Love Chic

Cool Change

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Quick shoot at the airport before my trip to Seoul yesterday afternoon. It’s 8 degrees here when we arrived at night, but of course I couldn’t wear my jacket yet in the sweltering heat of Manila, heh. 

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A lot of firsts come with this, like the first time to (finally!) visit a favorite city, first time to travel with the whole family including cousins, and my first time out of the country on Holy Week.

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They say Lent comes in tandem with conversion—a change in attitudes, mindset, or principles. Sometimes, the change is temporary, like not eating meat or going on Facebook. Other times, the change is as profound as forming a new habit or subscribing to a different way of doing things. 

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Whichever the case, it’s a season usually associated with a somber and sobering kind of change. “Repent,” “penitence,” and “metanoia” become almost like buzzwords. As Christians, I realize that we’re supposed to spend this season reflecting on the Son of God made fully human, and the passion and death He had to suffer for our sins. But, whether or not one believes in His divinity, it’s hard to argue that Jesus was a highly intelligent, progressive, open-minded, and all-around cool person. As we journey towards becoming better persons, I’d like to believe He would rather we find happiness and delight in our hearts with the thought that we are so loved by God we were given His only Son, rather than guilt and anxiety and fear for all the wrongs we’ve committed and the punishment they deserve.

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I mentioned that there are many firsts about this Holy Week trip. I guess the most important of all is that for the first time, instead of the sadness Catholics seem “obligated” (for lack of a better word) to feel, I would rather we feel honored for the grace we’ve been receiving. Instead of a sacrifice borne out of penance or self-flagellation or self-deprivation, I would rather a commitment to give back and pay forward, all the love and kindness we experience. 

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Lent is all about change, but I’d like to think the things we do around it don’t have to be glum, compulsory, and consequently, unsustainable. We can be reflective and contrite and be doing them not out of obligation but with sincere and peaceful joy. ♥ 

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What I wore on the flight—laidback summery. Lemon yellow, grey and white colorblocking dress, Cole Vintage

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Even my suitcase was a fruity avocado green, subdued by an injection of white here and there. 

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Different shades. Grey shoulder bag, SM Accessories. 

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My two Pandora bracelets and Titan Raga watch, my go-to combination for when I don’t have a particular arm party in mind.

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Kitten-heeled pumps in grey and floral pastels, Forever 21. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here. Let me know what you think of this post by commenting below. :) Korea series coming soon—hope you have an equally delightful week ahead!

Sporadic

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We all have stuff we love to look back fondly on. In my case, it’s 2013—the first quarter was just full of people and events you never want to be mired in, followed by a remarkable transition for the better, and then everything went uphill from there.

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The reason I like looking back on that is I get to read about how things were, exactly 365.25 days back. This time a year ago, I was writing about "Araw ng Kagitingan" and Paulo Coelho and how my friend Lester, whose birthday it is today, came home from New York and paid me a surprise visit. 

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Looking back never fails to amaze me at how fate can surprise you. Nothing back then prepared me for the surge of way, way happier experiences and way, way better people that were poised to come into my life soon after, as if in exchange for all those awful ones. 

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Looking back makes me appreciate everything tenfold. I have everything and everyone I could ever need be happy and content, and every day, I’m inspired tenfold to work hard to make sure that it can only get better. It’s true what they say that we can only fully realize how far we’ve come when we never forget where we come from. :)

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Black and white sporadically spotted dress, Zara. 

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Contact lenses, Japanese Candy. Necklace, SM Accessories.

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The bag is a raid from my cousin Jeru’s girlfriend, Lana.

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Booties, Dorothy Perkins. The socks are a raid from my mom’s closet. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

Photos by Jeru Czar. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @shailagarde. Feel free to post a comment below!

Time To Change

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A day I juggled my day job and blogging—shuttled from a business forum at the Hotel Intercontinental…

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…to Century City Mall for an awesome new brand launch, and back.

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Hype what I’m wearing on Lookbook here, vote for it on Chictopia here. Black top, Mango. Animal printed leopard skirt, discovered in a Balikbayan box of unworn clothes sent to our house years ago.

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Metallic shoulder bag, SM Accessories. A cute piece that could be worn with casual or party wear. Except I don’t party, so I just wear metallics even in daytime.

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Metallic gold flats, Ziggy & Zooey. I got these a couple of years ago, along with five other pairs from them, and they’re all still alive and kicking. Glad I got a pair in this versatile color.

