My Favorite Museums

One of my non-negotiables when traveling is visiting museums. Most of the people I’ve traveled with know this—it’s been an essential part of my itinerary ever since I started to venture out into exploring new places.

I still remember my first museum visit in Musee de Louvre 5 years ago. I had initially wanted to go to the Louvre (who wouldn’t?!), but we were on a tight schedule (tour problems tbh). Luckily, some of our tourmates wanted to go as well, so my sister and I tagged along with their family. The lines were long and we waited three hours in the cold to get in; coincidentally, I brought out a tiny journal and started drawing. That was also the first time I discovered my love for documenting my trips.

Above: my first ever travel journal spreads, 2013.

Anyway, back to the Louvre. Apart from seeing the famed Mona Lisa (which was small…and surrounded by so many tourists), I had goosebumps the whole time as I walked in the halls and saw different forms of art. We didn’t explore all floors but I managed to revisit in 2015, and I fangirled seeing a Monet painting on the third floor, among other things.

In the years that followed, I have associated my liking for art as I spent more time reading up on artists and people I generally look up to: Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Juan Luna, Andy Warhol, etc. And because of this, I promised myself that I would be able to see their work in person someday. So far, I have seen most of them—but I’d like to see more and immerse myself further in the world of art.

Here’s a list of museums I’ve visited so far all over the world, which have become my favorites. A disclaimer though, I have criteria that I weigh in apart from the art collections per museum—such as location, architecture, and museum shop (lol #priorities). I also rounded up a list of museums I want to visit in the coming years…and months. If you find something that piques your interest, maybe you can add it to your list as well. Enjoy!

National Gallery of Singapore

Location: Singapore | http://www.nationalgallery.sg/

By default, NGS has been a staple because it’s the nearest one from Manila. Lol. Apart from that, I’ve always loved its architecture both inside and out. Also going to say their museum shop is a trap—lots of books and tastefully curated merch for you to hoard! There are also restaurants and a cafe inside the building, and the location is relatively near Raffles City (mall), beside City Hall MRT.

This museum just opened three years ago, but the variety of exhibitions here are amazing. I was able to see Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (June 2017) and Century of Light (February 2018). Their permanent collection features Southeast Asian art (also works by Filipino artists) and do check out their ongoing exhibitions. They change every few months!

Also: get a glimpse inside the exhibitions I was able to see inside NGS below.

ArtScience Museum

Location: Singapore | https://www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html

The ArtScience museum is a visual treat for both art and science lovers. As someone who is generally fascinated with all things art (by default) and science (particularly Physics and things about the universe), I loved the Future World exhibition. The architecture of ArtScience museum is shaped like a flower of sorts, and as you head to the escalator, you’ll see a display of sketches and behind the scenes of the museum’s construction (obvs I geeked out…photo below).

Catch their ongoing temporary and permanent exhibitions and be immersed in the different installations inside the museum. Loved the surrounding walls full of quotes on art and science!

Museum of Modern Art

Location: Manhattan, New York | https://www.moma.org

One of the most famous museums in the world—and for good reason. I was ecstatic entering the MoMA, partly because I am well-aware that the selection of paintings here are by my favorites. How does it feel walking into a room filled with works by Dali, Basquiat, Warhol, Kahlo, and Richtenstein, among others? Quite overwhelming, really. Not to mention a huge Waterlilies painting by Monet and a crowd favorite, Starry Night by Van Gogh welcoming you into one of the halls. My personal favorite was a special gallery dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect responsible for the beautiful Guggenheim Museum.

Cross to the other side for the standalone MoMA store if you’re looking for unique items to take home. The MoMA store inside is pretty impressive too; I got a MoMA Highlights book as a souvenir (also a reason to read up more on modern art).

Whitney Museum of American Art

Location: Manhattan, New York | https://whitney.org/

I met up with my book editors on a weekday, and after lunch we went to the Whitney. Newly relocated at the end of the High Line, this museum is definitely hard to miss with its beautiful white architecture.

Featuring a selection of American art, there’s something worth seeing on every floor of the Whitney. Don’t miss the view on the top floor overlooking NYC, and get yourself some exclusive merch at the ground floor before leaving! Also, go up the High Line and spend some time exploring the area—Chelsea Market is right around the corner.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Location: Washington, DC | https://airandspace.si.edu/

First thing’s first, this museum has no entrance fee! But what drew me in more is the fact that it’s all about air and space—two things I love fondly. Airplanes and flights have always been special to me because I love traveling, and inside the museum is an in-depth look into the history of flight (from the Wright Brothers to Amelia Earhart to the different wars encompassing this period) and everything about space (and the concept of time). The interiors are reminiscent of being in a space facility, and the real remnants of airplane models are displayed are part of the museum’s interiors.

Also: my ephemera-loving self was so happy to see vintage packaging, posters, and a series of design work from airlines and different facets of air and space. Spent only an hour here (huhu) but I’ve already bookmarked this museum on my next trip to DC this September! I think I need a full day to see everything inside. #geekmode

Musee de Louvre

Location: Paris, France | https://www.louvre.fr/en

Housing a beautiful (and extensive) collection of European art from different time periods, the Louvre is a go-to museum for people visiting Paris. The highlight is of course, seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa amidst a crowd (because it’s always packed in that area) of visitors. Personally though, I found the other paintings more significant than the Mona Lisa.

Don’t miss the iconic triangular structure outside the Louvre, as well as the stores inside the building. There’s also a food court in case you go hungry. I forgot where exactly we commuted but the Metro isn’t far from the Louvre (and if you can, come early on a weekday!).

National Museum

Location: Manila, Philippines | www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/

The first thing you’ll find as you enter the National Museum is the Spoliarium by national artist Juan Luna—a sight to see with its enormous size filling the room. In the different galleries are artworks, sculptures, and paintings by Filipino artists—all talented and amazing. Look for Fernando Amorsolo’s workspace which showcases his tools of the trade!

Also: Don’t miss the new wing of the National Museum! I haven’t seen it yet but I hope to visit again soon.

The National Art Center

Location: Tokyo, Japan | www.nact.jp/english/

One of my favorite modern architecture buildings! The National Art Center in Roppongi Hills is a visual treat—check their calendar for exhibitions before going. I got to see Yayoi Kusama’s My Eternal Soul (April 2017) in the NAC and it was such a memorable experience.

That’s it for my current roundup. Which ones did you add to your bucket list? 🙂

I feel like one of my life’s missions is to get to visit as many museums as I can, and take in all the beautiful art. I have an ongoing list, which I hope to complete (half???) this year. (Below)

Europe

  • Neue Pinakothek (Munich, Germany)
  • Buchstabenmuseum (Berlin, Germany)
  • Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung studies (Berlin, Germany)
  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain)
  • Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France)

USA

  • Guggenheim Museum (Manhattan, New York)
  • New York Transit Museum (Manhattan, New York)
  • MoMA PS1 (Queens, New York)
  • Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Museum of Science & Industry (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Smithsonian National Postal Museum (Washington, DC)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, DC)
  • Newseum (Washington, DC)
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum & Renwich Gallery (Washington, DC)

Tokyo, Japan: Art, Books, Culture, & Coffee

True story: I was initially planning to write an “Art and Stationery Shopping in Tokyo” roundup for the blog, but instead, as I browsed for photos to include in this post, I found myself having more on my list that I wanted to share. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve been to Tokyo, but every time I visit, I always discover new places to check out.

If you’ve been following my blog for a long time, you might have encountered my Art Hoarding in Tokyo post a few years back. Now that I’ve explored more places in the same city, thought I’d share some of my recent discoveries in case you’re planning to visit this place soon.

ART MATERIALS & BOOKS

Sekaido

Nearest station: Shinjuku

My go-to art store in Tokyo. If you’re looking for the full selection of art materials in Japan, this is the place to be. A full floor dedicated to paper and another dedicated to paint? Yes please! Not to mention the very tempting GF full of washi tapes, postcards, and stationery.

(My haul this 2018: a few brushes and this Acryla Gouache Mixing Colors set for only 1500JPY. Good buy!)

Itoya

Nearest station: Ginza

For all things paper, Itoya is your best bet. I always drop by here after shopping at GU and Uniqlo nearby (same street) and it’s amazing to see the different display of tools and stationery available (in twelve floors!).

The best floor for me is the “Fine Paper” floor where your OC self will probably be satisfied—rows of paper samples organized by color scheme! You take a sample and purchase it based on what you need (or want? lol). Different sizes are available for purchase at the Fine Paper floor, so choose wisely.

