THRIVE: Where Manila’s cool changemakers converge (Inquirer.net)

(Originally published in Inquirer.net on October 16, 2015)

THRIVE MANILA | October 17 to 25, 2015 | Click on the image to visit the THRIVE Facebook page and learn more about this inspiring event
THRIVE MANILA | October 17 to 25, 2015 | Click on the image to visit the THRIVE Facebook page and learn more about this inspiring event

It’s a curious kind of convergence, happening in one of the world’s most complicated cities to navigate and live in. Artists and designers will get to hang around startups, who’ll also get to meet social media mavens and social enterprises, who’ll most likely be enjoined by bike advocates and environmentalists to support their causes. There will be art, music, green and healthy food, bikes, left and right brains, and more conscientious shopping.

THRIVE's "GreenTech Startup Studio Session", just one of the many cool satellite events happening this week | Click on the image to visit the event page and learn more
THRIVE’s “GreenTech Startup Studio Session”, just one of the many cool satellite events happening this week | Click on the image to visit the event page and learn more
Another cool THRIVE satellite event, this time, in the outdoors and on bicycle: THRIVE Open House with VivaManila and Bambike | Click on the image to visit the event page and learn more
Another cool THRIVE satellite event, this time, in the outdoors and on bicycle: THRIVE Open House with VivaManila and Bambike | Click on the image to visit the event page and learn more
How about ethical, sustainable shoe-making? THRIVE has that, too! Learn more about THIS event with Risque Designs by clicking on the image
How about ethical, sustainable shoe-making? THRIVE has that, too! Learn more about THIS event with Risque Designs by clicking on the image

Welcome to THRIVE, a first-of-its kind event series that “celebrates creativity, entrepreneurship, and design for social good and sustainability.” More than just an arts festival, a conference, or a bazaar, THRIVE aims to connect the many dots that make Manila the energetic hub that it is—but all focused on creating a more sustainable future for this megacity and its citizens.

According to Jen Horn, THRIVE director and founder of MUNI, “Manila is brimming with creativity, and dreamers and doers out to create a better world, and I wanted more of these groups to learn about each other’s initiatives, connect, and collaborate.”

This is an excerpt only. READ MORE in Inquirer.net.

My weight loss journey: 12 weeks, 20 lbs, no fad diet (Rappler.com)

(First published on August 16, 2014 on Rappler.com)

Here are some of the things that the writer did to make that change happen for the long haul.

SOURCE: Rappler.com
SOURCE: Rappler.com

Three months ago, I was 40 lbs. overweight, addicted to chocolates and sweets, and hardly able to walk up 4 short flights of steps without running out of breath. I had just moved into a new job, and my medical test results showed that my cholesterol and triglycerides were high, and my blood sugar levels were above normal.

And don’t get me started on my body-mass index (BMI). At 5’2.5”, my highest recorded weight was 150 lbs., and my BMI category was “Obese I.” Although childless, I had been asked a few times if I was expecting or had already given birth, since I had gained 40 lbs. in 4 years.

No matter how my family and friends tried to reassure me that I still looked okay despite the overall roundness, I knew deep inside that this wasn’t how I was supposed to be.

Fast-forward to 12 weeks later, and I had lost exactly 21.5 lbs. without going on some fad “diet,” surgery, or anything extraordinary.

BEFORE AND AFTER. Happier in the process. Photos provided by Nina Terol
BEFORE AND AFTER. Happier in the process. Photos provided by Nina Terol

did make the decision to completely change my routine, lifestyle, and overall outlook on my health and life. Here are some of the things that I did—and still do—to make that change happen for the long haul.*

1. Walk to work. When I moved into a new job, I also made the decision to move closer to my new office for two reasons: (1) to avoid the horrendous cross-city traffic that would waste so much time and money; and (2) to start walking to work every day. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

My daily walk takes around 20 minutes both ways, acting as my warm-up and cool-down for the day. It also jump-started my entire system to get moving again from what used to be a completely sedentary lifestyle.

2. Move, move, MOVE. Once I had gotten used to walking to and from work, I also made the decision to move about as much as I could. I followed expert advice to get up from my desk every 90 minutes—time that I also use when I need a writing break or when I need to talk to some colleagues on the other end of the office.

I’ve also tried editing material while standing up—just to keep myself awake and alert while reading otherwise sleep-inducing drafts.

I’m also fortunate enough to work in an office with a (free) gym just in the same floor, so I started out by doing some slow cycling on the exercise bike—while reading a work-related book—either during the lunch break or after work.

Once my body felt strong enough, I moved to the treadmill and did 30-minute power walk sessions after work. I have since “graduated” to running on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes per session, at least two times a week on weekdays.

On weekends, I make sure to wake up early enough to catch the morning sun and jog around the neighborhood by 8AM.

SOURCE: Rappler.com

3. Get fit with friends. Thanks to a friend who invited me to check out a Zumba class, I now get to dance Zumba at least once a week—burning a lot of calories while getting fit, making new friends, andhaving fun.

