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…




for Budget-Conscious
Brides and Beauties

It’s Easter time, so I guess it’s the perfect time to announce my latest series here in this blog. I informally call it the “Resurrect Your Alindog” project. But as stated in the title above, we formally and more completely call it the “Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties”

Board exam tips are for all types of board exam takers. This time, I am focusing on women who need to shed some excess pounds.

Years ago, I made some sets of blog posts for special topics, foremost of which is the board exam tips. (I tried making a series on love stories but it got hard to maintain because of internal pressure and information overload. I plan to continue that series sometime soon, I promise. )

In keeping with the spirit of providing really useful and helpful lifestyle content, I am making a new blog post series on health and weight loss for women.

In particular, I am writing this for the ultra-busy women who cannot see themselves going to the gym all the time. I especially wrote this for soon-to-be BRIDES who need to fit in their wedding gown without shelling out too much to do so. Wedding planning can be batshit crazy on some days and it can get really expensive, so practicality in other matters is a must.

Like the board exam tips, it’s based on my actual experience. The only gym equipment I have used so far is the elliptical trainer and the exercise bike. I will give options on what worked for me and give some alternatives in case you do not have the equipment that I used. As much as possible, I would refrain from dictating workouts because everyone has different body types and considerations.

During college, I was all of 95 pounds and I ate 3 cups of rice every meal without gaining weight. I ate SIX RICE MEALS per day. I felt invincible. Feeling ko it will last forever. At the time, I never thought I’d be writing a blog post series on weight loss 10 years down the line. But here I am now, writing about what worked for me.

Women like me are inclined to collect more calories since metabolism slows with age annually. Experts call it calorie creep phenomenon.

The maximum effects of my weight gain were in the years 2012 to 2013. I looked absolutely horrendous, figure-wise. Reality started slapping me in the face in 2012. In my case, the calories crept to my belly in a major way!

Here is proof, taken on my birthday last September 2013, around 7 months ago:

Helen in September 2013

Helen in September 2013

My waistline was around 32 or 33 inches, I think. I was NOT pregnant, by the way. I was just eating at a buffet for my birthday at the time. And I haven’t even started eating yet when they took this picture!

Grabe diba.

You can see the BIG problem there. It actually came to the point where the MRT guards and Trinoma guards give me priority in the queue for PREGNANT people. In fact, even my neighbors ASSUMED that there was a bun in the oven already. Parang gusto ko na lang magtago, sobrang laki talaga ng tinaba ko. 🙁

It’s quite offensive when people told me how fat I am. I have heard this sooooo many times!

It’s actually rude when you don’t see people for a long time and then they exclaim how big you became. It’s as if I do not have a mirror at home to make me painfully aware of my current predicament. Just so they know, I have a mirror, and I avoided it for many months. (T_T)

But we cannot expect everyone to be well-mannered, kind or considerate when it comes to our flaws. Sobrang harsh ng mga tao sa mga matataba or tumatabang babae.

In a way, it was my fault too because I let myself go like that for almost 3 years. The sad fact is that there are actually people who are happy that I became like a hippopotamus last year. Some people totally gossiped about my weight gain.

I know that my partner loves me no matter what shape I am in. I poked fun at myself too when people joke about it. But I think secretly, he also missed my slimmer days in 2011.

Even if I did not admit it openly last year, it really affected me. The more stressed I got about my weight gain, the more I resorted to STRESS EATING to comfort myself. It’s this sick cycle which also made me more physically sick and got me to countless hospital trips. It was a downward spiral. I thought I was hopeless, that I was not going to snap out of it.

Narrating everything in one blow is getting ahead of myself.

So let me just give a sneak peek of what happened after…

These photos were taken just last Maundy Thursday after my exercise routine.

Right now, I am nowhere near Marian Rivera’s 19 inches of waistline. But diminishing my waist from 33 inches to the 25.5 or 26 inches that it is now (without paying 50k for a Cohen diet or shelling out 55k for a lifetime gym membership) on a very shoestring budget is definitely an achievement.

I am posting these to ENCOURAGE anyone who thinks that shrinking 7 inches off their waistline is impossible. And that does not necessarily involve signing up for expensive things or buying expensive gear.

I am zooming it in so that you will see the work currently in progress:

Camera-Ready at Any Angle

Camera-Ready at Any Angle


Waistline: 26 inches (from 33 inches, 7 months ago)

There. I do not even have a sports bra brand to endorse to you while I show you all these. My outfit was just Php 100 from nearby tiangge booths in Ortigas. I was just wearing my pambahay.

Some people have lines in their abs and are often doing outdoor sports activities. It’s not the perfect waistline but it’s definitely better than my old waistline.