STICKER PARTY, OMG.

Pro tip: the back of Itoya is an art store called G.Itoya which houses six floors of art materials, pens, and paint. So if you want to do art & stationery shopping in just one area, I recommended going to Ginza. Plus, the whole stretch is filled with designer brands—in case you’re looking into doing some shopping as well.

Daikanyama T-Site (Tsutaya Books)

Nearest station: Daikanyama

Two words: book heaven! Most bookstores in Japan don’t carry a lot of English titles, so T-site is like Disneyland to me—I spend hours browsing through books and magazines (love the selection here!) before deciding which new book to take home. This is also where I get rare titles that don’t make its way to Manila or Singapore.

Plus points for the beautiful architecture and very IG-worthy restroom at the second floor. You’re welcome.

Also, if you feel like introverting before or after book shopping, there’s a FamilyMart inside T-site for your snacking fix.

Kinokuniya

Nearest station: Shinjuku (English books on 7F)

Shinjuku is relatively a big ward, and you’ll find this Kinokuniya branch situated in front of Uniqlo & BIC camera. The books here are a lot, but you’ll only find English titles on the 7F (aka where I shop mostly). There is a good selection of art & design books (but there’s more at T-site), as well as instructional drawing books (of course, I got one) and stationery.

Book Town

Nearest station: Jimbocho

Not really a bookstore per se, but I got to explore this pretty quiet neighborhood with my cousin and fellow artist Val, who’s heard good things about the place. When you get out of Jimbocho station, you’ll find bookstores selling old and used Japanese/Chinese books, as well as a selection of small-scale school supplies stores. This area is where most businessmen reside so it wasn’t as touristy—something you can check out on your next visit to Tokyo.

Also: there’s a paper shop nearby (forgot the name!) and a coffee shop called Glitch (they have the best drip coffee!). Don’t forget to check out those too.

STATIONERY & LIFESTYLE GOODS

Tokyu Hands

Nearest station: Shinjuku or Shibuya (both big branches) 

This place—I always keep coming back! Containing a hodge podge of stationery, beauty and lifestyle goods, you’ll never get out empty-handed here (unless your self-control levels are strong). I’ve been to both Shinjuku and Shibuya branches and they have a complete selection of things you might need: travel goods, bags, kitchenware, homeware, stationery, makeup and skincare, art materials, etc. Oh also, I visited the Shinjuku branch recently and they had a science section. So cool!

*To add: I also regularly go to Daiso and Seria (both 100YEN stores) for cheaper but equally cute stationery and Don Quijote (THIS!) for snacks, gifts, skincare, and makeup.

Traveler’s Factory

Nearest station: Nakameguro (main) / Tokyo (inside the station) / Narita Express (Terminal 1)

This is basically me in store form. I’ve concluded that the minute I stepped in the Narita branch in Terminal 1, but I’ve justified it more when I finally got to check out the flagship store in Nakameguro. It’s tucked in a residential neighborhood but you cannot miss that tiny journal icon and “Traveler’s Factory” sign if you’re a stationery fan like me. Two floors of journals, notebooks, travel goods and ephemera—it’s the best kind of retail therapy! There are also limited edition journals that you’ll only find in Japan, such as their colored journal refills (which I got in all colors: teal, red, and yellow) and Japan-themed covers.

Plus: If you’re short on time and looking to just visit one branch, I recommend the Tokyo station branch (at least while commuting) or Narita airport branch (just come to the airport earlier than your flight). Each location houses limited edition merchandise though, so it’s best to go to all if you want to check them out. I got myself lots of baggage stickers which were only available at the Narita branch. So, my tip? Go to all. LOL.

LoFT

Nearest station: Shibuya

I always say LoFT reminds me very much of Tokyu Hands, but who am I kidding? If you’re looking into getting a Hobonichi, LoFT has a complete selection of diaries and covers for you to choose from. Apart from the coveted B1F (where I spend at least two hours browsing), the remaining floors have a variety of things that you can check out too. There’s a secret (not so secret, but kinda hidden if you don’t walk past that area) door leading to a huge MUJI branch in the same building, so don’t miss that! I’m going to go ahead and say the food selection is huge (I love their brewed corn tea)!

Story time: I dropped by a LAMY exhibit (more on that below) and went straight to LoFT to get myself a LAMY fountain pen that same day. Had it tax refunded (lol) and wrapped beautifully in a gift box (for free!). The Japanese take their gifting seriously, you guys. It’s so pretty, I haven’t opened it yet as of this writing.

niko and…

Nearest station: Shibuya

I first saw niko and… inside Parco mall. Getting to visit the flagship store in Shibuya was another story; I was ooooh-ing and aaah-ing the whole time. Specializing in lifestyle goods (aka nice things you can add to your workspace or room!) and clothing (very Uniqlo-style), niko and… is pretty famous for its branding, as well as its coffee (there’s a cafe inside the store). And yes, there’s really an ellipsis (…) on its brand name. Talk about #branding.

COFFEE & TEA

About Life

Nearest station: Shibuya

In the middle of busy Shibuya is a tiny coffee shop called About Life. There are no seats, just a bench beside the order counter, and they serve some of the best drip coffees I’ve had in my life. Simple as that. Something you can order to-go or to enjoy for a good few minutes before going back to the hustle and bustle of this neighborhood.

Onibus Coffee

Nearest station: Nakameguro

A few meters away from Traveler’s Factory is Onibus Coffee, a quaint cafe with its second floor overlooking the train station. There are some magazines for reading, and it’s a relatively quiet place if you want to camp out in the morning before starting your day. I would have stayed longer but that day, we went to three (or four?) coffee shops, so we stopped by to order and drink before doing our shopping at Traveler’s Factory.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Nearest station: Roppongi / Shinjuku (several branches around Japan)

Fun fact: Blue Bottle is actually from USA! But their coffee brewing style is very Japanese, not Italian—a bit on the lighter side. Went to the Minato branch before museum hopping, and it was very quiet and peaceful in the midst of an urban setting (at this point, you probably understand that I am an introvert and I like my me-time). Also, love their branding forever. There’s a busier branch in Shinjuku (inside the station—NeWoman mall) if you’re looking to buy merch as well.

Also: There are lots of room for seats in Japan vs in NY! In NY, Blue Bottle branches are small (well, at least the one I visited near Chelsea Market) and mostly meant for takeaway orders.

Nana’s Green Tea

Nearest station: Ueno / Urawa

Kaila introduced me to this place on my visit to Tokyo in 2015. It’s such an introvert-friendly spot: think solo booths, outlets, quiet ambiance, and good food. Apart from their famous matcha parfaits, they serve hearty meals in sets, so you can have your matcha fix too. So good. I always go here after a long day of exploring, and do some writing. The more commercialized one is in Ueno inside a mall, near the shopping area.

Plus: Vendo machines and konbini stores (convenience stores) in Japan all have bottled coffee available, so you’ll always be able to get your coffee fix whenever, wherever. The brewed coffee at FamiMa, 7-eleven and Lawson are all good.

MUSEUMS & PARKS

The National Art Center

Nearest station: Roppongi

On my visit to Tokyo in 2017, my friend (and fellow Yayoi Kusama fan—she is the bigger fan, tbh) Koko and I went to the Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul exhibit in The National Art Center. It was my first time there and of course, I loved the architecture! The place was packed (also, 40 minutes waiting time at the souvenir shop…go figure) and the exhibit was so crowded, but it was worth it. All for Yayoi! Do check out the ongoing exhibitions and shows here in case you visit Tokyo. Who knows…your favorite artist might have one.

Plus: This is near Snoopy Museum and Shake Shack! Make your way there if you’ve got a lot of time to explore this neighborhood.

21_21 Design Sight

Nearest station: Roppongi

Dropped by an exhibit here featuring LAMY’s brand history and a special collection of works by one of my favorite illustrators, Christoph Niemann (no photos allowed though). The location is not far from the Roppongi station—it’s beside Oakwood hotel, and there were a lot of directional signages leading to the place.

But what impressed me more was the small park in front of 21_21 Design Sight. Rows of sakura trees in full bloom, as well as benches where you can sit and write, and maybe have lunch? I spent a good few hours introverting before heading back to the Snoopy museum to fetch my mom and siblings. It was the best!

