Did you meet the Pope?





My parents arrived in Manila the night after the Pope did. On the ride home from the airport, my Mom asked me, “So will you meet the Pope?” My Mom thinks I am as famous as Oprah or Kris Aquino. She doesn’t live here. She is, of course, my biggest fan. “Mom, how could I meet the Pope? I don’t even have passes to any of the scheduled Masses.” Then she said, “I don’t know. You have many friends. You’re in media. The government. The church. Fr. Dennis. Your dad’s Air Force friends.” I remembered why I didn’t ask anyone for tickets or passes. I told my Mom, “Pope Francis is not like that. He’s not about using privilege and connections. He’s here to see the people who suffered during Yolanda.”


I spent the first three days of Pope Francis’ visit glued to the TV screen watching and listening to him. I must have freaked out my kids because one minute I’m sobbing when his plane lands, then I’m laughing between tears when his beanie cap gets blown by the wind. I listened to all his homilies and speeches with tears in my eyes. Touched by every single one of them.


The events in Tacloban did it for me — the storm, the pilgrims in raincoats, the survivors, the Pope’s silence, the unfortunate death of Kristel and the crash/mishap. I wanted to see the Pope, even for a split second.


I had no means of getting ID’s or passes to get close to the Pope. I didn’t use my contacts in media, church, government and military. I just wanted to go out and catch a glimpse of him in the motorcade along his route. My husband couldn’t come with me. He’s a journalist and he was manning the fort in his station. My Facebook feed was starting to fill with Pope sightings from privileged friends who found their way in to ticketed events. I wanted my own Pope story. I have never seen a Pope in person.


Luckily, my cousin Joan had plans, and more importantly she had the will to go Pope-stalking. In photo: my cousin John and his wife Sheila, Joan and her friends Jeanne, Hazel, TJ and Joan’s husband Ace. This was at the first corner we found in Quirino on the wrong side of the street.


Our strategy was simple – find the best site where the Pope will surely pass. Our goal was not to go to Luneta. We didn’t have IDs for it and the periphery would be too crowded. TJ had a Cherry mobile phone with a TV and monitored the morning UST events. We knew Luneta would just be jam-packed, so we didn’t even try to get near it.

It was raining the entire time. We parked our car in Harrison Plaza then walked along Quirino Avenue as close as we could to the Nunciature. We didn’t actually go near the Nunciature because it was too crowded.


Pope Francis
We found space in the elevated planter island on the middle of Quirino Avenue. We knew that eventually he’d have to pass Quirino Ave to get to Luneta. So from 10:30am to 3:00pm, we sat under the rain using just a raincoat and some plastic garbage bags lining the muddy ground. For almost five hours, the rain didn’t stop. But we didn’t move from our spot. We didn’t eat or drink.


The road was still relatively empty. There were some moments we doubted ourselves. What if they changed his route? Where were the cops and the human barricade? But we didn’t move. We were determined to wait it out.


That weekend coincided with the feast of Santo Nino.


Around 1pm the PNP troops started to come to our area. That’s when we knew for sure that we were in the right spot. The mood along the motorcade route was celebratory. Even the cops were in a light and friendly mood. People shared food with them. We gave them water.


The PNP-issued rain capes were cool. Unfortunately not all the troops got raincoats. Some had to wear garbage bags.


It was by far one of the most illogical things I’ve ever done — to wait in the rain for 5 hours with no umbrella. We were told via news media not to bring umbrellas. We sat on plastic garbage bags directly on top of soil, so after about an hour, the mud started to seep into our “seats”. We got up and stood the rest of the time. Mud seeped in to my shoes. But none of us complained. And the wait didn’t seem that long at all. It was fun being there. People were kind and funny. There was a man who was the town-know-it-all, a pushy old woman who was oblivious to danger, and children who didn’t whine or complain. Ang saya! It’s more meaningful in Tagalog.


By now you have read hundreds of Pope encounters. I will say what everyone has said. The feeling was electric. My hands and legs were shaking. In the few seconds that he was in our (unobstructed) line of vision, he was facing our direction and waved his hand in a blessing gesture. I saw his wonderful smile and his eyes… I will never forget. I lost my composure – tears, screaming, jumping. My cousin and I settled ourselves into a big hug and cried to each other.


A video posted by DAPHNE® (@daphneop) on




Pope Francis 2015
After seeing Pope Francis. Drenched but so happy.


After five hours in the rain, no rainwear is totally waterproof. I wore two layers – a hooded raincoat from Uniqlo and a thicker navy coat from Muji.


