I’ll Be Teaching FREE Cash Planning Workshops – Dates & Links Will Be Posted Here



A few days ago, I reached out to friends and people from my social media communities to offer to share a skill that may help many especially during these times of uncertainty. I can’t share cooking or workout tips because I seriously suck at both, but I can share a skill that may not be instagrammable but absolutely necessary: Daily Cash Planning using spreadsheets.

For the past few weeks, I have been working from home with our team from @rags2richesinc to continue creating livelihood for artisans, and with our team from #TalinoLabs to build inclusive tech start-ups. And while work has been busier than usual with back-to-back-to-back video calls and virtual meetings, I thought that I could use some of my no-traffic-no-commute time to share my spreadsheet skills and tools to others who may be needing them now more than ever.
When I posted on Facebook about my plan to offer the free virtual workshop, I got A LOT of replies and private messages. I felt the pain and panic of a lot of people but I also felt their proactive hope. So instead of just doing this once, I’ll be giving 3 workshops (for now) via different organizers. I am still fixing the details with the organizers and I’ll be posting them here when they are finalized.



I want to reach as many people as possible (which is why I canva-ed this. haha though I @canva_ph everything. It is my stress reliever) with these 3 workshops so that they can hopefully lead to better decisions and positive impact (and hopefully more jobs / jobs saved) for a lot of enterprises and organizations.

I’ll be posting the links and schedules to the virtual conferences here. Watch this space (literally haha).

First Session: with Impact Hub Manila 

Second Session: with Start Up Village 

Third Session: with Bounce Back PH

Link to the presentation

Link to the Google Sheets Template

My Home Helpers Manual – mommy hacks part 1

Okay, before anything else, I am HARDLY an expert. I am a mom of an almost two year old boy and still find myself stumbling, regretting, celebrating, regretting, and celebrating again. I don’t have a lot of answers, but because I have been incredibly supported by moms especially when I was going through my post-partum blues, I promised myself that I will share what I can and do what I can for moms who reach out for anything.

So theeeere! Fair warning, I am a nerd. So a lot of the materials here are super detailed and… nerdy. haha

Background: I have worked with artisans for all my career life so I thought of approaching our Helper recruitment and retention in the same way I approach everything in life, including work: with clarity, compassion, consistency, google sheets, and power points!

The Purpose of this Manual: Sure, our home helpers are employed by us. But more than being their employers, we are also their families away from their own families. We share our home and life with them and entrust the safety and wellbeing of our children to them.

I thought of creating an orientation manual for our helpers and yayas so that they can be best informed about their rights, our expectations, health and safety basics, and our family dynamics. As we onboard helpers, I take about an hour during their first week to present this manual, complete with handouts in clear books. It is not a one-sided manual too as I make it a point to ask them about their families, hopes and dreams, goals, and how we can support them.

This orientation manual eventually evolved into learning module that I update as needed.

What is in it – A 60+ slide module (at least that’s the template now, but my personal one is already 90+ slides long) in Tagalog that includes the following: 

  • Information / Bio – I give out pieces of paper that they can fill up with the information we need for filing 
  • Terms of service and information about the work – this includes information and policies on cash advances, salary disbursements, and details on government-mandated benefits such as SSS, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig. I make it a point to explain all these to them so that they can also appreciate what they could do with the benefits. 
  • Values Sharing – this part is where I discuss the values in our family that are important to us. I also ask them about the values that are important to them. 
  • Important reminders on the following:
    • Social Media Safety and Fake News identification
    • Safety & security in the home
    • Common modus of criminals who target homes and children
    • What to do in case of emergency – fire, earthquake, typhoon, blackouts, etc.
    • Important numbers to call in case of emergency
    • Ending our service agreement / employment – this is where I set expectations on leaves, causes and grounds for termination, lead time to inform us when they are leaving for good / resigning.
    • We also establish that there is an incentive if they stay for at least a year and if they inform us that they are leaving at least 30 days before their last day.
  • Some Perks and Benefits of being part of our family – this is where I explain that when we go out with friends or for work, they will always be introduced by name to people we know. We will also always respect their privacy and give ample time to connect with their families.
  • Specific information on how to take care of Miguel – when Miguel was much younger, the instructions include breastmilk thawing, food choices for Miguel, bathing instructions, rules on taking photos and posting on social media, rules on kissing Miguel, etc. But now that he is bigger, the instructions include rules on screen time, age-appropriate discipline, learning plan, among others.

How to use this manual – I suggest you download it and make it your own! We all have different ways of parenting and different situations. I am a working-business-mom but with very flexible hours so my manual is very specific for my schedule, process, and lifestyle! The template that I’m sharing is bare bones though, so you could definitely customize it according to what works for you.

