Click on the image to read from the first day of my 30-day Blog Challenge. Enjoy!

The Inspiration Series

Seven blog posts that warm the heart and inspire.

The Cosmo Series

16 blog posts from my guest-blogging stint at the new and improved

Monday, October 26, 2009

Finding Your Passion

Posted by Mariel on Monday, October 26, 2009 3 comments
I once read before that what you were when you were 7 is what you’re likely to turn out to be when you’re a grownup.

Looking back, the things I did during playtime and countless afternoons were activities I eventually made careers out of.

If you’re hitting some on-the-job roadblocks and feel like it’s time to branch out, perhaps all you have to do is look back on those summers you spent as a child. What appealed to you the most? What made you look forward to those days without school? Or what subject in school was your ultimate favorite throughout your academic life? You’ll be surprised to put two and two together and come up with a promising and potentially perfect career mix.

Here’s my own trip down memory lane, plus some realizations along the way.

Makeup and Playing Dress-up

When I was little, maybe around 3, my mom gave me a small green shoebox filled with old lipsticks and other makeup she no longer used. Around that time, I’d also successfully bitten my aunt’s strawberry Chapstick and discovered that how it smelled and lingered on one’s lips wasn’t necessarily how it tasted once you’ve chewed a chunk of it.

Eventually, at 7 or 8, when my parents were out working, I spent afternoons rummaging through my mom’s closet trying out her Splash Cucumber astringent and Mary Quant mascara. I also wore her high heels and oftentimes wrapped a blanket around me pretending to be a Miss Universe contestant. (My cousin and I loved doing this. That year, Miss Thailand won, and we both wanted to be her. So in our version of the pageant, the commentator would say, “And the winners are, Miss Thailand 1 and Miss Thailand 2!”)

Working in magazines was not unlike all of that. I got to wear a lot of makeup—and also put it on other people—and play dress-up, and got paid for it(!).Who would’ve thought?

Cooking and Baking

In the 80s, my aunt had a flourishing baking business wherein she made beautiful birthday cakes and formed them into famous cartoon characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all those cool caricatures from that time. She was also known for her araro [cornstarch cookies] and Sans Rival, and at some point, she sold egg pan de sal from her home bakery.

I used to spend plenty of summers and weekends in her shop. In retrospect, I’m surprised at how generous she was that she just let me tinker about. I had free reign on the sheet pans, candy thermometer, and powdered sugar, and I even made my own frosting using Anchor Butter, like there was an unending supply of it. I also learned early on the difference between butter and shortening, a.k.a., vegetable lard (the latter is gross).

Fast-forward 20+ years and I’m wielding my own electric mixer, sifting flour, and making my own sweet treats in the kitchen—going through sticks and sticks of good butter. It’s a delightfully decadent example of history repeating itself.

Reading and Writing

Growing up, I was only allowed to watch TV on Thursdays—that was when Okey Ka Fairy Ko aired—and on weekends. So I spent many quiet nights reading and going through children’s encyclopedias and fairy tale books to my heart’s content (my dad also owned bookstores back then).

With all that reading came writing. My earliest memory of being ‘published’ was in second grade, when I wrote a poem(?) for Mother’s Day that came out in the school paper. I still vividly remember because that was the only time I didn’t spend my 10-peso allowance for a day (or two) so I could buy my mom this red-orange lipstick from the store beside my school.

As the years went by, writing and reading have been mainstays in my chosen career path. When I got a copy editing job at a famous fashion retailer in New York, I was stoked: What could be better than reading all day while getting to look at beautiful clothes in the process? When I had that job, I also did my writing projects at night. To me that was the perfect work balance doing both the things I loved to do.

These days, I still try to maintain that equilibrium of doing the things I enjoy and, even if it’s sometimes literally just pennies, earn an income in the process. Like my dad said (and that I always repeat), “Do something you love to do and the money will follow.”

Drawing and the Arts

Now, I’ve never really fancied myself a drawer. I’ve carried what I call ‘drawing guilt’ ever since that summer when I was about 8 and my mother got me a portrait sketching book. I got impatient following the steps, so I traced the faces. When my parents got home that day, my mother kept on raving about how talented I was and how marvelous my drawings were. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I cheated.

So all my life, I simply assumed that ‘art’ wasn’t really my thing or calling. After all, I’d worked with so many amazingly talented artists and art directors and there was no way my stick drawings could have been up to par with what they produced.

When I got into makeup artistry, I did wonder why I was able to shade people’s faces, but was still ultimately clueless when it came to sketching and drawing. I figured, I probably just had to take up an art class to learn technical skills.

It wasn’t until years after that I would find out from a ‘real’ artist that tracing was actually a start, and that it was perfectly okay! So instead of feeling guilty about tracing those portraits, I could’ve persisted and become really good at drawing. Oh well.

My mother recently cleared her storage room and unearthed some ‘paintings’ (I really am uncomfortable with the whole artsy-fartsy thing in relation to myself) I did when my little brother was younger and had this kid easel set up in the living room. When I saw them, I was surprised: They actually looked better than what I remembered. So maybe I could pick up ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ as sensible hobbies after all, without being embarrassed or feeling pretentious, and maybe someday, no longer underestimate my art skills.

I’m not saying I’m going to ditch everything and live in the woods to take up painting full-time, or anything extreme like that. What I do want to do is get to know other tools—I am now absolutely curious about Adobe Illustrator—that could further hone any skill I may (or may not) have. If I now draw like a 5-year-old, maybe 10 years from now I’ll start drawing like a 20-year-old, and so forth.

My ‘art’ skills may never catch up to my real age, but I’m only happy to explore.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 16th of 16 posts also published at

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seven Easy Ways to Stay Slim

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 0 comments
No pressure: Find an easy, breezy food and fitness combo that works for you.

Ever since that year I’d uncannily gained 15 extra pounds (it took a year to shed them), I thought I’d completely resolved my body issues and have learned to be happy with what I weighed. Because when I did get fat, only then did I realize I was thin before after all.

Except that from time to time, I still get bothered by superficial concerns like how my belly spills over my jeans, or how my already chubby cheeks have become more pronounced in the last few years.

I understand with women, it’s a constant struggle to accept and appreciate—or even love—what we were born with, all the physiological facets and contours that make each form unique.

I’ve picked up some strategies throughout the years to help combat the body blahs, whether it’s that puson [paunch] that makes you look pregnant, or those stubborn five pounds that seem more noticeable during that time of the month. I’ve learned to turn to them whenever I need a nudge or just overall accept the present and, as much as I would like to look (and weigh) like my 22-year-old self, my priority these days should be to be healthy and enjoy life and its multitude of culinary delights. And if you’re lazy like me, scanning—and following—these tips should be a piece of cake.

1. Start Small

I was a former athlete and I now live a sedentary life. And the thought of exercising just makes me want to be even more sedentary. I bet this is a common dilemma. My solution is to start really small: as in something so miniscule and seemingly irrelevant that it doesn’t put pressure on you to charge full steam ahead in terms of going to the gym and getting on the fitness bandwagon.

The other day I decided to get on a treadmill for exactly five minutes. That's right: five minutes of leisurely walking, no more, no less. I was literally still in my sleepwear and just slipped on my rubber shoes.

It doesn't even have to be a treadmill: you could grab a jump rope, do one push-up here, a crunch there. As the days go by and at your own pace, add little increments to your routine of choice. Before you know it, five minutes on the treadmill becomes seven, and then 10; one crunch and push-up becomes a set of 12. And surprise! You're actually…working out!

