Getting caught in toxic relationships isn’t easy, especially in the Filipino culture where people tend to move in flocks and herds. Never mind that some interactions are tinged with manipulation and quid pro quo—you scratch my back, I scratch yours—in order to make it, we are told, you have to keep scratching and conforming to the status quo and grinning and bearing things (and people).
But as a favorite quote of mine goes, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you keep scratching with the turkeys.” What I was too afraid to admit earlier this year has turned out to be an amazing gift.
In order to bloom, you have to pull out the weeds. Trials are the best way to filter out your foes from your real friends, my mom said. Not everyone who listens to you is there to listen; some do for the gossip and now you know which is which, my dad said. Those who won’t believe you or stand by you didn’t deserve to be with you in the first place, my sister said. No one will be weighing you down anymore. You can finally grow to be the person you were meant to be, my brother said.
I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.
Whoever’s reading this, I’m sending you these same vibes. May you also have the courage to stand up for what you deserve, to let go of everything that’s keeping you from growing and be surrounded with good people who will be happy to see you bloom. :)
Outfit details: Forever21 Girls (yes, the kids’ section) top, Forever21 skirt.
SM Accessories necklace.
Titan “Raga” watch.
SM Accessories bangle and bouquet ring.
One of those rare days when a cool breeze is in the Manila air even as the sun bathes the city in yellow warmth.
It is timely, too. Today is the birthday of one of my best friends, Megan, who’s now living her dreams and chasing after a few more in the UK. She studied at the London campus of the Italian fashion school Istituto Marangoni, and now has her own brand of lingerie catering to petite women. Apart from these, she juggles married life with contributing to lifestyle publications from time to time and working for a trendy food company in the city. Since the weather permitted it, I decided to go London-street for this tribute post.
Unlike with my other posts for family, friends and loved ones, this won’t have photos of beautiful Megan as she’s quite the private person. She’s always been the more no-nonsense between the two of us, and by always, I mean ever since we were five years old when we first met. Despite my being the eldest and her being the middle child, she’s practically the older sister I never had. Megan taught me and got me through a lot of things growing up: riding a bicycle, having crushes on silly boys, playing pranks on friends and school personnel, creating graphic novels of superheroes out of stapled pages of bond paper even before the term “graphic novel” was coined, writing songs for said graphic novel that we imagined got adapted into a television series. She dreamed up dreams with me, about someday making it big as a (insert wildly random occupations here—from tollway cashier to squeegee window cleaner at a local McDonald’s to astronaut to fashion designer-supermodel) and traveling the world.
We met in pre-school and were classmates all through grade school. Megan lived a walking distance away from my house so we would often have sleepovers. And since the Internet then wasn’t what it is today, we spent our idle days playing outside, or thinking up words for Boggle and Scrabble or juggling our Memory or strategizing for Monopoly. We read storybooks and Archie Comics and Readers Digests. We wrote songs and pretended to be the best pianists and created soap operas and cut the hair of our Barbies and customized their clothes. We just basically let our imaginations run free. In high school, things changed a little bit when she transferred to a different class and I moved to a house farther away. We formed our own groups of friends and started to focus on college and it got harder to keep the sisterly bond between us. In college, she remained in Pampanga while I went to Ateneo, and the weekly talks became monthly calls until they eventually became sporadic texts and online messages.
Curiously, despite having minimal interaction through the years, Megan and I ended up pursuing the same paths: we both dabbled in a little bit of modeling, dipped our toes in a lot of fashion, worked in advertising and media. Even more curiously, it was when she left for London, and eventually got married, that we actually got back in touch more frequently than ever before. We would exchange stories of travel and lessons and “mistakes” (she never approved of the term and believes our decisions, good and bad, are meant to shape us into who we are) and photos of random things that we encounter every day. These days, Viber and Facebook have made this even easier.
Megan comes back here every now and then but we rarely see each other for more than a day. It’s been a dream of ours to explore London and New York together, to finally be able to travel and experience things together instead of just vicariously through each other’s camera phones. I’ve been saving up for a trip to either or both cities with her sometime in July next year, and I can’t wait! Until then, here’s to playing dress up and delighting in a friend’s stories, like we used to do when we were little girls. Happy birthday, love!
Outfit details: The SM Store dress, Folded & Hung blazer.
H&M stockings, Forever21 wedge booties.
SM Accessories hat, Japanese Candy contact lenses.
SM Accessories necklace.
SM Accessories studded clutch bag. Rightmost ring from Me&U, the rest from my mom’s drawer. Haha.
