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Lost

I don’t tend to write the more “personal” things here because a) it kind of dawned on me in the last few years that public spaces on the Internet are public to the entire world (depending on your office firewall, har har), and b) I don’t want my personal business to be anybody else’s business but mine, which is what tends to happen when people share even a miniscule detail about their lives. Just because I share something I think or feel, it doesn’t mean that I want to share more about it… Blogs are often receptacles for my thoughts and feelings, so I hate it when people pry too much because I very rarely like talking about deeply personal things. So, I’ve resorted to vague, abstract versions of white-hot feelings on this space, which makes me hate it a little bit because then it sort of stopped feeling like it was mine.

I admire people who air everything out in the open, but unfortunately, I am a person who cares about what people think of her. Perhaps a little bit too much, which is something I’d like to change about myself. Here’s a step towards not caring and also towards possibly being O.K. with who I’m turning out to be.

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I’ll be turning 26 at the end of the month, and I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough. This is pretty much a constant feeling, and even though I sometimes have actual output to prove otherwise, I feel like I’m not doing enough, by which I simply mean, I’m not doing as much as I could be. Life feels like it’s out of my depth, and I don’t know how to begin to navigate if I’m drowning.

It’s never healthy to compare, but that’s what I’ve been doing for who knows how long, and before I knew it, all these feelings of doubt and inadequacy have nested inside me. And you know what? Those feelings are freaking hard to get rid of and hard to get over. I am not the most motivated person in the world, and it is a constant battle to talk yourself out of giving up and settling for something you know you don’t want. Sometimes, giving yourself pep talks that you don’t listen to (?? !!) gets a little tiring. I know success and fulfillment mean different things to different people, and I think about if I’d be happy just being a good person, etc. etc. and right now, I’m not quite sure if that’s enough for me to feel like I’m doing my best or living the best version of my life that I could be.

I’ve spoken and written and whined about feeling stuck before, and part of me feels like my unconscious decision to revert to inaction is partly due to this comfortable paralysis. The fear of everything that comes with trying takes root in your heart and makes you just not want to do things. And when you spend enough time not doing anything, you kind of lose your bearings and forget where you are and where you want to go.

Right now, the view up ahead is a little foggy and I’m honestly really scared of the future—both on a personal level and on a global, catastrophic level—because if I don’t know where I want to go, how do I start walking towards it?

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Global Pinoy Bazaar 2014

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I know this was like a week and a half ago, but I just wanted to share how much fun I had with Sarie, going around the Global Pinoy Bazaar. Our friend Daniela was part (holla Common Ware, holla Fellow!) and we figured we’d stop by to see what else was up for sale.

We saw a lot of cool things, but I was there specifically for traditional woven goods, food, and skin care. Specifically, I was looking for jojoba oil. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! Anyway, we went around first to kind of assess the situation and decide later what we wanted to buy. This was a good plan, in that we didn’t get buyer’s remorse. This was a terrible plan, in that we forgot to buy some things we had our eye on. Win some, lose some, I guess!

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One of my favorite purchases was this bag from a new brand called Northloom. They don’t have much of an online presence, but it’s run by Dindo, an ex-ad guy and Ilocos native. He uses traditional Binakul textile, handwoven by women from Paoay and Sarrat, Ilocos Norte for his bags, which are handcrafted by women from Krus na Ligas, Quezon City. What surprised Sarie and I was the affordability of the items. This is a beautiful tote I got for only Php 855:
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Another favorite stop for me was Nipa Foods, which was where I discovered Palapa, aka my new favorite condiment of all time. Palapa is a traditional Maranaoan condiment made of indigenous scallions, ginger, coconut, and chili that they usually mix with rice. I finished my bottle up and ate it with chips and meals. D: Good thing they deliver!

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I was also able to taste a mead they made from honey made by bees that pollinated sunflowers. :) Most of my other purchases were soaps. I got two small bars, Green Clay and Coconut Lime, from this nice store called Remedy, and then I unwittingly bought some bars of soap made from emu oil, which I didn’t even realize was extracted from dead emus. I don’t even want to use them anymore, but they were expensive, so it’s more of a waste if I don’t.

