Love Chic

It Gets Better

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The Silver tickets to Disclosure I’m giving away have just been upgraded to P2,800 Gold ones! Details after the cut. But that’s not all I meant by my title.

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Awful stories have been occupying our news feeds recently: Palestinians being murdered in Gaza while Israelis cheer on, a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 295 people getting shot down in Ukrainian skies by rebels, “public servants” in the Philippines raking in billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money while Filipinos languish in deplorable conditions as we endure one calamity after another. We’re constantly faced with universal struggles that platitude-laden websites like Thoughtcatalog and Elite Daily have cashed in on numbered Do’s and Don’ts promising to make life easier. 

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned, not just from the stories I come by every day but from my own, and those of the people I’m surrounded with—family and friends, blog readers, kind strangers—it’s that life may not always get easier, but it does get better, always. 

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How-To: Interview #OOTD

Harvey Specter said it well. “People respond to the way we dress, so like it or not, this is what you have to do.” As the enrolled and the employed make their way back to their desks after savoring the remaining vestiges of summer, the fresh grads make their way forward into the proverbial real world. If you’re one of them, Harvey’s words are as much for you as for rookie associate Mike Ross. Your interview outfit is as crucial as your résumé and cover letter as you look to land your first job, no matter what field. I’ve put together a few industry-appropriate looks you can base your interview outfits on.

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Corporate. Involves dealing with clients—sales, accounts management, communications, public relations, marketing, law, real estate, banking, or finance.
Play it safe: You’ll typically be interviewing for an office with a conservative workplace environment, so stick to an impressive professional look: crisp button-down, black or gray suit and pencil skirt or pants with classic accessories.
Play it up: Conservative doesn’t have to be boring. Keeping the rest of your outfit within the traditional silhouette, try a button-down and tailored blazer in a light pastel hue that’s pleasing to the eyes. Keep accessories simple and elegant.

Button-down and pencil skirt, Mango.  Blazer, River Island. Pumps, Forever 21. Watch, Titan. Necklace, SM Accessories. Hype this on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here. 

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Creative. Involves, well, being creative: fashion, graphic design, art direction, writing, editing, photography, media, advertising, music or theater.

Play it safe: While a creative job means no one expects you to show up in a business suit, you’ll still have to exude professionalism and reliability. The idea is to show that you’re chic and smart: try trendy pieces mixed with structured items.
Play it up: Even if employees turn up in jeans and sneakers, don’t. Show you made an effort to dress well for that job. Let your outfit tell a bit about your individuality through interesting prints and a quirky accessory, but nothing over-the-top. Keep it balanced.

Top, Mango. Blazer, pants and shoes, Forever 21. Necklace, SM Accessories. “Stories of You” bracelet, Trollbeads. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.

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Last of Summer

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It was pretty much spent indoors and in cold places, and I can’t say I won’t miss the clear skies and the general feeling of longing to laze around in a cabana whiling the worries away. So I figured I’d do a proper send-off by going on a mini summer vacation, in something season-appropriate: pool-party garb. One for the road, so they say.

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Milly neoprene bikini in Candy Pink, Triangl. White mesh vest as cover-up, 101 New York. Necklace, SM Accessories.

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Aqua chiffon button-down as cover-up, Ensembles. Hat, SM Accessories. 

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For a number of reasons (not least of which is that I’m not exactly the most toned of bodies in a day and age of toned bodies), I can count all the times I’ve ever been in a two-piece swimsuit: a couple for the Boracay specials of the TV shows I co-produced, once to demo which bikini suits what body type (me under the “petite” category). The only time it wasn’t for a job was when I went diving, but I’m in a suit all day anyway. Needless to say, being out there in one for the sake of spontaneity feels refreshing.

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I love the comic book pop art vibe of this pair. It balances nicely with the candy pink—something I always try to do to regulate an otherwise too girly look.

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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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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.