In early October, long before the giant malls and shopping centers put up their Christmas decor, entrepreneur and style icon Roselie T. Santiago Licup already gears up for the holidays by having her elegant home decorated in the most cheerful ornaments of Christmas.
“I love pink,” she says sweetly while traditional Christmas songs ride the air from her audio system. Blame her predilection for dolling up her home and office on her early training in grooming as a young girl growing up in Candelaria, Quezon.
Strong role models
Roselie learned early on the value of looking good and presentable from her mother, the stylish Nelia de Leon Tolentino of Batangas City. “My mother was strict not in the sense that she wanted to get her way all the time. However, she can be exacting when it comes to good grooming and dressing. Mama saw to it that we were always properly dressed, especially in the presence of visitors. She wanted us to look neat and well dressed,” Roselie recalls.
Roselie now assumes that it was the Spanish in her mother that prompted a high regard for proper decorum and dressing well. Roselie adds, “She was a true ‘fashionista’ even before the word was invented.” She remembers how she was taught to have a “coordinated” look back in the days when it was the fashion to have matching shoes and bags; when accessories were chosen and worn not as a personal statement of style, but to complement one’s outfit. “And Mama would admonish me never to go out of our house not properly made up. In those days, I could never go out without lipstick on!” she tells laughingly.
Or it could also have been the older woman’s belief in the merit of making a good impression and winning people from all walks of life. Thus, despite their mother’s constant advice on the importance of dressing smartly, she consistently reminded Roselie and her brother to be humble, kind and sensible.
“My mama made friends with everybody regardless of their social standing. She was so good in making people at ease that she easily got along with anybody. Hindi s’ya tumitingin sa kalagayan ng tao sa buhay. She had friends in high social circles, but she also developed great relationships with people from the middle and lower classes. She was a fastidious dresser and took great care in looking good, but she never looked down on people,” she informs.
Part of Roselie’s growing up years was spent in San Pablo City where she lived with an aunt, her mother’s sister, who had no child of her own. Unlike her mama, her aunt was a prudent and practical woman. “From my aunt, I learned to be resourceful and to value money. She also taught me the importance of organizing things. She was very meticulous in whatever she did,” Roselie tells. The values she learned from these two strong-willed women guided her as she grew up. Her ability to find joy in life, her gracefulness and poise spring from the lessons she learned from her mother. Her business acumen and the willingness to embrace life were values her aunt imparted to her.
Falling in love and raising a family
After graduating from high school at Tayabas Western Academy in Candelaria, the young Roselie went to Manila and studied at the famed Cora Doloroso Finishing School. She then went back to Candelaria to study Accounting. But on her second year at the university, she fell in love.
“I was always chosen to be the muse of various sports teams. You know how it is when you become the muse – boys start showing interest in you. I was introduced to my husband-to-be by a common friend, and we hit it off immediately. I enjoyed his company because he was very affectionate and thoughtful. In fact, si Mama talaga ang niligawan n’ya. Because of that I realized that he was seriously in love with me.”
The young man was dead set on winning Roselie’s heart that they became sweethearts nine months later. She was all of 19 then, and at 20, she said “Yes” to his proposal to become Mrs. Licup. Roselie wasn’t at all flustered at becoming a wife and mother at such a young age. Part of her unperturbed attitude comes from the fact that her husband was a hardworking man and possessed a good head for business.
The young couple had three children: Cathy, Cindy and Harry. At that time, Roselie embraced her new role as a young mother. Her parenting style? “I’m a sweet mother but I didn’t spoil my children. I was a full time wife and mother so I was able to take care of my children and guide them as they were growing up. I never resorted to spanking but told them firmly what they were not supposed to do,” she reveals.
One thing that Roselie is distinctly proud of about her children is that even if they grew up with househelps, they were never disrespectful, or lazy. She taught them to do house chores at a young age – making sure that they knew how to clean the house, how to put their things in order. “Kailangan talaga marunong silang magtrabaho sa loob ng bahay. That was how I was raised kaya hindi ako umaasa sa mga maids,” she informs.
She adds, “For me, it is a joy and fulfillment to be able to take care of the family, to ensure that my children grow up to be good and responsible human beings. Mama was also living with us at that time and that was enough to make me happy and contented. Hindi ako siguro talaga ambisyosa dahil simple lang ang mga pangarap ko.”
A lady of style
Having imbibed her mother’s sense of style, Roselie developed her fashion principle early. She admits to reading fashion magazines and looking at fashion sites on the Internet to keep abreast of the latest styles in clothes. While she gets fascinated by the glamorous set, she admires no one in particular when it comes to dressing, but sticks to her own style smarts.
“I love clothes that fit well and are made with great attention to detail. Of course a good outfit has to be comfortable. I don’t prefer a particular style because styles keep on evolving and changing. I think that’s what makes fashion really interesting. Designers just keep on inventing and reinventing styles, and the wearer always has a lot of options to choose from,” she describes her principle to dressing well.
Her elegant and relaxed approach to fashion has not escaped the attention of style watchers. Roselie was named as one of Manila’s Best Dressed in 2012. In the following years, this reluctant fashion icon was given the 2013 Manila’s Famous Best Dressed award and the 2014 Manila’s Best Dressed Ambassador award. And from 2015, Roselie has been elevated to Manila’s Best Dressed Hall of Fame category. Now, she has been launched as the first Filipina to be included in the Asia-Pacific’s Best Dressed list that would see admirable ladies together in high-fashion events happening, the organizers say, in Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Guam, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo on rotation basis.
She has graced many formal occasions in luxurious evening ensembles by creative fashion designers such as Lloyd Arceo, Letty Herrera, Eddie Escondo and the late Vergel Cosico both from San Pablo, and Rholand Roxas from Lucena City. She likewise looks up to Eddie Baddeo’s high fashion creations. “I adore Eddie’s clothes because they are meticulously made and fit me perfectly. Eddie even made the prom dress and wedding gown of my daughter Cathy. You see, even when I was young, I preferred clothes that were made just for me. I even had my maternity dresses made especially for me because I wanted to be fashionable and stylish even when I was pregnant,” she discloses.
A most admirable woman
Despite her successes, Roselie remains enthusiastic about life, making her an admirable model of women empowerment. Her active involvement to the goings on around her stems from a well-balanced regimen of physical and spiritual strengthening. She says, “I have to stay healthy to enjoy life and all the blessings God gives me. For me, it means staying away from carbohydrates like rice. I also attend private zumba lessons every Saturday. Of course, I cannot overemphasize the importance of rest: I sleep as much as eight hours a day, and sometimes even more, to recharge.”
Roselie also take organic health supplements and vitamins to make sure that her body gets the proper amount of beneficial nutrients and minerals. Even her coffee, which she buys in Hong Kong, is laced with collagen to delay the effects of aging on her skin.
But the real keys to happiness, says Roselie, are intangible: a deep faith in God, real love for the people she lives and works with, and the ability to forgive. “I take each day both as a blessing to be thankful for, and as an opportunity to be used in the way that God wants. That way, I become at peace with whatever life brings, and happy at the thought that each day brings with it new possibilities. Those are the real secrets to success and happiness,” she imparts.