Introductions, Thoughts

Self Improvement Journals

I started a Summer Self Improvement Journal while I was an undergrad. Years later, after an unprecedented period of writer’s block, I’ve decided to revive them with hopes of finding a balance in the midst of the new aesthetic erupting inside me.

gis do it.jpg
My aesthetic is still in its formation process but -from what I can see- it’s monochromatic, with industrial and natural design elements (a testament to the strength of Kinfolk’s influence on Instagram and YouTube culture which has trickled onto me, despite my never having read the magazine).

It starts with a resolution to contribute every day to:
+ Fitness
+ Art
+ Language : French

These are the basics. I’d also like to do weekly or monthly contributions to cooking, photography, literature, finance, and sewing/fashion.

This Self Improvement Series serves to document my progress, while also providing accountability-derived motivation. I’m not sure how to go about it. I feel like someone learning how to speak human for the first time, with only question marks to fill a limited vocabulary. But I figure I should at least start, and that despite my deep uncertainty I should…

gis do it.


Thoughts on the Pacquiao vs Mayweather Fight

After watching the Pacquiao vs Mayweather fight I couldn’t shake the feeling I would always remember their match as an important event in my personal history -even if it proved underwhelming.

It’s not just because I’m Filipino. I’ll admit that I initially started watching because for some reason it’s expected of us (Filipinos) to root for Pacquiao and hate on Mayweather. While I did root for Pacquiao, spending time hating doesn’t appeal to me -even if that person seems terrible. So when watching their match, I couldn’t see the rivalry between Money and Manny. Instead I saw two exceptional athletes, each of whom a genius in the art of fighting.

The Superfight by Richard Slone

The Superfight by Richard Slone

I was inspired by their physical strength and the way they’ve transformed themselves into human weapons. They seemed to have such an abundance of it I couldn’t help feeling as though watching them made me stronger too.  Whenever Pacquiao would punch Mayweather, I felt my body convulsing and moving with him -similar to the way Dragonball fans un/consciously lift their hands up to help Goku form a Spirit Bomb. But, while I was impressed by the physical aspect of their achievements, I was more inspired by whatever it was they had inside them that gave them the energy to succeed as they have. What was it? That special something that separated these men from the rest of humanity, forcing us to recognize how much stronger their power of will was compared to our own.

then and now

The first thing I thought of was hunger. That insatiable want to do more, be more. The kind of hunger that brings out the primal ferocity in otherwise ordinary individuals and giving them the willpower to become extra-ordinary. But anyone can feel this way -and I’m sure many do-, which shows that this feeling of ravenous wanting alone isn’t enough to achieve what Pacquiao and Mayweather have.


In order for hunger to turn into strength there has to be an element of genius. But what is ‘genius’? Surely it isn’t just some elusive “It factor” only a lucky few are born with. Genius is everywhere. From the guests who were able to afford the exorbitant ringside seats (each being a master of his or her own art of business, showmanship, etc), to those who were able to enrich themselves by convincing high rollers that such an event was worth the price of admission. If these people can turn their art of being into masterpieces why can’t everyone else?

From the Mirror UK

As a joke, Giann told me genius was having “The Eye of the Tiger“. The phrase struck me as silly at first but it actually made a lot of sense with whatever it is “Genius” evoked in me. This is what I feel about that stimulating word: Genius is that special kind of internal energy that moves you even when you have nothing left to give. It amplifies the power of hunger and generates strength but continues to exist and flourish despite their absence. Genius is having a vision of something greater. But it’s not enough to see that “something greater”. You need courage too. Genius is having the courage to make your vision a reality, especially when it seems like you’re the only one who can see that vision. It’s daring to believe that impossible is nothing because the word itself says “I’m possible”.

From 411 Mania

Pacquiao lost and Mayweather was booed. But this strikes me as irrelevant when compared to what they’ve accomplished in their careers. All this being said, I expected more ferocity from Pacquiao. During the last round of the fight I kept hoping he’d pull out that extra bit of strength that separated him from the rest of us. He didn’t. When asked what happened to his ferocity, he answered “I thought I won”. The insight I derived from this is that there’s never room for complacency. Not if you want to achieve greatness. You have to keep pushing even when you think you’ve conquered the forces that oppose you. Even when you think you’ve done all you could possibly do to ensure your success. Even when you think you’ve won. Because genius dares you to believe that nothing is impossible, including the possibility of your defeat. Which is why you give it everything you’ve got and more to make sure your vision of greatness wins over whatever challenges it.

I suppose I was especially moved by the match because I find myself in what I imagined was Pacquiao’s position. I thought I was doing enough in my life. And although I’m still proud of my progress thus far, I know now that I can do so much more and that I shouldn’t be afraid to push harder. Because I know genius is attainable for those who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to make their vision of greatness a reality.

So let’s make it happen!


