Tessa Prieto Valdes, a true citizen of the world

There is no one like Tessa Prieto Valdes. Her petite frame belies a magnetic personality that draws you in.

This cover shoot happened just a day after Tessa flew in from Australia. We were her first stop on a day’s busy agenda. Regardless, she was regaling the crew with her stories, animated in sharing her recent insight. She has a spirit towards life that’s always fresh and raring to go.

Dress available at 8 Soho Boutique

Contrary to what her penchant for colorful prints and fun ensembles may seem, Tessa isn’t afraid to get intimate. She’s always ready to share her part of the world, enriched by her travels. In this interview, we’ve revealed yet another side to Tessa. As with anyone who loves traveling, she is unafraid to conquer yet another adventure, with all the excitement one has on that very first flight.

I have put more value into what I gained from traveling. I also feel that it also gives me a sense of hope that everything will settle.

What has traveling come to mean for you recently?

I am a frequent traveler. 2019 was a stellar year for me. I traveled to Europe three times in one month. I went to Japan almost ten times in one year. In the same year, I went to Fiji. Before that, I was in the Maldives. Traveling is my life. I do it for both work and play and even set aside special trips for my family.

With the pandemic, I realized that I was taking traveling for granted. I also took for granted the privilege that I had of being able to travel. As things are easing up, I was able to go to the States last year, and then to Australia for a month this year. It made me realize that it’s your responsibility to make the most of your time here on Earth.

I definitely value traveling even more now with all the requirements and protocols. Gone are the days you could just get up and travel. It is such a blessing that you can still continue now.

I have put more value into what I gained from traveling. I also feel that it also gives me a sense of hope that everything will settle.

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I don’t think you just travel; I think you have a genuine love for seeing the world and living different lives.

You’re right. I draw inspiration from travelling. I love to get to know the people and the culture. I am a visual and creative person. Even growing up, I would make-believe fairytale worlds, and I used to make up stories. Even on my play dates, we would have a storyline that we would be in a castle or something fantastical.

Now, every time I travel, it’s a different experience. Once when I was traveling with Rajo Laurel, he told me that I ended up looking like a person from the place we would travel to, whether it be Japan or Machu Picchu.

Also, whenever I travel; I try to represent the country. I’m always overweight with my luggage, as I always change my outfit to show off Filipino designers.

What are your favorite places to visit?

My list of non-favorites is shorter. I love everything. You know what it is, I think every place I visit is representative of who I am. Australia to me is like family because we have a house there. Palau is where my husband and I met. Africa is our place in the summer. In every destination, it’s always the memories you make in them.

Japan is definitely a top favorite. I just love everything about Japan: the food, [the language]how the people are, the culture, the shopping.

What’s the biggest adventure you’ve taken so far?

Although I’ve been to Africa several times, each trip is so beautiful and different. It’s unlike any other travel destination where everyone shows you photos afterwards. Traveling to Africa is so personal.

Your experience is so unique because every time you go on a Safari, it’s never the same. You witness their way of life. You see a zebra getting hunted by a lion, and vultures waiting to eat hyenas on the side. If you just go on another day, however, it’s another experience like you will see hyenas with a pack of wild dogs catching emu. Even if you talk to someone who has been to Africa, their African experience is so different from yours.

It’s beyond the Instagram photos. I always have wonderful memories of going to Africa. My last trip there was with my children. I remember how my sister and I finally went to see got to see a rhinoceros last year. It’s one of the animals that are part of the “Big Five” — the animals that are hardest to find — which includes the buffalo, the leopard, the lion, and the elephant.

Where would you prefer to retire, should the time come?

The last time I played this game with this question, I said if I ever retire, I would prefer to be in Botswana. Among the African countries, it has a good mix of shopping, culture, “The Big Five” and the camps are beautiful. The wilderness is lush. However, I would also consider retiring wherever my family is. I am the type to make the most out of anything. You could send me anywhere and I’ll find something.

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What’s a recent trip that changed your perspective?

The United States is a second home, not really a travel destination. It did become an important place as I went to New Mexico to see a shaman recently.

She was able to remove my blockages, my blockages of abandonment issues. She saw how terrible my state was then. I’m usually an open person and suddenly, I was caught off-guard. I was blindsided so a lot of blockages came up. I then couldn’t forgive no matter how determined I was to do it. The shaman helped me clear my trauma.

I also went to Arizona; there was a resort where you get a therapist based on what you need to heal from. I need help with my separation. From there, I learned to close this chapter of my life and move forward.

Traveling always gives you a sense of beginning, especially for you now.

Yes. Temporarily, I’m at a crossroads work-wise. [The] Red Charity Gala is still on hold. But I’m realizing that my higher purpose is to also help other women go through what I went through.

I want to continue sharing how I am dealing with it. I want it to be with a lighthearted approach with topics like “Dating in your 50s.” I want to empower women and tell them that there is so much out there even after a big, unexpected change.

You have been everywhere. And yet, where else do you want to go?

Perfect question. In 2020, I was supposed to go to Antarctica with Dennis as a gift for his 60th birthday, our trip to Antarctica. It was all set but because of the pandemic, it’s been moved several times and now that it’s going to happen, I’ll be going with a friend of mine instead.

It’s so meaningful because I’ve never been to Antarctica, and so this is my new destination with my new life. I’m going to the place where they found fossils of prehistoric animals.

I will also be going to South America. I’ve only been there once, so I’m also looking forward to revisiting the different areas there. We might go back to Machu Picchu. This trip means so much to me, if ever. It’s really the beginning of my complete journey for moving forward.
2021 was like healing, 2022 was about setting boundaries and my foundations when it comes to my family and my work. By the time 2022 is over, my goal is to be able to establish my digital empire, whether it’s all about women empowerment, dating, or both of these things or whatever, women. Next year is also about jumpstarting the things that are going to come.

This story was originally published in the June-July 2022 issue of Inquirer RED.

Photography by Joseph Pascual
Creative Direction by Nimu Muallam and Ria Prieto
Styling by Ria Prieto
Makeup and hairstyling by Dorothy Mamalio
Shot on location at Vie at Southern Plains

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