion brand she created for women with discriminating taste and she asked me and France Dionisio to model her designs for an editorial. Our first photo shoot was like a picnic; we packed ourselves along with Katrina’s closest friends Jackie Aquino, Randy Ortiz and Tonichi Nocum in a van, with the clothes, shoes and accessories and food, laughing and listening to disco music all the way to the photographer’s studio somewhere on Katipunan Avenue.

Political royalty: The daughter of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Katrina wears this Michael Kors khaki silk jersey dress with snakeskin details and Oscar dela Renta sling backs with understated style. Photos by MARK NICDAO

I remember having such great fun that day. Katrina took such good care of us and made us feel at ease. She never once acted like political royalty and she treated everyone around her with respect and courtesy. These traits endeared Katrina to people in the fashion industry and defined the atmosphere at all the rehearsals, shows and photo shoots for Options.

Everyone loved to work with Katrina.

Today, while she is no longer in the fashion business, her generous spirit and love for life is a big part of who she is as a daughter, a mother, a friend, and president and CEO of JAKA Investment Corporation.

At 51 years old, accomplished both in her personal and professional life, Katrina looks fresh and young (sans surgery) and continues to live life with much joy and hope for better things to come for her family and for our country.

THE PHILIPPINE STAR: You had a successful fashion line called Options in the ‘80s, when and why did you give it up?

Fierce Fashion!: Katrina pairs the dress with another McQueen number, this time a beaver fur-collared coatdress and Stella McCartney shoes as her beloved dog, Reyna joins in.

KATRINA PONCE ENRILE: I operated Options for a little over 10 years and set it up just out of undergraduate school in UP for clients who wanted one-of-a-kind pieces — not couture but also not mass-produced. It was a period in my life when I wanted to delve into my creative side and express the entrepreneurial spirit in me. It was work, but it was also fun and rewarding because with Options, we were able to establish a set of loyal clientele. I was personally involved and totally immersed in every aspect of the boutique and a decade of Options taught me many lessons in running a business. But, as fate would have it, the family business beckoned which required more time, energy and dedication so I had to give up Options.

I remember you as a big Madonna fan when I first met you, do you still like her music? Has your taste in music changed or do you still consider the ‘80s music the best of all time?

I would consider myself more of a “discotheque baby” than a Madonna fan; she was the biggest thing at that time, but my real love was the music I grew up to, the ‘70s and the ‘80s swinging disco music for obvious reasons — I love to dance! Today, my choice of music is not very specific, but I cannot relate to heavy metal; I listen to R&B, pop, Motown, Broadway, disco or what is referred to as “club” music these days — the music my children like.

Your parents, Juan Ponce Enrile and Cristina Enrile, are very influential people. What was it like growing up in a household with parents with that kind of stature?

I was brought up in a very normal environment. I played with the other kids in the village, went to the park, rode my bike and had pets at home. My parents treated me like any other child developing into her adolescence, at least normal in my point of view. It was only after I received threats and almost got kidnapped that my father assigned bodyguards to watch over me.

I had a rather difficult time adjusting in my teenage years because of that kidnapping attempt; my parents became understandably strict and more concerned for my personal welfare. While other girls my age were allowed to go out with friends or on dates by themselves, I always had to be accompanied by a yaya, a driver and the bodyguards. It was always a shock for anyone who took me out. I did not rebel but wish I had more freedom.

Layered perfection: This three-piece Rick Owens black cotton knit coatdress ensemble paired with crystals and stud embellished sandals by Dolce and Gabbana spells chic.

Would you consider yourself a “daddy’s girl”?

It would be a misconception if anyone labeled me “daddy’s little girl.” Truth be told, my father treated both my brother and I equally and fairly. He never played favorites and he never spoiled us; my close friends and those who know me intimately can attest to that.

The ‘80s was a very important decade for the Philippines and your father played a big role in the overthrow of then President Marcos. How do you remember your life back then? Was there ever a time when your parents contemplated sending you abroad for safety?

There were so many socio-political events in our country during the ‘80s and the assassination of Ninoy Aquino was a crucial point in our nation’s history; it also hastened the downfall of then President Marcos. Our family faced many dangers at that time because some quarters in the then administration perceived us as critical of the government while other groups thought of us as Marcos loyalists. It was a rather odd predicament to be in and we were constantly hounded and surrounded by intrigue; both camps were restless and suspicious of us.

My father is currently writing a book so I will not preempt him and divulge what he has to say about that time in his political and personal life. Suffice it to say, that was a difficult and trying time for our family and if I remember correctly, we even considered moving to Canada.

What was your first foreign trip and which do you consider your most favorite trip with your parents?

