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!

Touring Avon City

I got to know the 130-year-old powerhouse brand more intimately at their recent event.

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When I was younger, I remember browsing through Avon catalogues and choosing items that caught my eye. I devoured the pages dedicated to teens and even then, the number of items I actually wanted for myself were overwhelming. My absolute favorite was the Simply Pretty clear mascara that I used in my early high school years. It felt like an induction into womanhood and the world of makeup. I absolutely loved it.

Fast forward a decade later and I found myself face to face with the same items I used to love so dearly back in the day at the recent Avon City event held at the SMX Convention Center last May 18, 2017. As you may well know, Avon is a direct selling company—the number one in the country, mind you—hence the catalogues and the Avon ladies through which you religiously ordered. The premise of the recent event was to highlight some of the best brands that have been consistent market toppers in intimates, fragrances, lotions, and more. The event was completely experiential and products that were featured in the different booths were up for grabs. Guests were given freebies of the bestsellers from each booth.

The event really felt like going through a very pink, very feminine city complete with a city tour. The press tour began with what Avon is best known for—intimates. At the “Loungerie”—love the play on words—guests got to choose their favorite bras from the newest Intimate Apparel line and get properly checked for size. Apparently a lot of women still wear the wrong bra size because no one has helped them accurately determine what size fits best.

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The first stop: the Loungerie

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After a trip to the Loungerie, we went to the Be Arcade station with a “bus” gondola of the bestselling Avon Fragrances, the Be Spritz line. Of course, we all tried to smell most—if not all—of the scents. We even got bottles of some of the brand’s other bestsellers.

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After that we headed to the Personal Care and Color Theater where different promo combinations of the best selling lotion, the Skin So Soft Hand & Body Lotion, and the Avon True Color Perfectly Matte Lipstick were offered. We swatched way too many shades that, of course, I ended up with lipstick on my dress. Story of my beauty addict life.

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We then headed to the Home & Kids sections where we got to see a glimpse of Pokemon inspired bags and school paraphernalia. Trust me, if I was still in school, I’d buy those. Full disclosure: I used to wear this Pikachu skirt when I was nine. It even got stuck in an escalator in Universal Studios. True story.

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The next stop was my favorite, the gorgeous Jewelry Chocolaterie that showcased the cutest offerings of the Avon Jewelry & Accessories brand with dainty necklaces, earrings, rings, and watches.

The Avon Accessories Cake Shop wasn’t so bad either as bag after bag was mounted on the wall with a mountain of cupcakes right by it. I couldn’t decide which made me happier— the food or the items.

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Bag after Bag at the Cake Shop Station

After lugging around cupcakes and stuffing our faces with cotton candy and popcorn, we headed to the Avon Skin Care Juice Bar to “detox” alongside some of the most nourishing beauty products of Avon Naturals. I was really happy to see that they have a wide range of masks and I’ve been wanting to get on that mask bandwagon. I got the Soothing and Moisturizing masks to start.

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Masks to hoard!

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Our last stop was the Simply Pretty Picnic Park with throwbacks from my youth. Glitter roll-on eyeshadow products, two-toned lipsticks, and my absolute favorite, the clear mascara were featured. I’m so tempted to just get clear mascara again to avoid black under-eyes after a few minutes under the sun.

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Remember these?

The fun event was actually for the “Avon ladies”—the women behind the powerhouse brand that we know today. We got the first tour and we did see a horde of excited guests (and when I say horde I mean 1,500 women) making their way through the different booths and activities. I personally think it’s great that they’ve created such a wonderful event with lots of treats for the women who work hard to sell the products to the public. They put so much value in making their sales force feel loved and for them to actually get to know the products that they sell intimately. I loved witnessing that. And of course, I loved trying out the stuff for myself too. ‘Til the next!

SUMMER STATE OF MIND | AVON TRUE COLOR

On how a modern Filipina interprets summer beauty

You’re straight up lyin’ if you say you aren’t feeling the summer season already. Unless you exclusively maneuver in air-conditioned spaces, it’s sweltering. Times like these are when I especially want to be whisked away to a beach—any beach—for respite from the humdrum of daily reality. Imagine spending your days lounging by the shore on some pool chair, donning a killer pair of sunglasses and the ubiquitous straw hat, leisurely turning the pages of your chosen book with a bottomless glass of frozen margarita in tow. I think that’s a pretty concrete picture of my personal summer dream.

