Discovering Yin Yoga

yin-yang symbol

Yoga has been an on again, off again practice for me since I took my first class in 2002. I decided to stick to it for good when I got back to my mat in 2012. I’d just gone through surgery and therapy, and sweating it out with flow classes helped me regain momentum. From the malaise I experienced post-surgery, I was able to spring back and get into the go-go-go mindset once more… until I discovered that constantly being on-the-go isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be.

While it felt like I was credible enough to be a “legitimate” yogi because I was building strength and building up to fancier poses, there was a lot of pressure building up in my body, mind, emotion and spirit, too—something I was completely unaware of until I came to practice Yin.

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A Top-Notch Wine Dinner

While we get to try some pretty impressive wines at the International Wine and Food Society (IWFS), it is rarely the case where every wine at an event is rare and/or fabulously expensive. Last November 23, the members of the Society were very fortunate to partake of such wines from the cellar of a most generous member. As this was such a special event, one of our members, the area GM for Shangri-La hotels in the Philippines Alain Borgers opened the Makati Shangri-La’s Sage Bespoke Grill for this Sunday dinner. (The restaurant is normally closed on Sunday).

I arrived rather early and was pleased to see Alain busy personally preparing the bottles, chilling the whites and decanting the reds.

Shangri-La Group GM Alain Borgers personally handles the wine preparation.

Shangri-La Group GM Alain Borgers personally handles the wine preparation.

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Washoku de Azabu

Driving home one day along Ortigas Ave., in Greenhills, I happened to look at the tallest building in the area, the BTTC Center, and I saw what I assumed was a sign to a Japanese restaurant I had not heard of before. The sign said Washoku de Azabu and I made a mental note to check it out soon. Although Greenhills has its fair share of Japanese restaurants, these are mostly ramen chains. There is no proper, full service Japanese restaurant unless you count Kimpura. Although I used to love Kimpura as a child growing up, the peaceful atmosphere of that restaurant has given way to a loud, crowded, somewhat chaotic vibe that’s more often found in a panciteria. For this reason, I try to avoid going there.

We were able to visit Washoku de Azabu (Washoku roughly translates as Japanese cuisine while Azabu is a district in Tokyo) one weekend recently and I am pleased to note that it is a quiet place to enjoy conversation and a good meal. As it was our first time there, we decided to take the measure of the place by ordering a bit more than what we usually do. The menu is quite extensive so we asked for some recommendations. Our waitress recommended the Ika Geso Karaage which is one of their best sellers. This is fried squid tentacles. Quite tender and not at all chewy. This would make a good pulutan.

Ika Geso Karaage (P 210.00)

Ika Geso Karaage (P 210.00)

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Love, Misadventure and Lullabies

Sleep is one of my biggest (non) guilty pleasures. Nothing feels better than a good night’s rest! I like getting into the ritual of things before resting at night—here are some tools of the trade.

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Yoga Love soothing balm for my temples, neck and shoulders; my planner to record the day’s events and check the next day; tarot cards and crystals for meditation; a book to set me to sleep


My latest read has been Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl” on my Kindle, but I’ve been thumbing through this popular poetry + prose piece by Lang Leav too. I’m not big on poetry (save for the embarrassing verses I wrote in high school) but I find it provides a refreshing break to the lengthy stuff I like to dig deep into. What I like about “Lullabies” is how you can read everything in snippets and just have a taste of her melancholy every now and then. I love her artwork too.

I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with the Australia-based author this week—she’s on a book tour and is making an appearance in Cebu and Manila!—and learned some pretty fun, interesting stuff about her.

Embarrassingly enough, I forgot to have my picture taken with Lang during our interview. I was lucky enough to catch her in the washroom (and ambush her for a photo). Eep.

Embarrassingly enough, I forgot to have my picture taken with Lang during our interview. I was lucky enough to catch her in the washroom (and ambush her for a photo). Eep.

Q: What do you do with pieces you’ve written or drawn that don’t just work out? Anything that embarrasses you?

L: I think some of the are floating around social media. Things I’ve done recently that I just put out that I’m not really happy with and Michael teases me about it.

Q: What was your first art exhibition like?

L: I was very, very nervous—I was shaking! I was in my early to mid 20s. It was my first show in this little gallery. It was a group show so I just had one or two paintings. I was standing in front of them and just being really nervous.

Q: Was it the same experience or feeling for you when your first book came out?

L: I think because I was older and more mature, I was a bit more equipped to handle it!

