Mixing and Matching Etam Bikinis in Laiya, Batangas

It’s bikini season once again!

Just kidding. In the Philippines it’s always bikini season. We’ve now upgraded to more than 7,500 known islands as opposed to the formerly infamous 7,107. If that isn’t reason enough (all 7,500 of them) to breathe and basically live your life as a mermaid then I don’t know what is.

It’s officially the start of summer and that means that Pinoys have found the perfect excuse to finally file those leaves, book those tickets, and take a trip to the nearest-slash-prettiest azure hue. Not that I ever need coaxing to do any of those.

As someone who works for a travel magazine I find myself in beaches and islands all the time. Sometimes I don’t necessarily get excited over the idea of another 5-day excursion. It sounds ungrateful, I realize, but with such tight schedules we don’t really get the luxury of down time and being able to relax. All my bikini posts on social media are literally two-minute breaks in between shoots or changing locations. (We know how to take advantage of the places too, don’t worry). Luckily, with just a quick boat ride the feeling of “work” dissipates with each splash of saltwater and I’m reminded of why I love what I do.

A couple weeks back I decided to take a trip—not for work this time—to actually be able to enjoy some down time without having to interview anybody, shoot any celebrity, or take care of a team. Unfortunately, I completely forgot what it was like to not be spoiled by itineraries handed to you down to the transportation tee. So when I went to Batangas to find a spot in Laiya, I was reminded of what it’s actually like to book trips on your own.

The trip wasn’t 100% planned. Actually, we didn’t prepare at all. Aside from a huge bag full of bikinis, it was a pretty spontaneous, run-of-the-mill, end-up-wherever kind of trip. There was no booked hotel, no set time to go home (overnight versus a day trip), no concrete anything, really. What happened was a whirlwind of going to four different resorts to check prices and room availability (for a random weeknight the places seemed pretty full), and we settled on booking a stay at the Laiya White Cove Beach Resort which was the most reasonably priced accommodation out of all of the places we went to (and Googled).

There were many, many lessons learned. One, Laiya is expensive. Most resorts require you to pay for a set of three buffet meals on top of the room price which I absolutely do not understand. It’s not even consumable, folks. Just forced meals. Two, I am apparently really not a fan of common bathrooms. No further explanation necessary. Three, I am also apparently not a very spontaneous person nor do I enjoy planning and making itineraries so I’ve got a lot to figure out on how to be a decent traveler. And four, the only good out of all of these lessons, is the reminder that all stresses subside once I’m actually in front of the water living in a bikini.

So let’s talk about that instead. Of course, despite the possibility of just a day trip I overpacked bikinis. I don’t know how it happens but every single work trip of mine I always seem to come out short of swimsuits, even though I pretty much pack one a day. It just always happens. So this time, I packed one swimsuit, three bikini tops and two bikini bottoms just to be sure. I recently went to Etam, a Parisian lingerie and swimsuit boutique brand, and, I kid you not, spent more than an hour trying on pieces in store. (Okay, full disclosure: closer to two.) I know that well-coordinated matching bikinis are pretty much ubiquitous on Instagram but I’ve always been a fan of injecting some creativity in terms of mixing and matching bikinis. I got my fill of choosing amazing standalone pieces—some of which matched while some didn’t. The thing I loved most about the options at Etam was that the pieces, though the cuts are pretty common, the materials aren’t. Imagine the fun I had pairing a white triangle crochet bikini top with an embossed metallic bottom, or when a bright red embroidered two-piece eventually saw a different partner in a black open front, seashell bikini (not photographed, was having too much fun). I also couldn’t resist getting the low-cut monokini—again in metallic. I think it’s perfect for a day-to-night event. I’m not one to not be in a swimsuit at a beach and I don’t care if everyone’s wearing normal non-soakable clothes come nighttime, so a swimsuit as a top option paired with a skirt for a night out was extra appealing an idea to me.

I’m no mixing-and-matching expert. I don’t necessarily believe there are strict style rules in terms of swimwear as opposed to the many, many dos and don’ts in everyday-wear. I go by what feels right and what looks good—to me. And though the comfort of having a matching no-brainer set immediately makes you confident in what you’re wearing, I think the concept of swimwear (and going to the beach in general) is about having fun, and not taking yourself too seriously. Being able to move in a suit, whether it’s high cut, high waist, or a one-piece is what matters. Who cares if materials aren’t the same or if colors seem to clash? Swimsuits are supposed to boost confidence—not cause insecurity. I’m grateful that Etam actually promotes having fun at the beach by encouraging women to mix and match and not be a stickler for the conventional.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many women shy away from flaunting their beach bodies—women whose bods are actually objectively really hot. And I’ve seen women who don’t care, didn’t work out obsessively or at all, with the enviable confidence to play around in whatever it is that they’re wearing. More than having rock hard abs or a plump butt, I think the ability to stand tall in swimwear is what’s really sexy. I know the world is full of body-shaming jerks but I don’t think you should make room for insecurity especially at the beach—a place that offers so much in terms of serenity, relaxation, and sometimes even healing. It’s just counterintuitive. It sounds trite, I know, but confidence really is key to everything and if mixing and matching a bright red bikini top with a bright blue bottom makes you feel a little more insane and a lot more like yourself, then, fuck the styling rules.

