Beauty talk: 2 brands I like right now

11 years ago, I started a style blog (and you’ll still find all my posts here). I wanted to document my life and #OOTDs in college. I’ve “quit” this format since 2013, but once in a while I do miss being unapologetically indulgent and vain. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t important for me anymore, but it’s also a pretty good indicator of where I am and my state; i.e. a) I have some disposable income to spend on makeup and skincare. b) I need to look polished regularly (though not so much lately, since I’m working from home most days now). c) I see my eyebags and dry skin and think of a world’s worth of problems and need a little self care once in a while (tried writing about this before, here). Also, I miss just typing whatever comes to my head. I have all these article / thought piece ideas in bullets in my Notion space but I need a little more time and inspiration to turn them into something more concrete and long-form. I’m in transition now, with a slightly more manageable schedule and that means I can write. If only I will write.

But you don’t need to know all of that. This is a throwback-type post and I just feel like sharing and telling you what’s working for me right now, and hopefully if you’re searching for insight about these stuff online, you’ll find my thoughts helpful.

The Ordinary
Back in January, my wedding makeup artist recommended that I start a semi-serious skincare routine to prep my face for the big day. I’ve never had serious skin problems like acne or oiliness, but lately I’ve noticed that my skin is on the dry side. I’ve also gained a little discoloration and some burst capillaries from sun exposure and age. She recommended The Ordinary. There were so many products, and after a bit of reading I zoomed in on two vials: Hyaluronic Acid, for moisturization; and Niacinamide, for brightening and blemish control. It’s already June and I’m just barely halfway through my tiny bottles. I alternate a few drops of the two, 1-2 times a day. While my skin didn’t magically become dewy and plump on its own, I did notice that it was brighter and more “quiet.” I also got less to no breakouts during my periods. The price point (less than PHP500 for a bottle that lasts months) is also hard to argue against. But to be honest the effect feels so subtle; I apply the recommended 3-4 drops and it gets absorbed by my skin so fast; there are no immediate results. I’m kinda suspicious that my skin got to its current state simply because I’ve been leaving it alone save for these mild products. As soon as I use these up, I’ll probably be on the lookout for something more hydrating and anti-aging.

Ever Bilena
Since my last serious makeup-themed post I’ve actually been able to invest in pricier / branded makeup like MAC, Smashbox etc but the products that consistently give me joy are really just the most affordable items from good old Watsons or SM Beauty. For example, I’ve been using Features and Shades’ (formerly Fanny Serrano) two-way cake for six years now! One evening I watched one too many Youtube videos and got sucked into a black hole of make up reviews. EB’s Advance Glow Out Highlighter was in every other video, with a whole bunch of local vloggers basically going through the identical motions of swatching this shimmery foil powder on their forearms w/ matching gasps. So I got curious. But what made the purchase decision seem much more enticing Rihanna’s entertaining-as-hell GRWM video for Vogue. There was something so gratifying about how happy she was while putting on her own makeup — especially her highlighter — that I somehow got convinced that I should do the same to look and feel the same. So I went and did. I actually bought the golden Candlelight shade first and was pretty happy with it until I realized it was the Strobe shade that everyone was raving about. It was sold out everywhere but I lucked out in Watson’s Ali Mall (yes! Tip Alert!). And TBH even if I hardly go out, I open the white and and pan put on some of this highlighter pretty much everyday. Because it is truly magic. It truly makes you smile when one swipe makes your nonexistent cheekbones pop. And it’s only PHP199 so there’s nothing guilt inducing about it. And my selfies look bomb.

Actually I’m impressed by this brand’s ongoing renaissance – they have such a lot of good products lately. I also have their matte liquid lipstick – a gift from a friend – and eyeliner from sister brand Careline (both pictured above). Both are also super high quality while being dirt cheap. The matte lipstick actually settles into a sticky finish, but it looks matte and is pretty much budge-proof. It also doesn’t dry my lips out like Colourpop or even matte bullet lipsticks. The Careline eyeliner goes on like a marker, actually looks like a marker on my lid and stays put for hours (even the packaging is all but telling you that it is simply a fine-point marker LOL).

I hardly consider myself a “beauty girl” and my eyebrow game is a work in progress but due to necessity I’ve already settled on a multi-product routine to look decent for events or going out. Sadly my skin isn’t as poreless as it was in high school, I have uneven skin from too much sun, and my jawline and cheekbones need a lot of attention so that I do not look ten pounds heavier in photos. Now I can’t imagine leaving the house without at least swiping on a lip color or putting on concealer. On one hand I feel almost sad that it has come to this, a point of no return. On the other hand, every afternoon when I’m working from home, I find myself putting my pencil down, stepping away from the laptop, and spending a few minutes practicing my blush or contour technique. It’s almost as if I’m playing. Putting on my “face” is now one of the few acts that I get to do for myself exclusively, and in spite of my self I enjoy it.

