There are two kinds of plant collectors: one who collects them for the inherent aesthetic value they lend to their space, and another who believes in the practical air filtering abilities of plants. This is obviously a false dichotomy; there are people who collect plants for luck, too. And then there’s Bacolod-based artist Kris Ardeña. 

After living in the US, Madrid, Luxembourg, Germany (he speaks English, Filipino, Spanish, Cebuano, Ilonggo, and a few other languages), Ardeña currently shares a 200-sqm home/gallery/workshop with his band of creators, his paintings, and his plants.

“BTW, I don’t consider myself a collector of plants. I’m more for their emo aesthetic quality,” he opened our exchange over Instagram direct message. “The plants I have are common outdoor plants. (They) evoke more the psychology of familiarity.” Some of his favorites are begonias for their colors and variety; agave because it reminds him of the beach house he grew up in; and palms for the tropical feeling they evoke.

In his living room, shrubs, vines, and trees like ponytail palm can be found sitting on top of an elevated papag that mimics the setup of a nipa hut.

“I don’t consider myself a collector of plants. I’m more for their emo aesthetic quality… (They) evoke more the psychology of familiarity.”

The artist was quick to clarify, however, that his indoor garden was in no way triggered by the pandemic. “It was already planned before: the papag, the plants. Nature is inevitable in the rural tropics, so it becomes integral, but not something I necessarily seek.”

The papag he’s talking about is the Filipino version of a bed made with splintered bamboo panels and sometimes coco lumber legs. It can be laid with banig for sleeping. In Ardeña’s case, it’s an integral part of his studio setup, designed to mimic the elevated entrance to a nipa hut.

Occasionally the papag is a platform for his shrubs, vines and small trees (he has an indoor potted palm and a malunggay tree) in the living room—although there’s hardly any room to speak of. He tore down the walls to create an open plan, with space transformed depending on his needs; his bedroom, for example, is hardly a space for sleeping as it is an exhibition space and a backroom for his works. 

‘Why paint plants’

“The plants form part of what we do; it ties into the philosophy of how I create,” he said.

How does an artist like him work then?

For those who know his oeuvre, Ardeña is most recently known for his bigger than life paintings of the ubiquitous Filipino household object basahan, a floor rag woven out of scrap fabric.

Ardeña at the Tropical Future Institute’s booth at Art Fair Philippines 2020. Photo courtesy of Tropical Future Institute
“Elite Measuring Set”. Acrylic on woven PVC fiber, 2020. Photo courtesy of Tropical Future Institute

Before the lockdown, Manila’s art crowd got a glimpse of these six-foot-tall cracked tarpaulin paintings at Tropical Future Institute’s booth at Art Fair, where it was exhibited along with everyday Filipino objects like the pabitin, a suspended bamboo trellis with snacks hanging from it, which is a staple at children’s birthday parties and fiestas. 

A year before that, these “ghost paintings”—referring to the application of several layers of paint to a surface and allowing them to crack like the walls of tropical houses that humidity transforms from a once smooth surface to a textured one—were exhibited at the annual Art Dubai international art fair.

Ardeña at Art Dubai 2019

“It’s a material that’s readily available to me where I am right now,” Ardeña said of the basahan series in 2020. “It was just there and that’s why I use it. That’s the ingenuity of adaptive reuse. It’s not about recycling, it’s about the possibility of the material itself.” It was not to reproduce cultural symbols as new tropical aesthetics or even to evoke a feeling of nationalism. In the same interview about his Art Fair paintings, he was quoted as saying, “To claim a national identity as an artist is limiting and insular. My identity is more complex than that.”

Ardeña in his studio

Those paintings take time and lots of hands to make. For a 7×10-ft painting called “Macho Dancer,” it took Ardeña and his team eight months to fill the whole woven PVC fiber canvas with 2×2-cm squares of the basahan. His latest work, a 7×10-ft painting patterned after the Ilocano binakol weave, takes this exercise in patience to the extreme with 0.3 cm squares.

One of Ardeña’s apprentices Mark working on the binakol weaving pattern painting

To paint a leaf can be just as powerful as a whole discursive post-conceptual work full of information about…. I don’t know? the coronavirus, for example.”

The potted plants in his studio aren’t just for aesthetics but also for meditation. “You get lost here in time [as you work] because (the space) is calm and peaceful.”

As if to reinforce this thinking, he recently posted a self-interrogatory question on Instagram: “Why paint plants? Because it accumulates time.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCC9jK-BPlf/

To him, plants also serve a tangible purpose, as in he literally uses leaves among other plant parts as part of his work while drawing inspiration from them.

On his Instagram profile are a few works from banana leaf etchings like a skull drawn for leisure and a piece of green scribbles on a painted white canvas. “What do you do with leftover anahaw leaves?” he asked in one post. “Incorporate them in your painting.”

In another post, he shared an in situ of one of his cracked paintings pinned to a papaya tree growing in his neighborhood. The unsuspecting fruit-bearing trees are owned by his neighbor’s wife.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CK8Q-uJBc01/

His most recent post as of writing is a bunch of dried acacia leaves shaped like a cork, presumably related to a new work: a block covered in gumamela leaves.

But do not be fooled; his identity as an artist is more complex than plants. He’ll be the first one to point out that his work—even his earlier ones—is not wholly influenced by these living organisms. “I don’t like to work with specific themes in my work. Puff, how boring.

