Toby’s Estate Coffee

One of Toto’s joys in life is coffee, and his top happy place for months now has been Toby’s Estate. A Toby’s flat white is the one thing that can convince him to brave the hellish traffic from QC to Makati (yes, I’ve bribed him a few times).

Just look at that smile!

Just look at that smile!


Apart from their Salcedo (V Corporate Center, Leviste St.) and Century City Mall branches, they are now open at EcoTower, BGC and soon at SM Aura. We’ve heard whispers of an Ortigas branch, but no word yet about QC, which is just as well–my wallet isn’t quite ready for what is sure to become a daily indulgence (and what would I bribe Toto with, the next time I need him to accompany me to Makati?).

A flat white (right) for Toto, and a mocha for me

Cuppa joy: a flat white (right) for Toto, and a mocha for me. Their chocolate chip cookies are fab, too!


Toby's Estate

Don’t you just love their chalkboard witticisms?

H&M Opens in Manila (squee!)

Are you ready, Manila? After years of speculation and months of official anticipation, the phenomenally popular Swedish retail brand H&M is finally launching at the SM Mega Fashion Hall tomorrow, October 17! Doors open at 9 AM and gift cards await early birds (up to P6k worth for the first 200 in line!), plus up to 50% off on select merchandise on opening day. And since it happens to coincide with the SM Mega Sale weekend, you can shop till you drop—or till Manong guard escorts you out at 12 midnight! (Regular store hours of 10 AM-10 PM resume on October 20 onwards.)

Last night, we were thrilled to get a sneak peek at H&M’s first store in the Philippines—covering approximately 3,000 sqm and three fabulous floors featuring H&M’s complete range for women, men, teens, and children (yes, athletic wear, lingerie, and the limited edition H&M Studio line, too). No need to travel to get your H&M shopping fix—you’ll find everything here, from the hottest trends to essential basics, and at amazingly affordable prices. Here are some of our favorite finds we spied at last night’s shopping frenzy (we’re SO going back for that Hello Kitty kiddie tutu—fingers crossed it’s still there!).

Welcome to Manila, H&M!

Welcome to Manila, H&M!


Adorable MTV VJ Aryanna Epperson trying on a glam hat (we can see your influence, Jenni!)


H&M Manila

You can never go wrong in black

H&M Manila

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

H&M Philippines

How adorbs is this poodle skirt?

Your holiday uniform: a fuzzy pastel sweater, a flippy skirt, chunky heels, and sparkly bling!

Your holiday uniform: a fuzzy pastel sweater, a flippy skirt, chunky heels, and sparkly bling!

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Lebanon’s Chateau Musar

It might surprise some people to know that Lebanon is home to one of the world’s vinous treasures – Chateau Musar. At a lunch at Restaurant M, Premium Wine Exchange, Chateau Musar’s Philippine importers and Ralph Hochar, whose family owns Chateau Musar presented some of their wines.

Wine grapes were grown in Lebanon as far back as 6000 years ago. Chateau Musar, however, was started in 1930 by Gaston Hochar. The Hochars were of French origin and came to Lebanon during the Crusades. The French connection was reinforced by the friendship between Gaston and a French Major stationed in Lebanon – Major Ronald Barton whose family owns several famous chateaux in Bordeaux. Although the war in Lebanon in the 70s was a major challenge, The winery continued to produce despite great odds, missing only one vintage. Today, Chateau Musar is recognized as the iconic wine of Lebanon and has been praised by many wine critics.

Our welcome drink was  a wine that Mr. Hochar brought with him, the Chateau Musar 2012 Rosé. This is blend of the indigenous white grapes Obaideh and Merwah and Cinsault to give color. The method to create this wine is a blend of individual wines as is the method used in Champagne. This was pale salmon. Very dry and savory. Lean and refreshing.

We proceeded to lunch with 4 reds. All the reds are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan, with the proportions varying from year to year depending on the quality of the grapes. The first two younger wines, the 2007 and 2004 were paired with a hearty Tagliatelle and Oxtail Ragu.

Tagliatelle and Oxtail Ragu

Tagliatelle and Oxtail Ragu

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Artist Series: Arlene Sy

I love how Arlene Sy’s dreamy watercolor illustrations mirror her career in bloom. A former art director for a local publishing company, she quit her day job to pursue her dream to become a full-time artist four years ago. She quickly became a favorite of brides-to-be for romantic custom wedding invites, but recently, decided to concentrate on her paper goods line (be still my stationery-loving heart!). Here, we chat with Arlene on following her passion, her fascination for roses, and the cutest fun fact ever!