The focus of this series is not on how good you look with your workout clothes. Other websites will be more than happy to provide that kind of information for you. Like my board exam tips, it goes to the essentials that worked for me based on my experience in creating my own weight loss regimen. And in sharing these things, I hope that other people can benefit from my discoveries.

Disclaimer: I am no fitness expert and this blog series is not for elite people or celebrities who have their posse of fitness experts at their beck and call. If you have a nutritionist, that’s really awesome and you should continue your regimen. If you are enrolled in a gym, that’s great! You will have all the assistance you need and you should make the most of it. If you are wearing top-notch sports wear and attending great sports events, I am happy for you and you should continue that! 🙂 I am not sure what profit fitness buffs will have from this blog but it might provide some interesting insights for the open-minded.

This series I am making is more geared towards simple people who just want to get fit or improve their waistline without spending too much money.

It’s really for average people like me who need to lose a few inches here and there. This is for girls who ride buses or the MRT on their way to work. This is for working women who do not have the time or additional income to burn hours in the gym. This is for busy ladies who want to be fit, not necessarily sexy by Hollywood standards. This is for the bride who is running the risk of becoming bridezilla with all the wedding preparation stress and needs to pamper herself without paper bills flying out of her wallet. It’s for the fitness-hungry females who have been overtaxed, underpaid, and heavily stressed by life’s demands.

So if you think that this is your brand of becoming fit for 2014 and beyond, I invite you to this online series that I will be making in the coming days. 🙂

And like me, I hope you have a lot of fun as you try to make lifestyle changes and rediscover your fabulous physique without drilling a hole in your pocket:

Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties FTW!

Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties FTW!


Isa itong patunay na hindi mo kailangang magpaka-burgis sa mga bagay-bagay para maging bodylicious. 🙂 

In my next post for this series, I will discuss about your single biggest fitness responsibility and why it matters so much in your efforts to lose weight. 🙂  <3 <3 <3



1.) Start with the right mindset! >> Freedom in Fitness
2.) Get to know your brand of fitness >>  The Fitness-Owning Advantage
3.) Don’t forget to balance your fitness regimen with fairly distributed CHEAT DAYS and calorie estimations. >> Chillaxing Cheat Days and Calorie Counts
4.) Make fitness a part of your daily activities by incorporating it into your regular grind. >> Hulk Band Helena
.) Share your fitness, win a friend! >> Fitness Friendships



Summer Komikon 2014


The original plan after lunch with JR was to hunt down my good friend RK, meet his girlfriend Sue, and bolt. Yeah, bolt for the exit and just stay at the entrance area to give our birthday gift.

But as always, I underestimated my fatal attraction for all sorts of reading materials. Somehow, the fever and fervor of the Pinoy Komik fans rubbed off. Perhaps, it was also because I nursed some indulgence for Pinoy komiks. I grew up reading Funny Komiks in elementary. In high school, I fell in love with Pupung and Pugad Baboy. In college, I had the privilege of interviewing the legendary Culture Crash team and Beerkada’s Lyndon Gregorio for my second published article at Sense and Style of Manila Bulletin.

And then, I graduated…


I don’t know what exactly happened after that, but I was certain that I stopped reading komiks for around 4 years since that day I left the university.

Never gave it much thought before. But I realized how Pinoy komiks figured prominently in my array of reading experiences and in my life.

I love words in all forms, and stories are even more fascinating when rendered with the appropriate amount of art.

Contrary to what some people believe, comics possess so much depth and express so much of our culture. There are as many varieties of comics as there are personalities of artists that make them. I felt a bit claustrophobic when I scoured the tables for new reads.

At least, there was some fresh air outside:

summer-komikon-bayanihan-center-john-ray-bergado summer-komikon-bayanihan-center-photo-by-JR-Bergado

In keeping with the spirit of Summer Komikon 2014, here is my chibified description of my OOTD (outfit of the day):


My uber Casual Attire was composed of the following: Black T-Shirt for Php90 at a Cubao tiangge, Basic denim shorts from God-knows-where tiangge (nalimutan ko, sorry) for Php 150, and Parisian Basic Flats for Php 500. Php 200 sunglasses from i2i. Yellow cute bag for Php 100. All under Php 1,000. 🙂

After around 20 to 30 missed calls, JR and I found RK and Sue at the corner of the projector area. No, I did not hold them at gunpoint to have this photo taken. Squeamish as they may be for being taken hostage by JR’s phone camera, I just had to take this snapshot because they have been most gracious and I want to keep this happy memory in my blog post.


I pestered these two for recommendations, and boy, am I happy that I got some really good new comic books to read. I actually wish I had more money but I prioritized on the ones that intrigued me the most.

Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo

I was not really sure what the fuss was about regarding this book. I have been living in a cave so I did not know that it’s the new big thing in horror comics. I did know that my friend Alexis asked me to buy her the Trese books. I saw the nods of approval from the cutest comic books fan friends ever (see photo above) when I mentioned the title, so I bought it without really knowing what it was.

Come book signing time, I was really embarrassed because I had to have it signed on behalf of Alexis.

So I introduced myself as her. (LOL)

I was not even smart enough to check the blurb to see that the name of the main, main character is Alexandra Trese. So when the prolific Budjette joked that he can possibly include me (that time disguised under name Alexis) as a hidden sister of Alexandra, I did not get the compliment immediately. #facepalm

One of the highest compliments that a comic story writer can tell a fan is to tie her name up to the main character. Lucky, lucky, Alexis!

Nonetheless, Alexis now has the copy of two signed books from Budjette and Kajo.

summer-komikon-trese-budjette-tan-kajo-baldisimo-murder-balete-drive summer-komikon-trese-budjette-tan-kajo-baldisimo-murder-balete-drive-back-cove

And I get the photos with them ha ha ha. Look at our happy fan faces:

summer-komikon-budjette-tan-helen-rk-aranas summer-komikon-kajo-baldisimo-trese-helen-mary


Everyone is happy. 🙂

In the evening, I actually read Alexis’ copies and I deeply regretted not buying my own copy.

First two pages pa lang, I. BECAME. A. FAN!

Ohmifrigginggoodness sobrang ganda lang talaga.

So I googled and stalked the blog:


I was warned that it was depressing. As it turns out, I was actually more enchanted than depressed. I know depressed of the medication-inducing kind.

IMHO, on a scale of 1 to 10 of depressing literature, this is a 5 or 6. (I’ve read Nabokov’s Lolita and some other war novels so those are the level 10 pieces.)

The chapter cover had MAPS. Orgasmic for spatial IT enthusiasts like me, definitely. The take on Filipino mythology is so dark and rich and intellectual. It’s a smart person’s comic book. It’s full of Filipino culture. Duwendes, tikbalangs, and urban legends of mall magnates… I can’t wait to get my own copies of the books.

Once, I read a light novel with a sassy, girly stab on Filipino mythology but it focused on gods and goddesses. The name of the book was Interim Goddess of Love by Mina Esguerra and I enjoyed it very much:


I realized that I like these sorts of materials.

I know that if these Trese guys get an Eisner, I’d kill for their autograph again.

So next time, I promise that I’ll buy a whole set and introduce myself. <3 (I hope that they have so many fans and I will be a forgettable face so that the fan girl faux pas gets buried forever.)

Moving on…

Pasig by Taga Ilog

I first met this guy in person in 2004 as part of my interview for Culture Crash. He had a silver pail in his head and just enough holes for his eyes.

His aura of mystery contributed to the unique legendary charm of Culture Crash among fans. I was one of the lucky few who saw him without the silver pail then. These days, though, you will see him in Komikon sans the famous silver pail and with his beautiful wife who is also a talented artist.

He draws and he writes. I really like the whole concept of the Fringe Division-ish investigation bureau in the setting of Pasig City.

I have noticed the change in his cartoons, as he was keen in pointing out at his writing on one issue:

pasig-tabing-ilog-culture-crash pasig-tabing-ilog-culture-crash-drawing-difference

I will personally be keeping an eye out for a Pasig collection or anthology in the future. In full color again, I hope, like in Culture Crash days. I really missed those guys. 🙁 They even gave me a cute little stuffed toy inspired by the One Day Isang Diwa character. <3

Slash by Edward Echavez and Cathy Bucu

So, I was expecting the old comic veterans when I entered. I expected the people I interviewed before.

But I did not expect a former officemate to be there! Haha! I found Cathy and Edward, two fine people from my former publishing job. I was sad because I could not buy his book (Php 300) given my other purchasing priorities and dwindling purchasing power.

But I wanted to show some support so here is the postcard I bought instead, the only colored piece in my Summer Komikon 2014 stash:



Astounding. I look at this postcard and I marvel at the amazing people God allows me to meet, even only in passing. Congrats, Gady Bear and Edward. 🙂 I look forward to buying the actual book in another event.

Filipino Heroes League by Paolo Fabregas

Written by another prolific comic artist with a name that always resonated positively with me, Filipino Heroes League is a buying decision I made after I fell in love with the back cover:


How can a person like me resist a third world superhero in hot pursuit of a hooligan using a PEDICAB?

Only in the Philippines! I just knew I had to buy one of these. A brainchild of a former Coke commercial model and actor, FHL is satire in comic form. It depicts the Philippines in a very resonant way, and it maintains the humor and the entertainment that comes with the cultural awareness of FHL’s plots.