You do you, beach babe. You do you.

 

All bikinis from Etam Philippines. Visit Etam’s branches at SM Aura Premier, SM Megamall, and Ayala Center

Local Destination: Aquascape in Lake Caliraya

One of the many things I love about the Philippines is the abundance of destinations—both near and far. Whether your transportation of choice is by air, sea, or land, there is an endless amount of places to get away to. A few months ago I was tasked with going to Lake Caliraya for work (I know, I love my job). The truth is I get anxiety over trips no matter how near or how short they are but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. For one night I was transported to a floating escape in the middle of a lake and had an exhilarating time trying out all the amenities of Aquascape Resort—from kayaking, to riding the ATV, right down to paddle boarding (and failing that a manong had to steer me towards the right direction). Fun times.

Read on to see more of what went down during this trip. Original article (edited) below was written for and published in Explore Philippines Magazine’s November 2017 to February 2018 issue. 

In my opinion, here are the key ingredients that make a vacation one to remember: laughter, a sense of calm, a sense of adventure, and, sometimes, even tears. Our recent trip to Lake Caliraya had all of those. I can’t decide which memory takes the cake—a four-hour karaoke session, riding the banana boat and all five passengers falling off in a straight line in the middle of the lake that we ended up kicking each other (unintentionally, of course), or our associate editor crying a minute into her chosen water sport—some variant of an inflatable ride attached to a speedboat.

It’s rare to find a spot that boasts of a myriad of activities yet also offers a serene respite from the trappings of the city, but Aquascape Caliraya was exactly that. A hidden gem in the heart of Laguna, Aquascape is a family-owned resort established by a father and daughter tandem who were always in search of a place to camp and have fun in the water. When the opportunity to buy the area presented itself, they grabbed the chance and built a haven for adventure seekers and provided jobs for the locals who maintain and run the place.

ADVENTURE SEEKERS

Aquascape offers seven lakefront cottages, a floating cottage, and a bigger, more premium floating suite.  Despite the optional solitude, the resort offers a long list of activities based on guests’ chosen terrain: rocky paths, an open field for archery, or the vast expanse of the water.

A fan favorite is the ATV. Whether driving skills are existent or not, the buggies are rather easy to navigate and badass to take photos with. The trail is straightforward—there’s absolutely no chance of getting lost in the forest—but keep in mind that the path isn’t perfect, so humps care of fallen logs, dips care of the lay of the land, and necessary maneuvers to avoid certain trees are part of the 15-minute ride and the fun. Any four-wheeler of choice will do the trick. For those who prefer a more sustainable and active option, there are e-bikes for rent as well. Tread the same path carefully and with a little more energy for #LegDay.

For the brave souls who want a few tries at being Legolas, there is an archery area near the trail. Don’t be fooled—slinging these bows is much more difficult than the commercial options in shopping malls.

The water sports are the bread and butter of the resort. Kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis, and speedboats are all available for rent but the real winners are the inflatable rides. Groups schedule slots during the day to try out the many rides on the water. After all, seeing the floaties lined up by the shore draws intrigue and stirs a sense of adventure. The banana boat is probably the most famous option, popularized by Boracay. Five to ten people ride a cylinder-like floatie shaped like a banana, hence the name, and hold on for dear life as the speedboat races with the sole intent of having the passengers fall off. And fall we did.

There are other variants too. One is lovingly called the Tsinelas by the owner because it’s shaped like a slipper. Two people lie down on the flat surface and one person stands in between them holding on to the top, or the “strap”, so to speak. Another ride is called the Swordfish, where two guests sit on the ride and hold on to the sides while being dragged along in circles. Guests have the option to ask the driver to go slower or faster depending on their tolerance. I kid you not when I say one of us cried and they had to end the ride. There are a lot more variants and they definitely aren’t for the faint of heart but they are absolute must-tries for any stay.

REST AND RELAXATION

While Pinoys do love a multitude of activities to choose from, we as a people are also known for leisurely spending time just chilling out. Just imagine sleeping in a motorized floating suite and waking up in the middle of the lake to the most glorious view of the water, with curtains billowing and the sunlight streaming. Nothing beats that level of serenity and that’s exactly what Aquascape offers. Guests have the option to have the floating rooms docked by the shore near the lakeside general area or somewhere more private.

