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!

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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. 

 

 

I have an extra 90 minutes a day and this is how I spend them (my top 10 podcasts)

Well, not really “extra” as in I have 90 minutes more than others. I just realized, roughly 7 months ago when I started breastfeeding and pumping milk that when I was not looking at my baby’s sleeping face while breastfeeding/pumping, I was scrolling mindlessly though social media. That’s a LOT of unproductive time on social media. I don’t know about you but every time I spend waaay too much time on social media, I feel woozy and a bit empty. It is very much like the feeling I get when I eat too much junk food. So what if I could use the same amount of time to learn something new and feed my brain some healthier content? I have been a podcast geek for a few years now so I decided that I should fit useful, inspiring, and intentional content into my life.

Here is my list in case you have some time for extra learning and knowledge too – let’s be real here, traffic wastes a lot of our time so might as well use it for learning right?

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1) How I Built This

What it is about: Amazing entrepreneurs, how they started, and the backstories that we don’t get to usually read. These entrepreneurs are interviewed by Guy Raz, who is an awesome interviewer! He asks the questions I would have LOVED to ask the entrepreneurs.

Listen when: You need some inspiration – when you feel that literally everyone is waaaay ahead of you in life (hint: they are figuring things out too). This podcast helps you understand really successful and famous entrepreneurs as human beings who went through difficulties, challenges, lucky breaks (that they embraced ready or not), successes, and more challenges. Some of them started early, some started later in life, but all of them prove that we all have our own journeys and stories.

Notable episode/s: Patagonia!!! I love the founder Yvon Chouinard’s philosophy about growth. After a business crises, they decided that they will listen to their customers for their growth so that they “grow strong, not grow fat” (I’m SO tempted to tag people & companies. haha). They are also moved by their sustainable philosophies and operate, decide, and live as if they will live for 100 years.

He believes in super high quality, responsible products that you can wear and use forever! Seriously, he is like the original Marie Kondo and practitioner of the capsule wardrobe.

I could go on and on about Patagonia, but it is so much more powerful when you listen to the founder. Patagonia is amazing!! They are 50 years old (I never knew!!) and have been doing progressive and inclusive practices for a long time already. Ultimate company peg!

Also notable: Sara Blakely of Spanx, Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott

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2) Planet Money 

What it is about: Economics made fun. Seriously! Okay, I am a bit of a nerd so this may be hard to believe but just give it a chance. Listen to one of my favorites and you’ll see what I mean.

Listen when: You want to learn something new but want to do so the fun way!

Notable Episodes: I actually have a long list but if I have to choose my top 3, these would be (in no particular order)… 1.) Bagging a Birkin – about the Birkin and why it always seems to be out of stock (dun dun – that’s suspense music BTW), 2.) Setting Up An Offshore Company In A Tax Haven – it is exactly about what the title says! This episode got me more than a little sad because it is so familiar to us in the Philippines. Curious? Listen to it and tell me what you think!, 3.) How To Hide A Million Dollars In Plain Sight – also sad and familiar, 4.) Finding The Fake-News King – haha it seems like I have a theme here… sad and familiar again, 5.) Hard Work is Irrelevant – interesting concept that Netflix is practicing as a company! A bit clickbait-y but a good intellectual exercise to think about and use to debate (in a friendly way of course) with yourself or others. So that’s my top 5! Wait, did I say 3? Oops.

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3) StartUp

What it is about: The gritty, exciting, discouraging, encouraging, REAL things that happen when starting up a business – it features super interesting companies that made it or became cautionary tales.

Listen when: You feel a bit (or a lot) discouraged about your enterprise / start up and you need grounding and a little assurance that you are not alone.

Notable Episodes: Friendster! I know. Remember Friendster? I know I do. Did you know that we (as in Filipinos) contributed to why Friendster no longer exists? To be fair, there were so many reasons. But we were mentioned quite a few times so it brought me back to the time when I thought the whole Philippine population was on Friendster. So. Many. Memories.