One of the things I also do to reinforce the contents of the manual is to hold weekly meetings with our household staff. haha I know, just like a company! I say it is the most important company though! Every Monday morning, I gather our staff and discuss food plan, lesson plan (for Miguel), and some reminders – especially if there are things in the manual that are being forgotten or neglected. The weekly meeting is a great venue to make reminders and even gentle reprimands more professional rather than emotional.

The Results so far – I’m quite happy with the results of this whole process so far! 🙂 Our home team is part of our family and we could do what we do because of them. The few hours that I have invested in creating and sharing this module to our home staff made our lives so much easier! We are definitely a team. =)

And of course, here is the link to the Module!

Photo by: Owee Yulo  

This Strange & Hopeful Birthday

I turn 35 years old today.


YES, I have accumulated a LOT of selfies the past few weeks while in Quarantine.

I have experienced really strange birthdays before so I thought that anything could happen and I’ll be prepared. But I did not expect this and absolutely was not prepared for it. A Pandemic of this scale and magnitude. In our lifetime. Wow.

Part of me is still in shock to be honest. But part of me is also hopeful. 🙂

Because birthdays are the best click baits, I thought of using mine as a platform to share hope-driven calls to action. There are a few things that give me hope these days, and they give me hope precisely because they inspire action. If you feel like giving me a birthday gift (hahah – but these are more gifts for others really), I hope you can consider doing one (or more) of these:

1. Pre-order / Support / Promote Sol, our Rags2Riches Summer Collection for 2020.

Our designer, Chris Cera, designed the collection earlier this year when we all thought that 2020 will just be like any other year and we’ll continue creating livelihood opportunities for our artisans.

But 2020 is turning out to be not just any other year.

Now more than ever, the opportunities we can create, will support the livelihood of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

If and when you can, I hope you can support us during this time. 🙂 We’ll be putting the pieces up for pre-order and when possible (after the lockdown), our artisans will make them and we’ll deliver them to you.

Your purchase today will be our bridge to a tomorrow that is safe and secure for our company and artisans. You can pre-order here (launching at 3pm, April 6).


While we respond to the needs of our community now (by staying at home, supporting the frontliners), we can also invest on our future through supporting local enterprises.

Aside from R2R, please also support local enterprises, freelancers, and other service-providers.

2. Get yourself, your family, and community front-liners Reusable Face Masks from enterprises that are supporting people.

While our Rags2Riches artisans (and all of us, really) are on enhanced community quarantine, we have been finding ways to continue the livelihood of our artisans and prepare our enterprise for the future.

One of the products some of our artisans are able to make from home right now, is this Reusable Cloth Face Mask. Each piece sustains our artisans who can work from home as well as our artisans who don’t have the means to. You can buy them here we are restocking them almost ever day.

You can also buy Face Masks from other heart-driven enterprises such as Anthill, CANDID, Habi Lifestyle, TELA Story, among others.

Reusable Masks

3. Help our Frontliners from all sectors and industries

You can read the Things That Matter Blog on the 5 Small Ways to Help Out During COVID-19., or this information hub on how you can help from home https://helpfromhome.ph/

Talino Crowdconnect is also launching this week. It is a COVID-19 response platform that connects the needs of the front liners to the supplier of these needs, as well as the funding for them. For example, if a hospital is looking for X number of N95s, they can be connected to a supplier and a donor who can buy them these supplies (within a fair price range).

4. Promote or Apply for (if you are a front-liner or if you / your company will be moving essential goods) a RapidPass.

RapidPass is powered by DCTX, a team of quarantined, yet passionate designers-volunteers, under DevCon.ph COVID-19 Technology Initiative.

They are also launching their free website today that will enable front-liners, essential deliveries vehicles, and the like, to pass through checkpoints quickly without the need for close human contact. This system will get essentials moving quickly (like food, medicine, etc) and help keep our front liners safe.

If you qualify, you may apply for a RapidPass here.

5. If you are an entrepreneur / start-up / business owner (or if you are thinking of starting one), keep yourself informed and as ready as possible for the future

I know that these days are hard for entrepreneurs and MSMEs. Many of us are seriously thinking of (or are in the middle of) pausing, pivoting, and even closing. Even as we go through the challenges, let’s also constantly equip ourselves with the information and resources we need to support our people, identify gaps that we can provide or serve, and plan for the future while bringing as many people as we can with us.

SME-relevant updates will be shared via this Telegram channel hosted by UNAWA: https://t.me/UnawaCOVID19

UNAWA is the most comprehensive regulatory tech (“regtech”) startup in Southeast Asia. UNAWA can handle the tedious, confusing, and time consuming part of starting a business: registration (among others). 

I am incredibly fortunate that the things I am hopeful for are also the things I’m working on / am part of, every single day even throughout this quarantine.