But if you’re still not ready to get off the couch just yet, skip to the next step…

2. Make Like The French

I had a Parisian colleague who stayed thin throughout the time I’d worked with her. And no, she didn’t obsess about what she ate or how often she exercised. In fact, she signed up for the company gym but only ended up going once a month. She would eat a croissant for breakfast at her desk daily, and almost everyday, she and I went to the same lunch buffet line in the cafeteria. One time, she even invited me to her apartment to dinner where she made pasta with cream and salad, which we enjoyed with glasses of wine and hunks of bread.

I know genetics plays a big part in how our body morphs (or dismorphs), but what I noticed with the French (at least from this one person I’d befriended) is that they eat in moderation and enjoy exquisite things and aren’t likely to binge on them. They have cheese with every meal, but not slabs of it. They have dessert with lunch, but not the whole cake. Realizing—and then copying—this manner of eating, I noticed that I rarely feel deprived (or worse: guilty) for indulging.

So if you’re craving for ice cream and cake, don’t skimp by going low-fat or diet. Get the real thing and don’t torture yourself into thinking that you’re never ever going to have more of it afterwards. Just feel welcome and entitled to the food you love to eat. You’ll be surprised that this tactic actually makes you eat less.

3. Take It From Chin-Chin

I met the actress, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, at a shoot a few years ago. Both vegetarians at the time (I now eat chicken; I think she’s still vegetarian), we got to talking about food and nutrition. She mentioned a particular sequence of eating and a theory that made sense and to this day I still try to follow: She said to start a meal with something raw, like fresh fruit or a crisp salad. Since these are natural products, our bodies recognize them easily and our stomachs produce enzymes that help digest food and whatever comes next in the meal.

That versus the usual way of eating something hot and cooked, and having fruit for dessert. From what I remember, this is how she explained it: “The hot meal has already been processed so it ‘surprises’ your belly. So by the time you introduce fruit for dessert, the enzymes go into overdrive and that’s when you get gas.

Again, this is just a theory, but I like the idea of prepping your belly to digest food more efficiently (and well, yes, have less gas in the process).

4. A Little Green Tea (Goes A Long Way)

I’ve heard before that Oprah was a staunch believer in the metabolism-boosting benefits of green tea. And I’ve seen people lose weight from taking concentrated green tea supplements. Now, I’m averse to anything in pill form unless it’s Claritin, Tempra, or Vitamin C, so freshly-brewed green tea is fine by me.

I actually started drinking tea not because of Oprah or those people who have lost weight, but rather, I quit going to Starbucks that year I started paying rent. I had to improvise and budget my money strategically, so home- (or office) made green tea it was for me.

Since I also happen to love dessert, I try to make it a point to wash it all down with tea—hot or cold, with little or no sugar especially when I’m already eating something sweet. I go as far as carry my own packets for when I’m being a cheapskate and just order hot water in restaurants.

5. Look Up!

Just like those ballerinas and dancers: It’s all about posture and form. Standing tall gives the illusion of a leaner, longer body. So if you find yourself staring at your belly, that means you’re not holding your head up high and you’re most likely slouching. Remember: It’s also about confidence. And the neatest part about confidence is that you can "fake it ’til you make it."

6. The Abs Diet

Some people have found fitness success in the South Beach Diet, or even Atkins. Personally, these programs have failed for me for the sole reason that they require one to give up sugar (and carbohydrates) for the first two weeks.

Now, I live and breathe sugar. Not a day goes by when I don't have a piece of chocolate or anything sweet. During previous Lenten Seasons, I chose to abstain from dessert or chocolate on Fridays, only to find myself waiting for midnight to have a piece of chocolate. I know it defeats the whole purpose of sacrificing and abstaining from something. But you get the drift.

Anyway, what worked for me that year I gained all that weight (that I still try to follow to this day) was the Abs Diet [Rodale] by US Men's Health editor, David Zinczenko. I went straight for the spin-off book, Eat Right Every Time Guide, because it was so small and undaunting. But boy, was it a treasure trove of easy, practical information that has helped keep the weight off, give or take a few pounds.

What I love about the Abs Diet is that it isn't really a ‘diet,’ but more of a lifestyle program that tells you what you have to eat MORE of, not the other way around, as in the case of other eating plans. The core of the program is the ABS DIET POWER 12, which stands for:

Almonds and other nuts
Beans and legumes
Spinach and other green vegetables

airy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)
Turkey and other lean meats

Peanut butter
Olive oil
Whole grain breads and cereals
Extra-protein (whey) powder
Raspberries and other berries

You only read the book once and you're pretty much set. No need to count calories or remember certain carbohydrates that are allowed or not allowed. Just eat often (Zinczenko recommends six times a day) and sensibly from the list above. Easy, right?

The small book also discusses fastfood options for when you’re on the go, plus easy MICROWAVEABLE breakfasts you can take with you to work or for those hectic days when the last thing you want to think about is your diet. After all, diet culprits are triggered by those hunger pangs when you can't think straight that you just reach for the next sugar bomb or grease grenade to quell the hunger…or mindlessly chow down lunch in front of the computer.

Zinczenko also addresses the issue of belly fat in the book (as the title suggests). “[This] is the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s because belly fat often comprises both subcutaneous fat (fat that’s under your skin) and visceral fat (fat that lies beneath your stomach muscles, snug up against your internal organs). It’s this second type, visceral fat, which can cause some long-term harm,” he explains.

“In one report, researchers concluded that visceral fat is the single-best predictor of diabetes.” Other studies also link that extra fat on your midsection as an indicator for high cholesterol and heart problems down the line. “Shedding fat from your frame is essential to living long and healthy,” says Zinczenko. So beware.

Anyway, if that doesn’t get you picking up the Abs Diet, just know that on it, you get to eat ice cream(!) AND lose weight at the same time! Not kidding.

7. Celebrate The Non-negotiables

Now, back to genetics: there are some things you can’t change unless you’re willing to go through the hassle of plastic surgery. In my case, I’ve always had a belly and paunch, even way back in high school when I only weighed as much Nicole Richie. The puson is just in the family.

It has crossed my mind several times to get liposuction (or mesotherapy injections), even on my cheeks or arms. But then again, I know that after lipo, the fat you do accumulate could show up in really odd places—like the armpits. I don’t think I’m ready to hop on that roller coaster. Plus, over the summer I’ve had some lumps on my breasts surgically removed; it wasn’t the most delightful experience and I promised I’d never ever go through surgery for the sake of vanity: It’s just not worth the pain and stress for me.

Besides, understanding your own unique contours and lovely lady parts makes fashion a more enjoyable undertaking full of promising surprises. Can you imagine what fun it is to find the perfect floral dress that accentuates your curves, or that skirt that emphasizes your behind in the most flattering of ways? If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, I suggest splurging on a new wardrobe instead and a night on the town with your best girlfriends. (And don’t forget the cake!)

Disclaimer: Before trying any new diet, eating plan, or exercise regimen, consult with your physician.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 15th of 16 posts also published at

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Posted by Mariel on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 1 comments
Easy, cheesy goodness

Over at my blog,, at least half of my posts are food-related. I can't help it: While I've never gone to chef school or anything fabulous like that (it's still a distant dream of mine to be able to attend the French Culinary Institute in New York City...on full scholarship), food—and the creation of food—is very close to my heart. Ever since I'd put two and two together that it's cheaper and immensely enjoyable to go to the supermarket and whip up my own fare, the kitchen has been one of my favorite places to be in.

