Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A little love letter to my dear Loyal Readers


Hey everyone!

How are you all? I hope you are doing okay. 

Where I live, it's Day 10 of our community quarantine. The last day my kids went out was March 11 so they've been locked inside for 13 days. While they aren't that bored (my husband and I are introverts so we fully equipped our home to be an entertainment haven), they haven't had much sun and physical activity and that worries me. So this week we'll rev up our indoor exercises.

Anyway, I have a lot of drafts lined up to be published here on the blog. I have nothing to do since all my writing and PR work is now currently on hold, save for this recent and sadly personally relevant article I wrote for ANCx ["10 tough lessons freelancers have learned amidst the community quarantine"]. So I finally found the time to take photos of products to be reviewed, made a video of my daytime skincare, write on the blog... But I can't seem to publish them yet.  

I understand that these are strange times we're living in. This time last month, my family was planning a beach trip and summer classes. We were shopping for tropical-themed outfits and tools for building sandcastles. And now we're indoors 'til we don't know when. Just when the weather is so gloriously beautiful, we can't go outside to enjoy it. I am so profoundly grateful our problems are just that. Everywhere else in the world, people are trying to get to work, trying to pay the bills when there's suddenly no work, trying not to get sick, trying not to die. 

So I feel a bit strange to publish blog posts that are now so trivial in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is facing. Part of me says this is the best time to write about silly things, to take our mind off from the horror of the sickness and how our government is responding to it. I'm not a medical expert, nor a political commentator, an economist, or a spiritual guide. So maybe I won't be very useful at this time, but please know that I want to share with you the stuff I've been doing, watching and reading when I'm not freaking out about our politicians. I need the mental break from all the shit that's happening in the world. If you feel the same way, I hope this is a place you can go to.

Life may be chaotic now but I cling to the hope that things will get better. I don't know when that better time will be but for now, I am grateful I have my family around me, safe and healthy. I wish every single one of us can say the same thing but I am bleakly aware this is not the case. So, dearest Loyal Readers, please pray with me for our doctors, nurses, hospital staff and crew, scientists, delivery people, guards, janitors, supermarket personnel, the people who work in food and service establishments, policemen, soldiers, the people who live on a daily wage, and yes, even for our government. We need to support all of them through donations and prayer.

From all of us in my family, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.

Frances

P.S. Here are links to old blog posts that may be relevant at this time:





Exercises we can do at home to get sexier! (I'm using a free exercise app now, though)


My kids' vitamins is now Fern-C kidz. Here's why. (although now it's Enervon C kasi ubos na ang Fern-C kidz last time I bought vitamins)



Since we have 3 more weeks to go (fingers crossed!) in this lockdown, I'll try to come up with fresh content that you may still find useful but won't be health-related. Things like tips on working from home, for example! If you have any requests for topics, please leave a comment below or send an email to frances@topazhorizon.com. Thanks, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Do good recklessly

Photo by Kat Yukawa for Unsplash

I know Facebook can be pretty toxic right now with all the sobering Covid-19 updates and then the political disasters happening in real-time. But it's also an inspiring place where we can see our fellow Filipinos rising (yet again) to meet the challenge of helping each other.

Anyway, this is a quick post, just to tell you I'm still alive and that I think of all of you! And to share with you these old screencaps I found on my phone (because I now have time to organize my things!). They're stories on doing good things—even if you don't know the person, even if that person may be scamming you, even if you can't afford to help. They made me day last year, that's why I saved these stories. And when I saw them again today, they made me happy again. I hope they also inspire you.







I have a story, too. When I was in college and in an abusive relationship, I once didn't know how to go home after a big fight with my then-boyfriend that ended with me holding on to my bloody lip. He had driven off with my bag still in his car. It was late at night and I had no money. So I was walking down the street, crying, asking for help. And everyone quickly walked away from me. Except for this security guard who handed me P20 and told me to calm down. Let's be honest here—guard siya so I'm sure he didn't have a lot of money. And P20 in the early 90s is not a small amount (for reference, daily baon ko was P50). In the jeepney ride home, the man beside me gave me his jacket and said I was shaking so much. He thought I was cold. I was actually shivering in shock.

But I got home. And I never forgot Manong Guard. That's why if anyone approaches me on the street asking for pamasahe pauwi, I give. Dinadagdagan ko pa ng pang-merienda. Sometimes my gut tells me it's a scam but I really can't walk away. I keep thinking of those people who must've thought I was scamming them when I was asking for change all those years ago. So bahala na! Basta bigay lang ako. Because as our last story above said, "Whether he was lying or not says something about his character, but hearing someone in need and choosing not to help when I have the means to says something about mine."

