At Home With the Water

Quite literally, home.

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Welcome to one of my favorite backyards. Unfortunately, I had to come back to reality and leave this dream of a place. Yes, I’m back in Manila and am honestly not ready to be thrown right into the throng of things just yet. But isn’t that exactly the way life works? It never waits for you to be ready. It just shoots.

Haven’t been this heartbroken to leave Michigan since I was a child, I think. It was one of my better trips and I already desperately miss my family. Admittedly, I’m the one who plots how short – or how long – a trip is and I think I always overestimate just how much I’m needed back in the Philippines. Don’t read that in an arrogant way; Rather, in an I-might-just-get-fired-I-need-to-fly-my-ass-back-soon kind of way. Since it hasn’t exactly happened yet (my being fired), maybe next time I can take longer breaks?

Anyway, my three-week trip back home has been an amazing way for me to get centered and get out of the Manila haze. I know I keep alluding to it on this site but I think that when you’re stuck in a place, an environment or an industry for so long you start to nitpick the ways in which it sucks the life out of you (see, it’s just like any other desk job.) I’ve always been an escapist and getting away meant seeing the bigger picture and putting into perspective the grand scheme of things. For instance, a huge part of what I do on a daily basis (i.e., running this blog) heavily relies on social clout. And when you’re supposed value hinges on your number of followers, your number of posts per week (blog or social media) and the number of likes you garner, your view of reality becomes slightly distorted and priorities may shift. It’s always great to be brought back down to Earth (this goes for everybody) and realize that 99.9% of the population doesn’t give a sh*t. There’s also a bunch of other stuff in life and career bogging me down but, again, the break has done wonders for my cortisol levels. I suggest you pack your bags, STAT, if you need a little breather.

I’ve been out of Michigan more than half my life but I’ve learned that home will always feel the same (after all, there’s no place like it as per Dorothy) and family will always feel like your favorite security blanket (or cup of hot cocoa, whichever you prefer more). So before tears stream down my face, let me leave you with some outfit photos I took by one of the lakes. Bodies of water are so reminiscent of my home state so the lake is the perfect backdrop for a post that is making me awfully sentimental.

Now onto my box of tissues.


Hanging curbside in impulse buys.

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Feeling sartorially bipolar recently alternatively purchasing bohemian and street looks. A maxi dress one day and sneaks another, I find sartorial variety necessary to keep creative. Oftentimes we (or at least I) let style labels dictate what not to wear (I don’t like looking like everyone else), but I’ve realized that it’s amazing not to care about labels and fashion stereotypes. We all have a style spectrum and we all play within that range. Unless your style is ‘trendy’, then your range is much wider and encompasses a bunch of different popular silhouettes, colors and items.

Treading the street spectrum of my current tastes, I got new sneakers and a new bucket hat. I can’t seem to resist buying sneakers whenever I walk into a Nike store which should serve as a warning for me not to enter anymore. Impulses don’t always lead to proper usage especially when it comes to heavy rubber footwear. Seriously. I usually wear them twice and then they’re forgotten. I guess I was mostly swayed by terrific salespeople who, when they saw me try the pair on, were all “She rockin’ it!” Plus, the shoes were on sale.

The bucket hat from Vanguard bore a similar impulse-ridden story though without compliments this time. The Pacsun store had a buy one, get three free sale that would make any binge shopper go crazy. So while I was busy looking at discounted pieces (because, #budget), I saw this full-priced hat and knew I had to have it. Sometimes my choices are questionable but I guess I just have to live with them and, at the very least, photograph the fruits of my literal labor.

What I did feel 100% certain purchasing though was this top from Canadian brand Me To We known for its socially-centered thrust. Giving back while shopping is a sure-fire way to make shoppers feel good about any purchase. More brands need to be eco-friendly and socially responsible to help communities.

… and effectively guilt people into $ale$.

Top, ME TO WE | Shorts, BULLHEAD | Hat, VANGUARD | Shoes, NIKE 

photos by Jordyn Rosario

Backyards and Bikinis

Chillin’ like a villain.