Graffiti Sesh: Learning How To Write

GS Gis

I’ve been wanting to learn the art of spray painting.  My interest in it was continually amplified throughout 2014 after being exposed to the graffiti cultures of Tokyo, London, Paris, and California.  Especially upon seeing the walls on the railroad heading to Paris absolutely covered in French graffiti.  This caught me by surprise because I never associated France with that particular brand of street art -even if it is the home of Blek le Rat, father of stencil graffiti.

Drawings I found online by Blek le Rat:
blek le rat Blek le Rat 2

After buying a book called “Global Street Art” in California late last December, I decided that as soon as I got back to Manila I would be a writer too.

What it means to write: In Global Street Art, “graffiti refers to ‘writing’ -a youth subculture that had its origins in mid-1960s Philadelphia and grew explosively after reaching New York in the late 1960s […] There was no expectation of any economic reward by writing; writers were simply looking for a form of recognition.  Graffiti provided a way of finding an identity among peers.  Fame was (and still is) the ultimate achievement in writing”.

I don’t have a deep or subversive reason for why I want to become part of this subculture of writers.  I just find it interesting.  And that spark of interest is all I need to get me going.  My friend Harry felt the same way.  One fast “We’re so cool and random!” chat later, he and I were at Home Depot stocking up on supplies.  That was Day 1 of our graffiti sesh.  Day 2 was our actual painting day.

GS Harry's Car

Breakdown of costs
Php 700 x 2 pieces of plywood (Php 350 each)*
Php 1200 x 8 cans of spray paint (roughly Php 150 each)*
Php 350 x masks (comes in a set of 3)
Total cost: Php 2250

This figure isn’t exact.  It varies based on the plywood’s dimensions, the brand of spray paint, and the place you’re buying from.  We tried hitting up True Value first.  They didn’t have wood or masks and their spray paint was 2x the price.  A southerner’s best bet is to go straight to Home Depot (we didn’t canvas Wilcon so I can’t say if prices are better there). People up north (or wherever you can find an Ace Hardware) will find better masks (ours were the flimsy disposable kind).  People who can access Divisoria will find even cheaper spray paint (Php 80 average).  Not sure where to find cheaper ‘canvases’ though.  I plan on hitting up a construction site one of these days to see if they can spare me some scrap metal.

GS 4GS Gis 3GS Gis 4GS Gis 2GS Harry 2GS HarryIt’s important to wear a mask.  The fumes get toxic faster than you know.  Also, paint gets everywhere just as quick.  Which is why I brought a long piece of cloth and newspaper to cover our workspace and plastic gloves and an apron to cover myself.

GS Gis 6GS Gis 5

Harry set up our makeshift studio in his garage.  He brought out his laptops for video editing and beer to aid his creative process.
I brought my GoPro Hero 4 Silver for documentation, the water speakers Giann bought me for xmas because they’re dope and because I wanted to blast trap, and points of reference (Global Street Art book, drawing I made years prior of my friend Nicole in her astronaut helmet).

GS 1GS Harry 3GS Gis 8GS Gis 7

GS 3

Harry and I gave ourselves graffiti names for when we collab: #Hash and #Tag.  We’ll think of less conspicuous, more personal tagging names when we do this for real.

Last thing:
for the past few months, people have been telling me they’re worried I’m getting too thin, but I never really noticed how much weight I lost until I saw my graffiti sesh photos. No need to worry friends, it’s not intentional.  I just lose weight when I travel and I was all over the place last year.  I’ll gain the weight back as life normalizes, but for now I’m going to love the hell out of my sexy abs.

Peace out,

Kwento, Thoughts, Travel

London, England – Streets and Monuments

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions

I like traveling.  I like the way it makes me feel like myself, but more and somehow better.
The alien milieu of a strange new land displaces me and forces me to enlarge my sense of things.  However, to be displaced in an environment whose context is so different from my own would be disorienting if there was no sameness to anchor me.  I need that anchor to help me understand stimuli I might otherwise find incomprehensible.  The effect of such a combination makes the ordinary beautiful again because situating what is ordinary outside the boundaries of what is familiar causes an expansion.  This expansion adds to my perception of what is ordinary and reveals it to be extraordinary after all.

Notes and Impressions

I suppose I’m not saying anything new.  These are observations that have been shared so often they’ve become cliche.  Just like the same touristy photos people always take.  It seems so lame and unremarkable then to share these because so many others have been there, done that.  But when you’re the person doing the showing off, it’s awesome and special because it’s yours -the photograph, the moment, the new perspective.

Here’s my perspective on London’s Hop on Hop off Bus Tour told in hasty tourist snapshots.  I also did some moleskin drawings to compensate for my lack of photography skills.  In an ideal world, I would have made a bajillion more drawings.  But since my ideal world is still shaping itself, I only had the energy to sketch out St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben/The Elizabeth Tower.