We had to get back to Harrison Plaza from Quirino/Taft. On our walk back, we found a pedicab and asked him to take us.


My feet were soaking in mud inside my Toms. It was the end of my favourite pair of Toms. I bought rubber flip flops and alcogel at Bench Harrison Plaza.


Here’s our pedicab cyclist. Everybody happy.


I know that the Pope is just a man. He is not God. We do not worship him. But we like him a lot. He has been able to spread the word of Jesus in the most attainable and understandable way. He’s shown compassion and goodness. And we like good stuff.

The whole experience was amazing. It was an incredible feeling being with the people and walking the streets of Manila in the rain. I got to see my Pope without VIP connections, special ID’s or privileges. We just waited patiently, and he came. It wasn’t so much about seeing him than it was about being together. In the eyes of God, we are all equal — rich or poor, sick or healthy, good or bad. Of course now, I wish the world would just be like that… no poverty, no corruption, no inequality, no suffering. But that’s all up to us now.


“Allow yourselves to be surprised by God. Don’t be afraid of surprises. They shake the ground beneath our feet and make us insecure, but they move us forward in the right direction.” — Pope Francis, UST Jan 18, 2015.



Happy new year




Happy new year, friends. Pardon me. My mind is still on vacation. Working on a few posts. Including my reflections from the same beach we go to every year. Never gets old.



The homefront





It’s been a while since I posted stories about my home and my family. I have to admit that this blog has taken on a different turn from what it used to be like. I remember when my blog was still Daphne’s Diary and only a handful of people were blogging, it was filled with random little nothings about my life. And you were all there to keep me company. As the blog grew, it somehow became a product of my “work” like part of the official brand DAPHNE®. Collaborations came in and with top retailers! The luxury bed linen line with SM Homeworld and Our Home, my furniture line that retailed in Rustan’s and Dimensione, and of course my pride and joy, the DAPHNE x Bench collaboration. I am so grateful and still floored that all that happened and continues to happen. Hint, hint.

Somewhere along the line I feel like I detached myself from the blog a bit too much though. Or am I over-analyzing? Maybe it was because Instagram became too accessible that all my little random diary entries went there instead of here. I didn’t find time to sit down and actually write. Heck, I even stopped using my micro four-thirds camera and DSLR. Today I am drowning in press kits, product samples, event invitations which I appreciate but I also feel like that’s not just what Daphne’s Diary is about. Yes, I talk about products, but I used to share more stories about things I’ve discovered or learned without any marketing or PR activity involved. All authentic stuff. I feel like I owe it to you and myself to get back to my roots. At the very least, all my marketing campaigns are identified. And I also have not partnered with nor supported any campaign that didn’t fit in with my aesthetic and principles. I have declined quite a few.

So I will attempt to balance — business and real life. And please let me know how you feel about it. This is not and never was a mommy blog. So I’m not going that direction. I’m also not an expert on food but admittedly, I am in the process of discovering my inner home-cook talents. Join me on that discovery process. Travel is also a big part of our lives now. Though my 10-week stay in Toronto last year almost went un-blogged. There’s so much I didn’t share about that trip because I was so busy living life at the present moment. Design is still in my vocabulary especially since we are working at doing more home tours. Health, wellness and spirituality make up a huge chunk of my new life now. I won’t preach, but I may tell stories from this journey. Then there will be little anecdotes about my daughters. When I started blogging, I had only one kid. I was pregnant with my second baby, Lily. Now these girls are growing into their own versions of themselves. I’d like to include some of their stories in my blog. Of course security and privacy is an issue, so I can only do so to a point that we are comfortable with.

I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a lot of noise out there. I want this site to continue to be my happy place so I’m regrouping and things are going to change. You are always welcome here.

I just did a fun shoot at home with Xeng Zulueta as the makeup artist and Sandro Paredes as photographer. Xeng and I have worked with each other for a long time. She did some of my most amazing cover shoots. This was totally random and fun. We didn’t even have a hairstylist. I just washed and dried my hair myself. Sorry for the unkempt hair.

But this is what real life is like at home — minus the false lashes.


This is the hallway where my girls’ little feet stomp all over. The house is never quiet when we are home. It is filled with voices, footsteps and laughter. All three daughters are wearing Gingersnaps. My dress is from Sfera, shoes are Repetto.