When I’m not watching Giada de Laurentiis or Ina Garten whip yummy, yummy things—I, of course, am only too happy to copy—on Food Network, I'm online checking out Alton Brown's Good Eats episodes.

I got the perfect grilled cheese recipe from one of these YouTube uploads. Basically, it shows you how to spread dijon mustard on a slice of bread (just on one side), grate cheese over it, add salt and pepper, cover it with another slice, and then press onto two hot, lightly-buttered pans.

If you happen to own a panini press, I suggest we become friends.

I've made mine using a sandok, pressing the sandwich down as flat as I could with a big peppermill on top of the utensil (you can also use a big can of corn to do this) and flipping the sandwich back and forth—like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada wherein Adrian Grenier’s character is standing by the stove, making a Jarlsberg cheese sandwich.

I usually accompany my sandwiches with a big pile of Nacho Cheese Doritos, but this time, I've 'kicked it up a notch' by lightly oiling a small bowl, grating fresh parmesan cheese over the bottom—forming a circle of cheese—and microwaving it for about a minute. You'll know it's done when the kitchen smells funky. What you end up with is this crispy, delicious, knock-your-socks-off accompaniment to a classic, comforting grilled cheese sandwich.

Finish this off with an icy glass of iced green tea or lemonade. And for dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with sliced almonds sweetly caps a truly delightful meal (or midnight snack)!

Tell me: What’s your favorite comfort food? What ultimately makes you salivate?

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 14th of 16 posts also published at

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I plan on being a dishwasher

Posted by Mariel on Saturday, October 17, 2009 0 comments
Stylish dishwashing, anyone?

As much as I have big dreams and fantasies of being a prolific writer and novelist who works from home—"home" being either a lavish apartment in an NYC high-rise or a cozy, modern home in the Hamptons, a la my "friend" Ina Garten—I still have to make a living to sustain the lifestyle I want (I have an expensive chocolate habit).

So when my head isn’t above the clouds, my practical side emerges. I am aware that down the line, I might have to take on a second (or third) job that is non-writing-related. Right now, I’m at a comfortable place in terms of reaping some seeds I’ve planted in New York and working on blogging projects. I keep thinking, though, that if I were to apply for another job, it would be that of a dishwasher in a restaurant.

Shocked? Let me explain.

A few years ago, I was talking to a prolific photographer in Manila who specializes in lifestyle, travel, food, and still-life assignments. If you knew him, you would find his demeanor very mild and steady—making him a joy to work with because not only is he a great photographer equipped with tip-top technical skills, he’s also 100% drama-free.

One time, as he was quietly shooting beauty products in the conference room, somebody (was it me?) asked: “[Name of photographer], how come you like shooting products?” This is in light of several shutterbugs opting to do more location-centric fashion and beauty shoots.

“I like shooting products because they don’t talk,” was his answer. “They’re just there.”

I am guessing he meant this literally: Unlike models, stills didn’t require to be tediously prepped, and one needn’t engage in small talk. I liked this line of reasoning.

In relation to my dishwashing dreams, that is the same logic and point applied to this seemingly silly endeavor of mine.

When I first moved to New York and while waiting for my ‘dream job,’ I worked for three months in a Japanese restaurant as a hostess/maitre ’d, ushering hungry patrons to their tables. If I had better dexterity I probably would’ve also applied as a waitress—servers earn way more than hostesses—but I constantly feared breaking glasses or spilling food on the floor, or worse, on people.

Being in the front lines of the resto scene was okay for those months, but I wouldn’t go back again. Nothing against the job (it kept me afloat back then), but I believe I’ve had my fill of hungry, irate people who needed a table NOW!

I figure, if I were a dishwasher at the very back of the kitchen…

  1. I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody other than my boss, who will just probably ask me about my shift schedule.

  2. I don’t think one would have to deal with office politics in the business of dishwashing. It’s a clearly autonomous job description with simple job requirements.

  3. I wouldn’t have to dress up for work. I can roll out of bed, wear whatever, and be ready in no time.

  4. It’s going to be like a multi-hour facial. Have you seen those industrial-type dishwashing stations? They’re steaming hot! (I’ll just have to make sure to bring a face mask, as I don’t want to inhale all the toxic detergent fumes.)

  5. Most importantly: I’ll still be able to write when I get home. After all, many of my articles have been borne out of times I had been staring out the window, doing the dishes, and tinkering about in the kitchen.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 13th of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Working Happy: To Each Her Own

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 0 comments
What's your work forecast?

My college (and early work life) ex who remains a good friend once used to find it funny and amusing that I wanted to be a journalist...but only for happy news. We used to joke that, in the event I became a broadcaster, my segment would start like this:

"And now, for the good news..."

Little did I know then that I would eventually work as a beauty editor—a job which was as close as I could get to being a bearer of sparkly-happy updates. What better way can one be positively entertained and willingly distracted than by perusing beautiful baubles of perfume bottles or marvelous palettes of face paint?

While working in a magazine was stressful especially during tight, back-to-back deadlines—and when it comes to the nitty-gritty, an editor’s life isn’t as 100% glamorous as it seems (fashion editors are expert plantsadoras behind the scenes)—it was a unique career path. For many years, I had a hard time explaining what exactly I did because it was a bit challenging to discuss the minute details of what goes on behind the pages, and not to mention incredibly boring once you get past the sparkle (we got used to disappointed interns).

But overall, I did get what I wanted: I had a HAPPY job. I reckoned, my way of being charitable, helping people, and contributing to the common good was by providing readers with a beautiful, glossy escape. I did tackle (and still do) some not so peppy subjects in my beauty pages and articles like "Breakup Makeup" or "How to Look Pretty After You've Cried Your Eyes Out."

On a drive back from out of town with my cousin-in-law, a neurosurgeon, he and I talked about our work. My memory of the whole conversation is hazy, but I most probably regaled him with stories about how I lugged shampoo bottles to and from shoots, interviewed dermatologists, decoded complicated ‘breakthrough’ ingredients of new skincare products, etc.

But what I do remember is this: at some point, he said, "I understand now that what you do isn't necessarily 'less' than what a doctor or engineer does. Same goes for janitors and other blue collar employees. Each one has to do their job, because all these jobs contribute to the whole of society.”

Not verbatim, but in essence: “When one does a good job, it propels everyone forward.”

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 12th of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation and Columbia Pictures)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Clutter-free Life

Posted by Mariel on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 0 comments
When I decided to finally move abroad, I had to tackle eight years’ worth of belongings back at my old apartment. This included trinkets and mementos from high school, stacked notebooks from college, and paper calendars, photos, and cards collected over time. Not included here are shoes, clothes, handbags, and accessories amassed from working all those years as a magazine editor.

It also didn’t help that I was a classic hoarder and easily found sentimental value in anything and everything.

A few months before I’d planned to leave, I was walking out of Mall of Asia from a lunch event and passed through National Bookstore to get to the exit. And then this book called out to me: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh [FREE PRESS/Simon & Schuster]. In bright tangerine, its cover wasn’t hard to miss. Immediately I picked it up and impulse-bought into “An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.”

And boy-oh-boy was this book life-changing! (It’s also one of my favorite books to date.) Not only did it help make sense out of letting go of things I’ve collected, it also de-mystified my age-long struggle with hoarding. Walsh, a professional organizer and host of TLC’s Clean Sweep, shares a systematic approach to getting rid of emotional and physical clutter so that one can create a happier, more stress-free home and life.