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Love Chic key and heart pendant, Pulseras by Kim. And the reason for coming to Century City Mall: personalized wristwatch, Marc Coblen.

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Since its launch last year, Marc Coblen watches have been gaining a continuous buzz among the style-conscious, tastemaking set around the globe. Adorning the wrists of many a style-maker, Marc Coblen timepieces have become a quick favorite for their versatility—each basic piece can be changed to suit different lifestyles and moods by selecting and changing different watch straps and bezels.

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If there are two things I love in fashion, it’s (1) versatile pieces that (2) you can personalize. Naturally, this display at the Manila launch of Marc Coblen in TWG Century City Mall got me intrigued.

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First things first: you choose a base watch. They come in black, brown or white straps, and a variety of color combinations for the face. Black, white, gold, silver.

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Next, choose a second set of leather or silicon straps. 

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Needless to say, I took my time (pun inevitable) testing out different straps for my base watch. At first, I was going for emerald green.

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After a few more tries, I realized a classic camel strap would be easier to match with any outfit.

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Then, choose a bezel. The base watch I got was 42mm in diameter (the other sizes are 45mm and 50mm, and 42 is all my tiny wrist could take). I chose one encrusted in princess-cut Swarovski crystals.

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Done! Love how the camel strap complement the white and rose gold dial and the Swarovski crystals.

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This is why Marc Coblen is so cool. Designed by horlogerist Jordy Coblen of TW Steel watches, it’s the only brand of men’s watches designed for women (if you love wearing the watch of your dad, brother or boyfriend too, you know I mean).

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With interchangeability and convenience being at the heart of its design, Marc Coblen watches are the perfect style statement for any fashion-conscious urbanite. Be it casual, trendy, colorful, rugged or romantic, the style combinations are endless! Here’s a how-to video for choosing your own.

    

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Marc Coblen watches are brought to the Philippines by Swiss Prestige Inc. and are available at Century City Mall, SM Southmall, and selected Chronos, Swissgear and Wristpod stores.

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Thanks to my friends at Lucerne Group and Pix Republik for the fun day and the additional photos!

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What do you think of this outfit? How would you design your own Marc Coblen watch? Tweet me @shailagarde or write a comment below. :)

The Simple Things

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Hello! Finally a blog post after what seems like forever. I noticed some new names added to the followers list—welcome! Thank you for deeming this little space worthy of clicking that Follow button. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, so let’s ease in my “comeback” with something light and easy in lieu of my occasional thought-heavy posts.

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Hype what I’m wearing on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here. Checkered jumpsuit, Dorothy Perkins. Love how this one-piece can be made to look on either the girly or androgynous side, depending on the shoes and hair. 

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Necklaces, SM Accessories. Layered the leaves and rose together to make it more interesting.

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Charm bracelet, Pandora. Raga watch, Titan. Whenever I want to keep my accessories simple, this is my go-to pairing.

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Shoulder bag, SM Accessories. Multicolor manicure, Nail It. A pop of pastels injects a bit of femininity into an otherwise androgynous and monochromatic outfit.

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Socks and buckled zip-up boots, Topshop. I’ve been wearing these to death lately.  Without the socks, they can look like sandals. They’re not as hardcore and heavy as legit combat boots, and they definitely pack a punch in the style department. They add a little height, too.

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These photos were taken by my mom when we went to Iloilo a few weekends ago. We were really just having lunch, but the backdrop was too nice to pass up.

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Midway is this farm-market-restaurant in Passi City, Iloilo, reminiscent of the ones we’re familiar with in Tagaytay and Cavite.  

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It’s very much a country-home type of setting. (The banner says, “Grilled Pizzas.” More on that later.)

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The entrance is a small fish pond leading to a lanai.

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To the left is the gift shop and grocery.

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The items they sell are mostly organic and farm-fresh goods.

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To the right is the indoor restaurant. There are couches and daybeds, plus some quirky trinkets from the past such as an old-school, coal-powered flat iron. It’s a shame they closed it that day, as they usually do when there isn’t any function or there aren’t a lot of people around.

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When the restaurant is closed, the backyard is where diners go.

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Huts with tables and hammocks. 

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Those three people would be my dad, mom and my uncle who’s now based in California.

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Most of the ingredients in their food offerings come from their own backyard. Like these lettuces. I didn’t get to take photos of the other areas of the farm though, as they were about to close for the day. 