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It feels great to be back home. I haven’t been back to Michigan in almost two years and I missed everybody and the laid-back Michigan way. Currently writing this post with a view of the lake and all is well. Thanks to Snapchat (among other things; add me @alyssalapid), I can finally give glimpses of how life is like here. Everybody seems to be familiar with New York’s fast paced lifestyle or Cali’s endless Summers but unless you’re in Detroit, it’s much, much slower here.

So happy to be able to take a break from all things Manila. I guess a breather is exactly what I needed to get better headspace. The hustle and bustle of the city – with all its problems and all its stressors – bogs you down. Whenever I’m here, my days aren’t always full and I don’t always go out but that’s just the way I like it. There’s never any pressure to see or do. You can just be. I feel like I’m becoming nicer too! (Then again, maybe that’s just me.) There is something about people who are intrinsically kind to strangers and, more importantly, don’t operate by social strata that makes one more at peace and pleasant. Kindness is contagious, contrary to popular belief.

Since home entails an amazing view of the lake (fun fact number 1: Michigan is riddled with bodies of water,) chilling means staying in our backyard as a form of relaxation. Took my Neon Island bikini out just to match the view. Excited to post more photos but I’m being awfully sluggish here. Must. be. better.

If you’re reading this from the Pines, please know that I do miss sisig, bulalo and all things fatty and deadly. I’m honestly already thinking about my first meal back. It might also be helpful to mention that Smart Communications is offering FREE Instagram for all its postpaid and prepaid subscribers as part of other prepaid promos such as All Text 20, Unli Call & Text 30, All in 99 and Mega 250, among many others. Feel free to check this out for more information:

You guys are spoiled with good food and free social media to post it with. Enjoy. I’ll be enjoying here too, bikini or no bikini.


Streetwear Royalty: Lanie Alabanza-Barcena and Bam Barcena of Hellz Bellz, GPPR and BOTB


What may be streetwear’s best kept secret comes in the form of husband and wife designer duo Bam Barcena and Lanie Alabanza-Barcena.

Partners in life and partners in crime, the two have been hustling from the get go, following dreams and building an empire that includes several streetwear brands – Hellz Bellz and BOTB for the ladies, GPPR and Junya Mafia for the gents (et. al, you will soon find out) – a newly launched concept store and, most importantly, new ways of thinking.


Growing up in San Diego – Lanie in the Chicano culture, Bam in skate – the two have always been at the heart of the streetwear pulse. While Lanie originally set out to do graphic design and Bam a music career that included DJ gigs for Eminem and Lauryn Hill, the two found themselves wound to the streets and to each other.

Now, the couple revels fully in their current set-up where lines are blurred between work and play and perpetual creative highs are experienced. Getting to this point wasn’t easy though. For Lanie, it entailed a series of internships, jobs and a corresponding move to New York where she braved the city jobless and with the support of her parents in the form of a meager twenty dollars. After interview schedules gone haywire that entailed waiting another jobless month, she hit the job hunt and found one in no time. Her determination, more than just talent, was probably what got her a job at Rocawear under music mogul Jay-Z. While she happily recounts what it was like working with the talented Jay-Z (who she says is a fast learner and very down to earth), her job at Rocawear was what prompted her to come up with her own line – out of creative frustration.

hellzbellz-lanie-bam-barcena1hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena3Creatives always need an outlet and Hellz was born shortly after. What started out as a passion project took off and has been paving the way for both female streetwear brands and female streetwear designers alike. Being a female in what was then a male-driven industry had its downside. A number of times, Lanie would hear snide comments doubting her role in the brand. “They were saying things here and there, like ‘I don’t know if she’s really the one designing the graphics’ and whatnot,” she recounts. Thankfully, she learned to shut them out. “Now the scene is growing and I think we [females] are being respected more, we’re kind of giving guys a run for their money.” She even quips, “It’s nice to know I’ve kind of nailed something in there.”

hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena4But slack wasn’t given by competitors in the industry, much to everyone’s surprise. “Everyone thinks there’s so much competition behind it but when you see us we’re like a family,” Lanie explains. “We were all working together – different brands, different projects – it was nice to see everyone grow together,” Bam adds. He even shared how Dennis Calvero from Crooks and Castles has been looking out for them since day one. “When Crooks first started they had a trade show – they had the smallest rack and Denis was like, ‘here you can have the other half for Hellz,’” Bam recounts. Lanie also considers Dennis as of one her biggest mentors although she confesses that Dennis probably isn’t aware of that at all. “I just soaked everything in – even the smallest lessons in Excel,” she shares.

