‘It’ girls

May 15th, 2011

While listening to a few Aerosmith songs, I felt a strong surge of nostalgia and looked up the ultimate ’90s chick, Alicia Silverstone (who appeared in several Aerosmith videos). At the time I was just starting to be introduced to pop culture in the mid-’90s, she had just starred in Clueless and was one of the prettiest things on TV. Magazines loved her.

This was my favorite cover of Alicia Silverstone. I had this issue back then and obsessively pored through every page of YM and Seventeen I could get because we had no local teen mags, and the imported ones were expensive.

When she appeared on the cover, Seventeen hit the one-million mark for the first time. And check out the references: Brad Renfro, Claire Danes, Green Day. Classic.

I miss the wide-eyed, wholesome look of female stars back in the ’90s—with the exception of Winona Ryder, girls weren’t smoky-eyed and gaunt. Claire Danes, Larisa Oleynik, and Melissa Joan Hart ruled the teen magazines, and none of them were remotely like fashionable waifs that are so popular nowadays. I admit that the girls nowadays are prettier, but the ones in the ’90s were more real.

Every generation needs a golden-haired goddess. The ’90s had Alicia. I still think she was seriously pretty at her peak, but a little on the big side by today’s standards. The female leads on current shows will probably diet themselves into oblivion if they had arms like these now, but then again, they’ll never attain her superstar status post-Clueless.

Notice that this skimpily dressed crouching position will later become a staple for future stars

2003′s answer to Alicia Silverstone was Mischa Barton of The O.C., and she was a lot skinnier when she played Marissa Cooper.

Behold the skimpily dressed 'it' girl in a crouching position.

When Gossip Girl came out a few years ago, all eyes were on the rebellious blonde, Serena van der Woodsen, played by Blake Lively. She had a little more meat on her bones than Mischa Barton. I think she’s interesting, but maybe the least pretty of the three girls.

And she's now a Chanel spokesperson.

And here's the requisite crouching shot.

Blonde trainwreck characters have a certain look.

The Valley Girls grow up

May 9th, 2011

My addiction to the Sweet Valley book series was perhaps the pinnacle of my desperate-to-fit-in adolescent years. At 10 years old, I was a geeky bookworm who often spent class hours reading books under my desk instead of listening to lectures.

But some of my early favorites, like “Little Women” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” didn’t quite cut it with the cool crowd. So during lunch breaks, I headed to the library to either read or hunt down pocketbooks with other girls.

These girls and I—sometimes, we didn’t know each other’s names—would spend a good part of lunch hour looking for books in the library. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds; pocketbooks were the most coveted finds, and we were limited to borrowing one book a day. In the interest of saving a book for another day, girls often hid them in between other books that few people had interest in borrowing, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries.

So there we were, a sisterhood of rogue bookworms, running our hands behind musty encyclopedia sets and rare Filipiniana volumes in the hopes of stumbling upon a paperback novel. Those were shallow—and possibly ignorant—times for us, as many of us in grade school chose to go for the acceptably hip reading fare for adolescents back then.

These included R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series, “The Baby-Sitter’s Club,” and of course, Sweet Valley in all its permutations: Sweet Valley High, Twins, Kids, University, The Unicorn Club, Saga, Thriller Edition, and so on and so forth. Sweet Valley High, the most popular of the set, was eventually turned into a television series.

As the library often didn’t carry the latest titles, girls who brought newly purchased ones to school were besieged with requests of “Pa-overnight,” only to have the books returned to them a couple of weeks later, creased and smeared after going through half a dozen schoolgirls. But somewhere along the way, the Sweet Valley craze died out, only to become a footnote to youth. Later spinoffs proved to be flops (the “Elizabeth Wakefield in London” series comes to mind), and people just stopped caring.

Until now.

Last year, when Francine Pascal, the creator of the Sweet Valley series (she presided over a team of ghost writers), announced that she was writing a definitive sequel to the Sweet Valley High books, grown women everywhere suddenly reverted back to their adolescent selves. Fan blogs came alive just to discuss what had happened to the golden-haired twins, their family and friends. Were they going to retain their perfect lives, or was Pascal going to spice things up a little?

The much-anticipated “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later” definitely opts for the latter direction. The book starts off with Elizabeth living in New York as a writer, although she and her sister are apparently estranged due to some serious betrayal by Jessica. It inevitably turns out to be because of guy issues, although anyone who read “Jessica’s Secret Diaries” in the SVH series probably wouldn’t be surprised by the turn of events.