As you may or may have not noticed in the first and second, there’s an undercurrent of green in this trilogy. I took it upon myself to work with three musts. First, the outfits must be from pieces I already own (you’ll see this dress in a future post; I wore it on the HK/Macau holiday). Second, the outfits must call to mind words like summer, fresh, carefree, happy and young. And third, I must not take more than three hours from styling, to makeup and hair, to shooting everything. I like playing little games like that. Haha.
I was able to put together and shoot all three in one afternoon, and my awesome photographer (Hi Mama!) did an amazing job as usual. It was quick and so much fun!
Don’t let the height of these lace-wrapped wedges fool you. They’re quite easy to walk in! I tried dancing in them as well and I think with a little more practice, they’re a good enough compromise for the vertically challenged who don’t want to wear flats to the festival.
Let me know what you have in mind for your Summer Solstice outfit, or ask me style-related questions, here! Oh, and which one’s your favorite among the three? :)
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. :)
Today’s weather here in Pampanga was the kind of sunny day I enjoy—chilly and kind of overcast, but still bright enough to inspire.
To be honest, I woke up this morning feeling under the weather, inundated with thoughts of my recent choices and actions and succumbing to the temptation of overanalyzing and dissecting every little detail. I was thinking about unrequited loyalty, how we don’t always get back the same kind that we give those who are important to us.
Whenever I get like this, I remember what someone once taught me: to focus instead on the people who see us at our most vulnerable, who see us be impulsive and foolish and love us anyway. People who, instead of appearing to agree all the way through and watch us crash and burn, care enough to call us out to protect us from the mistakes we’re making. To let us know that at the end of the day, they’re the ones who truly know us and believe in us.
Cebu is filled with young and creative entrepreneurs, one of the things we’ve come to see first-hand when we came to visit. Here, a date at Sprockets, owned by Rachel Arandilla, a fresh grad and college prof (yes, she teaches part-time at the College of Architecture and Fine Arts of the University of San Carlos—see what we mean about young and creative?). More about her and the café in this video!
See that still shot of a cheesy pizza? It’s just one of the many awesome things one would be delighted to find at Sprockets.
Runway Dreams floral bustier top, The Catwalk long white skirt, SM Department Store striped socks, Crocs mini wedges, Chemistry bangle, Antler Accessories necklace, sunnies from Divisoria. Hype this on Lookbook here.
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.
Bows, bouquets, braids—pile on the sweetness, why not? Whenever I can’t help but do so, I usually have to inject some edge in it, hence the animal print on the shoes.
My mom took these photos outside our house in Pampanga last week while Seph had his own outfit shoot with his older sister in Tagaytay. My kid brother’s birthday falls on the same day as that of Seph’s mom’s, so of course, we spend it with our families. Even when we can’t be together for a shoot though, we share with each other what we plan to wear so that our outfit shots still make some sense when published.
Nothing too deliberate, really. We’re just lucky that we’re on the same wavelength about many things (and when we’re not, it’s usually because one has something to teach or learn from the other). See his version of this look here!
Beauty notes: Maybelline Pure Liquid mineral foundation, The Face Shop Face It designing dual shading pact, Topshop lipstick. Don’t you just love how the sunglasses match the top perfectly?
Wedges again! I added yellow orange to the black and white colorblocking to amp up its ’60s-era feel.
So why the title? Because I humbly and sincerely believe that the best way to blog is to be yourself. Long before it was considered an actual career option, blogging in its purest sense was all about putting your heart and soul out there in an honest yet considerate, opinionated yet eloquent, consummate yet ethical way. And to play with the phrase’s actual meaning, it’s your self you should be seeing when you look in the mirror that is your website—not a stranger in a costume striking a pose. Otherwise, therein lies the danger of losing touch with what’s real and what’s important.
Floral shift dress from somewhere in my mom’s closet, black stockings from SM Department Store, patchwork print pumps from The Ramp at Crossings Department Store, and accessories from various flea markets. Hype this on Lookbook here.
I’ve always loved girly swirls of color, but with a wee bit of edginess:
Bought these shoes on a literally last-minute shopping errand two years ago, when I needed to cover Preview’s Best Dressed Ball (the theme then was Barbie) for the TV show where I worked as a producer. During those days, I had more flats and sneakers than heels. This pair is one of my firsts of what would soon be many, and I still get to use it to this day.
Photographed by Tricia Gosingtian.
BRIGHT-EYED, CLEAR DAY:
Being stylish has little to do with the brand or price of what we’re wearing. This is what makes shopping on a budget so exciting; you never know what fab finds you can get.
On Cotton floral dress, black and gold shoulder bag and green mens wristband, thrifted. Necklace from Korea. Shoes, SM Dept Store.
Hype this on Lookbook!