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Grilled pizza. We had about three of these, and still wanted more. 

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I would say Midway’s halo-halo is the best I’ve tried so far, and that’s saying a lot, since I live in Pampanga which is supposedly the home of the best halo-halo. 

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I couldn’t resist running of to the playground by the lettuces and sampling the mini climbing wall. This visit to Midway served as such a happy reminder that all we really need in life are the simple things: family, honest-to-goodness food, and a clear-skied day.

Let me know what you think of this post by tweeting me @shailagarde or writing a comment below! April is Love Chic’s anniversary month, and Love Chic is on its fourth year, so y’all better stay tuned for the upcoming awesomeness. :)

What’s Your Essence?

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"What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words (let alone his name) weren’t easy to spell out for me as a seven-year old reading "The Little Prince." Of course, through the years we come to realize that the seemingly simple, innocent, unassuming stories of our childhood turn out to be filled with meaning. And on essence, Saint-Exupéry couldn’t have made more sense.

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I’ve written about the five elements that make up everything around us: the essences of the physical world. At the launch of jewelry brand Pandora’s Essence Collection February 26, it was all about the elements that make up the essence of womanhood.

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What they’re made of, from left to right. Above: synthetic ruby, oxidized sterling silver, shiny sterling silver, lapis lazuli, milky quartz, cubic zirconia, smoky quartz, cubic zirconia, amethyst, cubic zirconia, carnelian. Below: rose pink moonstone, synthetic hematite, magnesite, grey moonstone, sterling silver with tree bark texture, sterling silver with Mandala pattern, faceted sterling silver, cubic zirconia, green aventurine, aquamarine, smooth sterling silver, black spinel. 

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The inspiration: “Throughout history, women continually ask and search for meaning in their lives. Today, more than ever, projected truths about happiness and contentment are shallow. Rather, there is a yearning for deeper meanings and true values that can define us and, in turn, show the world who we really are.” And to give meaning to this new collection, the brand chose four Filipinas whose stories are revealed through the values that made them the women they are. 

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There’s model and host Kim Jones whom I met while producing for “Etcetera.” Entrepreneur Amina Aranaz-Alunan who was with Chalk when I wrote for the magazine, and whom I’ve interviewed for her Aranaz bags, School of Fashion and the Arts, and Rags2Riches. Lawyer and host Karen Jimeno-McBride who holds three degrees including a Master of Law in Harvard Law School and juggles eight jobs. And prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, whose passion for the dance arts is unrivalled. Together with my friend Krista Garcia of Rappler, I got to sit down with them before the show on the charms they chose as women of essence. Portraits by Ramon Tan Mangila of PIx Republik.

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Kim: Love, Faith, Happiness. “They work so well together. Obviously it’s a season in my life where all of these are coming into play right now, with the [upcoming] wedding [to actor Jericho Rosales], and faith is my foundation in my life. And when I saw that they had these, it was just the perfect combination of all three.”

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Amina: Prosperity, Peace, Joy. “It’s when I have a vision of what I want to to do and achieve. When I see it, I work at it. When I pursue a dream, idea, when I see it happening, flourishing, when I see other people benefiting from it, enjoying it, being able to pursue their own goals and dreams through what I started dreaming of.”

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Karen: Wisdom, Confidence, Energy. “They’re what’s really appropriate in my profession. Knowing that I’ve equipped myself with the skills I need to pursue my goals gives me confidence, but then it’s complimented by wisdom which is recognizing that you don’t know everything. There are a lot of things you don’t learn by just going to school—a lot comes from actual life experiences. I juggle six to eight jobs and it requires a lot of energy. My most important job, however, is being a good wife, daughter, sibling and friend.”

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Lisa: Hope, Strength, Passion. “Passion is dance, and ballet. It’s my whole life and it’s what’s driven me this far, up to now in my old age. Strength—not just physical but spiritual and mental strength that comes with the discipline, it comes with the work ethics and everything that is involved with keeping it together. Hope, because what is life without hope? I have always been a very optimistic, positive person. I’ve always been someone that looks up at the bright side of any situation and how you can move forward and how you can keep on improving.” 

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Working together with Krista on the interviews was a fun throwback to our time as co-producers in ETC. I get many event invites, but these days, I only get to attend a special few. For an afternoon of style and substance at this launch, I’m glad I went with someone who possesses equal amounts of both. 