Alas, life is not so forgiving and though we have literally thousands of islands, we can’t always just drive off and go. See, the modern woman wears way too many hats and often has way too many responsibilities to just pack up and go on a whim. My only solution to this dilemma is to just exude a summer frame of mind. Now, I’m not just talking about wearing swimsuits to work or actually ordering frozen drinks—both of which I’d probably actually do. I’m talking about imbibing the feel of summer by way of one’s beauty choices. Who cares if you didn’t actually go to the beach if your bronzed glow is deceptively natural? You can still be on point for summer AND be within a few feet of the nearest AC. That’s a pretty good trade-off.

For that faux-summer fun (that hopefully will turn into actual fun), it’s easy to don three favorite summer looks: the bronzed look, the dewy look, and the fresh-faced look with a bright lip. With a little help from AVON, I did just that.

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The bronzed look is probably the look that perfectly captures being an island girl. This “Oh, I got two shades darker, it’s no big deal, I’m just golden now” look is the perfect way to fake that week-long frolic under the sun. Nothing feels as anti-summer as a face lacking color. Plus a bronzed look goes perfectly well with some of the more in-season sartorial trends. Because I didn’t have a bronzer with me , I actually used two different shades of Avon’s Oil Control Plus Pressed Powder with SPF 19. Even when you’re not strolling under the sun the harsh rays are unforgiving. I used a shade two shades darker than my skin color to contour my face and the product one shade darker for a bronzed finish. I also used the Perfect Eyebrow Kit in Soft Brown to make the look stronger (you can also use this to add definition in your contouring). I capped off this look with hints of gold and peach tones.

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both photos in this look were taken by Charles Rudolfo

The dewy look is all about the sheen. For this I’m using the Avon CC Cream because I want the base light and I don’t want to seem like I packed several products on. If you don’t have a highlighter, a trick I use is to just use the cream/white shimmery eyeshadow option and use it on the high points of your face. Ta-dah! Instant product! In this case I’m using number 1 or Disco in the Eyeshadow Quad Palette in Glow Teal. I got a bunch of Avon’s Lip Stylos and I love them. They glide like tints. I just applied a quick creamy blush—the Lip Stylo actually works well as a cheek tint too (so versatile!) and capped the look off with eyeliner, mascara, and a bold pop of color on the lip. Lipstick is the easiest way to don that bold summer look. For day I’d use the Ultra Hydrating Lip Color in Peach Petunia but for a night out I’d use Red Tulip.

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The fresh look is probably my favorite because it’s the easiest and I’m all about the ease. Modern Filipinas don’t have a lot of time to spare so a quick makeup routine works best with tight schedules. (I mean we will take time to apply lipstick in between saving the world but still.) For this I used the BB Cream as the base and topped it off with the Oil Control Powder. I also lined my eyes with number 3 on the Glow Teal Eyeshadow Quad palette—the Teal shade for that fresh pop of color just for fun. I finished it with a makeshift lip tint by softly dabbing on the Beauty Lip Stylo in Sunset and not completely swiping. I finished the look with the Supershock Max Volume Mascara because if your mascara isn’t waterproof, the heat will turn you into a post-crying mascara-running-through-your-face meme. I kid you not. A big trend this summer is feathered brows—where the brows aren’t perfectly filled in but rather messily brushed, so I tried my hand at that too (under the bangs).

I played around with my Avon products and found that I can use them for multiple purposes especially if I’m lacking certain products in my makeup arsenal. The products are pretty versatile so if there’s ever a time to experiment with where you can apply products and stretch them, the summer is the perfect season to do just that. Have fun with your summer looks and go bold. Makeup can definitely help dictate our state of mind and these looks will have you thinking relaxation, enjoyment, and a certain dash of audacity in no time.

Visit the Avon website for more information on the products 

Bold is Beautiful | Benefit Cosmetics

Get (brow) waxed to do good.

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I would like to believe that everyone is philanthropic—everyone has a great desire to help. That’s why we hit ‘Like’ on posts of Upworthy, easily send virtual love to featured Humans of New York, and, conversely, why we’re in collective outrage over posts of animals being maltreated. I’d like to believe that at our very core we are actually good even if recent events have led us to think otherwise.

The desire to help is always ingrained in us. What hinder us, maybe, from acting on this noble desire are the misconceptions we have on what ‘helping’ really means and what it demands.

Charity is such an intimidating and concept. Think about it: how many times have you deliberately avoided a stall at the mall where volunteers try to get you to sign up for their cause? Charity always registers as an obligation—a duty that requires a lot of time and effort to fulfill. All of a sudden it feels like weekends will suddenly be booked helping kids or building houses under the harsh sun (not that those couldn’t be fun don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried both). But I think we have this notion that charity means sacrifice—and lots of it. It also sometimes feels like it demands a change in lifestyle, something we may not be ready for.