I also realized in the process that I enjoy dancing even if I don’t have a dance background and am not even very good at it. So aside from Zumba, I’ve also started dancing salsa with friends—and taking every possible opportunity to just dance and move to good music.

Aside from that, I have a best friend who’s a yoga teacher and a cousin who used to be a personal trainer. Once I opened up to their guidance and support, I’ve been able to incorporate more balanced practices into my everyday routine and lifestyle.

4. Junk the (bad) carbs. This is important: No matter how much you move, you won’t get healthy enough unless you junk the bad carbs from your system. This includes such Filipino staples as white rice, white bread, white pasta, and all sorts of sweets, pastries, andmerienda fare. For me, cutting the rice, bread, pasta, and pizza was easy—it’s cutting out the chocolates and the sweets that continues to be a challenge.

This is also where the conscious, active decision to be fit and healthy kicks in: I’ve realized that for our bodies to change, we first have to change our minds about “the way things have always been done.”

This has meant redefining what constitutes a “good meal”, as well as getting my family on board about healthier options during family get-togethers.

SOURCE: Rappler.com

5. Train your taste buds. Substitute. So if you can’t eat white rice, white breads, and pasta, what can you eat? Some prefer eating red or brown rice, or whole grain bread and pasta, which contain more nutrients than their whiter, refined counterparts.

I, on the other hand, have decided to junk those altogether and instead use salads and vegetables for my everyday meals.

I love the fact that pre-washed salad packs are now readily available in supermarkets and convenience stores—it takes the guesswork out of my meals and makes it easier for me to eat healthy. For me, “lettuce is the new rice.” (It looks prettier on Instagram photos, too!)

Also, if you must absolutely use sweeteners for your drinks, go for stevia or agave instead of white sugar or even artificial sweeteners with aspartame. Both stevia and agave are plant-based, are sweeter, and have a lower glycemic index than white sugar, preventing a “sugar crash” and nasty cravings later on.

Other substitutions you can make: tea instead of coffee, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) instead of milk chocolate, lemon water instead of fruit juices (which are also high on sugar, especially if they’re processed and artificial), vinaigrette instead of heavy dressings, clear soup instead of creamy soups, and herbs and spices instead of artificial flavors. All those little choices add up, and will contribute to a healthier you in the long run.

6. Redefine “happy meals.” Apologies to the big, corporate fast food chains out there, but my new idea of a “happy meal” is a meal that: (a) is good for me and my body; and (b) I’ve lovingly prepared for myself, right from my own kitchen.

I used to think that cooking my own baon was such a hassle—especially since I cook for just one. But once I realized that cooking for myself was an act of self-love and self-nurturing, I’ve come to enjoy preparing my own meals and see it as my way of taking care of myself. (If I don’t do it, who else will?)

7. Reimagine trips and buffets. My big test came when I had three consecutive weekends of out-of-town trips and access to buffets. Instead of enjoying the fluffy hotel linens and sleeping in like I used to do, I chose to enjoy early-morning beachside jogs, laps in the pool, and detoxing in the hotel sauna—aside from the off-site trips where I walked and moved around as much as I could.

I also used the buffets as opportunities to choose healthier dishes that I normally don’t get to prepare at home.That meant muesli and fresh fruits for breakfast, and different kinds of salad and seafood for lunch and dinner. The takeaways: more confidence to wear a bathing suit and a good, lasting tan.

8. Move on from a heartache. There truly is nothing like a major heartache to motivate you to lose weight, get fit, and take better care of yourself.

But instead of gorging on ice cream and chocolates while watching sappy rom-coms, I did the opposite: I went out there and rediscovered the things that truly meant so much to me but were just buried beneath a gazillion other obligations. I used the space left by the old to make way for the new, and I’m healthier and happier because of it.

A bonus: when someone new comes along to inspire you, you’re already a much better version of yourself—inside and out—than you used to be.

SOURCE: Rappler.com

9. Set measurable goals. There’s a saying that goes, “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.” At the start of the 12 weeks, I challenged myself to lose 40 lbs.—without spending on expensive diets and programs—in just four months. I set certain special occasions as milestones, and I’ve kept my eye on the ball since then.

I’ve also challenged myself to run a 3K race next month and a 5K race by December, with guidance from my trainer-cousin.

I obviously won’t be able to lose the extra 18.5 lbs. in just four more weeks, but I know that I’ll at least come close to my goal and will end up much healthier and happier than when I started out.

10. Cut yourself some slack. I admit—there were two weeks out of the 12 when I really indulged in a lot of dark chocolate goodies, some heavy red meats, and paella (my all-time favorite dish). I’ve also had the occasional pizza and (again, dark chocolate) cake slice for colleagues’ birthdays.