Clutter stops us from living in the present,” says Walsh. “The future is important. But you have to consider the quality of your life today and strike a balance between the life you are living today and the multitude of possible paths your life may take in the future.”

This means, say, you find a little black dress you love but doesn’t fit, don’t buy just because you may (or may not) lose weight in the future. Same goes for those jeans you’ve had in first year college that you’re still hoping to fit into “someday.”

The clutter somehow becomes a life raft for all the ‘just in cases’ we can imagine,” explains Walsh.

Other than the I-might-need-it-one-day excuse, the book lists other excuses we make for keeping things we don’t need around in our homes, work desks, and anywhere there is space. Walsh also walks the reader through each room, sharing tips and strategies for establishing zones, determining function, and dealing with sentimental objects you do want to keep: giving them places of honor in your home and not somewhere gathering dust.

For example, if you’ve inherited heirloom pieces from a loved one, don’t keep them stashed, forgotten in boxes. Instead, start using them already or put them up in display shelves. “You can’t own everything so you have to pick and choose,” says Walsh. The value you say an item holds for you must be reflected in the place you give that item in your life, otherwise your words have no meaning and the object is little more than clutter.”

As for unused ‘special’ plates and kubyertos sitting pretty in dining room cabinets, here’s what Walsh has to say on the subject (you might want to clue Mom in on this):

“If you have formal china, do you guard it as if it were a national treasure? China can be expensive and beautiful, but what’s the point of owning it if you never use it? This is not to say that you should serve your three-year-old hot dogs on a Royal Copenhagen platter, but please try to use and enjoy it.”

One of the memorable sections in the book is the quiz, “How Clutter Free Are You?” When I first took it more than two years ago, I turned out to be a “Hard-core Hoarder.” Yikes.

While writing this blog post I went through the questions again. And I’m happy to say that I’m now in between “Clutter Victim” and “Clutter Free”—a huge leap from the hoarder that I was years ago.

True, even if I still hold on to precious trinkets, gadgets, and mementos here and there, and haven’t followed Walsh’s advice to the letter, plenty of the things I’d picked up from his book have afforded me a more mobile lifestyle mostly free of useless clutter to lug around.

(And just so all of you know, I’m never ever going to get rid of my seven-year-old iBook in the event that it finally conks out for real in the future. I reckon, it would still make for a lovely, shiny white paper weight.)

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 11th of 16 posts also published at

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Monday, October 12, 2009

On Blooming Late

Posted by Mariel on Monday, October 12, 2009 0 comments
I’ve accepted that I’m one of those people who experience things at a slower pace and learn via a more languid approach. I tend to take my time growing into things, and getting familiar with my situation and surroundings. It doesn’t help that I’m slow to move in the morning. That’s why I find it very convenient that I no longer have to make a mad dash for the train doors before they close, and that I have, for the time being, traded my stilettos for fluffy bedroom slippers. My “office” is now wherever I can connect to the internet.

In terms of being a late bloomer, I can list so many examples showing why I’ve taken this description to heart, and here are a few:

I got my first kiss and first boyfriend at 20, an age where most girls are touching bases and hitting homeruns in the XOXO department.

Of the seven girls in my high school barkada, all have gotten married ahead of me, and my own nuptials are about two years away from the last girl’s I do’s. She now has two babies. I reckon I am going to be the last to bear children as well; probably when my friends’ kids’ are in high school is my wild guess.

Back when I did Taekwondo, most of my teammates got their black belts within two years. I (finally) got mine by the fourth year.

• In terms of writing, my former boss gave herself a deadline of one year to finish her second novel. I’ve been working on my own manuscript for years, with plenty of pit stops along the way. And just when I thought I’d finished, it turns out I need to overhaul the whole thing. So far, I’ve spent the past couple of months paying closer attention to the delicate and intricate mix of plot, conflict, and resolution, and making sure I have a better understanding of how to incorporate the three to make for a compelling story. Ask me where I am now in terms of editing and rewriting? Chapter 3.

Sometimes I get frustrated with myself. But most of the time, honestly, I’m okay with it. If stretching things out over time is the best way for me to learn and understand life, slow be it.

I was reading O, The Oprah Magazine wherein the famous talk show host had recently interviewed Jay-Z (The O Interview; “Oprah Talks to Jay-Z”; October 2009; p.184). In it, the rapper, entrepreneur, and music producer listed his favorite books. Among them was Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

“This book is about the principles of timing and repetition—about preparing yourself for luck, really,” Jay-Z shares. “[The author] talks about a hockey team, and how the players born in January had a year up on the guys born in December.”

At this point, I cringe and get a bit worried: My birthday is in December. I think to myself, So is Jay-Z saying I’ll never really be successful simply because of my birth month? I keep reading. “They were fortunate that their birthday was early, but they also practiced—they put the work in.”

Whew! Reading further, I discover Jay-Z’s birthday is also in December. Double whew!

So the point, after all, is the amount and quality of work one puts in. I now realize, I may be slow, but I get a kick out of being productive. True, I make a ‘Today to-do’ checklist for Monday and actually end up ticking everything off by Thursday, but at least when I look back on the sheet after some time, I know I’ve crossed everything out—I’ve done what had to be done and have tangible results to show for my efforts.

And by then, the pace by which I’d finished, experienced, and accomplished something no longer matters.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, 10th of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of stock.xchng®)

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

No-nonsense Career Advice

Posted by Mariel on Sunday, October 11, 2009 1 comments
Be more than her coffee-runner.

When it comes to dishing career advice, I’d be the first to tell you that I may not be the right person to listen to. After all, in the span of two years, I’d managed to hold three jobs and leave/lose all of them within the same time frame for varying reasons I won’t expound on in this entry. So why even offer any semblance of career therapy, right?

But then again, those three jobs were all in New York City, the most demanding marketplace in the world, I believe. And over the last two years, I’ve corresponded with close to a hundred contacts and gone to several job interviews (I’ve lost count). So if honest-to-goodness career realizations are what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

Before my Big Apple roller coaster ride, I worked in the same company (Summit Media!) for close to seven years straight, working for different titles and enjoying steady and marvelous growth. When I moved abroad, I noticed a totally different work scenario from what I was accustomed to. But along with culture shock, I also discovered common denominators and tips that work across the board and level the playing field somewhat. Here are some useful on-the-job notes:

1. Be brave and visible.

In my early days as an editorial assistant, I worked in my own bubble, within my own team, not really being aware of my surroundings and anything remotely close to the structure and hierarchy of the company. True, I knew who our big boss was, but I was so shy and self-conscious that whenever I would bump into her, I would scurry away with nary a ‘Hello.’

After two years of being E.A. and noticing chirpier contemporaries advance to higher editorial positions, I got fidgety and began to reflect on what I was doing wrong.

The first thing I noticed was I wasn’t dressing for the position I wanted. And that’s basic Career Advice 101. So I started getting polished and prepped for work everyday.
Little things like wearing skirts more often, putting on makeup, or choosing work-appropriate footwear (in the magazine world this meant donning a little heel).

I also started saying ‘Hi!’ to our boss whenever I’d see her in the hallway, and gathered the guts to approach her for certain things I needed at work. She’s actually a really nice woman and I was intimidating myself unnecessarily.

I realized that this strategy worked on my fourth year on the job, when I was finally an editor. We were at a lunch event and our big boss introduced me to one of our major advertisers.

