Love Chic

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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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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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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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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Statement

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Each time the new year rolls in, many of us take to writing down a list of resolutions for things we want to change or improve on, as well as a wishlist of accomplishments and acquisitions. After all, we’re familiar with the law and powers of attraction: think positive, work hard, and we can attract whatever it is we want to happen in our lives.

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The thing is, though, very rarely do we see all the things we’ve written get realized when we look back on our lists come December. Eat more fruits and veggies? Sure, until about two weeks in. Sleep eight hours a night? Okay, but you really need to catch up on all episodes BBC Sherlock and your neighbor’s Facebook life, so maybe four hours will do. Hit the gym for those six packs? Maybe… next time. So, why this discrepancy between the first and last weeks of the year? What makes us end up with disappointing lists when we start out so eager and motivated to become better versions of ourselves? 

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In Order To Bloom, You Have To Pull Out The Weeds

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Getting caught in toxic relationships isn’t easy, especially in the Filipino culture where people tend to move in flocks and herds. Never mind that some interactions are tinged with manipulation and quid pro quo—you scratch my back, I scratch yours—in order to make it, we are told, you have to keep scratching and conforming to the status quo and grinning and bearing things (and people). 

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But as a favorite quote of mine goes, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you keep scratching with the turkeys.” What I was too afraid to admit earlier this year has turned out to be an amazing gift.

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In order to bloom, you have to pull out the weeds. Trials are the best way to filter out your foes from your real friends, my mom said. Not everyone who listens to you is there to listen; some do for the gossip and now you know which is which, my dad said. Those who won’t believe you or stand by you didn’t deserve to be with you in the first place, my sister said. No one will be weighing you down anymore. You can finally grow to be the person you were meant to be, my brother said. 

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I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.

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Whoever’s reading this, I’m sending you these same vibes. May you also have the courage to stand up for what you deserve, to let go of everything that’s keeping you from growing and be surrounded with good people who will be happy to see you bloom. :)

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Outfit details: Forever21 Girls (yes, the kids’ section) top, Forever21 skirt.

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SM Accessories necklace.

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Titan “Raga” watch.

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SM Accessories bangle and bouquet ring.

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XOXO handbag.

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Parisian clogs.

Troublemaker

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White = superior, desirable. Black = inferior, undesirable. Colonial mentality and racism have plagued many countries for centuries; we cannot even pretend that these prejudices no longer exist in the society we live in. But once in a while, someone comes along, dares hope for change, and succeeds. 

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Nelson Mandela’s tribal name, Rolihlahla, was a Xhosa word that colloquially meant “troublemaker.” Indeed, he knew that in order to cause change in a world where injustices are seen as the norm, one cannot simply sit idly by. One must cause a stir, one must challenge these norms. Today, December 10th, the day of his memorial service at a 95,000-seater stadium in Johannesburg after succumbing to recurrent lung infections last Thursday, we we honor him and all he has done for South Africa.

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This post is a small tribute to Mandela’s life and works. He who, like most heroes, did not set out to be one; who simply dreamed to see equality among people of all colors and gave all that he had for this dream to come true. He who, despite suffering in the hands of his oppressors, was not embittered by his experiences, and instead remained forgiving and positive. He who hated whenever people thought of him as a legend, who wanted to be known simply as a person who fought for justice.

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I’ve written about this many times, for school papers, magazine essays, this blog. As a result of having been colonized by whites, the pervading mindset among many Eastern countries, including ours, is that the whiter your skin and the more Western your features are, the better. What Mandela fought against—the apartheid (Afrikaans word meaning “apart-hood” or segregation)—was more extreme and damaging than any of today’s typical glorification of white skin in the media. 

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South Africa was colonized by the English and Dutch in the 17th century, and apartheid laws were introduced in 1948. The basic premise is that people are judged by whether they are white—superior in every way, or black—inferior in every way. By the color of their skin, people were entitled or deprived of basic rights and privileges. Everything from where one lived, studied, took the bus, or who they married or associated with was dictated by skin color. In South Africa under the apartheid, the Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese minorities were given honorary white status, while Indonesians, Indians and those of Malay descent were seen as colored/non-white. They enjoyed better treatment although they still faced discrimination. And Filipinos? We were classified as black and treated the same way. 

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Mandela spent 27 years in prison and dedicated his entire life fighting to overthrow the apartheid, striving to make the world a little better in this sense. In his own words, “Hope is a powerful weapon, and [one that] no one power on earth can deprive you of… No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Thank you, Madiba. Rest in peace. 

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Outfit details: Sugar Rush skirt worn as top, long skirt from 12 years ago that I rediscovered in my closet. Two different pieces that I got 12 years apart but somehow found a match in each other.