I am planning to get BOOK TWO and have it autographed next time.

The CHIBI-fied Dev Duo

Aside from the comic book finds, we went to Lady Storyteller’s booth at the Indie Komiks section to have our chibi images done:

JR here is looking all dapper with his chibified face, moustache and all:


For the record, this friend of mine rarely smiles and I need to record this for happy memory safekeeping. I forced him to buy a ticket to Komikon and I am happy that he was cheered by his chibi.

I was really happy with how it turned out for me, too. Here’s my blog shoutout to the ultra cool Lady Storykeeper who made these fabulous chibified sketches. On average, it took her around 10 minutes to create each one:




Honestly, if you ask me, I think this girl should charge more for her art. They make it so affordable for their exposure.

One one hand, it’s delightful for readers like me and we can buy more with less. But I can see the level of work and skill required of this endeavor. I believe that they deserve to get paid and patronized more.

I bought the other books I mentioned at the main hall of the Summer Komikon, and then I bought just 2 tiny comics from this indie lady.

One Floor Up by Lady Storykeeper

summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-apartment-hunting summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-inside summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-meet-the-boys I have a soft spot for independent artists and I like buying from them whenever I can. This one caught my attention because it’s quite girly. I already have a horror title and a satire. So I went for a sassy, Kpop-ish, feel-good komik trip with this one.

I really think the dialogue can still use some editing. But it’s funny in the right places and holds so much potential. I gave it to my sister as pasalubong after I read it.

When I featured Beerkada in 2004 for a lifestyle article, the comic artist Lyndon Gregorio already had a rising set of followers from Philippine Star and other Beerkadets (fans). The lifestyle magazine had a different set of audience who got to know the comic books he was making. It could have helped spread word of what his comics were about to people who would not normally frequent Komikon events like this one. I unfortunately did not have enough stash to buy another Beerkada title from this event because of my unplanned spree, but I was able to say hi to the smart (Mensa smart) guy and read a recent comic strip from the web version. 🙂

Most of these comic book success stories began with independent comic books or even old obscure scrawl marks of a Sharpie pen or a 0.7 gel pen on a piece of bond paper… Somehow, I think most of them have this in common: 1.) they did not stop drawing even if they did not sell a copy, 2.) somebody BELIEVED in what they did, and 3.) that one person who believed spread the love and joy of the artist’s creation to others.

It’s really an auspicious mix of talent, of good timing, and of good opportunities. It’s a wheel, too, so one can have the both the feast and famine.

While others file in a long line for the titles that sell, I am the type who also likes digging for diamonds in the raw. And I think I found it in this Lady Storykeeper girl who made my chibi, the author of One Floor Up. I hope that like the more successful guys in the main hall, I will also see her creations in a bigger space, paid in a way that is somehow commensurate to the talent that she is offering the world. 🙂

An unintentional adventure that was, Summer Komikon 2014 made me realize that I will never be too old for Pinoy Komiks. <3

Thanks, RK, Sue, and JR. Thanks, Summer Komikon 2014.

A Work in Progress

I am not the one who knows how to mince words. The flaws are apparent, and I even had the audacity to photobomb the patron saint of appropriately frank people, Saint Bartholomew:


When I was young, I was actually as docile and submissive as a mouse. Unfortunately, I was taken advantage of precisely for that reason. At that age, it did not work well for me. I was bullied by small-minded people with the maturity of a gnat. I would have accomplished a lot of things. Things happened, and I know that there was more to it than meets the eye. There was nothing to look back to after that dark episode of my life, and I knew that the things I experienced there were to shape the course of my life.

Life was colorful, but it was not without its requisite crosses:

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo- Crucifix

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo- Crucifix

When I was young, I went to San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan. It was a tiny parish, then. While people went out to play, I really sought God because I saw a lot of things inherent in this local society at a young age. I had questions, but no answers. And I basically lived life for so long without answers until I had my own means as an adult, until I was free enough to form my own opinions without having to be subjected to others’ preferences, dreams, and visions for the way I should run my life.


At an early age, I was exposed to politics, peer pressure, and the toughness of being a poor scholar in a private school. In college, I kind of had some form of blossoming but it came to the point where I had to temper the strength I built for years.

I became a survivor, and in the middle of that mess, I decided to seek the spiritual side of things to get to know myself better and to heal myself of wounds from the past.

Only in my late twenties will I come to embrace myself fully for all my defects and strengths. I learned how to wind down, unaffected by what others think. And when I journeyed to elusive self-discovery, I was delighted to find that I had more life, light, and love to give to others:

With my latest baby sister Grace Ann

With my latest baby sister Grace Ann

I had to deal with a lot of things about myself, even ones that I was not exactly very happy to face. But I did that because I wanted to become a better person. Fortunately, there was love that makes all things possible.