“I want to allow themes to be embodied in my work whether formally in the technique or in the material aspect, not necessarily within the thematic approach. To paint a leaf can be just as powerful as a whole discursive post-conceptual work full of information about…. I don’t know? the coronavirus, for example,” he said.

The social and anti-social uses of plants

It turns out he is also the second kind of plant collector I described previously. He hates air conditioning and in a way, the plants make the air circulate throughout his space, reducing the need for mechanical ventilation. In fact, his whole 200-sqm studio only uses three electric fans and consumes only P1,000-worth of electricity a month. He joked that his internet bill costs much more. Welcome to the Philippines, I said, where slow internet connection costs a fortune.

Among Ardeña’s favorite plant species are begonia, agave and palm.

Ardeña has been living in his open-plan space with its nine-foot ceiling, matte white walls (which make for a good test hang background as they absorb light), and a decent amount of natural lighting for two years now. But so far, he has enjoyed working with other painters whom he recruited from neighboring towns. “I like my crew. We hang out, drink together, barbecue on the rooftop. There are always cases of beer and wine in the studio.” 

There’s also his famous neighbor: a handicraft place called Artisana Island Crafts. It’s pretty legendary, he told me. “In the ’70s, José Joya, Ang Kiukok, and a bunch of other artists came to Bacolod to do ceramics there.” He said he likes to work there sometimes because the people are nice.

Plants are usually rearranged according to the artist’s needs. The main “studio”, pictured here, is populated with potted plants moved from other parts of the space.

He’s generally a sociable person. But on the flip side, one of the reasons he chose to reside in downtown Bacolod—200 km away from his hometown Dumaguete—is because of the anonymity it affords him as an outsider. “Because I am not from here, there’s no gossip, no s**t. I am left alone to work,” he said. “Pinoys love to gossip. I prefer to socially isolate especially from the art people here.”

(Other than that, Ardeña said he loves it there because “I always get energized by the creativity of what I see every day, the ingenuity and the driving force of people who may have very limited resources yet are able to make a thing of beauty.” He has an ongoing photo series called #BalayTropikal that catalogs Bacolod’s street views.)

In a sense, these plants are his company in days of isolation, while serving as a shield from watchful eyes. He dreams of living in a space surrounded by lush tropical vegetation “and far away from gossiping art people,” much like American architects Jacob and Mellisa Brillhart’s tropical modernist bungalow residence in Miami.

The papag setup in the living room featuring some of Ardeña’s plants and a furniture piecea rolled abaca stand—made by collaborator Bataan-based furniture designer Clark Mendoza

But hiding in his own man-made forest would be counterproductive, since some of his plants come from his neighbors, like the ternate (butterfly pea) and the pandanus (the big one used for weaving, not for cooking). He’s currently waiting for a 30-year-old coconut tree bonsai being grown by a friend who lives nearby. It’s expected to arrive around May or June.

“Once we get that in, then we develop the entrance papag setup. It would be crazy to bring that big coconut inside,” he said.

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we are drooling over or things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***

Quarantine may have gotten the best of some (or most) of us, but creative Samantha Nicole is taking things one step at a time. As a co-founder of the beloved queer safe space Today x Future, online radio broadcast service Manila Community Radio, events company UNKNWN, live experience organizer CC: Concepts and Poblacion watering-hole Futur:st—where she also serves as the events director for the last three concepts, with the added bonus of being Futur:st’s music director—Samantha never really runs out of things to do.

During the earlier days of the lockdown, she was kept busy by new projects and online events of her brands’ new projects. 

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole 1

“I [was] preoccupied doing online activations primarily for and with UNKNWN, Today x Future and Futur:st during the earlier part of lockdown. Then [I] started Manila Community Radio with some mates. Currently, relaunching Futur:st with partners has taken up a chunk of my time,” she says. 

Futur:st is currently gearing up for their latest show, “F.L.A.M.E.S.” featuring the work of Jeona Zoleta and Willar Matteo.

 

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It’s not all work for her, though.

“Reading, cooking, and learning to care for plants also helped me get through this clusterfuck. Pretty lucky I live with my wife and two dogs too!”

[READ: Being plantitos and plantitas is actually good for our mental health]

Aside from an enviable repertoire of projects (and an equally enviable domestic setup), her daily routine is something most of us wish we had. 

“I wake up as early as I can, anywhere between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. then hang around with the dogs. If I’m feeling there’s a bag of extra effort with me when I wake up, I exercise. Then I walk around and check out our plants, make some tea and get to work,” Samantha adds.

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole 2

“It’s mostly more random from there. Work calls, wife duties, online catch-ups in between, lunch in fluctuating hours, a light dinner, but definitely, a glass (or a bottle) of something alcoholic by the end of the day. A good show to binge, and eventually sleep. “Fleabag” and “[The] Queen’s Gambit” were revelations!” she continues. 

“Quarantine blues hit me hard pretty late,” she explains. “It’s only these past two months that my insides feel a lot wonkier, like how it is when you’ve been tricked into riding the Space Shuttle in Enchanted Kingdom for the first time, not knowing it’s going to flip over and you’ll need to swallow your vomit upside down.”

On the list of what’s been making her happy, literal things have been a lifesaver.

“I admit: I’m quite materialistic. I spend way too much on things that clutter up space but still spark joy. Some, more than others, are cradling me through this pandemic.”

