The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up 

Parks in the middle of the city are 💙💙💙 

Having said that, Japanese gardens and parks feel extra neat and organized. Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s their culture. Or maybe they just know how to physically organize. Having read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I figured it’s not just the Japanese who can be physically organized. We non-Japanese people can be too.  

Right after finishing the book, I’ve started on this tidying up project that will roughly last for half a year. According to Marie Kondo, a Japanese professional organizer, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tidying should be a major event. The book has a step-by-step guide on how to declutter and how to do so permanently. No rebounds. 

To those who know me and my sisters while growing up, our bedrooms have been filled with clutter in the form of clothes, shoes, books, papers, photos and tons of memorabilia to the point that our Lolo wrote us a note using a red marker on how we should keep our bedrooms neat and tidy as young ladies. We would like to be neat, of course, but maybe we didn’t know how to do so exactly. We knew how to organize our thoughts, but we needed help with physical organization. And after reading this book, I knew that I needed to do this. To be physically organized. And unlike before, I now strongly believe that being tidy is something we can control, and is not solely because of our genes. Although being “orderly” is a personality trait, and we know some people who are naturally neat and tidy with their belongings, thinking that we have control over this makes me feel liberated, and positive about being able to accomplish this and more. As Marie Kondo said, do it now, this one time big time event that on average takes half a year, because we need to spend the other parts of our lives doing our real purpose. 
This is Lala by the way. I can’t seem to publish under my name. 

#mariekondo #lifechangingmagicoftidyingup #wishmeluck #doesthissparkjoy #garagesalecomingsoon 

First, Create.

I’ve been reading this book called “In The Company of Women” by Grace Bonney, and it has been slowly inspiring me to pursue what I’ve always wanted to do as a child. I’ve kept this passion in the backseat because it’s not something that I have prepared myself for, something not aligned with my education, and something hindered by my personal fears. Sometimes though when you’re called to do something, you just know that you have to do fit. 

The creative women in the book (writers, artists, musicians, designers, ceramicists, entrepreneurs) have all these inspiring words that gave me a nudge, and I found myself drawn to reading parts of the book each day, and urging  me to pick up my pen and notebooks. To do that one thing that I must, because behind everything I’ve done in the past (teaching preschool, teaching grade school, teaching poi, dabbling in modeling, contributing articles to magazines, constant studying) I’ve known that there is within me, a need to write. That what I actually want to do is to keep writing.
I know that if I do this, and practice it each day, I shall remain true to myself. That deep inside me, there is a need for me to write. And to do so creatively, in fiction. 

As my patience has not yet been honed to finish a novel, I’ve started several short stories that I’ll be putting up in this blog. 

I usually work with a pen and notebook and edit as I type on my laptop. Right now, I am typing in my phone, but I wanted to declare it in this post so that I remain accountable for what I told myself to do. 

To be a writer in fiction is not a norm in my family nor in my circle of friends, as I personally do not know anyone with the same passion. Maybe that is where the fear comes from. And the unknown — what’s next? I honestly don’t know what’s next. What I know though is what’s first. To create. To be prolific. To be true. 

With that, I declare that I am a writer.  And there is a whole new universe of words to be written in the coming days.  

Ballet Manila breaks the fourth wall

The Philippines’ premier classical ballet company Ballet Manila opened its 20th season of storytelling though dance with Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang. The material, the cast, the treatment is easily relatable and highly entertaining. First you have a lola (grandmother) who indulges her grandchildren with tales from lands not so far away and then you have comic characters who do the Nae Nae. Family and novelty are two things you can’t go wrong with and these were creatively woven into the company’s first offering.

Promotion of Filipino Classics

 The featured ballets were based on Severino Reyes’ stories. Reyes used Lola Basyang as a pen name and came to be known as a staunch purveyor of Filipino fairytales and folklore. These stories were once communicated to the public through the radio. They have also served as inspiration for many movies and television shows and were included into the basic education curriculum. Perhaps it can be made available as podcasts so today’s children can enjoy them and learn from them as they are means though which cultural values were effectively socialized.

Set on solid libretto and accompanied by carefully curated music by the country’s best arrangers and composers, Ballet Manila’s artists turned literary fantasy into a visual feast. Words flowed as gestures and mime and the storytellers’ visions were realized with technological aid and imaginative choreographic devices.

The Saturday matinee show had an additional treat for the audience. Company directors Lisa Macuja Elizalde (Artistic Director and CEO), Osias Barroso (Co-Artistic Director and Ballet Master) and Christopher Mohnani (Managing Director) opened the show with what they called Ballet Mime 101. They taught the audience classical ballet gestures that were to be used in mimetic scenes so that we could follow the story with ease. It was delightful to watch the audience mime along with Macuja Elizalde and her team. It was an invitation to the dance that the afternoon crowd gamefully accepted. The performance had not yet started but people were already engaged.


Old Material, New Revelations

Ballet Manila’s Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang first premiered in 2008. This year’s restaging is made special by new faces and new realizations.