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Pamulaklakin Forest Trail, Subic

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We’ve been married for two weeks now, and caught up in a whirlwind of work and family events. We hadn’t really planned on having a honeymoon — it was out of our budget, and we had several trips booked for Q3 anyway — but middle of last week we just agreed that we both needed to get away, just a bit, from all the craziness. So we did some last-minute hunting and decided to take a bus to Subic, Zambales, to pause, breathe, and kick off being husband and wife properly.

Our plan was just to rest and sleep a lot, but somehow on Sunday morning we found ourselves taking a mini-tour within the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail, an ancestral domain managed by an Aeta community. There are half-day and hour-long tours; I highly recommend the latter as a side trip if you’re in town for a convention or a family outing. Our guide gave us a crash course on how they utilized the trees and plants for various household purposes, and even did a demo of how a single bamboo can be used to cook and serve a meal for two. After the quick hike we spent some time relaxing in the cool stream.

And so it begins… 

My Wedding Look

R x K-144Got married to the love of my life last week! After 10 years of being together, it was long overdue (hehe) but the timing also makes sense… we’re at that point in our lives when we are thinking of making big leaps and sealing our union on paper seemed like a good move. Now comes the hard (and fun) part — actually starting out as a family unit!

Now I want to talk about my look 🙂

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My bridal shoes were from Hue Manila. I actually got them just days before our wedding! Haha. I didn’t think of shoes until the lastest minute, and already had another pair sorted out, but when I saw this one, I knew it was the one and ordered it right away. Fortunately it arrived just in time!

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My make up was by Kist Ong-Tantuan. I’ve known her since college/theater days, and she’s pretty in demand in our Elbi circle for special events ❤ We had a trial way back in January and she gave me invaluable tips (which I dutifully followed) so that my skin would look as best as it could on the big day. I didn’t even have a brief — and I loved the light look she did, which highlighted my eyes and gave definition / angles to my face.

True story: I completely overlooked accessories! I just wore my mom’s pearl earrings and my engagement ring. Our hair stylist Mhaki Maginang saved the day with the brilliant idea of putting fresh flowers in my hair, with assistance from my sister and bridesmaid Ahlee.

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My gown was off the rack from Jorella’s Fashion Gallery. After only a couple of fittings from several boutiques, I found this dress back in October, and after sleeping on it for a week, I took it home with me (that’s the thing with RTW, you can’t think about it too long or else someone else might get it). My Pinterest board was full of very simple, wide skirt styles so I never thought I’d choose a mermaid dress, but when I tried it on (and, lbh, when I saw the price tag for less than P8k — seriously!!!), I decided it was the one! I felt beautiful in it, and many guests couldn’t believe it was RTW. It was very me after all, to “find” the perfect dress at the perfect, believe-it-or-not price.

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Honestly, we did not do a lot “planning” for the wedding save for sticking to our budget (more like blowing it), focusing on our looks and who to invite. We entrusted the day to a lot of good friends and loved ones who blew us away with the skill and generosity. I will share more about this in my next post, if only to honor them and extend the happy post-celebration feels a little bit more. 🙂

Subic Beach, Sorsogon

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If only it didn’t entail a long drive across Bicol, I figure Sorsogon’s Subic Beach would be more popular among tourists — its white sands and turqouise waters rival that of Caramoan, Boracay et al. We were fortunate to enjoy its cool, quiet beauty on a Good Friday, with great friends. At sunset its pale sand takes on a pinkish hue, thanks to a few red coral particles.

The beach has a local thriving tourist industry made up of store and hut owners, even masseuses and craftspeople. but I should mention that it’s is in danger of being spoiled as its seems ill-equipped to handle large drove of tourists just yet. Sewage and garbage management issues aren’t seen in mine (and other visitors’) photos, but they are there, especially on peak seasons like Lent. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth the trip.

Tagiti Falls, Consosep

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There’s more to Bicol than mountains and the great Mayon. In Camarines Sur, Tagiti Falls is a must-visit destination for its proximity to other attractions such as Deer Farm and Hibiscus Garden. From the main hi way there are signs (or friendly locals) who will point you towards the start of the pretty trail. Be prepared to pay around P15-20 / head for local fees. The water was icy-cool even in the midst of Lent season’s scorching summer heat. It’s not plagued by long tourist groups so we spent a good half hour just sitting on the rocks, taking in all the nature and enjoying the almost-holy quiet.

