Cats and Dogs

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ✨🐶🤍🐱✨ -Anatole France

I grew up strictly a dog person and admittedly, was confined to negative cat stereotypes. It wasn’t until 4 years ago – when our family decided to adopt our darling Mimi (Persian/Himalayan cat) from friends – that a part of my soul was “awakened” to the demi goddess-like qualities of cats.

4 days ago, we adopted our sweet Chandler (golden retriever puppy) from cousins and my spirits have been soaring since then.

I am in awe of both of them, all the time. And, at the risk of sounding too melodramatic, having both a dog and a cat in our family is life-changing.

There are three things that I can say with certainty: 1) Cats and dogs are not equal, but neither of them are greater than the other; 2) The world is a better place with the devotion of a cat and the unconditional love of a dog; and 3) Expanding our perspectives is the key to opening our doors to abundant blessings.

On that note, GOD BLESS DOGGIES AND KITTIES!! ✨🐶🤍🐱✨ 🤪😆

New Normal, New Goals

I, like most, made many plans going into the year 2020. From bucket lists to vision boards to feng shui and zodiac readings to preliminary steps towards making it all come into fruition. Said plans were brought to a screeching halt due to present circumstances. Nonetheless, after a mini meltdown (or several), I have resolved to regroup my thoughts and rather than focus on new plans, I will simply start with new goals.

It’s been approximately five months since the Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 made global headlines, four since it was labeled a ‘pandemic’, and three since Luzon was been placed under Quarantine through stages. Our movements, income, and access to what we associate with “normal” ways of life have been compromised. The virus does not discriminate. It has affected all governments, businesses and economies, and societies. All things considered, it has been easy to lose motivation.

Fortunately, I’m not one to resign to cynicism. I have my moments, but I always find a way back to faith and hope. Whenever I spend moments feeling grateful for all my blessings in spite of circumstances, good news suddenly comes my way. It isn’t even always about me, but about others and that makes me happy and restores my faith. As for hope, whether or not we’re ready for it, the economy has started to re-open. I tend to be fearful about our progress (if we’ve made any), but I know that it is necessary and it will relieve a lot of Filipinos. That in itself gives me hope.

We definitely cannot relax just yet and we still have quite a battle ahead of us. There is still so much uncertainty and very little inevitability. I suppose that is why I have decided to share the concept of simply focusing on goals for now as opposed to formulation of plans. I wish to help others – as I help myself – hold on to positive thoughts, dreams, and aspirations.

Goals vs plans

Goals are the ideas that we aspire to and place intent into. Whereas, a plan is how we intend to make goals see reality. Some might say that without a plan, a goal is just a goal and to an extent, that may be true. Yet, I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of manifesting goals into actuality through the sheer power of our minds. So much of the law of attraction is the ability to attract whatever we picture as pure and true in the center of our thoughts. With that said, perhaps we put the hows and the means to rest for now and just focus on new goals period.

Personal Goals

My personal goals are all about improvement:

• Self-improvement – I’ve come a long way and am not the person I was year or even months ago, but there’s always room for improvement. I never want to stop evolving. I want to be the best that I can be internally and externally. Modesty aside, I have many talents. While I’m a firm believer in working on one at a time, because of the notion that trying to chase more than one rabbit may end up in losing all of them down the rabbit hole. If I have all this time at home, though, I see myself finding a way to unplug from work every so often to balance my advocacies, my art (music, makeup, and writing), and my reading and higher learning.

• In the lives of others – This is the very purpose of my occupation, in which we serve the OFW sector. I want to do more. We aid those in their times of need, but there must be more ways to empower and protect them from the onset of employment and through every eventuality – even loss of work. Less need for them to have to make distress calls. To be honest, this isn’t even totally dependent on the government. I believe every Filipino should care about OFWs. I’m sure we are all related to or connected to an OFW. A lot are back home and over 40,000 more are going to be repatriated, it is time for us to make use of their world class skills and talents locally. I wish to see that happen. I want to see them attain long-term gain, especially seeing how much they suffer and lack support now notwithstanding how much they contribute to the nation and sacrifice for their families. I want to educate, inspire, and help our kababayans reach their full potential.

