09 February 2015

A Discussion With. Thysz Estrada

I sat down with Thysz Estrada and talked about her advocacies, passions, and plans in three different places: Caution Hot MNL in Maginhawa St., Cubao, X and in her family home in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. There’s that hint of familiarity when you meet Thysz Estrada. Perhaps because you’ve once went all the way to Maginhawa to try Moonleaf’s Milktea, or maybe because of that strong support you see from her when it comes to art, food, and culture. But there’s so much more to know about Tita Thysz.

Hi Thysz! Please introduce yourself to Purveyr’s readers. 

Hey, I’m Thysz Estrada. I’m originally from Bukidnon but a transplant here in Manila. That was since I studied in UP and went to work. For almost four years I have worked with Moonleaf, which eventually became my signature.

While there, I was able to become a big sister or a Tita to a lot of Manila’s bright young creatives. 

Why is it that everywhere you go, it seems like you know a lot of people?

When I’m out and I purposely want to see friends, be somewhere I know I’ll have a lot of friends, more than anything; it’s always about having a good time. I’m a very social person. I love seeing my friends and when I’m there, it’s not because of business or something. It’s because of that relevant connection within that setting, that feeling about wanting to have a good time.

How about at times when you are alone, can you describe yourself, how you are?

If it’s just me, my mind turns into a dynamo. I think a lot, about many things. There’s something in my head that cannot stop thinking and thinking. That’s why I always say it’s dangerous when I’m alone. Though I can be alone, and there are times when I am happy by myself discovering things on my own. My pace of thinking gets faster when I’m alone compared to when I’m with friends. I can say that I am introspective whenever I’m alone.

How is the transition from being around Moonleaf's culture to going to a corporate setting?

Moonleaf was a trial-and-error process. My goal with Moonleaf before was to make this amazing community brand and gather people and make them feel like they have a home. I’ve felt home in so many places, before Moonleaf I hung out a lot in Cubao. The old Mogwai for me then was home; Today x Future was home; the entire Cubao X was home. Then when I had the opportunity to have something like that in Maginhawa, I really took it. I made sure that I had a community. Having been with Moonleaf was also the reason why I have a lot of friends, know a lot of people, because I tried to strive to have a community like that for Moonleaf.

Moonleaf was something new, frantic even, wherein you need to make people understand the concept of a teashop in a coffee drinking country. After being with Moonleaf for four years, I wanted to slow down. So I tried it out on my own. 2013 was a big whole break. I became a PR and marketing freelancer. But I lacked the discipline of being a freelancer, and I realized I still needed order. After what I’ve considered a long vacation, I felt the need to have a corporate job. I applied, and got in.

Well now, I have an office job. It’s something that would require just a little bit of brainwork. It’s something anyone can do. It’s just that it has a communication thing and you have to be good in talking to a lot of people. Nevertheless, it’s a change of pace.

Can you walk us through your advocacy towards the LGBT Community?

Definitely, with regard to gender and sex issues, it’s more of an umbrella thing. LGBT rights are of course human rights.

Living as a trans woman, I think that education and removing the ignorance and stigma is more important to me than any kind of activism. The only way people will understand us is to share to them what you know.

That’s why I always share and talk to friends who want to know more about transgenderism, gender and sexuality issues. So I educated myself, read a lot about it, and talked to people who have studied it, and also through my own experiences; but I’m not qualified in any terms or whatever. But I’m living it that’s why I’ll defend my right to live, to be a part of this world. Also, I want to be somebody whom you can talk to about this.

Advocacy in that sense is empowering others who feel the same way. It’s not the “Ra! Ra! Ra!” but a very interpersonal kind of advocacy.

What's your story with writing?

At first I wrote about fashion, and I love fashion! I started a blog before, where I got to know the people I know now in fashion. Just talking about collections and reacting to them, like short reviews.

Writing about food and fashion is almost the same. It uses a lot of adjectives and you must have a lot of experiences. To be able to write about it you need to experience it. The way I write is more of a personal reaction to things. I don’t write matters of facts. That’s why I like writing about food since you’re eliciting a reaction.

What is it between you and Maginhawa? It seems like you are an advocate for the place.

When I was in college, I lived in Maginhawa for a year. At that time it was super empty, more of a place where students stay. It was just this long, long street of a sleepy village. But I realized that the future of Maginhawa is in its small shops. There were small shops, village type of restaurants; even then I realized that there’s a future in food and entertainment here.

Going around (Metro) Manila, and seeing how Makati was before, I wished it could happen in QC. I’ve lived here for the longest time and I got to know the place very well. I could say that this is my home here in (Metro) Manila.

Do you agree that Maginhawa is now very different? 

Yes, it gentrified. It was such a sleepy village before, now it’s very alive! It’s full of people, and businesses are everywhere. For me it’s good and this is progress for the place. It retained its community feel, which is also very important.

Let’s talk about the community of Maginhawa.

When I was part of the community as Moonleaf’s marketing manager, I talked and was friends with a lot of business owners and what I always tell them is to always build a community around your establishment.

And yes, true enough it happened. The community happened.

Yes, and people came in droves. They wanted to become part of the cool thing, whatever that is. I’m very proud that it came to its own. When you think of Maginhawa now, you think of food, friends, and enjoy in a community where you can stay in the north area.

It’s peaceful here!

It’s very peaceful here and no big city feel. Enough of the crowd and the energy, I’m very happy about how Maginhawa became like this.

If you were to start a campaign of something you are really passionate about, what would it be?

I’ve been involved so much about food for the last two years and I realized how Filipinos are coming into eating and dining out. The whole business of food is insane right now - all these new restaurants, chefs and preparations. People eat out a lot, they prepare a budget to hunt the best and the newest restaurants, but who else in the Philippines is eating?

We hear a lot about hunger. We have a lot of hidden hunger here. There’s a disparity between rich and poor, now we have disparity between who can eat and who cannot. What I thought was, how would I connect people who are eating out in these best restaurants and those who cannot eat? That’s where I want to explore and I’m figuring out how to match that.

How do you plan on doing that, to have the country's hunger problem lessen while the local food culture increasing?

I really want to make a difference in someone else’s hunger because it just costs really low to feed someone. For most people, to eat a cup of rice and ulam, that’s it for them. They can function and they can definitely be better people in the society.

What I really want to do, which is encouraged by a lot of people, is to start the Maginhawa Food Tours. I’ll tour people around Maginhawa, let them try the best restaurants; find out the newest ones and the money that they’ll pay will go to NGOs that feed children in school. The goal is to promote Maginhawa, introduce people to good food, and help others to eat.

Photos and words by Aidx Paredes


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