But helping doesn’t have to be as grand as dedicating all weekends to field work. And I especially appreciate when brands make it so easy to help others out that saying no isn’t even a consideration. Take Benefit Cosmetics, for instance. A cult favourite of beauty aficionados, Benefit Cosmetics, aside from having the cutest products with the most peacock-worthy packaging, is finally rolling out their outreach efforts here in the  Philippines after such huge success runs in the US.

The premise is simple. All proceeds from brow waxes during the month of May will go to help the local partner charity, Mano Amiga. Mano Amiga is a private, non-profit organization that offers affordable education for girls of low-income families. Each brow wax service costing PHP700 will provide one of the ff: a 2-hour leadership training session for girls, 3 months’ worth of school supplies (imagine that!), or a 4-month livelihood and empowerment program for a student’s mom, because part of helping families is also equipping the parents. Benefit’s Global Beauty Authority, Annie Ford Danielson, recently graced the launch of the campaign here in the Philippines and it was a huge success as everybody seemed to leave inspired and keen on helping.

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with Jackie, Angela, and Marj at the launch

I’m extremely honoured to have been part of inviting people to have their brows waxed in May via the video we shot to easily make a huge difference in the lives of little girls everywhere. Empowering little girls and enabling them to pursue their passions is a great gift to anyone—to underprivileged kids with untapped potential even moreso.

For the video, they asked me what being bold means and what empowerment looks like to me. I said a bunch of things but in reality, when it comes down to it, I think empowerment is achieved by empowering others. And looking good is such an easy way to do good too, no?

Watch the video (above) and get your brows waxed this May! Both men and women are welcome.

Thank you so much, Benefit, for letting me be part of such a special project!

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with my loves Angela, Nikki, and Jackie

 

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Benefit Browbars are available in Greenbelt 5, Trinoma, Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, Alabang Town Center, SM Seaside City Cebu, BGC Central Square, Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Shangri-la and will run from May 1-31, 2017

Of Secret Handshakes and Pinky Promises

When it comes to makeup, I don’t compromise.

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How many promises have you made throughout your lifetime? A hundred? A thousand?

I learned the value of a promise early on in life. Imagine my 5-year-old self making a bashful promise to a friend to meet up again for a play date in the park. “I promise to meet right here by the seesaw!” I also vividly remember holding on to my mother’s promise of getting the Mermaid Barbie doll for Christmas—the one with the luscious, long hair (that I eventually chopped off into a pixie). I also—I kid you not—held Santa Claus to his promises. I’d write him a wishlist of things I wanted and I’d look into his eyes as I’d sit on his lap and hope to goodness that he delivers. He always did. (Thanks, family, for keeping up the charade—one I was too naive to see through. Also, you owe me for hanging that Naughty or Nice list over my head for way too long.)

Promises have always demanded trust, even when trust wasn’t deserved. I did get the Barbie dolls come Christmas time and I’m pretty sure play dates pushed through, but I as I got older promises didn’t seem to hold the same weight as before—even if the promises escalated in importance and meaning. Sometimes, even if the intent is there and you do really want to keep your promises, life gets in the way. Promises, however empty or impossible to keep, have always been so reassuring. Especially when it comes to goodbyes. Or love.

I remember grade school friends who migrated overseas who promised to stay in touch. We sent each other snail mail a few times but it eventually just stopped. Then there were the people you thought would be your best friends for life—your ride-or-dies—and you pinky promise that you’ll all have kids at the same time and that your kids will also grow up to be friends (#truestory) and then you just grow apart—even before the second generation munchkins are even a possibility. Then there are flames with even grander promises that you just know won’t be kept, but somehow you manage to believe anyway.

I think women, as we get older, have a harder time trusting sweeping statements and seemingly too-good-to-be-true promises. We have been burned aplenty by promises both big and small. Even for the products we buy, we have a hard time believing the label. We order clothes online and they don’t always look like the photo. That’s why we really do our research on purchases especially when it comes to beauty. We look at reviews, we read blogs, we sample. It takes a lot for us to buy into promises.

One beauty brand that holds promises to a higher standard, with the tagline “Beautiful promises kept,” is Avon. Avon tells you exactly what you’re getting with each product and makes sure that the formulation delivers. If it’s moisturizing glossy lips that are promised, then it’s moisturized glossy lips that you’ll get. It has been a trusted brand since I was young and it still keeps its loyal following to this day.

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Clockwise from left: Ideal Oil Control Plus Dual Powder Foundation; Skin Goodness Moisturizing BB Cream; Eyeshadow Quad 5G in ; Perfectly Matte Lipstick in Red Supreme

I test-drove some of the makeup products of the Avon True Color line recently and I can say that they still deliver. I especially like the Perfectly Matte Lipstick in Red Supreme, because unlike other tubes of matte lipstick, it gives off a good matte color pay without drying your lips. I love the Glazewear Lip Gloss in Mauve Movement. It was pretty sheer at first, but after applying a few coats the sheen was on point. It works even better on top of the Perfectly Matte Lipstick in Wild Cherry.