• Atmospheric – The one thing that would remind me that not all is bad on my rough days under quarantine is a clear blue sky. I have always been concerned about improving my community and my environment, but I admit I haven’t done a damn thing to make a change until recently. I’m composting, growing fruits and vegetables in my backyard, and finding ways to make a difference at home and eventually, the community. I was recently reminded about how my Lola co-found the Linis Ganda cooperative and I have been so inspired by her brilliant vision. There is much more to be done to cleanse and nourish our surroundings.

• The greater good – We, as individuals, must be: a) self-accountable, b) self-reliant, but c) willing to be a team player. As much as I want our land to heal, I want our people to heal, too. Let’s be real, we have some pretty toxic traits in our culture. I refuse to just let that be something that we accept. We can all choose to be better. We can all choose to acknowledge that we all have to do our part for everything around us to be better.

The healing process often requires the combined forces of forgiveness and atonement. Let’s do this for one another. In effect, you would be helping yourself, too. Let us heal from past traumas, so that we avoid projecting on others and can break destructive cycles. We need to heal ourselves to heal the world.

Bottomline, I don’t know how, but I want us to improve through generations. We must expect more, but also appreciate more and take more responsibility. Know our rights without having entitlement mentality. Know how to use our voices and for the right reasons. Know that we can all reach our goals without having to pull the next man down in order to reach them.

Having said that, I truly wish for better days. May all of us continue to make new goals and embrace them and see them through “the new normal”.

 

 

A Hero’s Welcome for our OFWs

24,000 OFWs are returning to their provinces this week with tens of thousands more being repatriated back to the Philippines in the coming days and weeks. The national government and LGUs are working hand-in-hand in this regard.

Once they have returned to their respective provinces, they will be able to avail of training and livelihood programs under various government agencies.

Having said that, there are many more initiatives that we can propose to the government and there are many more ways that even the private sector can help our kababayans now. I strongly believe that it is high time for everyone to care about our OFWs, now more than ever, as they struggle with loss of employment and are reunited with their families who depend solely on them. After all, all of us Filipinos are connected to or even related to an OFW. We have certainly all benefited from their hard work and sacrifices through their remittances, which infused sustenance into our economy to the tune of $33.5B in the last year alone.

Now that they will be home indefinitely and our economy is slowly reopening, how about we empower them and give value to their world class experience and skills? Let us hire them, give them proper business and livelihood opportunities, and conceptualize other ways for them to thrive here in the motherland.

Over and over again, we have referred to our OFWs as our “Bagong Bayani”. I have unwavering faith that we all agree that they are, indeed, heroes. Thus, let us allow them to feel their importance and give them a “hero’s welcome” back home. 🇵🇭 🙌

#supportourOFWs

#positivethoughts

#wehealasone

#heroes

CALL FOR DONATIONS

CALL FOR DONATIONS: We are appealing for vital medical supplies to be sent DIRECTLY to hospitals to fast track the URGENT needs of our frontliners battling this COVID-19 pandemic.

List of hospitals in need of PPEs are listed on this site: http://helpdonateph.com/

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Alarming facts:

• 9 out of the 54 deaths due to #COVID19 were DOCTORS

• Hundreds of frontliners are under quarantine

• Healthcare workers feel they are being deployed on a “suicide mission” due to lack of proper PPEs

The Slow Down

In light of this mega shift for the world, in which we are all urged to slow down and stay home, I decided to share a collection of friends’ home activities that have inspired me. It warms my heart to see people doing things they’ve been too busy to do amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life (which includes blogging for me).

I hope this inspires you, too, and I’ll constantly update as I collect more.

Rock painting by Selin Tekeli Gasa.

Angel Jones keeping her fitness right at home.

Christine Go & kids making popsicle stick houses.

Joana Banting-Lapore stopping to smell the flowers.

Barbara Lee-Sycip’s acrylic painting.

Mitzi Manzano’s skincare regimen post facial.

Mico Bullangay’s illustration of “Cruela de Vil in lingerie”

Cats Del Rosario’s watercolor paintings.

Jill Ablaza’s fresh squeezed kalamansi juice, harvested from her tree.
Yeng Capate’s home cooking.
Madeline Plata’s cross stitching.

Smile-inducing, right? The purpose of this collection is to remind everyone that while we are facing challenging and uncertain times ahead, beauty and happiness exists where we choose to see it and feel it. Let’s start with our homes.

Do send over pics of what you’ve been up to at home. Take care, everyone!

