Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prepare for tomorrow, live today!

The scary typhoon yesterday really made me think about security. What about you?

This is a sponsored post (thanks, Nuffnang and Philam Life!) but I'm going to confess some really personal things here. This post is going to be about money. And isn't that such a taboo topic?

My regular readers know that I didn't come from a rich background. That made me work really very hard to become someone and earn more money than my parents ever did. I postponed marriage and motherhood because I just wanted to be secure financially before I ever took on such scary lifelong commitments.

Vince always got upset by this fear of mine because, in his world, the men always were such good providers so I guess he considered my fear an affront to his capabilities. I did believe in him, I really did, and Vince has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams (thanks, Vince!!!) but I had deep-seated issues. I saw my mother work herself into exhaustion, suffer and get into serious debt. I saw relatives shunning us and making fun of her and my father. I heard neighbors say awful things about my parents. My parents are good people, kind and sweet and generous. But in this world, apparently that isn't good enough. You have to have money, too.

When Mama died in 2008, it was very sudden. She had no savings so Vince and I, newlyweds at that time, emptied our bank accounts to give her a proper send off. When Papa suffered complications from diabetes and had to have two amputations last year, he also had no savings. Vince and I, new parents to a two-month-old Vito, again emptied our bank accounts to pay for his operations.

The past few months have been terrifying for us, me especially, needless to say. But because Vince and I work so very hard, the money situation is good again. Still, when we look at Vito, happy and carefree, we promised ourselves that we will never let him feel the despair we both felt. We will provide not only for his future but for our future, too, so that Vito will never have to worry about his parents and he can be free to live the life he wants. That's why when Nuffnang invited me to a talk on financial planning, I immediately said yes.

Philam Life has a new campaign called "Anong Plano Mo? Usap Tayo." Its aim is to make insurance easy to understand and not so scary. You see, people always think death and bad things when the word "insurance" is mentioned. I don't understand why that should scare people away actually. That should scare people into action! I'm so bewildered by people who refuse to prepare for the worst!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I went to the financial planning talk at Philam Life's super posh penthouse club at the Philam Life Tower in Makati. The talk was started by Larry Cleto, one of Philam Life's registered financial planners. Larry is a very good speaker, none of that annoying loud voice or sing-song manner. He talked to us like he was talking about the weather or traffic or the kids. You know, normal. He didn't hard sell, he didn't sound like a know-it-all. He made finances understandable and cool. He presented sobering facts about people's cavalier attitude towards money and their future. It was very "Usap Tayo" in a light and conversational way!

If you're 25 years old, that should scare you. I know 35 years from now seem like a thousand years away but believe me, it's not so far away. Vince and I bought insurance policies when I was 26 and he was 28. Eight years later, I got benefits for giving birth and Vince is enjoying endowment cash! So you see, insurance doesn't mean death and sadness! Larry also showed us how easy it is to save up for emergencies and retirement with as little as P1,000 a month. That's easy! That's like 10 Starbucks frapuccinos, right? I advise you to get policies now while you're young because the premiums will be cheaper than, say, when you're 40.

One of Larry's slides was about the dreams of the typical Filipino. It really encouraged me because I am living the dream! The only thing we lack is the last one--to send Vito to good schools. In today's fiercely competitive world, good isn't enough, though. We have to send him to the best. And that's going to cost us money. Lots of it.

That pretty girl in the middle is Doerie Caraca. She's 14 years old. She's also lost her father. He died in 2008, the same year my Mama died. He was an OFW and the family's breadwinner so I can imagine how frightening it must've been for his wife and two daughters. But because Mr. Caraca prepared for the worst and got Deorie and her sister, Ginger, Philam Life's Scholar Gold educational plans, his family is taken care of and his daughters are continuing their education, and are even at the top of their class!

Vince and I want that same protection for our Vito. Not just for his education but for his life, in case the worst happens (please don't let that be so, dear God!). So very soon, we'll be getting Vito a good policy to ensure his education and, if we still have the budget for it, we're exploring investing!