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Some of us were given our own sterling silver bracelet. I thought it fitting that Pandora is Greek for “all-gifted.” 

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In the show was this beautiful tree with fruits hanging. 

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Bearing the names of the 24 essences in the collection, the fruits were ripe for the picking, so to speak. Everyone with a bracelet was asked to go up to the tree and pick one.

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I spotted a few: Courage, Happiness, Trust, Loyalty, yet for some reason, I kept searching for the essence that would speak to me. And then, hanging in its lonesome was this. Stability. One of the best gifts I’ve received and have been happily working to keep.

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Host Angel Jacob then revealed a beautiful twist: we would be going home with the charm representing the essence we chose.

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Krista picked Happiness. On the box: “Happiness. Let the feeling fill you, body and soul.” Perfect for her easygoing personality.

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On the box: “Stability. An inner foundation that supports all that comes.” 24 cubic zirconia stones form an unbroken circle of sparkling stones that expresses the importance of stability in life.  

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That makes two Pandora bracelets for me! I absolutely love how dainty they look, even when stacked together. More importantly, I love how each one of these charms has an embedded essence.

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Some ways to style the charms. Maybe someday!

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What I wore. I’ve worn this dress before and I wanted to show how accessories, hairstyle and shoes can change a look despite wearing the same piece. And yes, this color is a favorite. Lace halter skater dress, Crazy Over Daisies. Peep-toe heels, Janylin. Bag, Nine West. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here

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I’d love to get your thoughts via Tumblr reply, Tumblr ask, Disqus comment, or tweet @shailagarde :) What’s your essence?

Wear these to your school dance

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I was asked by Beautybook to write about what to wear to Prom (or Grad Ball, or whatever you call your high school dance). Instead of just an article, I decided to take on the challenge myself: put together a head-to-toe look on a student-friendly budget.

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I started around 10 o’clock in the morning and gave myself until the afternoon to cram everything, and this is what I came up with. And since I have no dance to go to, I’m giving away this dress as a personal gift to my high school readers. Read more for details.

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Icy blue strapless sweetheart high-low tulle lace dress with gold high-waist bow belt, Viola at The SM Store. Gold embellished evening sandals, Gibi. 

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Gold clutch bag, sparkly drop earrings, and floral bangle, all SM Accessories. Multicolor pastel nails, Nail It.

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I explain in my Beautybook article what silhouettes suit which body type, and what colors suit which skin tone. I chose the cut and color of my dress based on my petite frame and summer skin tone. 

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I also answer a question I get a lot on my Tumblr Ask: how to figure out what shoes and bag to wear with an outfit. 

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In this case, I followed a theme: sparkly, icy blue, gold (because “Frozen" is amazing). I pulled the color and fabric of the shoes from the satin belt, while the metallic clutch goes with the glitter of the dress. The bangle is inspired by a Prom corsage and matches my pastel nails. The pieces are complementary rather than matchy-matchy.

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Instead of going to the salon, I went with DIY makeup (check out my tutorial on the basics here). A basic smoky-eye with brown and gold eyeshadows blended together, no falsies, romantic blushing look, natural lips. Contact lenses, Japanese Candy. For the hair, I went with soft waves instead of an updo for a fresh and fun look—it’s high school, and you have the rest of your life to look older!

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What do you think of this look? Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here. Read the rest of my tips for your body type and skin tone, plus Prom hair and makeup tutorials here

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If you or someone you know is my size, join my little giveaway :) You must be following me on Instagram, Twitter and/or Tumblr. Reblog this entry, or Instagram/tweet a collage of two of my photos with this caption: “www.lovechic.com.ph - I want to win @shailagarde’s Prom dress!” Then, write a Disqus comment below with the links to your post(s) as well as why you want this dress. On March 10, Monday, I’ll choose the winning answer and post it as the “Featured Comment” right below this entry. :) I’ll also announce it on Twitter. Happy weekend!

Photographed by Anton Holmes at 22 Prime, Discovery Suites.

You can find better

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I love my job. I get to do the things I liked doing as a freelancer, but on a paycheck that allows me to spend on myself, my loved ones, and those who could use a little push, as a way to pay it forward.

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It’s not just the material rewards though, or the opportunities for traveling and learning from successful industry leaders and inspiring innovators who care more about substance and less about shallow popularity contests. It’s not just about the flexible lifestyle it has afforded me, or the mentors and friends I’ve gotten to meet who helped reinstate values and virtues I seemed to have forgotten about. Sure, the benefits are awesome. But I love my job for what it represents.

