Nivea Come Closer in Balesin

Flying to Balesin for Nivea is one of my favorite trips to date. Here’s why.

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With my  roomie, Danika Navarrobali-balesin-nivea-come-closer5nivea-come-closer-balesin18nivea-come-closer-balesin14nivea-come-closer-balesin11 nivea-come-closer-balesin10bali-balesin-nivea-come-closer6nivea-come-closer-balesin4nivea-come-closer-balesin3balesin-day-3-nivea-come-closer nivea-come-closer-balesin2mykonos_balesin_a_4nivea-come-closer-balesin8nivea-come-closer-balesinIMG_2768IMG_3541

When recounting a trip that was all sorts of awesome, where does one even begin?

On the way to the hangar at about 4:40 in the morning, you don’t really expect much from an event. Your personal agenda includes sleep – lots of it – and little time for anything else. I didn’t realize what was about to come my way. And so, I was pleasantly surprised.

Nivea, the revered skincare brand from Hamburg, Germany, flew us to the beautiful island of Balesin for a 3-day trip with the mysterious promise of ‘coming closer.’ Whisking us off to one of the most beautiful and most exclusive islands in the Philippines was already a pretty high note in my book but the island proved to be even better than expected. Imparting what I learned via our island tour and our fair share of sightseeing, the 500-hectare island is divided into 7 themed villages: Balesin (Filipino), Bali (Indonesian), Mykonos (Greek), Toscana (Italian),  Saint Tropez (French) and Costa del Sol (Spanish). Every seeming inch of the island was photographable and awe-inducing and my jaw stayed on the floor for the most part of day 1.

We stayed at Mykonos, the most beautiful village in my opinion, which landed right into Nivea’s aisle. Blue and white Greek inspired walls, tiles, vases and decor lined the village which really only complemented the colors of the skincare brand that brought us there. And a reminder of Nivea, its products and its heritage is always welcome.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Nivea in my early blogging career so I was pretty familiar with their products as a regular user of their creams, sunblock and deodorant variants. What greeted us in the room though was an unprecedented and unparalleled amount of Nivea products that introduced new lines and classics I didn’t even know existed. With decades under their belt, that was bound to happen. Fast forward to the press-conference, we all learned about lines aplenty: baby care, men, face and many more each offer a wide range of products from wipes, to lotions to facial washes, soaps, creams, etc. And so, the first day was spent getting to know more about the brand and familiarizing ourselves with new releases such as the In-Shower Skin Conditioner that we got to use in the comfort of our own rooms.

The second day proved to be the exact opposite of how chill it was the day prior with a whirlwind of activities. I’m looking at you, Amazing Race.

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Team Yellow!  nivea-come-closer-balesin17

Guess whose team was the most intense? Clue: leftmost.nivea-come-closer-balesin15nivea-come-closer-balesin26

With a 7AM call time, the Amazing Race proved to be pretty intense. Each leg of the race warranted us coming physically closer – whether by having our legs tied together, side by side and tight knit in certain tasks, the race ensured we understood the trip’s theme. It did not, however, warn me we’d also come in last. I honestly thought my team was winning only to find out at the end station that out of the 8 teams that competed, we were 8th. I am extremely competitive and I need to win at the smallest thing- parlor games, monopoly deal, charades. So the loss came as a big blow (accompanied by an actual big blow from the archery booth’s arrow that turned into a bruise about 4 inches in diameter.) I guess this can be one of those games that I did “for fun” because to be fair, it really was.

After a day spent under the sun, Nivea told us exactly how sunblocks work with a visual representation of how the sun sees our skin (photo below). The exact science behind it escapes me but the grade 1 explanation would be that the sun sees our skin in terms of black and white. Black, under UVA light, is what is protected by sunscreen and white is the one that isn’t. The sunscreen either reflects or blocks the rays and essentially serves as a layer that makes it harder for the sun’s rays to penetrate. Without that, your skin is exposed and without defense.

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Proper sunblock, when viewed under UVA light, appear black.

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We capped off the second night with a party that entailed dancing for hours. Shoutout to DJ Callum David for the throwback records and the hip hop songs that got my street groove back even in my backless halter dress.

The day after was a bit somber with everyone wanting to stay just a little longer. I guess the theme of coming closer really stuck with us and it’s not just because of the ubiquitous #NiveaComeCloser hashtag now dominating my Instagram account. The trip entailed us coming closer with our own skin and bodies by knowing how to take proper care of them and why. Having a marketing-wired brain, I appreciated how the information bestowed and the activities lined up all tied up in the end, with us not only becoming closer with ourselves but also with others. Quite literally too with the Amazing Race. With great skin and zero worries you become more confident and more open which gives you a chance to let other people in, like those we’ve met along the trip despite us all coming from such different backgrounds, age groups and interests. Imagine models, bloggers, members of the press, and athletes all getting along. So much so that almost a month later, the Viber group formed in Balesin is still my most active Viber group yet. (Yes, I’m looking at you, #Balesinners.)