Adorable Arlene at the BGC art fair

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Falling for Shoes

So, we don’t get to witness Fall’s full glory over here in the tropics, but we can certainly enjoy the arrival of new shoe collections from some of our favorite brands!  Here are a few to check out now:

My sensitive feet are never too happy in folding flats, but I absolutely love Cocorose London—I can walk comfortably in them for hours, and they look great, too! (The secret is the heel padding and sole support).  This season, this English import features a wonderful tie-up with Ballet Philippines, which helps support young dance talent. For every purchase from Cocorose London’s Royal Ballet collection, a portion of sales will go to the Ballet Foundation Philippines. Shop and help fund a dancer’s training!  

Cocorose London

Ballet Philippines soloist Denise Parungao wears the Clara from Cocorose London’s Royal Ballet collection


Amina Aranaz-Alunan

Stylish designer/entrepreneur, super mama, and Cocorose London muse Amina Aranaz-Alunan shows off her matches-anything Brixton in nude from the Classic Elegance line


Cocorose London

Cocorose London New Knightsbridge in Silver


Janan Leo

Cocorose London CEO Janan Leo, who was recently here for the launch of the Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, told me, “The main theme is based on underground glamour—taking something that was edgy and sexy, and infusing that into the flat shoe. Normally, when people think of flats, they don’t think it’s something that’s sexy enough to wear out, and that’s what we’ve tried to make.” We can totally rock in this Hoxton black sued studded flat!


Cocorose London is located at Glorietta 5, or visit (Read more about Cocorose London in my Fifi’s Finds column in Manila Bulletin today!)


Are you perpetually in flip-flops? You’ll definitely fall for the sleek new Havaianas Luna (P1395), featuring a slim metallic strap braided at the front and a sling back that kicks your casual look up a notch without losing that boho vibe. Available in classic white, sand grey, Fog, and Neon Pink, wear it from a pool party or coffee date, to a night out with the girls for a year-round summer state of mind!  




Havaianas Luna will take you from day to night in easy-breezy style

Available in All Flip-Flops stores or visit for a list of retailers.


Have you discovered the ultra-cute Le Bunny Bleu yet? This romantic vintage-inspired shoe with a whimsical touch (flats with bunny ears, anyone?) goes (mostly) mannish this season, with toned-down shades androgynous styles. Our fave picks: Python slip-ons and preppy oxfords that are the perfect foil for your girlie dresses!

python slip-ons

Le Bunny Bleu Python Slip-ons (P2995)


emily oxfords

Le Bunny Bleu Emily Oxfords (P2795)


Le Bunny Bleu

Mary-ann Oxfords (P2795)


Le Bunny Bleu

Le Bunny Bleu Zoe Hidden Heel Loafers


Sale alert: Visit the Robinsons Sale at the World Trade Center this weekend for up to 70% off on past seasons’ styles of Le Bunny Bleu!

LeBunny Bleu is located at 5th Level East Wing Bridgeway Shangri-la Plaza (phone 654-2599) and 2nd Floor Glorietta 5 (phone 955-7225). For updates on their new collections, visit them on Facebook (LeBunnyBleuPH) and follow @lebunnybleuph on Instagram and Twitter.


For some homegrown goodness, check out Suelas for chic and comfy flats and sandals. Wonderfully affordable, too! These pointy-toe Prescot ballet flats (P900) are poised to become your favorite go-to shoe, and will look especially great with this seasons midi circle skirts for an Audrey Hepburn-ish vibe.


Prescot flats available in tan, nude, red, and black. Get them all!


At the Suelas showroom: These lovely folding flats are begging to be packed to accompany you on your next trip!

At the Suelas showroom: These lovely folding flats are begging to be packed to accompany you on your next trip!

Suelas 2

This multi-colored Monet sandal (P1050) is actually from Suelas’ Spring/Summer collection, but it’s so pretty, we’re including it in this round-up, anyway!


Suelas is located at 2/F Doña Consolacion Bldg, Jupiter St, Makati or visit

Happy shoe-pping!


Mecha Uma

The first time I tried Chef Bruce Ricketts’ food was at a food fair at Podium. I managed to have the last portion of whatever he was dishing up that day. He was a little apologetic as he had run out of some ingredients but he said he could whip something up with whatever he had left – shrimps, scallop, kimchi and apples. I admit I was more than a little skeptical but what he came up with just blew me away. The second time I tried his food was at an event of the International Wine and Food Society where he received a standing ovation – a tribute that even long-time members of the Society say had never been done before. We did try to go to his first restaurant, Sensei Sushi in BF Homes Paranaque but the drive was so long there was hardly any food left when we got there.

Just this month, Ricketts opened a new restaurant at Fort Bonifacio called Mecha Uma – Japanese for “Absurdly Delicious.” The International Wine and Food Society booked the restaurant for another dose of Ricketts’ creative genius.

