I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath. Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly. Agreed politely. I guess that I forgot I had a choice.
I let you push me past the breaking point. I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.
You held me down.
But I got up. Already brushing off the dust. Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough.
You hear my voice, you hear that sound. Like thunder, gonna shake the ground. I see it all, I see it now.
I’ve got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire.
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar.
Now I’m floating like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee. I earned my stripes.
I went from zero…
To my own hero.
It’s an anthem everyone can claim for their own. But for those of you who know me and my story—the real one, not the one passed on through a friend of a friend of a friend embellished with amnesiac truths, then you’d know exactly why I wrote in Katy Perry’s lyrics instead of my own words. “Roar” is the life story of this (girl born in the year of the) tiger, and there is very little need for elaboration.
Forever21 tiger shirt, Miss Sixty shorts. Special thanksJoanne Pecson (pictured above) and ETC Channel for inviting me to be the inspirational speaker on personal style during the ETC Campus Tour in UP Diliman a few weeks back.
Antler Accessories necklace to go with the shirt’s studs.
Forever21 nude stockings with cross prints, Skechers +3 wedge sneakers.
Gel nails by St. Nails Spa.
Hype this on Lookbook above, favorite on Chictopia below.
How we use our freedom speaks of our priorities. It’s been a week since Yolanda, but thousands will be reeling from its aftermath for weeks more. For those of us who won this lottery and were spared, offering a bit of our time, resources and sensitivity is the least we can do.
Despite that (or, because) we are not directly affected, we can make use of our freedom to help out, just as we would if the storm struck one of ours. Yes, life goes on—given enough time to recover. Would we be comfortable showing our shopping loot to a friend who just lost everything in a fire? Sharing PDA photos with a friend whose loved one just died? Recounting our fancy dinner to a friend who just got laid off his job? We’d be free to, but we wouldn’t. We’d let them know that we are one with them in their suffering. We’d be responsive to their needs.
This weekend, the Ateneo de Manila college covered courts is open 24 hours to donors and volunteers. While there are many other centers (there are actually two other courts for relief operations on campus), this is where I always go to help out. It’s like coming home. This is where the OrSem is held, where freshmen are first taught the Ignatian value of magis: the pursuit of excellence, not merely for one’s own benefit but to be men and women for others. Sentimental reasons aside, it’s also because volunteer work here doesn’t feel like work at all.
Five months ago, I wrote “Transition.” It was the middle of spring, and although I live in a country that only has sunny and rainy days, the events in my life seemed to be changing the way the seasons do. I had just come from a harsh and dark winter, and in time, the cold melted and ushered in a lush, vibrant environment where everything was growing.
In the summer, I moved on to a fresh new start and decided to “Keep Walking.” When I turned my back on all the baggage weighing me down and the garbage bringing out the worst in me—the things and people that were keeping me from being my best and most genuine self—everything became clear as day. That “Clarity" made me take responsibility for the choices I made in the past couple of years. I saw clearly the short-term consequence: a wounding, a purging, an emptying out.
I also saw the long-term consequence: a healing, a rediscovering, a filling up with real love and genuine happiness. Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle. ♥
Outfit details: Shop Enna olive green one-shoulder bodycon dress. I enrolled in 360 Fitness Club last September and aside from most obvious reason being to take good care of my health, clothes like these are why.
The birthstone for March. I also wore it with this sporty outfit.
Hype this above and vote on Chictopia here.
Filipinos are still on a high from Megan Young’s Miss World win, and rightfully so. It isn’t every day that a simple lady from a small town in Olongapo gets to fufill her and every other girl’s childhood dream of becoming a princess (in this case, a queen).
Wearing glamorous gowns, beautiful heels and a glorious crown over your crowning glory? Bringing honor to your country amidst pork barrel scams and celebrity sex scandals? Being given a chance to make a profound difference in the world? Check, check and check.
I possess neither the height nor the body proportions it takes to even make it to the preliminaries of any significant pageant of beauty and physiological symmetry (save for the occasional local santacruzan, which hardly counts), but here are three reasons I’m completely okay with that.
