Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Learning The Art of Bento

If we define roles in the house in a very conservative way, you might agree that women have more knowledge in the kitchen as mothers do the nurturing. I, on the other hand, have been in the minority of clueless ones when it comes to food preparation! Let me clarify. I am kitchen-challenged- not necessarily helpless. It takes a whole lot more effort for me to prepare a meal for my family compared to my friendly neighbor Jane who can cook up a delicious storm with no sweat. I guess we all have our personal gifts and cooking isn't in my cards. Boohoo. Thanks to my husband who I fondly call as my "chamba-chef" (Why? He produces hit or miss meals, LOL!), we are currently surviving (yes, keyword!) with our absolutely no-household help tag team. 

Recently, Heinz x Bento By Kat collaborated for a Bento workshop and invited kitchen challenged me, hurray! Seriously though, I crave to learn. Just because I currently suck in the kitchen doesn't mean I can't try, right? Thankfully, our workshop didn't include any cooking, just food preparation only.

Some of the ingredients we started off with---

Tada! Here is my finished product :) Compared to the other moms who totally kicked ass in design, I am probably on the bottom of the pit but... who cares! When I showed my masterpiece to my kids later on, they were delighted. "Oooh pretty food!" they must have thought. With practice, I'm confident that I will get better. When school starts after the summer break, I hope to continue to create cute looking baon (Filipino word for packed meals) for my son.

So, you thought Heinz only has ketchup? Think again! I was amazed at the selection and how many of their products are available here in the Philippines.

Thank you to Kat Maderazo and the Heinz Philippines team for inviting me to participate. I learned an introduction to the beautiful art of Bento and I cannot wait to do more for my kids' sake!

photo care of Em Sulit

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Motherhood Journey (So Far)

Most people think that we choose our children, when and how they will journey with us in our lives. On the contrary, it is they who choose us. Yes, you read that right. If you believe that we are spiritual beings, much more than our physical bodies in our earthly existence, then you will understand this concept. I learned it from my mentors at my son's Waldorf Schools here in the Philippines (he has been to 3 different ones to date!).

To give you a fresh perspective of where I am coming from, here is an excerpt from the book Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer which I highly recommend for all parents. (Prepare some tissue, I always get weepy reading this!)

Birthday Story 

By Susan Bruck
Song:The stars are watching when for a birth,A little child comes down to earth.Her angel leads her both day and night,To fill her heart with love and light. 
Once, not so very long ago, way up in the heavens, there lived a star child.  She lived there with the other star children, who were her friends, and together they would visit the sun, the moon and the planets.  She had a special angel who watched over her always.  She was very happy up there in the stars.  One night, as she was sitting all snuggled up with her angel and they were looking out at the thousands of sparkling stars, the star child saw something that she had not seen before.  It was a planet, and it was blue and green and most lovely to behold. 
“What is that place?” she asked her angel.  
“That is the planet earth,” the angel replied.  “Come, I will show you.”
And together they went to visit the earth.  When they got there, they saw great oceans and mountains.  They saw forests and winding rivers.  They saw birds flying in the sky and animals walking on the face of the earth.  The earth was so beautiful.  There were flowers blooming everywhere, and the baby birds were hatching out of their eggs while their mothers and fathers sang joyous songs.  They saw many children running and laughing in the meadows, splashing in puddles and gathering dandelions and violets that they put in each others’ hair. 
The star child and the angel continued their journey and soon they came to a large city next to a big lake.  Here there were many people working and playing.  Among them the star child saw a kind man and a loving woman, and she felt something stir within her. 
“I would like to come here,” said the star child. 
“And so you shall,” said the angel, “But first you must rest.  While you rest, I will weave you a garment, for when you leave here, you must leave your heavenly garments behind.” 
Song:  Sleep my little star child,            Sleep the long night through,            While you sleep I will weave a             Garment of light for you. 
And so the child slept for many days and weeks and months.  When she woke up, the angel said, “Now it is time.  Put on the garment I have made for you.”The child put the garment on.  The angel led her to a bridge made of all the colors of the rainbow. 
The angel said, “Take courage.”And the child walked across the bridge. 
Song: In heaven shines a golden star,
An angel brought me from afar,From heaven high unto the earth,And brought me to my house of birth. 
And soon the child saw once more the kind man and the loving woman, and the woman held the child close to her heart.  The child looked into the loving faces of her father and mother, and heard them say, “We shall call her Grace, and she is the best gift of all.Song:Welcome, welcome lovely day,With flowers bright and sunshine gay,And painted birds who sing their songs,And make me kind and good and strong.And so, dear children, Grace came to join us on this earth, and we are so glad you are here.
If you understand the story, you will grasp that our children are heavenly beings that incarnated to (re)learn lessons and also teach us what we need to learn in this lifetime ourselves. If you believe in karma, then you're probably nodding your head.