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Clockwise: The Glazewear Lip Gloss in Mauve Movement; The Eyeshadow Quad 5G in ; Perfectly Matte Lipstick in Wild Cherry; Luminous Blush

The Avon True Color Eyeshadow Quad 5G is infused with real gold and it always feels luxurious to know you’re playing with the highly-coveted mineral. (The same can be said of the 24K Gold Lipstick that gives a shimmery sheen, as expected.) The base I used is the Skin Goodness Moisturizing BB Cream topped with the Ideal Oil Control Plus Dual Powder Foundation. The BB cream alone is enough to give good coverage, but since I prefer a matte finish for the red lipped-look, I dusted on the powder. The products are effortless and easy to use. They last. And, more importantly, they do what they say they’ll do.

I know that in life some promises are meant to be kept, while some are meant to be broken. That’s just the way it is. But when it comes to makeup, I don’t compromise. And neither should you.

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Visit http://avonshop.ph/makeup/avon-true-color.html for more information 

Gait of a Lady | Boucheron Quatre

Add a pep in your step by way of scent.

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Happy 2017, folks! Another year, another welcome post.

Everyone ushered in the new year with such excitement—urgency, almost. I think we can all agree that 2016 was universally awful. No need to enumerate why. The horrific events that transpired, sometimes with equally horrific faces, are, unfortunately, forever etched in our memories.

But if I may, personally, 2016 wasn’t so bad. I took a publishing course in the UK, met amazing people I plan on keeping in my life, had a few amazing trips, took more vacation time than what was probably allowed, thoroughly enjoyed my job, and was published pretty often so I’m extremely grateful for the year that was.

Since I’m a sucker for “Life Planning” and “Goal Setting” or any lame excuse to buy a new set of notebooks, every year I try to come up with a word—an overarching theme for my year (or life). Last year’s was “soar”. I guess I didn’t specify exactly what I had in mind but I did do some literal soaring and for that I am not mad. I’ve been trying to rack my brain for the perfect word for 2017. My working theme is “reinvention” which, by the way, is not an iteration of the trite “New Year, New Me” adage. Just a recalibration. Alyssa 2.0. Or The Late Twenties Version.

Reinvention can encompass multiple things. A new look, outlook, job—country, even. My career and geographical considerations are something I am still figuring out so unless you want to discuss at length what I need to do with my life, let’s stick to sartorial discourse here. Style-wise, I got bangs (which you can’t see in the photos because they were decided rather spontaneously post the shoot). I also bought new makeup and beauty products. Deciding to invest in skin care is worth it, I hear. My ROI can be publicly accessed and observed. Peruse (or dissect) photos as you wish. And my last bit of news in the beauty department is that I switched fragrances.

I got the Boucheron Quatre a couple of months ago but only started to spritz it obsessively recently. The Parisian brand equates to luxury and the perfume captures the brand’s essence, pun intended. The fragrance, inspired by the Maison’s iconic ring, is an elegant floral fruity blend. A lot of times fruity doesn’t necessarily feel grown-up—it’s kind of reminiscent of a tween’s first choice promptly after discovering her mother’s perfume cabinet. I actually remembering discovering my grandmother’s perfume cabinet and wanting to be in on the grown-up lady fun, you know, minus the cough-inducing spritzes. The olfactory biases of an 11-year old are very much geared towards the scent of fried chicken and newly-opened Barbie boxes. The Quatre, on the other hand, is for the contemporary woman. The scent is a subtle combination of chic and cool brought about by the mixture of bitter orange, jasmine, and just the right kick of golden woods for a woody undertone.

I know people say heels make the woman. Or something like it, I’m lazy to Google. But I do know that more than heels, spritzes of the perfect fragrance prompt the gait of a lady.

Statistically speaking, correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation but trust me when I say the spritz adds a pep in the step. And this specific spritz induces a ladylike strut.

The Boucheront Quatre can be purchased at Art of Scent stores in Shangri-la Plaza and Resorts World Manila.

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A Trip To Parfois Lisbon

Because somehow I ended up in Portugal and went on a quick trip to Parfois.

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It’s been six years since my first ever blog entry and I’d like to think a lot has changed since – my style (I still cringe remembering old outfits so bless you, guys, for sticking with me), the posts, and myself. Careers have shifted so many times it’s dizzying to think about and even more confusing to relay to a person asking for small talk’s sake, goals have morphed that even I can’t keep up, as well as tastes. What hasn’t changed is my desire to be open and honest with you. That honesty comes in the form of the occasional secret, spilling childhood memories I hold dear that I only talk about here, and, on a blogger-level, only featuring brands I truly believe in so much so that I’ve become unbelievably nitpicky about who and what I publish. Six years later and that still holds true.