Other Stuff I Got: Theo & Philo chocolate (Adobo, Calamansi, Ginger & Mint), Cacao nibs, a Yoda stamp from Beng.

All in all, I had a great time there. I wish I was able to go around more and explore, even if we already walked around the whole tent several times. There’s just always something that’s interesting to look at and maybe buy. I kind of wish that we didn’t need bazaars like this one to actively support local goods. It’s just really hard when they are scattered all over the country or don’t even have information up online about purchasing the goods.

What was good about it, though, is that I was able to physically see just how many great things are available locally. I honestly wanted to buy so many things, but I was keeping myself from hoarding. Notebooks, especially. Looking at you, The Sunday Paper!

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I saw Smile! My college blockmate who I miss a lot :D

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I also got to meet Mansy (finally!) of Hey Kessy. :)

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And saw some Anthill Fabric goods in the flesh!

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Then, of course, we kept running into Phoebe, here. Even when we drove all the way to Glorietta from World Trade Center. (Well, Sarie drove. Haha.)

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Garapata and a swanget me.

Anyway, I had a great time. I can’t wait for the next one… I hope there’s a next one? I definitely want to check out some more stalls, and I’m scrambling to find a way to purchase them online, because that is what us spoilt online shoppers are wont to do.

Did you go to the bazaar? What did you end up getting? Anything great that I missed out on?

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Ryan Villamael’s “Isles” & New at West: August 2014

20 Square at Silverlens Gallery: Ryan Villamael’s Isles

So, this is a pretty overdue post, but as it happens, I have a hot/cold relationship with my blog and the subsequent oversharing on the Internet that it entails. A few weeks ago, my sister and I dropped by Ryan Villamael’s solo show, “Isles,” at Silverlens’ 20 Square. Here are a few photographs, and I’m sorry that I’m only telling you about this now because it was a seriously beautiful show that is probably best appreciated in person. Oops.

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Next up on this post are some new shows up at West Gallery currently, and they’re up until September 6.

Gallery 1: Bernardo Pacquing’s Inattentional Blindness

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I am an enormous Pacquing fan, but I think people generally know that about me. (I don’t know, maybe?) Inattentional Blindness has several large-scale abstract pieces that demonstrate his excellent intuition for color combinations and texture.

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Gallery 2: Guillermo Naval’s Cheap Metaphysics

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Gallery 3: Fernando Modesto’s Anonymous

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Gallery 4: RM de Leon’s Go ahead!…enjoy looking at us!

I’ve always thought that RM de Leon was one of the most underrated artists in the Philippines. He plays with vintage illustration and abstraction.

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Oh, and Noah met a new friend:
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West Gallery

48 West Avenue, Quezon City
(Open: Mon-Sat 9am-6pm)

Silverlens Galleries

2F YMC Bldg 2, 2320 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City
(Open: Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 1-6pm)

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Casual Consumption No. 4

Film

I saw a few new films since my last update, including What If, which starred Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, because of course. I’m not really sure what the reasoning behind the title is, or what they were trying to speculate with the movie. What I think about when I think of the title is: “What if we cast Harry Potter as the lead in a romantic comedy?”

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(Although, of course, I later found out that it was originally titled “The F Word,” as in “Friend Zone,” I guess?)

Two things working against him from the get-go: 1) he is Harry Freaking Potter, and 2) Daniel Radcliffe is quite short. The story revolves around the friendly coupling of two seemingly made-for-each-other individuals: Chantry (Zoe Kazan) and Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) who meet at a house party and bonded over cynical magnetic poetry. (Speaking of which, The Magnetic Feels!) They get along swimmingly and Chantry gives him her number and then the fact that she has a long-term boyfriend (Rafe Spall, swoon). With whom she lives! Wallace lets the wind take care of Chantry’s number (by which I mean he literally throws it into the wind), but of course it won’t be a story without fate or something getting involved. They meet again, shenanigans ensue, and we are forced to endure a charade of self-denial and well-concealed jealousy.

