Many years ago, Hindy Weber Tantoco was a fixture in the fashion industry. For ten years, she worked in Rustan’s as an in-house designer for a wide range of brands.
These days, the fashion-oriented and design-loving Hindy can be found, more often than not, working and living in their family’s farm. “At 42 years old,” Hindy says, “my work revolves around my family, fashion and growing food.”
In this interview, Hindy tells us about her family’s transition to farm life, her continued involvement in the fashion world, and her passion for food and wellness.
Tell us a little bit about who Hindy Weber Tantoco is.
I am wife to Gippy; mom to four kids (from a 16-year-old to a 2-year-old). Ateneo grad, major in Communication Arts; then continuing ed in Fashion Design and Marketing at FIT, in New York. I also took multiple workshops and courses in agriculture, nutrition, art, movement, Waldorf education, curative education, music therapy.
I lived and worked in NYC for eight years, where I married and had our first child. Then, I worked in Rustan’s for 10 years as in-house designer for over seven brands, ranging from young adults, childrenswear, womenswear, swimwear and maternity: U, Young VIP, Culte Femme, Kiddos, Belle Mama, Uswim, Rustanette, Baby Club.
In 2007, my husband and I started a small backyard farm simply because we wanted to bring home “food we could trust.”
We had no idea it would eventually become what it is today: Holy Carabao Holistic Farms.
In 2009, we moved out of the city and to the countryside of Laguna, where we built a “green” farmhouse made of shipping containers.
In 2010, I took a sabbatical from retail which turned out to be permanent. My work in fashion continued but as an independent designer, focusing on special edition collections under my own label, Hindy Weber.
Tell us more about Holy Carabao. What were this venture’s initial intentions and what is it working towards today?
It began in 2007 as a simple backyard farm when my husband and I decided to grow our own food for our family’s consumption. We didn’t realize how much we could harvest. We began sharing them with friends and family, until we started joining small markets.
Holy Carabao was the first organic grocer to do door-to-door delivery of “a la carte” produce. We then began supplying some supermarkets. Today, we supply Rustan’s Marketplace and S&R. We also have a little store of our own (6241 Palma St, Poblacion (Backwell), Makati). Three years ago, I partnered with a friend who is also as passionate as me with regards to food, the environment, wellness, and social responsibility.
Let’s talk about your life these days. We see you very busy with regards your farm – but it’s no ordinary farm. It is something very intentional and very much a way of life. What is farm life as you’ve designed it?
Our farm used to be inside Sta. Elena Country Estate but we have since moved. We are still in the Sta. Rosa, Laguna area, where we also live. Our farm is very simple and a little wild. We practice biodynamic farming infused with permaculture design. It is a more holistic and esoteric approach to organic farming. Our farm, growing food… it’s now such an intrinsic part of our lives. Same with design… it’s infused in everything in our home. To us, it’s synonymous with living well.
How did your family initially feel when you “uprooted” yourself from the city life you knew? What do you appreciate now about this change?
It was a conscious and wide-eyed decision to move out of the city. Our children were still relatively young so they adjusted very well. It’s the best decision we’ve ever made and its impact is seen in everything we do. Living away from the city has brought us more grounding and balance. Our rhythm is so much more tied to the rhythm of Nature, so it enhances our overall wellness. We also feel very grounded in that living closer to Nature demands humility. Everyday we are reminded about what’s truly important and essential in Life.
How are you like at home? Since you’re very design-oriented, how do you integrate this inclination in your day-to-day?
Style and design are infused in everything I do simply because I love, live, breathe design. I love beauty in all its forms. Even ‘ugly’ things I find very curious. It cannot be separated from what I do. Without design, beauty, music, art, fashion, what would life be? I can’t even bear to think about it. Some people may think fashion is just something you wear. But it’s not. It’s in everything we do, say, think, eat. This is how I approach fashion now. It’s not simply about clothes, it’s not simply a career path anymore.
What else are you busy with lately?
Most people think I have given up fashion, but it’s not true. I still do it but in my own terms and in my own time. I do custom-made dresses for weddings and special occasions. I am a member of the Fashion Design Council of the Philippines. My intention is to eventually focus on limited edition “slow fashion” collections that reflect my lifestyle.
How do you view work now? Would you say you are now stress-free?