My masterpiece. Haha. I worked with Rafael Calero of Kitchen Studio. He executed all the ideas I wanted and presented me with more options that I didn’t know existed. I’m loving my kitchen floors. These are treated wood from Matwood. Rafael stained them a certain way so they wouldn’t look too red. In real life they’re lighter. I’m particularly proud of my ceiling. I had this brilliant idea of knocking down the existing ceiling and exposing the roof and beams. But at the time, I didn’t know what lay beneath the ceiling lining. Surprise, surprise… a beautiful structural beam. Oops, it’s hardly in photo. I must show it to you at another occasion.


My kitchen took forever to finish. The reason was because my sink had to be brought in from Kohler, Wisconsin. Yes, Kohler is not only a brand but also a place. It is beautiful. Here are stories from when I visited the Kohler sites in Kohler, Wisconsin. My sink is made of enamelled cast iron. I absolutely love it. P.S. We had to make adjustments to the cabinetry in order to make the sink fit. We initially didn’t know we could have this sink, until I had a “love affair” with the brand officially. My windows are pretty special too. It’s a huge treat to have new windows like this. These are tempered glass and PVC from a German brand called Veka from Fourlinq. As many of you know, the rest of the house has wooden capiz windows. Balance and irony. Haha. Oh, if you’d like to see the video of my kitchen renovation, click here. Top from Sfera, jeans from Uniqlo, shoes from Repetto.


My throne. Seriously. Because every woman must be the queen of her home. Ha!


This Raina chair was a special birthday gift to me by Vito Selma. He sent it to my house right after he showed it in Manila Fame, March of this year. It is, by far, the largest present I’ve ever received. Look at it going through our door on Instagram. I love it! And I adore Vito!  P.S. Dress is from Sfera.


Oh dear, the kitchen beam is still not visible in this photo. Oh well. Here are my three bunnies. We purposely bought three un-matching stools. You can see a bit of a mess behind me. Proof that the kitchen is not “for show.” It’s a real working kitchen. Perhaps only Pinoys will know what I mean about that. Haha. So we dressed up a bit in this shot. I’m wearing a silk dress I bought in Bali from Magali Pascal. Sophia is wearing Rajito by Rajo Laurel. Lily and Stella are wearing Gingersnaps.


The most photographed part of our house is the red door. Every time I have press people over they think they have the “money shot” with the red door. I have to disclose that it’s been done many times. I can actually do an entire series just filled with red door shots! Hmmm, that’s an idea. Future blog entry perhaps. Well, the story here is that the house is really old. It’s the house my husband grew up in. And when we got married, we wanted to give it a bit of a facelift, but slowly. So we began with paint. I wanted red from day one. We also played with colour inside the house — pink hallway, green living room. My advice is, if you don’t have much budget but you want to give your home a boost, start with paint. Don’t be afraid of colour.


All photos by Sandro Paredes.
Make up by Xeng Zulueta.



Study in Canada



Graduation, University of Toronto
When I was awarded my degree at the University of Toronto.


I was recently invited by the Canadian Embassy (Manila) to join a roundtable discussion with media and the Canadian Ambassador to promote post-secondary education in Canada. It brought me back to my years in university, where I had the best years of my life. To this day, I still value not just the quality of education I received, but also the wealth of experience I gained by living and studying in a dynamic city like Toronto.

I must say that I did not choose to study in Canada. I’m Canadian and it was just a natural progression. I graduated from a Canadian high school. I always wanted to study at the University of Toronto. I worked hard in high school, got involved in leadership positions, and I got in to all three universities of my choice. I wouldn’t know what it’s like as a foreign student. The Study in Canada Fair hopes to address questions regarding international students.

Tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel, the Embassy of Canada is hosting the Study in Canada Fair. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Everything you need to know about studying there will be available. Register online here, it’s all free.

I will answer the most common question I receive about Canadian education. No, the Embassy does not give scholarships or grants. They are hosting this event to give information and support for those considering an education overseas. However, universities, colleges and organizations give scholarships to individuals based on merit and need. First things first, put in your application to a university and get in. Then try applying for financial assistance.


University of Toronto graduation
The day I graduated from the University of Toronto. I was 23 years old and my sisters were still in high school. Both of them also went to U of T. Both did very well. Hanni even graduated “With Distinction” (cum laude).


Every time we are back in Toronto, I make it a point to visit my old campus. The kids love it there because it reminds them of Harry Potter.


University of Toronto is Canada’s #1 university. It is ranked in the top 20 of the world. I say that not to show off, though it makes me very proud that I got in to such a prestigious institution (and completed my degree). I’m proudly sharing this fact because in Canada, you can get top quality education at a fraction of what one would pay in the UK or the US. All our universities are subsidized. We do not have private universities. Because of this, competition is really tough getting in to the top schools.