All in all, it was quite charming and most of the charm was hinged on the fact that Dan Rad is really rad and he has great rapport with his co-stars. I love him so much, and I think he has such a great grasp on comedy. And I say this with is Extras cameo in mind, not that dreadful SNL hosting. Would I recommend this movie? Sure, if you like romantic comedies and Daniel Radcliffe. I wouldn’t urge you to run to the cinemas to catch it, though. It was cute and certainly funny at times, but in spite of all the quirkiness that they seemed to have worked hard at and it’s determination at being the atypical rom-com, it falls into the Rom Com trap and becomes one. It was supremely entertaining, but it’s still nothing to write home about.

In other film-y news, I saw my friend Bia’s film, Letters to the Future, which is a short documentary that centers on a handful of twenty-somethings living in Manila. (Sidenote: I hate the word twenty-somethings.) It was quite nice, seeing a selection of people who had a lot to say about being millennials (I mean, isn’t that millenials do in the first place?) and what it’s like living in Manila today. I think I would have liked more variation with the interviewees.

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I made this for the series of alternate posters they had for Letters

While I appreciated the inclusion of blue-collar workers and young people who had young families, it still felt a little lacking in the variation of perspectives, even if there was actually a fair variation of people. In terms of industry, I suppose, if not social classes. It made me wonder if we are all in a similar state of being lost, or if ennui is reserved for the middle class and above. Something to chew on, though I’m glad I got to watch it. I think there’s one last screening this Saturday, the 30th. So far, at least! For details and updates, click here.

Web Stuff

I’ve been watching a lot of new web series lately. I’ve dipped my toes in the genre a few times with The Guild (which I didn’t realize reached Season 6 already?) and The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, and who could ever forget LonelyGirl15? Anyway, LBD left me hungry for more. I decided to give Emma Approved, another Pemberley Digital-produced web series, a try. It’s based on—what else?—Jane Austen’s Emma, and it just recently wrapped up.

I am in the middle of another Pemberley Digital creation, produced in conjunction with PBS—Frankenstein, MD, based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. There are four episodes so far, in case you want to join in. It’s… alright. So far. I think I may dislike the protagonist a little, which puts me off of paying attention. (Oops.)

Another series I’ve been enjoying (uuuuugh this is making me look like a no-life) is called Nothing Much to Do, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s made by New Zealanders and it is quite convincing as a real vlog/story. It’s hosted on multi-channels, from multiple perspectives, with a very believable cast. I think a lot of the people who started watching them didn’t even realize it was a web series at first. :)

I think it really capitalizes on the video/channel/playlist format, and it’s soooo good once you get the hang of it. It’s about 50 short videos in, and it’s quite nice.

Books

In the book world, I am in the middle of several books, but I started reading Bryan K. Vaughan’s Saga, because I kept seeing it everywhere. It’s a beautiful story of an unlikely couple caught in the middle of a war between their species. It reminds me a little bit of Firefly, and I’ve always appreciated Vaughan’s humor, though I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea. Anyway, Saga is still in progress, so while waiting for the next volume to come out, I busied myself with another BKV story, Y: The Last Man.

I’ve been hearing about Y: The Last Man for so many years, I don’t even know why it took me this long to delve into it. It’s about Yorick Brown, the last man on earth, inexplicably immune to the disease that wiped out the entire planet’s male population. I like the speculative aspect of it, but I ultimately was left dissatisfied by how it ended. I think I’ll be writing a full review on this series soon, so maybe check back for that?

I am still in the middle of Sophia Amoruso’s #Girlboss, which I’ve slowly but surely been losing interest in. It’s a little frustrating because her story is very unique… and not totally applicable to “girlbosses,” in my mind anyway. But I’ll keep reading it until it’s done because it’s easy enough to read anyway, and it may surprise me. I hope anyway.

Food

GREEN CURRY, PLEASE. At some point in the last few weeks, I’d been consuming this for most of my meals… for three days. But that’s because I had leftovers. I actually have the green curry paste and am planning to make a vegetarian version soon. YAY, WISH ME LUCK.

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Poetry & Prose and the Ateneo Art Awards, 2014

Just a quick post about the recent awarding of the Ateneo Art Awards, which was held on the 14th. :) My brother, Luis, was one of the people shortlisted for the Fernando Zobel Prizes for Visual Art for his exhibit, Nocturne (which I posted about here). I think you can still see the works on display at Shangri-la’s East Wing lobby, aka the new wing, just until today. They’ll be up at the Ateneo Art Gallery from September 8 to October 15, in case you can’t make it today and would like to see the exhibits that were nominated. This is part of my brother’s exhibit:

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Congratulations to the winners Leslie de Chavez, Charles Buenconsejo, and Jeona Zoleta! I don’t have a lot of photos because… well, can you see where I was standing? Hehe. Congratulations as well to the winner of the Purita Kalaw Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism, Carlo Daona.

