A tribute to grandfathers, and consequentially, a treatise on regret.
The harsh way to put it would be that I traded my grandpa’s heirloom for a battery-operated facial scrubber.
Two years ago in March, I celebrated my birthday with relatives in California. It was a delight getting to meet them for the first time in my adult life, when I could actually remember things and understand the conversations in the Kinaray-a dialect. The experience was only made more delightful by one thing: the opportunity to be with my only living grandfather, Tatay Bening.
Tatay Bening was my dad’s uncle. He was turning 93 the following month. A former public school teacher and war veteran, he was still sharp as a tack and fun to be around. Just like my siblings and I grew up with our cousins, my dad and aunt grew up with theirs, and Tatay was the head of that big brood.
I have always had a fondness for the elderly. To me they are living legacies, their eyes our windows to the storied past. Grandparents, most especially, are the only real connection we have to our heritage, their wisdom our key to unlocking various mysteries surrounding who we are and what we are to be.
And I have always believed that in much the same way a father is instrumental in shaping a daughter’s identity, so is a grandfather to a granddaughter.
I yearned for a Lolo growing up. My parents’ dads were not really around, so I could only imagine what it was like. Hearing stories of the war, of dapper men on the streets of Bacolod or Angeles wearing suits and top hats, of love, fiestas, school, trade, travel, music in those days.
Rummaging through their antique chests and being given mementos: a tobacco pipe, a worn-down camera, a battered old typewriter, a vintage pair of spectacles, a moth-eaten set of books. Singing along with them while listening to AM radio stations on a Sunday. Having my feet on top of theirs and dancing while the vinyl player cranked out Debussy.
It can’t be helped that we tend to view things from the perspective of the majority. This is what works, this is what should be, this is the accepted practice, this is the norm. The standard.
It also can’t be helped that despite what we know better, sometimes we succumb and view ourselves from this same perspective. Am I—the clothes I wear, the things I accomplish, the talents I possess, the company I keep—good enough, from this perspective?
And therein lies all the self-doubt and insecurity and failure to see things properly. We become so engrossed in what they say we should know, not what we already know. When we pit ourselves against others in a game of Who’s Better, we never win.
I’ve experienced this so many times growing up that I can’t even count the incidents. I’m a bit like Mike Ross of Suits, however, in that I can remember in vivid detail the littlest details from the past, all the way from when I was three. Let’s go as far back as pre-school.
I was the youngest, and everyone else was painting their eggshell mosaic in the basic shades that came with the watercolor palette. I mixed some colors in mine, so my mosaic looked different. Though my work got hung on the bulletin board, I resorted to using basic colors for the next project to make them stop calling me weird. Another time when I was seven, the teacher taped a “King David” card on the blackboard, with a dozen random words on the other side. We were to pick a word that describes King David and place it around his name. I raised my hand, got my turn, and picked “ruler.” I was promptly laughed at and told that rulers are school supplies.
I could go on and on, but the point is, the more I tried back then to be on the same plane as the rest of them, the more I felt the disconnect. It was quite the struggle, trying to find your place while trying to not be out of place, as you may have felt too.
To make up for the long intervals between posts, I’m giving away (2) Silver tickets to Disclosure in Manila on July 24th. Details after the cut.
So here goes another chilly, clammy rainy evening with the breeze wafting through the thin mesh window, one of those nights that somehow manage to simultaneously bring forth a slew of thoughts and reflections and strip you of the eloquence to express them elegantly. For someone who writes for a living, these nights are both intimidating and freeing.
Intimidating, because how you string your carefully thought-out words together is how you get things done. An idea gets shaped in your head, and you wrap the right words around it so you could turn its intangibility into something others can grasp. Without the ability to communicate that, your idea is just that: a blob inside your mind.
Freeing, because when your brain is a constant, blurry flurry of ideas, dreams, plans and expectations, the barely audible sound of the drizzle outside causes you to space out in a good way and just breathe and let everything float on by. Your mind is cleared, not unlike when the rain cleanses the air.
Earth, fire, air, water. The Greek classical elements fascinate me, but it’s the fifth one, æther, that I find most magical.