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Nearest station: Ueno

On my fall visit to Tokyo (for work), I was lucky enough to catch the Van Gogh x Japan exhibit at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. I LOVE Van Gogh and I had goosebumps the minute I entered the exhibit hall and saw his self-portrait painting staring at me. No photos allowed inside but I’m going to go ahead and say that it was the best experience seeing his work in real life.

The museum is located inside Ueno Park, so if you’re an animal-lover, you can check out Ueno Zoo on the same area. A short walk from Ueno station, too.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Nearest station: Shinjuku

I’ve been here twice, and I enjoyed my first visit more because it wasn’t as crowded, and I had time to sit and draw and basically just spend quality time alone. Every year, sakura blossoms here are what people flock for, and you can definitely understand why when you enter the park premises—rows or sakura trees lined up on all areas, ample space for hanami (picnic) under the trees, and strategically situated in the middle of Shinjuku.

Pro tip: Maybe go here a little early to get a good spot. Or take a sidetrip first to Sekaido or Tokyu Hands (both in the same area!) before or after staying at the park.

Other parks to check out in Tokyo: Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park (both free entrance; Shinjukugyoen requires a park ticket)

Tachikawa Park

Nearest station: Tachikawa

Going here during autumn was lovely—rows of gingko trees and a couple of Japanese maple trees in yellow and orange hues make it such a sight to see. As someone whose favorite season is fall, I was all heart eyes while inside the park. This isn’t as popular as Shinjukugyoen, but again, if you want to explore more offbeat places, go here. You won’t regret it. On a good day, you can bike around the park (it’s that big) and have a picnic as well. (It was raining when we went and let’s be real, I can’t ride a bike. Haha!)

Always fun going to parks with my fellow “tita” friend, Kaila <3

Disclaimer: I didn’t visit all of these places in one go. LOL. These are from three trips and I decided to compile them together so you can choose how to plan your “art, books, and coffee” adventure when you go to Japan. I’ll be in Osaka / Kyoto in a few weeks after writing this, so I hope to check out places there, too, and share them on my blog. 

Hope you enjoyed reading through this post—had so much fun recalling my personal experiences from these places I’ve visited on my trips.

Have you visited Tokyo? Any of these places you plan on going to soon?

PS: Special thanks to two of my favorite people (and fellow Japan lovers) Koko and Kaila for recommending some of these places! 

En Route: #ABCngapore Year 4

En Route to Changi airport via SMRT East West Line | 10:34PM, Thursday, March 1

I visit Singapore every year since 2014.

Okay, I visit Japan every year too (since 2014 too lol), but this is different. Four years ago, I flew to Singapore a few months before my college graduation (and after thesis—around summertime) to do some “soul searching” at 21 years old. No, really, I just wanted to go café hopping and buy a few art materials to get me started with my creative pursuits (I was just dabbling into hand lettering at that time; nothing serious—just a hobby). Singapore seemed to be a safe choice—only three hours away from Manila via plane, looked like it was a safe place (visited last 2013 as a “layover” from Paris with family), and luckily, my cousin had a unit at that time (aka: I could stay with her and my mom had no choice but to permit me to go—I paid for everything anyway!).

So I did, and so it began. Let’s just say I came home from that trip (also my first time getting drunk and hungover haha I was twenty one then!) with a new perception of what travel was for me—a reminder that I’m just a tiny dot in this universe and that there are so many things to still see and make sense of. That I can discover the world through my own way of seeing—no need to be all touristy, because apparently, all I really needed was caffeine (by default!) and a good dose of culture in the form of museums and galleries, bookstores, libraries, and visiting offbeat places and quaint neighbourhoods.

Years passed and I would impulsively book flights to Singapore on odd occassions: a sidetrip during a 30-day backpacking trip to Southeast Asia (also a soul searching trip lol), and an instant destination when a piso fare popped up on my feed and I decided to book on the spot—both of which were just my attempts to get out of Manila on my own terms. (Looking back, what was I thinking?!)

And then opportunities suddenly came in for work. I started teaching a few lettering classes, and ended up going to SG thrice to do that. How this Manila-based artist got ahold of the Singapore market is something I’m still trying to figure out (hi, Singapore-based readers!). In the process of flying back and forth to Singapore, some of my close friends have moved to this place I call my second home—and it’s because of that that I’ve given more reason to find a piece of what I call “home” here. And as they say, home is not a place—it’s really the people in it.

Lately, Singapore has been a justified excuse for “research”, as I’ve been going here more often to see exhibits, restock on art supplies, and stay in their library.

(Side note: below’s a vlog featuring my favorite art and bookstores in Singapore!)

I’ve seen Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit last June (aka my shortest trip to date—two days! Impulse booking never felt so real) and it was a visual treat. Last January, my big sis Mikka tied the knot and I came to SG for two and a half days…and while commuting, I saw a poster announcing the Century of Light exhibit at the National Gallery, which had just started at the time. Here’s the thing: I love exhibits, but I’m particularly picky. But I saw both Monet and Luna in fine print and I knew I had to go. I only look up to a few artists (Van Gogh, Monet, Kahlo, Warhol, to name a few) so give me at least a few moments to process the fact that I’ll be seeing a lot of Monet’s work in real life. Yup, sold.

The Colors of Impressionism exhibit was my favorite, and what I’ve been looking forward to viewing. I loved the transition of color as refelcted in the works of several impressionist painters. From black to white to snow-themed sceneries, to blue and greens and finally, to incorporating pastel hues with their work. Between Worlds was another visual treat. I loved seeing most of Luna’s works exhibited beautifully in pink-colored walls. There was an art activity outside which I enjoyed too. Galleries with post-exhibit activities for the visitors are always a good idea.

Also, made a vlog compiling two exhibits I visited at NGS: Yayoi Kusama’s Life Is The Heart of a Rainbow (June 2017) and Century of Light (February 2018).

Spent a quiet morning writing and being a full-on introvert in Drury Lane. Above is a snap of their beautiful wall full of coffee packaging.

Two afternoons were well-spent reading piles of books and taking lots of notes at Library@Orchard. Was also surprised to see my book as part of their library! So kilig. You can check out my pile of reads here. My favorites were Way More Than Luck and Lonely Planet’s book on Travel Writing.

Apart from the usual visits to Bras Basah Complex, IKEA, and coffee shops around the vicinity of Singapore, I was really looking forward to see my friends in SG. There’s my best friend Nicole, my long-time high school friend Peter, and my “big sis” Mikka. Usually I book these spontaneous trips in the middle of deadlines, and this was no different. I ended up getting a good fix of life catch-ups and self-care while I was away. Long distance, low maintenance friendships are the best, really. Idk if it’s just me, but I find myself significantly closer to those farther than me, geographically. How ironic.

This trip has been both fun and tiring, and emotionally draining. I had a panic attack inflight and that’s something I rarely get nowadays, so I really had to fix it up once I arrived (through meditation). I also had to deal with a lot of work errands in the middle of the trip so I tried to keep myself together as the days went by. All was well.

I’m going to head home with a reassurance that nothing is permanent. Even episodes of anxiety that may seem like a long stretch to recover from (aka me when I landed in Singapore last Monday) feel like something I’ve deliberately forgotten. And I’m going home feeling more than excited to dive in to writing my next book—about self-enrichment, which is coincidentally what I did mostly on this impulse trip away from home.

*70% of this post was written in transit.

Related posts:

En Route: Out and About

Workshop Weekend in Singapore

Singapore Roundup: Art, Books, Crafts & Coffee

En Route: Singapore 2016 Photo Diary

Life in Transit: Highlights

Art Hoarding in Singapore

Soloing Singapore

Soloing Singapore: Year 2

 

En Route: Eastern Europe

Context: I spent long bus rides drawing or writing…and there’s a few paragraphs I managed to save on my phone (the rest are on my analog journals). Last Christmas our family went to Eastern Europe for the last days of 2017. Initially I thought it would be another trip in passing that I’d probably not look back on in the months to come…but I was wrong. Maybe it was because I found it the best way to end the year, and surprisingly it was the trip that I needed in order to welcome the new year.


(en route to Hungary)

5:31PM | December 29 2017

I spent the past half hour here in the bus with my reading light on; drawing an opera house from yesterday’s sighting in Slovakia on my travel journal. Oftentimes when I draw, I start with loose pencil lines of the structure before lining it with pen, and eventually painting over it. It’s always been this way, after numerous attempts at refining my travel journaling process.

