Real Life Excerpts

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In case you missed it. // Waterproof and mad as hell.

MANILA, Philippines - This past week, the Philippines experienced an unwanted visitor by the name of Maring. As this article goes to press, the storm-enhanced southwest monsoon has left 16 persons dead and 41 injured, and of the 1,000,000 affected, over 670,000 are located in Central Luzon.

When tropical storm Ondoy hit in 2009, it left behind unprecedented disaster. The then National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), whose sole job was to prepare for the unimaginable, found itself underwater, in a manner of speaking. Our own government was incapacitated and looked toward the private sector for help. Those with resources gladly pooled together what they had. We took to the streets, to social media, to every available avenue to get families off rooftops, and while it took more time than we had hoped to accomplish what we did, we were left with a glimmering sense of Filipino pride. “Bayanihan,” we said. “Where I come from, everyone’s a hero,” we said.

Four years later, the seemingly apocalyptic storms show no signs of stopping. There is at least one massive storm every year that ravages our cities and provinces, submerging our roads and crushing people under currents of dirty floodwater. The private sector has since stepped up far beyond its call of duty. For instance, Ateneo Task Force Noah, founded in 2004 as a means of addressing the natural disasters in Nueva Ecija and Aurora, has expanded into the Ateneo Disaster Response and Management Team (more commonly known as the Ateneo DReaM Team).  Enderun Colleges, known for its culinary and hotel and restaurant management programs, consistently puts their kitchens to work in times of crises such as this in order to make hot meals for thousands of traumatized evacuees. RescuePH, once a mere hashtag in the beginning of social media rescues, has grown into a well-oiled machine where people can submit information on those in need of rescue, and after contact has been made, a rescue team is dispatched to those in need.

The government, on the other hand, has since renamed the NDCC the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. They have restructured the council without actually minimizing the risk or managed the terror these disasters have wrought. There have been no tangible developments in flood control as far as we can tell, and the most we have gotten are a few hot meals provided by DepEd and DSWD’s call to help repack relief goods. These are actions, which while good, are not nearly acceptable enough.

Pork barrel scandal

 With Maring coming at the heels of the pork barrel scandal (which, if you haven’t heard about, you should really read up on), the people are livid. So livid that in the midst of this most recent disaster, the name Napoles kept coming up with a litany of angry comments, getting muddled in the good work that everyone else was trying to do. And as far as the sentiment goes, it’s completely understandable. See, it’s no secret that our government is riddled with corrupt politicians, that the taxes paid by dutiful citizens have gone to more pockets than country-wide improvements. But to be faced with actual names and numbers, what else are we left with but rage and questions? How does10 billion go missing without anyone raising questions? Where should that money have gone? Had there been a more honest soul in the place of the accused, would where we are today look much more different?

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We are so desperate for good men to believe in that we take photos of public servants doing good work in past crises and say, “That’s the one who should have been president.” We are so blinded by anger that we organize marches that don’t necessarily have an end goal, except to show that we are outraged and that we want change, even though we are clueless as to how it should come about. We are grasping at straws because something called a Priority Development Assistance Fund should see what we’ve seen after the assaults of Ondoy and Pepeng and Gener and Maring and nameless torrential rainfall, and should be utilized so we don’t have to leave each disaster with a need to start all over.

We tear each other apart on an issue like reproductive health, which while worth discussing, is no more important than flood control or urban planning. Because we have gotten to a point where rain is no longer an issue of simple traffic management, but an event that causes fatalities that can and should be avoided. Each time we’re greeted by storms such as these, we are surprised not only at the number of people who are lost because they were victims of the circumstances, but at those we lose because they risked their own lives to save others. And while there is no one among us who does not want to help the other if it is in his capacity to do so, how many more times do we have to call for donations of canned goods, how many more times to we have to ask our brothers to rage against the flood to initiate a rescue, and how many more lives do we have to lose before those we elect see the funds we entrust to them as more than a means to fund their lifestyles? Even as a matter of politics, of all the issues we can disagree on, I hardly think making structural improvements to avoid unnecessary deaths is one of them.