As many of you know, I am co-founder and President of R2R. I am also currently the Director for Strategic Finance of Talino Venture Labs, which supports DevCon.ph. Talino Venture Labs is also the start-up builder behind Talino CrowdConnect and Unawa (among others). These companies are filled with people who have been working hard not just for themselves and their families, but for our bigger community.

So while this birthday is my strangest one yet, it is also the most inspiring.

Thank you for attending my TedTalk! 🙂

Stay at home, support our front-liners, and fuel your hope with action.


My entry to the decade-end essay writing competition

This decade will be hard to beat.

It is the decade when I got married, gave birth to my two sons, almost-failed as an entrepreneur, rose back up as an entrepreneur, learned how to not sweat the small stuff, gained co-advocates and life-long friends, started applying sunscreen (eek hope not too late), started a blog, fell deeply in love with spreadsheets, started consulting for an inclusive tech company (more on that soon!), found a kindred community of searchers, and started loving vegetables.

This decade had awesome milestones, but more than these, it took away something from me too. It took away the bullshit that I thought was my blanket. This decade did not just wash the bullshit away gently, this decade shook me out of it almost violently.

My BS came in the form of some beliefs (some loosely held, some firmly held) that looked acceptable, even endearing from the outside. And so it was a painful process to get shook out of them. But in retrospect, I’m grateful that I’m a few pounds lighter without them.

Because this is a decade-end essay and I am SO original, here is the list of 10 hard-earned and heart-earned lessons I have learned and some of the BS I have unlearned:

1) Being an introvert is not an excuse to be a snob or be disinterested in people. Talk to people, skip the small talk if that stresses you out, but don’t ignore them. Life is short and unpredictable, make someone feel heard today.

2) Asking questions is the smartest thing one can practice even if it feels stupid sometimes

3) Create anyway even if you think your work sucks. Keep the receipts of your “sucky” work. You’ll be amazed at your own progress because of them. Progress is better than perfect.

4) Initiate that difficult conversation. It may be difficult, but having it will actually accomplish clarity. Being passive aggressive will never achieve anything. And no, he / she will not read your status message and change because of it.

5) Take the time to mourn, feel angry, get disappointed, and all the not-so-pretty feelings that may come up from time to time. Honor the process, but have no collateral damage and take no casualties. Honor the process, but always move forward.

6) Being happy for others when they get the things you wanted, is probably one of the hardest kinds of happiness to feel. Because it is not a feeling, at least not at first. It is a decision driven by grace, and practiced as often as it happens. It is not a “fake it til you make it” thing, it is a “practice it enough to know its value” kind of thing.

7) The highest form of self care is forgiving yourself. Strive to be better but forgive yourself for falling short. Then repeat.

8) Be very cautious when saying or hearing the following words and phrases: SCALE, Hustle, Self-Care, Full-time mom, Hands-on dad, Self-made, “Be Positive”, “Do what you love”. These words and phrases could be sources of toxicity.

9) Be compassionately woke. Hate begets hate, holier-than-thou criticisms beget resentment. If you want to change minds, you can’t do so while on a high horse.

10) No matter how old you get, you’ll still not know enough, do enough, or have enough of anything. But you are enough. So while you try to be more and have more, never let anything define you.

And because I don’t know how to end this, here is a quote from a song:

You win some or learn some – Jason Mraz

Happy New Year and New Decade everyone! Hope you scroll through social media less, be with the people you love more, and not live life like it is one big competition.

You don’t have to write a decade-end essay too. Or if you still want to, you don’t have to make it perfect. Cause if you do, I’ll write another one that will be muuuuch better. I’m kidding! Or am I? hahaha I am. Sorry, old habits.

Wishing you all a joyful 2020 and all the decades after!:)

12 Things You’ll Realize When You Hit Rock Bottom and Survive

2016 was a big year for me.

It was the year my son was born. But it was also the year when R2R almost closed.

So that was the year when I was trying my best to be happy so that my then unborn baby will be healthy, but at the same time, I would cry almost every day because of all the painful things we had to do to survive. But those, and the reasons why we even got there in the first place are in a much longer story for another day. Actually, that is a story for a (very thick) book in the future, probably.

When I was going through what I thought was the hardest year of my life, there were times when I wished that I could just collapse and get confined just so I can sleep under meds. I took everything personally. I used every wrong decision as ammunition to shoot myself in the heart. I saw every right decision as a fluke. I said no to a lot of invitations to share or talk about what we do because I did not believe that what I had to say was of value. It was a terrible place to be in.


We thought that our R2R Christmas party last 2016 was going to be our last one. This was me (barely 2 months after giving birth) with our team, talking to our artisans about the very real possibility of closing our enterprise. The artisans and our team knew that this was coming since the first quarter of the year and we never stopped updating them and being transparent with them even when it was hard to.

