Love Chic

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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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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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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Versatility

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On the sporty side. American Eagle Outfitters racerback dress, Adidas sneakers, Guess bag, Silverworks necklaces, Pandora charm bracelet, Me&U ring. 

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Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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It’s really cool how this racerback can be sporty, dressy or casual depending on what you wear it with. It’s got the right balance of being loose on top, snug and fit at the bottom, which is how I usually wear these thingsAll you really need to transform this dress are the blazer, shoes and accessories that would fit the look you want to go for. 

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For the bag and the jewelry, I played around and deliberately chose items that wouldn’t normally go well with this look, just to try and put dainty and athletic-chic together. 

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I usually wear this carry-all to the office or when running errands for easier stashing of everything. It’s got a frilly pink charm and comes with a pink polka-dotted wallet, but they make it look too Paris Hilton so I thought best to do away with those. Heh. 

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White, black and pink, just like the bag. Same shoes I wore on this post (also with a dress, just to show that sneakers don’t always have to be worn with jeans or shorts). I’ve always found this color scheme so easy to style. The black balances out the otherwise ultra-girly combo of pink and white and gives any item an understated edginess. 

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Here’s another pink-and-white combo that doesn’t scream girly, thanks to the rubber studs. iPhone 5 case from Beyond The Box.

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How the white hard casing looks without the rubber cover. Industrial-chic is what I like to call it, but I don’t really know (and yes, this is an upside-down photo).

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Aren’t these Silverworks necklaces just adorable? They’re my current favorites.

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The top pendant is aquamarine, the birthstone for March. The customized nickname isn’t just pretty, it also helps café baristas take my order. No need to spell out my name—just point. Haha. I like wearing these two together as a representation of who I am. They  go perfectly with my other two treasures.

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My Pandora silver charm bracelet, also with aquamarine. I picked out the charms with one of my best friends, Joanne, and each one has a profound meaning. Wearing this helps to remind me of the things I strive for, of the things worth believing in, and the things I should never lose sight of. 

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My Me&U ring, given to me as a gift by the shop’s owners. The couple have become two of my dearest friends ever since meeting them through this blog. It’s a reminder that although some things aren’t meant to last, some things definitely are, and it’s these that we must always value and appreciate.

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I guess I put together this look not only for the styling of it, but more importantly for the commonality that I saw in all the pieces: their versatility. I’ve been busy with work the past two months that I’ve struggled to divide time and energy equally among family, friends, fitness and self-improvement. As today is the first of September, my new-month resolution is to do away with the reasons (i.e. excuses) for not being well-rounded, allot enough time for everything and everyone and learn to make better use of every 24 hours I’m given. :)
   
Share your thoughts about this look or about whatever by leaving a Disqus comment below or tweeting me @shailagarde. Happy September!

Wildcard

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A wildcard is an opportunity out of the ordinary. In baseball, it gives an inside chance to non-division winners to make it to the World Series.

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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.

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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.  

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When we tasted the devastating bitterness of a loss, the initial reaction was to cower and reel. And then we thought of all the things we failed at, berated ourselves for whatever we did that cost us our victory, for not having thought of a different play instead.   

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And from there, painful loss turns into hapless hopefulness: “If only I could get another shot at this. If only there was a way to try again and win it this time.” 

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Because this time, we know so much better. Among other things, we know that it’s not because we didn’t have what it takes: the drive, the skill, the experience. We know that sometimes, having what it takes is not enough; that fate is the other side of free will’s coin and that circumstances will sometimes be unkind, but that in the same manner, things could turn around. And when they do, we are more than ready.

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This is why many wildcards end up as winners. :)

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Outfit details: Divisoria batwing hoodie, Hang Ten denim shorts, H&M stockings.

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New Era limited edition Stars and Stripes July 4th baseball cap.

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SM Accessories bracelets, cuff, bangle and ring.

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Switcheasy iPhone case from Beyond The Box. Cool designs plus top-quality material. Get your own at 50% off until August 18th! Here are three easy ways.

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SM Accessories quilt shoulder bag.

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Asian Vogue platform wedges. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.


Ph: Don Michael De Leon of Happyfingers Photography (Tumblr | Instagram | Facebook). Special thanks to Magel Ordoñez and Anton Holmes.