As I opened my mind and heart to new things and changes, there was an immense amount of wisdom that came from various sources.

I realized that even if I came from the borderline of Gen X and Gen Y (millenials), the baby boomers had a thing or two to teach me: the tenacity, the stability, the reliability, and the humility of accepting even menial forms of work as an avenue for growth.




Mommy Mary and Daddy Seth at the Rosary Garden

Mommy Mary and Daddy Seth at the Rosary Garden

I gorged in a lot of reading materials in my quest for gaining knowledge and mastery of how I should move about in this world, and I only gain enlightenment in strides. Despite this, I am fundamentally thankful for the defective devout person I am, and the better person that I hope to eventually become.

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo's Beautiful Blessed Sacrament

Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo’s Beautiful Blessed Sacrament

Sometimes, I just stop thinking. For a few minutes, I just look at the Blessed Sacrament. It gives me some sense of peace. In the host, He allowed Himself to be broken. He was Goodness and Perfection, and yet He allowed people to treat Him unfairly. It is quite hard for me to fathom how that can be done by me. I tend to like matching an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. As I temper my tendency to slay the outer dragons, I don’t win the physical war but I win the battle that rages within myself. And this is how I know that I am growing despite my defects.

I have learned to see people as inherently good, only bogged down by respective flaws. And that it takes a lot of respect for the human race not to criticize people harshly, that it takes a lot of inner waging battles to overcome my skill of “editing” people (and not just editing words on a manuscript)… I managed to have more peaceful relationships with various people of different life vocations because of my decision to look more on the good things, and to properly establish boundaries in my relationships.

Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo Parish Priest

Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Antipolo Parish Priest

with Antipolo's political figures

with Antipolo’s political figures

I also developed the acumen of detecting abusive people and energy sucking relationships. After purging the toxicity, the essentials remained and I became happier with the relationships I managed to continue building…

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-happy-pau-helen parish-immaculate-heart-mary-in-laws-bench

In addition to ceasing from the compulsive urge of being brutally frank, I have learned to be more one with nature, the ultimate demonstration of God’s sense of order, beauty, and peace.

The Rosary Garden's Area

The Rosary Garden’s Area



I wish I can just meditate on this tranquil goodness for long periods but there is still a lot of work to be done after I refresh myself in these peaceful places.

When things get too hard, I usually know instinctively where to go…

parish-immaclate-heart-mary-antipolo-rosary-mother-mary parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-altar

And I am fully convinced that when you share a huge thing like a pursuit of faith, relationships strengthen despite the dangers of damage brought about by our respective flaws. It’s not perfect, it takes a lot of work… But with love, nothing is impossible to endure or work on…

parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-paulo-helena-1 parish-immaculate-heart-mary-antipolo-shades-hug parish-immaculate-heart-mary-joyful-mystery

Helen Mary with Mommy Mary

Helen Mary with Mommy Mary

I also realized lately that it’s okay to be weak and to ask for help and to seek others’ counsel, that not all people are out to get others for their personal gain.

That it’s okay when other people seem to succeed after they take advantage of you, or if other people decide to talk badly of you… It’s okay, for as long as you know yourself and that you are running your own race to becoming better over time. That others do not approve of you all the time.

Also, it’s okay to hold another person’s hand as you go through the best and the worst of times.


Because when you realize your moments of weakness, you get the fullest measure and potential of your strength.

So this is me now, still a work in progress but I am completely at peace with whatever that means.

Fundamentally flawed,

Parisian Shoes adorned with Ugat XD

Parisian Shoes adorned with Ugat XD

fascinated with life,







Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Hinulugan Taktak Road, Fairmount Hills Subdivision
1870 Antipolo, Rizal
(02) 696-4387, 697-0344

Pino Resto Bar:
Malingap’s Chill Treasure


I like making excuses to go to Maginhawa Street, given its fine reputation for gastronomic delights and chill atmosphere. Compared to the Morato and Panay area, Maginhawa is really known for a more laidback dining and socializing experience. After our favorable experience with Breakfast and Pies, my brunch buddies Jodi and Leigh recommended Pino Resto Bar for my reunion with my college barkada.

And I am thankful for their recommendation; the place is chill, casual, and gastronomically friendly for friends who are out to catch up after months or years of not seeing each other.