 Q: Pen or paper?

L: I’ve got a laptop but I find that if I’ve got an idea and I’ve just got to get something down, then I’ll just grab something quickly and scribble it.

Q: Have you ever had to chase an idea because your hand wasn’t fast enough to catch it?

L: Lots! Especially when I’m falling asleep at night. Like something pops in your head and you say, “That’s really great, I should really get up and write it down before I forget it.” And then you’re just so tired, so you say, “No, I’ll remember it tomorrow.” And the next day, it’s gone. *laughs* That means it wasn’t meant to be!

Q: Your illustrations are very haunting and whimsical. Where do you draw inspiration from?

L: I’ve always been drawn to dark, melancholy undertones. Tim Burton is an influence—he wrote this book, “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, and Other Stories” which has all these quirky characters all with sad lives. He’s always been an influence. “Ailce in Wonderland” has always had this darkness to it, but at the same time it also has this whimsical quality.

Q: Have you ever ventured out of that style?

L: I think all artists evolve over time. I think I’m very new on my creative journey and I have many other years to evolve and change and explore other genres in the future some time.

Q: How are you able to reconcile expressing so much of yourself in your work and being inherently introverted and private?

L: When I first started showing my work, I just posted it on Tumblr and I didn’t have many followers—just a handful. So, I just had no idea it would ever get out there. And it has! I felt comfortable with that and I was fine with it. People started sharing with me their stories and those also have become a new basis for work. My stories can’t all just be me—that would be crazy!

Q: What’s the one question that people always ask you?

L: I get a lot of questions about Michael! He just released his new book, “Dirty Pretty Things” which is really exciting. Generally, people just ask about our relationship—which is really strange for us because we’re so ordinary and we’re just really chill. I try to give as many answers as I can.

Q: What’s one thing about you that surprises people?

L: It’s really funny—I got a lot of this on my first tour. A lot of people that meet me say, “Oh wow, you don’t seem like you’re really depressed at all!” cause a lot of my writing has a melancholy undertone. That’s the perception of me, I think, for the people that haven’t met me. I’m almost the opposite in real life—I’m always laughing and smiling.

 Q: Is it tough for you to work on a poetry book and a novel at the same time?

L: No, strangely. In writing my novel and in writing my character, it’s actually inspired my poetry. It’s really strange—it’s like an offshoot which wouldn’t necessarily belong in the novel that works as a standalone piece. I find the relationship very interesting.

Q: Do you read reviews? How do you deal with people being irrationally awful to you?

L: Yeah, sometimes—I just don’t have much time. I do try to because I think they’re really nice and I really appreciate them. It’s funny with people—the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. If people are saying negative things about the book, they’re still promoting the book—they’re still getting the name and the book out there. And for everyone that agrees with them, there will be plenty of people who will like my work. It’s funny because they’re doing the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve.

Because of social media, everyone has a microphone now and can talk to you on a regular basis. I think that’s the up side of all of it.

QWhat’s your happy place?

L: My happy place is just at home, writing and chilling out! I’ve lived by the sea for the last four or five years. The best thing about living there is the sea air—especially when you fall asleep at night to the sound of the crashing waves.

Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?

L: Chocolate! I had this chocolate when I was in Singapore—someone gave it to me. It was amazing! It was this lion’s head, so I’m going to do a stop over at Singapore before I head home and I’m going to find it.

Q: What’s a book you read over and over?

L: I read a lot of Alice Munro. And I’ve also read “Norwegian Wood” a few times too.

QWhat gives you a good night’s sleep?

L: Ever since the books have been successful, it’s taken a lot of pressure off myself—the pressure I give myself to achieve or do something. I feel a lot more relaxed in that respect. This is my dream and I’ve achieved it, and it’s just something wonderful for me to have.

Q: If any artist could sing you a lullaby, who would it be and why?

L: Lana del Rey because her voice is just amazing.

Follow @nbsalert on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more details about Lang Leav’s book tour. She’ll be in The Gallery, Ayala Center Cebu (200 slots) on December 5 at 5 PM in the East Atrium, Shangri-La Plaza East Wing (500 slots) pm December 6 at 12 pm, and in Powerbooks, Greenbelt 4 (500 slots) on December 7 at 12 pm. Registration starts at 10 am for all events. Join the discussion by tagging #LangLeavinPH on your posts.