No one outside my immediate family knew that I was going through these internal struggles. From the outside, I probably looked like the strongest, most resilient person who can take on anything. Sure, I was vulnerable too. I was very honest and transparent with our team and artisans about what we were going through and the very big possibility of closing the company we all loved. I showed emotion, and even if it seemed big and all-out, it was only a scrap of the whole mass of emotions I was going through. I don’t think I showed that I was so broken.

It has been about 3 years since and I have had lots of time to reflect on the things I have learned during the time when learning was the hardest, but the only thing left to do.

If you are reading this because you have experienced the same or are going through your own challenges, I hope this helps.  

  1. You are more resilient than you think you are
  2. There is a kind of liberation about accepting the possibility of the worst-case scenario and knowing that you can take it and it would not define you
  3. When you have (almost) nothing to lose, you have everything you need to hustle
  4. People love success stories. People also love being part of success stories in some way. But in between the beginning and success is a long, difficult road that only a few people would truly go through. Appreciate those who go through this with you.
  5. There is nowhere to go but up. Really.
  6. You learn more from failure than from success
  7. When you are failing, some people will help you and some people will step aside to let you fail (believing that you need it). Both groups are valuable, you’ll just like the first group more. Ask for help anyway.
  8. Almost all of your failures will have a pattern. That’s how lessons work I guess; they stick around until you actually learn them.
  9. Even if you are fighting for your life, take a few minutes a day to be grateful and plan for the future. Your future self will thank you.
  10. The possibility of a BIG and public failure is hard and really (really) painful to imagine. But failure, even the most public ones, become old news quite fast. There is always a chance to reinvent yourself and become better
  11. Failure stories make success stories more interesting. Wait, scratch that. Failure stories MAKE success stories.
  12. When you are going through the most difficult times, it is important to stay strong. But it is more important to stay kind. It is easy to be kind when life is kind but being kind is necessary especially when life is not.

During our darkest days, I would go into the rabbit hole of online self-help articles on failure, bouncing back, reinventing after failure, and staying strong. I was not reading about how to not fail, we were WAY past that. I was reading about how to rise above failure. I read and re-read those articles, finding comfort in the fact that a lot of people have gone through the same or worse. Some of the articles did not end well, but some did. All of them reminded me that life is so much more than work, career, or any aspect of life that may seem all-consuming and self-defining.

Now that we are out of the darkest days and I have processed most of the lessons from that time, I’m going to add to all those articles, and hope someone reading this could find comfort in our story not just because it did not end badly, but because it could have and it still made us better.

As someone who failed and almost lost an advocacy and work I loved and built for almost a decade, I think I offer a unique perspective on survival, self-worth, vulnerability, and success.

On Survival

I have gone through all stages of grief already and we only made it here because of two reasons. The first reason is because of a few very unlikely chances to survive were happening all at the same time and a few people who decided to make them happen even when all the odds were against us. So yes, luck played a part. But the second reason was that we (my husband, team, and artisans) kept our hopes up and hustled for the life of the company we love, so when the chances to survive came, we were ready to take them on. While luck played a part, if we were not ready for it, we would have still missed it.

We (our team, artisans, advocates) had the perspective of giving our 100% regardless of the outcome. We gave 100% because if we made it, we will know that we gave 100%. But if we did not make it, we will still know we gave it our best shot. We either win or gain the strength of character.

On Self-worth

I realized that the end of R2R would not have been the end of my life or journey. It would not have been the end of anyone’s life or journey. Because R2R is only a part of our lives, no matter how beautiful, all-consuming, and at times, self-defining it was.

On Vulnerability

This is probably the hardest, scariest, and most vulnerable blog post I had to write (and I have written a lot of scary and vulnerable posts already). Three years after the darkness, it is still hard to talk about the darkness. But everything in life has something to offer, even darkness. And pain, darkness, hopelessness all exist. There is no point in denying them. And maybe in shedding light on them, some of them could be realized as lessons, turning points, and moments of clarity.

On Success

Today, R2R is going through some exciting developments. We have survived. But beyond just surviving, we are thriving and continuing the advocacies we started. And I am most proud that we got here without losing ourselves or our values.

There is something to be said about surviving difficulties. We praise the survivors for surviving. But I think that there is something even more important. We must also recognize those who go through the hardest things in life with kindness, sincerity, and unwavering hopefulness. Because you get the most out of challenges not just when you go through them but when you grow better because of them. IMG_4904

I pinned this on my secret Pinterest board last December 25, 2016. This secret Pinterest board knows all the things I went through in the form of quotes and words.

(Low) Productivity Hacks – How to Get Nothing Done and Still Feel Busy

January is that time of the year when most people are KonMari-ing their homes, downloading new productivity apps, buying new notebooks, starting new diets, paying for gym membership, and the like. I love January! It feels like a fresh start and it still has that cool breeze that makes me happy and energised. But I have been through many years and many Januaries enough to know that one fresh start a year is not enough. See, years ago, my productivity always waned towards the middle of the year. My New Year’s resolutions felt like they belonged to someone else. Then the next year, I would make a new set of resolutions and they will also fall through towards the middle of the year. And repeat.