Sometimes I think that this process is probably why I’ve learned to be systematic when it comes to drawing. It’s also why I love illustrating architecture—it’s mostly adapting my vision based on an image taken of a place visited. The resemblance isn’t 100% but I like how detailed I do my drawings. In fact, the more intricate the architectural site is, the more I like drawing it more. #challengeaccepted

For some odd reason, there is an episode of existential crisis at least at the beginning of my sketching, up until the middle part. “What do you think you’re trying to do?” “You suck at perspectives, to be honest.” I look at a half-filled page full of pencil marks and as much as I try to panic, I don’t. I just let my hands make its magic. It’s like my brain and right hand have connived into making the drawings look decent, tbh. Towards the end, I get to see the final artwork unfold, so it gets easier. And then I tell myself, “you did good”.

I really don’t know what I get out of documenting these things. Is it for show? No, not really. I just love doing it, you know? It’s something I deliberately do to take notice of the little things I often neglect to see when I travel. Here’s the ironic part too—I only do these types of illustrations at specific trips, like this one.

Two years ago, our family went to Scandinavia for the holidays up until new year. I hated it. I went home with a dysfunctional body clock and basically spent half of the trip worrying about work (context: that was also my first year of freelancing). That’s why I convinced my mom that we stay in Manila for the 2016 holidays (which ended up being a bad decision—I still like being away at this time of year). Last year, I immediately said yes to a Euro trip. And because I knew this would (again) involve cold weather, long hours in transit, and visiting beautiful places, I finished work right before packing my bags and flying out from Manila.

My knowledge of Eastern Europe is basically close to nothing. I just know that Budapest is quite famous (cue Wes Anderson’s film and that famous “Budapest” song by George Ezra). I also did no research and had zero idea what to expect from this trip. Did I want to enjoy it? I wasn’t sure. But I came out of it feeling extra recharged to welcome 2018, and a reassurance that the world is quite amazing as I slowly discovered it with my own eyes.

Here are a few of my favorites from my Eastern Europe trip. It’s a photo diary of sorts, because I’m not good at talking about historical sites. (If you want a more informative guide, you can check out this article I wrote for Preview.PH about exploring Eastern Europe.) I’m going to be honest and say I don’t like writing about personal trips because most of them have been archived in my personal records (wow personal records? LOL Abbey?!?!) but yeah, thought I’d share about this surprisingly memorable trip (of my life so far). 🙂

Watched Genius: Einstein on the plane

I’m such a history fan; and most people who know me do know my fascination for biopics and peeking into remarkable people’s lives interest me the most. So imagine my delight seeing Genius: Einstein on the plane! (It’s produced by National Geographic…aka IT IS GOOD.) I’ve waited since April last year to see this (lol I’m not even done though) and basically spent the whole flight watching this up until we landed in our first destination, Warsaw. And once I got an internet connection, I read almost every article about Albert Einstein, his work, and his life. #invested

I also watched The Great Gatsby and couldn’t stop reading about New York in the 1920s and the interpretation of different symbols in the film to reality. I’ve seen the film x years ago but rewatching it now made me reflect on more things. I spent two days thinking about these things. Who am I??? 

Christmas in Warsaw

…involved singing Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me in the hotel room with my sister. She was napping while I spent my pre-dinner time painting the Old Town (photo above) after walking around the vicinity that same afternoon. It was freezing (as expected). My saving grace was a cup of hot wine which was pretty strong that I turned into my usual Asian flushed self after (not cool). Afterwards, we had a nice Christmas dinner at the hotel but I just ended up going straight to sleep right after our meal. (Jet lag is real, you guys.)

Also: I was the weird girl picking up pine tree branches on every corner. And yes, I took home a branch; it’s now pressed in one of my books. LOL

Holocaust reflection at Auschwitz

The day after Christmas involved a 3-hour long trip to Auschwitz Museum, one of the biggest Nazi concentration camps in the world. I had no prior knowledge about the Holocaust (except I know Anne Frank and that she had a diary; that was it) so the exhibition was very overwhelming and depressing. You know how I tried to feel very apathetic on the outside but I’m actually devastated on the inside? That was me the whole time we were walking past the rooms where the Jews stayed, the gas chambers, seeing the actual letters (tangible notes are my weakness) and a bunch of their things still intact (suitcases, their hair, kitchenware, shoes, etc)…I went out of the museum wanting to do further research, so I did. And I realized how terrible people became because of power, wealth, and wanting to prove something. It was disheartening.

Side note: This sparked my interest to visit Berlin (which I immediately wrote down my travel bucket list before turning 30). Soon.

Long hours in transit

MY FAVORITE FOREVER. Tours like this mean long hours in transit by bus…aka my time to think about life (lol) and get a good rest. But knowing me, I never rest. So I just spent it planning out some life things in the coming year (aka this year) and listening to music and basically just spending a good few hours without internet. The best detox ever.

Fangirling at Brno

Brno was a side trip I actually enjoyed. Apart from my brother’s puns (omygod, the L’aphrodite joke is still in my memory) and the quick 3-hour walking spree, I got to see one of the concert halls where Mozart performed called the Reduta Theater. Just getting to be in the same place where Mozart was x years ago was a pretty cool thing (sorry, I fangirl like this). Also, in connection to Genius: Einstein, Einstein played the violin and practiced Mozart’s music. So there, justifying it. Haha!

On another note, this city in Czech Republic was quite remarkable. The art nouveau architecture reminded me of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The Freedom Square looked so cinematic as the sky turned to dusk by 4PM; it felt straight out of a film.

Freezing in Bratislava

Bratislava wasn’t a favorite (sorry). Mostly because the hotel we stayed in wasn’t in the city center. My tourmates and I went out to walk on the first night we were there and we couldn’t see anything. It was so empty, and quiet, and creepy. Luckily we had a navigator with us and he led us back to the hotel using a different route. But still, it wasn’t memorable. Lol.

It was freezing though. It rained before lunchtime on our sightseeing day; I still managed to take photos though. I mean, how could you not with a view this pretty?

That afternoon was spent in Old Town and it was around 5 hours of idle time walking (or shopping in a mall, your call) and tambay-ing in McDonald’s (heeey, their coffee was good and there was wi-fi!) as I finished up my sketches. I was surprised to find a little newsstand in the area too; so I got a copy of Flow, like I always do when I travel.

Nightly walks in every city

Every night (or most nights) a bunch of us “kids” would go out and walk around the vicinity of where we stayed in. I’m not someone who likes to talk in general (anti-social is my middle name) but I actually enjoyed it??? My siblings would join in on some nights too.

One of my favorites (and hatest, lol) was on the 30th of December, our second night in Budapest. It was zero degrees and half of the group was drunk (I was tipsy I mean come on, Black Label?!?!) and let’s just say it was a preeeetttyyyyy long walk (we crossed the famed Chain Bridge up until Sofitel…a total of 5KM in the cold). Lol, it was tiring and I almost froze; I’d rather not talk about it. 😛

It was nice though! Meeting new people is always nice. 🙂 Who you calling an introvert???

(These tunnel photos are STILL my favorite. Hahahahaha)

Architecture appreciation at Budapest

We arrived Budapest at seven in the evening and the lit up Hungarian Parliament opposite the Fisherman’s Bastion greeted us as we made our way to the hotel. The architecture fan in me squealed internally. It was beautiful! Not to mention that our hotel’s window view is the Matthias church…needless to say, that hotel was the best we’ve stayed in for the trip (it’s Hilton, btw, if you’re wondering).

Particularly enjoyed seeing the Fisherman’s Bastion by day, overlooking Budapest from the top. Breathtaking in many ways. Also loved seeing the Hungarian Parliament up close, and visiting the market because I was hunting down the prettiest postcards and magnets I could take home (souvenirs hoarder forever, ugh). I managed to take home beautiful ones, yay!

NYE at the Fisherman’s Bastion

The last day of 2017 was quite remarkable but also very tiring. I particularly loved the dinner discussion I had with my family—something we rarely do in Manila. Also realized how my siblings have grown so much! 😮 We went to a Christmas market before that and had our share of Hungarian fare, too. That was gewd.

After all the walking, I just really wanted to spend the night alone in peace (like a true tita). Everyone was asleep while I finished up my last spread for the trip. Around eleven-thirty in the evening, we went to the Fisherman’s Bastion to count down ’til twelve midnight. It was crowded; everyone was welcoming the new year and there I was, feeling all introverted but also, feeling quite comfortable in the presence of people I hardly knew, under a sky I’ve only seen for quite a few times in my life. It felt new, but nice. I almost never go out of the hotel during NYE and sleep it off (based from my previous holiday trips aka I was a shy and sheltered kid back then anyway) so it was relatively new to me to be able to welcome the year like this. Yay, achievement unlocked!