 

Friend-lent and auction-won books

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole Books

“Books remain closest to me. Growing up, I was always happiest when my mom would drop me off at  Powerbooks, Alabang Town Center with some scrunched up thousand peso bills. More when it was my birthday. My shelf remains my refuge, my pride and what I show off every time we have guests over. 

I’m currently hooked on “The First Bad Man” by Miranda July. The book was lent to me by a dear friend, and it’s one I haven’t put down for consecutive days after a long time. (P.S.: Do watch her latest and ever the anti-ordinary film, “Kajillionaire”). Currently alternating this with Simone de Beauvoir’s “All Men Are Mortal,” a book I earned after zealously awaiting for an online auction to go live a couple of months back.”

 

Cooking for my sanity

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole knives

“I didn’t grow up cooking. In fact, I served my then-girlfriend, now-wife fried egg without salting it when I was 19. Thankfully, everything about this bit worked out—including discovering the joy of cooking.

I get kilig each time I use my knives. They’re the sexiest ones in the kitchen, next to the one I’m actually serving the meals to ;). They’ve been teaching me better skills, and I’m steadily earning their trust, albeit all the cuts and nicks my skin’s fashioning now. While I have you here, please remember to cut the roots of your coriander, place them in a jar with a bit of water and cover them with a plastic bag then store in the fridge. Coriander for dayssss.”

 

Wine, lots of it 

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole wine

“I’ve doubled—okay, tripled—my alcohol intake since this shitshow started. That’s a lot, even coming from someone who works in the events and nightlife industry. Wine in particular. Along the way, I’ve begun to appreciate them a lot more (on top of drinking them), and I am scared I am turning into a pretentious snob. There’s a thought process here: learn from your pleasures.

A very long way to go, but I’ve been learning more about wines. I’m a sponge and I accept healthy pours and spills. Just squeeze me a bit and I’m ready for absorption all over again.”

 

Futur:st

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole futurist

“We lost Today x Future last July, and it is still the tenderest spot I don’t want to get into right now, like this deep, soft wound that’s taking a long time to heal. Reopening Futur:st last October has definitely helped us cope with the loss. It feels like the space is breathing new air; we’re almost certainly hopeful we can keep this going for a longer time. 

The idea is creatives helping creatives, and frankly, I’m quite proud of this pivot. Also, I’m very thankful for the support we’ve been receiving.”

 

My dogs

What's Making Me Happy Samantha Nicole Calcifer and Stoya

“Meet my bosses: One named after a Studio Ghibli character, the other, after a porn star. Without these two, I feel like I would’ve completely lost it. 

There are days when you want to just curl up in bed, cover yourself from head to toe with a thick blanket, and let the day turn to night. All of a sudden, you feel a gentle, singular lick on your foot. You uncover your face and see these demanding eyes staring you down: ‘I need to eat my homemade chicken with virgin coconut oil, gluten-free tamari, and grated carrots.’ Depression can wait. A dog’s hunger? Never.”

***

For everyone mercilessly working themselves to near death, Samantha has a few words for you. 

“Go at your own pace, one thing at a time. I really should follow my own advice, considering how I am always too much of a restless workaholic multitasker. But really, this is one tip that I really hold on to and try to consciously remind myself of, whether it’s for work or pleasure,” she says. 

At the end of the day, what we’re all really waiting for is the end of this pandemic. Samantha’s post-pandemic plans are simple (and extremely relatable). 

“[I want to] get out of the city and stay somewhere far away for a long time!”

And to that, we wholeheartedly agree. 

 

 

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Read more:

What’s making this creative consultant happy? Handmade loafers and his new food business

What’s making this filmmaker happy? #latergram, sparkling tea and home scents that signal the end of day

What’s making this editor happy? Reading, rediscovering DVDs and offsetting screen time with vinyls

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we are drooling over or things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***

Even in isolation, there’s no such thing as idle time for Noel Manapat. Aside from being a creative consultant for clothing and retail conglomerate Suyen Corporation, Noel is a stylist who works on special projects and commissions for commercial shoots, designer shows and trade events.

Although the pandemic has changed the way the creative industry functions, he keeps his plate full with work and a variety of other things to do. 

But just like most of us, the great indoors was something Noel had gotten well acquainted with during quarantine—and for him, it was fairly fine. “I’m an introvert and isolation can sometimes be bliss. It is also bliss to shield yourself from negative thoughts and online noise. A good afternoon is a time spent browsing through books I haven’t read while listening to Chet Baker,” he says. 

 

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Don’t get him wrong though, because when asked what he wanted to do after the longest quarantine in the world is over, he says, “I’d like to hug all my loved ones, family and friends, and maybe a few lovely strangers?”

This huge yearning for human contact isn’t very surprising, though. After all, Noel took isolation very seriously during the nationwide lockdown’s beginning.

“For the first three months of the lockdown, I never ventured beyond our village gate. I live with my mother and we survived on online deliveries, from grocery supplies to frozen goods and electric water pumps to products made by family, friends and other lockdown entrepreneurs who needed support,” reveals Noel.

“A good afternoon is a time spent browsing through books I haven’t read while listening to Chet Baker.”

Noel himself put up a food venture in quarantine, one inspired by heirloom recipes and regional delicacies from his hometown in Pampanga.

“I unearthed old folders including a business plan I made more than a decade ago for a restaurant concept [called] Carmen and Consorcia Community Kitchen, named after my grandmothers,” says Noel.

It’s been five months now since he started running Carmen and Consorcia as an online shop. Although Noel says that he is “still on a learning curve,” he has successfully participated in multiple pop-ups with Katutubo Pop-up Market already.

