Kapitolyo Food Trip: Cafe Juanita

21 Aug

(Last) Saturday seems like a long time ago now and I can’t wait for the next weekend to come. My weekends are a bit busy these days but surprisingly I managed to squeeze in some quality time and spent it with a very dear friend – my soul sister Sasha. I consider her my sister from another mother. Even if she may not look like someone who appreciates food (she’s a size zero for crying out loud! Life is so unfair. Sigh) but the truth is, food is a common ground for us and books as well. We’re also both country girls at heart – that, plus a lot more interesting elements to this whole affair we call “friendship”.

Our wandering feet brought us this time to a restaurant in Pasig called, Café Juanita – a traditional, old Filipino home which was later on converted into a restaurant. Thus explains the cozy and homey feeling one will get upon setting foot in this place.

Cafe Juanita facade at night

Cafe Juanita facade at night

Cafe Juanita has a very charming and quaint facade and once you enter the restaurant, you will be transported into a whole new magical world that is both romantic and whimsical. The restaurant is adorned and decorated with a lot of charming little details and trinkets – all full of character.

Sasha and I love it! Please be warned though that the house has this old, woody smell that’s not exactly enticing for everyone. Take my husband and my mother for example. They are both not fond of things that smell and look old.

The house including the second floor was turned into a dining area for customers. The whole area on the first level of the house is about the size of two normal living rooms. It’s spacious enough to seat several groups of diners but still retains its intimate ambiance.

Cafe Juanita dining area - cozy, intimate & romantic

Cafe Juanita dining area – cozy, intimate & romantic

They also have a section at the back of the house that’s a bit al fresco. It’s a small, outdoor patio that has a pocket garden and it is not air-conditioned (for smoking patrons perhaps).

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Even Cafe Juanita’s toilet (aka comfort room) is full of old-world, vintage charm that brings back nostalgic memories of my grandparents’ home in the province.

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Moving on, we ordered the following for our dinner: Salmon Belly Sinigang sa Miso (approx. 400Php), Laing (approx. 280Php), 2 Ripe Mango Shake (approx. 100Php each) and rice (60Php per serving). For our full meal for two, we paid a little less than 1,000Php inclusive of Service Charge.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

 

Cafe Juanita's menu

Cafe Juanita’s menu

 

I fell in love with their Salmon Belly Sinigang sa Miso (Salmon Belly in Miso Sour Broth). The allure of its broth comes from the good balance between salty, sour and tart. Sasha even tweaked the flavor a bit by introducing a sauce that’s made of fish sauce (patis), chili and calamansi. Lately, I’ve been loving the addition of heat, especially in the form of small chilies called siling labuyo and Sasha’s sauce’s definitely nailed it for me. I really appreciate that the restaurant has cooked something brilliantly, undeniably delicious. It’s a dish worth ordering even if it’s quite pricey (based on my personal standard). I also love the fact that the servers let us taste the broth first before serving the dish to us and asked us if we wanted to make the necessary adjustment to the saltiness and sourness of the dish. That’s great customer right? The servers and the waiters were all pleasant and we cannot complain anything when it comes to their customer service.

Salmon Belly Sinigang sa Miso. Winner!

Salmon Belly Sinigang sa Miso. Winner!

However in my humble, not-a-food-expert opinion, their version of the popular Bicolano dish, Laing, isn’t memorable. Laing is a dish whose origin is attributed to the Bicol region where coconut milk is consistently and prominently showcased in the province’s local cuisine. The dish’s main ingredients are taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, salted with fish bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). It is also heavily spiced with small, red hot chilies called siling labuyo. I was not particularly impressed with Café Juanita’s version of Laing mainly because I like my Laing a bit drier and spicier but I think it is still worth trying.

Cafe Juanita's Laing was mediocre for me

Cafe Juanita’s Laing was mediocre for me

Meanwhile, their Ripe Mango Shake was just okay for me because honestly, I’m not a fan of simple fruit shakes. I like the creamy version called smoothie (with milk) and Café Juanita doesn’t serve smoothies. I do appreciate that their Ripe Mango Shake had a very distinct taste of ripe mango (which means that the ratio of the mango fruit is higher than the ice and sugar) and it wasn’t very sweet. The ice was also crushed into a smooth, velvety texture. The good thing is, the fruit shake wasn’t heavy on the stomach because it was not creamy and had no dairy in it which made it the perfect accompaniment to the main dishes that we ordered.

Ripe Mango Shake is a staple drink in Filipino restaurants

Ripe Mango Shake is a staple drink in Filipino restaurants

Now, let’s move on to things other than the food. We all know that within every dinner is an interesting conversation also known as girl talk. Like any other normal girls, our topics range from the mundane to the profound. Café Juanita is the perfect place to hold such long and intimate conversations. It’s a cozy and romantic place that’s perfect for a date with your significant other or even your friends. It’s a cross between a fine dining restaurant and a casual hang out place. The restaurant is quaint, charming, homey and cozy all rolled into one.