So I really had an interesting afternoon learning about financial freedom with Philam Life. I'm really excited to prepare for our future because once tomorrow is taken care of, then you can really live today! Hmm. I should copyright that sentence!

From the press kit:
Deorie’s story is just one of the many lives changed by Philam Life’s plans. If you too are a Philam Life policyholder or beneficiary and your plan was able to help you achieve your dreams and protect those you love, do share your story on You might even get a chance to win an iPad 2 and more!

If you're interested in financial planning and how to make your dreams come true, you can check out Philam Life's website at or call (02) 528-2000.  

Why the satchel is P3500 and other questions answered

photo by Aileen Siroy Photography

In late July, my partners and I ended the fabulous introductory price of P2,500. The price of our 11" satchel has been P3,500 since then. That already includes packaging and shipping within the Philippines. For an all-leather, handmade bag, that's a really good price, but for some of you, that's astronomical. Girls, astronomical is an Hermes. My satchel, in comparison, is crazy inexpensive.

And so I dedicate this post to all of you who wonder why things cost the way they do. I don't like doing educational posts because my image as a silly, shallow girl gets shattered. Like, totally. But as more and more people deluge my inbox with tawad, I just have to address this topic of cost. I like to imagine you were daydreaming or flirting or napping during your Economics class, you naughty girls! So sit up straight, smooth down your blouse, and pay attention!

Why is my satchel priced at P3,500?

First, it's all about economy of scale. The more items we make, the cheaper the item gets. How is that possible? Well, when Uncle Buck buys leather, he has to go all the way from Batangas to Malabon and back. Let's say one cow hide costs P1,000 and it makes 4 bags, does that mean a bag should cost P250? No. Uncle Buck spent time and money for his trip. And that's a very long trip! So if one trip means he buys a lot of hide, then the cheaper the bag gets.

Same with delivery. Again, that's gas burned to and fro Batangas to Mandaluyong (where I live). So even if Uncle Buck finishes one bag in 2-3 days, we wait for a batch of finished bags before he delivers here. To keep gas costs down, we ask for just one delivery.

But because everything is painstakingly handmade, we can't accommodate huge orders. Believe me, I'd love to sell a thousand bags a month but Uncle Buck can only make a few so there goes my get-rich-quick dream of supplying to SM!

Second, there's the cost of labor and other expenses. Uncle Buck has a very small team of craftsmen making the bags, which are completely cut, tanned, tooled and sewn by hand. No machines at all! Sure it's slower but the bag comes out much better. It's not just their time and talent that you're paying for, however; there's also mine! I spend a few hours each day answering bag inquiries, checking and making payments, wrapping bags, writing thank you notes, sending the bags out. My time isn't free. Neither is my phone bill. Oh and my stationery, my pen, my Scotch tape, etc!

My two partners also devote their time and energy to this business and we don't get a salary from it. My entrepreneurial friends say we should get a salary but we chose not to because that's just going to drive the price way up. What should our salary be? Well, in my case, as a professional writer and editor, I already command a pretty good price for an hour's work. If I charged the bag business my rate, then one satchel will be in the P10,000-15,000 range. That's just my rate; I haven't included the hourly rates of my two other partners!

Third, consider quality. As I keep emphasizing, each bag is handmade. Each bag is the result of backbreaking labor. Those perfectly distanced holes, those perfect stitches, the precision and care that go into each satchel is all human. And the bag is entirely Pinoy--from the cow to the courier! This is Pinoy service at its best!

Fourth, your bag is rare. Because it's completely handmade by only a small group of leather craftsmen, only a few people in the world own that bag! This is not a mass-produced bag. Consider, for example, how a fashion chain orders 500,000 black dresses and 500,000 pairs of black peep-toe heels from China. While you may think you made a unique fashion statement in your cute LBD with matching shoes, so did 499,999 other girls. That doesn't make you very unique!

So you might be thinking (and I actually got this question), "Well then, why don't you just get cheap leather and get machines to cut and stitch the whole damn thing?" Unbelievable.