Because I fell into that cycle so many times, I have also learned to identify the things that slowed me down, held me back, and contributed to my frequent back slides.

There are already so many articles written about how to increase productivity. This time, I’ll be sharing tips on how to have low productivity but still feel busy. haha I know. Crazy right? But I am a believer that when you identify a problem and really get to know it, it is the best way to start to fix it.

So here is my list of low productivity hacks! Some of these may be familiar to you:

  1. Download a “logic” game that is super addicting but since it is logic, it sharpens your brain too, you tell yourself. Open it for just one game and try to beat your high score just one last time. This is a great way to spend a few minutes, and if you are lucky, a few hours of not getting anything else done – Est. time: 5-10 minutes (if you keep to your one game), to a few hours
  2. Download lots of games on your phone. Try them out one by one. Set your high scores. Beat your high scores. Play with friends. Beat their high scores too. Life is a competition and you are always in it to win it.
  3. While in the middle of work, come across a person or a key word and decide to log on to social media to search for relevant results. Scroll down for just a few seconds. Get distracted by that cute baby, adorable dog, dog with his duck best friend, another conspiracy theory, thought-provoking article, and lots of memes. Open link in new tab. Again. And Again. You now have lots of open tabs and promptly forget what you were supposed to search for. – Est. time: the possibilities are endless
  4. Scroll through social media, find a friend / old crush / frenemy / hero / celebrity. Go to his / her profile. Scroll until his / her first post ever, while being super careful not to accidentally like any old post – Est. time: it depends if the person is new to social media and with only a few posts or a few public posts.
  5. See a polarising post / news / status message. Read all the comments. Nod and bask a bit in the feeling of validation when reading comments you agree with. Grit your teeth when you disagree with some comments. Label those who disagree as trolls. Yes of course, all of them. Think of something smart and scathing to say. Type those words. Decide that you may not have time or energy to get on an online argument. Delete what you already typed before you change your mind and actually post it – Est. time: 1-80 minutes. It depends on how fast you decide that this is not worth your time.
  6. See previous, do the exact same thing, except actually post your well thought-through arguments. Arguments continue. You are on edge for the rest of the day and excited to debate at the same time. – Est. time: could take 24 hours or more. You’ll have breaks in between but your mind will drift in and out of the online war zone
  7. Read an interesting article, see words you don’t understand or people you don’t know. Open new tab. Google those words and people. Read about all those too. – Est. time: 5 – 10000 minutes.
  8. Read an interesting article until the very end, get intrigued by the promoted articles with titles like “this will change the way you see your 4th grade teacher”. Click. Read until the end. Find another promoted article. – Est. Time: 5 – 10000 minutes
  9. Read a comment that either strongly resonates with your beliefs or strongly opposes your beliefs. Click on the profile of commenter. Check the public posts and photos. Make judgements. – Est. Time: this could take a while depends on how much you want to support your judgements with your so-called evidence taken from this person’s previous posts (like, is he / she a fan of “the Flat Earth Society”?)
  10. Do the same as previous. Repost with either a happy “SAME” or a super smart rebuttal that will honestly only convince (and comfort!) those who already resonate with you to begin with. – Est. Time: 5-15 mins to post, a few days of checking in every few minutes to check likes and comments
  11. Online shopping. You just need one item. You go on to an online marketplace, and find a really cute portable fan you don’t need. Add to cart. You see a cute neck pillow that you think you may need in the future. Add to cart. You decide that you don’t need all these after all. Remove from cart. Close tab. Realise that you still don’t have that one thing you need. Go back. Repeat. – Est. Time: 60 mins
  12. Go to Netflix to watch one movie / show. Scroll through endless possibilities. End up not watching anything or only watching the first few minutes of about 7 movies. Est. Time: depends on how many minutes you spend watching every movie, but the possibilities are endless!
  13. Think of the many reasons for your lapses in productivity. Write a blog about it. – Est. Time: 20 minutes – not bad!:)

So there you have it!:) lots of tips on how to not get anything done! haha I’m mostly poking fun at myself and my own lapses but if you can relate, well, at least you know you are not alone.

My productivity is often very high but when I get into these rabbit holes, it takes me a while to get out too. It happens. And it helps to recognize the triggers and the almost instinctive decisions that lead to lots of unproductive hours. I mean, I think most of these are okay in moderation! But having too much of these will feel like having too much junk food. You’ll feel bloated, but not nourished.

So for this 2019, as was the case for the past few years, I have learned to quickly identify my triggers towards these rabbit holes and avoid them before I fall in. This has helped a lot in keeping up with my resolutions and goals!