In Greek mythology, Æther was the first-born elemental god, the personification of the clearest, brightest sky in which the gods of Olympus lived, and the pure upper air that they breathed. He is superiorly illuminated, and this brightness shone down all over the mortal world. At night, Æther’s mother Nyx (“The Night”) called upon her husband Erebus (“The Dark”) to blanket the world in darkness, and in the morning Æther’s sister Hemera (“The Day”) dispersed this dark mist away so that his light may be seen again.
Thus, in classical Greek science, æther is the quintessence (“quint” meaning fifth) that is not of this world. Medieval philosophers believed that the cosmos and the stars were formed and surrounded by æther. Whereas the first four elements were earthly and subject to change and corruption, æther, the “air of the gods,” was heavenly and unchangeable. If earth is green, fire is red, air is yellow and water is blue, æther is purple: a color that, unlike the colors of the earthly elements, is rarely found in nature.
In fact, it is common knowledge that purple is the color of royalty and power and this is why. Before people discovered how to synthesize dyes, the only way to produce about 1.5 grams of purple dye was through a painstaking process that involved the beating, drying and extracting of mucus of some 12,000 Murex snails!
In color psychology, purple is associated with noble things: good judgment, fulfilment, inspiration. It is the perfect balance of red (masculinity, warmth, energy) and blue (femininity, coolness, stability). For those who believe in chakras, purple is the color of the crown chakra (top of the head) that connects the spirit to universal sources of energy and wisdom.
Æther. Heavenly air. Purple quintessence. The perfect balance. People turned to mythologies and associations to explain the way the world around them worked. Going back to the basics, breaking everything down into the simplest, most essential parts of which they are made. Believing that the balance of elements leads to harmony and the disturbance of this balance leads to chaos. Looking to what’s tangible to explain the intangible. I guess no matter how scientific and modernized we have become, my fascination for the old ways of looking for answers in the mystical and mythical would always hold. Some things are best learned when felt with the heart rather than explained with the mind. :)
Outfit details: Shop Enna peplum dress. Check out their shop for flirty and feminine frocks.
Isn’t the lace back gorgeous? Just the right amount of sexy and sweet.
Japanese Candy contact lenses. They’re in chocolate brown so it’s not really obvious, but they basically round out the irises and make them look bigger. I wear contacts to help with my 750/750 vision, but it doesn’t hurt that this online store has some seriously cute pairs.
SM Accessories eggshell and gold bracelet and necklace. I don’t really mean to choose matchy things, but their collections are always well-curated that the pieces usually end up complementing one another.
Renegade Folk heels. Still as wonderful as when I first got them close to two years ago.
Photographed by Anton Holmes. Special thanks to Noni Mortel.
Worn on a lovely Saturday out with my mom. Shot on a wide open field just outside our village, near a small plaza that houses our favorite homey café and restaurant. I’ve been based in Pampanga since December, the longest I’ve ever stayed here ever since moving to Manila for college many years ago. When I was younger and San Fernando was not yet the bustling and progressive city that it is today, I dreamt of going to Ateneo and getting a job and living in Manila. I thought of it as this place where you have access to everything: the good malls and restaurants, the good theme parks, the good hospitals, the TV stations and magazines and advertising agencies where I wanted to end up working.
Grass really is greener on the other side—as soon as I got to Manila, I found myself always wanting to go home! I was overwhelmed by the intense traffic, the faster pace of everything, and the way people my age seemed worldlier, socially savvier and more wais about certain things than I was. I started to appreciate the simplicity and mellowness of life in Pampanga. Makes me think how we can take for granted the things we grow up with, keep longing for that which we do not have. When we finally have a taste of it, yes, it is wonderful and amazing, but often turns out to be not exactly what we had imagined. We discover that like anything in this world, there are trade-offs and downsides to every perk and upside. And then we realize that what we’ve always had is what we’ve always wanted in the first place, or at the very least, that it wasn’t so bad after all.
Every time a new school year starts, I think of all the freshies out there and wish them well—especially those on a scholarship like I was, because it means additional expectations and challenges. As the first one in my family to leave town, I know how it can take a while to get adjusted to everything in Manila, to develop and polish everything from the way you dress to the way you relate to people and the way you speak and present yourself, while still retaining your values and identity. Above all, to learn to be strong through trials and temptations that will come your way while your family and support system are miles away.