Pino Resto Bar Malingap Wall Mural

Pino Resto Bar Malingap Wall Mural

Since it’s a fairly casual affair, I chose to be just as casual with my outfit:

Lacoste Bolero, Little Black Dress, Long Hair :)

Lacoste Bolero, Little Black Dress, Long Hair 🙂

When I was in college and starting out as an engineer, I did not bother to grow my hair long. It was too tedious. In fact, I still think it takes a lot of work to take good care of my growing hair. But I swear by the tried and tested method of cold electric fan air. I am not a fan of warm hair blowers so I manually finger comb it against a gust of cool air. I have reason to believe that it works:


Yeah, it works really well.

Years ago, this would have been unthinkable. These days, though, I have learned the moderate value of presenting myself, not out of vanity but more for consideration of the people who will be seeing me at any given time. Showing yourself prepared even in appearance conveys to people that “You are worth dressing up for.”

Some people abuse this appearance trick and get away with not knowing anything or hiding their ulterior motives by dazzling others with their presentable looks. I hated what those people represented and chose not to bother myself with my style for the longest time. Perhaps it was an attempt to spite the charlatans. But I realized later on that in doing so, I deprived myself of the ability to explore my sense of style.

It took a while for me to realize that it does not necessarily make me shallow, dumb, or full of fluff if I lift a finger occasionally to present myself in a pleasant way.  Substance and style can go together, and my decision to wear something nice does not mean that I am giving up on my other deeper passions in life.

And my first college barkada would know me well enough that this is a giant leap of my impoverished fashion sense. I am quite pleased to see them last night because it’s been so long. Two in our group have already married and have 2 kids each. It’s amazing how time flies and how the effort to keep in touch becomes increasingly difficult with adult life demands:

C.H.A.R.M. - Carol, Helen, Ann Rosette, Michelle (left to right!)

C.H.A.R.M. – Carol, Helen, Ann Rosette, Michelle (left to right!)

The pregnant one is due anytime soon so we cannot extricate her from Maginhawa area. The Pasig girls decided to go to Malingap and pay her a long overdue visit.

Now that I have mentioned my outfit, my reason for choosing this place, and my happy companions to this gastronomic experience, I come to the main thing: the FOOD. Off the bat, the salads took my full attention and I decided to go catfish!!

Pino Resto Bar's Catfish Salad

Pino Resto Bar’s Catfish Salad


Crunchy texture of the catfish and mayo goes really well with the uber fresh lettuce. The cutely sliced cucumber is so-so, since I am not really a fan of cucumber. Totally love the detail on the QUAIL EGG at the bottom. But this is a biased review because I am a real quail egg fanatic. (My largest quail egg craving had me finishing off an entire bowl on my own one Christmas evening! I felt the cholesterol at the back of my neck after.)

This is part of a group of restaurants so we also had choices from the vegetarian menu, Pipino…

Pino Resto Bar and Pipino Menu

Pino Resto Bar and Pipino Menu


One of the highly raved food in this resto bar is the Kare Kareng Bagnet:

Pino Resto Bar's Bestselling Kare Kareng Bagnet

Pino Resto Bar’s Bestselling Kare Kareng Bagnet

Mich and I loved this one. But it depends on the person. If you are a fan of salty and do not mind the excess fried fat on a night out (there are cheat days and you can indulge!), you will probably enjoy this one. I ended up eating more from this plate than the others that we ordered.

The fried calamares is passable. Carol ended up taking this home.


Ginataang Bopis

Ginataang Bopis

The ginataang bopis was good but I fail to make a more detailed appraisal because the salad and the kare kareng bagnet took center stage in my stomach all night.

Right before the girls arrived, I managed to grab the yummy signature brewed iced tea. I like it. It’s not too sweet and you actually feel like it’s TEA.

Pino's Signature Brewed Iced Tea

Pino’s Signature Brewed Iced Tea

My dearly beloved SO also liked the iced tea, who passed by to say hi to my college CHARM BFFs. Sharing a cozy photo moment here:


I think Carol got disgruntled with the Longganisa Rice. Her inherently steep standards for Vigan longganisa kicked in so she told me to include that in this review. I am no longer eating much rice meals anyway so I let her review stand. The bagoong rice that came with the Kare Kareng Bagnet, however, is absolutely divine and I had three heaping spoonfuls. 🙂

Even in food preferences, our differences are apparent. But that’s what makes this group really special. We are all so different and yet so together. I realized that this was somehow a gift from God, to stay this long with this set of friends without becoming disinterested. You do not always grow up with people. Some people just grow apart, and I am thankful that even if it’s hard and I am already a pseudo-hermit with my lifestyle, I still have these wonderful girls in my life:

12 Years of CHARMed Friendship

12 Years of CHARMed Friendship


Earlier in college years, I was not sure that we’d last this long because we have all gone in different directions. But it actually happens these days that I see them as the ninangs of my future children. I see combined family swimming parties in our futures. In college, that would not be something I can easily imagine. I appreciate that even if we chose to meet in a far place, Carol went all the way from Mall of Asia just to see the group. As we got older, my love for this group grew exponentially (that term exactly because we became the CHARM group at UP’s Math building!).