A night full of giggles and laughter. But we had to look formal for the camera. Hahaha

A night full of giggles and laughter. But we had to look formal for the camera. Hahaha

 

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Just when we were about to leave, it rained hard so we had to stay and linger a little longer. Their pocket garden at the back was partially uncovered so we could hear and see the rain. It was oddly comforting for me and I wasn’t a bit worried that I was not home while a heavy downpour was going on outside. The rain did not really stop but after half an hour, it mellowed down into a drizzle so we decided to step out and explore the whole Kapitolyo strip of restaurants. That’s the best part about having a Kapitolyo food trip – it simply doesn’t end in Café Juanita.

Doing an awkward pose at the restaurant entrance. We'll be back :)

Doing an awkward pose at the restaurant entrance. We’ll be back :)

To be continued….

XOXO,

micah_signature

 

 

 

 

LOCATION

19, West Kapitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City (the branch we visited!)

Burgos Circle, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City

CONTACT

(02) 632 0357 (Pasig); (02) 403 1952 (Taguig)

 

*This is the author’s personal and unbiased opinion about her dining experience in Cafe Juanita. This is not a sponsored post either. She is not in any way affiliated with the said restaurant so if you have questions about reservations, menu and prices please contact Cafe Juanita directly. Thank you.

Commercial Muna

15 Jul

A typical conversation between The Husband and I regarding my obsession with milk tea. Please tell me I’m not crazy. Lol

Usually magpapa-cute muna ako bago magpaalam. Haha

 

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Tapos ayan na ;)

Pero sweet talaga ang asawa ko kasi sa bandang huli, sasamahan niya pa ako. Yey!

Capture9

 

XOXO,

micah_signature

Livin’ The Life Of A Southerner: Ternate Beach Resort Edition

2 Jul “If you think about it, finding true love is a lot like finding a particular grain of sand on the beach.” 
― Chrissy Anderson, The Hope List

One of the great things about being a Southerner and living in a suburban area is you still get to taste a bit of city living while being a few kilometers away from the beach. You literally have the best of both worlds.

One of my favorite places to be in is the beach, by the sea (although I love the comfort and convenience of the malls too!). It’s perfect for that complete relaxation that we all need from time to time – away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

“My dream is to have a house on the beach, even just a little shack somewhere so I can wake up, have coffee, look at dolphins, be quiet and breathe the air. ” — Christina Applegate

Summer time is officially over since June kicked in. In fact it has started to rain heavily the week prior to this trip and the weather bureau has announced about a brewing storm. But the allure of the beach is so great that we still pushed through with my sister’s our plan and I think the nature conspired with us because the weather was just perfect on the day of our beach trip.

So if you’re looking for a beach in the South that’s just near the Metro, then let me take you to one.

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La Fiesta: A Celebration Of Filipino Culture & Cuisine

25 Jun this cart brings back fond memories of my childhood years

If the United States has “Thanksgiving”, the Philippines has “Fiesta”. There might be a huge difference in terms of the extent and magnitude of celebration between the two with Thanksgiving being more personal and intimate as preferred by Americans compared to the Filipinos’ “Fiesta” which is an excessively lavish celebration of the whole community made even more extravagant with all the merriment thrown in (read: videoke and perya (local fair & carnival)) but one thing is common between these two – both traditions are definitely celebrated with good food on the table.

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Beantage Cafe

18 Jun IMG_0775

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That quote above sums up what drinking coffee symbolizes for most people.

Personally, I drink coffee not just for sheer pleasure but also for profound contemplation. I like sipping coffee while reading a book, while listening to my favorite music or while having a conversation with my friends.

Before, when I had cravings for coffee I used to frequent coffee shops like Starbucks, Seattle’s Best or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to get my caffeine fix. But lately, I have lost interest in coffee shops and have shifted my interest to milk tea stores. Have you heard? I breathe milk tea now! Kidding*

So it was a bit out of character for me to visit a coffee shop once again. You must think this coffee shop must be something else for me to go back to drinking coffee once again…

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Discovering The Magic Of Humanity At The GK Enchanted Farm

28 May

I recently had an opportunity to visit a place where generosity, humility and solidarity abound.

I don’t usually like revealing exquisite places that I come across in my travels because a (selfish) part of me wants to keep the “secret” to myself for some time and I want to enjoy the place as much as I can until it becomes popular and get all swarmed by curious tourists but I decided to make an exception for this place because it has taught me so much about giving and sharing that I am compelled to let the whole world know about it.

 

a bewitching, captivating and enchanting place

a bewitching, captivating and enchanting place

 

In a sleepy town north of Metro Manila lies a lovely place not many of us know. This enthralling destination is aptly called “Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm”.

 

a piece of heaven on Earth

a piece of heaven on Earth

The farm certainly looks enchanting now but you may be surprised to know that it used to be an idle and useless land that houses NPAs (New People’s Army), rebels and criminals. We were told that the location of the farm was notorious for thieves and was in fact considered as the “Tondo” of Bulacan.

excited to explore the farm

excited to explore the farm!