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For the eight years following graduation, I pursued all the creative things I’m passionate about: writing, fashion, videos, the arts. No doubt I learned and enjoyed a lot. I felt like I could do it forever—that I can never find anything better. I had this stubborn, furious aversion to working in corporate, because I didn’t like feeling curtailed: nine-to-five, dress code, cubicle confinement, bosses. 

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Thankfully, being forced out of everything we worked to achieve leaves us considering choices we previously deemed out of the question. I finally gave in to my dad's years-long wish of seeing me fulfill my potential on a more stable career path, in a job that requires more than a pretty face or a skinny figure or awesome style or decent social skills. A job that, in addition to allowing me to pursue creative passions, actually stretches me. It's like being on both sides of the green grass. Or having your hand in both cookie jars, if you can relate to baked goods more than to animals of pasture.

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So while I certainly don’t regret my decade of frolicking in freelance, and have huge respect for my brilliant colleagues in the creative field, right now I am perfectly content in my ergonomic chair, waiting for the driver to take me to the airport to fly home after another productive week. I hope that whenever you feel like settling, be it for a friend or a relationship or a job simply because you don’t think can find better, this story would remind you: yes, you can.

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Leopard print top, The Berries. Pencil skirt, Mango. Pumps, Parisian. Necklace, rings, bangle and handbag, SM Accessories. Manicure, Nail It Salon.

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Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

Seasons of love

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Today is one of the most polarizing universal holidays. Love on a normal day is equal parts bewildering, captivating and frustrating as it is; on Valentine’s Day, whatever effects it has on a person is magnified a hundredfold—single or not, happily taken or secretly, miserably so.

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I must admit that when I was younger (and thus more prone to angst), I wasn’t the biggest fan of February 14th. Sure, I was a hopeless romantic—still am, but it’s also why. I felt that Valentine’s Day tends to become a vehicle for lip service and phony, seasonal gestures of love, done more out of obligation and peer pressure rather than sincere intentions.

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During last year’s experience though, I realized it wasn’t so much the overcommercialized Valentine packages, the illicit competition among coupled-up friends trying to outdo each others’ gifts, or the woe-is-me posts of the single and uncommitted my newsfeed is inundated by.

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Last year, I got to experience Valentine’s the way I never have before, and it has helped immensely in how I view it now. I still remember vividly how my mom and dad drove me all the way from Pampanga to Manila so I could attend a brainstorming with my co-producers at the “Etcetera” office. The meeting (and my angst-ridden reverie) was interrupted by a knock on the conference room door: a rose, a grande Green Tea frap with generous sprinkles of chocolate powder on top, and a love letter from one of my best friends, Joanne. After work, my parents and I went to dinner and I got a second rose from my dad. 

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Those gestures were so simple, but felt as if a switch had been flicked on within me that made me see the light after twenty-something years of self-aware existence. Valentine’s Day wasn’t as trite, overrated, banal or clichéd as I’ve used to view it, after all: it was simply that I had been looking for the fulfilment it brings, in strictly romantic terms. And as I’ve gotten to learn to my utter benefit this year, romance tends to be the kind of love quickest to fade, while friendship endures so much more.

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In the beginning of last year, I felt like it wasn’t going to be my time. Everything I wished for, planned for, invested in, and forced myself to believe in was gone in a snap, and all I really hoped for then was to feel less miserable than I did. With expectations at an all-time low, I got the surprise of my life when, from that Valentine’s Day all the way up to today, all kinds of love started to pour in and turned my life around.

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This year, all the clichés and tired expressions have real meaning. I see how true it is that giving feels better than receiving—I’ve been receiving so much, and it’s when I get to pay kindness forward that the feeling of gratitude comes full circle. How true it is that you can’t give what you don’t have, or teach what you don’t know. How true it is that real love is friendship: looking after a person’s well-being and happiness while having enough self-worth to know what you deserve. Now I do. :)

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Warm hugs from Olaf!

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Dress and booties, Dorothy Perkins. Nautical striped cross-body bag, Aldo. Headband, leaf necklace and leaf bracelet, SM Accessories. Nails, Nail it. Contact lenses, Japanese Candy.image

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Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here. Let me know how your Valentine’s Day goes in the comments below, or tweet me at @shailagarde. 