A few minutes after the clock struck midnight, we went back to the hotel to meet up with our other friends and did our last nightly walk along the area. As I mentioned, our hotel is beside the Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias church, and a good chunk of Buda. (Yes, Buda, because Pest is on the other side!) We didn’t really have to go that far to have a good stroll at this hour.

We were starting to walk past the hotel and I had accidentally found my twin—from the beige coat down to the two-toned grey scarf and dark brown boots. LOL. CREEPY. Over time, I realized that the outfit twinning was just the first part of twinning (haha, if you’re reading this, hi!). Must be the “creative” Capricorn go-getter connection. 😛

Managing to walk in zero degree weather at night had become something I was used to, now that we explored the city for one last time. That was all sorts of fun; we walked past drunk foreigners (lol), singing Dora (the Explorer, yeah lol), speaking in German (I don’t even remember; I’m just consulting my travel journal at this point), vandalized car windows since they were covered in snow (HAHA), walked up and down a hill (and managed to quote Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken since there were two roads laid out in front of us, LOL) and made our way back to the hotel in one piece (yay!), in time for our flight the next day.

Side note: Silly me who spotted the “Posta” storefront (meaning post office) several times outside our hotel on my drunk nights in Budapest forgot to send postcards. I HATE MYSELF. But it’s okay, no regrets!

In transit to Manila

I’m not good with goodbyes. I’m only ever fixated with “see you soon”; so going back to reality was something I was actually looking forward to; given the flight was going to be a long one. It was a blur, actually; I only remember writing down new places on my travel bucket list: Berlin, Munich (rawr, thanks Genius: Einstein for the influence), Chicago, Spain, Portugal. Revisit Amsterdam, see Van Gogh’s museum, and so on. For someone like me who always wants to make things happen once they are written down, I may be closer to visiting these places sooner than expected (my visa doesn’t expire until 2020 so it’s a sign!). Now, if only I could tie in some work projects in the picture…

Side note: Arrived in Manila on the 2nd of January but I woke up at 3PM on the 3rd of January. HAHAHAHA. JET LAG!

I’m not one to look back on things a lot anymore; that was me last year. Now, I’m more focused on what’s in front of me and what’s to come. But this trip will definitely be up there in my all-time favorites, for many reasons I will try to remember.

(Used the #ABCTravelJournal for this trip! So surreal to be using my *own* journal)

Hope you enjoyed the photo diary! Where are your go-to places on your travel bucket list? 🙂

Always be creating,

Abbey

// night photos + Chain Bridge photo (c) EQ & TJ Quidilla

Work Has Been Interesting Lately

Hi, everyone!

Just popping by to say that work has been interesting lately. That title still holds true because I’ve been experiencing so many ~shookt~ moments as I type this out. I just came back from Japan for “work” (can’t believe I actually take more work trips now than real vacations!) and finished a shoot yesterday. I decided to lock myself up at home today to replenish my energy (which has been drained for quite some time now).

I remember starting the year with no goals. I now find it both good and bad because 1) I get to do things the way I want—and basically settling with a go with the flow pace at that, and 2) I don’t really have much control on what goes in and out of my work life. The year’s almost ending and I’m still on my feet working up to the best of my ability before the holidays swing by.

But since we’re here, thought I’d share a few announcements + things 🙂

Readsearching (+ a new book this 2018)

I’m back to readsearch work. And no, we’re not having another issue of ABC Magazine (but I want to thank everyone who supported the first issue!). I’m still on major research mode now because I’m still figuring out what I want to work on in the next year…

But here’s one other thing: my fourth book is coming out June 2018 worldwide. It’s a more in-depth guide to both calligraphy and hand lettering! Working on it earlier this year was legit like taking up a course in lettering, lol. More on that soon!

Speaking at Graphika Manila 2018

I’ll be one of the speakers for Graphika Manila this coming February 2018. If that comes as a shock to you, it also does to me. I’ll be talking mostly about the work that I do and my learnings so far as an artist, author and creative entrepreneur. Tickets are available here.

Taking part in Design Festa Japan

I was half joking when I told Kaila I wanted to participate in Design Festa this year. We sent in our application last May and…we got accepted! So I booked a flight to Tokyo and sold my merch last weekend at Design Festa, probably Asia’s biggest art fair (over 5000+ exhibitors!). Thanks to everyone who dropped by and supported our booth, Team Philippines. Still over the moon that people actually bought my books and merch. Vlog soon!

Meeting THE Kris Aquino

Running on a short period of sleep won’t stop me from this shoot, because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the queen of all media, Kris Aquino! I got to shoot with her for a segment on Kris TV featuring journaling + crafting. Thanks National Book Store for this opportunity! Thanks also to the Kris TV team who were all so kind and efficient. 🙂

The episode will air this December online!

YouTube Channel Launch

SO. I said I was going to make this happen earlier this January. Better late than never? My channel is launching next week. I have a few videos already in my library. Right now I’m focusing on getting it together and creating an efficient workflow (since content creation is just a part of my job). Subscribe to my channel for videos coming very soon!

PS: Thanks to Gelo for filming my trailer! Those photos above are BTS footage (and if you’re asking, yes, I play the guitar :P) from our last shoot.

New merch at Shop Abbey Sy

Thanks to Design Festa, I spent a good chunk of this quarter working on new merch in time for the holidays. We have new stickers, a limited edition washi tape (!), and button pin sets up at the shop. Click here! Rolling out holiday sets next week for those of you who want to make gift giving easier. 🙂

How has your 2017 been so far? Honestly, it hasn’t been sinking in yet that we’re down to the last two months (1.5 to be exact) of this year. My January 2017 self is so different from my November 2017 self. It felt like being thrown into so many obstacles that I had to keep holding on to stay put. IDK if that’s just me but do you feel the same way? Things are never going to get easier, but I think that’s the essence of living a fulfilling life, right? Crossing through the cracks and getting across the next part of life.

Don’t mind my overly contemplative self. I haven’t written in a few weeks; I should better update my journal tonight. 😛

Always be creating, Abbey

En Route: New York City

[written on the 1st week of October]

How do you move on from a place that has given you so much life in two weeks?

I’m sitting in my workspace in Manila as I’m typing this (for the nth time), jetlagged, daydreaming I was still walking the streets of Flushing as I take the Subway to Manhattan or Brooklyn, probably with an iced coffee on hand and earphones to make my commute bearable. I’d head to Bryant Park to unwind a bit and maybe grab a quick lunch at the nearest food stall. And maybe spend the afternoon locked up in the New York Public Library or check out the latest exhibition at the MoMA. Lastly, I’d drop by the nearest Trader Joe’s or get my art materials fix at Blick before calling it a day.

To be honest, New York never really spoke to me — I was one of those girls who was smitten about Paris the moment “travel” came into my dictionary. But ironically, after seeing the Eiffel Tower and visiting France twice in the last couple of years, I found no reason to go back. New York was different though; it’s a slow but sure immersion into a place I never knew actually existed. And it’s become a place that’s so vivid in my memory that I am itching to go back sooner than ever.

Since we’re here, thought I’d share a few of my favorite highlights from my recent trip to New York. I have to say, I’m not much of a tourist — so some of these are mostly simple joys that my introverted creative self is pretty glad to have experienced at some point in her life. Also, not to spoil, but I will tell you that THIS was the best trip I’ve ever had in my 24 years of existence. Read on to find out why.

Survived the New York City Subway

They say if you’re able to navigate the NYC subway, you’re pretty much covered when it comes to navigating train stations in general. Took a while for me to actually get the whole Uptown/Downtown thing (Google Maps thank you haha) and the different exits (because in Asia we’re always Exit A, B, C, etc or by number) but two weeks’ worth of traveling definitely helped. Also, the nearest subway from our place in Queens in the 7 train, which is probably the reason why we’ve become quite accustomed to long train rides (and lots of idle time in between). Don’t get me wrong though, I loooove long train rides.

Had coffee every day

Funny story: it’s those morning coffees that make me and Christie find the nearest restroom every time we get out of a station (okay this is so petty but it’s hard to find restrooms in New York – the struggle is real). Nevertheless, from those $1.50 coffees near the station to the ever famous Blue Bottle, it’s impossible to NOT have coffee in NYC. It’s a staple especially if you put in two girls who love their cup of joe on a daily basis.

