Tuesday, October 27, 2009

so i'm older

Today is my birthday. I share it with several geniuses, serial killers, and Kelly Osbourne.

Last year, I spent my 28th birthday flying over international waters, on a plane from Hanoi to Singapore. No cake - just food off the Vietnam Airlines menu.

It was a memorable birthday, as I got to spend it in two countries.

This year will be different - I am being whisked off to a wine tasting and degustation dinner in a local fine dining restaurant. I can't decide which black dress to wear. Should I bust out the Chanel or use a low-key Kenneth Cole that's a little too big? What about shoes? Balenciaga heels or low-key flats?

I think I'll go restrained. After all, the dresses are both black. Who the hell will notice?

I don't even know why I have fancy things. I never wear them.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

everything is the same, pretty much

During my usual weekly visit to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf a few days back, I came across a local magazine called "High Life" (published by Business World). I make it a point to read all the new magazines a coffee shop has to offer so I don't have to buy new magazines. Also, I'm paying them good money for the Matcha Green Tea. They better have free reading materials.

In one of the articles, "High Life" claims that the luxury market in the Philippines is growing, explaining why despite the obvious poverty all around (nevermind the recession), the Makati shop floors still have the usual Louis Vuitton, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Tod's, etc. - and why Hermes is opening in Greenbelt 4 soon.

The article goes on to claim that
Filipinos who have traveled abroad and have been exposed to a lot of luxurious experiences/choices want to recreate the same shopping experience here.

All I can say is...

Bah, humbug!

Traveling has the opposite effect on me.

Instead of making me crave more luxury, it just makes me realize that luxury is NOT really exclusive. I no longer want a new bag or a tweed jacket. I have enough - adding to it would be just so

(Perhaps I have "luxury fatigue." Champs-Elysees gives me a migraine. Don't even get me started on all the luxe shops in Nice Ville and Cannes, where Chanel seems to be in every corner. This accessibility cheapens luxury.)

(Also, don't believe those who RAVE about things they see abroad; they probably have colonial mentality coupled with bad taste. In my experience, people who get starstruck by other countries are just unhappy with their lives here. Perhaps they do not surround themselves with quality things, so when they see just a teeny weeny bit of luxe, they are agog.)

Travel doesn't stir discontent in me; I certainly don't look for the same "luxury experience" that well-traveled people look for, at least according to
Business World. If anything, travel makes me appreciate what I already have - and what we (as Pinoys) already have.

It's not so bad here, TRUST ME. Metro systems, housing, shopping - we have it all, and in many respects, we have it better.

So the next time you hate your life and wish you were in Paris, London, New York or some other romanticized city pretending to be "first-world" like Hong Kong, look at these pictures:

One of the many homeless people in London

Slums of Paris

Real-life housing in "first-world" Hong Kong

Dirty streets of New York

See? Everything is the same, pretty much.



Sunday, October 11, 2009


In a few days, I am turning 29. I am fast becoming ancient. This "growing old" business is a dirty job, but we all have to do it.

It sneaks up on you, these birthdays. You drown yourself in work and coffee and before you know it, you have inexorably slipped away from what "the kids" do these days. Worse (or luckily, I can't decide), you don't even care. You just accept the fact that you don't know what the hell is on MTV, that staying in is better than a long night out, and that you can no longer eat a whole bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken by yourself, even if you tried.

In a way, this is all fantastic. I sort of feel like my apprenticeship on life is finally over, and now, I am in a "managerial" level where I can actually LIVE. My life is finally mine. I am free from parental control. I live on my own. I have some money for small luxuries. I have the
trappings of adulthood (including a proper French press), but more importantly, I no longer feel the pressure to prove anything to anyone. Hey, I'm almost 29. This IS me.

To be able to minimize the hiccups of this newfangled life stage, I should be able to achieve a
state of recklessness tempered by practicality. I want to live in the moment without throwing away my future. It's going to be hard. Some ideas:

1. Save money. My twenties have been all about spending. This has to end. Anyway, my closet is full of Prada now, and I have eaten in thousands of fancy restaurants here and abroad (frankly, expensive food is starting to taste the same). I need a budget and I need to stick to it. Passive income streams need to be built, as I don't intend to work forever.