Solace

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I don’t know about you, but I find social media consumption these days to be exhausting. Every five seconds, there’s an interesting new top 21 list (“21 Shapes You Can Make With Ketchup”). A new video of a child prodigy doing something we ordinary adults can’t do (“Watch This 3-Year-Old Dance Ballet While Playing Her Own Violin Accompaniment”). A new slideshow of tips you never thought would be useful until now (“How To Cook Fried Rice Without Rice”). 

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The dizzying pace with which we are served these small bites of information on a daily basis is no wonder the majority of us seem to be developing attention-deficit disorders. Can you imagine going into a café to meet your friends without your laptop to while away the time? Heaven forbid you have to sit at your dentist’s reception area withoutyour tablet to play with while waiting. Let’s not even talk about the time you had to endure a 45-minute car ride without 3G on your phone.

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We all know the many ways technology has helped us immensely. But perhaps we can also look into how we ourselves are becoming like these gadgets—mechanical, wired, needing to be constantly plugged in order to function properly. Social media is becoming today’s double-shot espresso, a day’s deprivation of which leaves many of us frantic and uneasy. 

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The funny thing is, when it hits us, we tend to look to the Internet—the very source of this frantic uneasiness, for solace. Instead of finding it, of course, we end up right back where we started, link-surfing and browsing and being busy but unproductive. And we wonder why we aren’t feeling better. 

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Finding solace can be as easy as a Google search, but it’s probably the last place we’d be able to do so. Here’s a search suggestion: to once in a while disconnect from the Internet and connect with our real life friends. To unplug our gadgets and plug into our community, see how we can contribute our work and play skills. To tune out from viral videos and tune in to our elders. When they talk about good old values and the good old days, they’re not just waxing nostalgic; it seems old school remains to be what’s truly cool.

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Lace skater dress, Crazy Over Daisies. Ballet flats, Ziggy and Zooey. Pearl hairband, necklace and ring, SM Accessories. Shoulder bag, Nine West. “Kimchi” contact lenses, Japanese Candy. Manicure and eyelash perm, Nail it

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Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

Yearender

Some say 2013 was a rollercoaster. For me, it was an uphill ride. Here are my top 10 posts why.
   

10. Starting Over [link

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It is never a walk in the park to find out that someone you trusted and loved has been betraying you in every way imaginable for half of your three-year relationship. The pain, humiliation and anger are enough to reduce even the best of people into a shrivelling mess. But it’s the messy breakups that turn out to be our redemption. We are saved from people and situations that were never worth it from the start, and freed from having to be stuck with them for longer. It’s like spring cleaning: we throw away what’s broken and rotten, and when we get rid of trash, we make room for everything beautiful that we deserve. I will always consider this to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

9. Meeting Troian [link]

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"Days like these remind me that we must appreciate the small victories, the baby steps we are able to take towards becoming our better selves. And that, when things are meant to be, they will fall into place without us having to exhaust ourselves in struggle." This was the day I drove 85 kilometers to see Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams in the flesh. I got an interview and a photo with her, and I got this and a birthday greeting from him. As a fan of SuitsPretty Little Liars, and these two, this post makes it to the highlights of 2013. What made it more special are my two best friends, Joanne (who made the videos possible) and Abi (who drove half the way, waited with me and took photos).

8. Graduation [link]

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Written after my brother’s college graduation and my birthday celebration at a home for orphaned and street children. Coming back to Ateneo to attend the ceremony, and listening to the messages of Cardinal Tagle and the professors and Jesuits I admired, brought back memories of my late teens and early twenties and of the ideals and values I hoped to live by back then but had forgotten through the years. They say our lessons will repeat themselves until we learn them, and I realized just how true this was. Needless to say, it wasn’t just my brother who graduated that day.

7. Dive, Don’t Drown [link]

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Few events are more life-changing for me than this. For one, I took swimming lessons thrice and failed. I can swim when the water is shallow enough that I can stand up in the pool… which is to say that I can’t. I’m not a beach person, either. I don’t even own a bikini. But my best friends Joanne (a wanderlust with a thirst for new experiences) and Magel (a certified diver and avid adventurer) have been urging me to try things I’ve never done before, and one crazy day, I found myself telling them I wanted to dive. I conquered my fears, found a new friend in an amazing person, and discovered new things about myself. I actually love the sea! I’m ready for that fourth attempt at swimming lessons.