Geeked out on art museums

My ultimate non-negotiable when traveling? Visiting art museums. I’ve only ever been amazed with the Musee de Louvre (Paris) and National Gallery (Singapore) but apparently, visiting the MoMA was such an eye-opener. Always in awe seeing masterpieces by my favorite artists (Van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, Dali, etc — you know the drill) and there was a special exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work (he was the architect responsible for designing the Guggenheim Museum). Let’s not forget my obsession with museum shops (of course I had to check out the souvenirs!) after we viewed the exhibitions.

*To add: the Whitney Museum of American Art is another must-visit. You HAVE to check out all the exhibitions and visit the top floor for a magnificent view of New York. You’re welcome.

Spent my me-time at the New York Public Library

Library? Free entrance? Free WiFi? Designated desk space per person? Count. me. in. Was surprised to find out that the spaces inside New York Public Library are open for everyone. I was oooh-ing and ahhh-ing during my first visit (and forgot my art materials lol) so I decided to spend another afternoon here (the day before we left), in peace, planning my next trip to New York (it’s happening sooner than expected).

Visited my dream school

It’s been quite a while since I’ve thought about SVA (School of Visual Arts). Every so often I would request for their course catalog in the hopes of possibly studying here in the near future. Apart from the beautiful facilities (AHHH I LOVE THEIR LIBRARY), the faculty lineup is quite impressive (Debbie Millman? Timothy Goodman? Jessica Walsh? *cries*). I was lucky to find a campus tour schedule that coincided with my flexible itinerary (fate?), so we were able to spend a morning visiting the SVA campus. Leave me here, I’ll be fine, promise. *soon*

Went to art shopping heaven

For someone like me who ALWAYS goes art materials shopping (for “work”), I’m quite immune already seeing rows and rows of colorful tools for creating. I was wrong, though — went to both BLICK & Michaels and I left myself in awe. They literally have EVERYTHING here. I wanted to take home new tools to try but…baby steps. I got some gouache paint, wooden art boards and a few nifty tools for DIY projects. (I’ll share more about them soon!)

*Both BLICK and Michaels have stores all around New York. I visited the ones in 23rd Street. 

Saw my book at Strand Book Store (!)

Going inside Strand itself was mind-blowing (my favorite YA novel “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares” was also set here, so you get my fangirl feels). All these books decked out in every corner made my heart skip a beat. But what made me even more #shook was heading to the second floor and finding copies of Hand Lettering A to Z tucked in the Art Techniques shelf. Definitely one of the most surreal moments I probably had in my lifetime.

(Back story: my initial New York dream was to really have a book published in the US and see it in the shelves of a New York bookstore. I was like, “Yeah, whatever, push mo ‘yan” but the universe wasn’t kidding — it really happened omg.) 

Met up with my editors / Participated in Maker Faire

Both my editors are based in New York and it was great to finally meet them in person! I’m generally shy but I was happy to have spent a nice lunch + museum visit with them while I was in New York (thanks, Judith and Joy!). I also just finished working on another book which will be out Spring 2018 so it was nice that we were able to meet prior to the release.

In related things, apparently Maker Faire was on the same weekend! It’s one of the biggest fairs in the world combining art and science. I got to meet my art director Marissa and teach lettering for a few hours at the BUST Craftacular Booth. 🙂

Tasted the best pastrami sandwich at Katz’s

A friend highly recommeded Katz’s Delicatessen, and little did I know that this was where When Harry Met Sally (one of my favorite rom-coms) was filmed. SOLD! We went on a weekday, but the place was packed, as expected. I gotta say though, we didn’t wait too long in line and we enjoyed every bit of that huge pastrami sandwich (which was gewd). 10/10 would go back for the corned beef sandwich!

Ate lots of food (a given)

I don’t know about you, but exploring New York will automatically make you eat a variety of cuisine styles. I was pretty happy with the bagel (salmon goals?!?!) at Bagel Express (I love bagels, so there’s that too). Also, trying out the OG Halal Guys (near Radio City Music Hall) was a treat. IT WAS GOOD! Like really, really good. We also had our fill of Shake Shack and Papaya Dog, among other things.

*Tip: Me and Christie don’t eat a lot, so most of the time we split on our orders and it really is an efficient way to save and at the same time enjoy the food.

Finally tried the big pizza slice too (yum) and the ever-so-famous Milk Bar store (ice cream was okay). Just going to put this here, I loved Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding and Junior’s Cheesecake! Must try. I also loved the food we had in Costco (haha) especially the soft serve. 😀 #foodislyf

Walked the Brooklyn Bridge

I’m going to admit that this was one of the highlights of my trip. Only because we commuted from Queens with our respective coffee cups (see “Had coffee every day” part of this post) and we were rushing to the restroom when we got off at Brooklyn. But of course, we had to cross the Brooklyn Bridge to actually get to DUMBO where the restroom was. And we *had* to take nice pictures while walking because that was what we were after, anyway. LOL. Long story short, we managed to cross the bridge after an hour (the walk seemed long but it wasn’t, actually!).

I think apart from walking on this bridge, getting to see the view on both sides was so surreal. It was gloomy when we went, around 9AM, and the weather was pretty cold (don’t let my summer outfit make you think otherwise). There were a lot of people (no, not tourists) too because crossing the bridge was one of the more convenient ways to get to the other side of Brooklyn.

Had an “Empire State of Mind” moment

And I thought my touristy self would not show! Going up to Top of the Rock was my favorite. We also visited the Empire State Building which was also a treat — geez, all these buildings make you think you are just a tiny thing in this world. Or maybe vice versa? They look like finely placed logos when viewed from the top of ESB.

*FYI: Entrance to Top of the Rock is around $30+ (we booked online), while entrance to Empire State Building is $50+. I suggest choosing one if you’re not keen on visiting both. 

Watched a Broadway show

When Sara Bareilles first tweeted about Waitress a few years back, I knew I had to watch it in Broadway. So glad to have seen this live — the cast and music were amazing! I think I fangirled while entering the Brooks Atkinson Theatre only because it feels so weird to actually be there. To watch Broadway. (Don’t mind me I fangirl a lot for very weird reasons lol)

While I didn’t find Times Square to be as glamorous as my expectations (sorry!), I saw a Harry Potter poster and I knew Cursed Child was going to show here (Spring 2018 eep). BRB saving up for future Broadway shows!

Explored neighborhoods

Upper East Side, Lower East Side…what are these things? I only ever remember them from my attempts to watch Gossip Girl. Apparently these neighborhoods are what makes New York quite unique. My favorite was SoHo (Chinatown / Little Italy) — lots of good food, a bookstore / cafe rolled into one, lots of street art, and generally a good place to hang if you just want to chill.

Can I just say? Every time I step out of the subway, I see a different side of New York. It’s that interesting.

Cried seeing the Grand Central Terminal IRL

I had a few hours to spare before watching The Script on my last night, and since I went out to GCT as my exit (a few blocks away is 5th Ave where most things are, anyway), I decided to drop by the Main Concourse to see it for myself.

OMG IT’S SO PRETTY please don’t mind my very touristy photo of the concourse. But you have to enter and see it for yourself. The architecture is just amazing (I fangirl over architectural sites too, don’t judge me) and the influx of passengers all from different directions makes you feel like you’re in some sort of film. But okay, to be fair, being in New York always feels like a movie with all the picturesque places. 😛

Watched a concert alone

My introverted self is pretty proud that she managed to watch a concert alone. HAHA. Radio City is such a beautiful venue (curtains and all), and I had a fun time meeting fellow The Script fans (no longer an introvert lol) before the show. I was on the mezzanine, which wasn’t really near the stage (I watched The Script twice in Manila already, and I was able to see them up close before lol), but I enjoyed. It was a great night!

Have you been to New York?

What are places you’ve dreamed of doing in the Big Apple?

Always be creating,

Abbey 🙂

En Route: Out and About

10:23AM / Korea Time / Subway Line 2 / Seoul, South Korea

 

I’m taking the train to Gangnam as I type this out on my phone, then eventually transferring it to Evernote…and then for publishing here on this blog. Usually, I like to check out the window view when in transit — but I failed to realize that Gangnam is still 10 stops away (a total of 20 from where I’m staying). So here I am trying to make sense of how things have been lately as I have been out and about for the past couple of months.

No updates on the blog always means I’m busy, or I fail to comprehend my thoughts for a specific time period. This holds true, though — I’ve been getting rusty in many parts of my job, especially drawing. I’m working on things that will test my ability to adjust with standards, and slowly accepting the fact that I should live with my deadlines, and not be afraid of it.