 

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A post shared by carmen & consorcia (@carmenandconsorcia)


He also received offers to open physical stores and made some partnerships. But he considers among the main highlights of his venture his being able to “share Made in Pampanga and heritage delicacies to a wider market, including an 18th-century recipe that you cannot find anywhere else.”

[READ: She may be the last maker of this traditional Kapampangan pastry. Here’s how she does it]

Aside from Carmen and Consorcia, here are the things that have been keeping Noel’s hands full and providing him bliss while on lockdown.

 

Making his room’s floor look drama-worthy

wmmh noel manapat

Things as mundane as wiping room floors can bring therapeutic joy too, especially if you’ve got a very special motivation for it.

“Down on all fours, my goal is to have the floor as clean as the Thai BL [boys’ love] sets whose barefooted actors never get their feet dirty,” says Noel.

 

Going on a (strenuous but worthwhile) basket hunt online

wmmh noel manapat

“Bamboo, sea grass, or rattan? It’s both a frustrating and exhilarating exercise to look for everyday baskets. It has become much more convenient to import items from Vietnam, Thailand and China through online channels.”

Noel also cites the book “Philippine Basketry” by Robert Lane while talking about his latest affinity. Noting the product’s huge potential, he echoes Lane’s claim that “our basketry tradition is rich and can be a thriving minefield of treasures” if it were only easier to buy online.

 

Throwing a film festival—at home

“I have a cineaste friend who’s been sharing with me some beautiful films (“Burning” from Korea, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” from France and “Shoplifters” from Japan). It’s been my alternative to Netflix.”

 

Stepping up his footwear game

wmmh noel manapat

wmmh noel manapat

“I’ve found comfortable pairs of handmade loafers that I’ve been eyeing through Assembly Philippines, including some handmade Grenson’s and these Fratelli Rossetti pair that retails for P36,395, but were on sale for P3,500.  Still can’t believe how good a deal I got.”

 

Making scrumptious sandwiches with his shop’s products

wmmh noel manapat

“I’ve been having a bread moment lately, experimenting with our pantry staples. Some favorites: Paul Boulangerie’s big pandesal with my mother’s radish and carrot atchara and our own Carmen and Consorcia’s longganisa macao. I finish it off with some truffle mayo and mustard. 

Surprisingly good too: Paul Boulangerie’s brioche buns with Mamata’s cheese pimento and our Carmen and Consorcia’s pork embutido. It’s a joy to have on any afternoon.”

 

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Read more:

What’s making this filmmaker happy? #latergram, sparkling tea and home scents that signal the end of day

What’s making this editor happy? Reading, rediscovering DVDs and offsetting screen time with vinyls

What’s making this content creator happy? Vintage jewelry and card games sans small talk

Two weeks before the dreaded global interruption, Toqa, a local label by two Rhode Island School of Design alumni focused on tropical-appropriate garments made with deadstock fabric, unveiled what would be its new collection at Bellas Artes Outpost in Chino Roces Avenue. Gathered in a sea of dancing bodies were the brand’s band of creatives, including the filmmaker Jan Pineda. 

[READ: Fashion is political, according to the young designers of Toqa]

A day before the Luzon-wide lockdown was announced, he posted a selfie of him trying on one of the looks from Toqa’s collection. It was a “latergram,” one of the many he would post in the stretch of the world’s longest lockdown.

 

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In another post dated July 21, Jan can be seen lifting what looked like a big oval stone with one hand while sitting down. It’s from the same party. He captioned it “how I thought 2020 will be 😂.”

What followed, of course, none of us could have predicted. For him, it unfolded off-grid—Jan’s life off-Instagram. While he filled his feed with photos from better days (more latergrams), his work as Globe Studios’ manager resumed, shooting music videos (remotely and occasionally on set) for some of the country’s rising talents. 

He’s since moved houses and celebrated his birthday—another “milestone” (if you can call it that) he didn’t see coming having been born in the last month of the year. Who would have known we would still be in lockdown by now?

“This year tore me apart but [I’m] still thankful for many things,” he wrote on a post on his birthday days before this story came out. 

These “many things” include stuff he now lists here: “things that make the grind a little happier for me.”

 

Toqa Boulder bags

“Had to shoot music videos while Manila was under general community quarantine (GCQ) and these Toqa bags made carrying alcohol, masks and a clean pen easier. It’s perfect when you need to run around, fill up forms and sanitize constantly (also the bright cheerful color helps!)”

 

“semilucent” mixtape

“One of the music videos I worked on was for Paradise Rising, 88rising and Globe Telecom’s new music collective representing the next wave of artists from the Philippines. I got LSS working on the project. The mixtape is enjoyable to listen to during morning work. Also, #PinoyPride 🇵🇭.”

 

Home/workplace decor

“I recently moved to a bare apartment in the middle of the pandemic and wanted to decorate the place immediately for some work from home inspiration. Found this easy-to-use modern steel frame from Habitat to instantly fill the bare white wall. It now frames a poster I got from a trip.” 

 

Work brew

“Before sleeping, I make a batch of cold brew for the next day with this Hario cold brew maker (makes around four to five cups). On hectic days when I need some energy in the middle of the day, I just open the refrigerator. I usually put my cup on this cute stool from Nooke. I love it cause you can easily move it around the house and use it for something else.”