"This is Mariel and she’s the beauty editor of Seventeen." She looked at me and said, "You’ve been with us for, what, two years?"

I smiled and politely replied, "Oh, actually, four." It was a memorable lunch because then I knew my career ‘tweak’ paid off: I was no longer the ‘invisible’ employee. It had been two years since my light bulb moment, when I decided to take concrete steps in becoming the editor I wanted to be and getting over my ‘authority shyness.’

I’m not saying you should be obnoxious and act like you’re campaigning for office at work; on the flipside, that can annoy people who can be integral to your growth. The point is, getting to know people and observing structures outside your area of expertise can help you become a more well-rounded asset to the company, which down the line opens doors to new and fulfilling opportunities.

2. Get to know your boss.
No, this isn’t a call to cyber-stalk your boss or Google the ends of cyberspace to get the dish on her divorce/annulment or anything creepy like that. (Besides, if you know too much info, it makes for an uncomfortable conversation once he or she eventually warms up to you and starts sharing personal stories.)

A productive way to get to know the person running your department or company is to read any professional material she’s previously produced. If she’s a published author, read her books. If she’s a teacher, look for citations and transcripts in the library, or maybe even her thesis if she’s just recently graduated from college or grad school. Getting to know her this way, outside of work but still work-related, gives you a more enlightened perspective of what to expect and may even give you a glimpse of her business ethic.

When I worked for Hearst Corporation (Cosmo’s parent company in the U.S.), I’d avidly read Basic Black by president Cathie Black, and You On Top by Cosmo editor, Kate White. (Both books are must-read career resources by the way.) As much as I always got star-struck whenever I saw them in the building, having read their books gave me a better sense of the work they did and who they were, which in turn inspired me to keep at what I was doing.

3. Let your boss know what you want.
Informing your immediate superior at what direction you see yourself going is a win-win situation: You save her (or him) time to figure out what to do with you and where to promote you when the time comes for movement; you, on the other hand, come to work everyday confident, knowing you’re headed somewhere.

By my fourth year at Seventeen, I knew I was ready to “graduate” to an older women’s title—like Cosmopolitan. I mentioned this one time to my then boss. It just so happened that within months, a position did open at Cosmo, and the new editor approached my boss to check in and discuss my availability. So by the time the new ed offered me the position, my boss already knew and the transition between the two jobs turned out to be smooth and drama-free.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself working for someone whom you dread having this conversation with, it’s time to reassess if this is the person you want to work for and devote precious hours to. A boss should be open-minded, nurturing, and generous. If your own supervisor is preventing you from advancing in career (and consequently, in life), it may be time to jump ship.

In the workplace, superiors who stop you from pursuing bigger goals and dreaming big are not the types of people you’d want to surround yourself with.

The only time you should ignore this tip is if:

a. Your work is output-based and constant interaction with your immediate boss isn’t a daily requirement. (Meaning, you’ll still be able to do your job and answer to higher-ups whether or not he or she checks in on you.)

b. You absolutely love, love, love your job regardless of who’s manning the wheel and calling the shots. And when push comes to shove, you’re positive that other people in the company can vouch for you.

4. Learn the value of a back-up plan
I actually came across the concept of freelancing early in my magazine career when I learned that our features editor was able to afford a trip to Europe from writing jobs she took on the side.

Just a warning and disclaimer, though, for sidelines: First of all, make sure they don’t interrupt your main job. Second, ideally, you should be able to tell your boss that you have these other things on your plate. If you aren’t comfortable telling her, you might want to reread the previous section.

After I lost my first ‘major’ job in the city, I became very paranoid about not having enough resources in the event anything like that ever happened again. As a result, I tried to be diligent with my weekly newspaper column and kept pursuing other writing and editing revenue streams. So when I found myself (day) jobless the second time around, I knew exactly what to do. Yes I was majorly bummed and depressed, but I didn’t find myself penniless.

Try this exercise: What's the worst thing you can think of happening in your current job? Is it getting laid off? Making a boo-boo that will get you fired? If this happens, what is your plan of action? Once you’ve run this through your head, in the event the unmentionable happens, you’ll be surprised how calm (despite the initial shock) you’ll handle the situation. Call it a dress rehearsal for your emotional well-being.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, ninth of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of Touchstone Pictures)

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Three Types of Men to Avoid

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, October 07, 2009 0 comments
Is the guy you're seeing anything like John Tucker?

Because of my previous post, that nasty lawyer I dated briefly (who broke it off with me via text) crossed my mind again. I realized, while I haven’t been out in a while (I’m getting married to my boyfriend of five years), I could properly categorize chumps that women in the dating scene should steer clear of. I am assuming these warning signals will still hold water for a long time coming. Beware of…

…The "Busy" Big-Shot Flake

I once met Mark* through a group date. (This was around the time after my Blind Date Boo-Boo.) He was a successful finance guy who partied/went to college in Boston, who had a brimming platter of back-to-back activities. I was impressed: I’d never dated anybody so…high profile? My circle at the time consisted of co-writers and editors, struggling artists, and bohemian rockclimbers. Yuppies were like aliens from outer space.

One time he asked me, “What do you spend your money on?” I was baffled—because he meant it on a level of cars, interior design, or maybe even investments. I was a young editor on a young-editor salary. I 'splurged' on Starbucks and shelled out cash for pulled clothing and accessories I wanted to keep, which also explained why I was always broke. Oh yes, and I also paid rent: the concept of which was as alien to him as crunching numbers was foreign to me.

Suffice it to say we became quite fond of each other. I was amused by his world and, with his sheltered upbringing, he was amused by mine (“This is the age of women who drive themselves!” he once exclaimed, referring to my very 'independent' way of living by not having a driver. Okay…) He had so much going on, all these grand plans for himself. He spent Saturdays running big errands, like scouring dealerships deciding on what car to upgrade to or shopping for Scuba gear.

Here’s the catch: He filled up his plate so much that I kind of fell off the menu. He told me he just got carried away at first, but he wasn’t ready for a relationship (we were actually both rebounding from long-term exes).

One Friday night he called to check in and said, “Hey, I’ll call you back in five minutes.”

He called back the next Friday. And then I never heard from him again.

…The Lying Ladies Man

Ah, Raffy*…I’ll never forget him. Why? He was dreadful! But of course it took me almost four months to figure that out. Raffy was the lawyer who swept me off my feet by playing the role of the perfect suitor, and his stories played out perfectly, at least in the beginning.

“How many girlfriends have you had after Elaine*?” I asked.

“Two,” he replied. “[Name of ex-girlfriend #1] and [name of ex-girlfriend #2].”

“Oh, wow.” I’d assumed after getting his college girlfriend, Elaine, knocked up, he had a whole roster of lady loves. Two was quite a conservative number, judging from his reputation of being a Class A flirt.

Naive as I was (and remember, since I shy away from lying, I am quick to assume people around me do the same) I never questioned his stories. Two ghosts of girlfriends past it is, plus the mother of his child. Surely I could handle that.

Despite later on noticing a large circle of women friends, long and intimate phone calls with them—he would promptly put the phone down as I entered the room—and even going as far as seeing him walking around law school side by side with one of these friends(?), I kept dating him. I brought him food and candy during study sessions and practically became his bar exam caretaker.

The thing with us women is that we persist and persevere in an effort to make something work, even if it means putting up with bad behavior, dealing with immense stress, and going against our gut. And for all those months, my gut kept screaming, “No!” Even my beloved, sharp-witted grandmother, who’s never met him, promptly gave him the thumbs down.