6. Transition [link]

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I have a pretty accurate read of a person from my first conversation with them, regardless of whether they’re being real or not. I turn out almost always right. Despite this, I found myself in toxic relationships left and right. I didn’t feel comfortable with myself, compromised my values for majority approval, traded secrets with and confided in people who I knew deep inside weren’t listening with genuine intentions. Afraid to break away and burn bridges, I chose to participate. When I wrote this post, I was seeing the consequences of this choice. I was able to see which were my friends for as long as they had something to gain, which ones left without hearing me out, which ones were afraid to rock the boat standing by me, and which friends truly cared how I was, asked what happened, reprimanded me for my mistakes and loved me anyway. They’re the ones I have with me now.

5. Skinny Love [link]

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Thoughts at a Coffee Bean while Birdy’s version was playing. “All we really want, deep down inside, is to be loved… But are we really willing to make do with a love founded on co-dependency than none at all? 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… that perhaps, when you are whole and with so much to give, another whole will come by when you least expect it.”

4. Charmed [link]

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Reflections on being twenty-something, and wearing a charm bracelet for the first time. “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… Two turquoise beads to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! The white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping.”

3. Wildcard [link]

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Baseball caps were all the rage this year, so the sport became a springboard for this post. “In many other sports and competitions, it essentially means the same thing: a second ‘in,’ a chance to redeem oneself despite failing to make it under normal circumstances. Many times in life too, we only either win or lose. And when we lose, there’s no going back. But every now and then, wildcard opportunities present themselves and offer a way back in… This time, we know so much better… We are more than ready. This is why many wildcards end up as winners.”

2. Autumn [link]

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I have a fascination for the five elements and the four seasons. This post is a conclusion to the parallels I made between the seasons and the events of this year. “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.”

1. In Order To Bloom, You Have To Pull Out The Weeds [link]

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A celebration of the outpouring of blessings that has come my way. “I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Familyold friendsnew 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.”
    
To everyone who has touched my life this year, please know that I think of you every day and I thank you and wish you all the happiness in the world. You have made 2013 the best year ever, and it can only get even better next year. Happy New Year! ♥ 
   
All the love,
Shai

Love Chic mail

Send me your questions and letters via Tumblr Ask! Here are some that I can answer publicly :)

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I rarely use lipstick. If I’m wearing one on a post, it’s usually borrowed from someone during the shoot. Haha. For eyebrows, I use The Face Shop’s Design My Eyebrow pencil and Color My Eyebrow mascara. That’s all the makeup I put on most days. Here’s a tutorial

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Sakto lang iyan kasi panganay ako, haha. Salamat! 

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Hi Mira, I checked out your blog and I have to disagree that it isn’t good enough. I think you’ve established what your personal style is—can’t say the same for myself when I was your age, and having a solid sense of style is key. My suggestions would be to keep doing what you’re doing, interact with other bloggers, and learn as much as you can about your passions (clothes, makeup, graphic design) online. Having many readers is awesome, but it takes time and can’t be forced. Just make sure you like what you put out there, that you think it’s good enough—others are bound to notice. Good luck!

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I don’t know if it was aired on ETC Vibe, but yeah, I hosted a movie screening for them. Thanks!

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Hi Allyzon, my current theme is actually a combination of my previous themes! I’ve had about five so far, and I customized by getting my favorite features from each one and using Rank & File as my “base.” Hope that helps. Have a blessed 2014 too!

Ask, say or request anything here. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @shailagarde :)

Autumn

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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 spring where everything was growing.

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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. 

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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. ♥

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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.  

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Japanese Candy green contact lenses, SM Accessories emerald green earrings, Silverworks aquamarine pendant.

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The birthstone for March. I also wore it with this sporty outfit.

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Pandora charm bracelet. The silver flower also has an aquamarine stone, while the Murano beads are in the same color. The meaning of this bracelet and all its charms are on this post

Hype this above and vote on Chictopia here.

Peace, love and sneakers

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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).

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.”

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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. 

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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. :)    

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Outfit details: “Love” striped tank top from my cousin, Human dove-printed pants. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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SM Accessories transparent cuff and bird-and-flowers pendant.

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Bags In The City “Xavier” handbag. 

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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.
    

Read more

Charmed

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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(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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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? 

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The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautifulThe 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.

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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. :)  

No fuss

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. •

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Outfit details: Kashieca shift dress, SM Accessories earrings and ring. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

   

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! :)