While Hellz is Lanie’s brainchild, Bam played a big role in its success. “We’ve been working together since 2003. I learned a lot from him,” she shares. Bam’s decision to come up with his own passion project was mostly due to the fact that he wanted to create clothes he too could wear (we understand.) The result: a brand that represents just about the entire male population. GPPR stands for The Gentleman, The Philosopher, The Pervert and The Rebel. “Those are the four elements that kind of represent me and my friends – there’s a switch – one day we’ll be a gentleman, the next a rebel,” Bam fondly shares. He says since it’s very tongue in cheek, designing for an archetype doesn’t entail acting it out – unfortunately for Lanie who shared that her favorite sides of Bam are the Pervert and the Rebel. “Mostly because he’s alway a gentleman,” she adds. Whether his design process will change – with a lot more character internalization given this new insight -that’s up to him. What we do know is that while most couples cannot handle working together – creative geniuses and love don’t always mesh well – their creative process works for them. “We’re able to respect each other’s craft,” Bam says of the secret to their dynamic. “She’s really talented so we balanced each other out.” Lanie credits it to Bam too, of course, as love for streetwear plays a big role in what makes their relationship work. “I cant imagine being with someone who I couldn’t relate to on a personal level,” she shares.

hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena5Fruits of this creative marriage include collaborations with different dream brands – Hellz with Vans, and soon, Hellz with Sanrio, a brand Lanie has loved since childhood. They both also launched sister brands each – BOTB for Lanie and Junya Mafia for Bam – one that, on its very first season, is garnering amazing reception. Not that they make brands for the fortune and the success. Truly, all that they have launched so far were passion projects turned hits.  GPPR’s include a collaboration with Manila lifestyle brand, Trilogy. A new venture for the couple that will hopefully serve as a beacon of streetwear hope in the Philippines is Labism, their concept store short for “Lanie & Bam-ism”. Labism is set to house the couple’s different brands and their collaborations with other streetwear players they want to introduce to Manila, the city they hailed from.

hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena8hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena7They have big dreams for their home country. “It’s growing,” says Lanie of the streetwear scene in Manila – one that they have been following since 2008. But what exactly do they want to see it grow into? More than size, they want identity. Bam looks to Japan for inspiration. “Japan took American streetwear, flipped it, regurgitated it and made it ten times better. There’s so much talent here they just need to see that its possible and then when they see streetwear I’m sure theyre gonna flip it too.”  

hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena6It’s safe to say the two are definitely at the forefront of the streetwear game – a feat that resulted from a long and arduous grind – one of the things the couple reminds the youth of. “You have to continue to grind. You have to contintue to be hungry,” Lanie says. “There’s no way I could’ve started my brand if I had no experience,” Lanie shares. That goes for both of them with their numerous internships, jobs, even failed brands. “You gotta pay your dues. Go out there, get a job in the industry and take in as much as you can,” Bam says trying to debunk the prevalent notion that starting a brand- minus the experience – is easy. Lanie adds, “The moment you stop being hungry, you get complacent and I never want to be at the point where I feel complacent or feel like I’ve done enough. There’s always something more that I can achieve.” 

hellz bellz - lanie-bam-barcena9Whether more means adding brands or venturing into other businesses, we’ll have to wait and see. As of now the couple has their hands full with their own lines and helping out other streetwear brands on the side. Now, though we didn’t coin the term “Streetwear’s Best Kept Secret” for these two (a friend of theirs did), we think they really are and while we wanted to keep this secret all to ourselves out of sheer selfishness, we think it would benefit us all to indulge in their story. So be inspired and create.

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Photos by Miguel Miranda