Carol, the Calculus genius (for more reasons than one), now has two wonderful kids. Mich’s second baby is on the way, who I believe will sing great songs like her and her hubby. And my Korean rock band gal pal Rosette is still her quiet self but just as delightful. Rosette is in fact planning to buy her home soon.

There were so many things we did not know about each other from the months we spent apart. This meetup rarely happens (but we swear to do it more frequently everytime!) so we ended up moving to Infinitea after Pino closed at midnight. It was such a shame since we really enjoyed the nice ambience and I liked looking at the abstract pastel paintings:

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We savored each other’s catching up stories and enjoyed the rich texture of Pino Resto Bar’s Chocolate Tablea dessert. We shared the calories with a single slice:

Pino Choco Tablea

Pino Choco Tablea

It was really rich and textured, very much like my friendship with the CHARM girls. (I must say though, that when it comes to tablea or chocolate I believe that Chocolat’s Death by Tablea and Xocolat’s Salted Caramel Brownie remain unparalleled in awakening taste bud sensations.)

Regarding staff service, I must say it’s stellar. They are super polite and more than happy to indulge in our slew of SELFIES. The girls all have Facebook; I had to ask them to email me. Totally primitive and ironic.

My Friday just went from drab and predictable to nostalgically fabulous because of the CHARMers I am with, plus the wonderful chillax experience of Pino Resto Bar.


Pino Resto Bar
39 Malingap Street, Teacher’s Village – East
Diliman, Quezon City
(02) 441-1773

Pino Resto Bar Store Hours

Pino Resto Bar Store Hours

Budget:  Php 250 to 500 per head
(this really depends on number of viands, pitchers of iced tea consumed, and dessert preference)

Ideal for: Casual dining, Catching up, Relaxing after a hard day’s work




The Ilustrado’s
21st Century Buffet

Barbara's Facade

Barbara’s Facade

History books did not engage me when I was a child. It was too dry for me despite my natural inclination to pore over printed books voraciously. I did not have high grades in history in high school. In UP, though, something was awakened. And after the awakening, I got a flat one in Kasaysayan and an unending fascination for the very prolific professors who speak the mother tongue like a majestic Datu.

Of course, part of Philippine history was the colonial period. I wish that more students go to Intramuros because it’s the best place to imbibe and see the vibe of 18th century Philippines minus the dryness associated with dates listed on textbooks. And while we are on the topic, let me show you that there is one buffet that gives you both the modern and ancient Hispanic vibe that I have been raving about: Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves regarding the look and feel, which was inspired by an 18th century ilustrado home. Ilustrados are like the intellectual elite of that period.

Upon entering the hall, you will feel like you are literally transported back in time. Even the tiniest details speak of ancient elegance…


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The Food

While I am mesmerized by the ambience, I found the food to be so-so. I have heard that some people had divine experiences from this place gastronomically. But on the day we chose, Araw ng Kagitingan, the most salient part of the menu for me is the Tomato-based Moussaka, the Fried Calamares, and the Chicken. The Caesar’s Salad could use some additional ingredients but for as long as there is lettuce, there is some sense of fulfillment for my fitness-loving self:

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I think the in-laws enjoyed the variety of rice presented. I skipped the rice and went straight for the moussaka! 🙂 Oh, and they have wine. But it was lunchtime and we were just basking in the environment with a sober stance.


The Music

Another highlight that I’d like to share was the music. 🙂 They serenaded my in laws, especially my soon to be mother in law. 🙂 The band played around 7 songs, including Jambalaya. And they can even play Frozen’s “Let It Go” theme song!!! These guys really deserve an award for their talent and versatility in accommodating requests.
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I also fiddled a bit with their classic black piano before leaving, which reminded me of my childhood days. 🙂 This is the one time I actually missed playing the piano and I am considering revamping and repairing my now abandoned Ludwig classic at home:

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I was nine years old when I started playing the piano. I always had a thing for guitars. But the piano was more friendly for my delicate fingers.

I did not have the boisterous childhood of climbing trees or going outdoors. I do not have physical scars on my knees but introspection was always within reach. My interest was in books and somehow I had this lingering fascination for the prolific and melancholic… It was not entirely a sad childhood although it was quite different, relatively speaking. It did not take so long for me to realize that I was different. But growing up allowed me to embrace me for all the weirdness and quirkiness that made me who I am today.