Tasting Menu for the International Wine and Food Society

Tasting Menu for the International Wine and Food Society

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Urban Farmer: Indoor Farming Made Easy

Plants and I have a lopsided relationship. I love them, but they don’t seem to feel the same way about me.  When we renovated our home a few years ago, we had a deck built right outside our bedroom for the specific purpose of housing my dream botanical haven: a collection of greenery so diverse and bountiful that Thumper and Bambi and all of Cinderella’s avian friends would choose to take residence.  Now, three years later, the greenest part of the deck is the faux grass carpet, purchased during an S&R sale.  I do have a few specimens that have managed to stay alive — several pots of Boston Ferns and a few aerial plants, which require almost no care and are virtually indestructible.  The edible plants, however, I have almost given up on because #1: the weather conditions are too variable for the finicky herbs , and #2: when I do manage success, the birds and rodents (and, more recently, the cat) enjoy the spoils of my labor before I do.

Here's our cat. Nelson, protecting the oregano and pandan from avian poachers... so that he can eat them himself :P

Here’s our cat, Nelson, protecting the oregano and pandan from avian poachers… so that he can eat them himself :P

Recently, I’d been thinking of hydroponics as an alternative system for gardening.  I did a bit of research on the subject, where I came across tons of DIY instructions detailing the hows and whys of indoor hydroponics, most of them involving a hodgepodge of plastic tubs, repurposed soda bottles, pvc pipes, water pumps, and a considerable amount of drilling.  Which isn’t really a bad way to go, if you like the challenge and don’t mind the unsightly mess.  I was planning to go in that direction myself, when, by pure serendipity, our friends from Urban Farmer offered us Happy Labs the opportunity to experience indoor farming their way. Read more »

Calderon – Paella and More

It’s been open a couple of months now but honestly, it’s been a bit of a struggle for us to get to Calderon in Pasig because of the very limited parking in front of the restaurant – all of 2 slots. I have heard some good things about Calderon, especially the paella, so we finally made the effort to get to the restaurant early to try to secure parking. Even if we were there before the dinner rush, I still had to park about 200 meters down the street. A minor inconvenience and it gives you a chance to get some exercise before and after the meal.

Calderon has got all the trappings of a typical Spanish restaurant with a selection of tapas and popular dishes. For drinks, they have a good selection of craft and imported beers but the only San Mig product is Light. The wine selection is just one red and one white although they do have sangria. Although the food would have been good with some fino sherry or cava, I didn’t bring a bottle and so we decided on a carafe of the quite decent sangria.

For starters, we ordered a couple of things from the tapas menu – salpicao, Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo y Quezo and calamares. Pretty standard stuff. Nothing exceptional but nothing to complain about either. There’s a good deal on the Bandeja. You can get that and a carafe of sangria for P 999.00. Considering that ordered separately, they would cost over P 1300.00, that’s not bad.

Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo Y Quezo (P 620.00)

Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo Y Quezo (P 620.00)

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Heirloom Pieces by Tambourine Jewelry

Vintage pieces have always held a certain allure, and lately, there’s been a renewed interest in traditional Filipino tamborin necklaces—the kind usually reserved for Filipiniana costumes, but which are now making their way into our everyday style. (True enough, it wasn’t until recently when I realized the appeal–and the value!–of my mom’s vintage tambourin necklace, which I had ignored for years while raiding her jewelry case.)

On the hunt for genuine heirloom tamborins? Through her online shop Tambourine Jewelry, Mireille de Guia-Jison seeks to revive this lost art by offering pieces from the 1800s to the 1980s in their original condition, along with gently up-cycled jewelry featuring preserved vintage components.

Tambourine Jewelry

Tamborin necklaces with relikaryo pendants by Tambourine Jewelry


Made of gold or silver tamborin beads (referring to the filigree technique), tambourin necklaces were patterned after the rosary and often carry a relicario—the reliquary that serves as the pendant of the tamborin. During Spanish-colonial times, the reliquary contained actual relics or religious symbols, but later on started to feature nature-inspired theme like flowers or leaves. Unfortunately, only a small number of authentic tamborins remain today, as most have been melted and turned into modern jewelry, or the beads were divided among family members.