I still drink wine and craft beer when going out. But that’s the beauty of this new lifestyle I’m on: I am not on a “diet”, which means I’m not going to deprive myself of little indulgences when the occasion calls for it.

Sustainable path

I’d like to believe that I’m on a more sustainable path to health and wellness—which means no feelings of deprivation, no mood swings, no hunger pangs, and no cravings. I’m eating well, taking better care of my body, but also listening to myself when I need a cup of hot cocoa.

I’m also enjoying life and the company of family and friends, and I’m not going to be the party pooper just because there are bad carbs on the table. Life is about balance, after all.

I’m pretty confident that, with a more loving attitude toward my body and soul and with the support of family and friends, I’m not only going to reach my ideal weight, I’ll also be able to keep it off and live healthier for the rest of my life. – Rappler.com

10 tips for your next brainstorming session at work (Rappler.com)

(First published on June 8, 2014 in Rappler.com)

Dreading your next big meeting? Empowering advice from former Disney Imagineer McNair Wilson

Whether you’re working by yourself or in a team, there will be times when you’ll need a breakthrough idea to save the day. Oftentimes, however, typical “brainstorming” sessions end with nothing much because, according to former Walt Disney Imagineer McNair Wilson, “Nobody knows how to brainstorm anymore… Usually what’s going on is playful arguing with snacks on the table.”

Wilson, now an author and public speaking coach—among his many other hats—was in the Philippines in May for a lecture series called “The Curiosity Tour.” He believes that curiosity is an essential trait of all creative people—whether or not they think or know they are creative. “Everyone was born with it”, he says; some people just remained curious while others “grew up” and left their sense of childlike wonder behind. (READ: Feeling uninspired? Wise words from top creatives)

The author with former Walt Disney Imagineer McNair Wilson
The author with former Walt Disney Imagineer McNair Wilson

In this Rappler exclusive, we share with you some tips from a guy whose ideas have led to some of Disney’s most popular attractions.

1. Stay curious. “The best tool of creativity is a question,” declared Wilson, who was part of conceptualizing five of Disney’s theme parks and was the lead Imagineer for Disney’s “Tower of Terror” attraction. “Never stop asking questions. Be the other guy who says, ‘Why not?’”

The next time you have a problem to solve, Wilson recommends using this question:“Wonder what it would be like if we…?”

2. Challenge assumptions. Don’t accept things “just because.” If there are unwritten rules in your team or organization, ask “Why?” or “How else can things be done?”

What else can you try that may not be in the instructions or in “how we’ve always done things,” but which can still get you the results you need? Chances are, some of your ideas may work—it’s just that no one has bothered to ask or try them out.

The danger in not challenging assumptions is that you will gravitate toward the status quo, killing the chance for new ideas to flourish. In his book, Hatch! Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer, Wilson writes, “Even when everything is ‘fine’, I say brainstorm,HATCH! That old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ is for people who are satisfied with life, work, and business as usual.”

BE YOURSELF. Share your ideas, and don't be surprised if you don't agree – and if not everyone agrees with youBE YOURSELF. Share your ideas, and don’t be surprised if you don’t agree – and if not everyone agrees with you

3. Think differently. Be yourself. Wilson exhorts his audience to dare to be different—to be the best versions of themselves and to “find what works” for them instead of always trying to please others.

“You’re the Number One ‘You’ in the world. And if you don’t do ‘You,’ then ‘You’ don’t get done, and the world’s isn’t complete… When you do ‘You,’ you inspire the world.”

When working in teams, Wilson encourages team leaders to give members the space to share their ideas. “Be more flexible. Let people do things their way.”

“There will be limitations. There will be reasons. There will be rules,” he acknowledges, but also says that, sometimes, the failures of a team stem not from the ideas themselves but from “failure to communicate and failure to get along.”

4. Don’t block others’ ideas. Aside from believing that “we’re not creative,” another idea-killing belief is that “they’re not creative.” Managers sometimes shrug off others’ ideas because they come from junior staff or from the “uncreative types.”

“It’s not so much the words you say, but how you say [them that’s considered blocking],” says Wilson. Do you raise your eyebrows when someone speaks up? Do you appear disinterested when someone’s pitching an idea? Do you immediately jump in to say why something “won’t work”?

Wilson proposes a shift in perspective: “Be positive—be curious! Sometimes, it’s the most unlikely person in the room that can contribute a great idea.”

When that happens, “Get out of the way of inspiration,” he urges.

5. Build on others people’s ideas. Wilson calls this saying “Yes, and…” to others’ ideas. When someone else comes up with an idea, acknowledge the idea and build on it—or even go in a different direction—as long as you don’t block the original idea.

“If you say, ‘yes, and…’, nobody can be negative,” Wilson points out.

The more positive energy flows and the more ideas are generated, the more chances you’ll have of stumbling upon your Big Breakthrough.

“If you’re brainstorming, some of the best ideas come in the last five to ten minutes. Keep pushing ‘till the end,” Wilson shares.