Old characters

Although “Sweet Valley Confidential” can stand on its own as chick lit, it will be better appreciated by people who are familiar with the original series. Old characters such as Todd Wilkins, Bruce Patman, Lila Fowler, Enid Rollins, AJ Morgan, Winston Egbert, Steven Wakefield, Caroline Pearce, Aaron Dallas and many more make appearances in the book—and how.

One character becomes an instant millionaire and dies by falling off a balcony, another abandons his wife for his gay lover, someone gets a boob job, another becomes a cancer patient, while one of the main characters gets married thrice. But the fun lies in looking for “Easter eggs” throughout the novel—keep an eye peeled for references to details in the original series, such as Bruce Patman’s Porsche (with the ‘1BRUCE1’ license plate).

There’s plenty of content that wouldn’t have landed on the pages of the perpetually sunny pages of Sweet Valley High, either: detailed sex scenes, talk of orgasms, and even the occasional expletive (there’s a priceless one by no less than Alice Wakefield, the twins’ mother). It all reads like juicy gossip, none of it believable.

Loyal fans will be torn by their allegiances—because you just have to side with one Wakefield twin—so the turnout of the novel will leave hardcore enthusiasts ambivalent. The Sweet Valley series had spent much of its time establishing the identities of its characters to the point of boxing them into stereotypes, so it’s a little strange to see those characterizations reversed in one fell swoop. Yes, the events are more reflective of those in the real world, but everything seems to happen to the Wakefields and their friends, even at the risk of suspending disbelief.

I brought the book, encased in its apple-red dust cover, to the office last week. An editor raised a slightly judgmental eyebrow: “Are you reading that?”

Yes, I replied defensively.

“That’s trash,” she grunted.

“I know,” I replied.

“Then why are you even reading it?” she asked.

“I need closure. Also, I wanted to know if Elizabeth was planning to stay a virgin until marriage.” (The answer? A resounding “no.”)


Originally published in the Inquirer.

My ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ moment

March 8th, 2011

We took an aptitude exam at the office today. Clearly, a lot of us in publishing think alike, because we all hemmed and hawed the moment we realized the test involved a significant amount of math.

“But we chose to work in publishing because there shouldn’t be any math involved,” someone groaned. Several echoed her sentiments, myself included.

But after the initial round of complaining, we settled down to answer the questions, complete with scratch paper. I hadn’t done a serious aptitude test since taking the GRE; the others were even worse, since the last exams they took were college admissions tests. Charmagne our beauty editor wailed, “This is bad for my self-esteem!”

It wasn’t bad at first; there was mostly basic algebra and problem solving. Then maybe a few permutations, and some numerical logic. Then fractions (which I hate with a passion). As I clicked on the key to submit the more difficult math-related portion of the exam, the computer screen went blank—and all my answers were gone. Had I been in an actual entrance exam, I would’ve had a meltdown.

I redid the answers and moved on to vocabulary and word association. Most were easy enough, but I encountered a word I hadn’t read in a while: caudal. It’s not a word you use in everyday matters (by the way, it means ‘near the tail’ or something like that), but there’s no way that I’ll be forgetting that word soon because ‘caudal’ is the last name of the dude I had a crush on in my prepubescent years. It’s a funny, silly story: he was my busmate back in the fourth grade, and that crush stretched on until third year high school. Even when I was sort of going out with someone back then. The ultimate example of unrequited love (though it wasn’t love), I haven’t seen him in over 11 years.

How did his last name help in the exam? Well of course, being the infatuated teenager back them, I Googled him. He didn’t turn up in any valid search engine results (just checked now—he still doesn’t, to be honest), but there were a lot of references about the ‘caudal fin.’ His name appeared in a lot of biology-related charts, like so:

A diagram of a fish depicting the caudal fin

So that was my Slumdog Millionaire moment for the day. Hey K. Caudal*, if ever you read this, don’t worry—I’m not stalking you, and I’m perfectly happy with my boyfriend now. The reason I can blog about that embarrassing crush so casually nowadays is that I’m secure with my past, and I have no hang-ups whatsoever about that particular issue.

It also helps that the boyfriend is cuter than the former crush. Not necessary, but good to know anyway.