The first brand I ever worked with was Parfois which was solely an accessories label then. And I’ll tell you exactly how it went down. When I started blogging, I didn’t know much about fashion. I didn’t know anybody from the industry – brand, PR, designer, or media. I really just blogged to keep sane (‘coz the traditional corporate set-up was unbelievably maddening). As a neophyte, it is never easy to start working with brands and build credibility. #feedgoals was not a thing back then. One shopping day, in the thick of the excess-orizing trend, I walked up to a store that caught my eye just a couple of months after it launched in the Philippines and completely fell in love with the brand. So I bought myself a tote (maybe more, impulse buying is also unfortunately something that hasn’t changed since time immemorial) and decided that I wanted to feature the brand here. I mustered courage and asked for marketing’s contact details which the sales ladies warily gave, called them up, introduced my fledgling site, and asked for permission to take photos in store and with any luck interview someone about the brand’s story. It was the first time I did that, I just genuinely wanted to share a brand that I truly liked. To my surprise, they agreed to both the shoot and the interview and it was great.

No, I did not receive free stuff nor was I expecting to. Contrary to popular belief: bloggers don’t always post because they’re paid or #spon. Anyway, I posted rather quickly, thanked them profusely, and that was that.

Until I got an email. I got a thank-you note that mentioned that the brand’s principals in Portugal particularly appreciated the blog post. (One thing to note about this brand is that the head office in Portugal is very hands-on, until now.) It also came with an invitation for me to style their shoppers at an event. This was in 2011 when this virtually did not happen. I was ecstatic. I won’t share the poster here because the 2011 version of me wasn’t even remotely stylish. I do believe I was the first blogger they ever worked with in Manila. I even met the principal from Portugal when he visited. It was a cool experience for anybody, especially a neophyte.

Five years later, despite the many transformations I’ve undergone as a person and as a style “curator”, Parfois is still a brand I admire. I kid you not when I say that other bloggers feel the same way – when Parfois calls, we come. Simple as that.

I saw Parfois in August at an event of theirs, which was phenomenal and completely deserving of its own post. I happened to mention that I was going to Europe for a bit to study in Oxford (which also deserves its own post, I am drowning in backlogs). The brand manager lit up and said if I ever ended up in Portugal, I should go to the head office. I shrugged and wrote it off as wishful thinking.

Somehow, by some twist of fate I did end up in Portugal. Despite everything being rushed and me spending barely half a day in Lisbon, Parfois Portugal went above and beyond to accommodate me. They arranged for someone to pick me up (with luggage and mother in tow) and tour me around the new concept store in the Colombo Commercial Centre.

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Here’s what you need to know: apparel isn’t available in Manila yet so imagine how ridiculous I looked grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of finally getting my hands on their clothes. There were velvet rompers, knitted kimonos, jersey jumpsuits, metallic skirts, flouncy tops, monochromatic sets, and so much more- really the perfect wardrobe to go with the dream accessory collection that is their entire store. The new store also had TVs that featured their events and lookbooks- a definite level-up  and I spent a couple of hours there just going around in circles, covering all possible bases before heading to the airport.

It’s absolutely mental that I’ve come full circle meeting the brand in Portugal. This was honestly something I would’ve never imagined when I first met the brand in my early blogging days. The magic of blogging still creeps up on me sometimes.

Needless to say, I shopped. A lot. An editorial will obviously follow. ‘Til then, do stalk them and visit the store sometime. Six years of brand loyalty must mean something. It really is worth a trip to the store. I’m willing to bet that the glean I get in my eye is a universal Parfois-shopper experience.

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My favorite collection: Royal Eccentric

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Thank you so much to Ines for taking the time to tour me around and for all the help. You were absolutely wonderful to both my mom and I, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you. Thank you to Catarina for being so kind and generous in arranging everything despite it being so rushed. And, finally, thank you to Michelle, who I met 6 years ago and who has also grown with the brand. The trip would’ve never happened without you! You know I’m a Parfois girl through and through. 

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Outdoor Products + A Backpack Giveaway

Making new memories with backpacks while proactively erasing all high school-related ones.

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I think I’ve sworn off all things that remind me of high school. Including old friends. Kidding! Seriously though, it was a phase I gladly bid sayonara to with it’s big binders, uniforms, rule against having nails long (blame CAT), a block system, etc. Backpacks were one of them. I mean, they were extremely functional, and, in retrospect, kind of cool with that one strap dangling from your dominant/toned shoulder look, but backpacks felt so…young to me. And I guess the horrors of having to bring every single textbook on a daily basis left lasting scars.