Because, first, there's no such thing as cheap leather. Unless you're talking about fake leather, which means it isn't leather, right? Second, if we got machines to do the job, then the fabulous craftsmanship of each bag I sell will be lost. Third, if I can produce a million bags (that would be nice!), yes, the bag will be waaaay cheaper but it would have lost its unique appeal. Then what's the point of my bag if it's just going to look like any old fake leather cheapie?

You know, after listing down all my reasons above, I am now convinced that my price is actually incredibly low. As my customers from the United States keep saying: "A genuine leather bag that's handmade and it's only $80?! Are you sure it's only $80?!" Maybe I should raise my price!

My bespoke leather satchel is for the discriminating customer who values hard work, quality and the value of her peso. My customer appreciates style and craftsmanship and is willing to pay for it. If that describes you, then buy my bag!

Friday, September 23, 2011

And today's dose of excruciating melodrama is brought to you by Star Cinema

I don't watch Pinoy movies in theaters because my job is spent watching Hollywood movies. I don't even have enough time to watch Hollywood movies so obviously I have zero time for local films. But sometimes, when it's very late at night, I switch on Cinema One and watch old Pinoy movies. My favorite discovery is 1984's May Lamok sa Loob ng Kulambo starring incredibly sexy and super funny stars Eddie Garcia, Gloria Diaz and Amy Austria. You have to watch it!

So anyway the other day, I saw the trailer for a new movie called No Other Woman. I looked up the full trailer because I wanted to see if Anne's makeup was really that bad. Yes. It is. Such a shame. She's such a pretty girl! Nasapawan siya ni Cristine! (Syempre, Team Wife ako!)

"Anong mas mahirap na kalaban: ang putang mahirap o ang putang mayaman?"
"Pareho-parehong puta lang yon!"


And so very true. Naagawan na ako ng boyfriend dati. Mga ilang beses din. Alam mo, masakit lang talaga siya sa pride. Noong una, I thought it was heartbreak I was feeling but upon further investigation and finding out who the girl is and what she's like, I realized that no self-respecting woman would take another woman's man. In Pinoy movie parlance, puta lang yon and do you really want to go down to her level? It's really just as simple as that. Once you realize that, it's pity you feel for her.

As for your man, well, no real man would cheat on his girl. A real man keeps his word. So if your guy cheats on you, iwanan ang gago. You deserve better! Happy weekend!

Monday, September 19, 2011

What collection do you want to see?

I've taken a long hard look at my shades after I learned I can buy cheap Ray Ban sunglasses. I buy all my shades from Charles & Keith and I love every pair but mebbe it's time to invest.

Anyway, speaking of collections, stylist Leona Lavina Panutat is featuring me as the Style Mama of the Month in her adorable Tumblr micro-blog, Musings of a First Time Momma. Unlike my surprise feature on StyleBible's Preggy and Pretty, which just made me answer a few questions on pregnant fashion, Leona wants details. Like, what exactly is in my closet. Scary! I'm so not a fashionista!

So I've been going through my stuff (which conveniently occurred whilst I was happily installing my new hangers) and realized I have a lot of the following:
  • bangles
  • necklaces
  • eBay finds
  • shift dresses
  • peep-toes

I also have the following collections all over the house:
  • rabbit stamps
  • rabbit stuff
  • Alice in Wonderland stuff
  • gift wrapper and ribbons
  • notebooks
  • pillboxes

Ah yes, collections. Also known as clutter! What do you think I should take photos of? Which collections do you want to see?

Hangers are my current happiness

I know I've been gone for a while, folks. Last week was incredibly unutterably amazing. I'll tell you more soon enough but for now, here's one of the reasons I was so very pleased with my past week: wooden hangers!

Unlike a lot of women, I don't have a lot of clothes. I know women who keep everything from their very first pair of jeans and bridesmaid gown to the sexy cheerleader outfit that no longer fits! About once or twice a year, I weed out my closet and give the stuff away to charity or sell on eBay. I don't keep clothes at all. That's because I live in a small apartment, I have a small closet and I became a mother and nothing now fits.

Another reason is I like to keep my clothes hangers an inch apart. This allows the clothes to breathe. When air circulates, mildew doesn't form on your clothes. Also, when your clothes aren't squished together, they don't get rumpled in storage. So if I kept everything I ever bought, there is no way I can keep my hangers an inch apart!