Moleskin Sketches 1

The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

Waiting for the right double decker bus.

London Bus StopIMG_3759IMG_5543The first stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Near the cathedral is a French Bakery and Patisserie franchise called Paul (I appreciate the thought they put into their location choice).

Moleskin Sketches - St. Paul'sIMG_5511IMG_5518I like double decker buses.  They’re a great way to see the city.  Not ideal for picture taking though because the bus is constantly moving but what can you do?
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IMG_5668IMG_5544Stopping by Buckingham Palace.
Fun Fact:
◊ If the Queen is in, the Royal Standard flies.  If she’s out, they bring out the Union Jack.  This tradition started after the death of Princess Diana.
Royal Standard

IMG_5726IMG_5720Going over and under the London Bridge.

IMG_5584IMG_5591IMG_5640Spending time at Parliament Square; where you can find the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Big Ben/The Elizabeth Tower, Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church, etc.
Fun Facts:
◊ It’s illegal to die in the houses of Parliament because people who die there are entitled to a state funeral -which would burden British tax payers.  If you look sickly, you’ll be escorted out of the premises posthaste!
◊ It’s not uncommon to find demonstrators rallying in Parliament Square.

IMG_5689 IMG_5678IMG_5661Moleskin Drawings Big BenIMG_5687Westminster Abbey was one of my favorite landmarks.  It’s popularly known as the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married and where important British peeps are buried, commemorated, and/or crowned.  No picture taking allowed though, which is a bummer because it’s ballin’ in there -with all those tombs and whatnot.
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I found the following images online. They’re of inside the abbey:

Abbey inside Alexander Creswell - Westminster Abbey
Next entry:  A more personal narrative of my experience in London.


Thoughts on Taking Control of My Twenties

I want to start writing again.  I stopped because I couldn’t get my thoughts to behave themselves.  I get so anal about stuff like that.  But Tommy’s right, “The important thing is to never stop. Regardless of the caliber of what you create, you should never stop“.  

I’ve also come to realize that my thoughts are supposed to misbehave:

The twenty(+) year old mind is a mess.  It’s when your brain goes on a crazy rewiring spree -optimizing synapses that are frequently used and eliminating those that aren’t.  This is the time everything about yourself gets reconfigured.  And when you become who you are.  So active steps must be taken to make sure that who you are is who you want to be.

But figuring out who you want to be is difficult -especially when you’re working with a messed up twenty(+) year old mind.  So it’s important not to lose your head.

Yuko Shimizu - Blow Up 3- The Big Bang

Use your head.

Life can be a super douche.  It’ll hand you a hundred and fifty pounds of luck only to storm in (without warning) demanding it back with interest -leaving you worse off than when you started.  Sometimes life will be kind and won’t resort to such asshattery, but use your head.  Would you really let anyone -even someone as big as life- have that kind of power over you?  No freaking way! You have to take charge and make your own good fortune.

Yuko Shimizu - Superhero Calendar

Admittedly, it’s easier to surrender to circumstance than it is to take control of it.  The greatest factor is fear.  It’s scary to know just how much power you have over life because you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if it screws you over.  Don’t let it screw you over.  Be better than that.  Be in control.

Know that you’ll always be accountable for your actions.  Because even when you feel like you don’t, you will always have a choice.  Will you choose to nourish the most beautiful aspects of your self?  Or will you surrender control and one day wake up wondering “What the hell happened to me??”

Yuko Shimizu - Beauty Belongs to the Flowers Yuko Shimizu - The Unwritten #3

The idea of happiness/success is highly individual, as is the process of attaining it.  Absolutely no one can tell you what you should want out of life or how to get it.  You have to figure these things out for yourself.

Some people take time off to find themselves before making their next move.  But I’m a shark, and sharks die when they stop moving.  I refuse to waste time trying to find myself before I take action.  I choose to find myself through action.

My twenty(+) year old mind is a mess.  My thoughts are constantly tackling each other, causing chaos in my head.

Yuko Shimizu - The War Room

I know it’s because my brain is going on a crazy rewiring spree -optimizing synapses that are frequently used and eliminating those that aren’t.  It’s preparing me to become the person I’m supposed to be.  I may not know who that person is exactly (I don’t know what empire I want to build or what kind of legacy I want to leave behind.  I can’t even decide how I want to do my blog!) but I do know that I want to be someone who is always leveling up in every aspect of being.

So I suppose I’ll do what I always do and keep moving.  No matter how many things life throws at me, I must stay disciplined and focus on maximizing my potential.

Gis do it, right?

Yuko Shimizu - Shaolin Monk



Kwento, Travel

Minato, Tokyo


Minato was the first to greet us.  And the last to say goodbye.  He offered us lodging at The Grand Prince Hotel -which was built on a garden that formerly belonged to Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda (The “Sports Prince”).