One, I’m average. I’m only 5 feet and an inch tall. My skin is far from perfect, with little scars here and there and breakouts every once in a while when I wear makeup for more than a few hours or don’t drink enough water or get enough sleep. My hair is always all over the place: if I comb it, it looks like I have a household broom on my head. If I don’t, it looks like I slept on it and headed out. I have braces to align my crooked teeth, but there are no braces for my crooked grin. I may meet society’s standards in terms of butt size, but I can’t say the same for my chest size. Haha. I am average, and I say that with pride and loving self-acceptance, holding the torch for average girls all over the world.
Because there are more of us, and we are faced with a happy challenge: that of learning to love our physical average-ness, while at the same time discovering which aspects about ourselves enable us to be above average. Intelligence? Charm? Sense of humor? Musical talents? Artistic skills? Numerical aptitude? A penchant for finding the perfect gift or gesture for anyone’s birthday? Whatever they may be, they are the brushes with which we can paint the beautiful portrait of our above average-ness on a blank canvas of average-ness.
Two, I am unique. I may be average, but I am not generic—big difference. Average has the chance to command attention by standing out; generic stays in the background unnoticed, with nothing new or different to offer. I can pull things out of my pocket that no one else can have up their sleeves. The movie Hugo got it right about unique individuals: “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”
Three, life is one big pageant anyway. Society is one big panel of judges, and there are universal criteria wherever we go. We are judged by how we look, what we wear, how we carry ourselves, what we want to say and how we say it, the culture and values we represent, the people we associate ourselves with, the beliefs we express and convictions we uphold, how we answer questions we are presented.
In this way, the world indeed is a stage, and every day is a part of the competition where we get to prove our grace, poise, skills and intelligence—not only to the judges and audiences, but more importantly to ourselves. In this way, we can all aim for peace, love and balance in the world, even in our tank tops, jeans and sneakers. :)
SM Accessories transparent cuff and bird-and-flowers pendant.
Bags In The City “Xavier” handbag.
World Balance “Vanity” sneakers. Apt sneaker name for today’s thoughts, yes? Apt, and ironic that there is none of the discomfort or superficiality that usually come with the word: these sneakers are about as simple, soft and comfortable as you can get. If you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can win a pair for yourself.
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.
I write this from the balcony of my hotel room overlooking a ridge whereupon bright city lights are sprawled as far as the eye could see, twinkling and substituting for the stars that have opted to go into hiding this rainy night. The breeze is the kind of cold that makes you long for a warm embrace or a fluffy hoodie (I have the latter), and ever so slightly smells of pine trees. Today was 11 hours of being on the road for ocular visits and meetings here in Cagayan de Oro, but I don’t feel tired at all.
Let me tell you a secret—well, it’s not so secret actually. I can be quite stubborn when it comes to pursuing my passions. I graduated X years ago, but this is my first full-time job. I’ve always seen corporate work as very rigid and constricting, compared to working freelance where there are no dress codes, no time records, no company memos to adhere to. You get to do what you want, when you feel like doing it, where you want to do it and in whatever outfit you please. Never mind that there isn’t much economic stability and career sustainability—so long as you’re happy and following your heart, right?
That was my mentality about pretty much everything else, not just career. So long as you follow your heart, everything else will fall in place. Inversely, if you do things you have to even when you don’t want to, your success won’t be as fulfilling. I saw it as a battle of the heart and the intellect, and I always wanted for the heart to win. But I’ve seen the glaring holes of this naive polarity in events of the past few years that it got me questioning. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can we not find a middle ground where we would be able to do the right thing as determined by the mind, and still be able to do the happy thing as determined by the heart?
As it turns out, of course we can. The confusion and frustration of not knowing which path to take, of waking up in the morning very unsure of our next step, of every uncertainty that comes with that familiar experience we all like to call quarter-life crisis… all of those things are not because we lack the skills, the knowledge, the experience or the clarity to find the answer to our questions. Chances are, the only thing we’ve been lacking all along is the willingness to listen to what that answer is.