* I had initially written his whole name, but a friend pointed out that if he ever does a vanity search on Google, this would be one of the top results. Not that I mind it if he ever sees this, but I’d rather that it wouldn’t be one of the top results (I checked it earlier and it already was).


February 27th, 2011

While flipping through old issues of Metro to look for stories for our upcoming anniversary issue, I found myself suppressing a laugh on more than one occasion. It was so different from the magazine we currently turn out on a monthly basis, the staff and I marveled. Feature articles, fashion shoots—they were all so well, dated. A particular issue had me blinking in disbelief because it featured Erica, our former beauty editor, in a fashion editorial shot by her dad, Jim Paredes. “Ohmygod, where did you get that?” she squealed after I sent her an MMS with one of the photos. “I was like 20 years old at that time.”

Luckily, she was game and didn’t protest when I Tweeted the photos in succession:

Erica wearing some of 1999's trends: apron tops and shrugs

And check out the funny poses

I was a high school sophomore at the time the magazine came out in December 1999. Back then, I probably wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with it—my magazine of choice, Candy, featured similar clothes in similarly unsophisticated fashion editorials. Now, the editorials in Philippine magazines sometimes (not always) rival those that appear in their American and European counterparts. Creative directors and editors discuss upcoming looks with pages of Vogue (usually French or Italian) as their pegs. But that’s not because of a lack of sophistication of the editorial team back then: they were simply reporting the trends at that time, using whatever resources they had back then. Digital photography wasn’t readily available to magazines back then; publishing companies made the complete transition from film to digital as late as 2004-2005.

Change is an inevitable thing for a publication. Metro, which is about to celebrate its 22nd year, probably underwent through more changes than any other local magazine. It started out as a city lifestyle magazine (the current staff was surprised to discover that Fernando Zobel, and not some stylish model or celebrity, was on the first cover), and is slowly turning into a fashion-centric publication. Back when I joined the magazine in 2008, fashion wasn’t the magazine’s selling point; but three years is long enough for major changes to take place, so here we are. Check out the magazine’s more subtle changes throughout the years:

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

September 28th, 2010

Yes, the whole title. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not TMNT. That’s what a friend and I spent the ride to my house talking about our Friday night viewing habits as kids, and this came up. Out of sheer curiosity, I tried Googling the show just to see what came up. Apparently, the old school Ninja Turtles I liked before just weren’t cool enough, because it was difficult scrounging up images of the real show. Behold the evolution of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Vintage 2D animation

With a little airbrushing, but the faces are still the same

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#sentisabado, part one

August 29th, 2010

Last night’s popular Twitter hashtag came in the form of #sentisabado, which had people Tweeting about their favorite ’90s moments—and there were many. All the “Dear Diary, Carlo sat beside me today” and “Bahaw, ang kaning lamig” references made it clear that a lot of twenteensomethings spent last night reliving the decade that brought them up.

A few months ago, I talked about the ’90s commercials that defined my childhood, as well as the junk food that I ate, which were all part of last night’s nostalgia trip. And then people started bringing up ’90s fashion, which made me think of the stuff I used to wear back in grade school. One thing that saved me from complete fashion victim status was parental intervention. Although I very much wanted to get some of the trendier items, like Doc Martens and denim jumper shorts, my parents weren’t so gung-ho about letting me wear them (I did wear a lot of printed leggings though). However, I still managed to wear most of the ’90s trends below.

Which were the ones that you wore?

The quintessential '90s look. (These photos were taken in 2005 as a spoof photo shoot for Inquirer; my friend Katrina was game enough to pose for them. She doesn't usually dress like this, I promise!)

Dresses worn over shirts
It was the early stages of layering when black spaghetti-strapped dresses worn over plain white shirts became popular with girls during the early ’90s (no other color combinations were acceptable). This outfit was worn with Keds and tube socks or clogs.

Tretorn sneakers and Doc Martens were hot

Doc Martens
Every kid had to have a pair of Doc Martens. If you didn’t, you were sent to a corner to shiver over your lack of coolness (myself included). Doc Martens were worn with everything, from dresses to jeans to overalls, and came in a variety of styles and colors. Tretorns were also pretty popular, although in our school, they were also eventually used as P.E. shoes.

Blame it on Kurt Cobain and the smell of teen spirit – the early ’90s were dominated by teens with unwashed hair in ripped jeans, flannel shirts and grubby sneakers.