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The street heading up to our hotel was lined with cherry blossom trees and greenery.  There was also a taxi stand where girls in top hats assisted commuters into taxis driven by suited up men (every taxi driver we saw in Japan wore a suit).  I didn’t get a photo of that specific area, but I did manage to get a shot of this off duty taxi man. Doesn’t he look swanky?

Taxi man

Over our stay, we got to know three different sides of Minato: Takanawa, Shiba, and (a little bit) of Shiodome.

Takanawa was the side of Minato that felt like home.  The part of him that made us breakfast every morning and tucked us in every night.  Who fed us the warmest and most interesting meals of the day.  Who always walked us to the train station and always welcomed us home with open arms.

_MG_4592the most amazing broth ever Tracy's Chicken Avocado sandwichchicken avocado sandwichSashimi!!!at the restaurantsignsBuying ticketsscreens

But it was his Shiba-koen side that intrigued me the most. It was the part of him that was inspirationally proud of his past but also contagiously excited about his future.  His stories were present in every street and every alleyway -similar to how his siblings’ stories bloomed out from their skin, but somehow entirely different.  In my eyes, Minato’s narrative was more traditional and more structured.  I liked that about him.  He was old fashioned, yet he still managed to embrace modernity and innovation in a way that made him intensely charming -almost dangerously so.

RoadsRoad SignsPhoto boothHunting for fudsShiodome

This charming man took us past the Sangedatsu Gate (The Gate of Three Liberations) to free us from Ton (Greed), Shin (Hatred), and Chi (Foolishness).  And let us marvel at the Zōjō-ji Temple before leading us off to one of his more recent masterpieces (1958 is recent in the life of a city): The Tokyo Tower.

Sagedatsu Gate Sangedatsu Gate Sangedatsu Gate (1605)Bodhistava Shangedatsu Gate ShrineZojo ji Temple againZojo ji Temple and the Tokyo Tower Festive peeps Zojo-ji Temple

On the way to the Tower, I saw these curious little statues and later found out they were of Jizō -the guardian of unborn children.  I think the tradition of honoring their memories in this way is beautiful.  Minato was silent as we passed.

Tracy with the Jizōanother row of Jizō

Jizō Jizō from behind

At Tokyo Tower there’s an observatory deck where you can see the cityscape. The architects also put glass sheets on the floor so Tower goers can look down and really feel how far off the ground they’ve come.  We went there in the morning but I suggest going when the sun is about to set.

View of Tokyo Tower Toyko Tower Tokyo Tower FishResting Look down Looking down The View The View 2 Walls of history Scale models The display of old school Japan

And, lastly, there was Shiodome.  The side I found quirky if only because I found a super cute fireman grate there.  It’s also where Minato keeps his Pokemon collection.  One of them at least, I imagine there are a bunch of Pokemon Centers in Tokyo.  I also imagine that Raven will regard it as his happy place when he’s older. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile so much.

Sio-siteFiremenThe Sio-Dome Pokemon Store CharizardBlastoise Plush Toys Regrouping

We left Minato and the rest of his family on a Monday morning.  It was hard to say goodbye but I know we’ll be back again soon.  Hopefully this August!

Genki de ne (Be well), Minato-senpai!
Arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you), Japan!

Dewa, mata chikai uchini (See you again)


Chiyoda, Tokyo

I didn’t a chance to get to know Chiyoda as well as I wanted to, but I hear she’s majestic.  She’s the “field of a thousand generations”, home to the Imperial Palace, Yasukuni Shrine, Hibiya park, and rich Japanese peeps.

The little time I had with her was spent underground, in the Tokyo Station.

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She took us to a ramen restaurant with a vending machine order taker and old Japanese cooks.

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And then she took us shopping at H&M (because H&M hasn’t opened in the Philippines yet and Tracy needed work clothes).

More importantly, she lead us to a store that sold 10++ varieties of KitKat and all sorts of Japanese shenanigans in snack form.

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And then more shopping at random shops inspired by pop culture anime.

_MG_5028 copy Ponyo_Poster _MG_5023 copyHowl's Moving Castle_MG_5021 copy_MG_5029 copyPrint _MG_5025 copyPrincess Mononoke_MG_5019 copy

My siblings went broke on all the Ghibli merch Donguri Garden sold.  I found some movie posters online and put them under the Ghibli characters I took photos of so you can get in on the references.  I have no idea who the drunk looking dog is though.  Raven just wanted me to take a photo of it because he thought it looked funny.

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What I like about Japan is how beautifully past culture and pop culture merge together.  Shinjuku, Shibuya, Minato, Chiyoda -all the sibling citywards that I hung out with- possessed this trait.  But somehow it struck me as more beautiful in Chiyoda.  Because as Imperial as she is, she can still get down with Dragon Ball, Hello Kitty and Tamagotchi.