Interestingly, I have grown past that fear of looking young. I just turned 26 a few days ago and now that I’m finally in my late twenties (HA), I welcome all age-misleading components of my look that could potentially shed years off me. So shiny lip gloss a la high school, check. High ponytails, check. Jumpers, check. Backpacks are just my latest addition to that roster of items alluding to the fountain of youth – my holy grail. Just kidding, my holy grail is actually a list of restaurants/dishes but you get the picture!

I’ve discovered that it’s not just any backpack that I like though. I came across Outdoor backpacks with a couple friends and I fell in love with both the designs and the functionality. Full disclosure: I recently trekked up a mountain with a little rafia sling purse with barely any closure. Never doing that again, thank you. After that, I realized that while backpacks initially gave me certain unwarranted throwbacks, they are suited to my current lifestyle as a travel magazine editor. It makes absolute sense for me to lug a backpack around instead of annoying (but pretty) bags to our cover shoots and out-of-town trips especially when they involve any ascent or descent (up a mountain, down a cave, etc.). Trust me on this one. I learned the hard way.

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So let me introduce my new Outdoor bag which I love because it seems to demand being outdoorsy with its sandy hue (like a desert) but at the same time is extremely functional. It has a laptop sleeve inside which is Godsend, and a few more sleeves for little things like cords, phones or even gameboys (which is exactly what I fit in it in my trip to Michigan).

Yes, I’m currently home in MI and I can’t wait to spend time with my family. Don’t hate me yet for leaving Manila and having my stress levels reduced by half. I do have a surprise for you with probably the easiest giveaway I’ve thrown so far. I know you guys also love to travel and explore so here’s your chance to win your own Outdoor backpack by joining my contest. Outdoor is giving away one backpack EVERY week for the next 8 weeks so get posting!

  1. Take a photo with your group of friends. Any travel/lifestyle shot will do – at the beach, in a coffee shop, in a mall, or wherever you guys hang out! (note: no need to have a backpack, any group shot of your friends doing whatever is fine!)
  2. Post your photo on Instagram (make sure your account is public!) and don’t forget to follow and tag both @outdoorproductsPH and @alyssalapid.
  3. Use the hashtags #PackForLife and #alyssalapidXoutdoorproducts
  4. The photo contest will run for 8 weeks with one winner per week chosen by Outdoor.
  5. You can post as many photos as you like for more chances of winning! And each week is a clean slate so keep joining (it’s just like posting a groufie anyway!) to win!

Good luck, explorers! I hope you’re one of the 8 winners! There’s something about this brand that makes you pack up and go. And that’s definitely a good thing.

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Living Digitally

Millennials can’t live without their gadgets, especially their smartphones. I present three looks to match three recommended smartphones to optimize gadget usage and, somehow, life efficiency.

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I admit, we of the digital age are becoming helpless. We are perennially glued to our gadgets, rendered incapable without our apps, internet or battery life. We minimize the amount of physical labor we exert and are slowly losing grip on life skills. I could go so far as to say that without Google, we know nothing – no recipes, no workout routines and no self-taught lessons on how to reboot laptops. It’s not surprising then that the generational divide is growing even wider. Millennials (be honest where you lie in the generational spectrum) are often frowned upon for our perceived ineptitude. I mean, how can you quantify the limitless potential of having the internet as your personal assistant, tutor and life guide? Being glued to gadgets in whatever form is one of those tell-tale signs of a millennial. But, aside from the fact that maybe we need to learn actual skills privy to our seniors, I don’t think being dependent on gadgets is all that bad. In particular, I don’t think phone-dependence is necessarily evil.

Aside from the occasional silence over dinner (that I despise) thanks to everyone ‘gramming what they ordered instead of actually conversing, I don’t find much fault in phone-hogging. After all, these nifty little communicational devices have been lifelines and lifesavers on more than one occasion – saving us from traffic jams, moments of navigational failure, worried parents, saving our lives sometimes via 911 (in the US) and, the daily beast, boredom.

It is not my place to debunk myths about how much we use our phones nor is it my place to defend millennials and the corresponding benefits of knowing one’s way around the interwebz. I myself am a social media lurker who checks her phone every 10 minutes (mostly ‘coz it’s always on silent and I have a constant fear that work is calling), who plugs YouTube songs into my car when I’m especially lazy (Spinnr when I’m not), writes articles and saves important details on my Notes, edits and does work on the go and bugs friends and boyfriend (singular, obviously) on Whatsapp and Viber and all the other messaging apps. I also talk to Siri when I’m bored. She can get pretty entertaining. So I’m not here to judge. I am here to remind you that though it is sometimes condemned, (although I personally don’t get why- I’ve witnessed too many seniors addicted to Facebook, games and forwarding chain emails), we can still rock phone addiction in style.

