THE QUINTESSENTIAL SMALL-TOWN GIRL WHO SPREAD HER WINGS AND FOUND HER PLACE IN THE WORLD.
Tracie is a lot of things to different people—juggling many different hats depending on the time and on the day—though she’s best known to the public as the travel director for a2a, a luxury travel company, and creative director for sarsa, the popular restaurant helmed by her brother, chef Jp anglo. in between, she finds time to do a bit of graphic design for coffee-table books and even dabbles in another lifelong passion, painting.
Tracie grew up in Bacolod and went to Manila for university, but only two weeks after graduation, found herself in new York, looking for a school where she could really study what she wanted. “imagine, i was only 19, a small-town girl. and new York was so intimidating…everyone was wearing black! it was the pre-Giuliani era, so NYC was still kinda dangerous,’’ she recalls. she enrolled at parsons school of design to study communication design (“it encompasses everything, not just graphics”). right before graduating, someone from condé nast noticed Tracie’s work at one of the school’s yearly student shows, and offered her a job as a promotions designer. “That was my first job, it was really good. i would do their material for events and charities,” Tracie says. it had other perks: “our offices were directly below Vogue’s, so it was fabulous! we’d go up every time there was a closet sale. it started my addiction to clothes, which is terrible. it’s terrible!” she jokes.
Tracie moved on to do graphic design for other companies, including Kim hastreiter’s paper magazine and freelanced for the then-fledgling Radicalmedia group; she believes she would have stayed forever in the city if not for one life-changing event: 9/11. “would you believe, my mom was visiting me when it happened. we were both terrified, and i was home by the 18th.”
it didn’t take long for Tracie to sort out her life. Back in Manila, she was hired as preview magazine’s first creative director, but then a blind date led to another change in direction. she met Binky dizon, who at the time had left his career in banking and had just returned from sabbatical in africa. Together with Jose cortes, Binky started a2a (then known as asia to africa safaris) as a passion project. “i wasn’t always interested in africa, but on our honeymoon we went to Zimbabwe, and that got me hooked. now we go every year,” shares Tracie, who became a2a’s employee #3.
since a2a’s founding, the number of filipino travelers to africa has grown exponentially; a2a has since expanded its offerings to include south america and antarctica. contrary to expectations, when it comes to luxe getaways, south america is still behind africa, but it’s catching up, says Tracie. “a lot of what we do is very high-end and exclusive, very private, and on those terms, the camps in africa are very posh. we want our clients to have the same experience in latin america. Two years ago, we felt the time was right, latin america was ready. it can offer the same feeling of other worldiness, mind-blowing experiences. patagonia is definitely popular, peru, the amazon. iguazu. easter island.”
Tracie’s travel outlook may be global, but her palate is tuned very close to home. with sarsa, she’s helping more people discover the joys of ilonggo cuisine. “it reflects where we are from, and how we are proud of it. if we don’t, all these ilonggos will kill us! ilonggos are so hard to please. we said we better not screw up the food,” she says. Though sarsa’s been a runaway success, Tracie and her brother have gone back to the drawing board to offer an even more authentic experience. “we’re going to re-do a few things, change the menu, launch a new logo, a few things. That’s what keeps me busy now at sarsa. it’s a different world. i recently went to siargao to learn about Jp’s passion, surfing. it really blew my mind. so you’ll see some of these elements incorporated in the new sarsa. now, i really understand my brother. surfing culture is really a big part of it. i never understood it until i went. now i get it!”
on the subject of personal taste, Tracie paraphrases the quote by arnold Bennett: “Bad taste is better than no taste.” she says, “even if you have bad taste, or it is perceived to be bad, at least you still have taste. You know what it is? it is being true to who you are. That is what’s important. The things you put in your house, the way you dress, it should express who you are… when you just follow what everyone else is doing, it becomes a cliché. i hate clichés. They’re the worst.” «