Another hack (a real productivity hack this time) that helps me is to program fresh starts every month instead of having just one fresh start a year. This helps me identify my gaps, reprogram small and concrete goals within a shorter timeline, and feel like I have a figurative new notebook that makes me excited to write again.

Happy 2019 and I wish you rest (the right kind that is truly nourishing), productivity, love, value-creation, good health, and prosperity (in many ways)!

Hello Robots!

NOTE: I wrote this last July of 2016! WOAH. I did not publish it then and was not able to find the right time to publish it because so many other urgent things were happening in the country and the world. But as I am re-reading all these now, I realised that this is more relevant now than before. 


I always listen to cool podcasts while stuck in traffic and one of my favorites is Planet Money! If you have some time right now, like, if you are stuck in traffic too, you might want to listen to this. It talks about The Sewing Robot. But it is not just about one robot that could sew uniforms, this is about robots (in general) that will take over jobs in the future.

This is one of the big things that scare me about the future: the rise of incredibly smart and productive machines. Actually, scared is not the right word. I don’t know what the right word is so here are a few words: a-little-scared-challenged-and-thinking-of-ways-to-make-jobs-relevant-for-people.

See, we are in the business of providing high-value livelihood to artisans. And there are reasons why we have always been precious about building a brand that recognises & partners with artisans.

Reason number 1: Our theory is, if we always recognise our artisans and connect them to advocates, they get to be part of what makes R2R a brand that people can emotionally connect with and love. People do not just buy for price, necessity, quality, or novelty, they also buy for meaning and purpose. We want to continuously inform our advocates that our products have meaning, purpose, and amazing people behind them.

Reason number 2: Good brands live longer. We are not in R2R for short-term gains. We built R2R to be a sustainable business partner for artisans. Because of this, we realised that we can’t operate like a project or build just any manufacturing business. A project has an end date and manufacturing is a highly competitive industry that won’t necessarily let us play to our strengths. The lives, livelihood, and future of our artisans deserve long-term solutions.

The reality is, technology is super fast. Within the past few years (not even decades!), we have seen 3D printers, fast machines, smart machines, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and a lot of really cool and exciting things. They will be part of the new norm before we realise it. I’m personally excited for all of them! But at the same time, as these machines become smarter and more efficient, they will be replacing people. I could only imagine the millions of jobs that will no longer exist in a few years because machines will take over. Yes, yes, of course, new jobs will also emerge! But let’s also be honest here. Not a lot of us are preparing ourselves or our communities for these new jobs. I know, it sounds like a Sci-fi movie, but lots of seemingly far-out Sci-fi movies in the past don’t seem too crazy anymore today. The bar for what we think is impossible has gotten a lot higher than ever before.


Did you know that we used to have knocker-uppers? Yes, their job was to wake people up early in the morning. Guess what machine made these jobs disappear?

I think about it all the time. If a software can design, say, a bag, and a 3D printer can manufacture it in minutes, how can an artisan compete in terms of go-to-market speed and cost?

So instead of stressing over the inevitable, I thought of just thinking of solutions that could help, not just our artisans, but people in general, to hone the right skills and talents to not just survive, but also thrive in the age of the Robots. Oh, and let’s change that name to: Age of highly skilled, adaptable, and creative human beings.

1.) Build brands – As I have mentioned in Reason number 2, Brands live longer! People identify with brands in an emotional way that goes deeper than just convenience or need. So, what if we can create brands that stand for real human connections and meaning? These brands can be inclusive in a sustainable way. Machines may be able to do the jobs of people better and faster, but they will find it incredibly challenging to replace the emotional connection that a brand creates. This means that really effective and inclusive brands have the potential to promote and protect the arts, crafts, and skills of actual people.

2.) Create art, not just products – Functional products are great! BUT. Purely functional products with no other value proposition other than being functional, will find it hard to stand out from a sea of other functional products. Products with purpose and meaning on the other hand, may stand a chance (or several chances).

For example, instead of just training artisans to make eco-bags (great start, but there are hundreds of thousands of eco-bag suppliers in the world), train artisans to share their stories through the products. They can make art pieces out of the ordinary through putting in their unique touches and stories. Maybe instead of just sewing the bags, they can also hand paint them with images of their community, family, hopes, and dreams.

There is a reason why art pieces have survived throughout history. They resonate with people, they represent ideas and artists, and they connect us to worlds and places in time that fascinate us and make us think, feel, and imagine.

3.) Train, not just for skills, but for the following: problem-solving, creativity, people management, systems thinking, empathy (the World Economic Forum came up with this really cool list of 10 skills you need thrive in the fourth industrial revolution), and other not-so-obvious but really important skills for the future!