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CMG platform wedges. 

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SM Accessories necklace, cinch belt and bangle, Japanese Candy contact lenses. Left side of my hair didn’t feel like cooperating that day and just went wherever the wind went. 

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Photos by my mom (whose birthday it is in 2 hours—Happy birthday Mama!). I end this tribute with another of Nelson Mandela’s beloved quotes: “I would like to be remembered not as anyone unique or special, but as part of a great team in this country that has struggled for many years, for decades, and even centuries. The greatest glory of living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time you fall.”

Sooner or Later, The Truth Always Shines Through

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It makes me happy that more and more people are discovering for themselves the dupery that is our old-school History books. Growing up, my father used to give us alternative reading materials that questioned the veracity and accuracy of the almost-legendary anecdotes of centuries past—how some figures tended be overrated, while others overlooked. 

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For me, one of these is Gat Andres Bonifacio. (“Gat” is kind of the Filipino equivalent of “Hon.” and I believe it is short for “Gatpuno.” As an etymology enthusiast, I’d like to think this in turn comes from the word ugat-puno: the roots of a tree. An apt metaphor for an organizational leader who rests as the foundation underneath the branches to give it nourishment, grounding and support.) 

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As with Rizal, I could not let Bonifacio’s sesquicentennial go by without a brief nod to the unspoken truths about his contributions to our rich history. Instead of having to dish out one “Did You Know That…” after another, I’m delighted to link you to credible online resources: the Philippine government’s marvelous efforts here, GMA Network’s special report here, and Rappler’s factoids here.

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I must warn you though: reading about these growing up, hearing them from my father or Ateneo teachers, is why I have never been a fan of Aguinaldo. I sincerely do not mean to discredit his legacy or disrespect his descendants, but honestly, and contrary to how he was portrayed in my textbooks, as a young girl I’ve always viewed him as one of those trapos (traditional politicians) who go to great lengths to make themselves appear most heroic. Who plot against the threats to their success, and engage in grandstanding and elaborate PR schemes to claim credit for the effort of others. 

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On another note, perhaps this is why I’ve never been able to relate with Rizal until I got introduced to “Without The Overcoat" and related readings. He was always depicted in traditional History books as almost legendary, superheroic, that it was difficult to see him for the human being that he was, faults, foible and flagrancies all. 

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I like it better when people are shown—revealed for who they are. As Bonifacio’s supporters are now seeing, and as I know I will too, the truth about people eventually shines through. 

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Outfit details: Forever21 floral dress and dotted socks, Parisian wedge booties, Michael Kors ostrich Hamilton bag.

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SM Accessories hair bow, Japanese Candy contact lenses. It’s the first of December, so I decided to dress up like a present. 

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SM Accessories necklace and bracelet, Nail It! manicure. All together now a la Love Actually: “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes… Christmas is all around me, it’s everywhere I go…”

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Slickwraps iPhone 5 wrap from Wrapped Up (that’s too many wraps in one sentence I could almost write a rap about it—ooh, alliteration. Okay, I’m just rambling here). This is officially my favorite of all the cases and wraps I’ve ever tried. My phone is protected all over in wrapping that looks and feels like wood. Plus, it doesn’t make my phone bulkier so I can even put on a hard or silicon casing over it. Then again, it easily matches anything I wear, so I probably wouldn’t have to. Check out the other wooden and carbon fiber gadget wraps by clicking their link above.

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A birthday gift from an awesome trip to my awesome uncles and aunts in the States. When styling, once in a while I like to have cheeky themes within my outfits, sort of like an inside joke that only I am in on. For once I’ll share what this outfit’s is: dots on the bag, and dots on the socks. Heh. That’s it, really. I just like to have certain things that match but don’t really. 

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Forever 21 wedge booties. I haven’t gone shoe-shopping in a while and my penchant for neutral-colored footwear, especially those of the height-increasing type, was reawakened when I spotted this pair on a mannequin.

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Needless to say, I fell head over heels. (‘kay, that was quite awful)

Hype this on lookbook above, vote on Chictopia below.

The Ephemerality and Eventual Death of a Trend

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A comment I get a lot is that I have a way of putting forth ideas and outfits differently. That I don’t seem to simply be looking at trends, following them to a “T” and then merely compiling and rehashing them as if my blog were an RSS feed of content that can already (and more conveniently) be found in legit publications. It’s because I really don’t.