Raffy turned out to be stressful to be with, selfish, insecure, hostile, uptight, and not anything like he was during the courtship stage. I always had to take freezing showers at his apartment, because he wouldn't turn on the heater, fearing his electric bill would go up. It didn’t help that the bar exams brought out the worst in him: he yelled at me on the phone and treated me like…gosh, I don’t even remember; the details are lost on me. All I can recall is this general feeling of dreadfulness.

Eventually our relationship deteriorated. Yes, at the very end, via SMS. A few weeks after the ‘breakup’ (we never really got together officially as a couple), I bumped into one of his friends, who assumed we were still seeing each other.

She asked, “Hey, are you coming with us to the beach?”

“Oh, no. Raffy and I aren’t seeing each other anymore,” I answered.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear about that. Did he ever mention that I was his ex-girlfriend?”

“Really? Um, no…” I trailed off, thinking how this girl was definitely not on the two-girlfriends list.

And then I wondered: So how many ‘undeclared’ girls did this guy have? I never really found out.

…The Elusive Drama King

Josh* was absolutely hot. At least that's what I remember from when I first laid eyes on him eons ago. He had the perfect rocker, bad-boy vibe: rugged Doc Martens, pierced ears, and a perma-five o’ clock shadow. He was also smart, diligent, and graduated on time (I didn’t, by the way).

Years later we would actually start hanging out. I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in Josh: We were both relatively ‘weird,’ eloquent with our thoughts and were able to put into words our feelings about the world and music—but unfortunately not our feelings for each other. I could never figure him out. He was just so…elusive.

One time, we went running. While stretching post-workout, he asked:

“Are you hungry?”

I answered, “Yeah…you?”

“Yup. And I’m having dinner at home.”

“Oh, okay. Bye.”

Talk about unpredictable. I thought he was going to suggest grabbing a bite somewhere.

This went on for a couple of weeks. He would call and ask how I was, and then abruptly say goodbye. Or send an SMS, and never reply to any follow up texts.

I finally snapped out of this "Does he like me?" hot-and-cold reverie when I bumped into a hot(ter) model whom I haven’t seen since I’d worked with him at a shoot a few years earlier. We flirted all evening at an event, and exchanged numbers by the end of the night. He promptly text-messaged. But he turned out to have a girlfriend (oops) so we never dated. What I took away from the experience though was that if a guy were into you, he’d show it—CLEARLY. He would even go out on a limb to make you feel like royalty.

Bottomline is, the E.D.K. either likes you but makes you work hard for it; or is conflicted enough to give you mixed signals. You’ll need a lot of pushing, prodding, walking on eggshells... But is that really what you want? I mean, if you enjoy a challenge, why not try Capoeira? Or train for a marathon? A relationship (or the beginnings of one) should be fun, lighthearted, and breezy. If you’re already working so hard now, can you imagine what it’d be like when this guy is actually your boyfriend?

On the flipside, the elusive guy may be acting the way he is because…he’s not into you (you’ve already read this so many times, right?). So move along. As in the case of Josh, he was acting strange and lukewarm because he was actually already seeing somebody else: a married woman whose situation already merited a barrage of drama in his life that I had absolutely nothing to do with! Don’t ask how I found this out; that qualifies for another (embarrassing) Cosmo Confession post.

In retrospect, I’m not bummed by the dating choices I’ve made in the past. In fact, I feel enlightened by these experiences. After all, with every glitch comes a lesson and realization that eventually leads to the right path, and God-willing, the right man.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, eighth of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of

*names have been changed.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Slut...or Not

Posted by Mariel on Monday, October 05, 2009 0 comments
Never judge: The "Samantha" you know may be more like Charlotte.

I know at least three women who have, in the past, been branded “easy” or worse, “slutty” because of either their sexy way of dress or aggressive dating habits (or a quick turnover of dates, for that matter).

But surprise, surprise: These women, at the time these labels were slapped on, were actually VIRGINS, and the first men they've incidentally bedded were either their longtime boyfriends, and/or the men who became their husbands. And all of them have been nothing but faithful. Shocked? It gets even better: The so-called "sluts" are now hardworking career women and mothers living successful married lives. Though their reputation may have preceded them in the past, (someone I knew in college was notorious for getting down and dirty with her boyfriend in the parking lot) they're now cruising life in the fast and fabulous lane. Talk about having the last laugh.

The moral of the story here is, don't all. Whether it's the touchy-feely class flirt or the girl who loves a plunging neckline at work, resist the urge to propagate nasty rumors. It's a total waste of time.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd ever been labeled something horrible. After all, I did work in Cosmo and met gorgeous models. (One time, my cousin’s husband totally freaked and thought I was at a seedy nightclub when he saw me on TV at a Bachelor Bash! I had to explain that it was, um, work.) But I guess when it comes to these things, the recipient of a shameful moniker can never really find out the full extent of her reputation. I’d like to think I've kept a good one throughout the years, but again, I’ll never know, right?

What I do know is that in those years I spent being single and meeting different kinds of guys, my dates all ended with dessert of the wholesome kind and me driving myself home—alone. I think that was the ironic side of having my own space early on; I became more discerning (bordering on paranoid—my apartment was tiny yet you needed to go through two locked doors to get to my bedroom door) of the people I invited over.

I once did bring a dreadful lawyer home who kept insulting my place for being a fire hazard and for not having air-conditioning at the time. Like fungi, he didn’t stay—in my home and in my life—for very long.

I love how my friend, Frances, takes it all in stride when it comes to pointless tittle-tattle:

Gossip is evil and you truly cannot do anything about it. If you protest, it will fuel it. And they'll never believe you anyway.”

She adds, “If all the gossip I heard about me were true, I'd have lost my virginity to 30 boys at varying times, been many times pregnant, had them all aborted, stole at least 50 boyfriends, and have had tons of bastards, too. Incredible. My life is such an open book…And yet, nasty false rumors like those surface again and again.”

“[On another note,] only very important people get gossiped about. It's dumb consolation but it's true.”

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, seventh of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Truth And Nothing But

Posted by Mariel on Sunday, October 04, 2009 0 comments
In the new movie, The Invention of Lying, people live in a world where everybody tells the truth.

Up until I reached freshman year in high school, I didn't make a big deal out of white lies, or lying in general. Growing up, I watched people fib about random, silly things, so I found myself also stretching the truth here and there.

That came to a halt when I was 11. (Yes, I was a very young high schooler.) We were at my friend Mia's house when one of the girls called me out on a white lie. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was exactly: It was so in-passing and probably an exaggeration of tween proportions, perhaps like how one's little sister would exaggerate, "My mother bought me these sparkly blue shoes and they had real diamonds!"

What I do remember to this day is that our friend Dawn said jokingly, but meaningfully, something to the effect of:

"Hey, that's bad. Lying is wrong."

I don't remember her exact words; after all, that was 18 years ago (she may have also pointed out to me that lying was a sin). But I got reminded that lies, no matter how 'small,' were just not right.

From then on I quit lying, cold turkey. Except when I was 13 and told a guy I went to a different school. Other than that, I don't remember a distinct moment wherein I'd purposely spoken an untruth. Or if I did, it was probably one of those things when you're filling out a form and it asks you for your annual income and you don't really know so you just round off some number off the top of your head; or if a creepy person asks what your name is and you say something else. That kind of stuff.