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Katherine Barkman as Prinsesa Singsing with Elpidio Magat who played the title role of Prinsipe ng mga ibon. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

BM’s newest dancer Katherine Barkman is every inch the people’s princess. Her audience was enraged when her father broke his promise. They grieved as she nursed a broken heart and they celebrated when she finally married the love of her life. As Prinsesa Singsing, Barkman was delicate but decisive. She showed her beautiful attitude, literally and figuratively (an attitude is a leg extension to the back with a bent knee). Unlike the usual foreign air that we are all too familiar with– boisterous and imposing, hers is a quiet elegance that very much agrees with our Filipino sensibilities.

Osias Barroso’s movement design for Ang Prinispe ng mga Ibon showed his deep understanding of ballet as an art form. The symmetry of shapes (individual body positions and group formations), the plot build-up through movement, and the pas de deux (partner dance) between the leads all convey familiarity with the genre and utmost regard for tradition. His corps de ballet (group dancers) was impressive in their synchronization and management of space. Hopefully, he takes on more choreographic assignments in the future.


The magical tree in Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya with Anindya Febrina who danced the role of the snake. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya began with the most beautiful looking stage tree. The audience broke into applause when the snake came out of the tree and circled the stage and the house in the manner of Chinese dragon dance manipulatives. This segment featured dancers Alvin Santos, Joan Emery Sia and Abigail Oliveiro who showed strength and confidence in their performances. Alvin Santos flew across the stage with powerful jumps and high extensions. Good thing he holds the title role because his dancing can (and did) upstage his stage sisters.

Gerardo Francisco as Rodrigo in Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin is truly remarkable. His energized performance and funny facial expressions drew laughter from the crowd. It helped, too, that the character that he portrayed was one that many could associate with. Rodrigo is a laborer who is not appropriately compensated by his employer.

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Gerardo Francisco as Rodrigo and Micheal Divinagracia as Ahab in a scene from Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin. Photo by Jaypee Maristaza courtesy of Ballet Manila.

Tony Fabella’s choreography accentuated Ryan Cayabyab’s dynamic musical composition. Movement ideas were simple and were repeated throughout but the spirited and intelligent dancing of the cast made all the difference. Francisco has been with the company for over a decade and his stint as Rodrigo further solidifies his stature as one of the country’s most reliable danseurs.

Missy Elizalde’s role tied the narratives together and the corps de ballet was effective in providing the necessary support and additional landscape for the tales. The curtain call made it even more obvious how deep Ballet Manila’s ballet bench really is. The company’s wealth of terpsichorean talents prepping for the spotlight makes one hopeful for the future of Philippine dance.

Ballet for the People

Dance artistry is not limited to choreography and performance. Macuja Elizade’s strength may not be putting steps together into a dance but audience aptitude is a great and important talent. She knows her audience and values them enough to give them what they want. The use of flying mechanisms, less sophisticated musical choices and transitions, and other production devices, choreographic and otherwise, made the show exciting and palatable.

It is uplifting to be in a theater where people would clap and feel with the performers. It is uplifting to be in a theater where there would be people who are not performing. Others would consider this to be hard sell but maybe it is time that we consider it as community and community-building.

Mateo’s Blooms

Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe will re-open somewhere along N Domingo Avenue, Quezon City this mid-April. While it’s still within Quezon City, it will also be nearer Greenhills, San Juan. 🙂

I will post more soon about our exact location, but for now, I will just leave these blooms for clues. They will be part of our al fresco area.


Have a wonderful Thursday!


Party DIY: Bloom, baby, bloom

We may not have the four seasons in our country but for me, Spring came in the form of a baby shower in honor of such gracious parents-to-be, Colleen and Gary Viray.


Catalina Gabrielle, the precious baby that the couple is expecting in a month, deserves only the prettiest details for her first-ever social celebration. Coordinating with Mommy Colleen was very easy. She was clear on wanting pink but was open to ideas on the execution of a dainty and feminine party theme.


What can be more girly than flowers? Flowers in various shades of soft pink! For this party, I made door monograms with faux flowers (that can easily be removed so the letters can be re-used and styled according to need), custom stationery with water-colored flowers for the tables, and water-colored sign-up canvasses for guests.


My good friend Carlo Valderrama helped me mount the photo lounge with a floral frame and birdcages, a medley of flower garlands and paper lanterns for ceiling décor, and the simplest but most chic flower fringe backdrop shared for use of With A Flourish’s dessert buffet. Carlo is my angel. He has assisted me in most of my styling gigs and because he gets my design aesthetic, work is faster and more fun!




Putting together party accessories and landscapes for family and dear friends’ special moments gives me so much joy. Thinking about the smallest details and making sure that the hosts get to take home party memorabilias to remind them of the special day is one that I do not mind poring over. It is such a blessing, too, that the families I have styled parties for are very considerate and extended helping hands. Their commendations and words of praise are truly encouraging. Who knows, I might just really consider this as an income generating endeavor.



Baby Catalina Gabrielle, may you grow up to be exactly as your name suggests and more. I pray that your life will be an expression of God’s messages for all those who surround you. We’re very excited to meet you, Tali!

Photos by Carlo Valderrama, Colleen Carlos-Viray, and Gary Viray

Dessert buffet table set-up by With a flourish by Sarah Bautista-Abano