6. Engage all your senses. Using all the senses can help you redesign an experience, improve a product or service, identify an unmet need, or simply generate new ideas. Wilson shares the experience of a bakery off Disney’s Main Street that had a sudden spike in sales when a redesign in the chimneys allowed the scent of freshly baked chocolate cookies to waft out into the street.

“When you’re designing—when you’re creating—use all five senses,” Wilson quoted the late Walt Disney.

Wilson also talks about the power of observation. Oftentimes, new solutions emerge from observing how people interact with a particular product or service. “You have to practice noticing other things,” he points out. “How can you take a familiar place or experience and look at it differently?”

7. Try something new. Creativity can be awakened when you try something new; oftentimes, it happens in the simplest of ways. You can try a new dish at a favorite restaurant, a different ice cream flavor, a new drink, a different route to or from work—anything.

“Sometimes, some of my favorite things are things I used to hate,” Wilson admits. And that’s where new possibilities open up. If you try something new often enough, you soon shall have expanded your realm of possibility, making it easier to accept and try new ideas.

8. Start small. Just start. Oftentimes, the barrier to a great idea is the typical “lack of time and budget.” Wilson doesn’t see this as a hindrance—even they had some scrimping to do while at Disney—but it poses an interesting challenge to problem-solving.

“Anything worth doing is worth starting poorly just to get it done,” Wilson asserts—but he doesn’t mean being mediocre. He means starting something without aiming to be “perfect”—just to get momentum going—and then improving on things as you go along.

“It’s not about a big budget,” Wilson points out. “What do you want to do? Do it.” While you’re at it, give yourself a tight timeline to force yourself to come up with something, sooner than you think.

9. Go wild with your ideas. There are times when it pays to get wild with your ideas and see what happens when you keep pushing. “Walt Disney built a theme park that people thought wouldn’t succeed… When Disneyland opened, Walt Disney was broke,” Wilson points out.

Disneyland was losing money during the first three years of its operations. But that didn’t stop Walt Disney and his initial crop of wild believers from pursuing their wild, audacious idea. Today, the Walt Disney Company is a diversified company operating globally, with businesses in “Media Networks, Parks & Resorts, Studio Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Interactive Media.” As of May 2014, the company has a market cap of $142.92 billion, ranks No. 100 in Forbes’ Global 2000, and is No. 17 among the “World’s Most Valuable Brands.”

Wilson urges, “Go beyond what makes sense. Go beyond what you understand. Go beyond what you can afford.” Go for what excites you, and be fueled by that sense of adventure. Even if your concept does get trimmed down, you’ll still be much better off than having nothing.

10. Take risks. Finally, being open to creativity and to new ideas will mean nothing if you don’t actually take risks to make something happen.

“Take the risk. What do you love to do? Do it. Find a way to put into your regular work what you love the most.”

For McNair Wilson, the thespian-turned-Imagineer-turned-wizard-of-creativity, being curious and creative is not just a great way to work—it’s also a great way to live and be.

“What do you do best? Are you using it every day? If you’re saving it—what are you saving it for?”

He emphasizes, “Find your passion—find out what it’s about, and put it in your life. You have no excuse.” – Rappler.com

Photo of two people thinking via Shutterstock

10 lessons I learned from having a lesbian sister (Rappler.com)

(First published on March 12, 2014 in Rappler.com)

My sister came out to the family when she was in her teens – although she says she knew as early as 5 or 7 years old that she did not have a girl’s heart. It took a while for our family to accept and adjust to this reality even if the signs were there very early on: Kens over Barbies, cars over dolls, crying whenever she would be asked to wear a dress, challenging guys to “one-on-one” on the basketball court instead of entertaining suitors.

My mom would say that she was just “boyish” and “athletic” (which was true because she was a star athlete in her youth). My dad thought she would “outgrow” it by the time she would have gotten her period. I, on the other hand, was pleased because she was the fairer, prettier daughter, and I wanted her to “be a boy” so that I could “eliminate the competition” in the family. Meanwhile, my brother was pissed because he was supposed to be the only boy in the family.

It’s been around 20 years since that time, and our family’s relationship with my sister has taught us many things. I wish to share some of them here in case it helps others who are processing their own “modern families.”

1. Your inability to process and accept reality is reflective of your issues, not hers.

From what I remember, my sister was very confident about coming out. She knew who she was and what she wanted, and she was simply stating her truth. I was the one embarrassed to accept it. My feelings then oscillated between pity and disgust – simply because I didn’t know any better. I was at an age where labels and public perception meant so much, and it hurt me to have a lesbian sister on top of coming from a “broken family.” (This was the early 90s, when such realities were still taboo in the Philippines.)

I didn’t want to have the label “dysfunctional” attached to me and my family, so I faced the facts with a lot of anger. In the end, my anger hurt me and my ability to be loving more than it did her.