And so I left with beautiful memories, a constantly buzzing Viber group and enough Nivea products to get me through the separation anxiety. And whenever I remember bathrobe moments, playing in the sand and dancing to 90s hip hop, I smile. What a beautiful trip to look back on. I will never get tired of it.

Congratulations to Nivea and ARC PR for a successful and beautiful trip and thank you so much for having me!  

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Neon Islander

Matching the floor in Neon Island really doesn’t seem so bad. Fun, even.

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A spontaneous stop to shop ensued a few days ago when I dragged a friend of mine to SOMA Stores – a collective of well-curated independent brands tucked all the way in Pasong Tamo. Far, I know, and honestly not the easiest to get to, we had to take multiple u-turns and Waze queries. The first miss wasn’t my fault but the next one most definitely was. Navigation isn’t necessarily my forte.

The brands in the line up keep getting better and for more shopping choices – quality, that is – I am forever grateful. I’ve come across many a local brand with no regard for quality whatsoever with terrible stitching, bad seams, uneven hemming and more horrors to anybody particular about clothes. One of my favorite brands that I had to visit was Neon Island. I’ve raved about them multiple times already (including the interview with the owners here) and make sure to pack at least one item from them to any beach trip. They’re coming out with the summer collection soon and, thanks to Instagram, I already saw a peek of the prints and bikinis I need to have on a primal level. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the older collections are irrelevant. This look is from their latest release – one infused with florals, checks, pastels and patent leather skirts also in cotton candy hues. I kind of liked how I matched their floor. I’ve never really worn culottes before (except that same morning for a reason I have yet to share) but I liked how these fit. And racerback crops have come full circle and I’m totally amenable to their comeback. Of course there were more amazing pieces to be found in their cute little spot in SOMA not limited to clothes. See those cute clutches behind me of kiwis, papayas and pineapples? Such cute accents to spruce up any outfit.

If you’re up for the drive, check out Neon Island at SOMA. You really should though at some point, it’s pretty kick-ass with all the art installations. Otherwise, shop in the comforts of your own laptops and check out http://neonislandclothing.com. So worth it.

Even if you don’t find floors to match.

Top and culottes, NEON ISLAND | Sunglass, SUNNIES STUDIOS

Betty or Veronica?

Channeling Veronica, one half of my former style icons, in this skirt set.

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Did anyone here grow up reading Archie comics? Well, I did. I used to hoard copies in grade school and laugh out loud in my room (bed or class-). While I haven’t picked up an Archie book recently, I still gravitate towards it in bookstores, longingly touching its covers like I do other novels that I make mental note of buying next. I even bought gigantic, old-school versions from flea markets. They didn’t have covers but were $0.25 each and I couldn’t refuse a bargain. (Though honestly, I haven’t opened them ‘coz I’m afraid there might be mites inside.)

I’ve been recently reminded though of two of my favorite characters – Betty and Veronica. MAC Cosmetics came out two years ago with Betty and Veronica inspired make up and a local fashion magazine also featured the two – on their cover. Most recently though, an independent brand, Tim & Franc, based their collection on the personality of the two girls with garments catering to their inner Veronicas and some to their inner Bettys. While I can’t decide which character I’m more akin to, I can say that they both have influenced my fashion sense growing up. But somehow, pre-adolescence, not all outfits worked. Luckily, with 24 years under my belt, I can now parade in Veronica’s signature crop tops and tight skirts and have enough of a shape for Betty’s circular skirts for them to be flattering.

This particular set is obviously a Ronnie look – match it with a pool (that isn’t mine) and you’ve got her interests down pat too. Tanning by the pool bullying Archiekins is just so Ronnie. Undecided, I also got a Betty set from the brand and I can’t wait to wear it when I’m feeling a little more kind-hearted. This whole throwback outfit has made me realize though that Betty and Veronica’s outfits are still so relevant to this day. It’s also so interesting how the comics reflected society back then as well, even just in terms of fashion. Jokes about the greatest export of England being mini skirts gave me a full chuckle when I encountered it again. (Mary Quant, from England, is often credited for the rise of mini skirts, fyi.) I researched more of their outfits and created a moodboard (below), because I’m a geek like that, to show you just how relevant and on point their outfits still are, and to serve as an inspiration for the coming weeks when putting items together.