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I work a real job in media after all; we are trained to keep an ear on the ground for anything approaching, to keep constant watch on what’s buzzing, to track the trending. Having sufficient awareness of whatever is going to hit mainstream soon, how long it’s likely to last, and the likelihood of its fade out, I tend to refrain from hitching my wagon on it. This habit extends to real life. It feels nice to be ahead—and when not possible, to be left behind to examine something on its own merits while the many have moved on to the next hype. When people would be abuzz about the latest trilogy or book or artist, I would stay away from the news feeds and wait out the loud chatter, returning only when it dies down and I could check it out for myself without any majority opinion to sway mine. 

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For me, mastering trends means studying the peaks and troughs of their precedents and feeling out predictions from there. Having a sense of what’s poised to hit it big, and simply injecting bits and pieces of it into my own take on things, regardless of whether or not it is hashtag-worthy. 

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An enduring favorite of many, myself included, has been activewear-sportsluxe-street-urban-sporty-athletic-varsity-chic (insert other fancy terms that point to the same trend of mixing sportswear with stylish clothes here). It’s enjoyed a tenure almost as long-lasting as animal prints and spring florals, but it is a trend undeniably headed towards its demise. I feel skater skirts and dresses would function as transitionary pieces: still as sporty, but versatile enough to make the shift from sporty to, say, punk and romantic looks, less drastic. But who knows? I just like caps, and sneakers, and florals. As I said, I tend to keep to what I feel is coming and stray from what’s already out there. What counts for me is that I’m true to my style.

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Clinging on to trends makes one savvy, but it also tends to blur one’s identity if left to reign over it. Like summer flings and fair-weather friendships, trends can come and go without leaving us with anything substantial. Sometimes they return, sometimes they don’t, but always they never last. They die. And it’s not just fashion. Consider this week’s Anne Curtis brouhaha. It’s got everyone clicking “Share” and making commentaries and living in the huge moment, and it won’t be surprising if "I can buy you, your friends and this club" becomes some sort of meme. But like many of its predecessors, it won’t be long before it’s forgotten.

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So sure, let’s have fun with trends, delight in the excitement of choices that social media gives us access to—so long as they simply garnish what we already serve. A healthy consumption of trends means that at the end of the day, while what’s hot has peaked and plateaued and we await the next big thing, we have our own selves to always go back to. 

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Outfit details: Nike Air snapback, Redgirl floral raglan, Mango jeggings.

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SM Accessories earrings and bracelets, Silverworks nickname necklace (also worn here), Wrapped Up Slickwraps (also here).

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SM Accessories tote bag. Much mismatch.

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World Balance sneakers in my favorite color.

Hype on Lookbook and vote on Chictopia by clicking on the links above. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @shailagarde, and feel free to leave a comment. What trends do you wish to see expire, and which ones do you want to last? I’d love to hear from you!

And You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar.

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I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath. Scared to rock the boat and make a mess. 

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So I sat quietly. Agreed politely. I guess that I forgot I had a choice.

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I let you push me past the breaking point. I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.

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You held me down.

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But I got up. Already brushing off the dust. Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough.

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You hear my voice, you hear that sound. Like thunder, gonna shake the ground. I see it all, I see it now.

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I’ve got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire.

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'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar.

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Now I’m floating like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee. I earned my stripes. 

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I went from zero…

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To my own hero.

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It’s an anthem everyone can claim for their own. But for those of you who know me and my story—the real one, not the one passed on through a friend of a friend of a friend embellished with amnesiac truths, then you’d know exactly why I wrote in Katy Perry’s lyrics instead of my own words. “Roar” is the life story of this (girl born in the year of the) tiger, and there is very little need for elaboration.

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Forever21 tiger shirt, Miss Sixty shorts. Special thanksJoanne Pecson (pictured above) and ETC Channel for inviting me to be the inspirational speaker on personal style during the ETC Campus Tour in UP Diliman a few weeks back.

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Antler Accessories necklace to go with the shirt’s studs.

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Forever21 nude stockings with cross prints, Skechers +3 wedge sneakers.

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Gel nails by St. Nails Spa.

Hype this on Lookbook above, favorite on Chictopia below.

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.

Work Hard Play Hard: Tiesto in Manila giveaway

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What would be a transitionary outfit from summer to fall, if we had four seasons instead of just wet and dry. 

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Shot by Don Michael De Leon of Happyfingers Photography

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“Fashion Blogger” tee from Bjorn Bedayo layered under a thrifted denim button-down and Pinkaholic high-waisted shorts.

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The Headware headband and Les Moda personalized spectacles.

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Indigenous tribal-print backpack from Davao. 