The rest of the lakeside cottages are all designed differently but all evoke a rustic, homey ambiance. There’s a tree house, a bungalow, and other room options depending on the number of guests. Each room is equipped with—get this—a karaoke, and there is a special karaoke room if you want more privacy and a set up that resembles having an audience. Each room even has disco lights to boot to guarantee performance levels. Even the floating cottages have disco lights. Of course we tried it in the middle of the lake and, of course, it was to Justin Bieber’s “Despacito”.

The experience of having to choose your own adventure was the real winner. Even a meal can be an adventure in itself. There are no nearby restaurants, stores, or commercial establishments so guests are highly encouraged to bring pre-marinated or pre-cooked food. Pre-ordering meals is also an easier, more hassle-free option.

When I do head back, which I most definitely will, I’ll try the paddle board again—sans the manong this time, my biceps be damned.

Green two-piece swimsuit, SOAK SWIMWEAR (local brand)

Sports bra and joggers, IVY PARK via ZALORA 

Striped pants, NEON ISLAND (local brand)

Photography by JISA ATRERO

3 Days in Taiwan: Taipei and Taichung

A couple weeks ago I found myself on a plane to Taiwan with one of my closest friends, Angela of lushangel.com. As a first-timer in the country, I felt like I had an advantage being with someone who has actually been a few times to ensure a holistic experience. I don’t usually pre-determine my own itineraries until the day of the trip so I usually miss out on big must-sees. Little did I know, we would both get a completely new experience of the country thanks to KKDay Philippines. True to its promise of being a travel platform that connects travelers with authentic local tours and activities, KKDay made sure we both saw a different side of Taiwan.

To be honest I was really looking forward to this trip. All I knew about Taiwan was that all my friends who go take pictures of the most diverse and sometimes most obscure street food. And trips where I get to eat are my favorite. Food has always been a priority when I travel. So I was really looking forward to this.

While the chunk of the itinerary was care of KKday—a quick browse through the website reveals countless options for activities, tours, and different modes of transport—the misadventures were all ours. For instance, (1) the brilliant idea to have dinner at Din Tai Fung even if it’s already where we usually eat in Megamall. We literally ordered the exact same things we order anyway; (2) A creepy Asian guy kept knocking on our door at disturbing hours of the morning asking for ice and while Angela was ready to fight combat-style, I, on the other hand, had to mentally scour the room for a weapon—the only one being my hair iron; (3) Roughing it out with our commute even if nothing is in English and riding a local bus because we were running very low on cash and then choosing to walk an obscene number of blocks to Chiang Kai Shek memorial because, again, #cash; (4) Having to look for hotpot restaurants and wanting nothing else but; (5) Finally convincing Angela to go on a night out but leaving before 12 midnight a la Cinderella cause we were exhausted and tapped out.

Day 1: Taipei

Pineapple Cake Making Experience

We got to Taipei at around 3AM and started out strong the following morning. 9AM sharp and we found ourselves in a baking class. I’ve always wanted to go on trips where I could take cooking classes to learn how to make the country’s delicacies and recreate them back home. I do have to lay it out though that I am not a fan of pineapples. So imagine my apprehension entering an activity that involved baking a pineapple cake. I do love baking though and have always enjoyed baking growing up so I gave it my best. After a few minutes of kneading dough and mixing flour, we were able to create and taste our own creations. Not only  was the experience fun and nostalgic, I have to admit the tarts I made were pretty good, if I may say so myself.

Find out more about the Kuo Yuan Ye Pineapple Cake Making Experience here  which includes high tea with pastries, a tour of the pastry museum and shop, and a chance to try on traditional costumes for just Php591. 

Jiufen Tea House

We headed to Jiufen right after which is about an hour away from the city by car. This is a more popular destination for tourists and those who visit Taiwan almost always include this in their itineraries. Jiufen is a busy street. Trying to take an outfit shot without photo bombers is near impossible. Jiufen is uphill with lots of stairs but you don’t necessarily feel that it’s a hike precisely because of stall after stall of food offerings. It’s ridiculous. Most of the time, I had no idea what they were even selling. There were milk tea options, grilled food, peanut ice cream which we tried, some sort of fish ball or squid ball that had flavour options like curry, and there were options I probably wouldn’t dare try, but either way the whole way up was pretty mesmerising and distracting. We took a while just trying to figure out what to buy. We headed to Jiufen Tea House to experience traditional high tea and it was a great respite from the chaos of the streets of Jiufen. The view was pretty cool too overlooking the water. Then the most magical thing happened. Angela introduced me to hotpot. And for that I will be forever grateful. (K, so technically she didn’t introduce me I had it once in my life but damn this girl really sold the dish and now I am an addict and it’s all I can think about.)

Find out more about the Jiufen Teahouse experience here for Php 606. 