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Blast from the past alert!  Freaking Tamagotchis!!!  I wanted to buy the actual old school electronic device but I couldn’t find any in the shop -except for the ones on what looks like an “Evolution of Tamagotchi” display.  And I didn’t know how to ask the sales person either because I can’t speak Japanese.  Chiyoda and I suffered the same language barrier but she consoled me anyway with vibrant displays of our shared interests -which made me feel like I was still part of her bright and colorful world, even if I didn’t fully understand it.

Chiyoda is endlessly cool like that.  And just when you think she couldn’t get any cooler, you find her stash of Gundam and Ultraman memorabilia.

Web_MG_4998 copy_MG_5002 copy_MG_5005_MG_5006 copygundam store copygundam

Ultraman_MG_5037 copyspace Another thing I really like about Chiyoda is her insane sense of humor!  It’s pretty damn wonderful and I love it!
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Sayonara Chiyoda!

NEXT ENTRY: Minato, Tokyo


Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Shibuya is a rockstar titty deep in cool.

It’s impossible not to be insanely popular when you happen to be one of Tokyo’s fashion authorities and a world renowned nightlife extraordinaire.  Anybody who’s anybody wants to hang with Shibuya -who we got to meet after having lunch with Shinjuku.

Shibuya struck me as androgynous.  Someone too modern and too hip to be defined by conventions as limiting as gender.  Someone who exists without needing to be defined, setting an example on how to just be by disregarding antiquated preconceived notions of how we’re supposed to be.

That’s how we spent the day with Shibuya -with no clear itinerary except to amplify the experience by completely surrendering to it.


Shibuya took us shopping at Department 109 (which Tracy and I really ought to have taken pictures of) and later introduced us to aspiring rockstars who decided to set up a spontaneous show on the streets.  They called themselves “The Throttle” and they sang retro songs in English.  Authorities later shut down their production because they didn’t have permits, but that just made it easier for us to talk to them.

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As a result of a loudness in presence and personality, Shibuya developed a spectacular tendency to disorient.  It was hard to keep track of where we were going and why we were going there because we were being led towards so many different places and so many different happenings all at once.

_MG_4774 under armour _MG_4822Wicked Japan_MG_4772_MG_4804tribute to Hachikō_MG_4770hooters

Shibuya was bright neon and busy and had the same soft spot for graffiti tattoos as Shinjuku.  Except Shinjuku didn’t have an extravagance of character as extreme as her older sibling.

_MG_4814_MG_4835shibuya graffiti wall

This overwhelming ostentation even inspired animals to exaggerate their features with kawaii markings.

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In search of tita Cris’ specifically requested pasalubong (must try!), Tracy and I found ourselves in Shibuya’s kitchen -formally titled Tokyu Food Show.
Shibuya’s kitchen is an underground department store food court that covers the area of two city blocks.  They sell everything from fancy looking bento boxes to simple charcoal grilled sweet potatoes, warm soul soothing ramen to cold fresh sushi, strictly traditional Japanese dishes to wild fusion cuisine to straight up foreign fuds.

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I guess the eclectic nature of this selection mirrors the eclectic nature of Shibuya’s personality -which has so freaking much to offer that it’s hard to keep track of everything without developing ADHD.  Fortunately, someone else made a list of 50 things you can do with Shibuya.  Check it out!


Matane Shibuya!  Kanpie!


Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

I spent the Holy Week weekend in Japan with my dad, brothers and sister.

According to Wikipedia (the most trustworthy internet resource on earth), there are 23 special city wards that make up the core of Tokyo.  We visited Minato (where our hotel was), Shinjuku, Shibuya and Chiyoda.

I saw the city wards as siblings.   Each had its own distinct personality, but all shared an equally distinctive commonality of features that made it easy to distinguish them as part of the same large family.

The first one I met was Minato, then Shinjuku, then Shibuya and finally Chiyoda.  But since Minato was the last one I said goodbye to, I’ll tell you about him last.  Instead, I’ll start with Shinjuku -who greeted us with a WAM BAM SHAMBAM! of color.


I’ll always remember Shinjuku for how organic the art in her felt.  She was famous for her Imperial Garden but, while leading us there, she couldn’t help but show off the graffiti tattoos she had on the immaculate alleyways of her skin.

_MG_4657_MG_4663_MG_4659_MG_4766emo graffiti

It took us a few minutes to walk to her Gyoen -whose 58.3 hectares held Japanese Traditional, French Formal, and English Landscape style sections. We each gave Shinjuku ¥200 so she could finance the maintenance of her beautiful garden.

She could barely contain her excitement as we passed through the gates and into her masterpiece.  She wanted to show off her cherry blossom trees.  The satisfaction she felt for her ownership of them was so immense, the weight of which was heavier than any imagination could carry and would therefore always leave behind a deep and lasting impression that was impossible to convey.