In the years that followed, I became this straightforward—at times to the point of tactless—frank, and transparent individual. Some of my teachers also called me out on this. My first boss nicknamed me The Truth Serum.

It's true, though (and for sure you've already heard this before): The truth is just easier to remember than a string of lies.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, sixth of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Back-to-Back Boo-boos

Posted by Mariel on Saturday, October 03, 2009 0 comments
[Note: This is one of my favorite posts so far. In it are three "Oops!" moments that happened different times. While preparing this a few weeks ago, I realized I had SO MANY boo-boos enough to do a blogging series. So I might do just that once I'm done with my guest-blogging stint at Cosmo. Meanwhile, enjoy this post! Hope it makes you laugh like I did while writing it :)]

Speaking of setbacks, what comes to mind next are boo-boos. You know, the kind that leave you dumbfounded and embarrassed beyond words (and if you say anything afterwards, it gets even worse).

I couldn't help but chuckle when I read Cosmo staffer Beam Mariano's post, "Keeping Things to Myself," wherein she talks about embarrassing herself at a recent shoot with a famous model. I could totally relate: I've had my share of mortifying moments, so many that I can't recall all of them.

Like her, I tend to constantly embarrass myself around people.

To this day I'm still learning how to deal with boo-boos. I wish I could say that once you've had several, it's easier to get past any that follow. Unfortunately, each one is so unique, and you never know what to expect or how to make light of every situation. The best strategy, therefore, is to move on and have a good laugh, and hopefully develop the pulse to distinguish when to speak up and when to keep mum.

I'm more inclined to speak my mind and that's why I've managed to put my foot in my mouth many, many times. Here are some memorable ones. Brace yourself.

The Blind Date

When Cosmo started a blind date section years ago, then editor Myrza Sison asked me to participate in exchange for a fun night out with free dinner and dessert. I gladly obliged—I didn't mind meeting this new person (I was fresh out of a breakup) and was friends with the photographer who was going to follow us around on our date. The guy turned out to be nice, well-mannered, and cute. In the car, we exchanged info on our work, likes and dislikes, and so forth. I kept saying "I looove dessert. I love dessert so much that I gave up meat so I could eat more of it."

We had a great dinner, and when it was time to order dessert, he wanted to order an exotic coffee-based cake from the menu. But I insisted on something more homey and sweet: chocolate mousse. He agreed, so we had these lovely morsels served on a plate. Since we were stuffed, we couldn't finish the whole thing so I nudged him to bring it home, to which he politely declined. I kept urging, "Bring it home to your little sister, she'll love it. Here, let me call the waiter." So we bid each other adieu and off he went, clutching a small brown paperbag.

The next day at work, an editor friend asked how the date went. I said it went great, it was more of a shoot than a real blind date, but I had a nice time and dinner. And then she said:

"You know his family owns Red Ribbon, right?"

"What?! I kept going on and on and on about dessert! He must have thought I was nagpaparinig. What if he thinks I wanted gift checks or something?! Oh no...and the chocolate mousse! No wonder he didn't want to bring it home, he must be so sick of chocolate mousse, of all things!"

Resort Retort

I was in a big car with some new friends, who were more like gimik friends at the time so we weren't that close. One of them brought up the idea of going to the beach, and everyone agreed.

"Let's go to Bataan," the guy in the front seat suggested.

"In Montemar?" I asked.


"Oh! I don't want to go there," I said, and continued (in a single breath), "I've been there twice, for shoots. The first time was great, but the second time, the food wasn't that great and the service was bad."

Guess what? Front seat guy turned out to be one of the owners and shareholders of the resort. I think I ended up saying something polite and feeble and palpak like, "Oh, but um, I would still go back if it's with you guys..."

Now, imagine the same scenario, different setting, involving a person whose family produced Blu Skies crackers. And this is what I said before finding out the former:

"Oh, you shouldn't eat Blu Skies crackers. My friend says they contain marine fat, like animal lard, and it's BAD for you."


When I was a teenager, my cousins and I lived in the same house (with their parents) and we were like siblings. My cousin, Jacque—who was more like a big sister—was particularly gorgeous and always had suitors. Her little brother and I benefitted from the gifts her admirers would send over. One evening, as she was getting ready, I was in the dining room eating Otap [a flaky sugary biscuit like Elephant Ears] while waiting for all of us to go out to dinner. Her suitor was also waiting downstairs. While making small talk and munching—obviously enjoying every bite—I exclaimed:

"Oh! You MUST try these! They're Otap from Cebu, they're YUMMY! They're different from regular Otap. Here, try them."

Can you guess the conclusion to this story?:)

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, fifth of 16 posts also published at
(Image courtesy of Universal Pictures)

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Reason for Every Setback

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 0 comments
Elle Woods's heartbreak merited Harvard success.

If there's one quote I've learned to appreciate and live by, it's this:
"There's a reason for every setback."
I cannot begin to enumerate the number of times I've had "Aha!" moments just by realizing this.

My earliest memory of how this meaningfully—or even magically—worked in my life was 10 years ago. I was 19 and an avid climber at a gym near school. While I didn't exactly train everyday, I was a mainstay and felt quite at-home in there. At the time I'd already joined a handful of competitions, and was at a comfortable place.

Every year, the owner of the gym and staff picked a handful members for the national team training pool. The main perk of being part of this team was that one got to climb for free (monthly fees waived) and of course, get the prestige of being part of the group.

I thought I was a shoo-in for a slot until a friend told me I was overlooked, because I didn't exactly workout there everyday. (In retrospect, there was some truth to that; I spent more time having coffee and eating banana bread by the counter than actually scaling walls.)

Another friend got in. Suffice it to say, I was heartbroken. Being told I didn't make the cut for basically not seeming to want to train was insulting, plus, I could really use the free monthly training. I was on a very meager student budget at the time.

Feeling betrayed, I started avoiding that climbing gym altogether. Instead, I went to the other branch, owned by the same people, but the likelihood of seeing them, and other friends who casted their vote, weren't as likely because this other gym was FAR from the one by my school. I probably had to take two kinds of public transportation to get to that place but it was worth it: I could concentrate on climbing, training, and getting stronger.

And train, climb, and get strong I did. I focused on finishing difficult routes, and just kept climbing and climbing and climbing until my body smarted and my hands were as callused as a carpenter's.

During this time at the other gym, I got to partner and train with my friend and mentor, Marie Calica (former beauty editor of Marie Claire Philippines; visit her blog, The Beauty Coach here ).

I climbed my heart out. With Marie, I finished one of the toughest and highest walls there after weeks of training. Eventually, the same owner who gave me the thumbs down, noticed, and finally included me in that branch's roster for the nationals. For some reason the mechanics were different in that gym (there was no free training), but finally, I was part of Team Xxxxx-xx.

The moral of the story is: Diligence, hard work, and persistence always pay off.

It's just ironic that I had to travel miles to get to a place and earn my climbing merits, far away from the homebase. Strange, but worth it.

But here's why this incident is special and major to me. Fast-forward to succeeding events, months and years down the line:

1. Marie opened up the world of fashion and beauty for me. As in the kind that one can make a living out of. That's why I call her my mentor.

2. Marie's sister, Maya, became my first boss at Seventeen, where I interned for four months and eventually got hired as an editorial assistant.

3. I stayed in the magazine for years and eventually became beauty editor. And a freelance makeup artist.

(Take note, Marie is also a full-fledged makeup artist. In the beginning, I got weirded out for wanting to pursue the same thing, but what she said truly touched and encouraged me and warmed my heart: "There's lots of room for everybody." To this day I still maintain that same outlook when people approach me for advice.)