We got back in the evening and, just had to try “authentic” Din Tai Fung. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell if there was a huge difference between the Taipei branch and Manila’s but it was great nonetheless. Even if we had to wait an hour for it. We then headed to Ningxia Night Market which was right by our hotel. I was pretty surprised with this night market. My general idea of night markets has a decent balance of apparel, novelty items, and food. This particular night market was a long strip of stall after stall of street food. If you want to experience the street food scene, I would definitely recommend going to night markets. Obviously they’re cheaper than restaurant options and it’s always more fun to eat things on a stick. Go crazy.

Day 2: Taichung, Taiwan

The second day was even more interesting than the first. It was a lot more cultural than I thought it would be and that made all the difference. We headed to Taichung which is an hour away via the high-speed rail which means it’s far. The call time was at 6:30 AM and, of course, Angela and I woke up at 6:40. I don’t know how we pulled off that Amazing Race-like sprint to the train station and how we weren’t left behind despite literally running in the train station just to make it.

Wufeng Lin Family Mansion

Post the anxiety, we headed to the Wufeng Lin Family mansion and garden complete with a tour guide. The story of the family is pretty epic. They moved from Mainland China and climbed up the ranks of military in Taiwan despite initially being a private arm. The place was hit by a terrible earthquake years ago and parts of the buildings were completely ruined. They have been rehabilitating the place since. The artwork, like the paintings of the doors, date back to the Qing dynasty and cost millions of dollars to reinstate. The whole place is beautiful and picturesque and we took our time with photos. What I personally love about it is the fact that this historical place  is also trying to tap the younger markets and be more current (they plan on installing mystery game rooms and the tour guide, bless him, was so adorable. He was showing us a music video of this girl group who used the place to shoot). While other more traditional places tend to scoff at the modern, this place embraces it.

We also went to the New Guangfu Village, an old military village turned hip community with quaint local shops. An exciting stop was the WuFeng Farmer’s Association Distillery where we tried at least 6 different types of sake with different alcohol contents. Tip: the one with honey is the best.

The Wufeng Lin Family tour is inclusive of the three destinations (including the distillery!) for Php 1520. Find out more about it here.

Wooden Spoon Carving at Carpenter DIY

I like all things carpentry—or at least the idea of it. My uncle plays around a lot in their garage and I always feel much closer to him and my roots when I use tools he would probably be impressed by me using. We headed to Carpenter DIY after lunch (which we had at an old hospital—talk about a unique experience) to carve our own wooden spoons. It took almost three hours to create that tiny utensil. I’m not even kidding. It involved using heavy machinery and arm muscles. It’s a lot harder than it looks but definitely rewarding.

For more information about the wood carving experience and its inclusions for Php 1773 here 

Full disclosure: I wasn’t extremely adventurous with the food. Or maybe the number of street food options was just overwhelming. Note to self: must go back. I do know of some Taiwanese staples and those I had repeatedly: Beef noodle soup, xiao long bao, hotpot, and milk tea.

When we got back to Taipei that night we scoured malls for hotpot options and lined up for a while to get our fix. Then we finally braved the hours past 9PM for a night out and met up with Angela’s friend, Rain, who was kind enough to take us to Frankie’s, a bar with a great view.  The last day was pretty much spent roaming the city before our late night flight. Angela brought me to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial because she insisted the trip isn’t complete if I didn’t at least see it. So we hiked to it. Just kidding. It was level ground. But took us half an hour still. Then we headed to another must-see: the Taipei 101 to check out the Taipei Observatory (PHP 862) where we took an embarrassing number of outfit shots despite the many, many onlookers. No shame in the OOTD game. For our last meal in Taipei we went to Commune A7, a fancy food park and had our last dinner (which happened to be Korean) and my final milk tea cup.

A big shoutout to KKDay and AirAsia for making this trip possible. Browsing the website again made me realize that there are so many other activity options and tours in Taiwan and I can’t wait to go back and book through them again. ‘Til the next!

The Art of Great Stays

Back when I was working all over the place holding office in different Coffee Bean branches (such is the life of a millennial x a freelancer) a particular favorite was the branch in Tordesillas. And every time I headed there, I’d pass by this charming little boutique hotel that I’ve never really had the opportunity of visiting.

Until now. I recently stayed overnight at the Picasso Boutique hotel and was definitely impressed. The Picasso theme was resonant all throughout from the more obvious details like the galleries and paintings showcased in the lobby down to the most minute of touches like the bedroom trash can painted a la Pablo to the coasters for the glasses by the sink. The table’s legs are artsy, the colors in the rooms pop, and it’s obvious that the design and the trinkets were well thought out. I have never been a fan of Pablo Picasso, to be honest. I used to think that his paintings were eccentric in a way that I could never appreciate. But my heart did soften for him when my mom and I took a quick trip to Barcelona last year and we both got to see his evolution as an artist in the Picasso Museum. So I think it’s only fitting to commemorate a year’s trip with a stay in the Barcelona suite in a hotel inspired by his artistry. The room was extremely spacious with an office desk, a living room area with a TV, two balconies (one with seats), a king-sized bed, a bathroom and a bathtub. It’s big.