 

End of day-signaling home scents

“All day zoom calls and organizing can get pretty stressful (and almost without end lol) even extending up to late at night. As an audio-visual worker, I may have underestimated the power of the sense of smell (lol). Recently discovered these room scents from Aesop and Muji and they have helped me a lot to just draw the line when I should stop working. The scent helps send signals to my body that I need to relax for the day.”

 

Sparkling tea and some reading

“The weekends are good opportunities to catch-up on reading (and some drinking!). I love that this caffeinated sparkling tea I discovered from a trip, Mate Mate, is now available in Manila. It’s also good with alcohol—vodka, scotch or rum. 

And these are some books I haven’t been able to finish from the Aperture Foundation. I like drawing inspiration from photographic arts to some of my video work.”

 

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Read more:

What’s making this editor happy? Reading, rediscovering DVDs and offsetting screen time with vinyls

What’s making this freelance photographer happy? Sambal, #MicroPorn and constant self-education

What’s making this content creator happy? Vintage jewelry and card games sans small talk

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late, new-found hobbies, rediscovered pleasures—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***

Raymond Ang, digital publishing editor of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend lifestyle section, works from home in Manila—on New York time. A professional vampire of sorts, he works from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and catches up on sleep from 7 a.m. till 2 in the afternoon.

“What’s proven effective about this schedule is I get all the leisurely activities out of the way before work starts. I’ve found that I actually focus better this way,” the former CNN Philippines Life co-founder and publisher said.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Seven hours of sleep and seven hours of leisure. 

In between work and rest, Raymond spends the afternoon till dinner with his family or by himself in the company of books, archival magazines (including a rare copy of Vanity Fair with Princess Di on the cover), vinyl records and “really carb-y merienda” he shares with his lola, homemade pastries captured basking in golden sunlight on a woven Halohalo sofa for his Instagram stories.

Rare copies of vintage magazines that Raymond unearthed by “digging” from antique shops, garage sales and Instagram shops

“I just read ‘A Little Life’ a few months ago.” He is, of course, referring to Hanya Yanagihara’s 700-page bildungsroman. “We’ve had the copy for years and I just put it off forever kasi ang haba. You know what’s crazy? It took me like a week! Quarantine kasi. Wala magawa.”

[READ: To all the books we haven’t read, yet are already on our bookshelves]

“Walang magawa,” however, may be an understatement for the ever-busy Raymond. Apart from being the digital publishing editor and contributing editor for WSJ publications, he is also pursuing personal projects with friends in quarantine. He is one of the founders of boutique consultancy firm Milk Man Marketing along with writer Martin Yambao and stylist MJ Benitez.

“Being part of that archipelago also means being aware of what’s happening outside your bubble, the different communities that might be having a harder time than you, and figuring out how you can help.”

When he does have time to himself, how does Raymond spend it? Here, he lists some of the things that are keeping him occupied while making his time in isolation a little lighter.

A jacket that reminds me of adventure

“I’ve always loved this safari jacket I bought from Eairth eight years ago. It was my go-to article of clothing in my early 20s (when I frequented Rocket Room and Hotdog at Aracama—an era). As I got older and started going to meetings that called for more formal clothing, I retired it from heavy rotation and it became my travel jacket.

I’ve been through a lot with this jacket and using it in quarantine, as a chore coat for my workday, it’s become a reminder of adventures past, the world out there, and the hope of future thrills.”

Rediscovering DVDs

“I’m a streaming junkie like everyone but even the bottomless libraries of Netflix, HBO Max and Criterion have their limits. A lot of classics still aren’t on streaming and a lot of times, the easiest option is still home video. Reunited with my DVD collection at home, I’m rewatching favorites by Almodovar and exploring the filmographies of Asian filmmakers like Yasujirō Ozu and Stanley Kwan.”

Life-saving cold brew

“I flew back to Manila early this year and have been riding out the pandemic with family. I’m still working remote and on New York time though—vampire hours, basically. And in the last few months, cold brew has been a real godsend.

I’ve been enjoying ordering from all the neighborhood cafes close to my heart, from The Den in Escolta to The Curator in Legaspi to Type A in Pasig. Those places have always been there for me—a lot of articles and presentations were crammed in those WiFi-powered havens—so in a time like this, I’m trying to be there for them, too. In a city like Manila, coffee shops are some of our limited options for “third places.” 

A few years ago, a friend gave me this Starbucks collab with a pre-Entireworld Scott Sternberg (Band of Outsiders era). Honestly never used it until this year—I guess I was always taking my coffee to go or in cafes? It’s been a nice companion for long hours of largely solitary work.”

My first Baldwin fiction

“Prior to the pandemic, I’d only read James Baldwin’s essays. I never really had the urge to read his fiction until I encountered a Hilton Als essay on his 1956 queer classic “Giovanni’s Room.” This was kind of the perfect time to read it. Set in Paris, it was a beautifully transportive, heartbreaking read.”

[READ: Local queer literature to add to your reading list]

Eye-saving vinyl records

“Like everyone, my screen time has definitely increased in quarantine. I try to make it a point to give my eyes a break every once in a while but I honestly have trouble keeping my eyes off my phone. It’s terrible.

Listening to vinyl records has been a great solution. A real salve from the screens. And I’ve really enjoyed doing this with my lola. We listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Basil Valdez and once, even The National’s “Boxer” over merienda.”