2. The sooner you can accept the truth, the sooner you’ll understand what “family” is really all about.

My siblings and I are lucky to have been raised by fairly liberal parents – especially my mom, who had traveled the world and had been exposed to life’s realities at an early age. I think she was the first to accept my sister’s choices, and she chose to still love my sister with open arms. It didn’t mean it was easy or that there weren’t any issues and fights in between, but the love and acceptance were there. That example of my mom showed me what family is really all about – you’re not just a group of people bound by blood and genes; you’re there to accept and love each other no matter what.

3. Love is love.

Speaking of love: seeing the relationships within my family, and seeing my sister and her (many) partners through the years also showed me that love is not (and should not be) gender-based. Love is love – it’s either there or it isn’t. A heterosexual relationship can have just as many issues as a homosexual relationship. If people want to cheat and/or be assholes in their relationship, they will cheat and/or be assholes. If people want to be faithful, they will be faithful. I’m sure some quarters don’t agree with this, but if love is truly unconditional, then it will know no boundaries.

4. Children are more “gender-blind” than adults and will accept their parents just the way they are.

My sister has a 14-year-old daughter, and where the adults have been quick to question and judge, my niece has been nothing but loving and loyal to my sister. Sure, they have their fair share of mother-daughter issues (who doesn’t?), but my niece has shown us how fiercely she loves her mom – no matter what. I guess it’s a testament to the kind of loving family environment in which my niece was raised, which I again credit to my mom’s own example of unconditional love and acceptance.

5. She makes for a great travel companion.

Now on to the “more fun” stuff. My sister and I, being a freelance writer and a freelance photographer, respectively, have had the privilege of traveling together to cover foreign events. Because my sister is the chivalrous kind – and maybe because I’m the older sibling – she offers to carry my luggage, give me the more comfortable seat, and generally make sure I’m okay when we’re moving about. It also means that I get a free bodyguard because she’s quick to block any jerk that tries to make a pass at me. And because she’s generally funny and loves being a clown, she makes for great entertainment even during the most exasperating of travel mishaps.

6. I get a stylist and a wardrobe critic in one.

My sister is the stylish kind, and she’s great at deciding what goes best with what. She’s even done my hair and makeup on some occasions, which is great when you don’t have the proverbial gay best friend to do that for you. Since she also looks at women with a guy’s eye, she can tell me straight up if a particular look doesn’t work. But because she still (sometimes) thinks and feels like a girl, she’s sensitive enough not to blurt out anything about my weight.

FAMILY LOVE. The author (leftmost) says unconditional love defines a truly "modern family."
FAMILY LOVE. The author (leftmost) says unconditional love defines a truly “modern family.”

7. She may act tough, but she’s a softie, too.

My sister can be a toughie, but there are times when she reminds you (or you remind yourself) that she’s still a girl. There are still some things that affect her the way it would affect any girl, and there are still times when she gets all “Mother Hen-ny” on the people she loves.

8. Just because she looks like a guy doesn’t mean she doesn’t get PMS.

I always kid my sister that her period is Mother Nature’s way of reminding her that she’s a girl. She gets the mood swings and the cravings and all these other PMS-y things the way any biological female would. That said, be more sensitive around her when it’s the time of the month.

9. Whatever she may look like, a sister will always be a sister.

Even after she stopped being “competition” to me in the looks and boys department, my sister and I continued to be like cat and dog. We’ve had our fair share of big wars and little skirmishes, but love and sisterhood would always prevail, and we would always find our way back to each other. The most important thing that I learned from my relationship from my sister is that, while we may never have braided each other’s hair (we pulled them, more often that not), may never have talked about boys, and may never be able to completely understand each other, we will always be sisters – with that inexplicable bond that will stay with us forever.

10. Forgiveness will heal even the deepest, most painful wounds.

My sister and I have had a most unconventional childhood (to say the least), filled with enough traumatic experiences and painful lessons to last us several lifetimes. We’ve faced betrayal in the face several times, and we’ve had to deal with a lot of anger and bitterness in the family. It has taken decades to get over these issues, and there are times when we still find ourselves in a process of conscious healing. Through it all, what has saved us is forgiveness – of others, of each other, of ourselves.

If unconditional love is the bedrock of each family, then I think forgiveness is the first necessary ingredient of that love. None of us is perfect – we know that all too well in our family – but because we were all willing to forgive, to love, and to move on, we’ve become a stronger family, capable of even so much more love than we thought we could give. – Rappler.com

A Tuesday with Mitch Albom

Two of Mitch Albom's popular and best-selling books | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Two of Mitch Albom’s popular and best-selling books | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

I was such a huge fan of Tuesdays with Morrie, the New York Times bestseller about professor Morrie Schwartz’s lessons on dying and death, as experienced and written by his student, Mitch Albom. Like many of Albom’s readers, I had always regarded him as an inspirational writer whose works are “must-reads” and “must-shares.”

