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.
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. :)
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! :)
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!
Philippine Independence Day, June 12th, has drawn to a close. I originally planned on precluding myself from writing about it, as I can be quite impassioned when delving into nationalistic topics. Instead, last night, I chose to wear love-of-country, titled it “Flagged,” completely veered away from touching on anything historically relevant, and promptly proceeded to give a rather vapid and unnecessary description of how the styling was a lighthearted tribute to our nation’s colors.
I figured that at best, chances are everyone’s news feeds have been inundated with reflections on the current state of the country and how nothing has really changed much from the times we were under rule, reflections and sentiments that are bound to last only until the 19th (Jose Rizal’s birthday). At worst, chances are it was just another holiday for many, a one-day respite from the rigors of every day life. Would it make a difference to try and stir up fervor in many a jaded heart?
But today I remembered Rizal’s words: “I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country… You, who will see it, welcome it for me. Don’t forget those who fell during the nighttime.” Like an itch you can’t help but scratch, I couldn’t shake off the unease that I seemed to be doing a disservice to a national holiday (barely) observed once a year. So I rewrite this in honor of those brave heroes, famed and unsung, who fought so hard to give the Philippines at least a semblance of freedom that day in 1898.
I say semblance not to undermine any of their efforts, but because had certain things been done differently by the nation’s policymakers at the time, things might have also turned out differently: as we are taught in History class, the Filipino revolutionaries led by Emilio Aguinaldo made this declaration of independence from the Spanish colonial rule on June 12th in his ancestral home in what is now Kawit, Cavite. The flag made by Marcela and Lorenza Agoncillo, together with Rizal’s niece Delfina Herbosa, was unfurled, and Julian Felipe’s Marcha Filipina Magdalo (what would later on be given Jose Palma’s words and turned into the melody of Lupang Hinirang) was played. Despite much pomp and circumstance though, neither Spain nor the United States recognized this declaration: Spain ceded the Philippines to America for $20 million in the Treaty of Paris. It marked the end of the Spanish-American war, and the beginning of the Philippine-American war.
In his El Fili, Rizal wrote that a man holds on to his independence when he retains his own way of thinking. My humble thoughts on this: I’m not a big fan of Aguinaldo. Heh. I’m writing this from memory and from discussions with my dad, and I will reserve the rest of my Aguinaldo stories for Bonifacio Day, but for June 12th, what I know is that after the Philippine revolution broke out in 1896, the Spanish entered into an agreement with the revolutionaries and Aguinaldo voluntarily went into exile in Hong Kong. He came back in May 1898 during the Spanish-American war after the defeat of Spain in the Battle of Manila Bay and enlisted a brilliant paralytic lawyer, Apolinario Mabini as his adviser. Mabini has said the declaration was premature and should involve the consensus of the majority. He was also against the fact that it placed the Philippines under American protection. But Aguinaldo insisted on establishing his “independent” dictatorial government, only to later on issue a statement accepting America’s sovereignty over the Philippines when he was captured. Centuries later and the stories still sound familiar, eh?
I guess this is why I get impassioned when talking about this. This country and its people can become so much more, can enjoy so many possibilities, if only we recognized everything that we are and everything that we have. If only we learned from our past and resolved to do things differently. If only our politicians listened more to our intellectuals: our Rizals and our Mabinis, taking into careful consideration their analyses and educated opinions. If only the small people and the soldiers and those working behind the scenes—the Agoncillos and Herbosas, were given as much importance as the grandstanding generals and leaders. If only these leaders sincerely considered the welfare of the vast majority in making their decisions. If only we held our country in a higher regard, loved ourselves a little bit more, and worked harder to uphold our dignity. Then, we could truly be a people with independence. ☼
Outfit details: Weekender top, custom skirt, CMG platform wedges, Anne Klein purse, SM Accessories necklace, belt and earrings, Japanese Candy contact lenses.
My mom, who among many other things is my photographer and hairstylist, helped me out with an updated version of your typical Filipiniana updo.
Save for the hair, I avoided the updated-Filipiniana look because that’s pretty much always done. Let me know your thoughts—whether about the topic or the outfit. I’d also love to hear how you would style your own tribute.