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Prior to the awarding, my folks and I (sans the brother) checked out this new (ish?) cafe called Poetry & Prose Patiserie. It’s a pretty cute place with lit-themed decoration and a really clean and focused aesthetic. Not my cup of tea (get it?) but I can appreciate the thought and effort behind it.

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My sister and I went for the salted caramel profiteroles, because I always go for the ‘salted caramel’ option and splitting a dish with my sister almost always means that I eat 80% of it. I got a cappuccino, which is my safe coffee drink when I go to a new place that doesn’t serve flat whites.

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And just for kicks, jewelry I wore that day: the Andromeda Necklace by Nettie Kent for Of a Kind, and the Asa Ring by Silva/Bradshaw in Green Nylon.

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Casual Consumption No. 3

It’s been so long since my last Casual Consumption post that it makes no sense to back track and list everything I’ve casually consumed since then because it would be a pretty freaking long post filled with boredom and grief. (Mostly yours.)

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Film

I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy last Sunday and it was amazing. In case you didn’t know (you probably do), the film is made and released under the Marvel franchise and is based on one of their more obscure comics of the same name. Guardians follows Peter Quill, a minor outlaw, as he stumbles into something huge… that’s pretty much none of his business and proceeds to make it his business with his rag-tag gang of criminals. I can’t really say much without giving the first forty minutes away, but I will say that this is by far, one of the most entertaining comic movies I’ve ever seen.

CinemalayaX Prior to this, I was actually able to catch three Cinemalaya movies, namely #Y, Dagitab, and Mariquina. I didn’t know anything about the movies prior to seeing them, except for some of the people responsible for them. (Sarie picked our afternoon’s movie itinerary.)

#Y opens with a suicide then follows it up with a back story, about a month and a half leading up to it. The story was compelling enough, if trite, but the stiffness was distracting. Although #Y seems to be driven more by the characters’ stories and problems than actual plot, I felt no real empathy for any of them, which might be the point of it. I don’t really know. (image source)

Dagitab, which follows the story of two professors married to each other, had some beautiful shots and scenes, and I could pluck quite a number of scenes that were captivating, but I won’t pretend that I was lost for quite a bit of it. When I thought I had a good grasp of the film’s themes and narrative, the resolution went quite the opposite of it, so maybe I made up all my connections and realizations in my head. Compelling performances from the cast, however, and really quite beautiful. (image source)

Among the 3, I think I had the easiest time watching Mariquina. The film goes a bit into the history of shoemaking in Marikina, through the life of Mylene Dizon’s character, Imelda (of course) Guevarra, whose estranged father, a renowned shoemaker from Marikina’s glory days, is found dead in a river. As much as there seems to be some intended soul-searching and self-confrontation, I think I was more compelled by the story that shoemaking as a craft holds. (image source)

Sidenote

Should I go back to writing full reviews for things? Sarie says she misses my film reviews, even though I know for sure that they weren’t spectacular.

Also, another sidenote: Crazy drama from Cinemalaya. I read through Philbert Dy’s Twitter timeline for the gist of things, and wow. So much disappointment.

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Books

I’ve been reading—predictably—#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, CEO of Nasty Gal. This has been making its rounds in the beauty blogging world, and I couldn’t resist. So far, I am on the fence about it. It makes me feel alternately inspired and annoyed. To be honest, this is more a memoir than anything, so that’s a caveat, if you’re looking into it for concrete business advice. I’ve also started on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians as per the recommendation of my friend, Martin. I read a while back that it was a good book to read as an adult, if you were a fan of Harry Potter. So far, I am about 80% into it but I’ll reserve my opinions for later. I’m also in the middle of a couple of other books, which you can check on my GoodReads. I’ll post a Capsule Reviews soon, when I’ve finished most of the books that I’ve been dipping in and out of.

