The One with Opened Doors

With the signing of the Philippine Mental Health Law by the president, I just realized I had to write something about it.

No, I am not depressed – or none that I know of, I never got myself clinically checked. But I believe I know a portion of what it is like and how painful it is. Here, I shall share my accounts with two depressed people and of course, I shall keep their names unmentioned.

On our way home, one of my friends suddenly asked me “You attract them, noh? The depressed and well, problematic. Di ka naman sana naa-ano.”

I guess what she meant was I am not being influenced to be depressed and problematic. Yes, I am not. Although, I feel sad and even mad whenever I talk to these two people. People are not depressed for no apparent reason – it could be a toxic environment, presence of toxic people, and a combination of everything else piling up until is heavy and unbearable.

Most encounters with my depressed friends involved sleeping late at night, hidden group chats, panic and calling the attempting friend. If lucky, they will pick up. If not, it means you’re on the blacklist. My friends and I have gone to great lengths – to the point of contacting a friend’s ex at midnight (who is a friend of the depressed friend) to personally check how the person was doing. I also remembered calling and hearing sobs – then the person dropped the call.

The both mentioned of pain that is hard to explain, weight on the chest that makes it hard to breathe, tears that they cannot cry – death as the only answer.

I have cried many times for them, prayed and wished that their pain will go away sooner than later. Oftentimes when it felt too much, I wrongly blamed them, calling them selfish and insensitive – what about me? Why do they come to me and hurt me with the pain they carry? Then I remembered that I am not the center of this narrative and that their pain is something that we both want to address. And that I opened my doors for them.

Caring for them is very tiring. They will tell you what they are doing, how they are planning to do it – as if they are narrating on their journals. Except here, another cautious soul listens making sure that they are feeling at least the slightest fine.

As I write now, I am talking to one of my two depressed friends, she is okay but planning again. I will not go into details as that is a big trigger. All I said was “Hoyy, plano lang ha,” and some other jokes. Nope, I do not consider the situation a joke. Of course not, I treated her just as how I would treat my “not depressed” friends – with sincerity and humor. You do not have to treat them as if you pity them; you are enabling them if you do because they will think they are pitiful.


They are the same as us, just someone carrying a baggage that they cannot carry alone. Extend your hand and help. Be there for them- your presence and understanding matters most rather than expressing remorse. Most of all, educate yourselves. It is not something made up, it is not a joke; depression is real. Everyone, please check on all of your friends how they are doing – when something seems off, it is better to ask rather than not bat an eyelash. Do so with so much caution; do not force them to say so much if they do not want to. Remember, you are there to help them, to keep them safe.

To those who have depression, reach out – to your family, friends, a psychologist, anyone. The road to healing is a long process and has a lot of inclusive factors. As all roads, it takes one brave step to get where we are headed. The stigma has not ended, but we are on the way there for #HelpIsHere.

For those who would want to know what the Philippine Mental Health Law contains, here is a link to an article by the for your better understanding:



When All Else Fails

As a journalist, I eat words for breakfast and I munch on dictionaries for binge-eating.
However, there are times that I fail to put whatever I am feeling into words.

When that happens, I used to just stop.

However, I found a new outlet to put whatever I want to say in a different form. Feast your eyes as I take you to my photography ventures (You could actually check out my Instagram account for updates).

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
Dorothea Lange



The Art of Calligraphy

Coming from the Greek words callo and graphia, callig­raphy literally means beautiful writing. This is how most calligraphy workshops start their seminars, stating the book-bound definition.

However, for calligraphy enthusiast Alexis Ventura, calligraphy is not strict and structured as the formal arts. Calligraphy is a free art.

“I take it as a form of art that has to deal with letters. We were able to create [something] beautiful, create a message.”

I was able to sit down with Ms. Alexis Ventura for an interview at The Craft Central. The shop is located at 3F Greenbelt 5, Makati City.

Ventura is the name behind The Craft Central, a spe­cialty shop for arts, and Ink Scribbler, a brand made up of artists creating commissioned art and letterings for clients.

What was used to be Ventura’s hobby of creating calligraphy became a business. She, however, visual­ized creating a company with fellow artists rather than creating it by herself. Ink Scribbler’s name came to be because Ventura wanted to veer away from the word calligraphy. “I didn’t want to use, say, Alexis Calligraphy because it’s very strict and structured.”

With Ink Scribbler’s tagline: Young. Wild and Free (Hand), the artists are free to showcase their own styles.

Sample writings using a variety of nibs.

Ink Scribbler is best known for creating stunning wedding invitations. They were also able to create Chiz Escudero and Heart Evangelista’s wedding invitations. Talk about big time!

She discovered calligraphy through her work in L’oréal when calligraphy-etched cards were sent from Paris to the Philippines. That is when Ventura realized that there is an occupation related to calligraphy.

“[At first], it wasn’t life changing. Siyempre, I didn’t know how to use it. Okay naman, nagsusulat siya. ‘di lang ganun kaganda,” she shared, laughing. ([At first], it wasn’t life changing. Of course, I didn’t know how to use it. It was okay, it was writing but the outcome was not so beautiful.)