Ice Cream Nostalgia at Farmacy

I’ve been saying it for years. Ever since the demise of the late lamented Peach n Plum ice cream parlor in Greenhills and the old Magnolia Flavor House on Aurora (forget the new one opened at Robinson’s Magnolia which is a travesty), what we really need in the city is an honest to goodness ice cream parlor that does ice cream right. Well, thanks to the folks at Wildflour, we finally have one again.

Farmacy channels old-style soda fountain nostalgia and serves up creamy concoctions in a Norman Rockwell idealized Americana setting. Even before getting to the ice cream, the decor is already eye-catching; with the antique wooden cabinet with beakers and flasks, antique blenders and old soda pop bottles. Wooden stools and ceiling fans complete the look.

Old school ice cream parlor

Old school ice cream parlor

24 Flavors!

24 Flavors!


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Ippudo Ramen

The ramen craze continues unabated and the latest to join the fray is Ippudo, brought to you by the same folks who started the katsu craze with Yabu. Although it has been open for several weeks, we avoided going to Ippudo as the lines are quite daunting. So we made it a point to go at 2:30 in the afternoon when there was no line to contend with. Even so, the restaurant was still rather busy with just over half of the seats occupied.

I’ve had Ippudo before as it is a regular destination for me when I’m in Hong Kong so I knew exactly what I wanted to order. A pork bun to start and a ramen to follow. As there were several of us in the group, we also ordered a few other things to share.

The pork bun here is delicious. A braised pork belly slab with mayo in a cuapao bun. Delicious! It was so good some of us ordered seconds of this.

Pork Bun (P 100.00)

Pork Bun (P 100.00)

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Local Color: Francis Libiran for Havaianas

If you are a Havaianas fan, you’ll be thrilled to find out that the your favorite flip-flop brand is collaborating with a Filipino designer for the first time—how cool is that? Bringing local color to the popular Brazilian brand this season is Francis Libiran, designer to the stars!

“When Havaianas approached me and asked me to design something for them, I wanted to incorporate my signature details. My creative team and I brainstormed on icons that are uniquely Filipino. When they told me about the project, I was very excited. I personally have to have my Havaianas every summer. They’re number one in the world, so to have your name on Havaianas is something,” Libiran says in an official press statement. He adds, “Flip-flops are ingrained in Philippine culture, so I could only imagine the statement my designs would make on them. Because people use them everyday, I thought some people would question why they would be so designed, because they’re just flip-flops, but for me, it’s about creating wearable pieces of art.”

Francis Libiran

Pinoy culture at your feet! “Island” by Francis Libiran for Havaianas


“We are very excited to have worked with Francis, whose creative ideals embody the very ideals of the brand,” says Anne Gonzalez, managing director of Terry S.A. (the group responsible for bringing Havaianas to our shores). “Fans of his work will also be able to own something that isn’t a ball gown, which means they can use it everyday. He has helped us showcase Filipino talent and culture by creating beautiful but practical pieces.” 

Francis Libiran

“City” by Francis Libiran for Havaianas


The limited edition Francis Libiran for Havaianas collection features three designs that reflect popular Pinoy culture: City, Island, and Festival. Each pair will be available in specially-designed packaging, making them ideal for gifts.

Francis Libiran for Havaianas

My personal favorite Francis Libiran for Havaianas design: “Festival,” which is said to be inspired by Bacolod’s Masskara festival


The Francis Libiran for Havaianas collection is available starting today, December 1, 2014 at all authorized Havaianas retailers. Follow Havaianas Philippines on Facebook and @havaianasphils on Instagram and Twitter for more updates.


Paano Ba ‘To?! by Bianca Gonzalez

Bianca Gonzalez

One of the winning quotes in the book: “Malayong malayo sa perfect ang buhay ko. But it’s true, when you have a thankful and grateful heart, life, no matter how imperfect, becomes so wonderful.”—Bianca Gonzalez


Many years ago, when I was editor in chief of the teen magazine Meg, I asked the adorably awesome up-and-coming commercial model Bianca Gonzalez to write a then-groundbreaking article on a topic she was passionate about—celebrating her beautiful morena skin. So it felt like we were coming full circle when Bianca (now a successful celebrity host, endorser, columnist, youth advocate, and current editor of Meg!) recently asked me to help edit her dream project: her very first book entitled Paano Ba ‘To?! How to Survive Growing Up.