My phone’s Viber just beeped: three messages. From my family’s group thread, my boss, and a friend, all asking about my day and telling me to rest well. The rain has mellowed down into a light drizzle. I can hear the drone of the TV in my room: Cesar Millan’s voice and the excited barking of small dogs. Except for these sounds and the humming of the airconditioning, everything is quiet on all fronts. How did it get from the noise and chaos of uncertainty to the peace and silence of clarity? I stopped being stubborn about always doing what I wanted, and tried this time to listen to my elders and do what I needed. I tried a path I never would’ve tried had events early this year not transpired.
That choice led me to a job where I get to do everything that I’ve always known I wanted to do since I was five: write, tell stories, shoot pictures and videos, travel. There is a dress code, but the women of Suits have been teaching me how to dress up for work, and it’s been fun. It’s a nine-to-six job, but even when I’m not traveling like this week, my boss encourages me to get out of my desk every now and then and do whatever I need to get my creative juices flowing. “Less bureaucratic. I trust you,” I was told. The pay and perks are more than enough to enable me to pursue all my other passions and still have a lot saved for the future. Working for a company that values God, family and work in that order results in office people being nice and contagiously positive. Above all, I no longer wake up in the morning not knowing where I’m headed. “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” :) It amazes me and my loved ones each day how much things in my life have changed for the infinite better, and if there’s anything I’d wish on others, it’s this same gift of clarity.
Look details: Philosophy top, Veva Deeluxe pencil skirt, Janylin peep-toe heels, Euphoria chain necklace and bracelets, SM Accessories ring, Nail It nails, Japanese Candy contact lenses. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @shailagarde! Feel free to share your own thoughts by posting a Disqus comment below :)
Been in love with this Bon Iver song from the first listen. It’s about being “in a relationship because you need help, but that’s not necessarily why you should be in a relationship. And that’s why it’s skinny. It doesn’t have weight. Skinny love doesn’t have a chance because it’s not nourished,” in the own words of artist Justin Vernon. I can’t decide which of three versions I love the most: original with lyrics here, version by 16-year-old singer/pianist Birdy here, live acoustic version by British cutie Ed Sheeran here.
I hosted an advanced movie screening event of ETC Channel and I wore this tongue-in-cheek because it was a comedy-horror film. (End of outfit post. Lol just kidding) Not much of a story there. I usually go into my blog posts with pictures first, and then figure out what to write when I write. My mom and I shot these a few weeks back, but I didn’t really know what to do with skulls and crossbones. Today, I just felt like uploading them with no direction whatsoever when “Skinny Love” played on my iTunes. Just then, everything clicked. The words—the lyrics and Justin Vernon’s explanation of them—reverberated in my head. “Come on, skinny love, just last the year… I told you to be patient and I told you to be fine. And I told you to be balanced and I told you to be kind. In the morning I’ll be with you but it will be a different kind… Who will love you? Who will fight?”
We’ve all been there—not just once, not just twice, maybe more times than we could care to count. Whoever we are, however beautiful or strong or intelligent or successful we may be, we have one thing in common with the rest of humanity: all we really want, deep down inside, is to be loved. To be affirmed, cared for, needed, adored. To feel like another person would not want to go on without us. But are we really willing to make do with a love founded on co-dependency than none at all? A toxic, pharmaceutical kind of love that only takes away the symptoms of loneliness and longing but never cures the underlying disease that brings it? A love of two halves desperate to have someone complete them at the cost of losing their individuality? Skinny, undernourished, lightweight love?
When you’ve had one too many, you tire of chasing after a kind of love that is bound to last only so long as the novelty and euphoria of the feeling is there. You resolve that this time around, you will love yourself first. You appreciate a life free of complications and restrictions and having to mold yourself into someone else’s cookie cutter, and having to do the same for them. You hope to only be with someone you can be better with, but not change for. You promise yourself that you would not fall into the trappings of love until you are whole. You tell yourself that perhaps, when you are whole and with so much to give, another whole will come by when you least expect it, and you will be together not because you can’t live without each other, but because you don’t want to.