[READ: This 15-seater bar has over 9,000 vinyl records]

Books on local culture

“Some quarantine purchases: John L. Silva’s “A Token of Our Friendship,” Marian Pastor Roces’ “Gathering: Political Writing on Art and Culture” and “Poster/ity: 50 Years of Art & Culture at the CCP,” the book that accompanied the CCP exhibit (that) the Artbooks.ph co-founder Ringo Bunoan co-curated. “Poster/ity” is a great reminder that #aesthetic existed in the Philippines before Instagram and the Internet, “A Token of Our Friendship” beautifully documents our queer history, and “Gathering: Political Writing on Art and Culture” is an essential read for anyone interested in the local cultural industries. 

[READ: CCP’s 12-volume encyclopedia of Philippine art history and culture is now online]
Nolisoli.ph: Can you share some tips on making the best of your time in isolation, whether for work, leisure, personal time, etc.?

Raymond Ang: While we’re all little islands right now, it’s good to remember that we’re part of an archipelago, a community. That can mean reconnecting with friends and taking this opportunity to strengthen our different relationships.

But being part of that archipelago also means being aware of what’s happening outside your bubble, the different communities that might be having a harder time than you, and figuring out how you can help. 

[READ: LIST: Donation drives for #UlyssesPH relief]
Nolisoli.ph: What is something you can’t wait to do once we get out of quarantine?

Raymond Ang: Hard to think of just one thing! I’d love to get dinner in a nice, crowded restaurant, watch a movie in a packed theater, read a book in a cafe and explore the world again without fear. 

Raymond’s portrait photo by JL Javier

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Read more:

What’s making this content creator happy? Vintage jewelry and card games sans small talk

What’s making this freelance photographer happy? Sambal, #MicroPorn and constant self-education

What’s making this ceramic artist happy? Edible and decorative bread lamps and rest as a radical act

Although running her own business keeps her busy during the week, entrepreneur and content creator Mari Jasmine is finding ways to be more mindful as soon as she clocks out of work for the day. “This could be anything from taking a walk and leaving my phone at home, to playing the piano more often, or using my gua sha (which can be quite meditative),” she explained.

Before her workday starts, Mari takes time to enjoy a cup of tea and do journaling and meditating before organizing her workspace. To wind down, she turns off her notifications, dims the lights and uses her diffusers and essential oils.

“It also really helps when I break up my workday by leaving my desk and moving around for a while,” she added. 

Beyond practicing mindfulness, here are other things helping Mari get through quarantine:

 

Munimuni and Himaya’s “Patungo” collection

 

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A post shared by Mari Jasmine (@marijasmine)

“I can’t get enough of these beautiful pieces from Munimuni that have been dyed with pigments extracted from natural sources, such as mango leaves, indigo, and talisay leaves. When I wear them out I feel like I have a piece of the Philippines with me.”

[READ: These sandals’ straps are not only made with retaso fabric, they are also naturally dyed]

 

Nooke’s The Wave Shelf

 

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“I’ve been eyeing this wave shelf from Nooke for a while now. I often daydream about how I’ll do up my living space when I’m back in Manila.”

 

Vintage jewelry from Souvenir

 

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A post shared by Souvenir Vintage (@sou.ve.nir)

“I love browsing through Souvenir, an online store with vintage jewelry sourced from around the world. Sam Potenciano (stylist and founder of Souvenir) finds unique pieces that she curates thoughtfully and photographs herself. Their lookbooks are just as beautiful as the jewelry and are shot by Sam’s husband, Ralph Mendoza.”

 

Bad Student risograph prints

 

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“I love Bad Student’s risograph prints, this one’s designed by Felize Camille. Also offered are online workshops so keep an eye out to join the next session!”

[READ: Typhoon Ulysses has destroyed the Philippines’ only Risograph studio]

 

We’re Not Really Strangers card game

 

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A post shared by Mari Jasmine (@marijasmine)

“I’ve been playing We’re Not Really Strangers, a game that inspires meaningful connection. Great for skipping the small talk with new friends or for digging deeper with loved ones. I’ve played this game both in person and remotely, and it’s inspired some interesting conversations to say the least.”

 

While staying home and social distancing are still important, Mari strives to make time for friends and loved ones. “I try my best to be present from afar, whether it’s through calls, organizing activities (watching films with friends remotely or playing a card game on Facetime) and sending small gifts as a gesture to say—I’m thinking of you.”

In a post-pandemic world, one of the first things she’s looking forward to is hugging her friends.

 

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Read more:

What’s making this freelance photographer happy? Sambal, #MicroPorn and constant self-education

What’s making this ceramic artist happy? Edible and decorative bread lamps and rest as a radical act

What’s making this luxury brand manager happy? Online jazz classes and a collection of ceramic corn

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we are drooling over or things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***


It’s a tough time to be a creative these days, but freelance photographer Colin Dancel is keeping herself busy. Apart from (safely) taking on new projects and reading, learning has become part of her quarantine routine. 

“I have just been reading a lot and taking up different classes online. I currently have two ongoing classes (General Assembly Singapore has free classes every Friday, btw)!” Colin says. 

As a freelance photographer, Colin’s schedule depends on the projects she takes on. Aside from working with brands (she currently has two ongoing projects that she’s absolutely excited about), she’s also stretching her creative muscles by starting personal projects.

“I have a couple of personal projects I am trying to work on, a series and a play on images and motion about the monotony and exploration of love (or the lack of). Sounds cheesy but I’m just trying to put all my feelings into good use!” she adds. 