Television

I am so enthralled by Teen Wolf, but a little bored with Scott McCall, who I loved beyond measure earlier in the series. I’ve also caught up with Adventure Time, which has actually made me tear up during a couple of episodes… and by “tear up,” I meant “try really, really, really hard not to cry.”

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You’re the Worst is probably my favorite discovery as of late. I was looking for a new show, because a lot of the ones I watch aren’t back yet, and I came across this one and was so sold on the trailer alone. Week-long waits for new episodes have become unbearable once again.

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Music

I don’t have new music, but I’ve been binging on the soundtrack of my youth—aka late emo. I used to primarily be a Taking Back Sunday fan, with heavy servings of Thursday, The Starting Line, Brand New, and Armor for Sleep. I’ve been binge listen-screaming to all of those bands lately, I’m not gonna lie. TBS and Saves the Day (another lite fave) are actually playing in Manila later this month but I actually have no extra 4k to shell out for pure nostalgia. If I decide not to go (which is a high probability) and Saves the Day plays “Hold,” though… I don’t even know what I’d do.

Food

I’ve also been enjoying trying to eat healthy and have been subsisting on a vegetable soup mix I found in Healthy Kitchen for lunch because it’s easy to make and set aside to heat up again the next day. Of course, I’ve found it hard to say no to both McDonald’s Shake Shake Fries (ketchup flava!) and Potato Corner (barbecue). And Eric Kayser cookies. But I’m trying, I swear.

And that’s that! I always mean to make these a little shorter but end up talking and talking and talking just because I do these updates so infrequently. Anyway, these are a lot of my recent round of um, cultural and actual ingestion, I guess. Let me know what you’ve been enjoying lately!

Baguio 2014

To the Mountains!: Baguio 2014

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This was probably my favorite trip to Baguio, even though I was stupidly sick. (That’s a thing, right?) Usually, we’ll make the typical rounds around Session Road and the John Hay area, but this time around, we were actually visiting Nona and her dogs, aka Noah’s doggy family. She drove us to all her favorite places and at some point, we ended up in Bubbles’ house, which is so freaking beautiful, like a more sullen and industrial Cullen house, complete with super nice art, a dehydrator and a nest of a forest surrounding it.

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I have a shit ton of photographs, which is usually an indication of me loving a place. I don’t think I’m going to write a lot about this trip. I’ll let the photos (the whole lot of them, sorry in advance for your internet heh) do the talking. Some are from my camera and the others are from my phone—I trust you know which ones are which, but please feel free to ask if you have any particular questions about anything.

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This is Jacob, Noah’s dad.

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Noah used to pick on him a lot.

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This is Lola, Noah’s mom.

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And this is Ella, Noah’s sister. He has another sister (Sparky) and a brother (Mochi), but they live in Manila with their own new families.

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And of course, here is Noah. :)

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Letters to July

For most of the month, I’ve been watching this series of videos called Letters to July. In 2013, Emily (or emilieofnewgloom on YouTube) started this project, where she and a bunch of her YouTube friends make letters to July each day of the month. She did it again this year, and I loved watching a letter each day. Most of them are quite thoughtful and moving. Most are also just about a minute each.

The videos address July, as though it were an entity you could speak to, which reminded me very much of Shane Jones’ Lightboxes‘ February. Anyway, I made my own letter to July:

Anyway, it’s a great project. I really love how short the videos are, but how they say a lot. If you wanted to see them, here’s the playlist for the 2013 letters (about 35 minutes):

And, here’s the playlist for the 2014 letters (about 37 minutes):

You can also just choose to watch a couple, but I can’t really pick a favorite as they are all pretty special in their own way.

What projects have you been liking lately?

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“After Sir,” Elaine Navas at Finale

Ahhh, one of my favorite shows so far! Probably out of bias—no, just kidding. Elaine Navas is an amazing painter, and for her latest show at Finale, she took on the Tall Gallery and created a tribute to the late Roberto Chabet, who was her mentor and became her close friend. Called “After Sir,” the show was comprised of several large paintings (and an installation/mixed media piece) that are based on “Sir” Chabet’s work. She picked the ones that weren’t necessarily the most important or most prominent, but the ones that held a special meaning or memory for her.