Impromptu one-take before bed. Yep, use it or lose it—rusty pipes from a few years of dormancy. Time to flex ‘em vocal muscles again. :) Video requested by my brother Vince’s girlfriend, Winona. It’s their birthdays on June 18th. ♥
A hark back to circa 2009 when I was doing TV production full-time. Had this vest-over-tank top with wristband and sneakers thing going on, and would often be mistaken for someone who plays in a band—specifically bass, for some odd reason.
Would it that I were. The only time I’ve ever been in a band was for a few weeks in senior high school, and only to fill in for a friend who got sick. Plus it was for vocals; I’m fine with YouTube covers but for legit performances, the only instrument I’d be comfortable enough to play would be air guitar.
Band or no band, music has always been a profound part of my life. My mom still has cassette recordings of 3-year-old me singing everything from Whitney Houston to Francis M, as well as little snippets of my grade school “compositions” (i.e. some words strung together haphazardly mostly to make them end in rhymes, sung to a pretty generic melody). Every highlight of my life, every person that bears making a memory of, has their own OST. Strangely enough, in the past couple of years, I had stopped singing, even in private. I barely listened to music by my own choice or for its sheer pleasure. If you checked my iPhone then, there was, as Siri snootily observed, “nothing in your Music library, just… silence.” If you are what you listen to, I was… how shall we put it? Vacant.
I finally got out of that laughable atrocity and got my groove back this year. It feels fascinating to be reunited with the gallimaufry of beats that once occupied my playlists and my soul. I will not use the word “eclectic” for the same reason I avoid the word “bipolar," and say instead that you’ll find Armstrong and Sinatra and Fitzgerald with their contemporaries from the swing band era along with the earnest riffs of Cash, Chapman and Mayer, the anthems of Marley, Queen and Journey (way, way, way before Glee, thanks to my dad) along with the happy comfort of Hillsong United, Manoling Francisco and Velvet Underground, and the sweeping symphonies of centuries-old Tchaikovsky, Bach and Beethoven along with movie soundtracks and Top 40 hits of recent billboard charts. I’ve started singing again. In the shower, while driving, at karaoke, in front of crowds, on YouTube. I’ve also gone back to self-learning basic music. Could girl-in-a-band turn from mistaken assumption into reality? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Outfit details: Landmark tank top, YRYS vest, Human skirt, SM Accessories cuff.
We all have those days when things just feel slightly off-kilter for no apparent reason. You wake up with a weird fluttering in your stomach, and it’s not caused by the previous night’s sushi nor the good morning text your crush just sent you. It’s a sinking feeling, the cause of which you can’t really pinpoint—or maybe you can, and it’s just these minor annoyances clumped up into a big stress ball. So how do you quash that feeling?
You look on the bright side of things. Yes, it sounds patronizingly trite, but it’s also tried and true. One of my best friends, Joanne, would always tell me something to that effect whenever I would go to her for things that bothered me. “Life is beautiful, Shai! I won’t allow you to wallow when there is so much to be thankful for!” I used to feel bad at how she wouldn’t join me in my life’s lamentations. When we’re young, we tend to shrug off these things and be oh-so-dramatic about our woes instead of choosing to be positive.
But then it occurred to me that she’s one of the happiest, perkiest persons in my life and thought I’d give her attitude of gratitude a sincere try. Whenever an imaginary dark cloud loomed, I would list down every single thing I’m thankful for. Not just the significant, mind-blowing, life-altering ones, but even the most mundane (the amount of milk I poured was just enough to finish my Koko Krunch, all the stoplights I passed today were green, the barista spelled my name right on the cup) and those we sometimes take for granted (I arrived at my day’s destination safely, the elevator didn’t get stuck while I was alone inside, the waiter brought me water without being asked).
