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 customise 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  

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

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.


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. 



3 questions I had before Davos (and the answers after)

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Last week, I went to Davos for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. It was my first time and I did not know what to expect. I did have a LOT of questions though. Some of my questions were quite trivial like “is it going to be crazy cold?”, “will there be rice somewhere?”, “will I cry every time I miss my baby?” and “do I have the right shoes for the event + snow + walking + dancing?”. Let’s get those out of the way. The answers were: no, yes, almost always, and yes!

Of course, I also had more substantial questions that have the potential to guide my decisions and actions for my life, work, and advocacy. Throughout the week, I was able to gather some answers and learn a lot.

Question 1: Will I be able to represent our artisans, advocacies, and country?

Answer 1:

YES! I was given the opportunity to speak in two sessions. The first session was about enabling E-commerce for small enterprises to become global players. I was part of a panel together with Jack Ma (Alibaba), Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz (Peru), and Director-General Roberto Azevedo (WTO), moderated by Richard Samans (WEF). And the second session was a dinner panel called “You Are What You Wear” where I was a discussion leader together with Stella McCartney, Ellen MacArthur, Stefan Doboczky, Valter Sanches, and Vincent Biruta, moderated by Hadley Gamble.

These sessions were planned (so well) ahead of time and though I prepared, I was still really wondering if a voice as small as mine representing artisans and communities will be heard in a stage as big as the World Economic Forum in Davos. Big businesses and policy makers meet in this place, discuss ideas on how to improve the state of the world, and for a few, even actually create collaborations that bring about systemic change. It was easy to feel small indeed! And let’s be honest here, we are small (and I don’t just mean my height). But this is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a great thing!

See, our being small allow us to see things from the ground and the grassroots where most of the people are. And when we talk about improving the state of the world, we cannot possibly forget the majority of the world.

For both the sessions I contributed in, I was probably the one closest to the grassroots. And I took that as a huge responsibility to magnify the needs from the ground and really represent the voices that need to be heard by the decision makers that affect their lives. This role was a bit daunting (fine, VERY daunting), but it was exciting and inspiring. A few days after the Annual Meeting, I was already in touch with industry leaders and luminaries who are interested to get our insights for policies and business decisions, as well as collaborate with us (more on that soon!)!

Question 2: What sessions / people will surprise me and make an impact on me?

Answer 2: 

There were a few sessions that I really enjoyed and learned from, but the most memorable ones were also the most painful.

I have been exposed to poverty almost all my life so it was easy for me to say that I have seen it all. It was devastating to be reminded that pain and suffering is still happening every single day in extreme situations that I could only imagine.

The first session that made an impact on me was the one where Cate Blanchett talked about her experiences and advocacy as a Goodwill Ambassador of the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency). I was not expecting to hear the things I heard from the session. But maybe that was also because I did not set many expectations. Like many who signed up for the session, I was there in-part as an admirer of her work as an actress, and perhaps mildly interested in what she had to say about the plight of refugees around the world. I left the room incredibly touched by the stories she shared and challenged by how big the problems are. I realised something that I knew all along but forget sometimes: that we are all human beings, figuring things out together and trying our best to make sense of what we are capable of (both good and evil) and how we can be better or make things better for others.

That session foreshadowed another event that made an impact on me: A Day in the Life of a Refugee. Mark and I attended this during our last day (it was running for the whole duration of the annual meeting) and it put a lot of the things we learned, into perspective.

The program started with a simulation where the participants (us!) were assigned random “identities” that we will own while inside the 20-minute simulation. My identity was Suad Yehia, a 15-year old unmarried factory worker who is malnourished and have no assets to even buy food or medicine. During the 20 minutes, the participants experienced a morsel of what it is like to live as a refugee in camps around the world. After the simulation, we heard harrowing yet hopeful stories from past refugees themselves or aid workers working with refugees.

The Day in the Life of a Refugee experience was definitely memorable and eye-opening. I am strangely comforted that my experience working in poverty alleviation has not made me callous to the needs of others, no matter how disturbing or painful they may be.

It is easy to think that I am already doing my part and doing enough but the truth is, there is still so much to be done. And it is also easy to think that the problems of the world are too big and there is nothing we can do, when in fact, every single thing we actually do, matters.

To learn more about the program and how you can help, visit And of course, closer to home, you can explore how you can contribute to different organizations that are creating solutions to various social problems such as hunger, homelessness, lack of quality education, and poverty, among many others.

Question 3: Who will be changing the world? And how can we create bigger impact together?

Answer 3:

Many people I have met in Davos are already changing the world and I know that more people will. For one, a of lot partnerships between social entrepreneurs (the community I am part of!) and key decision-makers are already in discussion, and I’m excited for the future because of these collaborations. When powerful decision-makers come together, big things can happen. But when powerful decision-makers come together with leaders who represent the powerless, good things can begin.