I think my first step – in this Veronica skirt set from Tim and Franc- is a pretty good start. Which outfit from the moodboard do you like best? And more importantly, are you a Betty or a Veronica?

Skirt set by TIM & FRANC | Sunglasses by SUNNIES 

Photos by Danika Navarro

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Got Leftover Flowers?

Here’s what to do with those bequeathed Valentine bouquets.

floral-arrangement floral-arrangement2floral-arrangement4 floral-arrangement5floral-arrangement3Have an excess of blooms you don’t know what to do with? Or do you have a bouquet so high you can’t see past it? Or maybe you have a bouquet so jam-packed you want to be wise with its distribution. Well, here’s what to do with it.

I’m a sucker for flowers. I always have been. If I had more home-grown blooms in my own house I’d be picking them to death.  (Maybe even literally.) Flowers always make me happy. I smell them, I stare at them and I bask in their colorful glory. And as much as I appreciate a whopping bouquet, there are times I think there’s so much more than can be done with it and there are so many more corners in my house I can fill if I just rip the bouquet apart. Though my last Valentine’s one was gorgeous as a whole, some flowers gave up on me today (sunflowers ironically can’t stand Manila heat and my Stargazers are also wilting) so I figured I’ll take the bouquet apart and make mini arrangements to save my still blooming Carnations and keep my workspace happy.

Arranging flowers is honestly so cathartic and brings to mind how I spent my childhood watching my mom and my aunts create bouquet after bouquet and vase after vase. There are always fresh flowers in my home in Michigan and trips to flower shops are always beautiful (albeit cold – their freezers are intense) trips.

So here’s me trying my hand at arrangements. The infamous mason jar dominating my Instagram feed – mostly filled  with chia seeds and smoothies – is apparently pretty cute as a vase. I now know where to use mine.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make something with your hands, this is a good way to start. You can never really mess flowers up, anyway.

Shoutout to the bouquet(s) giver for gifts that keep on giving. xo

Beach Bum

And no I’m not talking about my behind.

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I would spend the rest of my days in front of the sea if I could. But I won’t jump in right away unless I’m certain there’s wifi or at least a working satellite. Remote islands make me anxious and not knowing what’s going on in the outside world (I’m highly paranoid as a person) makes it even worse. I just want to be within reach, you know? But only by those I want to reach me. Texters sending loan or housing proposals are not welcome in my little paradise. Nor in my daily life.

But spending my days at the beach means I need lots and lots (and I mean lots) of bikinis. My thrifty tip is to hoard H&M bikinis when they go on sale. You can’t beat $3 bikinis. The catch is the odds of being able to buy them in pairs are pretty low but mixing and matching is a thing and separates still work well especially if you plan on covering half a region – your torso with a shirt or the lower half of your body with high waist skirts or shorts.

In Manila, I’ve been finding it difficult to get bikinis that I really like especially since they’re pretty pricey here and the brands that make quality bikinis are scarce. I came across this Cesa bikini and knew, just from flat lays, that it’s something I’d fall in love with when worn. It actually feels more like a top I’d willingly buy in an overpriced retail store. The fact that it is wettable is but an added bonus.

If you have an enviable budget and have the means (aka the geographic advantage), check out Zimmerman, my absolute favorite. I don’t know which countries sell it but I don’t think it’s available here. Plus, the average bikini is approximately $250 – such a far cry from my $3 H&M pro-tip. Triangl is also a pretty amazing brand and they do deliver worldwide, I believe. If you’re in the Philippines, Cesa is pretty high up my list of bikini brands. I do suggest you check them out. I also got a new monokini from them that’s unbelievably sexy even for a one-piece that I’ve actually already worn it on a night out with jeans. I can’t wait to shoot that soon.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of me just frolicking in my new favorite bikini. Playing in the sand and in water and just having the time of my life.

At age 24, I should really start planning which beach to retire in already.

Bikini, CESA | Kimono, H&M 

Photos taken in Balesin Island for Nivea Come Closer

Valentine’s Day

Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe requires much more than I thought. At least Valentine’s Day is only once a year. Prom dresses be damned.

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There’s something about Valentine’s that calls to mind Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe – extravagant, billowing and ballooning dresses. The closest I had in my wardrobe was this impulse buy that’s been in my closet for more than a year now but I’ve never gotten to wear out. I did a post on it before but it hasn’t seen the light of day and hasn’t left home ’til yesterday.