If you follow me on Twitter, you'd know I've been agonizing for weeks about finding wooden hangers. My hangers looked like this:
Blech. Dikit-dikit!

My friendly followers on Twitter gave advice from Japan Home and Saizen to eBay and ordering all the way from IKEA Singapore. One evening, on my way to the MRT-Ayala station, I passed through SM Makati and just decided to see if they had the hangers that I wanted. Eureka! They did! 
I bought 4 boxes. Yep, that's 80 hangers!
At only P600 for a box of 20, it's sooo cheap!
Mmm, you can smell the wood!
Soooo very happy! Now my closet (oh, and Vince's too) look like this:

So much better, right? One inch apart! Consistent look. Clean. Organized. I am so happy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy bespoke leather satchel owner: Leah

Meet the new favorite bag of Leah of Bright Spot:

Leah calls the satchel the F&V bag. If I take away the ampersand, it'll be FV, like LV! But unlike the LV, I won't get overenthusiastic with branding. Actually, I haven't even gotten to the brand itself. Right now, to the press people, I call the bag the Frances Satchel from Frannie & Vinnie. But I don't know. Lacks oomph.

So anyway back to Leah and her new bag! This is what she thinks of it:
1. Impeccable craftsmanship.
Yes! That's why it takes soooo long to make one. Handmade takes time!
2. Even tanning.
Your batch was a quirk, though. Other batches are dark and uneven. Uncle Buck says the weather has something to do with it. If it's rainy season or very humid, the leather doesn't absorb the tanning liquid evenly.
3. Looks classy.
That surprised me, too! The satchel is, at first glance, very cowgirl. But I was surprised that a lot of girls can use it even with their most formal attire!

Thanks, Leah, for loving our unnamed satchel! Maybe I should do a contest--Name our satchel and win your very own bag!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

10 things I learned today

Halloo, halloo! Just got home and, seeing that I've been terribly negligent of this blog, let me dash off a few things I learned today!
  1. Hair extensions make me look so much thinner!
  2. The Maldives is just 8 feet above sea level so that when the 2004 mega tsunami hit it, well, it didn't just hit the country, it drowned it. Yes. The entire country! (Thanks, Dylan, for this tidbit!)
  3. Some people look cool and sophisticated in a blazer, other people look boring. I, sadly, belong to the boring group. I am going back to leather jackets. It may look ridiculous in this country but I'd rather look ridiculous than boring!
  4. Some bloggers are required by PR groups to write about their events. Required! Guys, if you aren't paid to write about it, you don't have to!
  5. To send one of my handmade leather satchels to Singapore costs P639.
  6. In a group of 100 25-year-old people, statistics show that by the time they reach retirement age, only 1% will be wealthy, 4% will be financially independent, 5% will still be slaving away. The rest? They'll either be broke or dead. And, at 60 years old, I don't know which is worse!
  7. SM Makati has wooden hangers!!! P600 for a box of 20! I bought 4 boxes!
  8. Wearing a blazer while you're in a super packed MRT coach is insanity.
  9. Wearing long hair extensions in a super packed MRT coach is not a good idea. Not at all. My head kept getting jerked back!
  10. (SPOILER ALERT! GAME OF THRONES SPOILER ALERT!) The Lannisters aren't all evil. Well, most of them are, but Jaime just redeemed himself in my eyes.
And that is what I learned today! How about you?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Happy bespoke leather satchel owner: Trixie (take 2)

Look who's really happy with her satchel: It's Trixie of Wild About Retail!

I'm amazed at how Trixie can come up with so many outfits to match her tan bag. Well, not so amazed--the tan really does go with everything! Thanks, Trixie! You're inspiring me to do outfit posts, too. I'm just sooo lazy! Anyway, I'll visit the Nuffnang office super soon. See you!

P.S. Just remembered that Trixie brought her satchel to Bangkok and that it rained there but she happily reported that the bag survived the rain. Whew! If you wanna know how I protect my leather satchels from this rainy weather, click here!