How’s life, you ask? Weird. It has been really weird. It’s like my brain has been wired to think better, and make decisions that will ultimately make or break me. But it’s a good thing: feeling scared and not knowing what will happen. I’ve been on a rough patch recently, trying to figure out whether or not things will be okay.

The reason why I love train rides so much is I get suspended for an amount of time not having an exact destination. It’s like a breeding period of some sort: either I think about the past, reflect on my ~experiences~, or just a random brainstorming session of future ideas I plan to implement. How funny is it that while I’m here in Korea, my thoughts still are at home, in the Philippines. Wondering about who, what, where.

Speaking of where, I’ve been to 4 non-stop trips since June: Singapore, Singapore (again), Bangkok, and then this — Busan & Seoul. I’m reminded of Life in Transit this time three years ago (me & Tricie’s backpacking adventure last 2014)! Glad to know my next trip is still a few months away (in my dream destination, no less), but it’s given me more reason to love traveling even more.

Singapore (or #ABCngapore, rather!) was amazing, as usual: there’s nothing like finding home in the presence of good company (Thanks, Mikka and Peter!) — and getting to teach in my favorite country, no less. (Thanks Faber-Castell Singapore for the opportunity!)

The second trip was a #YOLO one, or rather a YAYOI-LO one (thanks Koko!) and it was one of the best SG trips I’ve had. There was this week I was impulsively deciding on a lot of things (such as: booking this trip and buying a ticket to Ed Sheeran’s concert. #YOLO) and I’m laughing at myself, now that I look back. You only really live once, anyway.

Bangkok was an adventure with my best friend, including, but not limited to: getting lost, walking in the dark streets at night, and getting locked out of our airbnb for 3 hours (or more). But I’m missing coconut ice cream and my daily dose of Thai milk tea.

Korea was an impulse booking. Again. A few days after feeling like my world has (slightly) lost a part of it (did that make sense? Let’s pretend it did), I was having coffee with my aunt and we decided to book a trip to Busan on the spot. Little did I know this place would leave such a huge mark on me.

Buildings by the beach, quaint villages filled with art and culture, peaceful neighborhoods and safe, walkable roads at any time of the day — that’s Busan for me. Not to mention cheap street food and convenience store dinners that fill you up, no less. Late sunsets, chilly nights, and peaceful Sundays eating bingsu with a view.

And then there’s Seoul — a favorite, a trap, mostly (for shopping!) and a stopover before transitioning back to the fast-paced city life in Manila. Hello from me earlier today at the Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in Garosu-gil, Gangnam. (Yes, that’s me all decked out in millennial pink. I have fallen in love with this hue, lol)

I wish I could sit down and finally document all my trips. But for now, here’s a little tip: if you’re like me who’s constantly restless about settling in one place, take some nice trips and go out and about. You’ll be surprised how amazing it feels to explore new places and see things in a different light. Because that’s what I did, and I’m more than excited to head home later, and dive into a new wave of work. After all, “new” is not an unfamiliar term in my dictionary. 😛

Abbey

PS: I have so much backlog posts — Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Korea! AHHH. If there are things in particular you’d like me to talk about on my future blog posts, do leave a comment below!

 

Life in Film: Volume 01

 

I remember picking up my first disposable camera last 2014. It was something that would be least noticeable in a sea of items inside a crowded souvenir store in Kyushu, south prefecture of Japan. Nevertheless, I picked it up, played with it, and I’ve found myself snapping away in every trip I brought my camera.

Years later, I still find myself buying a few disposable cameras here and there, and it’s always surprising to see the different shots taken, the immortal memories, and all that grain. Graaaain! 😀

Today, I’m sharing a photodump of my favorite photos from 2015-2017, from my two disposable cameras. Plot twist: I completely forgot where I brought my Kodak. I just know my Fujifilm one contains all Tokyo photos from my recent trip.

Below is a repository of dailies, snippets from travels, and accidental photos that I forgot I took. Nevertheless, enjoy!

Always making art in transit

Denmark and Finland in snaps

Commute lyf~

Two of my favorite people <3

Fundamental fix!


Light source: T-site’s photogenic restrooms

Coffee and shopping errday

Of flower park visits and Wisteria ice cream

Neighborhood sightings in Tokyo

Remnants of summer in Balesin Island

Always my favorite view. Can’t believe it won’t be the same anytime soon~

In case you’re asking:

  1. I buy my disposable cameras in Singapore and Japan. Popular brands are Fujifilm (also Fujicolor, which is more expensive but photo quality is better) and Kodak.
  2. I have them developed at YKL Color Laboratory in Sto. Domingo Avenue, Quezon City. (It’s inside Wonder Photo Shop) I also have it burned into a cd so I can access the digital files.
  3. Do know that disposable cameras are “disposed” after development. So no attachments.

Hope you enjoyed this photo diary! 🙂

Abbey

Summer, So Far (+ Faves Roundup!)

Way back in my younger years, summer always had to make sense. Mostly because as students, it was a way to unwind from the daily grind of going to school, accomplishing homework, and making sense of a well-balanced school life. I was always making art and “playing outside” with my neighbors, and we spent our summer doing Mother’s Day plays and baking, and all those fun things. Fast forward to growing up years—after my thesis defense in college, I spent my summer interning, working on freelance projects, and eventually landing my first and last corporate job.

These past few years have been entirely different though, and I’m very well assured that they will always get more interesting as every year goes by. One thing’s constant though—I find myself working on very important projects at the first half of the year. I wonder why…:P

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about work, so let me just slip in and share some snaps from my summer (so far) this year. Enjoy the photo diary below! Also, keep reading because I’ll share some of my favorites (podcasts, books, films, you know the drill) at the end of this blog post. 🙂

Went to Hong Kong during the Holy Week! Not much has changed. I always like how busy the streets are.

Me time at Cafe Mido~

Love how they preserved the cha chaan teng style interiors. Also, nothing like good ol’ milk tea and toast. And some writing.

ABCoffee? Lol.

Hong Kong was a nice breather. I was feeling out of myself already (see: previous post) for the past months and I just needed to wander elsewhere, far from home. It was nice also that I got to spend it with my family, as I always travel either alone or with a friend. 🙂


The week after I returned from HK, I attended to a few things: a shoot for #ABCReadSearch and the media launch of my new book, Hand Lettering A to Z. So grateful for National Book Store as they are exclusively carrying copies of HLAZ in their stores!

Above: my proud mommy moment 🙂 It takes a while for me to appreciate whatever I put out (imposter syndrome I guess) so it was nice to celebrate the release of my new book!

Thanks to the fun bunch of students I got to teach during the launch!

Hand Lettering A to Z is available at National Book Store here and Amazon here.


The week after, I left for a week-long trip to none other than Tokyo, Japan. Again???? Yes, I go to Japan every year. Hahaha.

KOniSYwa! Koko makes the best puns. 😛 Also makes for one of my favorite travel buddies, good friends, and achis. <3

(That’s our “coffee while chika” photo, by the way. Selfie sticks are cool.)

This particular Tokyo trip is one of my favorites, because we visited so much places in a week! Art museums, bookstores, coffee shops, and if that isn’t enough, we went to see flower gardens and Mt. Fuji outside of Tokyo! Not to mention our excessive craft shopping (I even bought wood planks, WHAT) at our favorite stores. No regrets! More on my next En Route post.

If anything, I’ve been to Japan seven times already and there is always, always something new to discover in this country. I can’t wait to be back soon for *work stuff*, fingers crossed!

I’m so so happy to be reunited with Kaila as well. We met up last Saturday and spent the day doing our usual life talk sesh, had purikura shots, and explored Nakano and Tokyo with Koko. So. Much. Fun! <3

Kaila has been one of my OG friends since college. She’s always been a constant source of positive energy (#LDRfriendship y’all) and we’re both Capricorns, which explains how much we get along together (about absolutely everything). So happy to see her after so long!

Check out her vlog below for some clips of our fun day together!

Also: watch until the end and see our funny antics while taking photos of the rainbow ice cream in Nakano. LOL.

So much for going abroad to and fro; I’m looking forward to my La Union trip this month! It’s mostly for work but hopefully I get to spend quality time wisely while I’m there. 🙂

Since we’re here, thought I should share a few new things I’ve been consuming lately! Needless to say, my taste has changed. LOL. But I guess that’s part of me maturing into a new person. Let’s leave that topic to another post, then. Hahaha.