I do. :)
Outfit details: Binkydoodles sheer top, Marithe+Francois Girbaud jeans, Parisian booties, SM Accessories bracelet.
Where I’m from, summer was ages ago, and so was the CloseUp music festival “Summer Solstice” where I wore this outfit to. It’s still summer in the Northern Hemisphere though, so technically I’m not off-season. Haha.
I didn’t really feel like writing this just another event post so I shelved it for a while; the afternoon heat today got me thinking of it again.
In a nutshell, CloseUp Summer Solstice was a 12-hour music festival that featured local and foreign artists of varying genres. It was held April 27 at the MOA concert grounds.
I went with one of my good friends, Chris Everingham.
Of course, as soon as we got there we saw a lot of other friends. It was like everyone congregated there that night.
I’ve never gone on a night out of partying and clubbing before this (and I say this with only mild embarrassment, heh), so to say that it wasn’t bad for a first timer would be an understatement. The music was amazing and the crowd was awesome.
Familiar faces were everywhere, too, so you never ran out of people to enjoy with.
When things wound down, we hit the nearby Army Navy to chat and chow with friends.
Popples, Martin, Lana, my cousin Jeru, Shaoi and Robbie. They’re friends from different points in my life, some way back and others more recent, but one thing they all share in common is the feeling of ease being around them brings. In all honesty, it was the company of these guys that made it more worthwhile to go to Summer Solstice.
I think back to when I first encountered the term in high school. It was the title Filipino National Artist Nick Joaquin’s short story, set in the Philippines in the 1850s. It revolved around the “Tatarin,” a three-day pagan fertility ritual held during summer and ending in a festival. Drawn to mystical-sounding titles, I pounced on the story, and my thirteen-year-old mind was entranced by the delicious images conjured by Joaquin’s prose. Thus began my fascination for solstices and equinoxes, seasons and transitions.
Perhaps owing more to my penchant for finding connections than anything, I noticed how both the story and the event involved dancing, a festival, and the merging of divergent cultures. Both, too, are rife with symbolism—then again, maybe the use of “summer solstice” in itself evokes it. A solstice (literally, “sun standing stlll”) is when the sun comes to a stop before reversing its direction, marking the beginning of a season. Around the time of the event, an experiential solstice was upon me as well: days were long, everything was at a standstill, and I was wondering when the wait for change anew would be over.
Of course, seasons never fail. At the precise and perfect timing, the change occurred. And here things are, more vibrant and alive with possibilities than ever before. :)
Event photos by Jeru Paguntalan and Martin Adelantar of Illustrato. Outfit details: Forever21 corset top and maxi skirt, CMG platform sandals, SM Accessories clutch bag, headband and bracelet. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.
Your thoughts are most welcome! Feel free to leave a comment or a question below. If you haven’t yet, follow me on Twitter/Instagram @shailagarde for updates!
In the TEDTalks video “Why 30 is not the new 20,” psychologist Meg Jay talks about how we young people may lead more meaningful lives and invest in a future with purpose and fulfillment as we reach our thirties and beyond. It might be a few more years before I get to that stage, but Dr. Jay’s talk got me thinking of all my quarter-life qualms: the uncertainty at where the paths I’ve taken were headed, the desire to make a significant contribution to society, the realizations that turned mistakes into lessons.
As she underscores in her talk, our twenties are meant to be stepping stones, not “throwaway” years. ”Do something that adds value to who you are,” says Dr. Jay. It reminded me of steps we can take to get there, and I thought I’d wear these reminders on my sleeve—well, my arms—every day from now on.
On one hand, a watch to be reminded that time doesn’t stop for anyone, and that we must spend it wisely because we can never take a second, minute or hour of it back. On the other, a band of reminders for getting started on the me I want to be and the life I want to grow into.
(Paper Dolls top, Human jeans, booties from Korea, Esprit Time watch. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.) I got the charm bracelet from the jewelry coffers of Pandora. I’ve loved these things even as a little girl, and I used to tell myself back then that the perfect time will come when I can start building one and start filling it up, one life journey at a time.