Here’s a collection of things keeping Colin’s spirits high this quarantine: 

 

Working on personal projects 

“[On the list of things that’s making me happy is] allowing myself to create and question things I have known and translate (them) to visuals and sometimes, words.”

 

‘So the wind takes it’ 

“I know, for a fact, that if I shout something, the wind takes it and brings it where it’s supposed to be. This series is my form of deboning a chicken, like Tita Bernie’s client. [Context] (It’s) my way of release and finding my center.” 

 

On objects and growing up 

“This is inspired by Zea Marfori’s ‘Strange Intimacies’ in which she explored our relationship with material things. Having read this, I am learning that, in a sense, material things are indicators of who we have become, who we are and who we can be. That is something I am learning more about especially in these times we are in. To know when you have enough, to consume intently and mindfully.”

 

“Forms of Grief

“[This represents] grief as a companion of love and life. I don’t see one without the other. Someone I love is always leaving or dying (lol) that I have grown to marry these two concepts. To love is to grieve and to grieve is to love.”

 

The launch of Lek-cha; sambal

WMMH Colin Dancel Lek Cha Sambal nolisoliph

WMMH Colin Dancel Lek Cha Sambal nolisoliph

“Shoutout to my Kuya Kelvin who trusted me to be part of this amazing thing he made! I came into this project with fresh eyes and as soon as I learned how versatile a sambal can be, I knew that (this) should be our narrative. It can be anything to anyone and so we are working with different people from different backgrounds to come up with something, to play around. Food is something we can all meet halfway on, something that we can all enjoy together despite our backgrounds and differences.”

 

#MicroPorn

 

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“It’s so humbling to be reminded of the fact that we are humans. We do not know everything, we do not see everything and we are most definitely not alone in this universe. That is what microscopic images remind me of, our humanness.”

 

Constant self-education

“I am not at all an expert, I am learning constantly. I know that we can always use our voices to amplify those who need to be heard, those voices that are far greater than my own. With that, I’d like to bring forward these videos, talks, and articles that personally opened me up to the vulnerabilities of this life that we live, and our capacity to change the systems we are in. I strongly feel that all of us should read, watch and put more light on these especially in (these) times we are in.”

Why Philippines has so many teen moms by NPR

iWitness: Ang Iskul kong Bakwit

“To support that, this is an article with a breakdown of what has been happening through the years.”

And a Half’s Social Problems are Design Problems

 

When asked about how she’s making the most of her time in isolation, Colin reflects on her privilege and answers very candidly, “To be completely honest, I don’t know. I think this is something I’ve had trouble with because it’s such a privilege to be ‘making the most out of the quarantine’. But you know, just like each and everyone, I try. I think that’s the best thing we can all do and we are all doing: try. Try harder some days. Some days just tr-” 

And we lost her.

As for her plans in a post-pandemic world, travel is definitely on Colin’s itinerary. 

“I was planning to stay in La Union for a bit before the pandemic happened so most probably that or any place, really. Crossing my fingers for someplace farther. I need your help manifesting it, guys!”

So it was written, so it shall be.

 

 

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Read more:

What’s making entrepreneur Tricia Gosingtian happy? Breastfeeding-friendly pambahay and Final Fantasy 7

What’s making this luxury brand manager happy? Online jazz classes and a collection of ceramic corn

What’s making this ceramic artist happy? Edible and decorative bread lamps and rest as a radical act

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we are drooling over or things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***

Aly Kangleon writes “iyakin trying her best” in her Instagram bio @manibalang. That just might be the most accurate description of herself since the onset of quarantine. 

“My anxiety got worse during the pandemic so life in quarantine has been all about focusing on things I can control, which is unfortunately how I justify throwing myself into every possible distraction,” she confesses.

 

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During the first few months of being restricted within the four corners of her home, the ceramic artist spent most of her time virtually connecting with people. She has tried almost every form of virtual socialization, from online fundraising activities and dance parties to cook outs and, of course, iyakan and “bardagulan” with her friends.

On days when she’s not in touch with the human world, she can instead be found watching anime and Korean dramas, binging “Avatar: The Last Airbender” for the nth time and attempting to pick up the countless projects she had shelved in the past.

aly kangleon
Photo from Guia Peralta

“I have found my reading rhythm again, which is a relief! It also signaled the return of my capacity for things beyond mind-numbing activities so I’m making ceramics again,” says Aly.

“I sometimes forget how much healing I get from working with clay, and now quarantine has become a million times more bearable for me because I actually love what I do.” 

I recently took in orders to raise funds for #UlyssesPH relief so I’ve got my work cut out for me for the next few months! Hobby ko mag-overcommit to things when I’m emotional, she adds.

The ceramicist says nabuang na talaga ako” at the combined problems of the pandemic and the government’s weak disaster response, pushing her to start the fundraiser. I’ve been trying not to take orders and hopefully achieve the fabled work-life balance […but] here we are,” she adds.

Outside of ceramics, Aly has been pursuing interests like trying to befriend the neighborhood cats, cooking, exploring new ways to be annoying to her ternate plant and reading manically (especially when a work deadline approaches).

Aside from these projects and interests, here are Aly’s other tangible sources of joy while on lockdown.

 

Edible and low-maintenance flowers

aly kangleon

Aly admits that she’s the type who can “barely keep plants alive,” so finding out that the ternate plant, also known as butterfly peaflower, can thrive on its own was a happy discovery.  “The flowers are edible and you best believe they make an appearance in almost everything I consume,” she says.