4. Four years after that summer, I became beauty editor of Cosmo! I got to travel the world and fully enjoy life as a magazine editor. At 24.

So you see, if that whole Team Rejection didn't happen, if I never got so heartbroken as to avoid my friends and flee to a faraway place, I would have never had the opportunity to train with a new climbing partner—whose influence extended beyond scaling walls. If it weren't for Marie, I would have never heard about freelance styling, beauty editing, or fashion sitting.

I have other stories to share in relation to finding reason and light in every setback. It would fill too many pages, but if any of you are going through a tough time, or if any recent development doesn't make sense at all, don't fret. This includes losing a job, breaking up with a boyfriend, or discovering a betrayal: It all leads to something wonderful and amazing that will knock your socks off.

Just wait and see.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, fourth of 16 posts also published at
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Forward March

Posted by Mariel on Monday, September 28, 2009 0 comments
"Fashion's not about looking back it's always about looking forward."
—Anna Wintour

I recently watched The September Issue starring the staff of American Vogue. I'm more of a Cosmo girl in terms of dressing fashionably on a relatable, practical scale. But I liked watching Anna Wintour and her team, (particularly Creative Director Grace Coddington) and I liked how the former described the forward-thinking characteristic of fashion.

Sometimes it's too easy to dwell on the past—be it a fashion faux pas, a beauty boo-boo, or even a particular person you've regretted dating. Yet living a charmed and meaningful life involves the ability to pick up the pieces, remember the lessons from every experience, and hopefully move forward armed with an enlightened mind and heart.

Here are three things to take away from the quote above and tips on moving past life's curve balls.

1. When something keeps happening to you, there's something about the situation that you still have to learn.

I realized this from what one of my aunties said back in 2003: the year I notoriously dated guys who kept breaking my heart. During one of my sob sessions (the guy I was dating practically ditched me via text; so much like Carrie and Berger's Post-it breakup) she told me, "Never ever let a guy make you feel that way. Ever!" While looking out the window, a la Sharon Cuneta, complete with raindrops, I realized an important lesson: Guys who were insecure and caused so much stress were NOT worth it. (Eventually I found a steady, laidback, no-hang-ups guy whom I'm marrying next year.)

2. Don't take yourself too seriously.

So what if you wore a baduy outfit? Or showed up with concealer two shades lighter? People around are more than likely to be absorbed in their own mishaps to notice (or remember long enough) yours. I've had my share of many style-sablay moments but have learned to belly up and fake confidence when needed most.

A few years ago I was invited to a beauty event which turned out to be part of the grand opening of Mall of Asia. Cosmetic company executives arrived in business suits, while brand managers and designers wore flowy, flirty dresses. It was a Saturday, so guess what I had on? A white tank and khaki shorts! Thank goodness I had some makeup on, a cute headband, and wore comfy heeled leather sandals. Whew! If I were back in college I would have been mortified (see "Short Shorts" post here). But I reckoned people thought I dressed that way on purpose; which was also true because I'd heard how massive MOA was, so I put on something comfortable I could walk in for hours.

At the end of the day, it all works out. And if it doesn't, tomorrow's another day. So put on a smile—and move along.

3. There's a reason for every setback.

This quote merits a whole blog post altogether because I've witnessed its truth on many, many occasions. But I'll save the details for later. As much as it's ideal to live a "forward-themed" life, sometimes, things don't go as planned or certain disappointments and setbacks emerge. Don't fret. If you look back, notice that when you expected something but didn't get it, you actually ended up with something better. Now that I've started talking about this, I'll dish some examples on my next blog post! So watch this space, Cosmo girls!

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, third of 16 posts also published at

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Short Shorts

Posted by Mariel on Sunday, September 20, 2009 0 comments
I'm so thrilled that shorts have finally climbed the fashion tier and are now considered stylish. I was just browsing "Haven For The Hip And Fashionable Set" at and found it wonderfully refreshing that what I wore in college is now considered in vogue.

You see, being a student in the 90s, I was surrounded by peers who wore button-down tops, designer jeans, and heeled loafers. I, on the other hand, went to class in shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. I know I've gotten flack for this in the past, for my informal way of dress. At one point, one of my guy college orgmates pointed to my outfit—a Sesame Street baby tee borrowed from a roommate, red checker shorts I've had since highshool, and leather Birkenstocks—and said:

"That's what you wore today, like everyday that's what you wear?"

I was embarrassed, but what could I do? That was the time I knew nothing about shopping, and didn't really have the resources to arrive decked to the nines in school. Besides, my outfits were COMFY and I felt my aesthetic made sense.

Another fashion faux pas I remember was wearing a Giordano striped piqué collared tee and pants to a movie premiere, when all the girls were wearing little black dresses. I'll be forever thankful to my friend Henry, the members' committee head, who kept me company during the movie and made me feel at home amidst the sea of slinky semi-formal wear.

It's ironic though, if I wear the exact same outfit today, and then pair it with killer heels and maybe a gold lamé belt, I wouldn't feel a notch self-conscious at all. In fact, I know I'd feel fierce and fasyon (I just read earlier that men's trousers are supposed to be trendy this season; also, I started wearing piqué and collared shirts again last year).

During my magazine years, I came to realize that I tended to overdress because of this underlying fear of being ridiculed for not being outfitted well for any occasion. Eventually I snapped out of this and actually started going to events—and to the office once I found out it was okay—in shorts and easy tops (see Cosmo beauty ed Nicole's cute tank-and-denim combo); of course paired with good footwear and accessories. These days, I'd like to think I've struck a balance between my choices in casual and event wear. I now dress by mood and follow my own fashion(able) pulse.

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, second of 16 posts also published at

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Major Oh

Posted by Mariel on Thursday, September 17, 2009 1 comments

When I joined Cosmo as beauty editor in 2005, I was fresh out of a four-year stint at Seventeen, its sister publication. I had to learn many things, including new luxury brands I didn't work with previously, plus the uncanny nicknames of Cosmo's fun fearless sexy sections.

During one of the first staff meetings I'd attended, nothing struck me out of the ordinary: Like any other planning session, each editor narrated her lineup and story ideas, while the Editor-in-Chief and the rest of the team put in their two-cents worth. After I 'passed' my turn, things started getting fuzzy. One of the editors began to say:

"So for minor sex, are we working on…?"

I paused to make sure I heard right. The other editor continued:

"But for major sex, we're running [name of article]."

I took that as my cue to ask, shyly to boot, "Um, what do you mean by minor and major sex?"

Immediately I was let in on these racy section heads. "Minor sex are the one-page, short features we run on sex and relationships," one of the girls explained. "Major sex are the longer, in-depth features we do, like those four-pagers on how to get the best orgasm, etc." she finished.

"Oh." I muttered feebly. "I see."

The next two and a half years would be filled with many of these 'minor' and 'major' articles. While I mostly kept to the beauty pages, with the occasional essay and travel piece, it was nice working with a dynamic team and on an equally dynamic read filled with not only the hottest hunks and relationship tips, but also tongue-in-cheek, straightforward pieces catering to every Cosmo girl's dilemma—fashion, beauty, food, living…and everything in between—out there.

And now that the mag has revamped its space over the blogosphere, I can only imagine endless fun and fascination with all things wonderful and Oh-inducing!

Part of this month's Cosmo Series, first of 16 posts also published at

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