Sunflowers and matte makeup

Sunflower everything
Sunflower hats, clothes, accessories—it was the flower of the decade, if there was ever such a thing.

Statement clothes and accessories
Shirts and necklaces with smart-aleck words and phrases such as ”Whatever,” ”Yeah, right” and ”As if” sold like hotcakes. Also popular at that time were hippie-inspired smiley faces, peace signs, the yin-yang symbol, and flowers. (Statement shirts were pretty popular last year, proof that fashion is always recycled).

High-waisted, tapered jeans, midriff (a.k.a "hanging") top, folded hat.. a classic '90s look

Midriff/”hanging” shirts
Now, it’s all about long and lean shirts. In the ’90s, the closer the hem of the shirt was to the belly button, the cooler it was.

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A wilderness of sweets

May 22nd, 2010

“I may have had five of these because of the frickin’ heat,” a friend said on Facebook, referring to a slushed ice drink. “Lasa siyang Nutrilicious na may ice bits. I miss Slush Puppies from my elementary days.”

It’s been a while since I last had a Slush Puppie (at least 8-10 years, if the last time I had one was in high school), but I can still remember the distinct tangy flavor of the strawberry-lemon lime combination I always ordered. Weird, I know, but I could never make up my mind about which flavor I liked better.

Slush Puppie pump bottles. I was always amazed by how deft the server's hands were whenever students asked for an "all-flavor mix."

Once, I saw my longtime crush slip into the cafeteria (he always walked over from Ateneo to Miriam because his school bus waited there) and order a vivd blue drink, which turned out to be blueberry. After that, I ordered blueberry-flavored Slush Puppies, too. It tasted nothing like blueberries, and left my tongue blue to boot. It was no fun getting Slush Puppie during peak hours, because the ice bits weren’t fully formed yet and all we got was brightly colored liquid in a cup—boo, no brain freeze.

I heard from the same friend that they no longer serve Slush Puppies or Snowie (another frozen drink, usually Coke or Rootbeer flavored on one side, another brightly colored one in another) because grade schools are asked to offer fresh fruit shakes instead. While I’m all for healthy eating and would not let my future kid guzzle soda and other artificially flavored drinks, I can’t help but feel that kids nowadays are missing out.

Thinking of Slush Puppie made me remember the other sugar-filled treats from my childhood, and I must say that I definitely had too much fun. Still, no regrets! I make up for things now with my daily serving of veggies anyway. What did I like best?

1. Haw flakes

We pretended to hand out communion when we ate this one

Apparently made from hawthorne fruit (the only other time I saw hawthorne used was when J.K. Rowling referred to Draco Malfoy’s wand), haw flakes were a staple grade school candy. Sweet, soft and slightly tangy, I could finish a pack of it in a day if only I were allowed to. These used to sell for 2 pesos per piece in the school cafeteria (or “cafe;” for some reason, we never called it a canteen). The price went up to 2.50, then I think eventually 5. We unknowingly committed blasphemy many times over whenever we lined up in front of someone with a pack to receive “communion.”

2. Haw Haw Candy

This was my favorite when I was in kindergarten and remained one of my top choices until grade school. Haw Haw doesn’t contain a shred of hawthorne; instead, it’s milk powder in tablet form. I used to share a pile of these with my first best friend, who I never saw after third grade because she moved to Assumption Antipolo and I never knew what happened to her after. I tried this again a couple of weeks ago, and it didn’t taste as good as I remembered. Some things should be left in that little sacred place called childhood.

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Flashback Fridays: ’90s commercials

February 18th, 2010

I grew up watching quite a lot of shows on local television in the late ’80s and the ’90s, with ABS-CBN being my station of choice; it was also the station that my grandfather patronized.  On lazy summer days, we would settle in to watch our favorite shows—”Home Along da Riles” and “Maalaala Mo Kaya” for my lolo (though I did catch him watching “Connie Reyes on Camera” and “Lovingly Yours” a couple of times), and “Sara, ang Munting Prinsesa” for me.

4:30 na, Ang TV na!

I also watched the pre-teen show, “Ang TV.”  As long as it was “4:30 na, ‘Ang TV’ na!,” I dropped everything to watch Antoinette Taus, Paolo Contis and company crack corny jokes with exaggerated gestures and facial expressions.  However, despite the whole “esmyuskee” phenomenon, I find it difficult to remember anything about that show now.  But I do remember the commercials that were shown in between the gags.

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