_MG_4686 _MG_4675 _MG_4681 _MG_4679_MG_4687_MG_4688IMG_1927from dad's phone _MG_4704 _MG_4702 _MG_4695


In her Gyoen, she introduced us to an old couple who sold bento boxes for  ¥500 & ¥850 at the tea house situated near a redonkulously soft and well manicured grassy expanse.  The couple also sold hot black tea, cold green tea, pancakes and other snacks.  Shinjuku urged us to buy some so that we could picnic under a tree she picked.

She wanted us to feel at peace, because that’s how she felt when she was in her garden.

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Springtime is when the cherry blossom trees are in their most festive mood.  All over Japan, they celebrate Spring’s arrival with a shower of flower confetti -excited for the new beginnings spring brings.  Shinjuku also wanted to share the festivity this inspired in her.  And once again, she succeeded.

The ability to share her good mood is one of her extraordinary qualities.  Another is the incredible freshness of the air surrounding her.  Never, in all the world, have I breathed in such purity.

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What I’ve shared with you focuses mainly on Shinjuku’s garden.  But she’s much more than that.  It was the side of her we most explored, but she also gave us glimpses of her complex nature.  Shinjuku is known as the center of Tokyo.  She is the meeting place of artists (Golden Gai) and foreign cultures (Ōkubo and Kagurazaka).  Just as she is part Imperial Garden (Shinjuku Gyoen), she is also part red light district (Kabukichō), gay district (Shinjuku Ni-chōme) and so much more.

She’s also the place where I bought my first hentai comic…which I got as a souvenir…purely for novelty reasons…really!
Not to say that Shinjuku is a place that specializes in smut production.  Hentai was openly sold in every convenience store we went to, including 711 and Familymart (which both have free wifi by the way).  When I purchased it I was filled with shame and apprehension.  But the lady at the counter -who looked about my age- didn’t even care.  Not one single bit.  It even seemed as though she found my display of impudent bravery boring.


And hey! Bonus picture.  This poster was chilling on the side of a slot machine establishment.  It’s one of the anime shows Giann is crazy about.


Sabishiku naru yo, Shibuya-chan.  

NEXT ENTRY: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

gis BIZ

How to Make Your Money Work For You

When it comes to financial responsibility, you gotta learn how to kick all kinds of buts.

Kim Herbst - Ryu

“But life is so expensive”.  “But I don’t make enough to start an emergency fund or invest in stocks”.  “But I can always save for the future later”.  But nothing!  Life is expensive.  Which is exactly why you need to learn how to make your money work for you.  Otherwise, the cost of living will catch up to you and dropkick you out a window.

It’s kind of a dick like that.

Kim Herbst - Fight Roommate

How to Make Your Money Work For You

#1 Keep track 

Many people think money is magical.  Which is probably due to its ability to vanish into thin air.  But don’t be fooled.  Money is more trickster than wizard, and its disappearing act is all illusion and prestige.  Break this escape artist’s spell by keeping track of everything it’s doing.  The more conscientious you are, the more difficult it’ll be for money to fool you.

What I do: Each week I take note of what’s in my bank accounts, stock portfolio, wallet and credit card.  I also include a detailed daily breakdown of where I get my money and how I spend it.  This keeps me accountable for my finances and helps me come up with a budget plan for my earnings.

It also keeps me from buying things I don’t really want or need.

Kim Herbst - Link

 #2 Set goals, make budgets

Budgets are road maps to success.  But you can’t map out your route if you don’t know where you’re going.  Which is why you need to set goals.

My suggestion: Calculate your income and subtract cost of necessary expenses. Take what’s left and determine how much to allot for casual spending, saving and investing.  This will help you understand your spending habits, which you can improve through well thought out budget plans.

Kim Herbst - Recession

#3 Get a compound interest account

Interest is the cost of borrowing money.
Banks earn income by charging interest to borrowers.  To get the capital for money lending, banks borrow from their depositors.  Which is why depositors are paid interest for keeping their money in bank accounts.

The standard bank account yields simple interest (usually paid per annum).  The amount of interest earned is fixed.  So if your principal (how much you have in your account) is Php 100,000 and the interest rate is 3% per annum, you end up with Php 3000 per year, every year (Study Maths).

Whereas compound interest factors in how much interest you’ve already earned: Principal amount Php 100,000 + interest Php 3000 x interest rate 3% = Php 3090.

It may not seem like much of a difference, but compound interest can do amazing things to your money if you let it mature.  In 30 years, for example, a simple interest account of Php100,000 at 3% interest will yield Php 190,000 (earnings: Php 90,000).  While a compound interest account will yield Php 242,726.45 (earnings: Php 142,726.45).