Of course, it helps a lot that my house is just an hour or so away from Quezon City and that whatever is there is also here now. Still, it wasn’t always the case, and it took me quite a while to get the hang of things, and there was a lot of hard learning that had to happen (there still are, actually). I always say that in my years in college, I learned infinitely more from life outside those classrooms than inside. I’m glad I got to experience both sides of the grass—only here, grass might literally be greener. Heh.
Changed my hair because we were planning to shoot a song there and the wind was blowing my waves all over the place. I do a decent French braid, but my mom’s is definitely loads better, don’t you think?
Anyway, we tried to do a couple of takes but there were a lot of welcome distractions: the sound of birds, dogs barking and children having picnics and playing around. We ended up making friends with them instead!
The girl holding my ukulele, Angelica (same name as my mom’s), was the first one to run to us. She sat down beside my mom and quietly watched me sing and play. Soon, her sister and friends followed and we had a fun chat with them. They told us they live nearby, at a car muffler shop, and they often come to the fields to have lunch under the trees. A great idea that I can’t wait to try with my family when we’re all home.
So I ended up doing the song in our basement, where I also did this and this. :) “On The Side Of Me” is by Corrinne May, a Christian musician from Singapore. I’ve always loved this song, and I decided to sing it as thank you to my family, friends and blog readers—the words are so real for me I wish I wrote them myself. Hope you like it! I don’t have much yet, but you can watch my other silly videos and subscribe to my channel here.
Sometimes I get asked how I think of look titles or entry themes. It’s nothing serious or scientific, haha. While uploading the photos, I usually just look for a detail somewhere in the outfit and then try to connect it to the day’s story.
Like this dress with all its lines. Wore it to a dinner date with some awesome people. Lately I’ve been having a lot of these dinners, with old and new friends from diverse backgrounds and countries. Different folks with different strokes, yet somewhere along the conversation, we find intersecting interests. I’ve been learning a lot from them and loving it. I think the Universe is making up for a couple of years of incidental social constrainment. :)
On another note of gratitude, to everyone who’s been continually interacting with me through this blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and/or YouTube, thank you :) It’s still as kilig and inspiring as the first time, and so lots of exciting things are in the works. Here’s to a great week ahead!
Pinkaholic dress, Adidas Originals sneakers, SM Accessories shades and earrings, Hodge Podge pendant. A mix of things I don’t usually put on. Shades, lipstick, dangling earrings, a longer-than-usual shift dress and sneakers to go with all of it.
You know how it’s uncomfortable hearing the sound of your voice on a recording? That’s kind of how the first three are to me. I like when people see my eyes and sunglasses cover them up. I’ve braces on my lower teeth, and lipstick brings attention to that when I speak. Just as dangling earrings bring attention to the fact that my ears rather stick out. Haha.
I usually prefer wearing elaborate necklaces with shift dresses, and leave the more casual pendants like these to when I’m wearing basic shirts. I also never wear necklaces with earrings together; it’s either just one or the other.
When it comes to dresses, I don’t like wearing huge prints. I like the length either really short or really long; never near the knees, especially when I’m wearing flat shoes because I’m not that tall and this gets highlighted by all these things.
And with that, I have just given away some of my nifty tricks for emphasizing one’s favorite features and bringing attention away from the opposite. Except I broke all of them.
But that’s okay. Once in a while, we all gotta step out of our comfort zones.
Whether it’s with small things like wearing things we normally wouldn’t, or with bigger ones like doing what we thought we couldn’t, trying something new leaves us feeling great about ourselves. The initial feeling of unease eventually leads to a sense of accomplishment. Instead of caring what other people think or say of us, we went ahead and freed ourselves of the limits we previously imposed.
A few days ago, my friend Anton challenged me to do one thing every day that’s out of the box. It doesn’t matter what it is, he said, as long as it’s something the old me wouldn’t have done. It’s been a helpful and happy exercise, so I’m sharing it in case you want to try it too. Let me know how it goes! :)
Hype this: Lookbook / Chictopia
What I wore to my brother’s graduation. Shopaholic at SM Department Store dress, Asian Vogue pumps, SM Accessories necklace, bangle and clutch bag.
That day, realization upon realization started hitting me like a snowball in the face (not an entirely unwelcome prospect in this hot and humid weather).
