Djessa Reyes was born and raised in Ilocos Sur.
The province in the north of Luzon – the largest and most populous island in the Philippines –is about 370 km from Manila.
Ilocos Sur distinguishes itself for having two UNESCO Heritage Sites, the Historic City of Vigan and the Church of Santa Maria.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization offers this high praise.
Established in the 16th Century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.
If Djessa Reyes is homesick sometimes, it’s little wonder why.
‘My mother had wanted me to be in the medical field because she had wanted that for herself, but did not have the opportunities. I was interested in the cruise line because my dad was in cruise. The perk is that you travel even as you work,’ Djessa informed when interviewed at her workplace The Dempsey Cook House & Bar.
Reyes had, in 2011, graduated from Lyceum of the Philippines University or LPU with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management. The Filipina had majored in Cruise Line Management and had hoped to sail and see the world while working on the high sea.
Luckily for Singapore, there was a change of course when Djessa got an internship at the Fullerton Hotel and the Fullerton Bay Hotel from April 2010 to April 2011.
In those 12 months, Reyes worked as a server at the Post Bar and Lantern, the roof-top bar at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
‘I was a very shy person and found social skills – communicating with customers – the most challenging part of my job.’
All that seems to be in the past because speaking to Djessa, she comes across as thoughtful and articulate.
After the internship, Reyes went back to the Philippines. It was a very short return because, a month later, the hotel asked her to come back to work full-time at the Lantern. Djessa’s hard work and conscientiousness had impressed her superiors and colleagues. She was made Captain Waitress.
In November 2011, one of Reyes’s former managers asked her to join Ce La Vi in Marina Bay Sands as a Guest Service Agent. Whilst there, Djessa told the sommelier and one of the managers that she was interested in wine.
‘When I was working as a server at the Post Bar during my internship at the Fullerton Hotel, I once saw the sommelier decanting a bottle of wine. I thought it was really cool. I still remember the wine, Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon.’
The rest is history in the journey of a young woman from Ilocos Sur.
Djessa Reyes became a proud Assistant Sommelier at Ce La Vi in November 2012. Less than two years later, she was promoted to Sommelier.
Her career in wine fully established, in February 2017, Djessa Reyes joined The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar as Assistant Head Sommelier, becoming their Head Sommelier in November the following year.
Here are three pairings recommended by Djessa Reyes