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Kohl’s wedge boots. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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In this time and age where efficiency is king, versatility is key. Things—and people—have to be as functionally maximized in all other aspects as they are in one. Everything is expected to be transitionary, hence the popularity of multi-way piecesall-season ensembles, and day-to-night looks

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And us? We have to know how to “Work Hard, Play Hard.” We can’t just be one or the other; to make the most of the “Sweet Things” in this “Beautiful World,” we’ve got to be ready and raring for both. To be able to enjoy “Silence” as much as we enjoy the exciting “Elements of Life.” To say to ourselves, “I Will Be Here” as we seize the day, and then gather with our friends afterwards and say, “We Own The Night.”

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I just served you up with some of the smash hits created by legendary Dutch musician and record producer of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Tijs Michiel Verwest. More popularly known to you and me as world-renowned Grammy Nominee DJ Tiesto, he’s coming back to Manila next week and I’m giving away tickets.

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But first, a look-back at his DJ career. It began with Tiesto playing mostly New Beat and House Music in small clubs in his hometown of Breda, the Netherlands. He rose to popularity in the early 2000s after his performance at the Live at Innercity: Amsterdam RAI party, and the release of his first solo album “In My Memory” and has since been producing award-winning EDM hits and albums, holding world tours and concert parties, and receiving countless recognition for his music. One of Tiesto’s albums, “Elements of Life,” was number one on the Dutch album chart and Billboard Top Electronic Albums in the US, and was awarded Best Electronic Dance Album in 2008. 

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One of Tiesto’s most notable performances was at the opening ceremony of the Athens Summer Olympics, making him the very first DJ to play live on stage at an Olympic event. He was also the very first DJ to rank #1 in the Top 100 DJs list by DJ Magazine for three years straight. His other awards include Best International DJ at the DJ Awards (2008), The Best DJ of All Time and The #1 DJ by Mixmag Magazine (2008), International Dance4Life Ambassador (2006), and The 40th Greatest Dutch Citizen of All Time and Officer of the Order of Orange–Nassau by the Dutch Royalty (2003).

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With a proven track record, there’s no doubt Tiesto is one of most sought-after EDM DJs in the world. In the Philippines alone, he’s spun his tracks in front of the hottest clubbers, EDM enthusiasts and personalities in two of the biggest and hippest dance arenas in 2008 and 2009. 

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This October 3, Tiesto will be coming back to Manila for his very first concert party at the Big Dome as World Wide Womb, Ovation Productions, Driven Manila, and Republiq present Tiesto Live in Manila with special guest, the fastest-rising and most exciting female Australian DJ Tigerlily. Tickets are now available at Ticketnet. You can check out www.ticketnet.com.ph, World Wide Womb and Republiq for more info, or call +639175508888 for VIP tables. Of course, you can join my giveaway first for a shot at scoring tickets for free.
    

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Night’s Watch: Titan contest

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Unplanned shoot on a clear night. Filled in my brows, slapped on eyeliner and headed out with my mom for a few snaps, just as the sun had set. 

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I just bought this camo dress and remembered the awesome coincidence that I have a New Era cap and sneakers to go with it, so what the heck if we had nothing but lamp posts and a camera flash. Hype this outfit on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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This giant toy soldier behind me is one of two that stands guard day in and day out at the entrance of this village. I think they were supposed to only serve as decorations last Christmas, but nobody had the heart to take them off-duty, and their post became permanent.

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There’s something quite liberating about gung-ho guerrilla shoots such as this one.

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Zero makeup save for the eyes, unkempt hair, sneakers. For the more glamorous fare, there’s almost that pressure to aim for the prettiest look and the best poses. 

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With this one, you can’t really try for more than a few shots per area. Everything has to be done quickly, so you have to take whatever you get and work with it.

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If you’re familiar with “Game of Thrones” then the title requires no explanations. The Night’s Watch is a military order sworn to protect The Wall, a massive structure made of ice, stone and magic that separates them humans from the wildings—nomadic folk and supernatural creatures that pose a threat to their kingdoms. 

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Majority of its members are former criminals, bastards and disgraced noblemen who were given the choice between condemnation or redemption by serving in the Night’s Watch, and chose the latter. Redemption themes hit close to home as you may know, thus this title.

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May we all be to ourselves and our loved ones as the Night’s Watch are to their kingdoms: flawed, yet redeemed by a commitment to defend and protect our own from external forces that attempt to break in.  

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Forever 21 camouflage cutout flare dress, Japanese Candy contact lenses.

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SM Accessories silver cuff and ring

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Adidas camouflage sneakers with pink stripes and laces. 

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And this beautiful Raga wristwatch from Titan. I just love elegant sparkly watches that are just as beautiful as bracelets so I can wear them in contrast to more streetwear-type outfits. Titan’s Raga collection has a lot of these.

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Pretty, yes? Here’s a little something for you, too: get a chance to win this Titan watch by giving the best answer to one simple question.

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