In terms of aesthetic, the hotel didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to draw inspiration from the great artist and not deliver. Every nook and cranny was highly photogenic—from the lobby’s staircase to the gallery to the rooms with vibrant coloured walls. The novel minibar snacks were a great alternative to the typically overpriced refrigerator full of junk. Snacks included gummy bears, organic cocoa chips, trail mixes, dried fruits, and veggie chips. Drinks included fruit juices, soda, and an array of San Miguel’s malt options.

The breakfast, which to me makes or breaks any hotel, was a combination of buffet style and à la carte. I can never resist ordering beef tapa if I somehow chance upon it on any menu and this time was no different. While tapa is usually such a gamble, this particular dish was really enjoyable. I highly recommend it. On weekends they also offer unlimited mimosas during brunch which is terrific. Why would anyone pass up a chance for unlimited mimosas?

But aside from the food, what I love most about it is the location. Tucked in the heart of Salcedo, which is a pretty happening place, mind you, the hotel is literally walking distance from some of Salcedo’s best-kept restaurants. Trust me on this because I’m really not the type to use “walking distance” if my own lazy butt won’t be able to walk without breaking a sweat. Wildflour, Wholesome table, and Mendokoro are all about 30 steps away. I kid you not. And because the waiting time of Mendokoro is insane, it’s nice to be able to go back up to your room and wait comfortably. We waited almost 2 hours on a Friday night. So it was nice to be able to look at the number of people still waiting and sitting by the ledge of the street and just go back to a comfortable bed to chill while they prepare my seat and my ramen. Try the tantanmen it’s amazing. Salecdo is also home to the famous Salcedo Market that city folks flock to every Saturday morning. It has fruits, food stalls (shoutout to Bun Apetit’s Lobster Rolls), snacks (Take Root’s Kale Chips) and so much more. It’s nice to take a quick stroll and grab a bite or two. A big plus is that it’s literally across the hotel.

I absolutely loved the hotel and would definitely go back given the chance. I know Makati doesn’t really feel like a vacation spot—it’s one of the busiest cities, with ridiculous traffic, and lots of stressors—but Picasso is a safe haven amidst the chaos. It’s pretty too. Picasso, the artist, and Picasso, the hotel, are both yeses in my book.

 

The Picasso Boutique is located at 119 L.P. Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Philippines 1227. For reservations contact T: +63 2 828.4774, F: +63 2 828.9141 or E: [email protected] 

Visit http://www.picassomakati.com for more information 

Island Girl with Chaintecaille

I’m an island girl at heart. I might freak out swimming in deep lakes without a life vest for a maximum of five seconds and I can’t go deep enough even for a half and half underwater photo shoot (which is usually enough reason for me to be risky) but there’s no denying that I feel the most serene when I’m surrounded by the deep blue. Even just being in a boat watching the water with droplets splashing on your face and the salty air blowing on your face is a priceless relaxing experience for me. There is nothing I love more than the water. I can watch the waves crash on the shore for hours by myself.

Luckily, I work for a travel magazine and my work involves trips to some of the most beautiful locations in the country. Just over the weekend I took a quick trip to Coron, Palawan for a fun shoot and it was such a beautiful, relaxing, and rejuvenating experience. I feel much more centered thanks to a few days in the sun.

Interestingly, I always bring fragrances to my beach trips but none really match the location. Some are way too woody, way too sexy, to completely imbibe the feel of the sea. Chantecaille, a French-New Yorker beauty cult favorite, recently just graced Philippine shores via Art of Scent, my favorite fragrance boutique. While the makeup products are yet to be launched (but they’re amazing, I promise), customers can grab the brand’s fragrance line. The scent I fell in love with was Tiare, an ode to the complexity of the waters.

It makes perfect sense then for me to have travelled with a bottle that captures the feel of the turquoise seas to the island that I know has the bluest waters and most breathtaking lagoon: Palawan. I mean, the island was hailed the most beautiful island in the world. Tiare, my chosen Chantecaille scent, is a light, airy scent that captures the salty breeze with notes of classic white flowers like Gardenia and Jasmine. I’ve always been a fan of Jasmine from fragrances to massage oils, so this pick was a no-brainer. The star of the fragrance, however, the Tiare flower, grows along the Coral Reef so it makes absolutely perfect sense that the inimitable vibe of the sea permeates with just one spritz.

Sylvie Chantecaille, the woman behind the powerhouse brand, best captures the essence of the fragrance. “It’s that delight of being able to surrender to the waters…that is the spirit of this scent.” True enough, when surrounded by the vastness of the water, the seemingly endless horizon, the calming rhythmic flow of  the waves, and soothing cooing of the splashes, there really is nothing else to do but surrender to the water. And honestly, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

The water is my chosen elixir and this bottles serves as a strong, fragrant reminder.