THE SCHOOL OF LIFE (YouTube)

Always been a fan of Alain de Botton (On Love is my favorite book!) so The School of Life (which is run by Alain as well) definitely adds to one of my go-to resources. I love watching their videos on YouTube which run from 5-10 minutes and talk about everything from relationships (important!) to work and to self-care.

Check out their YT channel here.

ROOKIE (Podcast)

Rookie magazine in podcast form? Yes please! Tavi Gevinson totally rocks this as she interviews amazing people in various industries. My favorite episode is “Never Settle for Less” which guests the two ladies from Another Round. I love how they’re very open to talking about not just creativity, but also mental health awareness. Also: love the Life Skills part of every episode!

Check out Rookie’s podcast here.

ADULTHOOD MADE EASY (Podcast)

If you’re like me who is still in a love-hate relationship with #adulting, this podcast is for you! Haha, guilty of listening to episodes about relationships and dating (lol because I am uneducated) and things like career changing, handling money in your 20s, etc.

Listen to Adulthood Made Easy here.

HAPPIER (Podcast)

Best known for her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, tackle about daily issues and finding happiness in this podcast.

Check out Happier’s podcast episodes here.

PERSON OF INTEREST (Series)

Me, watching a crime-drama? Yep, it’s real. Lol. I was convinced to watch this after a friend recommended it to me, and surprisingly, I’m hooked. Something I like watching when I want to deviate entirely from creative work because the cases really get me thinking, and I get transported into another world. Also: their soundtrack is amazing (Intro by The XX wew and many more) and love the quotes in every episode (I took notes because #readsearch lol).

GIRLBOSS (Series)

Despite lots of people disliking the adaptation of the book, I actually liked this! I’m reminded of my early days as Sophia was struggling to build her online business, and telling people it’s an actual business (been there!). Except I’m not as mean as her, I think. Haha. Britt Roberson totally rocks all the outfits, and I love Sophia and Annie’s friendship. Goals!

Lastly, a roundup of films I loved watching this first half of the year!

Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging: The ultimate coming-of-age flick especially for teenage girls. Also, Aaron Johnson is swoon-worthy, aaagh!

20th Century Women: A beautiful look inside the lives of three women in the 20th Century. Annette Bening was amazing!

The Pursuit of Happyness: A reminder that persistence and hard work is always key. Loved this film so much, even if it was so heavy, haha.

The Cutting Edge: You’ll get kilig with the love-hate relationship of the two mains, promise. Also, always love watching ice skating films for some reason, so this was no excuse!

The American President: Not your typical love story. NGL, was SUPER KILIG while watching this film.

Dave: Watched this while in Tokyo and I really enjoyed it. It’s similar to American President because it has something to do with the (fictional) President of the US. Must watch, too!


If ever you find yourself checking out my recommendations above, let me know what you think! Aaahh, felt so good to write here again (out of impulse). Hope you’re having a great summer so far 🙂

Abbey

En Route: Baguio, La Union, Manila

Hello!

Instead of starting off with another “I haven’t updated this blog in quite awhile” statement, let me just say that life has been really interesting the past few months. Apart from learning to spend more time offline (miracle, but I’m working on it!), I surprisingly I ended up going back and forth the same places (for work and personal stuff) and experiencing new things, in the hopes of trying to piece together what 2017 really has in store for me (update: I still haven’t had it figured out yet).

It’s already April and yet I am still a work in progress. Here’s the thing: comfort zones scare me. This year is turning out to be a testament to that, as I’m venturing into 1) work that feels very new to me; and 2) finding time to sort out my life in the process. There is a lot of growing up that I still need to do, I realized.

So in this entry, I’ll try to make sense of my thoughts (and things, and random blahs, really) in conjunction the three places I’ve been to for the first quarter of the year. 🙂

Baguio

I went to Baguio two weekends ago to do demos for an event. Coincidentally, I felt like I needed a long road trip to do some introspection about things that have been on my mind (which are a lot). I have this habit of panicking over the future (don’t most of us do?) and the fear of how I’ll take everything in (mostly work-wise). It’s kind of weird but I try to condition my system properly so I won’t be surprised when they all come to the table.

[Side note: I love my new Lomo’Instant Automat camera! Also, it’s in the exact red shade that I love.]

I did say I like forests and anything surrounding trees when I travel (ironically, I can happily get lost in city lights too), so we had a few minutes in the afternoon in Camp John Hay and I really liked it there. The silence kept me distracted from life for awhile, and it was good 🙂

On a lighter note, super thanks to everyone who dropped by the NBS Color and Calligraphy Fair, participated during my demo time w/ Faber-Castell, and had their books signed! Twas nice to meet you all 😀


La Union

How many times have I been to La Union? I think it’s safe to say I really love it there. I went twice earlier this year and I’m going back again this May (lol) for a workshop. Coincidence much?

I don’t like swimming in the beach, but I love sunsets, the cool breeze, and getting to soak in the warm sun during golden hour. I also love that LU is not too crowded unlike most beaches and it’s low-key but really amazing.

First visit involved spontaneous midnight drives on the road with my college friends, tuna pie drive thru (best!), endless rounds of Exploding Kittens, drinking (haha, I act my age sometimes), and unexpectedly meeting new people (what are the chances!). All I know is I clearly remember everything that happened despite being half drunk on that particular Saturday night. Haha.

Above: with some of my favorite people from college! 🙂

Second visit was well-planned. But ironically I ended up planning things at the last minute. 😛

I’ve been traveling w/ Tricie (who is half my manager and half one of my closest friends) for a long time now but we never went on a road trip, until this LU trip. We ended up spending transit time belting out high school pop punk music (#throwback) and Mariah Carey tunes like we’re real singers. LOL.

We took a weekday trip, which was great, because there weren’t much people. Also got to meet up with new LU friends! If anything, I learned something valuable, too—it feels really good when you open yourself up to people. 🙂 I keep building walls around myself and I realized that there’s no point in closing doors when there’s a whole world of out there to make sense of and discover. (Thanks, Tippy, for always reminding me this!) 

On the way home, I felt a sense of reassurance that 1) I could get myself back together aka fix my work life balance and 2) it’s going to be an interesting 2017. News flash: It really is going to be an interesting one, because I don’t know what’s in store yet. 😛


Manila

I’m spending more weekends at home (in Manila) while I can, because this April and May I will be out and about. Honestly, more than ever, it feels different to be home. But at the same time, there really is no place like it. I see the same view every day and while I take it for granted most days, I really feel a sense of ease that I am in this place, doing the work that I love.

There are days I get to go out, though, which is good. I always have a habit of visiting bookstores to check on new titles and do my “readsearch” (that’s reading + research, by the way) while I can.

Speaking of books, I am still over the moon because my third published book (and first international one!!!) is finally available for pre-order! It’s called Hand Lettering A to Z and it’s published by Rockport Publishers, one of my dream publishing houses. 😀 You can pre-order on Amazon here and on National Book Store here. It’s going to be available worldwide. I’m not crying!!!

I remember looking at titles and I was particularly drawn to a Rockport published book called Drawing Type (which I eventually bought). It was one of my first book acquisitions on lettering and a few years later, here I am, a published author under Rockport! HUHU!

I’ll be sharing more about this in future posts but do keep posted on my other social media accounts for updates.

On another note, I’m almost done working on another baby project! Nope, it’s not a book. 😛

I’m so happy I got to work with the A Team (yes, that eez our name, bec we love Ed Sheeran, half jk) for #ABCReadSearch. This has been what’s keeping me occupied since 2017 started and I can’t be any more proud seeing it slowly come to life. I can’t disclose any more details for now but here’s a promise: it will be out soon! 🙂

Something off-topic: I read this article about True Grit on 99U and I thought I should share it here: click!

My favorite takeaway from the article is: “Enthusiasm is common; endurance is rare.”


Every time I write something here, I feel like there are so many things that still need fixing (for me, tbh). And I really think that mindset is never going away. For someone who constantly runs after what she wants and knows how to get it on her own terms, this year is turning out to be very uncertain. No concrete plans, just what’s right in front of me at the moment. A few planned ones, but it can go both ways. And I don’t know if I should be worried about it (I’m actually not?!) considering I have no control over some things that may or may not come.

Maybe it’s the universe trying to tell me that I should just trust the process and learn to adapt when it happens. Or maybe it’s just me reminding myself that things will turn out for the better. I just have to believe they will.

Abbey

PS: So much for this ending up to be a drama-heavy post. Haha! I hope your first quarter of 2017 went well. 🙂