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4) Criminal

What it is about: A true crime podcast that goes beyond just the details of crimes. It analyses the context and even psychology behind them. You know what, I can’t give justice to it, so here’s what the New York Magazine has to say:

Criminal is a true­ crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive.” -­ New York Magazine

Listen when: I’m not sure actually! I listen to it when I’m curious about the episode. haha I guess you can do the same. Unless you are in the business of crime solving (or crime – please stop, that’s bad), this podcast may not have a direct contribution to your learning. But it is intriguing and a good mental exercise especially when you are into sociology, history, and the like. Oh, and this podcast is beautifully made! The music, audio, and script are all on point.

Notable Episodes: In Plain Sight – while the podcast is called Criminal, this episode is sort of a love story. It is about two people of different races and classes falling in love with each other and surviving during a time when a love like theirs was illegal.

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5) The Purposeful Creative

What it is about: This podcast is designed to help creative individuals explore different ideas on how to build a career or business around purpose and passion – from the Purposeful Creative website

Listen when: You need inspiration and guidance for your life, side-hustle, or career. We all want to do purposeful work in some way, and while there are lots of inspiring podcasts and articles out there, the actual examples and step-by-step process to pursue this are few.

Notable Episodes: All of them! The podcast is hosted by Arriane Serafico, a good friend and inspiration, who creates thought provoking and action-inspiring episodes. She interviewed me for this podcast and it is the most fun, engaging, vulnerable, and honest out of all the interviews I have ever done. Ever.

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6) Science VS

What it is about: Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. Hosted by Wendy Zukerman – who by the way, is a highly engaging host! When you listen to her, you can almost see her talking directly to you and doing super animated hand gestures.

Listen when: You are stuck in traffic, bored, or curious, and you want to learn things the fun way. Oh, and an openness to science is important! Because science is… well, science.

Notable Episodes: The one about Ghosts (because helloooo, Ghosts are always interesting), the one about Zika, and the one about DNA and the smell of death. Actually, I love all the episodes! This is a fairly new podcast so it is still a pretty short list, but so far, I love them all!

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7) On Being with Krista Tippett 

What it is about: On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavours. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact. – from the On Being website 

Listen when: You want to reconnect with yourself and others, or you are going through something difficult or life-changing. It is always awesome and inspiring to listen to the experiences and perspectives of others.

Notable Episodes: Interview with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Resilience After Unimaginable Loss – I’m not crying, you’re crying

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8) Startalk Radio 

What it is about: The StarTalk podcast network bridges the intersection between science, pop culture and comedy with clarity, humor and passion. Oh, and it is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson! Hearing his voice already makes me feel smart. haha

Listen when: You love science, you are a geek, you are dating a geek (there are so many episodes that explores the science behind sci-fi movies), or you are just curious about the really cool topics they talk about.

Notable Episodes: Is Our Universe a Simulation? – see?? super cool!

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9) Reply All

What it is about: Reply All is a show about the internet and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more. It’s hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who launched the show in 2014. –  from Reply All’s website 

Listen when: you are bored or looking for some new knowledge, interesting information, and additional things to talk about when networking with people

Notable Episodes: Speaking of trained rats, listen to Zardulu

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10) Freakonomics Radio 

What it is about: Yes that book! But a lot lot more. It is economics made fun too!!! Yeah, I love economics.

Listen when: You like learning but you hate boring

Notable Episodes: Is Income Inequality Inevitable?, How Safe Is Your Job?, Get Grit In Life! 

Others! (most of the blurbs copied from their websites)

HBR Idea Cast – A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review.

99 % Invisible – 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

Strangers – Each episode is an empathy shot in your arm, featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were. 

Hidden Brain – The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

Stuff You Missed in History Class – precisely stuff you missed in history class! So history retold with context and other details

The Pitch – Like Shark Tank, but in a podcast

Lore – History behind the folklores! Super super interesting!

Creating a Bucket List that Matters

  • Went up the Eiffel tower – check
  • Spoke at the Sydney Opera House in front of Australia’s young leaders – check
  • Traveled (almost) around the world without spending – check
  • Met with world leaders and awesome people – check
  • Ate Desmond Tutu’s birthday cake (yup) – check
  • Married the man of my dreams and prayers – check

My life looks like a ticked off bucket list. BUT.

I could think of so many more things that I have done before reaching the age of 30 (and one of my favorites is marrying the man of my dreams & prayers!).

The truth is, life is not comprised of just trophies, certificates, countries, courses, adventures, and awards. It is also full of moments of anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. In fact, the things that really build character are the hard things, not the ones that make you giddy inside.