All photos taken with a Huawei P10 and post processed using the VSCO App

Bicol Photo Diary: Panoramic views and the Deer Farm in Ocampo

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My visits to Bicol have always been very chill and relaxed, but last week we had quite a packed itinerary, thanks to fortuitous circumstances and some spur-of-the-moment planning! We went to several towns and this is the first of a series of posts about my longest (and most event-filled) visit to Ranie’s hometown — so far 🙂

I still spent Monday and Tuesday primarily at work, hogging a couple of couches in some neigborhood coffee shops. But on Wednesday afternoon, we piled into a couple of cars and drove through Ocampo’s scenic highways to visit the Deer Farm — who knew?! After rows and rows of rice paddies and small houses, there the deer were — serenely napping in groups unless they were feeling hungry for sweet potatoes. Entrance to this sanctuary is free, and it’s a great stopover especially if you’re with children.

It was the first of several newfound discoveries about Bicol on this trip. The weather was cool and the rolling hills were begging for selfies and then some. Ranie’s friend, Francia, happens to be a wedding photographer / videographer and she wasted no time in setting us up in various layouts for a very late prenup / very early honeymoon shoot — we were more than willing to pose anyway.

Before heading to our next destination (to be revealed in the next post), we drove through a highway that thoroughly resembles Tagaytay, except that there is nothing on each side of the road except tall grass and overlooking views of more rice paddies and coconut farms. We stopped at the side of the road to have lunch, and I was surprised with how cool the weather was, high up on those hills!

I must admit that though I’ve always known Bicol to be a beautiful, wide region, I’ve never truly understood or appreciated its vastness until last week. I got to experience both everyday life and “adventure life” and felt so good throughout that the idea of staying here for longer periods didn’t seem too intimidating or impossible. Now if only 4G were more available everywhere…

Looking up and inward

mnl-color-3mnl-color-2mnl-color-1Manila looks a whole lot different when you look up (and invest a few dollars in an analog emulation app’s premium version). VSCO has always been my go-to, and I’ve bought so many film packs already before they introduced the X membership (but I think $20 / year might be too much?). Then there’s also Afterlight, VHS Cam, Snapseed, SKWRT — and now Kuji, the Huji for Android, which is honestly not bad. Mildly obsessed with it, and I’ve infected Ranie as well… follow our fan account? Haha.

(A random set of paragraphs about my life follows) Continue reading “Looking up and inward”

Incubus in Manila, February 2018

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Every time Incubus would come to Manila, the circumstances were never ideal. Finally last night the stars aligned, and I saw them live for the very first time in my life! I had such a great time with Ranie, Franco, and Val at Araneta last night.

Morning View is one of my favorite records of all time. It was the 2nd CD I ever bought in high school. I would listen to everything from Nice To Know You to Aquaeous Transmission at 4 am while reviewing for periodical exams (that’s the story of how I became a morning person). When I started working, my musical taste leaned a little more into the pop and indie-rock/funk/etc spectrum because of all the plugs I needed to score. Spotify has now basically rendered having any sort of preference moot, honestly, but deep down I still love my nu-metal and pop-rock. Anyway… listening to songs from their latest album 8, live, made me realize what a forlorn album it is… frankly it didn’t excite me that much, so I haven’t been looping it, but man, last night, it was all about the mid-2000s era too, so my 13-year-old fangirl heart was very happy.

We were in upper box seats but we jumped and head banged as wildly as the floor people (well I did)… God, I need to go to more concerts to unleash like that. It felt so, so good. Thank you for coming back, Incubus.

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About this look: wore this last night to Incubus’ concert! It’s like their 4th or 5th time here, but I’ve never caught them live until now — even though I’ve loved them since 2001 when I was 13. A lifetime ago. Typically one would wear black and jeans to a rock concert, but I wanted to look more polished and grown up, because let’s face it, no one in last night’s crowd was probably younger than 25 (I think). This would’ve been an office look if not for my beaten, still-so-good Chucks… I love clean, androgynous silhouettes (come to think of it Brandon does wear a lot of shirts / suits in their earlier videos…).

A look that mixes the old and new… probably the best way to deal with random nostalgia on a weekend.

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Also, believe it or not, this is our first concert together. In our 10 years as a couple. 2018 — a year of many milestones for us 🙂 Including THE BIG ONE. Hay! So many things to still do and organize. I’m not chill — I’m frozen in panic. But this will happen one way or another. Askdjflsjlkdjg!!!