I chose Pandora for many reasons, starting with my fascination with Greek mythology and the particular story of Pandora’s box which attempts to answer the question of why there is evil in the world. In grade 6, I wrote an adaptation of this story for a school play and got to play Pandora, the world’s first woman whose name literally means “she with all the gifts.” She opens a mysterious box out of curiosity and releases all the evils of humanity, leaving only Hope inside as she scrambled to close it again. It’s a tragedy, but it ends with that hope, and I’d like to think life is like that too.
My Pandora’s box opens up to a silver bangle with two locks and five charms: a silver cross with a heart in the middle flanked by turquoise Murano glass beads, a silver sphere with mother of pearl hearts and a silver flower with aquamarine stones.
The silver band, as a reminder that of two things: that things will always come full circle, and that precious things last. We will always reap what we sow, which is why we should take care to plant only seeds whose fruits we want to eat. Financial success and career achievement are undoubtedly important, but more so are our relationships. Are we making time for our parents, our siblings and cousins, our true friends? Will we be there whenever they need us? Do they know that we appreciate them for everything they’ve been doing for us, and are we able to give the same back to them?
The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautiful. The flower, as a reminder to bloom where I am planted, and my birthstone aquamarine (March) as a reminder that we are born for a purpose, and it is up to us to seek and fulfill it.
The rest are reminders of my aspirations. two turquoise beads (my favorite color!) to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! After trying out scuba diving despite not being a beach person and not knowing how to swim and ending up loving it, I realized that there’s so much more out there that I want to see and explore. As they say, traveling is the one thing you spend on that makes you richer. And finally, the white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping.
Thank you Joanne for helping me build my charm bracelet—literally and figuratively, Magel for helping me rediscover the spirit of adventure, Robbie for helping me learn when not to give a darn, Anton for helping me find the right words, and you readers, for being there. Next to my family, it’s friends like you who make this a charmed life. :)
“Let it go, it’s not worth it.” The choice between revenge and forgiveness was the theme of last Sunday’s church readings. It’s a universal struggle that anyone, believer or not, can relate to: when we are wronged, the immediate and overwhelming impulse is to seek “justice.” To retaliate and show that we won’t take crap from anyone. Yesterday in particular, Luke describes how Jesus’ friends want so badly to punish the people of Samaria when they refuse to welcome and let him pass through their town to get to Jerusalem. “Want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” James and John offer. Ever cool-headed, he simply tells them to walk away, and they quietly take a detour and move along without the drama.
Of course, when you’re a peace-loving guy who advocates “Turn the other cheek,” conciliatory meekness is the clear choice. For the rest of us though, this often proves difficult. Retreating or giving in is tantamount to admitting defeat. Nobody wants to be a pushover, a coward, a loser. But the point isn’t that we be afraid and let people walk all over us, or that we be martyrs and let people mistreat us even when we have aces up our sleeves and bullets in our barrels that we can use to fight back. The point is that we choose our battles, fight only the ones worth winning and let others “win” the rest.
The point is that we see the bigger picture: a year from now, will it matter? Is it a productive use of our time and effort? Will it make us any happier or less hurt? Betting from experience, the answer is a resounding no. It would simply never end, maybe even get worse. There are people and causes far more substantial and worth pursuing.
Today, the first of July, marks two other firsts: first day on my new job as the media and communications executive of a private corporation, first time to take on work in the corporate world. It’s a perfect mix of what I love about freelance creative work (telling stories, advocating Filipino industries, being in control of my own time), and the perks of a full-time job (financial security, travel opportunities, employment benefits). Looks to be an exciting new chapter to look forward to.
The first half of this year was a roller-coaster ride of uncertainties, realizations and wake-up calls—what precise timing that the second half should begin with things looking up and falling into place.
