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Wo/Men of Pearls: Jo Ann Bitagcol, Artist and Style Icon

Jo Ann Bitagcol has always brought a unique point of view to all her creative ventures. As a supermodel who graced countless fashion shows and campaigns, she stood out not only for her striking features. Jo Ann reached iconic status because she approached the craft of modelling as an art form. It came as little surprise then that she would eventually take command of the style narrative through her work as a lens woman. Her captivating imagery, even early on, registered as photographic art pieces. These soon found their way on her now widely-coveted scarves and prints.





Jo Ann is now one of Manila’s emerging artists to watch. She is also the first collaborator of the ARAO Alchemy series, which showcases the brand’s distinguished South Sea pearls photographed with Bitagcol's signature vintage prints. The multifaceted style icon intimates, “I’m blessed with multiple talents. I am often asked about how I prefer to be called—model, photographer, fashion icon, designer or artist? Then I get more inspired to just be. To create and share more.”





  1. What keeps you busy these days?


I just finished a collaboration, Alchemy by ARAO X Bitagcol scarves. Right now, I’m preparing for another exciting project, exhibiting my Tripolar dolls at Art Agenda Gallery. This will be presented for Art Fair Philippines online by next month.





  1. How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?


I never stopped taking on challenges. Always curious to learn, believing in myself, trusting the universe. These are tools that have helped me become limitless.





  1. What do you enjoy the most about your work or career?


The whole creative process and execution are very fulfilling. When clients appreciate what you’ve created, that brings joy to my heart.




  1. What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”


Working long hours to achieve a lot. This leads me to forget about my health and ultimately causes more delays. I’ve come to realize that rest is just as important as being productive.





  1. For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?


Follow your heart. Keep an open mind to different perspectives. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. And most importantly, pray for divine guidance.





  1. How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?


In the city, my friends are my family. Among this circle, we always find time to catch up over lunch or dinner as a means for checking up on each other. I drive out to the countryside at least once a month to spend quality time with my parents and siblings.





  1. How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?


Running or hiking are forms of meditation for me. This has helped me recharge the body and calm the mind. 





  1. How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials?


Most of the time, I would gravitate towards something androgynous. I like to combine masculine and feminine elements, and bridge formal to street style. 




  1. What do pearls mean to you?


Pearls dictate strength, elegance and timelessness. They are also a reminder of how miraculous nature and life works together.