4.) Create Great products with Inspiring stories (inspiring, not sad and destitute) – Inspiring stories behind products should come with great products. The inspiring stories and people behind them deserve nothing less. And when you get to create a great product (with a great brand, ideally), tell its story in an empowering way.

Major Emphasis on: Inspiring & Empowering

It is true that pity sells. It is easy to tug on the heartstrings of well-meaning people and compel them to buy something they won’t necessarily buy otherwise just because it’s for (pick one or more) charity, a good cause, livelihood, employment, education, water sanitation, and others. And don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for a cause too! But when the sole unique selling proposition of a product is its good cause, it won’t be selling long enough to create more positive impact.

The world is changing in an exciting and big way! So instead of resisting all these changes (and honestly, we can resist all we want but they are going to happen anyway), we have to learn to understand them, adapt to them, and more importantly, shape them.


On Mental Health and Kindness

It took me a while to process everything and to decide to open up. As much as I may seem vulnerable on social media, I am actually very private. I only share the things I have already processed and the emotions I have learned to manage.

This is one of the very few times I’ll open up about something that still makes me feel deeply uncomfortable and unsettled.

I have been reading up about all the people who have suffered pains that are hidden from the world, and some of them decided to end these by ending their lives. These brought back memories of struggles with mental health issues in my family. I grew up in a home where life was extremely volatile and depression was the usual cloud above our heads. And then I would go to my high school where I had to face intense (like crazy intense) bullying. There was no place I called sanctuary. Back then, it seemed like there was no way out. But there was. Because my sanctuary was not a place, my sanctuary was people. There were a few friends who chose to have lunch with me even at the risk of getting bullied too, they took me to prom, brought me to their homes, and believed in me when I could not even see myself. So I had a few minutes, a few hours every day that I actually felt alive.

And I lived. And even after high school, the struggles continued, the problems persisted, and the moments of hopelessness popped up once in a while. But there were a few people who also continued, persisted, and stayed.

From the outside, you probably won’t guess that I have been through all these. And there are many out there who are suffering in silence for a lot of reasons. They may be shutting you out, isolating themselves, or even showing everyone that they are okay. We will never know, really. But what can we do? We can reach out, be kind, and be inclusive. We may never know the suffering that others go through, but we can be part of those few minutes, few hours that make the world a little bit better and kinder for them. And we can actually try to make the world kinder in general, starting with ourselves and our daily decisions.

Honestly, I still don’t know how to talk about this. I have been re-writing this short entry for the past few weeks and still uneasy about sharing. See, there are still many things I don’t understand and I am not able to process yet. I have not even shared everything about this part of my life and yet, I feel vulnerable. I could only imagine how it feels like for others, especially those who need help but would not reach out for one reason or another.

I hope that in some way, I’m able to add to the glimmers of hope for someone who needs it, and that my story encourages someone to be brave enough to be kind.

To those who are in emotional crisis and in need of immediate assistance, please contact

the 24/7 HOPELINE at:

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)

0917 558 HOPE (4673)

2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers)

And if you know of any other number that others can call for professional help or support, please do comment! 🙂


Photo: Pinterest

Grit is my fave four letter word

Quick note: I unearthed this just now. As in April 1, 2018! But I wrote this when my son Miguel was still 7 months old. That’s about 8 months ago! I totally forgot that I wrote this and I was probably in a different place when I did so re-reading it was a little surprising and quite enlightening. I am not sure why I did not hit publish 8 months ago, I must have been overthinking it. In any case, here it is. Re-reading my blog drafts (and I have a lot) is part of my reflection process. Hope it helps someone somewhere too!


Ever since I was young, I have always felt like I was fighting for my life in one way or another. I won’t (yet) go into the details of that super cryptic sentence because that would open up a can of delightful multi-coloured worms. haha Yup, can of worms. But they are delightful and multi-coloured. Get it? I do! And I think like this because looking back, there have been LOTS of blessings in disguise in my life. Like deep, deep, undercover disguise. But blessings nonetheless. So yes I now consider them delightful and oh so colourful.

So for now let’s leave it at that even if I am already a paragraph in and you are probably super curious. Because this entry is not about my telenovela life – though it definitely played a HUGE role in the way I am today. It is about the general principles of grit that I have learned throughout the years of building and running a social enterprise.

Background: Our social enterprise is Rags2Riches, Inc., it is a fashion & design house empowering community artisans. It is nearly 10 years old and have been through 498 near-death experiences (I’m guessing, but it is probably more. haha – that’s painful laughter by the way). We started about 10 years ago with this seemingly straightforward ambition of being a life and livelihood partner for community artisans around the Philippines. Life and Livelihood are BIG words. And in our minds, we knew what those words meant to the business we were building. But what was in our minds were still worlds apart from actually learning with our entire being. We did not just have skin in the game, we had (and still have) internal organs in the game. I’m not even trying to be funny with that last line.

