Zero Shortcuts 2015

It’s already almost halfway through the year and I am spending my last few months as a twenty-something. The first part had been a crazy hot but interesting mess, pretty much like my hair these days:


Thanks, Vivere Salon

I took a lot of risks. Some of the risks were by force of circumstance. Others were just due to my nature of challenging myself.

This was also the year I started exploring exciting things in the country. I have recently been to the perimeter of Laguna Lake and it’s quite a picturesque adventure. I also went to Batangas with my family. This year so far has been filled with little things that are meaningful and beautiful.


Sometimes, things are so tough. I always wish that it will stay calm forever, but such a setting won’t bring out the best in me. So I just inhale the calm moments and commit them to memory when they are available.


Today was a particularly stormy day but I promised myself zero shortcuts for 2015. So I am posting a photo of a more steady day at the lakeside to remind me that there are more good days than bad ones. That life may have its tangles but not beyond what my mermaid hair can handle. 🙂

The September Issue

To shake things up, I find myself exploring things that I do not normally watch. It was said that Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class and it helped him appreciate fonts for the Apple products. I try to break out of the usual grind by watching something new in the hope that it will also inspire me in my endeavors. My choice for the month is a fashion documentary on Anna Wintour, the Vogue legend. Rumor has it that the novel The Devil Wears Prada was based on her. I am not particularly a poster girl for outfits but colors fascinate me.

For one thing, I find respect for the people in this industry after seeing what they go through to produce a glossy issue. I see a team of hardworking people and the able leadership of a strong and scary woman.

Some people are born to follow but there are people designed to lead or steer the ship.

I also saw examples of people in the industry who were thrown off their lane with setbacks. But they ended up pursuing something else as a result and became really good at it. I find it inspiring to watch survival stories like that. One of them was a former model who ended up becoming a prolific editor after a horrible car accident.

The painstaking attention to detail, the art, and the beauty is depicted in this very interesting documentary. It is a glossy world that, when placed under a microscope, is an industry solidly erected with the hard work and genius of dedicated people.

I observe the nuances of this documentary with an eye of the normally fashion averse person. I tend to appreciate the work, the orderly structure behind the magazine issue development process, and the magic of having high quality experience that spans decades. Experience trumps fast learning. This is also why I made my 2015 as my “zero shortcut” year.

I hope to find more thoughtful and out of the box documentaries like this. 🙂

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

Having waist-length hair is not exactly something I planned for myself. I had a lot of experimentation with my hair. I even tried a guy’s haircut during college. I went for red-orange hair, once. Someone actually called me a parrot, but heck, I was a risk-taker and I did not give a damn. I still don’t, by the way.

Months ago, it was understood that I had to grow it longer than usual (at least 2 or 3 inches from the shoulder, according to my fashionable friends) for the bridal styling issues.

Now, it has come to this. Sometimes, I don’t get to brush my crowning glory because I am so absorbed with work. Still, it has its good photo-worthy days:


My hair now has a life of its own. It frequently ties itself up in a knot of strands and decides to murder my look on bad hair days. It is the topmost pollutant of the floor when I take a bath. This morning, when I went to church, it decided to shed a considerable volume on the marble floor. (I felt like a poodle undergoing some phase. God bless the janitor tonight.) The hair is as moody as the owner, I must say.

I love and hate my long hair, but I have become mightily attached to it. If I may add, I am irrationally attached to it because I am actually spending a chunk of my income in maintaining it.

Some girls have their shoes and their clothes and their travel exploits. I have my hair, my skin, my book collection, and my computer stash of nerdy things. My nails can die anytime it wants and I’d probably just buy closed shoes to cover it forever. But my hair is a different story. My last salon trip had so much extra charges to the service because it was much, much longer than their price list’s definition of long hair. Three weeks later, I just generously slathered my hair with virgin coconut oil on schedule and it did a way better and more sustainable job than the too-quick salon fix. I do both, still, because I cannot hack my way through a good and even coloring job.

I am writing so many heavy duty mental things lately so I am just posting this thing about my hair because it’s a light topic, it’s something I genuinely enjoy thinking about, and it reminds me to take a break or take it easy.

It does not make me dumb to want long and shiny tresses, and allot a space in my blogging playground for it. It only makes me… a girl with hair issues. HAHAHA.

When I air-dry my hair every time I wash it, I use the time to shut down my brain and think about feathery, hollow ,and empty things with a slice of existentialism. It’s more of a regrouping strategy so I won’t go insane with the massive things I am juggling right now.

I guess it can also double as emergency rope good for a one-storey drop when the length reaches my legs. 😀 Teehee.