It’s one of those practices that are childishly basic and stupefyingly logical, yet a struggle to get the hang of. There are times when writing down all those thank you’s feels like the last thing I want to do. But cliches are nothing if not notorious tenets of simple wisdom: the more I rebel against it, the deeper I sink into a rut. The more I keep at it, the better everything starts to seem. These days more than ever, I’ve come to know that while we will always be besieged with trials, we will also never run out of things to brighten our days once we start looking. ♥
If a psychic ever foretold I’d be doing this, I would’ve laughed the incredulous thought off, until about two weeks ago. Me, dive? The only time I’m ever near the ocean is when I cover beachfront events for magazines or produce summer segments for a TV show. I can swim only in waters shallow enough that I can stand up with my head above the surface—which suffices to say I can’t swim to save my life.
Yet despite my trepidations about the sea, last weekend found me at Mabini, Batangas with my friends Magel, Joanne, Chez and Chris. Not just to swim, but to learn how to sink. And as I would later find out, to learn many things more.
We got to meet Magel’s friends as well. Dan and Jonathan beside us are intro divers too, while the ones in front (Magel, Anton, Javy and Kevin) have all been diving here for years.
I met these two in 2009. We were all part of the production team of Project Runway Philippines 2 and instantly hit it off. From back then until now, Magel and Joanne have always been a source of strength and wisdom. I know I wouldn’t even think about trying this if they weren’t the people I’d be with.
Pool session with James, our instructor.
We were taught the basics of mask clearing, regulator clearing, equalizing, finning and proper breathing. To my pleasant surprise, I took to water like, well, a duck takes to water. The week before our diving trip, up to the minute I was already parking the car at the resort, I had spent so much time and energy being scared and worried how everything would go. All that wasted effort on something that turned out to be so ridiculously simple!
I volunteered to go first. Pink fins always help give a girl courage.
And then I was off to sea. There was nothing but the steady rhythm of my breathing, harmonizing with the muffled gurgle of a thousand tiny bubbles around us. Even the noise of my own thoughts was drowned out.
Underwater shots care of Javy’s GoPro and underwater camera case.
At first, I held on tight, like a baby about to take her first few steps. But as we went deeper and deeper, the water seemed to be more welcoming, beckoning us to come and see all the beauty she has to offer.
It’s gonna be okay, it seemed to say. Slowly, the current washed away the fears and anxieties and I was able to let go.
The undersea wandering left me wondering why I’ve been squandering all those opportunities in the past to try new things and see what else is out there. Why I’ve let myself be hindered by so many fears I myself conjured up, by apprehensions I allowed people to shove in my head, by regrets I willingly wallowed in.
Joanne and Chez, who were just as afraid at first. When we all came up, the feeling was indescribable.
It helped enormously that I was with three types of divers that day: the inexperienced ones who shared my fears (thank you, Joanne and Chez), the seasoned ones who showed us how awesome they feel (thank you, boys), and the teacher who helped us transition from one to the other (thank you, James).
Above all, thank you, Magel. I’ve been a hermit crab this whole year, and you patiently coaxed me out of my shell to try and do things I previously thought unthinkable.
"Dive, but don’t drown." I texted my parents and siblings just before I went out to sea, and that’s what my dad said to me. Knowing his penchant for humorous wordplay, he was probably just trying to be funny in telling his daughter to be careful. But his words spoke volumes more than that.
As the sun sank into sea, the realization sank into me that indeed, there are many things that will besiege us. Challenges, triumphs, excruciating sadness, immense joy, failures, victories. Whichever of these pressures arise, what’s important is that we learn to equalize, to go with the flow, to take deep breaths and calmly work our way through the current and not let ourselves be swept away. To clear the fog in our masks that might be keeping us from seeing things clearly. To dive into things and take it all in, embrace what’s enveloping us, but not let it drown us.
I can’t wait for what the next experience will be teaching.
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. :)
The day started with a migraine attack. Those who’ve seen me with one, know how bad it gets every time. All I see are blinding flashes of light for a half-hour, my limbs go numb, and unless I take meds, I throw up from the pain. Not a pretty sight, and definitely not a pleasant experience. Pretty traumatizing in fact that when I feel one coming on, I panic. But this time felt different—like nothing could stop me. I was excited to get to work!