So yes, 10 years and 498 near-death experiences later, here we are today still living. And we will probably go through a few more near-death experiences because that’s how it is when you declare and own an ambition to be a Life and Livelihood partner to artisans while being design-centric, while being sustainable, while maintaining a culture of compassion, AND while trying to be excellent, professional, and profitable. All. At. The. Same. Time.

Businesses are supposed to be quite straightforward. Profit is usually THE measure. And that in itself could be challenging. But NOOOO. It was not challenging enough for us apparently so we thought of adding positive impact too. haha But oh well, we thought it was worth it so we put in the work of what it is worth. And this dream, this whole ambition of creating a fashion & design house empowering community artisans, is worth a lot not just to us but to our artisans from around the Philippines – and maybe even around the world if we do things right and more people could learn from our best practices and cautionary tales.

So grit is not just a nice-to-have. It is essential, crucial even.

If you are my Facebook friend or you follow me on Instagram, you would know (if you are not already overloaded with his pictures) that I have a baby boy. As of this writing he is 7 months old and super active, curious, and growing up really fast. So most of what I write now is for him (Hi Miguel!) and for the challenges he will face in the future which I am super nervous about and have to deal with (my feelings about his challenges, not his challenges necessarily). So these days, I write more about the challenges than the successes because the truth is, the challenges led to the successes and we learn more from the difficult things rather than the easy ones. Grit after all, is born out of fire, not rainbows and butterflies.

So Miguel, and whoever is reading this (especially you, future Reese), here are some of the things I learned about grit and how to be gritty.

1. Choose your battles

This admittedly, I did not get in the beginning. I thought there was such a thing as “having it all”. One of my biggest revelations in life is that there really is no such thing as having it all. Those who say that “you can have it all” either changed their perspective of what “all” means or are just incredibly blessed with all the luck and resources in the world. Good for them!

The truth is, for most of us, there will be sacrifices and compromises. And it is okay to not always get it all together. It is okay to not know, to be confused, and to admit that you are still figuring it out. There is a time and season for every aspect of life. I learned that I have to choose what’s important and fight for it. If it is trivial or just capricious, I have to learn to let it go. And this is really easier said than done and harder to identify than expected. Some things may seem REALLY important but they are actually trivial, capricious, or just one symptom or result of a bigger thing.

I have learned to look for that bigger thing, identify its importance in my life and values (and my why!), and hustle hard for it. I don’t have an actual formula, I really wish I do, but being intentional with where you put your energies to and always asking “why” may eventually lead you to your answer.

2. Work hard not for perfection but for progress

I have heard so many (many many many) times that “you only get one shot, make it perfect/good/awesome”. But I have learned the opposite. You don’t actually get just one shot. You get several shots. Lots and lots of them as long as you seek them out. Even if we make grave, damaging, highly publicised mistakes, do-overs are possible. Hard for sure, but possible. Having grit means that you are able to claw your way out of a seemingly abysmal pit, over and over again until you really make it out. This reminds me of Bruce Wayne’s multiple, painful attempts to get out of the ancient prison pit in the movie The Dark Knight Rises. I was on the edge of my seat during the whole scene, rooting for him as he grasped on to the cracks on the wall, ropes, and bits and pieces of protruding concrete. There are so many things in life that are just like that ancient prison pit. Not as deadly (though sometimes they are), but just as challenging and seemingly insurmountable. And you know what? All those “failed” attempts were not useless at all. One day, you’ll look back at your “failures” and realise that they have built you, your character, and your narrative. 

3. Get to know yourself and what holds you back

Competition is not always bad. It could push us to be better, to self-examine, and to see what we missed. But I have an inordinate amount of competitiveness ever since I was young. I’m not necessarily a bad loser externally, but I am internally. How does that look like? Well, it will look like I don’t care about winning anyway or that “I’m happy for you”. But deep inside, I’m already ice-picking away my self-worth, thinking about strategies to win, or making excuses about why I did not win (luck, income disparity, levels of attractiveness, family background, etc. – I’m serious!). This level of intense competitiveness is definitely tamer now. But I had to intentionally tame it especially because it had led me to so many bad decisions. I made some decisions guided by 20% logic and 80% building-my-self-worth-through-winning motivation. Now, I don’t have a guide book for taming this exactly but writing things down and reflecting often about my most disturbing feelings, definitely helped. Some people pray, do counseling, or create art. I see these as versions of reflecting and processing our vulnerabilities.

If we are more aware of the tendencies that make us insecure, less compassionate, and more destructive, that awareness could be a great jump off point to a more intentional life. When we are aware and intentional, we are able to build the conditions within us that enable us to be more gritty and not give up easily.

Grit is not just about blindly charging ahead, it is also about examining ourselves and our shortcomings and moving towards the direction of our dreams and being a better person along the way.