Styling Just Got Sunnier


Orange for positivity

Miss Helen Mary Labao, raw photo taken by: Ms. Alexis Escarrilla

I like casually waking up, then later going outdoors in the city with a simple dress and a hint of orange lipstick on a sunny morning. But rarely do I find myself fancying bright-colored clothes at this time.I think I have gotten used to wearing dark colors to hide my love handles last year, and it was only recently that I learned to embrace the other colors in the rainbow and the color wheel.

On the rare occasion that I wear something bright, I make sure to record and share the overall outcome of wearing the outfit. Here is my orange OOTD: an orange dress bought only for 50 pesos at a flea market. I wore peach espadrilles for my feet (Unlisted, Php 1,200). Just that and my trusty orange lipstick and long hair. Still a fan of bargains that rock. I don’t even get to wear cheekbone color. I suck at balancing colors in the eye shadow and I risk looking like a clown. I just always wanted to look natural and fresh.

These days, it has been raining intermittently and it’s quite hard to find the sun. I conserve these few precious days where the sun’s rays graciously showered the ground with just the right amount of heat and light. Even the wind was blowing in the right direction when I had this photo taken.

I wish I can dictate certain events and days to have this picture perfect weather. But even in the storm, there is always the challenge to look as bright and sunny as humanely possible. You cannot always dictate the weather to agree with you, but you can always choose to wear your smile anyway.

I am perfectly comfortable with how I look now. I feel light, much lighter than I had been a year ago and I feel like I can wear bright colors again without looking like a ball or an oversized candy.  When I find it hard to think or construct a thought, I look at items that I can wear in my minimalist wardrobe and create something out of it. These days, I have a heightened respect for women who know how to carry themselves. Somehow, they are the silent inspirations I have for whatever efforts I make to improve myself or make myself look more presentable. And I am not even talking about waistline sizes or the latest trends in the Philippine or international fashion week.

Sometimes, you just encounter women who just have the je ne sais quoi factor. They can be wearing their grandma’s bacon panties and still rock it.

I do realize the thing that explains why they rock. It’s the confidence of the person who carries the thing that completes a look and not the accessories. I do read some fashion books now, a great leap compared to my monkey-like approach to my sense of style since I was young. But even if I genuinely enjoy reading about latest trends now (admittedly, this was a belated girl gene that got activated sometime last year), I am not afraid to create my own thing even if it is not something that others will call high fashion or worth noting in a fashion book. I just genuinely don’t care; I have my own thing and if I think that it suits me, I’ll wear it.

I am not sure if there are going to be brighter colors in my wardrobe in the coming days. Just for this glimmer or instant of time, styling for Helena just got a little bit sunny. 🙂


Day 73: #100HappyDays
Blanc et Noir

Helen Mary Labao

Helen Mary Labao: making pakyut at age 28.

I am not really heavy into selfies since I no longer have any platform to post to. And the rest of the time is really spent digging the backend stuffs from my computer for my brain feed requirements.

So when I put together something fairly decent, I make sure it merits a happy day.

Today is the day of the black and white ensemble. The look is not super expensive. It’s the 700 peso dress I bought from a tiangge last Christmas, the bag that was on sale at Php 800 from Forever 21 three weeks ago, the black peep toe slingback bought at Php 900 from Payless Galleria almost 2 years ago, and the basic Php 250 sunglasses from i2i bought last December.

There was nothing new to the look, I just basically decided to put them together today with my newly diminished waistline. I had my standard pearl earrings to top off the look. And my ultra jurassic white phone. Wearing heels is a stinker so I parked it on the table when I got bored waiting for my meeting at UP campus:


During my mood swings, it’s quite hard to look at the sunny side of life. But I always liked the saying that “The future is so bright that you got to wear shades.” And a good pair of shades always hides the eyebags from the worries of last night, and protects us from the painful rays of the summer sun.


I wish I could say that all the days of my 100 happy days project are this sunny and pretty. But it’s not. In fact, I had the most monstrous of mood swings sandwiched in between and there are some days where I struggle to find the silver lining.

There were days when I would just stare out openly in the blank space, as if blankly staring for a prolonged period will make something meaningful materialize out of thin air.



I was hoping that staring out in the open air of nature will answer all my pressing questions about life. But nope, that’s not gonna happen overnight, in the same way that my life pursuits in a personal and professional standpoint won’t budge unless I draw water from the well day in and day out, regardless of whether I feel like doing it or now.