 There is a place for kindness and for idealism, and certainly there is no situation so dire that all hope is lost. But the consolation private citizens have gained from words like “The Filipino spirit is waterproof” has become very brief and dissolves like salt in rainwater. We are begging for progress, for justice and accountability, and at the very least some shred of respect for the electorate who repeatedly put their lives and their loved ones’ lives in the hands of a system that repeatedly betrays them. We extend love and prayers to each other as we plug up the holes in our boat, doing our best to keep it from sinking, while our government kicks back with a Dom Perignon and idly watches us work. We deserve more, and we should demand for more, but the real question here is how do we get it?


Originally published on 24 August 2013. Online release can be viewed here.

Filed under Thoughts supreme Philippine Star

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In case you missed it. // Lea Salonga’s whole new world

Career highlight for me. Still can’t believe this happened.

MANILA, Philippines - In the beginning, there was Lea Salonga. For those of us who grew up listening to the music of Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, who drank Klim and possibly hummed along to its very memorable jingle, who cried with Agnes as she longed for Jerry in Sana Maulit Muli, Lea Salonga has been our sister, our kabarkada, our beacon of local artistic pride. These days, however, she dons a tougher suit armed with honest criticism and quick comebacks as one of the most talked about judges onThe Voice PhilippinesSupreme sits down with the Broadway darling to discuss her coaching style, dealing with haters, and the road towards becoming a living, breathing icon.

SUPREME: What drew you to The Voice Philippines?

LEA SALONGA: I’m not the biggest watcher of the show, but what interested me more than anything was the Blind Audition (fans of the show will know what this is, but for those that haven’t seen it yet, it’s when a singer auditions for the four star coaches whose backs are all turns to the stage). The thing that I loved about the experience is that I didn’t know anyone’s sob story prior to hearing their voice. It was talent first, background information later. Truth is, everyone has a story to tell, but we needed to get to the heart of the matter first, and that was that singer’s voice. The Blind Auditions here in the Philippines were particularly special. So much so that we had to increase the number of team members from 12 to 13 per team. So I guess the Blind Auditions drew me… the format itself drew me… that the coaches in those red chairs were world-renowned performers who could absolutely teach a thing or two to anyone willing to listen.

What do you think sets the show apart from its international counterparts? Is there something specific you’re looking for that caters to the Filipino market?

We’re just looking for amazing singers that we feel the Pinoy public can latch on to and fall in love with. It’s not about someone’s looks, but about their talent first. If there’s something unique that watchers and listeners can relate to, that’s huge. We have singers on every team that are different sizes, skin colors, heights, voice types. And they all deserve a shot. I think the thing that sets this show apart is that the coaches will always, up until the very final show, have a say in who stays and who goes. We still have a hand in it, and I like that very much.

What about coaching do you find to be most challenging? 

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Figuring out what it is a particular artist needs. I’ve been brought into productions as a “troubleshooter,” given instructions from the director or associate director of a production and assigned an artist to help out. Sometimes the troubles are vocal. At others, the problems are emotional accessibility. It might be a singing thing, an acting thing, a blocking thing, a “Please keep still” sort of thing. As I know my team members, I slowly figure out what their unique needs are. For one, it’s figuring out the right song that will make their voice ring. For another, it’s helping with lyric interpretation. It’s really fun, not to mention rewarding, when you and your artist have a breakthrough.

What about the other coaches’ teams or coaching styles do you think makes them strong contenders, and, on the other hand, what vulnerable spots do you think they have?

I’m neither privy to the other coaches’ coaching styles, nor do I want to know what happens in another camp. I want to focus my energy on my team. Truth of the matter is, the title of The Voice of the Philippines could go to any singer remaining on any team. I saw the list of the final 24, and it’s a list of strong, able singers. It’s an incredibly talented bunch of artists assembled. The public is going to have a very difficult time picking someone to vote for during the Live Shows, which begin on Sunday, Aug. 25.

On The Voice Philippines, we’ve seen quite a different side of you, for which you’ve been dealt a bit of backlash. What has it been like dealing with the critical reception of your performance as a judge on The Voice Philippines

There’s really nothing to say, except that I respect their opinions. However, I don’t like it when the criticisms turn to insults. There have been some that I’ve interpreted as such. To them I say, you are a rude, mean human being, and your mother must be ashamed. Ha! 

I felt the need to be enthusiastic, to show that singer that I will be enthusiastic about them being on my team. To play it cool might give them the wrong impression, thus risking their choosing another coach instead of me. Trust, things have gotten significantly more subdued since the Blind Auditions ended and the Battles began.