Spent Valentine’s at a quaint restaurant in Tagaytay, Marcia Adams Tuscany, a forever favorite for its gorgeous interiors. There’s always a corner to pose in though I think I might already have exhausted the place (see here and here.) My foresight didn’t quite extend to the meal as I completely disregarded that I pre-ordered steak and this dress literally had no breathing room I had to sneakily pull down my zipper to accommodate lbs. of meat. I should’ve taken a jacket (or any article of clothing that resembles a blanket) with me so I could have happily unzipped my way through lunch. Instead, I had to sit up straight and make sure my dress didn’t burst.

The accessories were a lot less low maintenance, thank God. This clutch came with my set of Happy Skin lip sticks and I figured I’ll make good use of it well beyond its role as just a lipstick case. It had little room though, only allowing my choice of Style Icon hue and my Smart iPhone 6 in it. No space for wallets and much else but this is one of those days I know my wallet isn’t necessary. Sorry, Destiny’s Child, all the women who’re independent didn’t include me yesterday.

Another low maintenance choice was my set of temporary tattoos on my fingers. I love wearing rings but I swear I lose at least one each time I go out. With size 4 fingers it’s difficult to find ones that fit and I often resort to buying looser ones, only to actually lose them later on. Shoutout to Lulu DK Tattoos for this metallic option that allowed me to move my fingers freely (if not my torso.)

This dress will probably never be worn again unless I lose about two full inches off my waist. And since that isn’t gonna happen and I am not sacrificing good food over good photos, it’ll probably be given to a skinnier cousin. Luckily, Valentine’s is only once a year and the pressure to don prom dresses (or anything that resembles it) is reserved for that occasion alone.

Dress, TOPSHOP | Clutch and Style Icon lipstick, HAPPY SKIN | SMART iPhone 6 |Temporary tattoos, LULU DK | Nail Polish in Sophia, GIRL STUFF 

Going Offline

Went offline just in time to bask in the beauty of the sea. I really must have been a mermaid in my past life.

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More and more the idea of taking a long break is calling to me. Maybe not a year long like my soul sister Liz Gilbert did but maybe a month or two of just finding balance and rejuvenating myself.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here but I actually work as a social media manager for a brand close to my heart. And I love my job, the field and the digital sphere in its totality but I guess the only downside of it is that while I’m extremely mobile, I also have to be really connected and there doesn’t seem to be room for days off. Don’t get me wrong, I can travel whenever and wherever I want but I don’t think I have the capacity to not check in for 12 hours straight and sometimes going offline – even just for a full weekend – is just the antidote to mental (and creative) fatigue.

So when I do get the chance to go offline (though most of the time not by choice), I cherish it. And any experience that gets me off my phone is something I will always be grateful for. I hope more people realize that spending time with the ones you love (sans Candy Crush or Facebook) is one of the best ways to show you care in today’s highly digital arena. And nothing bothers me more than being with someone who is constantly, not to mention fervently, tapping their touch-screen gizmos.

My short digital hiatus (just for a few hours) came in the form of basking in the glory of the sea thanks to areas rendered sans internet. Time off was a blessing on its own but to be in this beautiful setting too was just precious. Coerced nature appreciation isn’t necessarily my ideal way of taking in the world’s beauty but coerced or not, it was definitely appreciated.

Top, SWAY CHIC | Shorts, FORME

Every Grain Of Sand

The sand always renders calm and photogenic landscapes. Just ask Alessandra Ambrosio.

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The idea of rolling in the sand has always been appealing. I imagine Victoria’s Secret angels splashing about in waters then rolling over playfully in the sand – kind of sexily wrestling each other to be exact. Why that image is buried in my head, I don’t necessarily know. Blame it on Alessandra Ambrosio and her Instagram feed. (It just has that vibe, you know?) I didn’t quite intend to come anywhere near their sandy antics as the practicality of being in the sand turns me off rather quickly. Hard-to-remove morsels are always the worst on both the body and on footwear. And sand that goes unnoticed usually finds its way onto the cleanest of beds. Cue Alanis Morissette crying out “ironic.”

On one random afternoon in Balesin Island for the Nivea Come Closer event though, I decided to just take the plunge. Maybe it was prompted by how surreal the Balesin experience was or maybe it was the strong call of the sea and its sandy shores. So with cute dress in tow, I knelt rather awkwardly at first, and gave in to see what the sand had to render my anxiety and photography. It did wonders to calm me, surprisingly, and, unsurprisingly, it rendered an amazing landscape to take photos in.

Oh, nature, you have done it again. And for making me feel one with you I will forget about the solid five minutes I took just trying to get sand off myself, outside the bedroom door with a painful view of my very white and very comfortable bed, before finally being able to enter the room without leaving my own trail.