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I go through waves of feelings when I look at this work that I’m not sure is present if you don’t have the full context. I feel like it is an expression of grief, and a documentation of the process of mourning and remembering.

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After Sir is on display until August 2. I’m so crazy about this show, I can’t even explain. We actually dropped by while they were setting up, and this post on that gives you a better idea of the space and scale, I think.

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Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound (Gate 1),
2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City

Tel +63(2) 813 2310, 812 5034
Fax (+63(2) 810 4071
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10AM to 7PM

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My 10 Favorite YA Books & Series

As much as I kind of hate to admit it, this list was kind of difficult to make. I’ve been reading for most of my life, and for most of the time I spent reading, I have devoured books of the Young Adult persuasion. It’s not really a secret—I don’t really think it’s something to be ashamed of—but with the rising popularity of YA authors these days also come the hordes of haters. I don’t blame the onslaught of critique; there have been a number of books published that I never thought would see the light of day.

But I’m not going to name any names. Instead, I’ve put together a list of my 10 favorite YA books and series. I haven’t read a lot of the popular series (or haven’t been impressed with the ones I have read), so I don’t have a lot of those. This is also by no means a “best of” list—just a list of my 10 favorite books about (for?) young adults.

The Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty

Favorite book from the series: Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings

This series was totally my jam back in high school. I don’t even think this was shelved with YA. I found it in the fiction section in PowerBooks Megamall (remember that place?) and was hooked. This is a great series with a great protagonist—Jessica Darling—whose best friend moved away resulting in her figuring out her weird adolescence and romance-ish with the one and only Marcus Flutie.

Seriously, if you haven’t read this series, feast your eyes on the original Augustus Waters minus all the metaphors. Reading it now feels a little strange, kind of how like Clueless feels pretty dated because of the overusage of slang, but it’s still amazing. Popular opinion seems to be that it should have ended with the second book, Second Helpings, and while I do agree and hate Charmed Thirds, I am at least at peace with how it ended with Perfect Fifths.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Favorite book from the series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Ah, of course this has a place on this list. I have a long and tumultuous relationship with Harry Potter, going back to when I was in the fifth grade, just before The Prisoner of Azkaban was released. Let that fact marinade for a little bit. I was about 11 years old then. I am now about to turn 26. That’s 15 years of my life that I spent entwined with Harry Potter. I can’t even bring myself to elaborate more on Harry Potter for several reasons: a) you all know what/who Harry Potter is, b) if I start, I might not be able to stop, and c) I’m not in the mood to emotionally cry today.

Who’d have thought a book about a boy wizard would have this kind of effect over me and the rest of the world? Certainly not I! But, man, am I absolutely glad that it did.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska is kind of notorious for being overhyped. It is about this guy in high school who goes off to boarding school in Alabama—to seek a Great Perhaps—and falls in love with a girl (of course) who is the antithesis to his shy, quiet self, and who seems to be the key to finding this elusive Great Perhaps.

This was my first John Green book that I was obsessed with looking for because of a ~romantic~ quote that went around on Tumblr at the time (yes, the one about the people and the rain), and I eventually got it via Eli Epstein, my Tumblr friend. But, this started it all for me in terms of John Greenish devotion and my interest to get back into making videos like a true weirdo.

I read it again recently, and though I found it still beautiful, it didn’t hold the same kind of magic for me as it did when I first read it. I think it’s a great book for teens especially, because it actually raises questions about life, people, and purpose. I find it strange how there are some books for teens that seem to try very hard to be shallow, but this one is great because (I feel like) it forces young minds to think about things they may be thinking about but can’t open up about. I don’t know, I really liked it is all.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Favorite book from the series: they have all blurred into one for me