 

 Photography by Jisa Atrero
Taken in Maquinit Hot Spring, Coron, Palawan
Chantecaille fragrances are available in all Art of Scent branches 

Chasing Time with Henry London

Such a strange thing, time. We get impatient and will it to speed up but we also panic when we realize how it flies and beg for it to slow down. But whichever route we want time to take it always governs how we live our lives. Everything is in relation to time—memories, fears, goals, and dreams.

I realized early on that time has to take its own course and have learned to love and respect my own unique life pace even if I don’t always necessarily understand it. Still, just like everyone else, I constantly rush (traffic and my weird sleeping patterns are mostly to blame) and I do tend to feel pressured to make more out of my day. Beyonce also has 24 hours in a day so what on earth is happening to mine?

But time, much to my dismay, is something that we can’t bend to conform to our needs and desires. The clock ticks as it does—day after day, hour after hour, second after second. There’s really no use trying to one-up it. We roll with the punches. We take what we can get and we make the most out of things. Easier said than done, I know. After all, time management is one of the hardest skills to master despite the many self-help books and number of courses to aid you.

What you do in an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year — that’s completely up to you. Though I do hope that when you look back on how you’ve been spending it, you find it worthwhile. There is, unfortunately, no clear-cut path to conquering time. But while you figure out what to do with it, I think the best way to actually track it, so to speak, is via a beautiful timepiece.

I’m very particular with accoutrements of all kinds—I rarely ever wear accessories. Watches are no exception. I was very recently introduced to Henry London and it evoked a lot of emotions especially since the brand celebrates all things London. Their watches are named after subway stations, the first ever piece was inspired by a vintage watch found in the markets of Portobello, and the selection, in its diversity and eclecticism, mimics the people of London—a diverse group of people who are all equally captivating, charming, inspiring and yes, I need to go there, quintessentially polite.

Since it’s been exactly a year since one of the greatest experiences of my life—my lovely stint in Oxford—I  will always look at London with love.

And I guess that’s exactly what the watches evoke—a sense of love. And not just because the watches are objectively gorgeous. Dome-shaped dials, classic vintage styles, genuine leather straps that are interchangeable, even a dial that includes moon phases— these are all objectively appealing to any watch connoisseur. But the great thing about Henry, “a sprinkle of magic dust” acco. to Managing Director Paul Harry, is that each timepiece is customizable for free. You can engrave whatever you want at the back of the dial. Names, significant dates, declarations of love—those are all plausible options.

Obviously, when I got my first Henry I had mine engraved too, but instead of going the usual route, I had my ‘word of the year’ immortalized instead. Each year I come up with a word—an overarching theme of how I want my year to go—and this year it’s “Soar”. Isn’t it nice to not only be able to tell time on a beautiful timepiece, but also have it as a constant reminder of whatever it is you hold dear—in my case a frame of mind? Now it can always be within reach to remind me, at a glance, whenever I feel like I’ve been losing direction that it’s always forward and up. Always.

In my humble opinion, if Cinderella just had a watch, she wouldn’t have had to go home with a shoe missing. Heels nowadays are way too expensive to just leave at some party. Even in the hands of some lovestruck prince.

Henry London watches are available in all Wristpod and Swissgear branches, Landmark Makati and select SM Department Stores 

Denim Days

Full disclosure: I’m all about denim. Boot cut, boyfriend, cropped, straight – I’m obsessed with it. I’d like to think that in a world of tulle skirts and lace dresses, I can rely on this mining-inspired classic to keep me grounded style-wise and not be swept up in the whirlwind of trends that will not always work on me and will eventually regret wearing some Instagram scrolls later. I think I’m at an age where I’m starting to become a bit more trend-averse and have recently realized that certain stores I used to love don’t have the same allure anymore and certain pieces I thought were too “old” for me are slowly humming their siren call. 

But denim? Denim is timeless. Cliche but true. I have throwback photos of me as a child looking cute in denim (if I may say so myself), and even throughout my teens when I looked awkward as hell denim was always there. Whether my jeans had snoopy embroidered on them (true story), or whether my pair was exaggeratedly flared and way too long for my petite frame that it turned filthy after just 10 minutes on me all because Britney Spears wore the same silhouette circa I’m a Slave 4 U, for some reason denim has always felt stylish. Even circa 2015 when #normcore was thrown around right and left and boyfriend jeans were paired with Nike slides and the plainest of shirts, it still felt fashionable. Even if it is at its very core #basic, the right pair can still imbibe Kate Moss-effortless instead of a sartorial hump day. 

That’s exactly what I love about jeans. And I’m always in them especially when I travel. I always bring a pair and I somehow always end up buying another pair when I’m away. Though I’m partial to anything bootleg at the moment, I must say that my favorite travel silhouette will always be the skinny.

