Sunday Lifestyle

Our branded lives

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star

When I worked in advertising almost 20 years ago, we didn’t talk about branding. For us the important word was “positioning.” How do you position your product in a consumer’s mind so she/he remembers it, tries it, likes it, then becomes loyal to it? But things change all the time. Markets — that’s you, me and everyone who buys products — always change, too. Once, we were not allowed to mention brands except in advertising. Today, there are so many brands that one cannot write honestly without mentioning them.

 My husband and I have all the time to spend together. What do we do? Where do we go? To Cherry Supermarket, because it is the one nearest to us; to Hypermart, the branch that’s farther down Shaw Boulevard; to Robinson’s Magnolia, where we also occasionally go to the movies; and to Hi Tops, where you can buy a whole assortment of things. How can I write this without mentioning brands?

 Cherry is like a small mall. We have our clothes altered there. We frequent Watson’s. I’m beginning to like Watson’s more than Mercury because it looks more organized and it is prettier. I end up buying my cosmetics there. See, I have changed my cosmetic habits. I now buy my cosmetics at either supermarkets or drugstores. Once, when I was young and earning enough, I used Shiseido and Clinique. I used to use cosmetics from The Face Shop because I found the Korean lines fascinating. But their darkest face powder was too light for me. 

One day, when I was shopping in the supermarket at Magnolia, I saw an Ever Bilena compact called Matte Oriental and it looked like the shade I was looking for. I bought one. It’s priced very nicely. Since then I have moved almost entirely into Ever Bilena.  Let me say this: I am very satisfied with both the quality and the price, so I’m now a loyal consumer.

 Watson’s is a good source of Ever Bilena, shampoos that are not the ones frequently advertised but are beautifully packaged and displayed and the hair dye I use that I put on myself Bigen Speedy. That’s how cheap my cosmetics are.

 I also like the restaurants at Cherry — King Chef and Bread and Broth — but my husband isn’t too enthusiastic about either so we just go when we’re truly hungry. Speaking of restaurants, Le Petit Souffle, on the second floor of Megamall, is one of my favorites. I love their shoestring potatoes and a dessert that’s called something like Burnt Cheesecake. So good. When we were last there I looked up and saw on the third floor the restaurant called Abe. Suddenly I felt a return of my appetite for their Binukadkad na Pla-Pla, fried tilapia served with balo-balo and mustard leaves. Balo-balo is a fermented sort of relish that I find delicious. So one day we went to Abe for a late lunch. Suddenly I was swept away with memories.

 Abe was what most people called Emilio Aguilar Cruz — a writer, a painter and the father of once-famous restaurateur Larry Cruz. I have a portrait painted by Abe. Larry and I became close friends when I had just returned from the US. A big group of us would drive up to Antipolo to lunch at a Swiss restaurant, Vieux Chalet, owned by a Swiss, who was later murdered. At that time Larry had many restaurants. His first Filipino café was Café Adriatico. He had a talent for setting up restaurants that were simple, classy, but truly Filipino in menu and ambience. They were very charming. There was Bistro Remedios, Prego, an Italian restaurant, and several floors above there was a dance place where a few classmates and I met with our Ateneo peers for a haphazard reunion. My cousin Rufo Gonzalez was part of that group. Rufo is dead now.

 In Makati he opened Larry’s Bar, a place I loved. It was on the second floor, had big glass windows and lots of leafy trees outside. I remember writing about it and calling it “An Almost Perfect Bar.” Let’s not forget Fely J in Greenbelt 5. That is a tribute to Larry’s mother, while Abe is a tribute to his father. I even remember teaching one of Larry’s young sons to write. I am sure that little boy is a grown man now.

 Since then, so much has changed. Some brands are well established, but we have all grown old. Larry took sick and passed away. His excellently branded restaurants, thankfully, lived on, now managed by his children. Now the LJC Group’s successful restaurants have become, for me anyway, a place that serves wonderful Filipino food. And every time an old friend like me drops in for a meal she finds herself awash with memories of friendship, laughter and good times. I will always remember Larry Cruz and his father Abe. They are among my favorite brands.



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