Smartphones have transcended the realm of gadgets and have morphed into accessories on their own. We often buy phones based on preference in terms of jewelry or personal style. Think about it. I bet your choice of metal – silver or gold – has affected your color choice more than you care to admit. And many smartphones wow in terms of design. I mean the rose gold iPhone is gorgeous. It is, after all, pink! I may not know a lot about phone technicalities and processing specs but I do know fashion and value for money. So here are three looks to go with three of my preferred smartphones and the corresponding deals that you can use to get the best products and offers.

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First is a rose gold iPhone. Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus is gorgeous and it makes all my Mean Girls x Legally Blonde dreams come true. It’s a little huge for my tiny hands but the trend now is actually to have your phone in your hand outside of your bag for easy snapping. I got my pink iPhone from Smart and you can also get a 16GB iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus for free under the P2499 plan. I also just found out (literally, I just checked) that there are also a bunch of benefits like Uber, Airbnb and Zalora discounts- discounts that every person who might want a pink iPhone would need. I should really ask about these benefits. Let’s research together. For now, just seeing this phone – sans the case – is a visual treat. Camera’s cool too. I felt like I had to say that. (Read more about iPhone plans and benefits here)

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If you are more interested in budgeting your monthly expenses and are not a fan of either Samsung or Apple but still want an effective smartphone, you can get an Android MyPhone my28S with 100MB monthly data for just P888. The reason for this shockingly low price is that Smart wants to offer smartphone capabilities to more people and, in result, making even more people act like the dreaded millennials. Just kidding, this is a great thing. Its design also includes the Philippine map so it’s a pretty cool, patriotic choice. Make your phone standout by pairing it with loud, bright colors. A black phone needs a colorful canvas. (To know more about this program click here)

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Finally, if you’re the type who wants a phone with the best features, there are a bunch of Samsung phones to choose from. I am personally obsessed with the sleek look of the S7 Edge but the Note series is pretty amazing too. Nothing is more elegant than a gold phone which serves as the ultimate accessory. It can mean business during meetings and can go from day to party in 0 to 60. It’s such a stand out phone on its own that you can either play it up or play it down. In my case, I played it up and wore a dark blue slip dress to bring out the gold tones and play up the elegance of the phone.

No matter the packaging (and pricing) though, what smartphones should come down to is how you use it. We have different needs, and its up to you to make sure the phone you choose matches your lifestyle. I know exactly what I need in terms of apps – VSCO, Waze and, yes, Candy Crush. I also know what I need in terms of data. I don’t download a bunch of movies (I have iFlix for that) but I do spend a lot of time online. So if you’re like me and you find yourself online more often that not, you can subscribe to the new Smart Big Bytes 50. It’s a promo that’s been introduced before so it might sound familiar but the crazy new perk is that data is now doubled from 300+MB to 700MB. Imagine the digital mileage that it could mean for you. P50 is worth the digital investment. Text BIG50 to 9999 to avail of the limited offer. (Read here to know more about Big Bytes 50)

Smartphones are powerful tools – for business or leisure, for millennials or those against us. Don’t let anyone stop you from making the most out of your phones. Just don’t forget to do it in style. It’s nice to match your trusted gadget once in a while.

Photography by TIPPI SY
Makeup by RACHEL TORRES
Look with iPhone: Halter top and fringe skirt from NAVA
Look with Myphone: Romper from SHEIN.com (buy style here); Sunglasses from FLY SHADES
Look with Samsung: Blue midi slip dress from SUNE; Shoes from JIL SANDER
Special Thanks to Danika Navarro

A Trip To JURO Salon Exclusif

It’s not everyday I get complimented on my head shape, by hair masters, no less.

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Documenting hair stylist Jude Hipolito chopping my hair off!
Documenting hair stylist Jude Hipolito chopping my hair off!
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Spotted Krissy Cruz getting her chop updated.

my-juro-salon-experience9 I’ve been waiting to be in the deft hands of hair experts Jude and Rose Hipolito for quite some time now.

Husband and wife hair stylist and hair colorist Jude and Rose of JURO Salon Exclusif have been making waves in the industry for decades. I first came across them when I handled the third installation of an event called Platform Show Manila where hair care brand Vidal Sassoon had a pop-up booth where the couple gave impromptu edgy new looks to willing participants. They all left highly satisfied. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones given a makeover because running an event leaves little time for pampering.

Two years later, I wrote about both of them for the October issue of MEGA Magazine as ambassadors of the brand Elgon. Knowing a little more about their methods and philosophies, I knew I had to book an appointment with them. My hair did need pampering.