Skinny is just easy. When I travel I want a no-brainer, no-fail piece that doesn’t come with the stress of having to think about what to wear in addition to everything else (like a debate on how much my Uber will be versus my willingness to walk an unimaginable number of blocks, which, quite frankly, is a debate that is all-consuming). It looks good with just about anything. The risk of seeming sloppy is basically non-existent. All kinds of footwear would be accentuated especially boots that instantly up the sartorial ante. I assume that when you’re on the go, run around a lot, and pack a lot (I’m lucky I’ve been living out of my luggage the past few months for a change) you need tried and tested staples. The skinny will always be mine. 

What is difficult though is finding the right pair in terms of length, fit, rise, and the ability to flatter one’s behind. Luckily, Promod recently released five new denim silhouettes and, of course, I gravitated towards the Gaspard, a mid-rise skinny. It comes in six washes but I tried on three: a faded blue, gray, and black. If you’re torn, I would recommend buying it in black – a hue of skinnies I think everyone should own. True to form, when I had to pack my bags for a staycation, it was the skinny  I chose to bring. Wore it with a sweater, a loose white button down, a tee and a motorcycle jacket.   It’s both versatile and universally flattering. 

The good news is that if you do get yourself a pair of jeans from Promod and show my photo in this post (or on Instagram wearing the Gaspar) they’ll give you a free gift (until September 30 only). So try on a pair and jumpstart that wardrobe haul for the holidays. I can assure you, you’ll be doing a lot of shopping, prepping, and hopefully traveling in jeans in the next few months. Style and function have never been more seamless, pun intended.

All clothes from Promod. They are also having a buy one, get one at 50% off for all pairs of denim until September 10. So don’t forget to visit a branch near you! 

A Box of Goodies | BDJ Elite Box

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Acquiring new makeup always renders buyers in a better mood- a beauty haze, let’s call it. Opening a tube of lipstick, looking at a palette that’s perfectly pressed, or double- even triple- dipping your mascara wand to hear that thick swooshing sound is always exciting. Whether you buy it online or you spend hours testing and swatching products in the dreamland that is Sephora, the feeling of getting new loot is universal. But when a box is delivered straight to your doorstep and the contents of which are unknown to you, it feels like Christmas when you finally open it and see that what’s in store for you is a full makeup haul.

Belle Du Jour recently came up with a limited edition Elite Box that contains a massive amount of products exclusively from Colour Collection. I’ve heard of the brand prior to getting a box because a few friends posted it online (and really, that’s the only way to gather info nowadays) but I’ve never actually seen the products in person ’til now. The box worth Php 4,000 but is competitively priced at P1,480 contains a full set of makeup products. That set includes multiple shades of lipstick, powder, eyeshadow  palettes and so much more.

Among the many contents which I excitedly perused, the All Day Wear Lipstick Suede Collection (Php350) is an easy favorite because I’m a sucker for a good tube of lipstick with a knockout shade. It’s formulated with shea butter and aloe so it’s meant to hydrate. Given that my lips are always way too dry, I think this is a good option to take a break from some of my more drying mattes. My favorite shade is the Mild Mocha because it’s great nude with brown undertones. The vivid Rush Red is a close, close second. Other shades include Iris Suede (a bright pink), Cosy Currant (a deep red), Lovely Daisy (a plum), and Rich Pecan (a warm brown).

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My next favorites are the All Day Wear Lengthening Mascara (Php 399) and the All Day Wear Brow Mascara (Php 399). I’m obsessed with mascara. Unfortunately, the struggle to find a decent product that doesn’t make me look like I’ve been bawling- after just a few hours on my face- is too real. Imagine me then after a full 12-hour day looking sick, stressed, and like a clinically-diagnosed insomniac. #truth.

This particular mascara is lengthening and is also waterproof which is great for when I do cry because I’m (1) emotional, (2) a gemini, and (3) periodically hormonal. The brow mascara, on the other hand, is great. I love the size of the spoolie. The shade is pretty dark so it looks natural on the strands of your hair but gives dimension nonetheless and keeps the strands in place. Not pictured is the 14HR Liquid Eye Liner Pen (Php 369) which  is a budge-free liner that is extremely easy to glide on. It’s really watery upon application so let it sit for a while first for it to dry. Otherwise expect your crease to have smudges of black (which always happens to me). So do be careful.

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Crowd favorites are the palettes that are perfect for those who like having multi-purpose products. The Colour Intense Face Palette (Php 499) is a knockout – it has three eye shadow options, brow powder, blush, and contour. It also comes with a dual-ended brush. This is perfect for women on-the-go who don’t enjoy bringing a ton of stuff or even using different bulky products for different face areas. Imagine: this product covers so many tasks at once. It’s perfect for a night out when you’re carrying a teeny, tiny, basically non-functional purse.

The All Day Wear Eye Shadow Trio Palette (Php 399) is another multi-purpose product for day to night versatility. The pinkish Daytime Glam is for everyday use with its soft, neutral tone while the Wild Night combination of deep brown and a light cappuccino is perfect for a dramatic evening look. It’s relatively easy to create a smokey eye out of this palette.