OK, so I didn’t exactly finish this series, but I’m still putting it here anyway because this was a really pivotal book for me and my writing and journal-keeping. I started reading it when the third book came out in 2002 and for some reason, I kept most of my journals back then in the same format as Mia did. Later in 2002, I started to blog (in an unspecified location, ha) inspired by both my best friend’s first blog and Michael Moscovitz’s web zine, Crackhead—yep!—and I guess the rest is history. I also have a soft spot for the original movie, but I think I have to thank this little series because I think it nudged me in the direction of story-telling and influenced how I write today.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that one of my earliest writing influences is Mia Thermopolis (aka Meg Cabot), but I can’t hide the truth forever. I had a lot of fun with these books growing up, and I think it made my writing voice easy and casual, so I’m very thankful that I saw these book on display in Borders on Powell Street.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve always been inexplicably drawn to stories about the Holocaust and about Jewish history. It’s not really intentional, but I’m glad I picked this book up for reasons that I don’t even remember. The Book Thief is written from the point-of-view of Death, as an all-seeing narrator, and is set during the second World War. It’s focused on the story of Liesel, a German girl sent off to live with foster parents who would eventually harbor a Jew in their basement, and how life was at the height of the war. It is very beautiful, quite sad, but rich in a way that it examines life and prejudice, and the importance and power of words and stories.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

I first encountered Ned Vizzini during a serious case of “Nothing to Read Anymore and found his book of essays, Teen Angst? Naaah… after which I clung to his every word (on LiveJournal and his website), and even wrote emails to him. He usually wrote back, and I desperately wish I still had that email address but I don’t.

I’ve always found him to be a funny guy and it wasn’t until It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which was written after he checked himself into a mental facility, that I understood what he has been going through… and how being funny doesn’t mean that you don’t feel all these bad things inside. Reading this put a voice to the kind of sadnesses I had, and I wasn’t really expecting it to move me, because as much as I enjoyed his other books, I wasn’t moved by them. This one sealed the deal of the importance of his voice. Ned took his own life late last year. I loved him a lot.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I read this in one go, after lunch in a high school chemistry class, and finished it later in the day. It’s written as letters from a boy named Charlie, addressed to a stranger he calls Friend, and kind of chronicles his life as he tries to make sense of growing up and coming to terms with some dark things from his past that he has repressed. It’s a really beautiful coming of age story (my favorite!) that I believe uniquely tackles some questions adolescents and even old farts like me still have. I never did catch up with my Chem lessons after that reading sprint, but I did learn more things from this book that mattered in life, so I think it all turned out OK.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

This is a book that I wish I had read earlier in life. I read it a few years ago, I think the year after I graduated from college. It is basically the story of Bilbo Baggins’ adventure with some dwarves who were on a quest. During this particular adventure, we also find out how Bilbo got ahold of the One Ring, but that wasn’t even the most exciting part of this book. This is way easier to read than The Lord of the Rings, but I think that this moved me even more, just because of Bilbo’s character and what eventually becomes of him as well as his relationships with these friends he wouldn’t otherwise have met if he chose to stay home and said ‘no’ to this adventure.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Now, I’m torn between this and Fangirl, which I also quite liked because the subject is dear to my heart (long story), but I think I might like this one a wee bit more just because the story seems more whole and less drawn out. I love how Rowell wrote this book and basically says, young love feels like this and gets it right. Eleanor & Park is about two titular characters who are both misfits in their own way, an overweight social outcast and a fairly well-liked half-Korean Morrissey lover, who bond over comic books and music, and help each other with their own demons and insecurities. I love the way it feels quite “all or nothing,” because you’re forced to remember what that felt like, but how it’s not dismissive of the feelings either. Anyway, this is a great read.

The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart

I mentioned this series in my last book post, and it starts with a book called The Boyfriend List. Before you react—hear me out! This is a hilarious series that’s more about the protagonist, Ruby, than about her boyfriendy exploits. Because of recent traumatic experiences, she goes to a therapist who asks her to examine her life and relationships by making a “boyfriend” list. These names aren’t necessarily boyfriends, just boys in her life tied to pivotal personal moments. I promise this is a fun, light read that’s kind of hard to put down. At least it was, for me.

And that’s a wrap! I didn’t include a lot of coming-of-age stories I liked but didn’t consider to be YA (e.g. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, etc.). Making this list, I realized that while I read a lot of YA, a lot of them don’t really leave a profound impression on me. I also realized that I haven’t read a lot of classic YA like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Some of my other notables are:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. For more recommendations, check out Forever Young Adult

If you can’t find these books in your book stores, check out Book Depository (affiliate link), as they ship worldwide!

I’m pretty sure I missed out on reading your favorite YA titles, so feel free to leave recs down below, if you think you love something I’d love, too. What are your favorite YA titles?