The relikaryo features a nifty little compartment that can be opened up to put something inside

The relikaryo features a nifty little compartment that can be opened up to put something inside


Storied Pieces

Shares Mireille, “I’ve always loved different kinds of jewelry—modern, costume and even kids’ jewelry—but I developed an appreciation for vintage and antique jewelry just a few years ago. It wasn’t just an accessory anymore, it was about craftmanship, learning the story behind it and how it ties to our culture and I guess, a little bit of sentimentality when I find pieces I remember seeing as a child.”

tambourin necklace

Antique tamborin made in silver and plated in gold from Tambourine Jewelry


In 2011, after giving birth to her second child, Mireille wanted to something to keep herself busy, yet allow her to spend time with her kids. “I used to make costume jewelry, but having two young kids didn’t allow me a lot of time to create new stuff, so I thought of selling vintage jewelry instead. I kept seeing tamborins and other old Filipino jewelry, so I added them to the mix, and eventually, focused on vintage local jewelry.” Mireille initially sourced her pieces from traders, but soon started getting calls from people wanting to sell their mother’s or grandmother’s jewelry. “One guy emailed me from the province asking if I wanted to buy his lola’s tamborin which was kept in the aparador for the longest time. He sent me blurred pictures.  I said I can’t buy them based on those pictures and he offered to ship it to me and said that if I don’t like it then I can just ship it back to him!  I said, ‘Are you sure?  But you don’t know me,’ and he said it’s okay because he read my seller reviews online. It turned out to be a beautiful piece made in the 1960′s or 70′s.”


Tambourin necklace

Big relikaryo on alfajor chain


The Real Deal 

Though Mireille also carries lovely reproduction and “gently up cycled” pieces, she specializes in authentic heirloom pieces. How does she assure her clients her pieces are genuine? “Seasoned antique experts were very helpful to me. It’s difficult to assure buyers that it’s an authentic piece because they don’t come with certificates and have no hallmarks. If I meet up with a buyer, I show them how an antique (more than a hundred years old) looks like, versus a vintage (less than a hundred years old) and a repro. Some repros are made well though, so it’s a little tricky.  If bought online, I show buyers a lot of pictures to compare. I also have a good return policy. I think it’s very important to earn the trust of my buyers and if I make a mistake, I would gladly accept a return or exchange.”

Tambourine Jewelry

Vintage lockets


When determining if a piece is genuine, touch and see if it’s smooth—worn areas show that the piece has been pre-loved for a long time. “Seasoned sellers would say that the antique tamborin beads are very smooth when you run your fingers over them. Same goes for the reliquary or relicario penant,” shares Mireille. Size-wise, tamborin necklaces and vintage Philippine earrings are much smaller than you probably expect—in fact, antique creolla earrings should only be as big as a penny. “Safe to say that the Filipinas from the olden days were a little more conservative and kept their bling to a small size.” Check the craftsmanship—antique jewelry has fine details that are obviously handcrafted because of subtle imperfections. And beware of too-shiny, garishly gold pieces. “Antique pieces have this soft gold wash but with some gold darkening on them,” tips Mireille.


Small antique creolla earrings

Small antique creolla earrings


To preserve the authenticity of the pieces, Mireille usually sells the jewelry as is. “I look at them as pieces of history so I’d rather not change them, but sometimes they come in broken pieces so I try to gently upcycle them, like adding new beads to necklaces to lengthen them or adding a missing stone on a ring.” But this doesn’t mean she’s closed the door to designing pieces herself. “It’s something that I am looking into in the future, when the time comes when I can’t get old jewelry anymore.”

vintage coral ring

Vintage coral ring with leaves and cubic zirconia


Apart from antique tamborins, Tambourine Jewelry also offers other heirloom pieces, and the lovely selection of rings, earrings, bracelets, and other vintage baubles can be viewed and purchased online at the handmade/vintage site Etsy.

vintage diamante ring

Vintage old rose cut diamante ring 14K gold


Vintage diamante earrings

Gold 8K diamante earrings in white gold top and yellow gold back


Visit Tambourine Jewelry at For inquiries, email or visit Mireille’s blog at


L’Indochine now at SM Mega Fashion Hall

It was love at first sight for thehappylab when L’Indochine opened at SM Aura Premier in 2013. With their mantra #handpickedforinspiredliving, dynamic sister-in-law tandem Charlene Panutat-Carlos and Leona Lavina-Panutat (C+L) filled the store with lovely finds by local artisans from their Asian adventures. The store quickly became a hit, a favorite place to source interesting home accents, exquisite yet affordable gift items, or even bohemian fashion. Fans of L’Indochine will be thrilled to know that they’ve just opened their flagship (AKA bigger, more fab) branch at SM Mega Fashion Hall last week! “Here you’ll find bigger furniture pieces, plus more fashion and accessories from India, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia. We’ve also restocked some of the popular pieces that were sold out from our very first collection,” shares Leona. We’re told that the store will also carry furniture, bedding, and rugs in the future, as well as furniture pieces from up-and-coming Thai designers. We dropped by the store opening last August 27, and here’s a peek at what’s in store for you at L’Indochine:


ceramic knobs

Ceramic drawerpulls/knobs from India


Boho mannequins welcome you to L’Indochine’s flagship store

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