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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

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
(Image Courtesy of

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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

PREVIOUS Post - Short Shorts
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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

PREVIOUS Post - Major Oh
NEXT Post - Forward March
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Major Oh

Posted by Mariel on Thursday, September 17, 2009 0 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

NEXT Post - Short Shorts
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Don't stop believing."

Posted by Mariel on Wednesday, September 02, 2009 0 comments
With Journey lead singer, Arnel Pineda and drummer, Deen Castronovo, in the background.

My recent errand trip to New York was highlighted by two events:

1) The Journey performance outside the CBS studios and

2) A last-minute showing of The September Issue, starring Anna Wintour herself, Grace Coddington, and the rest of the American Vogue posse.

Both were unexpected and proved be pleasant, wonderful, and immensely entertaining. And for the former: inspiring.

I blogged earlier this year about lead singer Arnel Pineda's meteoric and fairy tale-like rise to fame, having been discovered by Journey founder and guitarist, Neal Schon, one late night on YouTube. The rest was awesome music history and in the past year and a half or so, Arnel has been touring the world with his favorite band. (Read my Hiatus post here.)

While Journey and Steve Perry songs like Open Arms and Foolish Heart never waned in terms of airplay in the Philippines (hop on any taxi or bus and you're likely to hear either one), in the U.S., the band has enjoyed a career renaissance of sorts when The Sopranos ended the series with that cliffhanger diner scene and played the band's 1981 hit, Don't Stop Believin—a song that has also become a mainstay in the New York club and karaoke scene.

It was so nice to watch Arnel and the band live and literally soak in (it was drizzling) the happy, energetic vibe. If there's one inspiration story to cap this series, it's Arnel's: He represents 40 years of hard work, faith, and persistence—from humble beginnings down to finding refuge and success in music. I especially loved the sincerity and sense of gratitude he exuded onstage. He just seemed so kind, lighthearted, and happy—qualities to strive for on a daily basis. It was truly a treat to be amidst the crowd on that rainy New York Friday.

So that wraps up my Inspiration Series. I do have some more inspiration-themed posts planned along the way. Meanwhile, here's the trailer of The September Issue. Enjoy!

(The September Issue photo courtesy of

From my "Hiatus" post:

(7:18 will make you cry: "[My mother] taught me to fight the world
when it's just not too kind on you.")

DAY 7 of the Inspiration Series
DAY 6 - "Go in peace."
DAY 5 - "Take the plunge."
DAY 4 - "I have all I need."
DAY 3 - "Just wait for it."
DAY 2 - "You're a kind soul."
DAY 1 - "It smells like God."
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