University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada. It is divided into three campuses – St George campus (downtown, where I went), Erindale College (in the west of Toronto, Mississauga) and Scarborough Campus (eastern side). St George is huge and spans across many blocks of the downtown core. As a student in St George, you are either affiliated with a professional faculty (Engineering, Architecture, etc.) or a college (for those in the arts and sciences). I chose to be in St Michael’s College. I didn’t live in official on campus residence because I found my “family” in Pi Beta Phi, the first women’s fraternity established in 1867 in the US. I lived in my women’s fraternity house, which was in the periphery of the university and just a corner away from the Art Gallery of Ontario.


Within the UofT St. George campus (downtown), there are seven colleges. Each arts and science student must choose one college affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s because it was Catholic. But once you’re studying it hardly matters which college you belong to, except if you’re paying tuition or changing courses (which I am sure is all online now). The college system is a distinct feature of UofT, to give students the chance to feel the smaller college community life with its own traditions. This photo shows Knox College, a postgraduate theological college of the UofT, founded in 1844. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the church of Scotland.


I love going to Knox College, because it’s just so pretty. I don’t really have interest in theology or divinity, but if I did, I would love to study and live in this kind of environment.


Sophia is smitten by UofT, St George campus. This is at the University College (UC), established in 1853. UC has no religious affiliation. The building reflects a mix of styles including Norman, Romanesque Revival, and faint traces of Byzantium and the Italian palazzo. It is located in the centre of King’s College Circle, making it the most recognisable landmark of the university.


Convocation Hall last spring 2013.


Under the bell tower
The hero’s memorial outside Hart House.


Hart House, University of Toronto
This is Hart House, our student activity centre established in 1919. In my freshman year, this is where my friends and I ate lunch every day. I love the Gothic revival style of architecture. I used to do my aerobics classes and swimming laps in the indoor pool with vaulted ceiling. Really beautiful place.


Med Sci building
Not all buildings at UofT are from the 1800’s. There are some very interesting 60’s modern and post-modern architecture as well.  This is Lily when she was 4. At the Medical Sciences building.


Living in the heart of downtown Toronto gave us access to a lifestyle that was rich in culture, social activities and dynamic urban issues — very important for a student of urban planning. The Royal Ontario Museum ROM was within our vicinity. One of my Art History courses in East Asian Art was held at this museum. The ROM has since undergone an expansion by Daniel Libeskind.


Just a block from where I lived (Pi Beta Phi house), was the Art Gallery of Ontario and Toronto’s famous Chinatown. Again, as a student of art history, living near the AGO was a real privilege. In 2008, the AGO was redesigned by my favourite, Frank Gehry.


The new City Hall of the City of Toronto, where I was an intern for two years. As a student of urban planning, I got my practical experience as an intern for a city councillor. We dealt with the city’s growth issues, heritage conservation, and our local ward’s neighbourhood concerns – from a resident complaining that a neighbour is not mowing his lawn (creating an unsightly streetscape), to the study of deep lake water cooling, to gentrifying neighbourhoods and preserving heritage structures, and the possibility of a Metro government. Fast forward to now, Toronto city government has moved to the Metro Hall as all the cities within the Toronto area amalgamated and formed one metro-wide government. Think, one Metro Manila government as opposed to 17 city halls.


It was also this internship at Toronto City Hall that paved the way for me to get hired by the Canadian Urban Institute’s International Programs Office, which eventually led to my working overseas — in Mexico and the Philippines. And the rest, as they say….


A couple of weeks ago, upon the invitation of Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder, I attended a round table presentation to media about our Canadian education.


With Ambassador Reeder to launch the Study in Canada Education Fair were other prominent Filipino alumni of Canadian schools. From left, Chef Sharwin Tee who graduated from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Miss International Bea Rose Santiago who studied at York University, SEAOIL Philippines President and CEO Glenn Yu from University of British Columbia, me from University of Toronto, entrepreneur Christopher Tan from University of British Columbia, and musician artist Nykó Macá of McGill University.


So, yeah, I talk with my hands. Haha. Here’s a light moment with Ambassador Reeder. On the left is the President and CEO of SEAOil Philippines Glenn Yu who graduated from the University of British Columbia on full scholarship from the federal government. Bea Santiago, current Miss International, studied in York University. Amb. Reeder studied at University of Saskatchewan and Carlton University.


The Study in Canada Fair, tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Learn everything you need to know about studying in Canada. Register online here, it’s all free.



President Yudhoyono



Let me relive my surreal Friday. I was on mommy duty for Sophia, who had a 5-hour animation class in Fully Booked BGC with the Alcazaren Brothers. It was the last of a two-day workshop. I figured I could use the five hours alone and hole myself up at the Starbucks with a laptop.