Clarity

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I write this from the balcony of my hotel room overlooking a ridge whereupon bright city lights are sprawled as far as the eye could see, twinkling and substituting for the stars that have opted to go into hiding this rainy night. The breeze is the kind of cold that makes you long for a warm embrace or a fluffy hoodie (I have the latter), and ever so slightly smells of pine trees. Today was 11 hours of being on the road for ocular visits and meetings here in Cagayan de Oro, but I don’t feel tired at all.image

Let me tell you a secret—well, it’s not so secret actually. I can be quite stubborn when it comes to pursuing my passions. I graduated X years ago, but this is my first full-time job. I’ve always seen corporate work as very rigid and constricting, compared to working freelance where there are no dress codes, no time records, no company memos to adhere to. You get to do what you want, when you feel like doing it, where you want to do it and in whatever outfit you please. Never mind that there isn’t much economic stability and career sustainability—so long as you’re happy and following your heart, right?

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That was my mentality about pretty much everything else, not just career. So long as you follow your heart, everything else will fall in place. Inversely, if you do things you have to even when you don’t want to, your success won’t be as fulfilling. I saw it as a battle of the heart and the intellect, and I always wanted for the heart to win. But I’ve seen the glaring holes of this naive polarity in events of the past few years that it got me questioning. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can we not find a middle ground where we would be able to do the right thing as determined by the mind, and still be able to do the happy thing as determined by the heart? 

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As it turns out, of course we can. The confusion and frustration of not knowing which path to take, of waking up in the morning very unsure of our next step, of every uncertainty that comes with that familiar experience we all like to call quarter-life crisis… all of those things are not because we lack the skills, the knowledge, the experience or the clarity to find the answer to our questions. Chances are, the only thing we’ve been lacking all along is the willingness to listen to what that answer is. 

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My phone’s Viber just beeped: three messages. From my family’s group thread, my boss, and a friend, all asking about my day and telling me to rest well. The rain has mellowed down into a light drizzle. I can hear the drone of the TV in my room: Cesar Millan’s voice and the excited barking of small dogs. Except for these sounds and the humming of the airconditioning, everything is quiet on all fronts. How did it get from the noise and chaos of uncertainty to the peace and silence of clarity? I stopped being stubborn about always doing what I wanted, and tried this time to listen to my elders and do what I needed. I tried a path I never would’ve tried had events early this year not transpired.

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That choice led me to a job where I get to do everything that I’ve always known I wanted to do since I was five: write, tell stories, shoot pictures and videos, travel. There is a dress code, but the women of Suits have been teaching me how to dress up for work, and it’s been fun. It’s a nine-to-six job, but even when I’m not traveling like this week, my boss encourages me to get out of my desk every now and then and do whatever I need to get my creative juices flowing. “Less bureaucratic. I trust you,” I was told. The pay and perks are more than enough to enable me to pursue all my other passions and still have a lot saved for the future. Working for a company that values God, family and work in that order results in office people being nice and contagiously positive. Above all, I no longer wake up in the morning not knowing where I’m headed. “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” :) It amazes me and my loved ones each day how much things in my life have changed for the infinite better, and if there’s anything I’d wish on others, it’s this same gift of clarity.

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Look details: Philosophy top, Veva Deeluxe pencil skirt, Janylin peep-toe heels, Euphoria chain necklace and bracelets, SM Accessories ring, Nail It nails, Japanese Candy contact lenses. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @shailagarde! Feel free to share your own thoughts by posting a Disqus comment below :)

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! :)

On the bright side

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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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Outfit details: Binkydoodles midriff top, Flights of Fancy palazzo pants, CMG platforms, SM Accessories bag, Dickies sunnies. Contact lenses from Japanese Candy.

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Hype this on Lookbook here and Chictopia here. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @shailagarde!

Transition

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Sometimes, things happen that temporarily suspend our ability to think straight. People we value do us wrong, throw away our love and friendship. Intoxicated by their betrayal, we find ourselves making poor choices, moving away from who we are and compromising the values we grew up with. We end up acting on our heightened emotions, forgetting that wanting to cause pain to people who hurt us will do nothing to ease our own pain.