So imagine my surprise (and elation!) when I got a call from my Rappler editor, asking if I would take on an assignment interviewing Albom during his trip to the Philippines. My answer was inelegant, and started with: OMG!!!

Fast forward to that afternoon, and I was fortunate enough to have been given 30 full minutes with Mr. Albom. We talked about his latest book, The First Phone Call from Heaven; his trip to the Philippines to rebuild libraries in Haiyan-flattened communities; his thoughts on success and fame; what keeps him grounded; and what he thinks of death and dying, seeing that he’s written a number of books about them.

Mitch Albom and Me ;)
Mitch Albom and Me ;)

My latest article from that interview is now out, and I’ll share an excerpt here:

“Tuesdays with Morrie was a book that most people didn’t want. I only wrote that book to pay Morrie’s medical bills,” Albom confessed.

“Everywhere I went… they told me, ‘No.’ ‘It’s a stupid idea.’ ‘It’s boring.’ ‘It’s depressing.’ ‘You can’t write it; you’re a sports writer.’ Almost everywhere I went, they told me, ‘Not interested.’ And I only pushed because I was trying to pay Morrie’s medical bills, and I couldn’t take no for an answer.”

Albom’s love and respect for his teacher, coupled with his dogged persistence, paid off. Tuesdays with Morrie not only paid for Morrie Schwartz’s medical bills, it also went on to sell 14 million copies in 41 languages worldwide, and was later on produced into a television movie by no less than Oprah Winfrey, winning 4 Emmy Awards. The book has also spun an Off-Broadway play and has been able to fund a number of charity efforts as well.

I shared a lot more in that piece–and will sharing a bit more in the coming days. In the meantime, I hope you can take time to read the full article… and I hope that you’ll be as inspired in reading it as I was when I wrote it. 🙂

Building The Social Enterprise Capital Of The World (Homegrown.ph)

(First published on Homegrown.ph on February 21, 2014)

How does a country recover from the unprecedented disaster unleashed by a supertyphoon? By creating new opportunities and creating a thriving center for enterprise.
by Niña Terol-Zialcita
BAGS FOR REBUILDING LIVES. [Clockwise from upper left] Taclob meets with master bagmaker, Mr. Yadu Saulo and Khumbmela/Yadu Bag’s managing partner Dhanvan Saulo; 5th grader Angelo is one of the first owners of the upcycled, storm-proof, hand-made Taclob Bags; behind-the-scenes at the Ambassadors of Compassion photo shoot; Jourdan Sebastian in Tacloban, with the first recipients of Taclob bags. All images from the Instagram account of Jourdan Sebastian, used with permission.
BAGS FOR REBUILDING LIVES. [Clockwise from upper left] Taclob meets with master bagmaker, Mr. Yadu Saulo and Khumbmela/Yadu Bag’s managing partner Dhanvan Saulo; 5th grader Angelo is one of the first owners of the upcycled, storm-proof, hand-made Taclob Bags; behind-the-scenes at the Ambassadors of Compassion photo shoot; Jourdan Sebastian in Tacloban, with the first recipients of Taclob bags. All images from the Instagram account of Jourdan Sebastian, used with permission.

Can the Philippines be the social enterprise capital of the world?

This was the bold question raised by Jourdan Sebastian, a filmmaker, producer, actor, and spoken word artist who recently co-organized “Operation Airdrop” to airlift much-needed relief goods to remote areas that were hardest hit by Yolanda.

A self-proclaimed “Dreamer Warrior,” Sebastian threw the question to guests at Homegrown’s Hanap Buhay jelly in December 2013, which was the stage for a forum on sustainable efforts in response to the catastrophe brought about by supertyphoon Yolanda.

He has since gone around to share this dream with audiences who want to listen.

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post on the Homegrown.ph website.

Feeling uninspired? Wise words from top creatives (Rappler.com)

(First published on Rappler.com on February 12, 2014)

Graphika Manila 2014 poster | Taken from the Graphika Manila Facebook page
Graphika Manila 2014 poster | Taken from the Graphika Manila Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – What does it take to live a life less ordinary?

At the recently held Graphika Manila 2014, luminaries from the creative world shared the stage to talk about their creative process, their best work, the mistakes they’ve made, and lessons they’ve learned along the way.

We saw from their individual journeys that whatever the speakers’ backgrounds—whether they hailed from Barcelona or Bacolod, were a newbie or a veteran, worked freelance or in a studio—they all had one thing in common: they openly sought inspiration and designed their lives around what mattered most to them.

You can do it, too—regardless of your profession or passion. Here are 6 ideas to get you going:

1. Commit to your passions. Illustrator and creative director Ash Thorp admitted to coming from “humble beginnings,” and spent a lot of time drawing during his youth because he “didn’t have a lot of toys.

Thorp talked about his “year of complete potential”, during which he endured commutes every day from San Diego to Los Angeles “because L.A. is where the action is; it’s where Hollywood is.” Eventually, he got noticed by Hollywood producers, who commissioned him to do some work for the big-budget remake of Total Recall.