Self-discovery

They say that you will never understand where you are going if you do not understand where you came from. I believe that this year was a true testament to that concept. I was under the impression that, in my mid-30s, I had myself all figured out. I thought that I had discovered myself many times over and mastered who I was and who I am, but to my surprise, this year was one of self-discovery all over again.

Having tucked away my life as a singer/rapper/songwriter – a symbol of my late teenage and early adult years – I focused on my personal businesses (makeup artistry and beauty consultancy) for the better part of the past 8 years. And, while I have always been around to lend a helping hand to my Señeres family’s advocacy* through seasons, I always made it a point to get back to “regularly scheduled programming” when those “seasons” were over. In my mind, it was healthier and more organic for me to stick to my own path.

Besides, if I may be honest, there are certain angles to the push for advocacy that I didn’t think I could stomach all year round. In one word: politics.

Contrary to what most may know about me, I am not new to politics. When our family moved to the Philippines in the mid-90s, I dove headfirst into this world that I had not been a part of growing up in the US. My maternal grandfather, Lolo Ismael “Mel” Mathay, was on his 2nd term as Mayor of Quezon City with a multitude of credentials to his name. My cousins and I used to hang out at HQ, join rallies and motorcades, etc. My uncles (my mom’s brothers) were being molded to carry on what my lolo had started – as a city councilor and district Congressman, respectively. After my lolo’s third term as Quezon City Mayor, however, everything changed. I won’t dwell on the hows and whys, but let’s just say that my beloved grandfather poured his heart and soul into the city that he hailed from and his team that he trusted with his life. Unfortunately, that trust was broken.

My lolo did right by the city and his constituents through groundbreaking programs and developments and an untarnished track record. Lamentably, genuine service and hard work are not always enough to get by in politics.

Witnessing what the game had done to him and being more inclined to the arts, I wanted nothing to do with family plans in public service, particularly politics.

You can imagine how I felt when I met the man that I would later marry. Roy Señeres, Jr. (RJ) and I met through music, but as it would turn out, his family not only had a background in public service and politics, but had once crossed paths with my family once upon a time. Back when my lolo was still QC Mayor and traveling to Europe, he suffered from a severe asthma attack in-flight, which resulted in an emergency stopover in Abu Dhabi. At that same time, RJ’s father, “Amba” Roy Señeres, Sr., was the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE and based in Abu Dhabi with his immediate family. Amba so graciously received my lolo at the airport and proceeded to take immense care of him throughout his stay. As a show of gratitude, my lolo later supported Amba’s bid for Senator in the late 90s.

My close friends used to put such significance into this info, that RJ and I were both into music and came from political families. Obviously, being allergic to politics, I never put much meaning into this “coincidence”.

Fast forward a couple years later and seeing how similar our families were in the sense that goals and ambitions were a family affair, I relented and got involved in my own way – marketing and events throughout parts of the year.

After graduating from law school, RJ resumed his duties as President & CEO of the OFW Family Club* and was being prepped for a political path alongside his father. 4 years after we got married, he filed as a nominee of the OFW Family Party-list for the first time. This began my deeper involvement through the “seasons”.

Towards the end of my father-in-law’s term as Congressman, he was determined to make his bid as President. Go hard or go home. Go hard, he did, in pushing his innovations for the betterment of the country. Sadly, succumbing to a long battle with his health, he did go home, too. Home to Our Creator.

Having promised to his dad that he would carry on, he ran as the first nominee of the party-list in 2016 in spite of being emotionally and mentally shattered. For that and numerous other factors, we fell short a couple votes and did not secure a seat. This had a rippling effect, to say the least.

We hit rock bottom over the next few years. This was true for the organization and for our family on a personal standpoint. We were financially burdened, “supporters” jumped ship, friends became foes. I know that I wrote about it in pockets, but kept it pretty cryptic. I didn’t think anyone outside of our circle would understand.

One thing’s for sure, I strongly wanted to swear off politics and anything related thereto for good. I centered myself around my business opportunities and RJ continued to work under the radar at the OFW Family Club with his sister and Senior Vice President, Hazel. At times, I wished my husband could move on and find something else to do, but he held on and I had to admire that. My man was not a quitter and he did not break promises, particularly one that he made to his dad. He resolved to find a way to rebuild.