You see, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was already searching for my truth, a parenting path that would go "beyond the norm" as I have questioned conventional lifestyle practices that didn't seem to fit my personal values. Looking back at how my choices have been, the data clearly shows an alternative route-- From my birth choices (c-section to home water birth!), to extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, opting for a Waldorf school, becoming a yoga teacher... even when we uprooted to live in Palawan for 2 that certainly took guts for me and my husband because many opposed us. People will always resist the unknown. But I have learned to stand for my quest for truth and embrace constant change.. because these changes, although uncomfortable, help you grow and evolve. Interestingly, a sense of rhythm also balances and grounds - a lesson my dear son brings to our lives today.

So, I thank my children for they have truly brought out the very best of me. Without them coming into my life, I would have made very different decisions and would certainly be a lesser version of me.

To my children - I know this love so well, it has indeed surpassed the bounds of time and space and will go on through eternity. Thank you again and again for choosing me to become your mother. I am honored and will rise up to the challenge of helping you both realize your life's mysteries. 

This is my personal story for Expo Mom's #TheMotherhoodJourney. Join the sisterhood of mothers expressing their unique journey with their children and get to win exciting prizes from Mommy Mundo sponsors. Find more details at their official page here. 

See you at the Expo Mom this weekend! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Belo Goes All Natural with Belo Baby!

My second job after college was in Marketing and PR for the Belo Medical Group. Back then, I already wished for all-natural products made because that really interested me. In fact, a few months after I became pregnant, I quit my job and then later on formulated an aromatherapy based, all-natural bath and body line with my friend, Denise Gonzales-Bernardo. We named the company INDIGOBaby (after our babies!). Little did I know that many years later, Belo too, would create a product line that would make me swoon!  Why did Cristalle Belo Henares (the daughter of Vicki Belo, the founder of Belo Medical Group) finally do it? Well, have you heard the big news? She's engaged and is about to marry later this year! I guess they've got foresight and see babies in the near future! You wouldn't want to place any harsh chemicals on your baby's skin, right?  Cristalle completely agrees, did her research and consulted with the dermatologists in the Belo team for which ingredients are best for babies' skin. Cocoa butter, Shea butter and Sweet Almond Oil are the top ingredients found in the Belo Baby products.

Congratulations on jumping on the bandwagon for the launch of Belo Baby, Stalle! And thanks for inviting me and my kids over. We had fun learning all about the certified natural ingredients used in all the Belo Baby products. I've been using them not just on my kids, but on myself too! My favorite? The 2-in-1 hair and baby wash. Why? Because it is so travel-friendly! I just used this during our recent trip to Palawan (find stories soon at :)

Find Belo Baby products at leading supermarkets and department stores near you. To know more information about their full line of products, visit

Friday, April 01, 2016

Women Gatherings at School Of Styling

I have lucked out! School of Styling founders, Indy and Em are within my mom entrepreneur circles so I get first news on their offerings! A few months back, I attended their intimate launch which featured a workshop on whimsical paper flowers.

I am forever curious about women (specifically mothers!) and their passions so I interviewed Em about SOS (School Of Styling):

Monica: Tell me why and how you started School of Styling? Maybe share your personal backgrounds and how you came together for this project.

Em: It is one of Indy's long time dreams. We were just talking about it one night. My core competencies are business development, developing businesses from ground up, business strategies, trouble shooting, sales and marketing, diversification and international business development. I was an expat for more than 10 years, lived in 13 different countries and was in senior positions for over 7 years. And Indy's core competencies are creatives and styling. So, we married both our strengths. There is a good fit and a very good working relationship between us. We trust each other. It was a natural progression.

School of Styling Philippines is not only for mothers though. Our target demographics reach far beyond motherhood. As seen in our previous workshops, we have kids as young as 5 year olds joining the workshops and grandmas. We have several fathers and single men who joined, too. 

Monica: Explain your work dynamics? Who does what between Indy and Em?

Em: Indy handles all the styling, sourcing, teaching and I handle everything else :) 

Monica: As mothers, how do you balance the time for family, work and extra curricular activities?