How has the transition to television been for you, especially wherein you’re not playing a role and not giving an interview, but having to be the more critical version of yourself in front of millions of audiences nationwide?

All the four of us can be is ourselves. I did receive a fair amount of criticism from many people — both from the media and the anonymous Twitter peeps — who found it a bit jarring to see what I know to be “the real me” on TV, what with my exaggerated actions, singing along, making loud comments, that sort of thing. Truth is, what people don’t know is that the reality is probably even more heightened when I’m not in front of a camera. My close friends know me as loud and outspoken (when I’m watching a musical, if I have any friends on stage, my cackle serves as a homing device), and demonstrative. One friend, right after the first couple of episodes aired, wrote a long message on my Facebook page to say how truly happy she was that what my friends knew, the rest of the country was getting to know. “That’s the real Lea I know,” she wrote. It meant a lot to me to see that. 

Has there been any audition in particular that you felt truly resonated with you?

There were a couple, one who I didn’t turn for, and one that is on my team. Lee Grane (who is on Team Bamboo) sang Anak, and I didn’t turn for it. We then asked her to sing another song, Angel by Sarah McLachlan, and I was on the verge of tears listening to her. Goosebumps, chills, name it. The other one was for Kimpoy Mainit, who’s all of 16 years old. I thought at first it was a girl singing, and then when I turned around, I discovered a young man! I loved his vocal quality. I felt how badly he wanted the opportunity. I played it cool sitting in my chair, as I didn’t want any other coach to turn for him. 

I love everyone on my team. They each have something unique to add to this music industry. We have folk, rock, R&B, soul. I think we have it all covered.

What was it like for you when you were the one entering the audition for the iconic role of Kim inMiss Saigon? Do you remember how you prepared and did you have any idea that this would be as big a break as it was?

I had prepared three days prior to my audition, learning On My Own from Les Miz to sing. A pianist I was working with came to the house to accompany me, and I think we beat the hell out of that song, singing it so much. I thought I was ready, but when I stepped into the room and saw Cameron Mackintosh, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michael Schönberg sitting there in front of me, my knees started to knock against each other and I was shaking. How I managed to keep my s*** together, I’ll never know.

Do you still feel nerves whenever you’re set to perform onstage? What do you hope to convey as an artist every time you step out in front of an audience?

Oh, always! I hope that never goes away. Every time I step out in front of an audience, I only want to convey joy. It’s pure joy that I feel to be doing what I love to do, and that I’m still able to step out and sing my heart and lungs out for an audience willing to sit and listen for a couple of hours. It’s a lot of fun.

As someone who’s conquered so many avenues of entertainment and artistry, who’s been presented with accolades and is very much considered a national treasure, is there any one accomplishment you’d say you’re most proud of?

I’d say, being able to retain my sense of humor. More than any award, that’s what I’m proudest of. Oh, and my sanity.

If money were no object and you had every resource available to you, what would you say your dream project would be?

Building a theater that was properly built with great acoustics, the best sound system, the most comfortable seating, and really comfy hotel-style dressing rooms. For guest musicians, a Steinway baby grand in every room. And another would be to collect every single recording made of Filipino music and digitally restore and archive whatever was deteriorating, and make that accessible to the public in order for them to truly appreciate the music of their motherland.

Having had such a prolific career, you’ve traveled extensively and could have chosen to live in any corner of the world. It’s beautiful and admirable that you chose to come back and settle down in the Philippines. What made you decide to do so?

Would you believe my husband? He moved here to pursue a business opportunity, and of course I moved along with him. No regrets! We love it here!

We’ve grown up with you, and we’ve pretty much seen that you are a force to be reckoned with creatively. What else can we expect from the great Lea Salonga?

I don’t know… and that’s the fun part.

Originally published on 3 August 2013. Online release can be viewed here.

Filed under supreme Philippine Star lea salonga interview

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"Can I have your attention for a second?"

Tonight, a really beautiful thing happened.

I am on the subway, heading home after a night with some of the funniest girls I know. We’d had dinner followed by a few beers, and we laughed about how our current problems are no longer the stuff of our teenage years. We’d talked about relationships, and how love wasn’t always enough.

As I sit on the train, I think about how cold it is tonight and how it seems fall is fast approaching. I think about getting home to my bed and tucking myself under my Ikea duvet with my flannel pajama bottoms pulled on over my legs. I shut my eyes, hoping I’d be back in my apartment as soon as I open them.