So whenever younger people ask me about all my achievements (and by “achievements”, some usually refer to the awards, media exposure, etc.) and ask how they could achieve them too, I always feel uncomfortable.

One, because I don’t think the awards, media exposure, or number of passports (or stamps on them) are the goals. The goals should be bigger, inclusive, and based on faith and hope for a better future for everyone. If the awards themselves become the end goals, that would be dangerous and misguided – and such a waste of time and talent. And trust me, they are not good enough as anchors. They crumble when things get tough. 

And two, I don’t think that my life is a success story already told and that it could be measured based on media mileage or awards. Those are not the real achievements (they are great pats on the back though and are definitely appreciated). Behind all the glitz and glamour, I consider my real achievements to be the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

So instead of creating just a bucket list of things-to-do and places-to-go (I also have those!), I also wrote another that is more meaningful and will remind me of the more important things in life. Hopefully, for those who feel in a hurry to “achieve” and measure their achievements though external rewards, this list could help you build your own bucket list that matters: 

  • Tell the people you love that you love them, all the time. It may be awkward at first for some people, but you’ll remember these moments the most (my status: YES! all the time!) 
  • Tell your biggest failure story and share its lessons (my status: soon!)
  • Forgive the people you blame for some difficult times in your life (my status: getting there!)
  • Lose an award, nomination, or something that you really want, with grace and genuine happiness for others (my status: after lots of tries, finally there!)
  • Listen to constructive personal feedback without being defensive or listening only to respond (my status: still practicing, but getting better)
  • And finally (but really, the list goes on), find a community that you could love and stick to – it could be a church group, organization, cooperative, artist hub, group of like-minded people, etc. and constantly think of ways to provide value to them. Serving others is one of the best ways to find your calling and passion.

When you measure your life and achievements through more meaningful metrics, all the awards, media exposure, travels, and other things that may come your way (and they will come because the world needs and loves people with passion and purpose), will be nice-to-have. But you’ll find that nothing beats the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

Photo by: Shutterpanda for Rags2Riches, Inc. 

9 Reasons Why I Started Blogging Again

1) I have finally recovered from my previous blog trauma called Multiply – guess what my username was? PAXANGELUS. WHY. 

I used to have a Multiply blog that is so well updated with all kinds of random ramblings. I talked about politics, love, life, religion, movie reviews, and everything in between. But my favorite (NOT) parts of this blog were my “blind items” and passive aggressive posts about my crushes and some people I know. CRINGE. Before Multiply closed down (THANK GOODNESS), I saved all of these entries and secured them in a multiple password protected and authenticated place that I alone could access and read, in case I just want to beat myself up or laugh at my younger self. And no, I am not yet ready to share all of them again. hahaha 

So yes, I was traumatised with my own younger voice. I feel like a Tita cringing at the status messages and posts of her teenage niece. I did not want to write in public again because I was afraid that I will go back to these after a few years and find out that I was not as smart as I thought I was. 

Like this particular passive-aggressive entry:

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Before I saved this, I edited all of the blog entries to be private (thus, the “for you” note) because I just could not risk anyone else copying them for future blackmailing purposes! And to my three friends who commented, why didn’t you tell me this was a bad idea?!


But recently, I realised that even if I still cringe every time I read my past entries, I should accept them as part of who I am and what made me who I am today. We all have pasts that we are not entirely proud of (right? right? Come on!), but these should not keep us from moving forward and being better.

OH! and I also realised that my past blog entries were meant to be just cathartic. And to a certain extent, personal blogs that are written for catharsis could provide insight and value for others. But I thought that I should expand beyond unintentionally providing value. So now, instead of just having this blog for cathartic reasons (that is still part of it!), my intention is to also learn, contribute, and create valuable and useful content. I have lined up a lot of entries for the next few weeks and even months and proud to say that none of them are blind items or passive aggressive entries! I’m so proud of myself. haha 

2) My twice a month personal emails to R2R advocates

So recently, I have been writing personal emails to our R2R advocates. When we first started doing this, I was kind of hesitant because I thought I would run out of things to say or share. But we are a few months into this now and my mind is still overflowing with stories and new ideas! I’m sure there will be times when I’ll experience some blocks, but as long as there are people, little things to be thankful for everyday, and small victories to celebrate, we’ll not run out of inspiring stories. 