My first foreign trip with my parents was to Hong Kong; it was most memorable because it was my first trip outside of the Philippines and my first time to ride a plane. I remember a riot unfolded and I ate something really bad because I kept throwing up! I rode the walawala to the Floating Restaurant and had my first taste of fried oysters, which I think gave me the bad stomach.

You are now actively involved in your family business. What position do you hold in the company?

I am the president and CEO of JAKA (short for Jackie and Katrina, the siblings’ names) Investment Corporation, the holding company of the JAKA Group. The Group is composed of some 11 companies and subsidiaries with business interests in financial management, property development and management, industrial forest plantation management, safety match manufacturing, food processing and services, distribution and logistics, security services and information technology.

Moda Italiana: Katrina Ponce-Enrile goes Italian with this A.L.C. blue cotton jersey with rouching and python skin trimmings and Michael Kors ballet flats.

What is the biggest challenge you face running a big organization?

Like any president and CEO, the biggest challenge is to keep the organization on its toes all the time, upholding our corporate mission/vision statements while keeping an open mind to change.

Your eldest daughter Kara just got engaged. How did you react to the news?

Kara got engaged last Dec. 23 and will be getting married this September. Her boyfriend accompanied her to Manila for the first time and it was here that he asked for her hand in marriage. I was really happy when Kara told me about the proposal and she showed me her engagement ring, but unlike my mom, I did not cry! I was just really so happy that I texted all my friends only to find out that I sent them an empty text! My son JR is also getting married early next year, 2012, so it is going to be a hectic time for our growing family.

Have you found your true love?

Yes, I have finally found my true love, James Kocher. There’s a lot of fire and passion simultaneously. Past relationships have taught me so much. For how can you find your heart if you don’t lose it first? I’m not a wimp when it comes to love, I take risks. I found somebody who will push back yet treats me well. Our love is not only real, it’s dynamic and this keeps me excited. He, too, is ambitious yet sympathetic and supportive of my personal goals and ambitions. He is strong enough to stand up to me and smart enough to put me first, for I have to be the first and only woman in his life.

When was the last time you got your heart broken?

Early this year by a person I thought was a very dear friend of mine…perhaps we are still friends, but only time will tell.

I asked several of your closest friends like Jackie Aquino about your friendship and he said with fondness that you influenced him personally and opened quite a few doors for him and many of your other friends, that you are generous and loyal and you shared with all of them your love for family, good food and laughter. What do you treasure most about your friends?

You know, friends come and go, but those who have withstood the many years of ups and downs with me are those who have remained my friends. Like me, they believe that friendship, like any other relationship, is a nurturing and evolving process. I hold especially dear those who have understood and appreciated the complexities of our personalities, strengths and frailties and have continued to stay loyal, supportive and authentic to the core.

What is the biggest misconception that people have of you, if any?

Asian-Euro chic: Katrina Ponce-Enrile dons an Alexander Wang knit dress and an interwoven distressed knit vest by Rodarté, a collector’s piece with suede high-heel sandals by Pierre Hardy.

That I am a spoiled brat and the daughter of a rich and powerful politician; I suppose that goes with the territory. Seriously speaking though, there seems to be this image of me, of someone who is alienated and unable to relate to the lives, sufferings and aspirations of the masses. What most people don’t know is that I have been actively involved in helping the constituents and ordinary citizens of Cagayan Province (my father’s province) especially during calamities and this is a personal and lifetime mission. As director of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, I have been closely working with the Cagayan townsfolk to meet their needs and solve their problems.

Is your parenting style similar to your parents? What is the most important lesson your parents taught you and what is the first and most important lesson you have taught your children?

My parents had a distinctive style of raising us and I, too, have my own, but we share the belief that the fabric woven into our parenting roles must contain the same Christian values and traditions that have defined the Castañer-Ponce Enrile family members for generations. I became a mother at a very young age and it is a challenge to raise four children in varying stages of their lives, but I have managed to instill in them the importance of treating their fellowmen with respect and dignity, to be sensitive to their individual plights and circumstance and to be God-fearing at all times.

How do you spend your weekends, vacation or your free time?

My weekends are pretty laidback. They consist mostly of movie dates or dining out with my family. Our vacation plans pretty much involve visiting friends and relatives who live abroad, this is our way to bond together. We also do touristy stuff like seeing new places or famous attractions, but one priority during our travel is to savor the food and exotic dishes of the places we visit. This, in part, has contributed to expanding my knowledge in putting up several restaurants and catering businesses.

Do your daughters share your style fashion? Do they still come to you for fashion advice?