 

Nude sketching sessions

aly kangleon

“Nude sketching sessions with Sunday Nudes are always my favorite Sundays.”

Established in 2017, Sunday Nudes is a Quezon City-based nude sketching community. During quarantine, they have been offering online sessions whose details you can view on their official social media pages.

 

A huge pile of books for healing purposes

“I rely heavily on reading to feel something,” notes Aly as she shares a snapshot of her reading list, which includes titles from American author Celeste Ng and Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen.

 

Croissants that are *chef’s kiss*

aly kangleon

“Inhaling bread is my sport of choice. I love Butterboy’s croissants. [They’re] so perfectly flaky and buttery. [I’m also] obsessed with how not-sweet The Daily Knead’s chocolate brioche babka is.”

 

Bread-shaped lamp shades

aly kangleon

“I also enjoy my bread… as lamps. Japanese brand Pampshade makes them with real bread—and they do custom orders! BRB, ipon ako for a pan de regla bread lamp.”

***

“Personally, I am making the best of my time by allowing myself to chill out,” says Aly. She also says that realizing she didn’t really need to work herself to the brink of dying from exhaustion is “one positive thing that blossomed from life in quarantine.”

“Work-life balance? I don’t know her,” she jokes.

Aly looks back to that day in October 2019, when she fainted from sheer exhaustion. Despite a trip to the hospital, she still went to Carly Rae Jepsen’s concert on the same day (“no ragrets”) and got coffee on her way home “because I STILL had to work.”

Currently, she hopes people would view “rest as a radical act” and surviving each day as “accomplishment enough” while in quarantine. But as someone who knows how essential it is to stay on the grind to come up with a livable situation (“How can one rest if working three jobs barely allows you to survive?”), Aly recognizes that having the option to rest is a privilege in itself. 

“I am only afforded this option because of privilege. I know I overwork myself to earn a living, but being in a better financial situation now is honestly what gives me permission to slow down,” she says.

Adds Aly: “If you’re reading this and you’re in a position of power, please pay your employees a livable wage!”

 

Header photos from Delightful Little Darlings and Aly Kangleon

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Read more:

What’s making this luxury brand manager happy? Online jazz classes and a collection of ceramic corn

What’s making entrepreneur Tricia Gosingtian happy? Breastfeeding-friendly pambahay and Final Fantasy 7

What’s making this photographer happy? A multi-step skin regimen and no-Netflix quarantine

“What’s making us happy” is our weekly list of things we are drooling over or things we bought by impulse or purposefully as of late—anything to distract us from this gloomy quarantine and maddening real world

***

For Elaine Domingo, days in quarantine have been filled with opportunities for self-improvement and different forms of art. Her mornings are spent on a 30-minute exercise routine, while her nights are filled with new shows and music, or sometimes a few drinks.

Her work as brand manager of Japanese avant garde brand Comme des Garçons and streetwear store Hoodwink has “chugged along,” although it’s been “recalibrated so that we get to spend more time at home.” The shift to a work-from-home setup has allowed her to explore new hobbies, which include “listening intently to records, actually finishing books, lighting up previously un-lived parts of the house.

“I have also learned to read myself using a deck of cards,” she says.

Between work and hobbies, she makes sure to spend time with her loved ones through “kisses for me boys” and a playful romp with “lolo-puppy” Pierre.

Aside from savoring their companionship, she’s also been holding onto a few small joys to brighten up the lockdown. 

 

A family portrait by Jacklyn Zapatos

“One of the things that made me happy in isolation was this family portrait by @dolldalitas.”

 

Team Dance Studio jazz classes

“Online jazz classes held by Team Dance Studio moved and grooved me out of societal funk midway ECQ! I learned Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” in one afternoon. I couldn’t believe it!” 

 

Wildflower Finds and Glorious Dias dasters

“As in most cases, quarantine had me caring better for my home. And my dasters. I grew my collection with the help of my electric amigas’ shops—Wildflower Finds and Glorious Dias.”

 

Corn stoneware from Eres Bellé Ceramics, Cura Cura PH and Happy Finds MNL

“Guilty of having done my fair share of “mining” in ceramic/stoneware kwebas, I’ve also started growing a Mais Minindal Set for no good reason,” she adds.

 

Filipiniana cassettes from Victorious Secret HQ

“A monthly record vinyl “pasabuy” was salvation initiated by my good friends with questionable habits. My cherished quarantunes, however, are from this set of Filipiniana cassettes from Victorious Secret HQ,” says Domingo.

 

Pinoy Practical Magic tarot deck

“Lastly (and most unexpectedly), I have this Pinoy pop culture tarot deck by Practical Magic. A friend had shared this for the artista imagery, but it got me tapping into my benign balasadora (card shuffler) fantasies.”

[READ: Filipino tarot cards exist but instead of illustrations, it has Nora Aunor and other ’70s celebs on it]

While Elaine has been holding on to these small joys during quarantine, she’s still looking forward to spontaneous experiences once we’re back to a quarantine-free world. 

She lists down a few: “Swim in open waters, sleep under a tree. Do some impromptu pasyal (trips). Merienda amongst strangers. Hide out in small cinemas. Embrace friends and family.”

 

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Read more:

What’s making entrepreneur Tricia Gosingtian happy? Breastfeeding-friendly pambahay and Final Fantasy 7

What’s making this photographer happy? A multi-step skin regimen and no-Netflix quarantine

What’s making me happy: Upcycling clothes, cooking and jelly gouache painting