My alma mater. I would often come back here for random things—meeting friends who are now teachers, going to church, running errands. Snowball number 1: for years, Ateneo was just a place for me to do stuff at. I never bothered to look around and marvel at the fact that this was where I was shaped, where I grew in intellect and in faith.
Our elders. The professors, deans and leaders of this institution, without whom none of its students would be where they are now. My Science and Society professor, astronomer and physicist Fr. Jett Villarin SJ, is now University President. Snowball number 2: I was in the classrooms of the country’s most intelligent, compassionate and generous people and instead of appreciating that, I would balk and sulk whenever challenges came my way.
The ceremony. There were twice as many graduates this year compared to my batch of about 1,900. Yet even their number is but a tiny percentage compared to the millions of young Filipinos with no access to quality education. Snowball number 3: I was given the privilege of a full scholarship in Ateneo and I gave my bare minimum in return. I let each school day, each requirement pass me by like it was nothing, when it could’ve been another kid of equal skill level and aspirations in my place. I didn’t even try to run for honors or be the well-rounded Atenean I was supposed to be. I was placed in a Merit class of a legendary teacher, Max Pulan, that produced young leaders and achievers excelling in their chosen fields, while I’ve spent the last few years squandering my education on less worthwhile endeavors.
The graduates. I imagined them feeling grateful, excited, hopeful, relieved, maybe a little worried at what the real world holds in store for them. And then I remembered how I felt when in that blue toga. “I can’t wait to get out of here and get it over with.” Snowball number 4: I was so full of teenage angst at my pseudo-problems at the time—petty things that all seem so pathetically trivial now—that I failed to remember what we were taught: be a person for others. What were my trials compared to the sufferings of others? What have I been doing with what I’d been given, to make a difference in their lives?
Vince. It took all those years and his graduation to shake me back into my senses. In a happy coincidence, the resolutions came in time for my birthday.
So, instead of the usual party or dinner, here’s how we celebrated. Duyan Ni Maria (Cradle Of Mary) is a shelter in Angeles City, Pampanga that takes in children as young as newborns until they finish school and can earn their keep.
Sister Alexis Casas, S.M.E. runs Duyan ni Maria. Hers is a story of profound faith in God’s provisions. She was able to build a children’s home out of donations and fundraisers she worked on. Rain or shine, day in and out, she would commute from house to house and organization to organization to solicit funding for her children’s food, clothing, schooling and other needs. She continues to do so until now, even while struggling with diabetes. I can’t imagine my grandmother having to travel around the city in the hot sun with a never-healing wound in her leg, working to make ends meet! Yet she’s always smiling and saying that God never fails to provide her with what she needs—sometimes, it’s not what she hoped for but turns out to be even better.
Sister Alex knows all the names of all the children, and she introduced them to me one by one. They told me their stories. Some were abandoned at birth in public hospitals. Others were rescued or ran away from abusive homes. Most of them were named by Sister Alex herself, and they treat her like their real mother.
It was a small party and the food was simple—just spaghetti and fried chicken—but the way the children were so excited and happy, you’d think it was a lavish feast on Christmas eve! Gratitude is such a nice feeling.
We often see in movies or TV shows how unruly it can get in children’s homes. They were polite and gracious and cheerful. Sister Alexis’ kids couldn’t be further from that depiction. Then again, them being raised by a soft-spoken and loving nun, it isn’t surprising at all how well-behaved they are.
In collared shirt is my uncle Tito and behind her is my aunt Bunny, siblings of my mom (who took all these photos with my phone). They’ve been doing apostolate work ever since I can remember, and Duyan ni Maria is one of the places they visit to bring food and do tutoring. The lady in purple is Sister Vicky, who helps Sister Alex to manage the place. They kept thanking us profusely for coming over but what they gave me is far more precious.
Graduation. Learning enough to take you to the next level. I graduated many summers ago and each summer I turn a year older, but if I were to be honest, this year is the first time in a long while that I actually felt it. :)
As I write this, the A/C and fan are on full throttle and bright sunlight gashes through the window despite the blinds being drawn. Seems like summer doesn’t just want its presence felt; it wants us to be looking it in the eye. Lol.