As it happens, when we prudently walk away from a troubling past and never look back, we give ourselves the gift of a future filled with much, much better things. :)
Photos by Don Michael De Leon of Happyfingers Photography. Outfit details: Essenxa ruffled top, Blanc et Noir paisley pencil skirt, Parisian shoes, SM Accessories. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.
A friend and I would often talk about the tyranny of choice—when we come upon a fork in the road, we are barraged with a million questions: If I choose this, what would be the opportunity cost? What would I miss out on? If I choose the other, what would I regret? Which one is the right path, the perfect choice?
I got into thinking about this yesterday at a lunch hosted by a friend who was leaving for Canada to continue his Masters. Soon, another friend is moving there to explore his options. Chalking them up to other friends who have been pursuing their chosen paths elsewhere in the world—in New York, in London, in Paris, I thought about the dreams they once shared with me that are now coming true, the challenges they are now encountering and overcoming, the successes they are now enjoying. The actions they have taken, whose consequences have led them to where they are right now.
I also got into thinking about my own choices, my what if’s and if only’s in life. The person I dreamed of becoming when I was younger and the one I am right now, the paths I’ve taken that didn’t quite align with one another, the dissonant and unfocused thoughts within me that manifested outwardly. There were just too many options!
I guess I’m what American psychologist Barry Schwartz calls in his book The Paradox of Choice, a maximizer. Simply put, a maximizer tends to overthink choices and overanalyze consequences. They like to consider each and every alternative and are worried about making the wrong choices. (The opposite of this is a satisficer, who makes a choice and sticks with it without looking back and worrying that there might be something better.) As a result of being a maximizer, I tend to always have realizations in hindsight: had I picked a different set of orgs in school, or hung out with a different set of people, or chosen a different course of study altogether, it would’ve vastly altered the landscape in which I move today. These thoughts aren’t imbued with hapless regret, mind you; I’m just really fascinated by the impact of one single choice. Knowing this has helped me become more focused and keep my goals aligned these days.
One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, talks about how the diversity of people’s identities and tastes gives way to this explosion of choice just as well. He was referring to food marketing, how we can’t always explain what we want, and how there isn’t one Platonic—perfect and universal—way to prepare a dish. But it also applies to everything else. We have so many choices because we are all so different, and we have embraced this diversity more so today than ever. In the past, people simply became what their parents were. Options for what to buy, where to go, which course to study, when and whom to marry, etc. were as limited as the exposure they had of the world outside their boundaries. Now our world is bigger. The forks in the road have more branches. It can be overwhelming, especially with the variety of choices available to us these days. But so long as we know what it is we want, we should be able to make the right ones. ♥
A typical weekend (i.e. lazy) look: slip-on dress, minimal accessories, bed hair and basic eye makeup. Takes five minutes. :) Photos by Don Michael De Leon of Happy Fingers Photography. Check out his works on Tumblr too.
The thing I like best about Don’s photos is how he captures portraits and textures of things as they are, as opposed to trying to make them always look picture-pretty; as a result, his shots have an honesty and “realness” to them that one rarely sees anymore. For our first shoot, I told him I’d go fuss-free and just let him take the reins, see what comes of it.
I mean, sure, there are days that require planning your look in advance, getting all dolled up and dressed to the nines. But to be honest, I quite enjoy days like these. Days when there is no itinerary, when the agenda is anything and the destination is anywhere.
Days when you can just relax with people you’re comfortable with, not having to think about what to say or how to act. When you can just goof around and not care so much.
As children, we didn’t really make a big fuss about the many things people make a fuss about now. With homework done and nap time duly over, we would spend our after-schools and weekends playing, roaming the neighborhood on bikes or skates or just our slippers. It was day in and day out of living simple happy lives, free from bouts of overanalyzing and instant-replays of our mistakes, and the inner struggles between our childlike honesty and society’s dictums of propriety. Something I personally miss about the nineties.