Let's do good recklessly, mamas. Especially now. God bless us all!

Friday, March 20, 2020

A simple vegetable dish from my childhood

It's Day 6 of our community quarantine. How have you been, mamas? My kids haven't left the house since classes were canceled on March 9 so they've been cooped up for 12 days today. We're not allowed to go to our condo playground so we're just going to do some indoor exercises and sun ourselves by the window.

We've not been doing anything special. It's summer and my belief is summer is supposed to be when the kids do absolutely nothing. Well, the kids have their chores. We're very proud of the boys because they prepare their own breakfast, make up their beds (kinda), and finish their chores all before 10am. I could learn a thing or two from my kids!


One thing I've always been keen to teach my sons is cooking their own food. I really want them to be independent men who won't need a wife to cook and clean for them. This week, I decided to cook something I haven't cooked for more than 20 years. I don't like cooking it because my Papa always said it's pang-mahirap. Konting karne lang, konting gulay, maraming sabaw, maraming asin so that it's malasa, and - tada! - may masarap at masustansiyang ulam na kami.


Kita niyo naman dito na dalawang patatas, isang carrot, at isang bundle ng pechay, when sliced like this ay dumadami agad. My Papa said this is the perfect ulam becasue its cheap and healthy. Konti lang kailangan na sangkap, masabaw pa, so mapapadami kang kain ng rice. Busog agad! So kapag wala kang budget, this is the vegetable dish you cook.

Actually, marami rin kaming ibang similar ulam na linuto na cheap but good. Upo na may miswa. Adobong kangkong. Corned beef and cabbage soup. Talbos ng kamote salad. But when my Papa cooks (or asks me to cook) this ulam that I'm blogging about here, alam kong walang-wala kami, lalo na kung gulay lang at walang karne yung soup.

So when I left home, I just never wanted to cook this ulam again. Bad memories ba. I was determined to improve my life and I was never going to eat masabaw na gulay ever again.


Then this week, something changed. I don't know what happened really. Maybe it's the quarantine and the warning to not go out to the grocery that made me think of food that will last for a while. Maybe it's the fact that such a vegetable-rich dish is healthy and we need to get super healthy these days that made me want to cook it. Maybe it was me going through my 2019 planner and I saw that this time last year, my sister told me Papa wasn't eating anymore and a few turns of the page later, my planner said he died.

I don't really know what it was but I decided I was going to cook this ulam and teach my boys how to cook food that's good in times of crisis.


So the two younger boys helped me wash and peel the veggies. I did the chopping. They did the cooking. Madali lang naman kasi gisa-gisa lang siya. I didn't put a lot of water so it wasn't soupy like how Papa cooked it. It also had 1/2 kilo of ground beef instead of the usual 1/4 or minsan 1/8 pa nga na karne na gamit ni Papa. I should've added more pechay, though. Parang kulang kasi nung luto na siya.

It was fun teaching the boys how to cook this and they enjoyed my stories of my childhood while we were cooking away. I also remembered na nung college na ako and I had boy problems, Papa would tell me to cook this and ilabas ko raw galit ko sa gulay when I'm slicing them. And I would tell him, "Papa, sabi ni Lola 'wag raw galit kapag nagluluto kasi papait yung ulam!" But my heartache would go away anyway and by the time we sat down to eat, okay na ako.


So eto siya. It's not the prettiest thing in the world. It's not gourmet. Pang-mahirap nga, diba. Pero masarap siya. I sat down at the dinner table, asked Vito to call their Papa, and I said to the younger kids, "I'll make tikim lang, ha!"

I put the first spoonful in my mouth after more than 20 years, and the smell and the taste overwhelmed me not with bad memories. Instead, such good and happy memories of me and Papa at the palengke and in the kitchen all came rushing back in one bite and I put my spoon down and cried and cried and cried.

My sons crowded around and hugged me. After my sobbing died down, Iñigo said, "I miss Lolo Jules, too."

Hay, ang puso ko.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The truth about Vitamin C and what we should do to keep our immune system healthy

With COVID-19 sweeping throughout the globe, we're all worried about how we can improve our chances of not getting this scary virus. I'm a mommy and I'm worried especially because while the virus seems to spare kids and teens (thank You, God!), it's not so kind to people with weak lungs like me. I don't want my kids to be orphaned so I'm definitely making sure I won't get this COVID-19.