"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. Can I have your attention for a second?"

Honestly, I hate it when homeless people do this on trains. I think it’s something we all think but never really say. And it’s not because we dislike homeless people, but because we dislike being put in any sort of vulnerable position. We dislike the idea that we might be terrible people if we don’t give a dollar or a few coins, but also dislike the idea that they might use that money for something not so noble. So instead, here is someone obviously in need of a shower, some food, and better luck, and all I can think is, “How did you even end up on this train?”

This particular homeless person is but a boy. He is caucasian, 20 years old, and has these big, sorrowful eyes. He talks about how it’s difficult to find a meal every single day, let alone three. He looks at each one of us, calling out to us, asking if we can spare even a half-eaten sandwich or a bottle of water that we’ve taken a drink from. He says he didn’t plan to be on this train, but that his friend had promised him a meal and yet the plan fell through. No one looks at him.

The train stops and the doors open. Relieved passengers make their way out of the car. An African American lady with a kind face walks in eating these small cookies, carrying a plastic bag in her hand. She takes a seat across from me and listens to the homeless boy, then takes a sandwich out of her bag. Her eyes meet mine for a second and I smile at her. I wish I had my own sandwich to give.

The homeless boy takes the sandwich with incredible gratitude. A man at the end of the row gives the homeless boy his water bottle. The homeless boy is so surprised that he drops the bottle, and another kind lady picks it up, turning it over with a sweet smile. The boy casts his eyes down at his feet. He is thankful but seems to be ashamed.

"Homelessness is not a joke. It’s not something you think can happen to you, but it can. It happened to me," he says. He thanks us all and wishes us a good night, and bites into his sandwich as he moves aimlessly down the aisle.

The first lady presents him with her plastic bag and tells him that he should take it. “There’s another sandwich in there.” He asks her if she’s sure, and she nods, looking almost guilty as she says, “I have food at home.”

She asks him to sit with her, and she tells him that things are going to be alright. She prays with him. And he begins to cry. He tells her his story, about how his father was just released from jail, and how money was difficult to come by. How he had constant disagreements with his father even though he was only trying to help, the extent of which had left him homeless and penniless. How the latest disagreement left him on this train, appealing to the kindness of strangers.

My own heart bleeds on the floor of this train, and I wish I’d had something I could give him too. All I have in my purse are my debit card and my phone, and the subway doors open up on my stop.

You can say what you want about big cities like New York, but there is no zip code that calls exclusivity on kindness. And in all my months roaming these streets, seeing the breathtaking sights, meeting wonderful people, and taking in surreal experiences, this one would have to be the most beautiful. 

So, in some small way, I hope to help by writing about the experience. I know it’s not nearly enough, but I can’t help but hope it does something. I hope it reaches at least one other person out there and touches them the way it touched me as I sat inside that subway car.

There is no telling how far a little kindness can go, or how that can change a person. And tonight, that lady with the kind face didn’t just give hope to a lost boy down on his luck, she showed us too. She showed us that while between a man and a woman, love may not always be enough, in this particular case, it definitely is.

Filed under Thoughts inspiration nyc

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I don’t relate much to insecurity. I have certain insecurities, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always been more or less content with who I am. But I know so many women who struggle with it, and rather deeply at that, which is why I thought this was kind of beautiful. Bless you, Dustin Hoffman.

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Anonymous asked: What can you say to a 'thick' girl who can't get dates? (NBSB club)

First of all, I think it’s all the same when you’re single and looking for love, regardless of how curvy you may be.

I think the most important thing I can say is be comfortable in your skin. I’ve met girls who are quite pretty, put themselves together really well, and even fit into sample size clothing, but are so riddled with insecurities that men actually look past them. Because honestly, it’s not about size, but about being at ease with yourself. It’s understanding who and what you are and not feeling the need to apologize for it.

And if you feel like the weight is a problem, I am all for making healthier decisions, and that includes making sure you do it for yourself. I know people who’ve lost weight, expecting it to be the key to coupledom, and as they are still single, are far more bitter than when they were eating more butter. People who find love after losing weight don’t find it because they’ve become more attractive, but because they did something good for themselves and it showed in their disposition.