I just missed life-update blogging, so there. Nostalgia, told you. 🙂

Two days, four towns: How barong shopping in Lumban turned into a Laguna mini-tour

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We were in four Laguna towns Friday night and yesterday: Los Baños, Lumban, Pagsanjan, and Sta. Cruz. I guess this is our version of a pre-Valentine’s Day date?

In Elbi, handed over invitations to our former teachers/sponsors. Then we met up with some orgmates.

My first glimpse of Freedom Park in at least two years. My elbi days still count among the happiest memories of my life.
Ranie and I met for the first time in this classroom, for a SPCM class, 12 years ago. We sat in the back, were trying out for the debate org at the same time, and partners for our final project. But we didn’t start dating until more than a year after!
Had dinner with a few resident members of the debate society + fellow alumni Kyla (in purple). We caught up on a lot of stories over beer afterwards.

In Lumban we bought Ranie’s barong. He’s always been dead set on getting an authentic one, straight from the source. It was perfect timing as he had a 2-day workshop in UPLB (and I’m working remote / pretty much anywhere these days).

Some updated notes on getting a barong in Lumban: From Los Baños, Lumban is only 90 minutes away via the Sta. Cruz bus route, then a 10-15 minute jeep ride. After the 2nd bridge, you’ll start seeing barong and gown shops left and right of the National Highway.

I found sources online that the good destinations are in Rizal Street, near the city market / plaza. As for us, all Ranie had in mind were specifics of what he wanted (piña, intricate but not too fancy embroidery). We actually found it in the first shop we entered, called Magano. Ranie usually struggles w/ formal wear in his usual size (M) because the sleeves always end up being a tad short, but Magano had a M-L size (Medium-Large) that fit him perfectly. I also loved his choice as the detail was beautiful yet subtle — very pogi. 🙂 The barong only cost P3000 – that’s 50 to 70% cheaper than a ready made barong in Kultura or Rustan’s. It also came with 2 free inner shirts already!

To be fair, we did check out a couple more stores after our purchase, but Ranie was already v. happy with his barong. In one shop, I actually saw a work in progress of a barong being embroidered w/ the colado style, but then got too shy to snap a photo because we weren’t buying anything. It’s amazing that handmade traditions still find a way to thrive in this day and age.

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My soon-to-be groom 🙂 This was one of the initial options, but Ranie’s final choice had a different color and design.

Since we wrapped up our errand pretty quickly, we did a bit of walking around Lumban’s streets. Lumban feels so quiet compared to other Laguna towns I’ve been to.

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Posing among some columns 🙂
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San Sebastian stone church, Lumban

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Bumbungan River, which empties out onto Laguna de Bay
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Ranie doing a bit of posing as well. 🙂

After an hour or so, we took another jeep to Pagsanjan, where we ate a late lunch at Calle Arko. The food was super affordable and pretty much good. The highlight of our meal was pako (fern) salad w/ white cheese and sweet vinagrette. Such a simple yet amazing dish.

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Pako salad! So easy to make, yet so delicious.
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The shop’s owner collects beautiful tea pots such as this one
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Contemporary artwork complementing the antique decor and furniture. A bit gaudy, but charming nonetheless.

We asked the waiter where to get pako (my mom loves it). They told us they get it in Sta. Cruz market. Perfect, we thought, that’s where we’ll take the bus. So right after the meal, we took yet another jeep to Sta. Cruz market. But it was so hard to find pako in the afternoon — all the stalls have run out! We did find two last bundles with a street vendor. I grabbed it all.

Now, my body is aching all over and I seem to be nursing a slight fever. After two months of remote work + a couple of weeks of baby sitting in between, I am… exhausted. Funny because I left my previous job to be less so!

There is so much that needs to be done. Both in work and for personal life. I wish I could feel more steady, to appreciate the options and privileges I have and to maximize them so that I don’t slip into an overwhelmed state again.

For today I’ll try to rest. These photos will be a reminder of why I’m doing all of this, what it allows me to do, and why it’s worth it.

Manila Biennale 2018 | Snapshots

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Scenes from a Saturday spent with friends, history, and creative commentary. Props to the organizers behind the first-ever Manila Biennale, for doing a free open house right before the actual events and talks happening all month long. Intramuros, with its solemn walls, wide-open parks, and peaceful cobble pathways, was the perfect setting for the exhibits — in fact, the juxtaposition couldn’t have been more apt. Quite a few art pieces and installations tackled freedom, justice, and society. It’s sobering to realize that we’re still challenging familiar oppressors and issues that we’ve been dealing with for hundreds of years. Continue reading “Manila Biennale 2018 | Snapshots”