3) Traffic and erratic internet access 

Cheers to finding silver linings! Because of our terrible traffic situation, I find myself on the road longer. And because of erratic mobile internet, I could not answer emails/work/get on calls efficiently while stuck in traffic. Luckily (?), I have audio books and podcasts (all downloaded for offline listening) and my journaling app works great even when offline! So lots of time on the road + erratic mobile internet = lots of time staring out the window, listening to books and podcasts, and getting hit by lots of ideas that I could immediately record in my journal (Day One).

4) My Day One Journal 

Thanks (?) to traffic and erratic internet connection, my Day One is filled with random thoughts, status messages that I wanted to post but did not, and some pretty cool insights that surprise me too when I read them again. I realised that I could be really weird & incoherent, but at times, I make sense. haha

5) Mocha Uson Blog

I know, I know! Okay, hear me out. I have never read her blog thoroughly and I would not repost her blog entries as “credible news” and examples of “authentic journalism”. But like it or not, she has a voice. And she’s not shy about reminding anyone who would listen. And so I thought, if Mocha Uson could blog, anyone should be able to. In fact, more people should! I know a lot of amazing people who are smart, insightful, thorough, and objective, who could make some noise too. If we have people who contribute to the chaos, we need more people to contribute to the clarity.

6) Mar Roxas, the travel and food blogger

His blog is seriously adorable. And he’s a Tito, with Tito jokes and all.

While I was overthinking and second guessing myself and everything I put out into the world, he was confidently incorporating corny puns and jokes into his captions and sentences. I don’t want to be a boring Tita when Mar Roxas is a funny Tito. Please.

7) Arriane Serafico 

I still sometimes can’t believe that we’ve been friends for less than 5 years (according to Facebook though, we have been Facebook friends since May 2010! What?!)! This woman inspired me, ate with me (but like, 10x faster), listened to me, and planted crazy ideas inside my head (the good kinds, sometimes). We have been through a LOT, traveled together, slept on one Hello Kitty bed for a few nights, and shared personal stories of hardships and hope.

And now, she’s venturing into something she has always been great at: teaching and empowering others to achieve their personal goals! I could attest to how great she is when it comes to this and would recommend her class to anyone who would like to set meaningful goals and design their lives!

Being her friend has been very inspiring and her go-getter vibe is infectious! So here I am, go-getting (if there is such a term – there should be)! 

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Screen grabbed from: arrianeserafico.com

8.) Our R2R Team & Artisans

Working with a group of inspiring people with amazing stories is just rejuvenating! We talk about weird and mundane things too, but a lot of our conversations are also enriching and thought-provoking. We talk about our artisans, advocates, positive impact, sustainable design ideas, love (yes!), politics (oh, you should hear us!), creativity, innovations, and many more. Some of my Day One entries are based on our conversations too. So in a way, I’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes of a social enterprise with a group of passionate people talking about world-changing ideas!

9) And finally, my conversations with my husband


My husband Mark is pretty smart. That’s an understatement actually. He has this natural curiosity & interest in others that I wish I have too! I’m learning!

Fortunately for me, I get to talk to him a lot. We are almost always together every single day, and we have the same values and hopes for ourselves, our family, and our country. I am always learning when I’m with him, which means that I’m always learning.

A lot of the things I log on my Day One came from my conversations with him. We talk about philosophy, ideas, innovations, theology, psychology, the best Tonkatsu place, super heroes, Rags2Riches, Hapinoy, inequality, politics, lyrics of songs that he always messes up, travel, our upcoming baby, and anything and everything we can think of (and we have really itchy minds)! 

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Hihihi #Kilig 

So there! Because of all my “influences”, here are some of the topics to expect from my blog:

  • Ideas – I’ll “give away” some ideas that I hope to see in the world one day
  • Travel stories
  • Life Hacks – mommy stuff that I’ll learn as I go along, productivity hacks I have tried (and worked for me),  and other tips that I could not think of right now but I’ll learn in the future
  • Art stuff – art that inspire me, art I made, etc.
  • Behind-the-scenes of R2R
  • Insights on life, love, some politics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and more!