Em: Develop a strong support network. Indy has her own team and I have my own team. Both are highly efficient and reliable. If we want to do more things, we need to help and develop people and train them to do things the way we want it done. Sometimes we let them handle things also. You'll be surprised by how much one can accomplish when we allow people to help us.

Monica: If money was not an issue, what would you do for work? Share your deepest passions, please :)

Em: I would travel the world, get into fitness, get into more creative stuff like professional floral designs, photography and spend of course more time with family. I am already spending more time with them as compared to average Filipino moms. But, we are living in a real world where money is needed, and we need to work. I would also want to learn "usable" skills. When my husband and I lived in Africa, I wish I knew how to cut my own hair, do my own nails, know how to cook, know more about natural medicine.

Monica: What do you do for yourselves as  "mommy time out time"?

Em: The usual facial care, massage, mani+pedi, brow grooming, haircut, and reading a chapter from a book. When I get invited to events and the kids are not with me, I treat that as my "me-time" already. When they start going to school, I'd like to think I'll have more time to myself. If I'll spend and invest on "me-times", it would be travels :)

Monica: In your quotes and messages, you encourage people to love what they do or go for their dreams, how best do you think to do this for mothers who have a lot on their plates?

Em: Secure your finances first. Whether we like it or not, money plays a big part in our daily lives. I can do what I do because we have savings, we have steady income. In the absence of that, it'll be hard. I hate it when people say don't worry about money. Because it is not applicable to everyone. In my case, I spent many years in corporate world. I was an expat for over 10 years. I didn't love what I was doing. It was never my dream job. But it "equipped" me for the world I am moving in now. I can live in any country and start my own business or make my own money without looking for employment - and that's thanks to my previous job "that I never liked." Now I am pursuing many things, mostly related to my passion, and marrying it to my core competencies. But prior to that, it's all about training, exposure, experience, learning, equipping myself, learning, learning, learning. 

For mothers, it is not as easy, specially if they are the ones putting food on the table. But my advise is, if you really want to do what you love and go for your dreams, have a plan! Calculate your risks! Prepare for it. 

Monica: And lastly (because I love travel so much!), where would you dream of going with your families this summer and why.

Em: This summer, we are going to Vietnam. And probably US to attend an expo. It is not our dream destination, but we need to go there for business. If dream destinations, I would love to go to Bhutan, Peru, Mongolia :) I have a long bucket list. But this is my top 3.

The next School Of Styling workshop (happening today!) is pretty amaaazing. It seriously pains me like torture not to attend. Shall we clamor for a repeat performance?!

Do yourself a favor and sign up for a workshop or two or three this year! 

School of Styling Philippines

A Family That Eat Differently, Yet Stay Together

(OK, the Virgo Mommy Me is very much annoyed at that piece of tissue on the table but what can I do when I've got two famished kids hurrying me up so they can eat?! I don't have another decent photo of all our meals that day so this will have to do. Sorry folks for that mess! :P LOL)

This is what a typical family meal with the Manzanos look like. I ordered the Grilled Fish Fillet, my son the Classic Roast Chicken and my husband, the Grilled Steak. I wasn't able to capture my side order of Mandarin Salad because I ate it up before I could even photograph (Silly me, toink!) 

My daughter who is 2 years old pretty much has the same diet as I do. She doesn't have the consciousness to choose for herself just yet so I've got her on my (green) team. And I intend to keep her there for as long as I can, yay! On the contrary, my husband is a meat-eater and apparently, so is my son these days because (according to Waldorf Education) the formative years of 7-14 fall under the influence of the father more than the mother. Boohoohoo. Although I am on the opposite end of their diet spectrum, eating mostly plant-based dishes, I have chosen not to judge (believe me, this is hard) their food choices because I believe that we each have our own journey and karma to process. Perhaps my karma is being married to my husband, as he is married to me? Not necessarily a bad thing despite our differences.

They say, marry someone exactly like you. Well, I beg to differ. Opposites do attract because there are life lessons to learn from one another. If we all turned out to be the same kind of people, with the same values, views and attitudes, the world would be a very boring place to live in. So, I acknowledge that fact that we need variety and choices.

Kenny Rogers provides a wide range of food options for all kinds of food preferences. Did you know they have an awesome Mango Smoothie? It is absolutely perfect to cool you this summer! I'm craving for that right this instant. Yuuum.

Visit your nearest Kenny Rogers branch for your next family meal and see all the choices yourself :)

This is an advertised post. However, all opinions are truly of my own.


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