There's a lot of scary advice on the internet (stuff like drinking bleach and liquid silver!) that BBC has debunked. So, since I'm not a medical professional, it's very important that we turn to reliable and credible sources to find out how we can boost our immune system. Welch's 100% Grape Juice asked me if I could share what I found out.

Apparently, there's no single answer because according to Harvard Health, "The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony." What they mean is you have to take care of your entire body for your body to be strong. You can eat a plant-based diet and exercise 3 hours a day but if you're not getting enough sleep and your work is super stressful, your body will not be happy.

"Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy," Harvard Health said. They advised no smoking, eating a plant-based diet, regular exercise, to not be fat or too skinny, sleeping long and well, and to avoid stress. They also advised frequent washing of hands and eating thoroughly cooked meat to avoid infection.

Cooking more veggie dishes now!

Again, a healthy lifestyle won't guarantee you won't get COVID-19 but it improves your chances of recovery. I'm not living unhealthily but I get maybe 4 hours of sleep at night and I don't exercise. I also should eat more fruits and veggies! So one good thing that came out of this pandemic is my kids are now eating vegetables without protesting. Yey for small mercies!

I'm working on those aspects. I'll start exercising this week. I'll try to sleep more! And I'm taking vitamin supplements with my daily Welch's 100% Grape Juice. Harvard Health says, "If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs... taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system." 

Now here's something new I learned: Vitamin supplements can't prevent COVID-19 or any other sickness. But what about all those things we hear about vitamin C???


Vitamin C is still important to our health. We need it! According to Livescience, here are some of the important things it does:

1. It is an antioxidant that "neutralizes free radicals generated by the body's normal metabolism and by exposure to environmental stressors, including ultraviolet radiation and air pollution."

2. It synthesizes hormones that help our cardiovascular system respond to severe infections. COVID-19 is a viral infection so a strong and responsive cardiovascular is good news!
3. It builds collagen that keeps our skin and connective tissues healthy—good for those recovering from wounds.
4. "Vitamin C may also bolster the fatty membranes in skin and connective tissue, thus protecting organs like the lungs from pathogens." COVID-19 attacks the lungs so again loading up on Vitamin C is good!

5. "When bugs do infiltrate the body, vitamin C helps direct immune cells called neutrophils to the site of infection and defends these cells against free radicals." So while Vitamin C will not prevent an infection like COVID-19, a plentiful supply of it in our body is necessary for an effective immune response!

Welch's 100% Grape Juice is packed full of Vitamin C. So if you're looking to add more Vitamin C to your diet, chug a glass of Welch's 100% Grape Juice! I do!

Welch's is available at your favorite supermarket.

*This post is brought to you by Welch's 100% Grape Juice. For more information and healthy tips, visit www.welchs.com, like Welch's PH on Facbook, and follow @welchs_ph on Instagram.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Harry and Meghan: A modern fairy tale and yet very real marriage


Sigh. Such a gorgeous photo of the most-talked-about married couple in the world!

I don't really have anything "expert" to say about Harry and Meghan. Almost everyone remotely interested in royalty has given their expert opinion on the Duke and Duchess' resignation from royal duties (As a former royalty magazine editor, I did here: Royal Rift! All your questions on Harry and Meghan's resignation, answered!). Many are sad, many are supportive, and many are mad. I don't know why they'd be mad. It's not like Harry's leaving them haha.

But anyway, I've been meaning to write a blog post about this particular Brexit since January but everything's been moving so fast that it's hard to comment. I finally decided that ultimately I'm very happy for them and that they're a great example for all married couples everywhere.

Every married couple should leave their families. Yes, Harry isn't part of just any normal family. As a prince, he sure isn't just like us. But he's also not THE prince. He's just the spare. And while that must rankle to be known as the spare to the heir since birth, it finally worked out for him—he can actually break free. He's not the first royal in history to choose to step away from duty. Here's a short list:

1. (UK) King Edward VIII to marry Wallis Simpson.
2. (Netherlands) Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau to marry Mabel Wisse Smit
3. (Japan) Sayako, Princess Nori, to marry Yoshiki Kuroda
4. (Japan) Princess Ayako of Takamado to marry Kei Moriya
5. (Thailand) Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya to marry Peter Ladd Jensen

Harry and Meghan didn't lose their titles but they did give up their allowance, their HRH styling, and pretty much the respect of a lot of people. Ya. For choosing love and family over prestige.