But this is just a small part of the big change that has to happen.

World-changing is not exclusive to the big decision-makers because if you really think about it, we are all decision-makers. The small or big decisions we make may seem inconsequential, but when we think through consequence number 100+ of our decisions, we’ll realise that they go a long way. World-changing is everyone’s business because… well, everyone lives in the world and we are all stewards of this only home we have so far.

It may sound like the biggest cliche ever, but it is still true that making the world a better place starts and continues with each one of us. And if we consolidate and coordinate our efforts even in small communities, the impact we can create will be far more than what we can do alone.

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Schwab Social Entrepreneurs!

And speaking of creating bigger impact together…  

As always, we are working triple time to build R2R as a global brand that artisans can rely on as a viable and sustainable partner to help improve their lives. We have been doing this for 10 years and through all the challenges and little wins, you, our advocates, have been with us. You cheered us on, supported us, gave us valuable feedback, granted us second chances (and more), and created positive impact with us all these years. And we know that like us, you are in this for the long-haul.

Because we are in this together, we are sharing with you some of the things we are working on to create more positive impact. And if you have any ideas or partnership possibilities you could direct our way, we would be most joyful and grateful!

Here are a few of the partnerships and possibilities we are searching for:

  • International distribution through retailers (could be boutiques, chains of boutiques, etc.) in key countries around the world – while we probably won’t be able to supply all immediately, it would be great to get connected to markets for our current as well as future capacity and communities!
  • Partnerships with corporations that can include us and our artisans in their supply chains! We have done one-off partnerships with brands we love (like corporate gifts, etc.), but if ever there are chances to partner with companies for the long-term too, that would be awesome!
  • Partnerships with global brands and designers who can collaborate with us to create amazing products and put a spotlight on what our artisans can do
  • Partnerships with social enterprises and artisan-supportive brands from all over the Philippines and Asia to join our platform, which is a joyful marketplace that creates positive impact and inspires an intentional lifestyle.

Ideas? Connections? Exciting possibilities? We are so excited to hear from you! Send me a note:


Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

Schwab Social Entrepreneur 2013

Young Global Leader 2012

World Economic Forum

14 Days with baby, with only a carry-on luggage

For those who have been following my Instagram and Instagram Stories, I hinted on writing about this trip and how I managed it with only a carry-on luggage (I know!!! haha). I LOVE packing and packing with intention – yes everything must be intentional – because it is a little systems challenge that has immediate results. But aside from that nerdy reason, I love packing this way because I get more peace of mind for my trip, I am more mobile, and I have less risk of losing my luggage (since no need to check in)! So many wins!

We just arrived a few weeks ago from a 14 day New Zealand trip for the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s YBLI (Young Business Leaders Initiative) program. But I also brought baby Miguel with me and of course, my husband Mark so he can take care of baby while I work and then we can go on to a mini vacation / road trip to Queenstown! I was so excited for this trip but I was also quite nervous because it was baby’s first plane ride (more than 10 hours of flying one way!) and Mark will be taking care of the baby alone most of the time.

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and in all fairness, Mark did an amazing job taking care of Miguel!!! Consider me SHOOKT and impressed!

So to calm my nerves, I decided to be a bit more obsessive about packing. haha I have awesome coping skills and I’m sharing my weirdness with all of you! Here are my 9 tips on packing light for a relatively more relaxed and a bit less backbreaking (literally) trip!

  1. Luggage and bags – I brought one carry-on luggage (that could be placed on the overhead compartment) with all my stuff, one R2R Maricel baby bag that fits under the seat in front of us for all of my pump stuff, Miguel’s food, change of clothes, vitamins, and bottles, and one small (but super roomy) R2R bag (more on that for number 5) for all my phones, chargers, make-up, and others.


    The little orange luggage is a carry-on, the black bag is the R2R Maricel Mommy bag, the Pack-it cooler folds and can fit inside the front pocket of the Mommy bag, and the bag to the right is my purse for the entire trip!

  2. Clothes! – Determine how many outfits you would actually need (considering the occassions, events, weather, etc.) for your trip and then divide the days by 2-4 (depending on the total number of days) to get the number of tops you would need and divide the days by 2-6 to get the number of bottoms. Okay, it is not as mathematical as that actually, but if you want to pack light, be very intentional and quite ruthless with cutting down on the “maybe I’ll need this” or “this is too cute to leave” piles. Since I have 14 full days and 7 of which are more business casual, I decided to bring 7 tops that can be dressed up or down as needed, and 3 pairs of pants (jeans + wide-legged trousers that can be dressed up or down too).
  3. Combinations of Clothes – Make sure that all your tops look great with all your bottoms. I LOVE this part because I really try out all the combinations!