Bianca answers your burning questions on career choices (“Na-reject ako. Ang sakit! Paano ba ‘to?’), family and friendships, fashion and fitness, confidence, love (“Is there any way I can get him to see me as more than ‘a sister’?”) with wit, wisdom, and heartwarming honesty. Experts and celebrity columnists also chime in on various subjects, from discovering personal style (“Ok lang baduy. Basta confident”– Rissa Mananquil-Trillo), to confessing to your crush (“Tandaan, dalagang Pilipina ka!”—Ramon Bautista), work (“Things that matter really do not have a price tag.”—Atom Araullo), to finding your purpose in life (“Instead of strategy, use soul”—Angela Aguirre). Complete with fab illustrations by Pete Rich and calligraphy by Abbey Sy, this  fun, funny, and inspiring guide to growing up retails at only P245 and will make a great present for all the young (and young-at-heart) ladies on your Christmas list!

Tip! Have your book signed by Bianca today at 2 PM at National Bookstore, Glorietta 1!


Finding Healing through Reiki

I discovered Reiki eight years ago while recovering from a major illness. Our neighbor was a psychologist and a Reiki master who saw patients for counseling and for healing. While I definitely saw the benefits of Western medicine (it had cured me, after all!), I didn’t see any harm in trying out something new.

Once a week, I would visit her for a short talk and a Reiki session. She would ask me to lie down, close my eyes and relax, while she would run her hands over different parts of my body from head to toe. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on (my eyes were closed!), but what I gleaned from the experience was a soothing, mellow energy… which was definitely what I needed after all the doctor’s appointments, treatments, and hard-hitting, stone-cold facts that came with all the hospital visits.


Fast forward to many years later, and I’d come across Reiki again. I was fully recovered and hadn’t really given it any thought but serendipitously, I was meeting old friends and new ones who were all somehow learning about the practice. I remembered how calm my past sessions made me feel, so I hit Google and came across White Space—a studio that offered yoga, pilates, meditation, Reiki and more wellness-based practices. There was a Deal Grocer promo offering discounted meditation classes, so I decided to sign up and explore.

Every Tuesday, I would head to Sarah Salcedo-Rubin’s evening meditation class and learn about the chakras and energy. After just an hour, I found myself accessing that same feeling that my past Reiki sessions would always inspire! And because she was also also the resident Reiki master at White Space, I decided to book a one-on-one  session with her.


Reiki at White Space definitely expanded my experience of this healing modality. Sarah explained to me about life force energy (prana as the yogis call it, or chi in traditional Chinese medicine) and how Reiki, a Japanese technique, allowed for a better flow of energy in one’s body and mind through the laying of hands. It’s a popular form for stress reduction and physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing.

In White Space, Reiki is conducted in a private room that’s beautifully sparse and minimal. You’re invited to lie on a comfortable sofa, soothing, spa music is played to help you relax into your body while Sarah does her work. After the session, I was given an assessment of how my energy was (or wasn’t!) flowing and what I could do to help it improve. Now, this may all be very new age to modern-day skeptics but Sarah talks in simple, pragmatic terms that everyone can easily grasp.


I was already a believer in the benefits of Reiki before, but meeting Sarah and finding a sanctuary at White Space really got me into the practice. Soon, I signed up for a Level 1 and 2 healing workshop and learned how to practice Reiki on myself and others too. I wanted to pay all the benefits forward because the practice had really done me so much good.

I’m a huge fan of asana and physical forms of yoga as a way to heal the body and improve the flow of prana, but I also believe that coupling the physical with the more intangible parts of your body is key in feeling good and living well. Reiki is a wonderful way to deal with stress and to practice kindness, self-care and self-love.

If you’re interested in talking to Sarah or experiencing her meditation classes and Reiki sessions, I highly recommend you visit White Space as it has certainly become one of the most healing, happiest places for me.

To join the next Level 1 Reiki Healing workshop, visit White Space on the web. Those interested in Level 2, may click through this link.


White Space Mind and Body Wellness
6/F Regis Center
327 Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights
1108 Quezon City, Philippines
Mob: +63917.577.0345 | Tel: +632.577.0345

Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza at The Podium

Walking around Podium the other week, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza had opened a branch there. Since going to Gino’s original branch in Katipunan can be difficult and I hear that the Salcedo branch can have waits over an hour long, it was good to see one of my favorite pizza places had opened one just a few minutes from where I live. We gathered the family for dinner there last Sunday to eat some old favorites and to try some new things.

We started with a couple of orders of refreshing Burrata Caprese salads.

Burrata Caprese - Burrata, Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Basil (P 355.00)

Burrata Caprese – Burrata, Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Basil (P 355.00)

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