Well, we may not play taguan (hide-and-seek) or langit-lupa-impiyerno (heaven-earth-hell) or agawan-base (capture the flag) in our ratty old clothes anymore, but on a rare day of respite like this, we can let our hair down and leave the fussing for another day. •
Speaking of letting our hair down, here’s a song about not worrying even when sometimes, we get things wrong or feel afraid. Played on a pink ukulele for added happiness. Enjoy! :)
Today is José Rizal’s birthday and the day I got to watch “Man of Steel.” Two heroes with a universe of a difference—one real, one imaginary, yet both permanently etched in history as beacons of hope in mankind’s inherent goodness.
I had planned for this to be a tribute post for Rizal, hence the subtle nod to the way he dressed. He was quite the dapper gentleman, sharp and handsome in his coats and jackets.
But writing about one’s hero can be a challenging task. How do you tell the story of someone whom everybody on this side of the world is familiar with? As for the things about him that are not widely familiar, how do you condense everything you know and admire about someone you’ve looked up to your whole life, into a few paragraphs?
Rizal is one of the first national heroes that Filipino children encounter, in their one-peso coins and school books. We all know his life and death story. We all know of his famous novels and his equally famous loves. We know that there are monuments and parks and museums and streets and establishments named after him. What else? Well, he is a polymath—excellent in many fields, and a polyglot—conversant in 22 languages. If he were alive today, he’d be receiving awards left and right for his interdisciplinary achievements: educated in Ateneo and UST, attended universities in Europe. He practiced medicine, trained in mixed martial arts, dabbled in visual arts (painting, sketching, sculpting, woodcarving, and get this: comics making). He wrote poetry, essays, novels and papers in various topics and using various languages. He was one of the first proponents of non-violence, perhaps even before Gandhi. He was a visionary: his literary works and his words are just as relevant (if not more so) today as it was during his time.
I have always been awed by him. His greatness inspires and frustrates me at the same time—the hope that if Rizal could be all of these things, so could I, and the awareness that few are destined for his kind of greatness. This afternoon, I sat down and tried to articulate it all but drew a blank. Giving up, I went out with my mom to see “Man of Steel” for inspiration. By now I’m sure most of you have watched this movie. I’ve read some comics spanning different universes and seen past movies, and while I’m not about to delve into how this particular reboot inevitably veered away from some well-established Superman canon, I will say that I for one appreciate the efforts to ground it more on reality and plausibility. Unfavorable reviews notwithstanding, I enjoyed the film. (Plus, Henry Cavill is smoking hot. Hee.) It underscores how being good and making a difference in the world is not so much reliant on some pre-determined path laid out for us, as on our own choices.
After the movie, I remembered a Vsauce video I watched this morning about honor, the Great Man theory (that mankind’s history is impacted by only a few men whose destiny it is to be great) and the Accumulation of Advantage (that given the right advantages and circumstances, anyone has an opportunity to be great). The latter is a criticism of the former, but I believe the two are intertwined. I thought that for my Rizal tribute I’d also touch on Kal-el—ordinary in Krypton, and on Earth raised on an ordinary farm by ordinary folk, who just happened to be stronger and faster and more powerful than humans but is a good man with or without superpowers. How Rizal, born to a wealthy family with access to the best education that schools and world travel can give, made use of his gifts for the good of his people. And then I remembered the cover of my History textbook in Ateneo.
It’s one of my favorite books by one of the foremost experts on anything and everything Rizal: Sir Ambeth has dedicated his life and career to discovering the person behind the legends and myths. The ordinary individual with his foibles and human failings, the funny anecdotes, the contexts of his actions and words. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this image of Rizal as Superman came to mind on the same day I encountered them both and also happened to see the video. It is all a reminder of the importance of heroic imagination—to borrow from Vsauce, “thinking socio-centrically, not ego-centrically. Most heroes are everyday people who emerge as heroes in particular situations.” Here’s to the hope that when our chance comes, we would. •
Outfit details: Mango tailored jacket, Paper Dolls button-down blouse, Marithe+Francois Girbaud jeans, Cole Haan Lunar Grand wingtips, Dooney & Bourke bag, Guess wristwatch, SM Accessories necklace and bangle.
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.
Doing a different kind of matchy for Father’s Day! I waited for my dad to get dressed and then patterned my outfit to his.