There is still stress. So long as we are alive, I think there is constant striving. For me it’s a striving to do better, to be a better version of me, to be able to help, to be able to create solutions, to design beautiful things, to grow honest food.
While I don’t think stress can be completely avoided, my approach to it has become very intolerant. Before, I had a tendency to take life’s stresses too seriously. I’d get really bogged down and lose sleep. I was a perfectionist when it came to my work; a workaholic. My brain and body worked nonstop. My coworkers would tease me that I lived on air alone because sometimes I’d forget to eat. That approach was completely unsustainable.
Now, when I feel stress, I don’t allow it to linger. So not worth the time, the wrinkles!! I have learned so much from my children. There is so much more beauty, grace and joy to Life…and it’s in the moments, in the details, in the unplanned, in the uncontrolled. So basically, I’ve learned to let go. I do my best, I do what I can, I work honest, and the rest? I leave it up to magic.
Let’s talk some more about food and health… What is your underlying philosophy when it comes to food and what you feed your family? What do you wish more people understand about food?
It all starts with how the food is grown: the soil, the water, the reverence given to the seed, and so on. I cannot stress the importance of knowing where your food comes from. As far as I am concerned, farmers should get paid at least as much as doctors. And processed, chemically-grown, chemically-manipulated food should be heavily taxed for the damage it is causing our planet and our bodies. Water is Life, Food is Life. They are intrinsically intertwined. We mess that up, we mess up Life.
And I believe that real honest food grows best on rich, living soil, not in warehouses or laboratories. I also believe that how your food is harvested, transported and marketed accounts for a whole lot, too. It matters to me how an animal was slaughtered, or how a farmer was paid, or how my carrots are delivered to me.
A lot of what you do puts you in the public eye. How do you manage having a public self and a private life? Do we (readers/public) really see the real you? Where do you draw the line?
Yes, I am very grateful that, for some reason, some people are interested in what I do. I used to be a very very shy child. I was the nerd with big glasses, with her face buried in a book about animals or sketching geishas. I was lanky, tomboyish, with braces, bushy eyebrows and a bad perm…you get the picture.
I think it was a combination of my fun-loving girlfriends in school plus the exposure I had living independently in a big city like New York that made me realize I wanted to have more fun with life. I wanted to meet more people, learn new things, experiment with music, art, design. That’s what got the ball rolling. I am still inherently shy and a part of me will always be private, but I like to keep one side of me open to the world, too.
What about inspirations? What do you look forward to and what keeps you moving forward?
Providing alternatives to dishonesty, compromise, distortion, and despair. Might sound crazy, but I thought about it and it’s really the foundation of everything I do. It’s what keeps me moving forward, despite all the hurdles.
With a very busy daily schedule like yours, how do you balance your time between your work and your being wife and mummy?
Moving to Laguna helped provide a lot of balance because it forced us to pay more attention to each other and our daily natural rhythms, as opposed to all the to-do’s and to-see’s in the city. I still have very busy days, long sleepless nights, but my husband and my co-workers understand what our priorities are: family and holistic wellness.
On the other hand, how do you take care of yourself?
I eat whole foods that are protein-rich, low-carb, low-dairy, low-gluten, low-sugar. I am not dogmatic however, so I will over-indulge every so often.
I recently had a medical assessment by the BioBalance Institute and I take supplements from them. They give you a very thorough exam, and are able to provide a customized protocol. It was through them that I discovered I was deficient in Vitamin D. Who would have ever thought? I also have some bad bacteria I need to tame. I’ve been on their regimen for a month now and it’s been fantastic.
I also run, circuit-train, zumba or yoga at least 3x a week. I have the worst mind for exercise. I will think of every excuse in the world to avoid it, but when I don’t do it, I regret it. When I do it, I am happy the whole day. So it’s really a mindgame. The struggle is real!
For skincare, I see Dr. Kaycee Reyes of Luminisce regularly. She takes care of me like family. She is very conservative when it comes to invasive and semi-invasive procedures. She is so nurturing and extremely patient in answering all my questions.
I always say that there’s a “Spoiled Mummy” in each of us. What do you think makes you, Hindy Weber Tantoco, a Spoiled Mummy?
Weekly mani-pedis and home spa, with a Malbec in hand! 🙂