Last in the package is the Dual Powder Foundation (Php 549). The coverage is pretty flexible as you can use it both wet and dry depending on how much coverage you actually want. It comes with a sponge applicator which makes it easy for the light-reflecting micronised powder to give off a flawless finish.

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If you’ve been looking to buy makeup, this should be a really good option. Imagine the number of products that you’re gonna get for the amount you’re gonna spend. I’m really glad Belle Du Jour did this bundle. Order one for yourself for the perfect pick me up. It made me happy and I think if you’re a sucker for makeup like I am, it should put a pep in your step too.

The BDJ Elite Box contains Php 4,000 worth of products that you guys can get for only Php 1,480. It’s definitely a steal so order yours now at bdjbox.com 

Fairy Tales

When fairies render olfactory miracles

I’ve always been drawn to the ethereal. Some of my favorite reads are about fantasy, mythology, and the complex worlds of the mystical. I even took a course under Coursera (it’s a website that offers an extensive list of free online programs go check it out) on Fantasy and Science Fiction under UofM and have armed myself with a line up of the Grimm Brothers, Terry Brooks, and Tolkien within bedside reach. I’m a nerd.

Naturally, all things that are even remotely related to these fictitious realms pique my interest in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Brands that reference anything wiccan, instagram accounts dedicated to fantasy, and even perfume scents that are inspired by storybook characters are given time of day.

When I came across Féerie by Van Cleef & Arpels, I knew I had to at least smell it. Even the packaging draws attention – a deep blue gem-inspired bottle that features a tiny fairy perched on a branch. It looks like a precious jewel. The scent is equally captivating. I’ve never been one to go for a sweet scent but this floral woody mix is just the right amount of saccharine. It’s initially fruity with hints of blackcurrant and Italian mandarin but the lasting notes are of the flowers – violet, Egyptian Jasmine, Florentine iris, and the Bulgarian rose. It’s a very feminine, floral choice. I truly believe that scents can easily influence one’s mood. With a spritz or two of this fragrance, expect a truly sweet and fresh take on the day ahead.

So when I’m feeling particularly somber, or let’s be real, irritable, I take the bottle on my way out the door and expect my disposition to be a lot sunnier and a whole lot sweeter. Maybe it’s expecting too much from a singular bottle. But fairies are magical creatures after all, and I’ll presume nothing less from a scent inspired by them.

Top, H&M
Skirt, EVER NEW 
Embroidered choker, PARFOIS 
Photography and Makeup by ELISA AQUINO

Parfois’ End of Season Sale is Here!

Ah, sale season. The season my math brain works its best.

Ah, sale season. The season of heavy shopping bags that double as weights that carrying them is practically a workout; The season of looking at bills with one eye open and one eye closed but 100% completely hoping that the total isn’t what you know it should be; The season of downloading apps of your favorite stores to spend hours browsing sale items only to delete the apps again once sales are over; The season my math brain works its best; and the season of throwing out all shopping resolutions out the window because a new item (or 10) is so easily justified.

Good thing there are some pieces that you don’t necessarily need to justify. Especially not when items are 70% off. Y’all know I’m a huge fan of Parfois. Time and again I enter the store and leave with something. This month, Parfois has an insane array of heavily discounted items including some of the ones I’ve actually gotten prior. But really it’s just rows upon rows of bags that are discounted up to 70% off, shoes that are quickly running out of sizes, accessories that can upgrade outfits from 0 to 60, and scarves, sunglasses, and watches that you really shouldn’t think twice about grabbing.

I went around the store at least thrice trying to scour for my absolute favorites and these are my top 12 picks from the sale.

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1st row L-R: Pink purse now at P795; brown suede block heels at P695; Green backpack at P995 (from P2290!); 2nd row L-R: Watch now at P495; Yellow backpack now at P995; snakeskin flats at P695; 3rd row L-R: Suede slingback flats at P695; knitted tote at P995; silver sling at P595; 4th row L-R: Silver statement earrings at P195; Sandals at P695; Boots at P695

Aside from those (and other favorites), here are some of the items that are also on sale that I actually already bought prior to it. Those silver strappy heels? I even remember fitting those on two different days because they looked a tad big at first and eventually getting them for myself. They’re now on sale for P695. The velvet choker? I got that in Parfois Portugal and it’s now on sale for P295. The yellow sling I also got for full price that I’ve already taken to a bunch of out of town trips is now on sale for P995. I’m dead serious about you having to go to the store and just emptying it out. The sale is way too good for you to pass up. I know I didn’t.

But full disclosure? I also got items from the new collection that are regularly priced. What can I say? Shopping at Parfois never needs to be justified. The sale though- that’s a no-brainer. So don’t think, just go. Thank me later.

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