Happy Skin Gets StyLIZed

These new Happy Skin StyLIZed lipstick shades are best kept on rotation.

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It has to be said, I am a lipstick addict. “Nevermind brows,” my motto states, much to the dismay and unmistakeable disapproval of my brow-obsessed peers. It’s not that I don’t necessarily care about brows, contours or the rest of the trillion steps one is supposed to go through when painting one’s face, it’s more of I’m no expert at its application. So minimal strokes (and attention) suffice.  

What I am good at though is applying lipstick. I take that back. I would like to think I’m just a notch below Kylie Jenner’s make up artist’s infamous lip-lining techniques so I am pretty good (let’s assume, for the sake of this argument, that her lips are in fact rendered in liner alone – minus alleged collagen shots.) It doesn’t matter what texture or whether it comes in a tube, glass or a pencil. If it changes the hue of my puckers, they are mine to be owned and conquered. 

Fittingly, my lips have tasted and tested so many shades. From browns, to violets, Ive been obsessed with them all. Over the years with a rapidly growing collection, I have learned that I only really need one stick of each: a red, a pink and a nude. The oranges and the plums, though they render a different and sometimes necessary personality shift altogether, are too ostentatious in nature and, regrettably, can’t be worn everyday. That is unless you’re Rihanna and work embraces your eccentricity. Otherwise, all normal people with regular jobs must keep these for “special” occasions (a term I use loosely of course – Saturday nights most definitely included.) 

Enter Happy Skin’s most recent collection of three special shades in collaboration with celebrity stylist Liz Uy: Style Icon (nude), 24 Carats (pink) and Red Carpet (red). A stylist first and foremost, Liz knows exactly what staples each woman needs. The three shades alone are good thinking enough on her end – a solid red, pink and nude are best kept on regular rotation. But, of course, a partnership with a stylist entails a more meaningful marriage with fashion. Hence, the lipsticks also come in your choice of case – a leather pouch or an acrylic clutch especially requested by Liz herself.

Of course, as a person who regularly has a hard time going through the contents of my own purse, I chose the cold, hard, shiny, see-through case. It wasn’t just for comfort though, it was mostly for show. Lipsticks meant to impress are best kept visible – on your person by way of your newly tinted mouth and by way of promotion, lugged around as an essential with other seemingly important stuff. My new Happy Skin shades take on higher importance when leveled with keys, phones and wallets. And rightly so.

And with a lipstick collection named “Shut Up & Kiss me,” a gentle nudge (or a more aggressive prompt – whichever you need at the time) is not just undoubtedly welcome. It’s also absolutely necessary.

Each new Happy Skin StyLIZed lipstick costs P599 each. The acrylic clutch 3-piece set, P1799, and the leather pouch 3-piece set, P1499.  

A portion of proceeds from each stick sold goes to Gawad Kalinga. Purchase your own shade (and help) at Rustan’s Makati and Shangri-la, Beauty Bar and Plains & Prints stores nationwide.

A Beautifully-Hued Breather

My best moments have always been offline but nothing beats downtime with nature’s beautifully-hued waters.

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There’s a lot to be said about today’s generation. I’m not sure if it’s the need to constantly prove oneself (thanks, in no small part, to social media-mandated comparisons and benchmarking), or if society is just more demanding than ever. Multi-hyphenates are no longer a bonus but a requirement, employees stay longer and longer at the office and, personally, my phone beeps ’til after I’ve fallen asleep. That’s partly because of overly-active Viber groups but emails and work seem to multiply the moment you get some shut eye too.

I’ve been trying to figure out why exactly the sound of waves or even just the sight of the vast expanse makes me so calm and I tried to research some scientific explanation but I gave up after just 1 page of Google search results. I want to say it has something to do with how small I feel, or how the horizon prompts several life quotes to memory but I think I personally find peace and serenity when faced with nature because it brings me back to what’s really important – not the hustle, not the $$$ in my bank account, nor the blog posts I’ve written the past week, but just being fully present and appreciating life, its beauty and its wonders, without having to think of them in certain VSCO filters or minding how to capture it in a perfect square.

My best moments have always been offline but there’s still no greater reminder than the beautifully hued water, sucking you in and rewiring your brain giving you that much needed breather that routine seems to have infinitely stolen.

Thank you, nature, for always being so magnificent.

p.s. In hindsight, it may also be my mermaid dreams brought to life. We’ll never know ‘coz I gave up on Google, huh.

Photos taken in Balesin at the Nivea Come Closer event

Dress, CALVIN KLEIN | Sunglasses, SUNNIES STUDIOS