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    Top from Pink Manila and bottom from Uniqlo

  4. Shoes – shoes are the most bulky and most delicate items to pack so I’m very particular about what shoes to bring and to only bring those that I will absolutely need and use. For this trip, since we have a baby on board (that’s another packing story for next time), I was extra ruthless with cutting down on my own things so I decided to choose only one pair of shoes for the entire trip, for all occassions. This part was HARD because the pair must be: comfy, casual, business-appropriate, weather resistant, pretty, and must match all the combinations of my clothes. Fortunately, a few days before our trip, we visited Dr. Kong in the 30th to get our feet assessed (my assessment was really dismal) and get some pairs of comfy shoes for the family. I honestly did not expect that the pair I saw and got would check all my boxes but it did! I expected Dr. Kong shoes to be comfy but not stylish because comfy and stylish don’t usually go together. But looook!!! Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
  5. Bags – another potentially bulky item unless you just want to go around in canvass bags. For this trip, I decided to bring just ONE bag that fits the shoes and fits all the combinations of clothes I brought. And this one bag (which is part of our Artefino collection called the Flora crossbody bag) is like a gift from Mary Poppins, it fits a LOT of stuff. Like here in this photo, this bag had a small notebook, pens, money, credit cards, keys, 2 lipsticks (Happy Skin of course!), hand sanitiser (Messy Bessy), 2 phone chargers, 2 phones, 1 power bank, sunglasses, and an extra t-shirt I got from the event. IMG_20170930_165059_592
  6. Toiletries – Transfer your toiletries to clear little 100ml bottles and put them all inside a zip bag. That’s pretty standard especially if you want to have no checked in bags (I don’t like checking in bags)
  7. Gifts – Choose gifts (to people you are visiting / people back home) that are flat, compact, or easy to shoot into the little cracks and slips between your clothes
  8. Another clothing tip – Choose clothes with fabrics that are easy to wash, dry, and wear, and won’t need to be ironed. This saved me a lot of time!
  9. Laundry – no judgement if you don’t plan to do laundry at all, but in case you want your clothes to be fresh again, plan for a laundry stop in the middle of your trip. Depending on the country you are visiting, chances are you can find laundry shops with washers and dryers you can use.

So there!!! I really had fun in this trip and the time I took to plan my packing was so worth it. I got to spend more time learning in the conferences and was able to spend time with family more!

What are your hacks and tips for packing light?

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About 10 years ago, we started R2R with Php 10,000, a group of hopeful social entrepreneurs, a small community of women artisans, and a huge dream. We wanted to create a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines. We knew it was not going to be easy but it was going to be worth it. Fast forward to today, we now have 10 years of experience in building, failing, bouncing back, and building again.

While we are so joyful that a lot more are now creating inclusive supply chains and community-centered enterprises, we know that there’s still so much to be done. Bridging artisans to markets is easy; keeping the market interested is harder. Connecting designers to artisans is easy; creating a culture of design in the artisan communities is much harder.

But the hardest thing to do is to build something that lasts. So we thought, why not share all the wins and mistakes we have learned along the way to more social enterprises, brands for a cause, community artisans, and small-scale producers? And the best time to do this is on our 10th anniversary this November 2017!


Our team is so excited because, for the past few months, we have been building Things That Matter, a joyful marketplace that creates positive impact and inspires an intentional lifestyle. But it is more than just a one-stop shop for all beautiful and meaningful products. It is also a community of advocates who are creating a better world, one intentional decision at a time.


We are overjoyed and excited to invite YOU to be one of the first advocates of Things That Matter! We are launching this November and when you sign up for our Things That Matter newsletter, we’ll give you Php 250 off your first purchase. Yes! Php 250 off for shopping for things that are beautiful, useful, and meaningful. Sign up here now.

Lastly, follow Things That Matter on Instagram and Facebook to know more about which social enterprises, brands, and communities we have on board and other exciting updates in the coming days!

In Good Company Podcast

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Oh hi!

So, after years of public speaking, I did not think I will still be quite shy about my voice (literally and figuratively) but I still am! haha There is a very compelling reason for me to finally come out and speak up. See, for the past few months, I have been searching, struggling, and scrambling desperately for inspiration and good news. Thankfully, I am quite fortunate to experience bits and pieces of hope and inspiration around me that I thought others should know about too! So I got over myself and decided to somehow share these stories through a medium that I am using to learn as well: podcasting!

A few months ago, Tom Graham and I met up, brainstormed, and shortly after, we started recording a podcast together called In Good Company. This podcast will explore the lives, careers, and advocacies of people who want to create positive impact in the world. Big words, I know. haha The journey of making this podcast has been already so inspiring and definitely quenched a little bit of my thirst for inspiration, so I hope more people can find inspiration through this as well!

We are launching this VERY SOON and we’ll announce the date in our Facebook Page: In Good Company Podcast. Don’t forget to like and follow for more details!

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