As we entered Fully Booked, I noticed there were a lot of PSG-looking men and women – not so inconspicuous in their black pants, white linen barongs, the pin on the collar, and ear piece. I figured there was a VIP inside the store. I hadn’t been in there for a while, but I know how security works around here. On our way up to the top floor of the building we saw PSG everywhere. They were scouting the area, looking out the glass windows, combing the racks of books. All the way up to my daughter’s workshop classroom.

So I asked the cashier. She said, “Baka dumating si Presidente.” (The President might come.) I asked why. It was a Friday, the last day of the World Economic Forum. She said President Aquino and the President of Indonesia were having lunch at Hossein’s across the street (unconfirmed) and may drop in to the book store. I asked again, why. She said, “Madalas si PNoy dito.” (PNoy comes here often.)

So I started talking to myself in Facebook. My friends kept me company.




Soph started her class on the third floor. I stayed in the second floor Starbucks and began writing my blog. But all the security activity continued. Men in white linen barongs first. Then men and women in batik came in. The mood was exciting but not intimidating. I knew President Yudhoyono was here on an official State Visit. But I still wondered, why Starbucks? I continued with my writing and so did the other Starbucks customers. Then I overheard two not-so-secret-service security talking behind me. One of them said, “Alanganin dito. Ang daming tao,” referring to the Starbucks set up. So I took a photo from the reflection of my laptop.


Security behind me.


So if PNoy and President Yudhoyono walked into my Starbucks, I figured that would be a great story. I started documenting what was going on. I’ve been told off many times by security. I was a news reporter, remember? So I’m not scared of taking photos. I’m more scared of retailers who don’t want their windows photographed.

Then when it felt that the heads of state were about to walk in, you know that moment when everyone stands on alert, I see two girls in Fully Booked uniforms rush upstairs with a tabo, disinfectant, and a pail of water. What the.. ?


President Yudhoyono in green shirt.


Minutes later, a wave of important-looking people walk by the Starbucks hallway. And then, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono walk through. There was no PNoy. President Yudhoyono really was just shopping for books. He went to the history, business, management, religion sections. I saw the owner of the book store showing him some books.


I really did a selfie.


Then the President and entourage went upstairs to where my daughter’s class was. Apparently they waved at him and he waved back. Later I found out what the tabo, disinfectant, and pail of water were about. Minutes before the president arrived, one of the pre-teen girls in Sophia’s class vomited on the carpeted hallway. Security and maintenance did a quick cover-up with a black cloth. No biggie.


The President of Indonesia, shopping for books.


This went on for a few more minutes. Then President Yudhoyono went to the washroom behind the Starbucks counter. At this exact moment, my daughter and one Alcazaren brother come to me. She needs to go the washroom too. “Uh, Soph, you can’t right now. The president of Indonesia is in the washroom.” There are separate washrooms for men and women. But still. I thought it best to let all the commotion go by. So Soph waited. Then this happened.


Soph, waiting for her turn in the washroom. The President and First Lady walk by.


And they did sit behind me. You can see in photo, the couple choosing their coffee. Then their staff lined up just like normal folk and ordered the coffee.


Soph did go to the washroom. After I snapped this photo. Surreal.


It was quite the event for me and my daughter. I’m sure she will always remember this. I grew up in the periphery of this arena. My dad was the military pilot of President Marcos. He was the chosen aide-de-camp for visiting Indonesian heads back in the 80’s. As a reporter, I covered the Ramos presidency and saw many heads of state come and go. And as myself, I met Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard at a cocktail reception during a state visit in Manila, but have no photos as proof. It feels a lot different when you’re just a mom in a sundress having coffee in Starbucks and the president of the largest Muslim country walks in and decides to sit right next to your table. President Yudhoyono, by the way, is a former general who served two terms as Indonesian president and is about to step down in July. He is leaving behind a very stable and dynamic democracy.

By the way I forgot to mention that on that very same Friday, President Yudhoyono and President Aquino just signed a historic agreement to resolve a 20-year maritime border dispute. According to the BBC, this is very significant in light of the regional tension felt in other border disputes with China. Wow.

So I posted a couple of photos in my Instagram.  And this morning, I find out that the First Lady, an avid photographer and Instagrammer, liked the photo I took of Sophia with the President and First Lady as photobomber.


First Lady Ani Yudhoyono “likes” my Instagram photo. She also posted this in her Instagram. Nice.


We are living in very interesting times.