TOTAL RECALL. Screen shots of material produced by Thorp for the movie Total Recall. Used with permission from Ash Thorp
TOTAL RECALL. Screen shots of material produced by Thorp for the movie Total Recall. Used with permission from Ash Thorp

Today, Thorp lives back in San Diego with his wife and daughter, enjoying work and life as a freelancer.

His advice to the Graphika Manila 2014 crowd: “When there’s a trend happening, let the trend go [its] way and just be yourself.”

2. “Take your weakness and make it your strength.” New York-based illustrator and designerSara Blake/ZSO grew up near-sighted and with a “googly eye.”

Instead of looking at her near-sightedness as a weakness, Blake found inspiration in the many patterns she could see up close. Although she was a very shy child, Blake found solace in art and used her imagination and connection with nature to stand out from the crowd.

In a recent interview, Blake talked more about her creative journey and how she “embraced” her weaknesses to develop her own unique style.

Telling TheGreatDiscontent.com that she wasn’t the best illustrator when it came to drawing realistically, she said, “Instead, I decided to embrace that I use my instincts to determine what I would abstract and what I would base [on] reality.”

DON’T BE SCARED. “Skull 3”, pencil on smooth Bristol paper. Illustration by Sara Blake
DON’T BE SCARED. “Skull 3”, pencil on smooth Bristol paper. Illustration by Sara Blake

Blake tells the Graphika Manila audience, “Free yourself from anyone’s expectations but your own.”

3. Experiment. Learn. Have fun. (Rinse and repeat.) Creativity is the twin sister of experimentation. The more you experiment and learn, the more your mind stretches and makes creativity possible.

Each of the speakers talked about learning new skills, experimenting with new tools, and having fun with the process of discovery. Sara Blake even gave the audience a sneak peek into her creative process, showing time-lapse videos of her Photoshop screenshots.

In designing the typeface for her alias, ZSO, Sara Blake took inspiration from a heart, and joined the Z and the S in order to form an upside-down heart. Peacocks, owls, skulls, flowers, and other natural elements and patterns are also dominant in her work.

WEARABLE ART. Sara Blake, a.k.a ZSO, has ventured into designing fashion accessories, such as this peacock scarf. Photo courtesy of Sara Blake
WEARABLE ART. Sara Blake, a.k.a ZSO, has ventured into designing fashion accessories, such as this peacock scarf. Photo courtesy of Sara Blake

(READ: Take it from the masters: What art lovers can learn from experts)

4. Seek inspiration everywhere. Would you work with “Designers from Hell”? “Obviously, we’re not from hell,” quipped Teo Guillem and Carlos Pardo from Barcelona-based studio Dvein, but they were such huge fans of the rock band Pantera that they decided to name themselves after the Pantera album Cowboys from Hell. The word Dvein is an acronym for the phrase, DiseñadoresVEnido del INfierno.

“Ideas come from everywhere, from a mix of everything, like the Philippine jeepney,” Dvein said. “Sometimes you don’t know where your ideas will end up.”

ROCKSTAR DESIGNERS. To push the boundaries of their ideas, Dvein formed a band called The Vein, and created a music video for their song “Magma.” The result: liquid genius. Photo courtesy of Dvein
ROCKSTAR DESIGNERS. To push the boundaries of their ideas, Dvein formed a band called The Vein, and created a music video for their song “Magma.” The result: liquid genius. Photo courtesy of Dvein

Meanwhile, for Fil-Am Eugene Gauran, who now works as Design Director of the award-winning, international visual effects studio The Mill, it’s important to “be inspired by different forms of media.” Although working primarily with visual effects and computer graphics, he said that he finds inspiration in design-based forms because “everything starts with design, and you work your way up.”

5. Go ahead and be obsessed with your craft. “Obsession is the secret to an exciting life,” Bacolod-born Filipino designer Isabel Gatuslao said as she related how her “obsession” with typefaces and identity led her to do work for influential people, including interior designer Chat Fores, celebrity stylist Liz Uy, and, very recently, for Nike and NBA royalty Lebron James.

THE CUSTOM LEBRON X BY ISABEL GATUSLAO. Shoes made for royalty. Photo courtesy of Isabel Gatuslao
THE CUSTOM LEBRON X BY ISABEL GATUSLAO. Shoes made for royalty. Photo courtesy of Isabel Gatuslao

Every element must have a reason for being—else, it has no place in a well-designed piece.

Jessica Hische concurred. “As a lettering person, you get more obsessed with the smaller details,” she says. This attention to detail plays a key role in her work. In designing the cover of the book The Circle by Dave Eggers, which examines the issues raised by use of social media, illustrator and letterer Jessica Hische took inspiration from “the interweaving connectivity of social media sites.” The cover, which featured a cleanly beautiful spherical piece featuring interconnected orange links, was cited by the New York Times online as one of the best book covers of 2013.