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In time, the dust settles. The shock, pain and anger dissipate. We sober up, and as our head clears, so does our perspective. We become aware of things we shouldn’t have said and done, regardless of what was done to us. By then, it’s too late to take back or undo them. Nothing we say can justify any of it. Worse, others come and take advantage of our momentary weakness. When mixed with our truths, their lies become easier for others to believe, and we are punished even for things we did not do.
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And so the lessons come. We look back at every move we made and lament on what we should’ve-would’ve-could’ve done instead. We think of the people that got unwittingly involved. People we hurt simply because they were in the way of our tornado of feelings. People we took for granted while we were so focused on ourselves. 
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With those lessons come realizations. We see the situation for what it is—so much less complicated and fearsome than we imagined. As our flaws and vulnerabilities get exposed, we also begin to see people for who they are—the ones merely waiting in the wings for the delight of seeing us fall, the ones only in it for entertainment, and the ones who love, forgive and stand by us through everything.
imageThe sad reality is, lessons come with pain and difficulty. The beautiful truth is, they also come with hope and choice. After seeking forgiveness, there are two things we can do when we make mistakes. We can wallow in self-pity and regret, allow ourselves to be hindered and condemned by fellow human beings who forget that we are all fallible, that we have all done things we’re not proud of, that we all have skeletons in the closet and the only difference between them and us is that we no longer have to hide or be afraid of ours.
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Or we can make the choice to forgive ourselves, rise above it all and move forward. To realize that our exposure is a chance to acknowledge our mistakes, then do things differently so we don’t ever repeat them. To show that our mistakes don’t define who we are and who we can be. To embrace the hope each day brings, wipe our slate clean and get ourselves a brand new start.
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When we can be at peace with our past, gratitude sets in. Not just for the happy times or the people who have been good to us. We begin as well to appreciate the pain we once rejected and the persons who caused it. We realize that they have actually given us a gift: that of freeing us from fear, of leaving us forced to fight our monsters, of helping us find great things within ourselves that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. We come out of it with newfound courage and wisdom, ready to once again begin.
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Everything and everyone changes, and to refuse to accept it is to refuse to grow. Nothing is ever stationary or static. Even for a tree planted firmly on the ground, seasons give way to seasons: from being abloom, its leaves shed and its flowers wilt, and just when it seems resigned to staying barren for good, its bloom is renewed—each full circle a transition from stagnation to growth. The same holds true for all of us. Each “death” is a mere “passing on” to a new and more fulfilling life, if only we embrace it.


Dress from Bangkok, maxi skirt from The Catwalk. Freshlook Illuminate one-day contact lenses from Sarabia Optical Rockwell. Lookbook // Chictopia

Dive, don’t drown

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pool session with James, our instructor.

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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!

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I volunteered to go first. Pink fins always help give a girl courage.

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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.

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Underwater shots care of Javy’s GoPro and underwater camera case.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Joanne and Chez, who were just as afraid at first. When we all came up, the feeling was indescribable.

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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).

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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.

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"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.

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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.

Music festival idea #3: Girly boho

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Candies sundress, Quirkypedia headband, SM Accessories necklace, Janilyn wedges. My third and last outfit idea for CloseUp Summer Solstice.

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Hype this on Lookbook here, Chictopia here

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As you may or may have not noticed in the first and second, there’s an undercurrent of green in this trilogy. I took it upon myself to work with three musts. First, the outfits must be from pieces I already own (you’ll see this dress in a future post; I wore it on the HK/Macau holiday).  Second, the outfits must call to mind words like summer, fresh, carefree, happy and young. And third, I must not take more than three hours from styling, to makeup and hair, to shooting everything. I like playing little games like that. Haha.

I was able to put together and shoot all three in one afternoon, and my awesome photographer (Hi Mama!) did an amazing job as usual. It was quick and so much fun!

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Don’t let the height of these lace-wrapped wedges fool you. They’re quite easy to walk in! I tried dancing in them as well and I think with a little more practice, they’re a good enough compromise for the vertically challenged who don’t want to wear flats to the festival.

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Let me know what you have in mind for your Summer Solstice outfit, or ask me style-related questions, here! Oh, and which one’s your favorite among the three? :)