In 2018, RJ was looking for partners in said plans to rebuild the organization in anticipation of the 2019 Elections, much to my dismay. Yet, I knew that he needed my support and validation. Thus, I gave my blessing as a wife to try and make something happen. The meetings began, options presented themselves, and decisions needed to be made.

For anyone that has paid attention, you would know that, ultimately, the decision was to move forward with the Pacquiao family. Alberto “Bobby” Pacquiao, younger brother of Senator Manny Pacquiao, ran as the first nominee of the OFW Family Party-list.

Through God’s good graces, we secured a seat this last 2019 Elections and we are represented by Congressman Bobby Pacquiao in the 18th Congress. Moreover, while he may be a neophyte Congressman and virtually new on the OFW horizon, we are blessed to be represented by someone with a pure heart and willingness to ensure that our kababayans will be better protected and served.

Which (*phew*), brings me to present day. Even after the elections, much work was to be done. A major overhaul of the organization ensued, everyday busier than the next. The balance between maintaining what was and building atop it was the optimum objective this year.

In 2019, I did not unplug from OFW Family matters as I normally would have. In fact, I found it extremely cathartic to be able to explore ideas for the organization and execute the same side by side my husband and a remarkable team. I delved into all aspects of the office to better serve it – welfare assistance, stakeholders meetings, outreach programs, support groups, legislation, and the like.

My connection to our OFWs grew deeper, too. What I once identified as strictly support for my husband and applauding a worthy cause began to speak to me differently and the person that I had become. Perhaps, even to the person that I had always been. A mixture of introspection and talks with my parents made me realize certain things.

I was born in the US and am therefore, an American citizen, but also a second-generation immigrant according to some immigration activists. Before my mom became a naturalized American citizen, I was also – technically – the daughter of an OFW.

Both of my parents worked for the consulate in Los Angeles, in connection to the Department of Tourism. Thus, as “American” as I grew up in those years, I had a lot of Filipino culture instilled in my upbringing, too.

We had Filipino Household Service Workers and I witnessed firsthand how they should be treated by their employers. Not like commodities, but like a part of our family*.

I suppose what I’m trying to drive at is the idea that while I was never an OFW myself nor even part of the birth of the advocacy, I felt linked to our modern day heroes as if by design. I’m not gonna lie. I still struggle with the politics part of the equation, but I take the good with the bad.

To sum it all up, the end of this decade made a lot of my life come full circle. It is all so much more profound now. I know that I am where I am meant to be and doing what I am meant to do right now. I can honestly say that I am wrapping up not only this year, but this entire decade, on a positive note.

With that, I wish for all my readers and peers to be in high spirits as we bid 2019 farewell. If you were lost, I hope you are now found. If you were unsure of your path, I hope that you have found your footing now. Happiest New Year to all!

* The OFW Family Club was founded in 2001 by my late father-in-law, Ambassador “Amba” Roy V. Señeres. It is a non-government organization primarily tasked to intercede on behalf of distressed OFWs and their requests for assistance with government and private agencies.

* Trivia: Our former live-in helper, Tina, now has her green card, but she still freelances at my brother and aunt’s place once a week.

Wine Not

Saturday night shenanigans involved some wild and crazy…hair color.

As some of you may have noticed on my FB Monique On Fleek, I’ve been pretty adventurous with my hair over the past year. It served as a way for me to a) let my inner personality burst through on the outside and b) allow me to have a permanent daily accessory.

Timeline: I had long, comic book orange hair around my birthday last February then I let it take its natural course back to an almost platinum blonde base. After I let my roots grow out a fair amount, I re-did my base, chopped off 5 inches, and went for a vibrant pink shade that eventually faded into peach.

Let me tell you, I thought I had outgrown pink, but rocking the pink hair (through all its stages) was too fun. Therefore, I decided to try out a maintenance color conditioner as suggested by my colorist.

Check out my little experiment below:

https://youtu.be/2Q49ujsPp6Y

Not exactly pink yet – more of a red wine really – but I think it’ll fade quite nicely over the next few washes.

The verdict: If you start with a light base like mine, Color Conditioner is less of a maintenance option and more of a whole new color option. It’s fun. It was totally easy-to-use and left my hair smelling great and feeling super soft. A total steal at P150!

I’d love to try other shades in the future and see how the henna tint would appear on darker hair bases.

