EXCLUSIVE: For The First Time Ever, Gretchen Barretto And Daughter Dominique Cojuangco Appear Together On The Covers Of Metro And Metro.Style
There’s no excitement like the excitement of waiting for a star to show up to a cover shoot. The creative director surveys each mini location like a painter assessing his canvas or a super model assessing her pout in a mirror.
It’s not a hard location to shoot in, it has absolutely no bad angles, and it just happens to be the events place du jour: Casa Juico (Las Casas in Quezon City). The latest pet project of the Acuzars, the opulent casa is part Great Gatsby, part Versailles and part Marcos-era Malacañang with its murals depicting rural Filipino scenes in an artistocratic, art deco mash-up. There’s really no better place to shoot Gretchen Barretto and her daughter, Dominique Cojuangco—they’d fit right in, silver spoon glamour and all. But right now the suspense is killing us. They’re still too early to be fashionably late, but the excitement in the air just won’t let up.
La Greta and Child
Suddenly, one hears the elegant roll of Louis Vuitton luggage on the marble floor. La Greta, it seems, has arrived—ambled up the staircase to the second floor the one minute your back was turned, straight into hair and makeup.
The 22-year-old Dominique arrived shortly after, and both have slipped upstairs to be prepped for the shoot. No one can answer your question as to what time they can be interviewed and you’re prepared to wait the entire day, armed with a fully charged smartphone and a liter of bottled water. But you won’t wait the entire day. Dominique will see you now, says her young and handsome handler.
Gretchen and Dominique share the same massive room, but are being prepped on opposite sides of it. They’re sitting on high makeup chairs, in front of massive mirrors dotted with marquee lights. Both have rollers in their hair and are in various levels of preparedness. Not that either one needs much preparation—both are natural beauties, fair of skin and dark of hair, like any heroine in a romance novel—only this isn’t a novel. This is real life.
On Dominique: Dress, Azucar by Arleen Sipat; polka-dot top, CH Carolina Herrera; earrings, H&M
On Gretchen: Emerald green shirt dress by CH Carolina Herrera
The Fun and Fashionable Daughter
Dominique has just had her makeup done, but her hair is still up in rollers. Her makeup is flawless and follows the no-make-up make-up look that’s so popular these days. The marquee lights bring out her light eyes. She’s polite, pretty and polished—very much a product of doting parents and a privileged upbringing (in the best possible way, more on that later).
Educated at Istituto Marangoni in London, Dominique is humble but articulate, young but wise beyond her years. Her parents believed in giving her the freedom to express herself, and her self-expression manifested itself in her love for fashion. “I was always that kid doodling at the back of my notes and inside my notebooks,” she says. “Luckily for me, my teachers knew that it was my way of learning—I could listen and doodle, and that would help me process.”
Her mom gave her the most important fashion playground of all—her own posh closet. “My mom has always allowed me to play in her closet, and at a young age, she allowed me to style my own clothes,” she adds.
Dominique had a clear love for fashion very early on. She recounts, laughingly, how at two years old, she had to make an emergency trip to the hospital but wouldn’t leave the house unless she was allowed to wear her Rajo Laurel baby doll dress. “I needed to get a dextrose but I wouldn’t leave unless I was in that green Rajo Laurel gown,” she says, with a laugh. Dominique also used to go to kindergarten wearing costumes—until her teachers gently told her mom that she couldn’t do it anymore. “It distracted the children,” she says. “They really believed I was Minnie Mouse!”
It’s at this point that I hear a crisp voice calling Dominique from across the room. “Dominique!” Gretchen calls out jokingly. “What are you telling them?” Dominique laughs. She isn’t the type to call out to someone from across the room; she’d probably sidle up and link arms with you.
It seems that the two are very close. So close they have coffee together in the morning and chats on Dominique’s couch every night. They’re Debbie Fisher-Carrie Fisher close; Lorelei Gilmore-Rory Gilmore close. I’d-go-to-hell-and-back-for-you close.
Theirs isn’t the closeness of like-minded people, however, it’s the perfect complementary closeness of opposites. Each one is defined by the other, but each one also brings out the other in the best possible way. When asked which of her mom’s traits she’d like to have, Dominique says: “I wish I had her confidence. I feel like she is who she is. And I like how she’s unapologetic about it. She lives life to the best of her ability, and that’s what she tries to instill in me.”
It’s at this point that Dominique sheds her humor, goes quiet, turns serious. “My mom’s had to be brave for me a lot.” Her eyes turn watery, but her mascara doesn’t smear. “I think I’m going to cry,” she says, “But, like, I really love her so much. I’m really grateful to her.”