2. Live healthier. Wealth is nothing without health, really. That's why I have started moderate running two to three times a week, but I intend to become more active. I am seriously considering taking up Chi Running and joining a marathon. As for diet - I don't do diets. This is why I'm not as thin as I used to be, which isn't necessarily bad (I feel healthier, anyway). I am beginning to eat more sensibly now, but who can say no to sweets and the occasional bad carbohydrates?

3. Disassociate with negativity. I must develop a new method of dealing with people who just zap energy -- dysfunctional family members, friends who always seem problematic, clients who nitpick, etc. There's no way of completely cutting them off, so I should just change my approach so that they don't get to me. I must master the skill of saying NO, especially if saying it equals self-preservation.

4. Build a light lifestyle conducive to travel.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read a page. Well, I intend to read the whole book until it's beat up. I will doggy-ear pages I like so I can go back to them. I'll even subscribe to updates. To enjoy this freedom of just going whenever, my life's essentials must fit into a carry-on bag. It's the only way to live.

5. Take care of good relationships. I haven't been very lucky with family, but I am blessed in the coupling up department. I have MSP. He does not only help me carry life's occasional excess baggage but has actually bought into this light lifestyle of "no mortgage, no kids, no hangups." We are working our asses off to make our business even more mobile, so we can make money anywhere we are. That is a ultimate dream, and we're getting there slowly but surely
(his words, not mine / if it were up to me, everything would be fast, fast, fast.)

Friends - I have a few good ones, and I intend to keep them. Old friends I haven't seen for years are suddenly here again -- people from high school, from my old job, etc - and it's like we never parted ways. I still have my constant college friends, and I have a feeling they will always be there. Our friendship has surpassed the deciding point when you all either (a) lose contact or (b) consciously decide to pester each other for life. We've chosen (b), obviously. And of course, I still have my bestfriend of two decades, who now lives in Canada. We still talk almost everyday, thanks to technology. The world is so small and I just know I'll be able to visit her regularly.

* * * *

MSP is asking me what I want for my birthday. I said, "NOTHING." It's the first time I haven't wanted anything. Why? I have four reasons: (a) I'm still not over the Tiffany treasure he gave me, (b) the shop floors are so boring these days that nothing catches my fancy, (c) I'm much older now so I value experiences more than things, (d) I am realizing that if we get married, his money will become my money, too, so I would prefer that he save as much as he can.

However, I think I'll buy myself a small gift. I haven't decided. If nothing amuses me, I'll just save the money for the upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. I already have the book. I can't wait :)

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Monday, October 05, 2009

life in a travel bag

The recent Ketsana tragedy really drives home one important lesson: That everything is temporary. Believing in absolute security will only break your heart, if not kill you.

Perhaps the most emotionally wrecked people post-tragedy are those with strong attachment to things – to their homes, to their furniture, to old photographs. These are people who have defined themselves by the things they have.

I used to be like that, but now I know better.

Everyday, people's lives are turned upside down by unexpected tragedies, illnesses and other serious circumstances beyond control. It takes experience to understand the effects of such situations; there’s no way of comprehending the reality of sudden life changes until they actually happen to you.

I certainly don't pretend to be a guru of these things, but I have learned some lessons along the way, and one of them is this:

Security is a sham.
The capitalist notions of collateral and planning never work out, no matter how disciplined you are. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.

So how can you cope? Keep things simple. By simplifying, you cut your potential losses should your house be ravaged by fire, earthquake, flooding, or any other situation that causes you to lose it.

Best of all, a simpler life is easier to rebuild.

Read if you want to start:

30 Ways to Make Your Life Simple


Achieving lightness and simplicity is an ongoing struggle. It
really is. There are days when I wake up just WANTING to BUY MAJOR THINGS for no particular reason. I want to buy another property. I want another car. I want a bigger office. Now.


I am still learning to restrain myself - to breathe and really think before I leap. I ask: Will this thing /idea just weigh me down and make it harder to start over should circumstances force me to shift gears?

If it will, then I dismiss it.

However, I still spend serious money on foreign travel. Even though I am now stuff-averse, I still purchase experiences, which often cost more than physical possessions.

Does this make me a materialist?

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