No complaints there, though. It’s the best time to be donning breezy outfits, few accessories and barely-there makeup. Forever21 dress, SM Accessories, Parisian shoes.
Coinciding with the coming of summer is the coming here of one of today’s hottest actors, “Hunger Games” star and newest Bench endorser Liam Hemsworth. This is what I wore his lunch tête-à-tête with the media a few weeks back.
Here’s what went down with the hottie from Down Under as he talked “Hunger Games,” action films, beating up Thor and men’s fashion.
Shot with my DSLR on my right hand while my left hand was shooting with my iPhone (just to be sure). Haha! Just think of the shakiness and un-enhanced audio as your way of feeling like you were actually in the room—it was utter and enjoyable chaos.
Best thing about this season? You can wear your favorite hues and pretty much get away with it. I just love color!
This is what I wore to a casual meeting today. Since it was a hot afternoon, I thought I’d go all summery chic, wear a lot of brights and bare a little skin.
Speaking of bare, I didn’t have the time or patience to do full-on makeup, so I just brushed on a little blush, put on some red lipstick and left the rest of my face alone. There’s a lot going on in my outfit already, plus sunnies make great concealers anyway. Haha.
Pulled my hair into a messy bun because it’s the easiest lazy hair style to pull off, especially when your hair is the naturally wavy type that doesn’t like to be combed.
I was never a fan of sunny days, but I noticed that a lot of the things I used to like and not like have been evolving. Lately, I’ve been thinking of the sun as something to look forward to.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned—following these outfit photos are scrumptious shots of what we had for dinner at Torch with friends. Hence the garterized skirt to make room at the tummy area. Haha!
I really love this SM Accessories necklace, so I looked for items I could wear with it instead of the other way around. The geometric print Veva Deeluxe dress was kind of short and edgy on its own, and since we were headed to dinner, I decided to use it as a top and pair with a maxi skirt in a solid color that would go with the necklace.
Appetizer: Mushroom Bisque. Hot, creamy concoction that your tummy will love.
Appetizer: Truffle Fries. The dip is divine.
Gambas Pizza. Pulutan meets comfort food.
Always such fun rolling these things.
Volcano Roll. Delightfully spicy and flavorful.
Secret Sushi (off-menu). This is hands-down our favorite dish for the night. It’s just so creamy and exploding with flavor.
Wasabi smileys are so cute!
Steak Fondue. Dip it into olive oil and then choose from five different sauces. Yum.
Salpicao Medallion served with rice and veggies. Homey comfort food on a platter.
Dessert: Frozen Brazo de Mercedes. Tasted like a yummy combination of ice cream cake and cheesecake, two of our favorite desserts.
Dessert: Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruits. Light and easy.
The night’s drinks. We picked Cabernet Sauvignon (red) and Chardonnay (white) because it was a Wednesday and Torch has Wine-All-You-Can Wednesdays right now and we like alliterations.
Signature Beer-Tail Mango Daiquiri with Upside-down Beer. We didn’t get to taste this, but it looked like a lot of fun.
Snowflake Coco-Lychee Martini Slush. Fancy cocktail that we also didn’t get to taste. It takes pretty photos though, eh?
Yes, you can pick random stuff from your closet, tie your hair haphazardly, wear no makeup and still blog about it. Blind Clothing floral dress, Ziggy & Zooey zebra print flats, Martina-Martina tribal-inspired necklace, Chemistry bangles. Hype this on Lookbook here.
First step? Throw on a dress and strap on some heels. Takes no time at all and gets the job halfway done!
Next is accessorizing. Whenever I’m asked what my favorite color is, red isn’t the first one to come to mind. But when it comes to my hair color or accessories, Seph points out that it’s my go-to shade for cheating a look that seems “planned.”
He’s spot on. Haha! Especially on days when there’s a certain “obligation” to get a little dressed up but uninspiration (aka laziness) strikes, bright accessories can very well serve as a quick fix for upping an outfit’s ante.
Accessories or no accessories, wearing something simple but with an interesting cut or detail is key. This dress would’ve been so blah if not for this stylish back, agree? And those wedges—you could wear just a plain white tee and jeans and still stand out in them. :)
What are your own style shortcuts to getting dressed quickly? Don’t be shy; leave a comment below or tweet us @sephshai!