Work meant going to the press junket for actress Troian Bellisario who plays Spencer Hastings on “Pretty Little Liars.” She was in town with her boyfriend, Patrick J. Adams, who plays Mike Ross on “Suits.” While I don’t follow “PLL” as religiously as “Suits,” I watch it for Troian. I find her beautiful, smart, independent and whole, a kind of girl I strive to be. Ever since I knew about them individually and as a couple, I’ve wanted to meet them.
So as soon as my vision returned, I drove as fast (and carefully) as I could from Pampanga to Quezon City, where my friend Abi joined me. She took over the wheel so I could do my makeup and try to fix my hair—in the end though, I just let it fall however it wanted. Haha.
My nails have been craving for servicing, too. I’d been practicing on the ukulele and I thought a manicure would be counter-productive. Heh. Just hoped the skirt, clutch and bracelets made up for it.
Thanks to a throbbing head and lack of prep, we arrived late at Marriott Hotel where the junket was being held. Now I admit, sometimes I can be a worrier and panic when things don’t go my way. But for some reason, the idea that I went through all that trouble and drove a hundred kilometers for nothing wasn’t bothering me one bit. Somehow, I felt like things were still going to be great.
And I was right. A few minutes later, I was taking Instagram photos with Troian and taking a video of Patrick saying hi to me.
Plus this awesome video of him greeting me on my birthday.
In March 2010 started a love story eight years in the making. Seph and I met in 2002 through my cousin Jeru, his best friend of 11 years. Through those years we were always just along the borders of each other’s lives, crossing paths every now and then in between relationships, keeping in touch and losing touch and finally finding each other many years and lessons later.
When we did, we were so sure we had both been prepared for this. That there must have been a reason we weren’t brought together eight years ago; that we were meant to first grow and learn from past mistakes. Things fell into place almost cosmically: the chemistry effortless, the connection unbreakable, everyone’s love and support overwhelming. This is what we’ve been waiting our whole lives for, we thought.
It’s been our joy sharing our story with you through this blog—our passions, hopes, milestones and memories. Love Chic has not only been a celebration of our love for fashion, but of love. Of two people whose bond is so strong that one can feel or think what the other feels or thinks without saying a word. Two people with so much in common it’s like they’ve known each other all their lives. Whose differences are so complementary that when their strengths and weaknesses combine, they’re unstoppable. Two people who have made cynics believe that true love is real after all.
But love as a feeling is never enough. Falling in love is the easiest thing, while staying in love requires commitment. It takes two; not one, not three, to make a relationship work. As it turns out, the worst fears and gut feelings I’ve been having for a while were real: Seph and I have stopped moving together in this direction. The things that were supposed to be just between the two of us—secrets, plans, dreams, problems, were no longer just between the two of us.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, our story has come to an end.
They say fight for what’s yours. Give it your all. But when it turns out it has no longer been yours for over a year now, you can fight and give with all you’ve got and it won’t make the slightest difference.
When that happens, all you can do is forgive, and move on. Be grateful for what happened, and have faith that things can only get better.
From here on, Seph is leaving Love Chic to me. There will be changes, but with the same name and aim of inspiring young people to be their best and confident selves. We hope you’ll continue to be supportive of us even as we go our own ways.
Made this on our anniversary to celebrate our story. It’s time to let it go. :)
To everyone who stood by us from the very beginning, when we were starting out with webcam photos on Facebook albums. To everyone who read our first blog posts and watched our first videos. To everyone who came by our talks, wrote to Dear Love Chic, dropped by our bazaar booths, watched our guestings, and read our features. To everyone who showed their faith in us, who looked up to us and made us feel like we were doing something right. To everyone who loved Love Chic, and sephshai.
It’s been a while since our last blog post! Along with the coming of the new year (and the Chinese new year lol), a lot of changes have been afoot.
Change, we often hear, is the only thing that’s ever constant. The only thing that follows a pattern. At first, resistance; and fear of tipping the balance. Of rearranging anything.
And then, enough courage to embrace the reality that what has been comfortable, what’s easy, isn’t always what’s right.
Enough courage is mustered to face whatever must happen head on, with a sound mind and a willful heart.