I like their decision. I know people are saying Meghan bullied Harry into doing this but if you've watched Harry at all throughout his very public life, he's not the sort of man anyone can bully. And while there's that rumor that "what Meghan wants, Meghan gets," I don't see how that's a bad thing if what Meghan wants is a peaceful life. Sure she signed up for a very public life but I don't think she signed up for such racism and hate. 


I read this book recently and I came away from it just loving and admiring these two people who loved to make a difference in people's lives. They have charities, they use their platform for good causes, they are enthusiastic about helping others. And they met each other! He was a prince. She was a strong and confident woman—not a shy virgin teenager like Diana, not a quiet and obedient Kate. She was not, what is the word, moldable. I love that she was already all woman when they met and fell in love. And I can't understand how that wholeness makes people see her as a threat to men and marriage.


Marriage should be between two people complete in themselves. Marriage shouldn't be the answer to people broken and incomplete, looking for a fix in the other. You should come into the marriage as a whole person, ready to give your all. Traditionally, women are seen as these fragile creatures that needed tending. That should make us precious. Instead, men have used this required fragility against us—abusing women and their children throughout centuries just because we needed men to survive.

Well, not anymore. Ladies, don't get married because you need a man for his money or position or his strength. Earn your own money, make your own name, be strong on your own. The man you attract won't be controlling and abusive. He'll be an amazing guy. Just like how Harry was drawn to Meghan's strength, drive, and mission. And together? Wow, they're going to make a lot of difference in the world. They're already doing it. 

That's what marriage should be about—two strong people coming together and creating an even stronger alliance. This used to happen before—an alliance of kingdoms. But we should use that as a metaphor, an inspiration, for how we should see our own marriages, too. We are a team. We are one. No one is lesser, no one is greater. We are equal.


Anyway, I finally blogged about Harry and Meghan today because it's their last day as senior royals. After today, they will disappear from public life. They have plans to still be seen out and about, working for their livelihood (just like us!), but now they'll be private citizens. They're determined to be seen as a team, as a single entity—as married couples should be.

Good luck on your new adventure, Harry and Meghan! It's not going to be easy but no marriage is unless you remember to stick it out together. If you do that, you're going to be just fine.

P.S. I just love how their outfits on their final royal appearances are all matching. Clearly telling the world they are one!

Friday, March 06, 2020

My really nice wedding gift suggestions

I love weddings for selfish reasons. (1) I get to wear my gowns, (2) I get a good reason to get away from my kids hehe, (3) because of the sermon and witnessing the couple promise each other a lifetime, I'm reminded of how wonderful marriage is, and (4) I get to eat really yummy food! Weddings are the best!!!


Vince and I were at the wedding of Edward Bugia and Trixie Esguerra. I've known Trixie for years because she was instrumental in launching my career as a blogger ((and every big blogger's, too) and she now has her own agency, Launch and Meet. Edward is the very busy chef behind Pino vegetarian restaurant, BRGR, Pi Breakfast and Pies, Mimi & Bros, and Bean and Yolk. And I am their ninang sa kasal! So I just had to get them a gift from MY MC Home!

Here are a few of the gifts I considered for their marital abode:


While I wish I could've given them a four-poster bed with a pile of pillows, it's medyo over my budget at P39,950 ehehehe. I'm actually referring to the triptych of photos on top of the bed. You can have prenup or wedding photos printed that big on real canvas (not photo paper!) at MY MC Home for just P8,700!


I think every newlywed couple should have crystal goblets. Crystal vases. Crystal candy dishes. Crsytal decanters. WALA LANG! They're so extra. Let me tell you now: Marriage can be full of drudgery. Washing dishes. Doing laundry. Taking out the trash. That's why you need to give married people pretty things that remind them that marriage is actually magical.


Okay, extra not your thing? We can go practical. Here's a useful appliance for those couples who love green smoothies or who like grinding their own coffee beans. Your newlyweds can use the Tefal Fruit Sensation for making smoothies, soups and eventually baby food!


Here's another useful appliance, a toaster! I love toast. Toasting bread not only improves the taste and texture of bread, it also lowers the glycemic index and fat content of your everyday loaf (and then you spread tons of butter on it haha). What I like about the Gorenje toaster is it's so pretty! Definitely will add color and whimsy to the young couple's kitchen.



This bar cart! So sleek. Love it! Perfect for wheeling over your favorite cocktails while you lounge on the sofa or in bed. If you don't drink alcohol, you can put your coffee or tea paraphernalia instead. Or use it as a side table. So useful!