When I was young, I thought about gray areas a damn lot. But these days, I am starting to appreciate the beauty of black and white, not just in clothes, but in certain things that are certain in life– the Truth that holds me and keeps me standing as a high-heeled ball of dust in this huge universe.

Well, in spite of the things that I know and do not know, I decide to just be content with what I have. And I do realize that what I have is not so bad at all…




Day 30: #100HappyDays
Fit and Fab Friendships

I really enjoy working out and sweating like a madman on my own. I like undulating my entire body to rhythm of my hula hoop while reflecting on my life, its nuances and the sheer amounts of fat I am burning while I am pummeling my waistline with a weighted hula ring. I like lying down on the floor and absorbing all the grub while I am soaking completely in post-workout sweat.

Exercise is known to release happy hormones called ENDORPHINS, and as such, it’s easy to smile so widely and genuinely after you have burned off all your fats or stretched a good deal of your limbs:

But my fitness tip for the series on bilbil busters for budget-conscious brides and beauties involves another external factor: spice up your fitness goals with an appropriate choice of fitness buddy/buddies.

For this session, I had to do my workout at another person’s home so I made some effort of dressing the part. On other days, I would be donning shirts with holes in them and matching worn-out stockings with my belly dancing hip skirt. For this, I wore a Sassa active wear dark blue sports spaghetti strap shirt with matching black shorts. 🙂 What I particularly like about this is the material; I can also use it for swimming activities because it’s made of the moisture-absorbent fabric.

I commuted all the way to QC with my cheap Php 200 Get Out and Get Active yoga mat. It’s not as thick as Leigh’s mat but it does its job well for my cardio and stretching work on most days. My friend Leigh’s mat is thicker and more comfortable and priced at Php 600 from a sports store.


I have the internal motivation to workout on my own but when you find another fellow fitness enthusiast in the journey, it doubles the fun of getting in shape. Leigh is luckily just as into the fitness vibe as I was. We had different body types. She had this really nice hourglass figure and I had this apple type to deal with for all my life. But we had a common goal, and we made sure to exercise where our goals intersected. I saw a good form of plank and push-ups from her, something that I was personally struggling with. On my end, I was able to convince her to try belly dancing and hula hooping for fitness. It’s nice to workout with another person occasionally because you learn something new and you give back whatever little that you know to that person as well.


We had so much fun and we ended up working out for an hour or so. We did some DDP yoga videos and then a 30-minute belly dancing slimming down cardio activity from Youtube by Neena and Veena.  We also talked about fitness goals and how we can continue having fitness Fridays together in the future.

For post workout, we munched on ripe mangoes dipped in Japanese sesame seed dressing, Roman lettuce, Gatorade, Zero-fat strawberry yogurt, and plain old mineral water. Hydrating is important after our semi-intense cardio so we made sure to have the right food. Previously, I posted about chocolate milkshake being ideal for recovery, but nobody can really say no to something as awesome as ripe mangoes… Fruits can trump chocolate anytime. <3

Like what I have previously mentioned in other posts in the bilbil busters for budget-conscious brides and beauties series, I throw occasional “cheats” during weekends. As such, I threw in some “bad food” to the mix of healthy food we had feasted on. It was a tiny can of Piknik.


We indulged a bit in there but not too much. It was just a tiny amount and I was faithfully adhering to my healthy diet options during the weekdays. It’s dangerous to deprive myself of things I genuinely like to eat. If I deprive myself completely, my tendency to lapse back into my old sickly and unhealthy lifestyle will increase. So I introduce a little of the treats I used to enjoy in huge volumes when I was not in this phase of healthy lifestyle and fitness.


Some people do not like working out with other people. It really depends on your fitness goals and your level of comfort. I was fairly comfortable with my friend here seeing me all worked up. It helped to have a companion because when I am not in the right form as the person has in the video we were imitating, she would call me out on it and I can correct my stance more easily. Without my friend, I would probably be craning my neck towards the mirror just to check if I am doing it right. If each of us would start experiencing pain, the other would call out and help reduce the risk of home-based workout injury.

Also, there’s something about playing with hula hoops and having a girl pal with you as you revisit your childhood form of play for an adult fitness goal.


(All Photo credits: Leigh Lunas)

Far be it from us to look like the pros in the exercise videos, but we had so much fun trying anyway. We didn’t mind looking like sweaty klutzes. Because that’s what friends are for. Hahahaha.

After workout, I spent the night at her place and we traded some files together. I am certain that this won’t be our last fitness Fridate. And if you are following my series on bilbil busters, I strongly recommend that you try this at home with a good friend. You not only burn your calories, but you also enjoy the company of a good friend as you do so.