Yes, my penchant for themed outfits stems from childhood. On special occasions, or just whenever we feel like being corny, my family would go out dressed in matching colors or a motif of some sort. It’s a good thing my dad has a lot of pink and light blue shirts. Haha.
Favorite colors aside, my dad and I have a lot of things in common. People say I got my quirky laughter and witty humor from him, which I always take as a huge compliment because my dad can really work up a crowd. I’ve never heard of a seminar he spoke at where people weren’t held captive by his stories, spontaneous jokes and occasional bursts of song-and-dance. He’s a quick study, able to do a little bit of everything and has a seemingly bottomless arsenal of general knowledge, and I hope I’m a little bit like that too.
One of the things my mom loves about my dad is how his eyes sparkle with intelligence. I agree; my mom was the one who mostly taught me English, Humanities and creativity while my dad was the one who taught me Maths, Sciences and analytical thinking. I remember him teaching me two-digit division when I was five! I hated it at the time, but now I wish I paid more attention. Haha. My books back then were filled with circled words: whenever we came across a term I wasn’t familiar with, he would encircle them with a pencil and scribble its definition. It wasn’t all left-brained for him though. He’s a compelling storyteller, a darn good cook and a sweet nurse: I grew up practically living in a hospital due to weak lungs, and even though there were many things I wasn’t allowed to eat or do (e.g. watching cartoons would make me laugh, and laughter would set off an asthma attack), I never felt like I had a deprived childhood, because Papa was always there singing for me, reading to me, carrying me, bringing me everywhere. Then until now, there’s always something to be learned just hanging around him: you would drive by a city and he would tell you a building’s history. You would listen to music and he would tell you trivia about the artists of that genre. You would eat at a restaurant and he would tell you how a particular dish is prepared depending on the region. Sometimes I would doubt the veracity of his stories or assume it to be one of his poker-faced jokes, but then I research about it and they turn out to be true. Long before National Geographic and Discovery Channel, we’ve had our own live version.
The one quality of my dad that I aspire most though is his remarkable resilience. Looking at him now, one probably wouldn’t be able to guess what he’s been through. Think of some telenovela plots you can remember and then mix them up: riches-to-rags childhood, growing up with an absentee father at the care of relatives in Iloilo while his mom worked as a labandera (laundrywoman) in Forbes Park, working as an ice candy vendor in the marketplaces of Caloocan and then as a construction worker in Merville among many other odd jobs while paying his way through school. His career is just as storied: he’s held high positions in the banking, foreign service, business and power industries and has had more economic ups-and-downs than a Ferris wheel, but he plowed through and bounced back each time. He’s been mistaken for a CPA, lawyer, professor, restaurateur, and an engineer of all sorts, because even if he is none of the above, he displays unparalleled excellence in any field he gets into. I may sound like I’m a gushing daddy’s girl, but if you meet him, you’d know what I mean. He has his own version of “Bloom where you are planted” that I often share in my own talks: “Ang diyamante, kahit ihalo mo sa buhangin, kikinang at kikinang pag nasinagan ng araw.” (A true gem, even when hidden in the sand, shines brightest under the sunlight.) He teaches us by words and example that though you can’t always control your circumstances, you can always control your attitude and make the best of any situation.
Despite knowing all these, many times in the recent past I’ve found it easier to give in to emotions or laziness or self-doubt. When confronted with daunting situations, I would forget to stop and ask myself, “What would Papa do?” and go on to act however I felt like acting. But I take comfort in another thing my dad likes to tell me: “You can only be who you’re not for so long. You won’t be able to sustain it, and sooner or later you’ll be forced by circumstance to go back to your core.”
I’d like to think I’ve been on my way back to being who I’ve always been supposed to be. After all, I am his daughter, and he is my dad. ♥
Outfit details: Lee Cooper sleeveless button down, Betty flap shorts, Crocs strappy slip-ons, SM Accessories bag.
I’d love to hear your stories too, so go ahead and leave a comment below.
Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!