My suggestion: Keep your standard account for money you need easy access to, but start a compound interest account ASAP  -even if you only have Php 10,000 to start with.  This will serve as your emergency fund.  Add to it whenever you have extra cash.  And don’t you dare withdraw from it for any reason less than a medical emergency or surprise pregnancy.

Kim Herbst - Late

#4 Invest in stocks and/or bonds

Stocks and bonds can be risky but do it right and you’ll get much more out of your money.  The key is to do a lot of research.  Know what’s up!  It’s as simple as regularly reading the business paper (I like Business World).

If you’re still uncertain, you can always invest in a mutual fund or unit investment trust fund.

#5 Deposit often

Keep feeding your bank account until it becomes a beast account.

My suggestion:  Think of the future.  Save to raise capital to start your own business.  It’s good to help people build their dreams, but it’s sad if you let that keep you from making yours come true.

Kim Herbst - Paper Suffocates Rock

#6  Bring food to work

Little things like this result in huge savings.  It takes more effort to prepare your meals ahead of time, but it’s so worth it.  You can prepare something healthier than what you find at restaurants near your workplace and at only a fraction of the cost.

#8 Stay at home every once in a while

It’s a dangerous world out there.  Full of things that want to eat up your funds.  Keep them safe by staying at home every once in a while.  You don’t have to be a loser about it either.  Invite people over and do chill things.  Bonus points if they bring food.  Now you have something to make baon.

Kim Herbst - Godzilla

#9 Be creative

Save your cash for super cool things like skydiving.  Use your imagination for everything else.  Instead of doing the movie, dinner, coffee* routine go kite flying, have a picnic in the polo field, do charity work!  Or why not have a backyard BBQ?  There are so many fun things you can do without having to spend quite as much.

Note: I have a personal bias against coffee.  I don’t like the idea of having to depend on something to fuel me on a daily basis.  Especially when it adds up to (what I see as) unnecessary expense.

Kim Herbst - Darth Vader BBQ

#10 Do NOT lend people money

People who always borrow money aren’t kawawa.  They’re financially irresponsible.  Don’t enable them!

Archie#11 Be generous

Of course, it’s not good to be too kuripot either.  Buy food for the homeless.  Help pay your helpers’ tuition fees.  Give back when you can.  Because what’s the point of having money when you can’t use it to help other people?

#12 Be good to yourself too

It’s all about balance.  Save as much as you can, but allow yourself to spend on things you want but don’t necessarily need.  Last year, I made the mistake of being too strict with myself.  I ended up blowing through a devastating amount of money in a month, just because I felt so deprived.  It was an expensive lesson, but one that helped me manage my funds better.

I hope this entry helps you manage your funds better too.  Good luck, and happy saving!

FEATURED ARTWORK: Every piece except for the Archie comic was illustrated by Kim Herbst -an amazing artist who found success by being herself and doing her own thing.


Beach Break – Stories

Beach Break | February 22nd | Day 3
Surfing finals, frisbee tournament, volleyball exhibition match, beach party

me and jessa girl

Might as well just blurt this out: I was crazy popular during Beach Break.
It was weird.  It was beautiful.  It was something I didn’t quite know how to acknowledge -mostly because I didn’t (and still don’t) necessarily feel deserving of all the attention I got.  But I do see the humor in it, and how can I not share such a funny (and flattering) experience?

One funny thing was how people kept asking to have their picture taken with me.  The locals were very chill about it but the frisbees players took things to the next level!  You can tell they were doing it in the spirit of gago good vibes and I like that about them.  They are definitely people who know how to have a good time.

At one part of the evening, people kept leading me off to their friends.  I wish I had a GoPro because I’m finding it impossible to capture the moment and its awesomeness in words.  Imagine all this happening in Quentin Tarantino style transition and fly high good vibes:  It started while I was talking to David and Carlos.  A girl comes up to me and insists I follow her.  She takes me by the hand and brings me to her friends.  As soon as introductions were made, someone else would come up and lead me off somewhere else.  This kept happening until I hit the mosh pit.


I will forever suck because I didn’t get my twerk on, but the frisbee people around me were super game for whatever (I wish I could be cool like them).  Chat saved me from my own lameness and we end up chilling with her friends before I had to go give out beer.  I really really like her friends.  Especially this one guy with super long hair who was probably a wise Apache Indian sage-chief in his past life.   Oh and Bulaw of course!  Who’ll forever by my Urbiztondo guardian angel.

I did encounter quite a few people who didn’t know the meaning of personal space.  But Rino and Boss VR had my back.  They bailed me out from these incredibly makulit guys by asking me to help get tents.   Which I suppose was funny because I was in a long, backless beach dress and wedges.