Every married couple needs nice new sheets. Because we need to make them love sleeping together—figuratively and literally. Nice sheets are so lovely on naked skin. MY MC Home has shelves upon shelves of bedsheets! There are printed sets, too.


Might as well throw in pillows! I can't get enough of great pillows. Married couples may have had their dreams come true but everyone needs to go to dreamland and new pillows will send them off nicely.

Okay, enough shopping! Just visit MY MC Home for more gift ideas for your friends and loved ones getting married (or for your own home!). Let's watch Trixie and Edward's wedding video!



Congratulations to my inaanaks! Edward and Trixie, be good to each other. As your sermon verse said (which was the same as mine!), "[Jesus said] 'I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.'" John 15:11-12.

Medyo mataas ang peg that Jesus established, seeing as He is divine and He gave His life for us. But what is marriage but a holy commitment and a giving of one's life every day till five-ever? Congratulations and best wishes!

MY MC Home has 3 branches: Level 3 MET LIVE Mall, Diosdado Macapagal Blvd, 1302 Pasay City, at MC Home Depot San Fernando Interchange, Jose Abad Santos Avenue, 2000 San Fernando, Pampanga, and at MC Home Depot BGC, Taguig. You may also find more furniture and promos on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/mymchome and Instagram www.instagram.com/mymchome.


*This post is brought to you by My MC Home.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Hello there! My name's Frances and this is what I do to make money.

Hi everyone! I've noticed a growth in my readership and so I'm betting a lot of you are new here and don't really know who I am. Thanks for giving me a chance to be part of your life!

Today, I'll share with you what I do for a living. People ask me all the time, "What exactly do you do?"

Well, I do a lot of things but since I don't go to an office, people sometimes assume I don't work. Oh, I work a lot! I hustle for need (pay bills, send kids to school, etc) and for pleasure. I love working!

But what exactly do I do? I always say I'm a writer. That's what I do. All my jobs has writing in there somewhere. The more writing it has, the happier I am with it.

My favorite photo from my PR job last year. L-R: Cosmo.ph EIC Jill Gatcheco, Paint It Red managing director Cath David, me, and our client Dr. Candy Drilon-Dalman of Centro Holistico.  

Last year, I had an 8-month stint as a PR Manager at Paint It Red. I learned so much from that job. It was intense because I haven't been employed for 6 years and I literally didn't know anything about the PR industry. I was really lucky I had bosses who took a chance on me and were diligent in teaching the oldest member of their staff new things.


I think they didn't have an easy time (this old dog had a hard time learning new tricks!) but I did learn and I did have fun. I was surrounded by young blood and they were so masipag and mabait! I only left because I found I couldn't juggle a job with being a mommy and running my own business.

Yes, I have a legit, BIR-registered freelance writing business. My writing business earns from foreign clients and local magazine websites. I write product descriptions for e-commerce sites, write branded content for websites, do proofreading and editing of manuscripts, and - my absolute favorite - I write articles! Articles may pay the least but they nourish my soul.


My business also covers my PR consultancy work. Now that I'm no longer employed, I have more time to do freelance PR. I've decided to just focus on family-friendly brands, so my PR work now involves promoting products and services moms would like or are owned by mommies. So now, I like my PR work better because it's more meaningful (and easier) to me.

Ask me what job earns the most, however, and it's blogging hands down. It earns me more money than my job as a PR professional and my freelance writing and editing combined. And I'm not even power blogging like I did in 2013-2016! What I earn from blogging now is a third of what I used to earn and yet it still is the one that brings home the fattest bacon. My blog also lets me earn through speaking engagements and workshops, which scare the shit out of me but are fun to do anyway.

Sneak peek: New campaign involves me admiring a giant bell pepper. 

Anyway, I guess I should say I'm a blogger first and everything else after. It's not my dream job (will always be magazine editor!) but it's made my dreams come true so I can't complain. And I guess the point of this post is to say all that I do to earn money so people will stop wondering haha. I also want to say that I'm grateful I have my blog.

Everyone hates bloggers, I know, so I feel weird when I say I'm a blogger. I shouldn't because I know people have been moved by the things I write. That's a profound change in people's lives I know I've done and I am so proud of that.

Now, if you've ever read any of my blog entries, shared them, left a comment, attended my workshops, sponsored my blog, got me as brand ambassador, invited me to your events, even clicked "like" on my blog shares, THANK YOU!!! You have helped feed my family and you are a blessing to me! Love you all!