For professional creatives, what matters to a client is to show work that reflects a clear and insightful strategy, a focused mind, and a clean, disciplined hand.

6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Every creative knows that his first draft or study will not be his last.

A simple tip for those who are afraid to get started out of fear of making a mistake? Start with a pencil sketch of your ideas before committing them to ink or a digital rendering. Pencil sketches or doodles get the mind’s creative juices flowing while being clear that “this is just a work in progress.” Plus, it’s easy to erase, making it less painful to undo an error.

Jessica Hische put it another way when she said, “It’s hard to get clients to believe you’re good at something unless you do it over and over.” Make those mistakes. Assess why they happened. Note that for the future.

This applies even if you’re not an artist. Make your ideas real by writing them down, examining them, and consulting the relevant parties.

In creativity, and in life, practice makes perfect – and profitable. – Rappler.com

Surviving the 10-Day Lemon Juice Cleanse (Rappler.com)

NOTE: My first major piece for the year was the product of sacrifice, self-awareness, honesty, and a whole lot of lemon juice. THANK YOU to my editors at Rappler for allowing me to share this–and thanks to the many readers who made this one of the “most read” pieces for that cycle!

Sharing an excerpt here 🙂

"Surviving the 10-Day Lemon Juice Cleanse": A must-read on Rappler.com! :)
“Surviving the 10-Day Lemon Juice Cleanse”: A must-read on Rappler.com! :)

MANILA, Philippines – The Lemon Juice Cleanse, a.k.a. Master Cleanse or the Lemonade Diet, is a 10-day cleanse that involves fasting on all solid foods and drinking only a concoction made of freshly squeezed (or fresh pressed) lemon juice, pure maple syrup (grade B), and cayenne pepper. It was introduced by Stanley Burroughs in 1940 and regained popularity after pop icon Beyoncé Knowles reportedly lost at least 20 lbs. on the cleanse, for her role in Dreamgirls (2006).

A 3-time “survivor” of the cleanse, I first tried it in January 2009 as my way of detoxing after the holidays and preparing myself for a new job. I did it again in 2010 before embarking on the campaign trail; and, just recently, I did it a third time in order to “reboot” my system and get back on the path of health and wellness.

Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

This is an excerpt only. Click HERE to read the full post on Rappler.com.

Mighty Aphrodite (Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

NOTE: This is a late post, and I apologize to my editors for not promoting the November 2013 issue of T+L Southeast Asia early enough. But between dealing with the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) plus all the traveling we did in November, there hasn’t been much time to catch our breath!

"Mighty Aphrodite" in Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, November 2013 issueMighty Aphrodite

A young woman in the Philippines has made it her personal mission to save the seas. By Niña Terol-Zialcita

(Published in the November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

Many little girls dream of becoming mermaids. Not too many, though, take the mission to heart.

Philippines-based Anna Oposa is different. Her business card reads “Founder and Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas,” and at the tender age of 25, she has already helped expose a smuggling ring that poached the country’s waters for corals, sea turtles and other precious marine species; started an independent movement to protect aquatic resources across the archipelago; and taken her mission to the international stage as a Young Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum. This woman’s love of the ocean is so deep, all she’s missing are flippers. Here, we dive into her underwater and on-the-ground pursuits.

Which came first—your love of diving or your passion for conserving the environment?

When I was 19, I volunteered in a cleanup dive to be exempted from an exam, and I saw diapers underwater. That’s when I told myself I needed to do more.

The interests complement each other perfectly. I am reminded of what needs to be conserved every time I dive.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, grab a copy of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia’s November 2013 issue.

The November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia | Click on the image to visit their Facebook page to see more great content and cool promos
The November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia | Click on the image to visit their Facebook page to see more great content and cool promos

Amanpulo, Visayas Islands among the best of Conde Nast (Rappler.com)

(First published on November 4, 2013) in Rappler.com)

AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/
AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/

[See the original image here]

MANILA, Philippines – Amanpulo, the ultra-exclusive resort located in Pamalican Island in the Sulu Sea, has once again made it to Condé Nast Traveller’s list of Top 100 resorts, hotels and spas in the Readers’ Travel Awards 2013.

The resort was cited among the Top 20 in the Asia & India category, with a numeric rating of 77.88 over 100.

Amanpulo is the only Philippine resort to make it to this year’s Top 100.

According to Condé Nast Traveller, “[Readers] were asked to rate [their] choices according to various criteria, such as service, culture and value for money. From [the] responses, we calculated the average mark on each criterion, and used this to provide the overall satisfaction percentage figure…”

Condé Nast Traveller is one of the world’s leading travel publications, known for its independence and integrity in reviewing travel and hospitality establishments. The poll for the 2013 Readers’ Travel Awards was participated in by 80,000 jetsetters, who cumulatively cast over 1.3 million votes.

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post on Rappler.com.