Lolz. Good times.


erection of the stage (photo by Jep)stage

We moved the surf spot in front of Little Surf Maid because the logistics were too complicated at the other beach.  I got there before the competition started and had breakfast while the surfers stretched it out.  The food at Little Surf Maid is a little more expensive than what we had in Kahuna, but it’s SO much better.  I got the Australian breakfast platter which came with the most delicious bacon I’ve ever had in my life.  Along with hash browns, grilled tomato, a ginormous sausage, scrambled eggs and tea.  I would legit go back to La Union just for that breakfast platter.

I also bought a hammock for Php530!  Which I lost that same day…but at least I got to chill in it while watching the surfing competition.  Bulaw helped me set it up in one of the tents.

_MG_3873_MG_3866_MG_3849photo photo photohammock!_MG_3900_MG_3910_MG_3894



Some photos I shot of people while I was delivering a script to the event host.  You meet so many people during these kinds of things.


I had a break in-between lunch and dinner so I hung out with the flow artists and tried to learn how to flow.



This is the one event I didn’t get to watch or be part of.  But I heard the girls were good.  And they’re so damn fit!  They inspire me to workout harder and more consistently.


Since I wasn’t doing much in the surf zone, I was assigned to help give out food to the players participating in the frisbee tournament -which is how I got to spend time with these awesome, awesome people.   If the surfers make you feel like family, the frisbee players make you feel like a superstar!  I hate that I wasn’t able to get as many photos of the frisbee peeps because they were all so cool.

They were so wonderful that I decided to take up Ultimate Frisbee again…or at the very least try it out one more time.  Adi tells me they have beginners’ night at Meralco.  It’s near my office, so might as well right?



*Most of the photos taken by Jep V.


Beach Break – Single & Unattached

Beach Break | February 21st | Day 2
First leg of surfing competition – Photos taken by  Jep V. and me

Single & Unattached is a surfing competition where single fin longboard surfers compete with their leash unattached.  For this part of Beach Break, VSM partnered with Coast Thru Life, and flew in surfers from Bali and Australia to be judges and contestants.

With the surfer girls Looking the wrong way Yay!
There were also international surfers who came on their own. And a lot of locals with just as much mastery over the sea.

All these people are favorites of the sun.  Their hair is bleached gold and their skin is perfectly baked.  Among these sun people is my friend Chat, who came to support the event.  Chat is a Manila local and a sun child.   I found her sitting with her friends and lover in a make shift tent.  Together, her and her gang spend their days (at the very least their weekends) living the life most people sit and daydream about.  They surf till sawa and take beautiful captures of their adventures.  Chat also introduces me to my favorite person: Rayson!  His parents, Belinda and Adam, are part of the community of people living the dream by traveling the world one beachfront or nature trail at a time.

Hey Chat!With sina Chat

kissy fishy face

He tells me to do a fishy face and then steals a kiss. I can tell this kid will be a heartbreaker when he grows up.

Rayver and Chat



Father-son bonding

The rest of my team was in the main beachfront getting everything set for Saturday -the day the frisbee players and volleyball girls were expected to arrive.  So I was tasked to watch over the competition and came to spend most of my day at the surf spot.

Chillest job on the planet!  It was a beautiful scene too.  Prime waves and weather, which everyone agreed was perfect for surfing (Georgia, Australian longboard champ, even said the waves that day were among the best she’s ever ridden).  And the ambience was on point!  Buji blasted old school sounds on the speakers while Manang grilled Tender Juicy somewhere nearby.  The vibe was retro surf stereotype made magical with local color.

Georgia and IraBoardsHey Buji!Nikki, Buji and sponsors - Jep V.Peace - Jep V.Ice cream mannew friends :D new friendsRayver and Belinda - Jep V.Selfie! - Jep V.MTV peepsSurf super star - Jep V.

When the competition was over, some of the guys and I started messing around with Jep’s camera.  I think we ended up with some pretty cute shots!   Jep definitely has mad skillz.  I used a lot of his captures here (to discern between ours all you have to do is keep in mind that his are the nicer ones!)

Greetings - Jep V.Judge tableBeach Fit - Jep V. 3Beach Fit - Jep V. 2Beach fit - Jep V.Emerson, Jep and KikoFlag Jep V. 3beach bbqbeach bbq smoke

Had to sneak in a shot of the BBQ cooking.  Had to.  I forgot to bring snacks and, as chill as the event was, I still did a lot of walking.  So Manang’s little grill station was a huge lifesaver.  Only Php 20 a stick baby!

The older ones from our team arrived just as the surfing competition ended.  I rode back to Kahuna with them.  At Kahuna, we spent the rest of our time trying to figure out all the who’s, where’s, what’s, when’s and how’s.  Like who was sleeping where and what was happening when. And how the hell was I going to be able to call Giann in the middle of all the chaos???

It was all very hectic -at least during the latter part of the day.  But that’s the events loife, son!  Definitely demanding.  But definitely worth it.

Next entry: “Beach Break – title undecided”.

Locals - Jep V.