The moment she got used to it and developed her personal style, Ink Sscribbler was established.

As to the need of prior knowledge be­fore venturing into calligraphy, Ventura answered “Siyem­pre, kailangan marunong kang magsulat.” (Of course you need to know how to write.) Kidding aside, she said that it really helps to have clear-cut in­structions or an instructor to guide the person so that the learning process is faster.

A framed calligraphy up for sale at The Craft Central

Ventura said she was not artistic. She took up Management Honors with a minor in Finance at Ateneo. One could say that she is indeed business-minded for she has other businesses aside from Ink Scribbler and The Craft Central: one in partnership with her sister and another with her boyfriend. It just so happened that she found a hobby that suits her and it was surprisingly artistic!

The Craft Central also houses other things aside from calligraphy-related materials. They also sell artworks from Filipino makers as well as necklaces, keychains, home products and many more!

When choosing styles, color and design, her team would ask the specifications from the client if it is for a project. However, if it is for selling or for self-keeping, the style and color depends on the person’s mood.

“Creating art for yourself is more relaxed. You are not pressured to create something nice and then you’ll be surprised na maganda pala siya,” Ventura said, express­ing preference for free-hand calligraphy.

A display of the different types of nibs. If I remember correctly, it retails for 90Pesos

Ventura shared that during workshops, the common rookie mistake is in the holding of the pen. Math comes in the equation as the angle of how the pen is held cre­ates the flow of the written work. With further practice, they will eventually learn to do calligraphy properly.

Other than relaxing, calligraphy gave Ventura the sat­isfaction that pleases her passion. Given that she is busy, she cannot handle projects and she focuses on growing her businesses. Her real passion of creating jobs is satiated by calligraphy. She finds it satisfying that people get to use their passion for writing to earn for themselves.

Ventura has also left a message for those who want to try calligraphy but feels like they do not have the “hand” for it.

“Who says that you don’t have the hand for it?” She stated that if it is the person himself who is telling that they cannot do it, then it is going to be hard for them to start. For the person who would really want to do calligraphy, despite the number of people already doing it, they should know that there is space for them, especially if they would find their own style.

“When you start, you really have to want it and desire it.” ###

Visit their website and social media sites to see updates and announcements:



A Paradise of Japanese Snacks

A stroll along one of the streets of Wilson, San Juan City will bring you to a dainty place which houses an explosive set of Japanese snacks called Tori Tori: Kusiyaki Snack Bar.


Embellished with Japanese designs such as lanterns, posters with samurai prints and Japanese letterings, the little restaurant takes you from Philippines to Japan in a jiffy.

Owner Derrick Co said that establishing a restaurant was his childhood dream.  One could say that he took his dream very seriously when he studied food technology and trained for a year in culinary arts. The snack bar took form after a long time of research and soul-searching.

This Japanese restaurant strays away from the usual Tonkatsu and Ramen crowd magnet. It is the place for those who love light meals and risky choices.

Boasting a variety of Japanese snacks, the place used to only offer Kushiyaki, an array of skewered and grilled fish, meat or vegetables. The snack bar only catered to grilling when it opened its doors to customers with a space of only 20 square meters!


Currently, the snack bar offers Kushiyaki, Sushi, Sashimi, Makinomo, and Wraps It Up (kushiyaki with cabbage salad). It is comfort in its simplest and purest form, Co expressed. “No craft, no artisanal. [It is] just plain grilled meats, sushi and maki.”

Despite being simple, the snacks burst with flavour and texture. “Quality starts with the suppliers,” Co explained. Their homemade sauce adds to flavour the ingredients already have.

A great example would be few of their bestsellers, namely: Japanese Wagyu and Bacon Enoki. Deviating from most beef that requires effort in chewing, the succulent meat of the Wagyu beef melts in the mouth. Same goes for the Bacon Enoki whose mildly flavoured mushrooms go well with the tender bacon.


The snack bar’s variety of sushi is also noteworthy. From the usual Tamago and Kani, they also offer Salmon Sushi, Wagyu Sushi and others that are hard to spell. The eatery also presents new dishes gradually, incorporating other Japanese specialties such as Tempura and Uni or Sea Urchin. The big servings of Sushi are also overwhelming, making it hard to devour them in one bite.

The place is usually filled with people during weeknights and weekends, getting their dose of booze of local or Japanese liquor. Paired with newly grilled meat or vegetable, it’s a perfect combination.

Being in competition with Japanese restaurants with bigger names, Co’s strategy is to keep it simple and straightforward. “That’s good, honest, simple and delicious food.”


What more is there to look forward to? “I have a new branch going to open early in 2017. Stay tuned,” Co announced in 2016.

On March 2017, Tori Tori Kushiyaki Snack Bar opened its second branch at Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The branch offers the same goodness offered in its San Juan branch.

(Originally posted as a Feature Article for The Pantograph. I was a feature writer then. Updates to the article were also made. Date of original release: November 27, 2016)