Each one of my daughters has a unique sense of style, but we all like to be very casual; on days out and at home, we are a jeans, shorts and T-shirt type of family.

Your mother is famous for her very elegant style. Has your mother passed on any of her fashion items to you?

How I wish! Unfortunately for me, I am not her size, my mother is a size 0.

Where do you like to shop for your clothes, here or abroad?

I used to enjoy shopping both here and abroad, but nowadays, I get overwhelmed with the many choices I see whenever I enter a department store that I end up leaving as soon as I arrive! So I have opted to shop online at my leisure, if at all.

You seem to have a lot of Alexander McQueen pieces, is he your favorite international designer?

Yes, I love Alexander McQueen along with Rodarté and Rick Owens because the quality of their clothes is superb. I also like their cut, finish, fit and designs.

What about local designers, do you wear any of them?

Of course, I definitely do! I wear Randy Ortiz, Cary Santiago, Cesar Gaupo, Inno Sotto, Rhett Eala, Dennis Lustico and Rajo Laurel.

I noticed how most of your wardrobe is composed of monochromatic, neutral colors. How would you describe your fashion style?

I love color but just not on my clothes; the monochromatic shades of black, gray, white and neutral tones that comprise my wardrobe allow me to pick out any dress without having to think much about it; no fuss, no “hows” and “whats.”

I like to wear clothes with simple lines, sometimes bordering on the architectural with precise designs and execution. My style is not the stereotypical feminine way of dressing; in fact, some might consider my taste and approach to fashion as somewhat masculine.

Because I love Japanese designers and the way they structure their clothes, I look forward to Japanese fashion making a huge comeback!

Modern family: Katrina with her brood of four son JR, daughters Kara, Kristen and Kristiana — and husband James Kocher. “He is strong enough to stand up to me and smart enough to put me first, for I have to be the first and only woman in his life.”

Big bold, couture-type accessories made from semi-precious stones are all the rave these days, are you a big fan of them or are you more of a fine jewelry kind of girl?

I do accessorize but not often and it depends on the style of the outfit I am wearing. I own fine jewelry, but I am neither a big fan nor do I adorn myself with them. I also never wear nail polish and I like to keep my nails short! I am more of a shoe person, I would say.

You mentioned that you hardly wear makeup, is that part of how you take care of your skin? What is your skincare regimen?

I don’t really follow a strict skincare regimen because sometimes I forget to put moisturizer on my face for days, but I use Cosmelan, a facial care line from Spain. I also have an infusion of concentrated oxygen serum into my skin once a week and I do this together with my mom.

What about exercise and diet, do you do either?

I started doing Core Kinetics several months ago and because I have a very busy schedule, I had the equipment installed at home so I can work out during my free time. I do one-one sessions twice a week with a certified Core Kinetics instructor; on my first session, I told the instructor that the program seemed easy. He just chuckled at me and continued to give me the exercises as planned. For the next five days after that initial session, my legs were shaking and my body was sore! It took some time for me to adjust to the program, but I am very happy with the results.

In January 2011, I began the Cohen Diet that consists mainly of protein, vegetables and fruits for the first few months. The key to the diet is to weigh the food you eat and take meals with five-hour intervals; since starting the diet I have lost 36 pounds. Now that I am in the middle of the “losing weight phase,” I have embarked on the “refilling” part of the program whereby certain foods are reintroduced slowly into my diet to see which ones I can keep eating and will contribute to my continued weight loss. The great thing about the Cohen Diet is it is supervised and evolves as you lose weight to make sure that you are doing it in a healthy, sustainable way.

At 51, a woman goes through menopause, I know the experience is different for every woman.

You know menopause isn’t just a physically changing experience but a psychologically altering experience as well. To be honest, I didn’t necessarily feel that I aged faster, but what it allowed me to do was listen more to my body and acknowledge my physical limitations and learn to work around them. I have actually become more patient and mellow, which I think are good things.

I was at your 50th birthday party last year and I saw how happy you were, dancing and enjoying the company of your family and friends; how would you describe your life today?

Wedding belles: Bride-to-be Kara with mom Katrina and sisters Kristiana and Kristen

Pardon the cliché, but I did learn from my mistakes. This has given me the chance to become a good parent and because of this, I have a great relationship with all my kids. I have become a better person also in that I realize feelings are correlated with other things so I find happiness and contentment where I can get them without leaving room for complacency in my life. I have definitely matured but for me, maturity is a work in progress. 

What makes you angry?

Betrayal of any kind.

What makes you happy?

My family and friends, the ability to laugh at myself, great conversations, seeing a smile on someones face, good food, my orchid garden and my 14 adorable dogs.

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