Anyone willing to be the next guinea pig? If not, I’m sure my continuous hair color journey will keep both me and you entertained. 😉💁‍♀️

My NBA Love Story: Los Angeles

I’m sure you heard the news. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are LA-bound and about to be Clippers. What naturally follows is the whole jump-on-the-bandwagon extravaganza which, incidentally, reminded me of the last time the Clippers were hot (Lob City). I was very vocal about my elation for the Clippers, but questioned, “I thought you were a Lakers fan?” And, while I couldn’t be bothered to provide an in-depth response at the time, I would like to provide one now. BOTH Los Angeles teams have ALWAYS been near and dear to my heart. Listen up, cause this is real talk.

My Dad used to draft and manage players for the Fil-Am Basketball Team when I was a little girl (in the mid-’80s to the early ’90s). He used to attend all sorts of games – for the purpose of accompanying the team and scouting players to import to the Philippines – in cooperation with the Department of Tourism. Since we were based in South Pasadena (a city in Los Angeles County, for those that aren’t familiar), he always had access to Clippers season tickets. So, he would take my brother and I to a bunch of games and we grew this deep attachment to the Clips even though they were the laughingstock of the NBA at the time. Influenced by my Dad, it become our long-standing dream for them to someday win a championship.

Check out the Clippers gear y’all. Circa 1990?

Nevertheless, if you’re a basketball fan residing anywhere in So Cal, then damn straight you love the Lakers. They are just magnetic. Wilt Chamberlain. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Jerry West. Magic Johnson. Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe Bryant. Derek Fisher. Swaggy P. The list goes on and on. Now LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Danny Green. There is nothing that compares to the Lakeshow.

Here are some throwback joints from a Lakers vs Knicks regular season game I was able to catch live back in 2016:
Swaggy P. It was a big deal at the time. 😂

Couldn’t help, but sweat Derek Rose…just a little. 😆

Caption this.

Lakers vs Knicks 2016 regular season game with my mom, Tita Vi, and my brother Brian.

Our little box was dope, huh? Totally a living-our-best-lives moment.

I’d also like to point out how loyal I am to both teams even if I’ve allowed myself to root for other teams in their absence from the playoffs. While I admit that I was once a more close-minded fan and simply zoned out of games that didn’t include my teams, I later decided that I just wanted to root for good basketball. After all, I remember catching some games on-the-road with my Dad like that of the Chicago Bulls vs (then known as) the Charlotte Hornets. Yes, I got to watch Michael Jordan live in 1991. Unfortunately, we were up in the nosebleed section and I had to use binoculars for close-up glimpses of MJ, so no photos. 😕 What an unforgettable day, though, and a reminder about there being no fun in not paying attention to world renowned players even if they’re on other teams. Besides, the stakes are ever changing especially when it comes to players. One day the bane of your existence and the next day your star player (shoutout to LBJ).

So, I’ve learned to go ahead and pick a team that I gravitate towards (again, in the absence of my teams in the playoffs) and just enjoy the game. I will be the first to admit that those teams are temporary picks anyway. They do not have my loyalty, I need not wear their merch, and I might be vouching for their opponent next time around.

Case in point: Golden State Warriors. Once upon a time I was cheering them on. You know, back in 2015 when they were the underdogs and finally brought glory back to the Oracle arena following a 40-year drought. Then they had to go and become this cheat code-using team and this last season really just became about restoring balance to the NBA. I’m sure many shared that sentiment – wanting anyone but the Warriors to win. It just so happened that the Raptors became a hell of a team to watch…for a fleeting moment.

Now, call it what you want. You still might not get my NBA love story even after reading this explanation. That’s fine. That’s the part where I’ll have to use the “real-fans-don’t-have-to-prove-they-are-real-fans” card. I just know that I am thrilled about both my teams locking down some big timers. Both teams still need some additional key ingredients – and the talks are still on-going – but it’s looking pretty decent so far.

On that note: Let’s go, LA!

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What’s your NBA love story?


On a side note: Westbrook might get traded?! We know he’s an LA boy through and through (former UCLA Bruin) and he’s always wanted to head back eventually. The questions are: will it be in time for the next season and if so, which LA team? Will he join his boy, PG, in the Clippers or will he go for some purple and gold power?
On another side note: If not Westbrook, then I’d love to see Chris Paul return to LA…as a Laker this time. 🤪