It’s cliché, but it’s true: you have to love yourself first before anyone else can love you, especially since right now, you are all you have. People are built with the ability to spot someone who’s dissatisfied in themselves, and who are desperate for another person to love them anyway. It’s far too much to ask of another person to fix you, or to show you all the wonderful things about yourself that you insist on looking past. It also sets the bar for what you know you deserve, so that when the time comes and you start going out with someone you like, you understand what you’re worth without looking to someone else to appraise you. When you take ownership of who you are, it is one of the most attractive things to anyone looking for another person to spend Friday nights with.

That said, make sure you shower, brush your teeth, smell nice, and take care of yourself. I’m a firm believer that everyone has a target market, and you’ll find yours. Don’t lose hope, and love yourself anyway. :)

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Anonymous asked: what's the most important lesson you learned from living in another country?

I think it would have to be the value of knowing how to fend for yourself in the most basic ways: making a meal, ironing a shirt, keeping things clean, fixing a fallen hem, figuring out a commute, doing your laundry assembling basic furniture or learning your way around some pretty basic tools. I mean, it’s pretty surprising/appalling how many full-grown adults are unable to wash a dish properly or have never really scrubbed a toilet clean.

Back home, we are of a culture where we can hire people to do almost anything for us. And while it is a great convenience, it also encourages a mentality among a surprising number of people that a certain class is born for the sole purpose of wiping upper middle class floors. There isn’t much of that here, which I appreciate. I very much like the idea that even the most glamorous celebrities have, like me, gone home after a fabulous night, pulled on the rubber gloves, and scrubbed the remains off a skillet.

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Anonymous asked: Hi! I read your glossy on the website of Divasoria. Did you bring all of your make-up and fragrances to New York?

No, I didn’t. One of my sisters inherited the bulk of my lipsticks. My makeup collection has decreased, which is not to say that it is no longer sizable. (It still is, and it’s quite shameful.) I have a skewed sense of what’s an appropriate amount of makeup a woman should own, as I grew up around women who were very particular about their products and who were the absolute easiest targets at makeup counters. But I am much better at finishing products now before buying new ones (limited storage space does bring out the best in some people).

As far as fragrances go, I’ve pared down quite a bit. I use See by Chloe during the warmer months and Chloe original when it’s a bit colder or for more formal occasions. I still have my little bottle of Johnson’s Baby Cologne in Heaven, though, which I don’t think I’ll ever be sick of.

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The Ultimate Throwback Thursday: Hanson in NYC (+photo/video)

Last Thursday, iHeartRadio hosted a small, by-invite-only show for Hanson to preview songs from their new record, Anthem. Now I am an unabashed Hanson fan, and when they came to Manila last year, I was that girl dancing in the aisle like a certified lunatic. This time around, there was an online lottery for tickets, and lookee lookee who won a pair of tickets. (Cue in: Teenage Dream.)


The majestic wristband of power


Small room, lots of people


Nella bella, plus one extraordinaire


Why, hello there!


2 out of 3 ain’t so bad


Blurry Ike, who I realized really resembles Gunner from Nashville (cue: sudden attraction)



The venue was so tiny that they could not have been more than 15 feet away. (Cue in: Teenage Dream. Again.) Also, in addition to their newer stuff, they sang some of the classics, like If Only (which I sang through and thus was unable to take any video of), and Penny and Me…

…and Mmmbop.

Added fatty bonus: Nella and I headed down to Maslow 6 afterwards for a delicious (and reasonably priced) glass of Rosé and some yummy sandwiches. I had the duck confit with apple and goat cheese. It was dangerously good. My mind was blown.



All in all, a pretty fantastic evening. iHeartRadio, I definitely heart you.



Filed under hanson preteendreams iheartradio amaze fun times in nyc

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Anonymous asked: do you only wear mac lipstick?

LOL I’m so embarrassed. I did have a serious MAC phase, and I amassed quite a number of their lipsticks over time. However, I’m pretty infamous for destashing products I don’t get a lot of use out of, and when the time came to move to NY, I realized how little love so many of these lipsticks were getting. So I gave most of them to my sister and to friends, and now I’m down to 4 tubes of the MAC lipsticks. (Kinda Sexy, Party Parrot, Scarlet Ibis, and Ruby Woo, in case you were wondering.)

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Anonymous asked: I love you Gabbie!! Your article about gays made me cry. Thank you for loving the LGBT!! :')

A massive chunk of my personal happiness is due to having wonderful gay friends. I just want them and the rest of the LGBT to be happy as well. And just so you know…

I love you too. ♡