Azucar dress by Arleen Sipat and earrings by H&M
The Bold and Iconic Mother
In a few short minutes, it’s time for the first shoot. The two walk gracefully down the staircase to the foyer—Gretchen in an emerald green dress that’s cinched at her enviably small waist; Dominique in a loose yellow number with polka-dot sleeve accents that bare her shoulders. Dominique laughs at the camera while Gretchen flashes a Mona Lisa smile. There are about fifty people in the room—editorial team, creative director, photographer, videographers, handlers, makeup artists and hairstylists, production crew. Other people would have frozen up, paralyzed by all the attention. Not these two—they shine in the spotlight and revel in each other’s presence. Gretchen looks at her daughter’s laughing face adoringly. “When you’re young, you can laugh,” she says. To which her daughter quickly replies: “The more I laugh now, the more I can’t laugh later.” It’s this light-hearted banter that makes it apparent to the casual spectator how close these two really are. The professionals click away while the amateurs hold up their smartphones. At this moment, these two are the only two stars in the Philippines who matter.
After this first shoot, the two walk up the staircase again to prepare for the next one. Again, I’m prepared to wait the whole afternoon out before the interview with Gretchen, but after a few short minutes, her handler, Bettina, tells me that she’s ready for the interview.
Gretchen Barretto’s been up to a lot these days—the actress has recently added a new designation to her roster: philanthropist. In her Instagram account, she’s a granter of wishes—people are surprised to find this out about her, but it’s there on social media for all to see. Gretchen grants sundry requests, from luxury items to essentials like milk, wheelchairs, even chemo cycles. The jaded among us think it’s a publicity stunt, but those in her inner circle know that Gretchen’s been at the doing good bit for years.
She’s also professional to the core—when we sit down for the interview, she assesses all the questions coolly, from a distance. Unlike her daughter, she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. But she’s crazy about the girl—this much is obvious. Gretchen is well-aware that her daughter’s had an upbringing worlds away from her own. She says that Dominique is the softer one—the one who bristles when she reads mean things on social media. But she’s in her twenties and she has to learn to deal with the world. “P’wede na, at twenty two,” Gretchen says. “When I was eighteen, I was alone and I had to swallow up the mocking of the press. I had to earn, to stay up, to pay the bills, rent and electricity. That’s a lot. I am who I am today because I had to go through that.” Like any parent who wants to see her child thrive in the world, Gretchen’s best gift to her daughter is experience. “Just like I told her, ‘you have to get hurt to learn.’ That is the only way. Experience is the only way. I’m not going to protect her from gossip or bashers. I’m going to watch her deal with it.”
There are very few people who’ve learned to emerge victorious from experience like Gretchen. Manila is an unforgiving city. “The minute you get to Manila, somebody says this and that, people talk and fabricate stories,” Gretchen says. Dominique is young enough to get affected by these stories, which leads me to ask Gretchen what her biggest fear is for her daughter. “You know,” she says, “I never entertained fear. When she first got back from London, a few months ago, somebody said something, and I’m like, what the hell. You know Manila wants to put you down. They want to see you cry. People pretend to be your friend. It’s a nasty world,” Gretchen says, without a flinch in her eyes or a catch in her throat. Known for her cutting wit, Gretchen is teaching her daughter how to be a survivor. “I tell her, ‘No, Dominique, when people tell you this and that, tell them to f**k off.’”
As the day progresses, it becomes more and more evident that both mother and child are charmed and beautiful enough to tell a bad world the most irresistible of expletives.
On Dominique: Beige and black knit top, Zara; floral ball skirt and earrings, H&M / On Gretchen: Two-tone pink and orange silk satin bodysuit and rogue wide-legged flared trousers, Zara; ball skirt by Marianne Perez; pearl earrings, CH Carolina Herrera / On Dominique: Black and white plaid dress, CH Carolina Herrera / On Gretchen: Cobalt long dress by Ica Serafica; mustard wide-legged trousers by Zara; pearl long strand necklace, CH Carolina Herrera / On Dominique: Azucar dress by Arleen Sipat; earrings, H&M / On Gretchen: Fuchsia pink gown with bow detail and pearl earrings, both CH Carolina Herrera / On Dominique: Pink floral gown, Vania Romoff
Produced by Dominique Cojuangco and Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Cyrus Panganiban
Creative Direction by Dominique Cojuangco and Chookie Cruz
Sittings Editors: Kate Paras, Geolette Esguerra, and Chris Lopez
Styling by Rain Dagala from Team RainXEm (Gretchen) and Myrrh Lao To (Dominique)
Gretchen’s hair and makeup by Dennis Santos
Dominique’s makeup by Owen Sarmiento and hair by Mycke Arcano
Production design by The Event Studio by Gideon Hermosa
Shot on location at Las Casas – 134 Roosevelt Ave., San Francisco, Del Monte, QC
Special thanks to Gerard Gotladera of W, The Hearty Onion (@theheartyonion on Instagram) and Stories by LilyPad (@storiesbylilypad on Instagram)