By some twist of fate, I was invited a couple weeks ago to try out their services and I jumped at the opportunity. I had no idea what I wanted to have done. All I knew was that they were good at what they did according to several testimonies and declarations of love by people whose opinions I hold dear.

I think everyone panics a little when getting a new haircut – or is that just me? I chopped off the longest locks for a bob once and then got an even shorter bob on a whim a couple years ago so I’ve always felt like I was doing drastic changes that were high risk. We all just kind of took a leap of faith (mostly me, ‘coz it is, after all, my head). Fast forward to my appointment at JuRo Salon and my head shape was immediately complimented by Mr. Jude. I did not know that head shapes could be complimented but what I did know was that I was off to a good start.

The cut was an easy decision – a very subtle asymmetrical bob that’s short at the back and longer in front.  I was immediately on board. Talking to him proved insightful too. A hairdresser back in Califronia, Mr. Jude came back home to the Philippines after years of being a crowd favorite stateside. Having trained under some of the biggest names (like the Vidal Sassoon Academy), he decided to pursue the craft in Manila where he eventually met his wife, color expert, Ms. Rose, who instinctively knows which colors suit clients best and how to achieve certain hues that are impossible to recreate. Don’t even get me started on my previous color treatments that have gone a few shades in the wrong direction. I had Johnny Depp Mad-Hatter-Orange hair at one point – not by choice. I’d love to date Johnny Depp not look like a Tim Burton version of him.

Going back to the story, the two immediately hit it off romantically and professionally and put up a salon that later turned into JURO Salon Exclusif. Loyal clients know them as hair couturiers because the two do all cuts and color treatments themselves and pride themselves in doing so. Now, the two travel Asia doing hair workshops for Italian hair brand Elgon and have partnered with local foundations to help orphaned Filipino kids build skills to pursue a hairstyling career.

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My hair post haircut. The curls look so much better already.

Post-cut, when it was Ms. Rose’s turn to perform some pantone magic, she proposed red highlights. Being the coward that I am, in a moment of panic I shied away from the opportunity. In hindsight, which happened mere moments later when chocolate brown dye was being applied on my hair, I realized I should’ve done red. Full disclosure: I have a lot of gray hair. More than any 25-year old should so I was a little apprehensive about having to retouch red roots. I also chickened out from the bold color, if I’m being honest. So instead, I got subtle chocolate highlights that seem natural against my curls.

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Spotted my friend Sarah Tirona in the salon with color expert Rose Hipolito using Elgon products. Sarah has apparently been a loyal client for years.
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Ta-da!

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I am honestly extremely happy with my new look and impressed with the approach that they take in dealing with their clients (it wasn’t just me I bumped into Sarah Tirona and Krissy Cruz too.) Mr. Jude talked about how curly hair requires a specific approach and I know from experience that very few hairdressers in the Philippines are actually equipped with the knowledge to style and cut curls. I’ve often entered a salon with a rebond promo offer as a greeting. Now, while I do like the straight look on occasion, I would like to be able to get a haircut that lets me walk out of the house without spending an hour to blow dry and straighten my hair. And with Mr. Jude, true enough, the haircut perfectly suits my wash-and-go philosophy. I only spritz a few pumps of my Beach Born Sea Salt Spray and my curls are the way I’ve always wanted them to be. No bull. I’ve never been able to achieve locks like this with such ease before. They both obviously know what they’re talking about.

Obviously, I recommend that you try them out at JURO Salon Exclusif for yourself because aside from having deft hands and nimble fingers, they have such a passion for their craft and a respect for building trust that I admire. When I was apprehensive about getting red highlights, I specifically remember Ms. Rose telling me that it was perfectly fine that I wanted something else, and what stuck was that she kept saying she would build trust first. And as a first time customer, I really valued that they don’t impose their widely-known expertise on clients but rather want to develop a relationship built on trust and customer satisfaction on a personal level. We took it slow when I should’ve gone the whole nine yards. Or in my case, inches.

On that note, I need to go back for my red highlights. Oh, and maybe keep this haircut for the next x amount of years of my life.

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Days after: my curls after spritzes of Beach Born Sea Salt Spray. I spritz 8-10 pumps on wet hair and walk out the door. Photo by Emile Bagtas
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Here’s what my hair looks when parts of it are straightened (didn’t have time to do the full head). The asymmetrical chop is so much more defined when straight. Photos by Paul Mendoza

JURO Salon Exclusif is located at Kensington Place, Unit 2D, 1st Ave, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines. Contact them at (02) 822 5673 to book appointments or visit http://jurosalon.com/ for more information.