The Photographs

Since the place is so beautiful, I made some attempts to take photographs using the Canon DSLR. Here’s my amateur shot of Grace at the waiting area by the staircase:


Grace marvelling at the place:


This is a photo of father and son in a place that gastronomically bridges the generation gaps from 18th to 21st century.barbara-father-and-son

Of course, we will not forget the birthday girl, Mommy Mary:


What else can I say? It’s clearly one of the most picturesque buffet venues I have ever seen in my life. 🙂


And because I love the place, it is even made more wonderful because I am holding hands with the one I love as I grace these shiny and elegant halls…

Helena and Paulo at Barbara's

Helena and Paulo at Barbara’s

Photos taken by: Helen Mary Labao, Atty. Paul Isaac Barrameda, and (soon to be Engr.) Grace Ann Barrameda



Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
Plaza San Luis Complex, Intramuros Manila
527-4086 / 527-3893 / 788-3356 / 527-4083

Restaurant Hours: Open entire week
11AM – 2PM : Lunch Buffet
6:30PM – 9PM : Dinner Buffet

Php 475+ per head for Lunch
Php 675+ for Dinner with Cultural Show(++ for Musician Tip)

50 & 500:
Teresian Tribute
of the
Philippine Madrigal Singers

The 50 & 500 concert of the Philippine Madrigal Singers was held last March 28, 2014. It was the 50th anniversary of the premier choir group and the 500th birth anniversary of the Catholic mystic and first woman Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila. She was also the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. My partner knew exactly how I love music and this wonderful saint, so we went to the Gala performance.


For this particular event, I decided to wear a simple pink dress with a bit of black frills… This was just 50 pesos, bought by my mom somewhere. 😛

Unfortunately, the grey shoes was a horrible choice for this event. T_T The pink scarf from Ma’am Gina tied by my friend Alexis worked to offset the impoverished state of my footwear. I had an equally bright pink Jansport shoulder bag to go with that so it’s all good.


What I lacked for footwear, I compensated with a happy smile, as usual. I know it’s not an excuse to wear hideous shoes, but I am more excited than repentant at the upcoming concert to even bother. 😀


My beloved went with me in this tribute to our dearly beloved saint. I am brimming with gratitude and happiness that he invited me to this event.


It was a Friday so we arrived early at CCP complex area to avoid traffic and stress.

We decided to dine al fresco at Army Navy beside Manila Bay and took some nice pre-sunset photos after.


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There were a lot of joggers in the area. It looks like a prime spot for exercise, too.

We also had enough time to gallivant around the opulence of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It’s really majestic with its chandeliers and the awesome thing about the large complex is the presence of paintings and exhibits. The French photographer’s exhibit was closed so we went to Framed Abstractions Exhibit instead:





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I think this exhibit is still open.

And aside from the exhibits, there were also paintings all over the place, along the hallways and surrounding the large chandeliers. (Sorry, I really have this thing for shiny objects!)

IMG_20140328_193050 IMG_20140328_190714

Of course, the highlight and crux of our visit here is the musical tribute to the wonderful saint:


Prior to this, I’ve read her works: The Way of Perfection, Interior Castle, and Life of St. Teresa: an Autobiography. I guess I can say I am a huge fan of Catholic mysticism and Carmelite spirituality. I admire her valor and the prolific way which she described the Prayer of Quiet and the 7 castles of prayer that culminates with Jesus at the center.  So hearing the songs depicted by the Philippine Madrigal Singers was so meaningful and affecting.

The choir serenaded the audience, a mix of lay people like me and Paulo and the religious people. During their performance, you can hear a pin drop from the audience because it was so quiet. They also sang their novelty adaptations like The Coconut Nut…


When the audience begged for more songs after their bow, they indulged. It was a full two hours of classy entertainment at its finest. There were some dancers from Douglas Nierras Powerdance who interpreted the music. My partner did not like the dancing so much because he felt it interfered with the music. But I liked it! 🙂

There was also this giant slideshow of images. The singers were adorned in gold and sat at glittering chairs, their voices just as golden and sparkling as their appearance.

It was one of the most meditative concerts I have ever seen, like a glimpse of heaven or some glory of the interior castles just as St. Teresa described in her writings.

Nada de Turbe (Spanish for “Let nothing perturb you”) was the catch phrase that continued to resonate with me after I left the concert hall. It was a good precursor for Holy Week, and a perfect way to meditate on God’s goodness expressed in music. The concert is offered for St. Teresa and her descendants– the Carmelite communities in the Philippines.

A performance of Love. The person I love. The saint who loves God in a mystical way. The choir group who sings like angels…

And from experiences like this, I realize that sometimes, we already see glimpses of His perfection in the tiny patches punctuating our lives.

Thank you, Philippine Madrigal Singers, for bringing not just a musical performance, but an experience to last your audience for a lifetime. 🙂