The farm derived its name from the barangay where it is located. The place is called Barangay Encanto in Angat, Bulacan and for many Filipinos this word connotes many negative things like supernatural beings, environmental spirits that have the ability to appear in human form, etc. – quite scary if I may say. When Gawad Kalinga (GK) received several hectares of vast land (from originally 14 hectares to now 36 hectares) as donation from generous companies and philanthropists, they developed it into a sustainable farm and community and they named it the “Enchanted” Farm.

Surprisingly the English version which Merriam Webster defines as “fill (someone) with great delight; charm” connotes a more positive meaning than its Filipino counterpart “Engkanto” and that was just the start of the positive shift in mind set and perspective that Gawad Kalinga aims to impart to the Filipinos.

So what makes GK Enchanted Farm enchanting? If you ask me, its background and the story on how it was built are what make it enchanting.

The GK Enchanted Farm as described in their website is “Gawad Kalinga’s platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help our local farmers and create wealth in the countryside” so that people from the provinces and rural areas need not travel far to the city or live in the congested city of Manila and be away from their families just to earn a decent living.

Gawad Kalinga (GK) started its humble beginnings as a ministry for the poor of Couples for Christ (CFC). A few years back, Mr. Antonio “Tony” Meloto (Father and Founder of Gawad Kalinga) had a noble vision of ending poverty for 5 million Filipino families by 2024 (also known as GK2024). The GK Enchanted Farm is now Gawad Kalinga’s (GK2024) second phase.

Gawad Kalinga (GK) is driven by Tito Tony’s (as he is fondly called) advocacy of building a nation empowered by people with faith and patriotism; a nation made up of caring and sharing communities, dedicated to eradicate poverty and restore human dignity. It was an advocacy ridiculed and doubted by many, yet this vision is now very much widespread not only in this country but also globally and many achievers and accomplished people already want to be a part of it. Tito Tony Meloto has already received numerous awards here and abroad for his community leadership work for Gawad Kalinga. Our group had the privilege to have an intimate talk with Tito Tony and he definitely has a gift for words that left every one of us inspired and motivated.

Mr. Tony Meloto - the visionary behind Gawad Kalinga. His ideals and dreams for this country and how he works hard to achieve them never cease to amaze me

Mr. Tony Meloto – the visionary behind Gawad Kalinga. His ideals and dreams for this country and how he works hard to achieve them never cease to amaze me

Tito Tony explained that in the GK2024 second phase, the houses and communities built by Gawad Kalinga are now being developed into Centers for Social Innovation (CSI) wherein the goal is to create a community that will nurture and train social entrepreneurs who will produce high-quality, locally-made products that will put a premium to the label “Made in the Philippines”  by using the raw materials produced in the farm. It also aims to remove the middle man in the trading system so that the local farmers can earn more and their earnings and profits can eventually sustain these communities and gradually uplift the social status of the poor.

As Tito Tony says “The ability to dream is innate, but to make it happen is something worth aspiring for.” True enough he devised a very effective and proactive approach to make his dream for the GK Enchanted Farm happen. He didn’t just wait for donations to be given and handed down to them. Rather, he created a community with sufficient means of livelihood for its residents. The donations received by the farm from Tito Tony’s friends and from generous donors were just welcome addition and were not in any way solicited. Sure there are other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that help the marginalized poor as well but they heavily depend on cash donations and Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from the government that had to go through a lot of bureaucracy which sometimes oftentimes only lead to corruption.

Our group!

Our group!

 

So let me tell you about the two days that I spent in the farm.

I, together with my sister, Claire, arrived at the Enchanted Farm on a Saturday and attended the following social enterprise demos:

Chocolate making by Philo Chua.

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Philo - the Chocolate Man

Philo – the Chocolate Man

Philo explained to us how chocolate is made specifically how he makes his artisan chocolate, Theo & Philo. The demo made me appreciate chocolates all the more because I realized how much work and effort is put into chocolate making. I also learned the difference of dark chocolate (and why it is expensive!), milk chocolate and white chocolate. Philo also explained why imported chocolates taste better than most of the chocolates that we can buy locally. I will definitely not look at chocolate the same way again. It is not just food to be consumed, chocolate is a work of art all its own.

Chocolate made from pure Cacao beans

Chocolate made from pure Cacao beans

I regret that I did not get to see the peanut butter-making demo because I love all things made from peanut! I will definitely make sure to attend it on my next visit to the farm.

We also attended the cheese-making demo of Gourmet Keso. I love how the whole process seemed so easy and doable at home and how the ingredients used are all-natural. One just needs carabao’s milk, pure vinegar and brine solution and voila you can already make a tasty and creamy kesong puti (white cheese). What’s best is that the by-product of this process is low-fat carabao’s milk which can still be sold to consumers.

I never knew that cheese-making could be fun and easy

I never knew that cheese-making could be fun and easy

 

The end product - Kesong Puti (white cheese) ready to be devoured

The end product – Kesong Puti (white cheese) ready to be devoured

The last social enterprise demo we attended was the stuffed-toy making by Plush and Play. Fabien, the social entrepreneur behind this child-friendly, child-safe and All-Filipino toy brand discussed with us the reasons why he decided to go into stuffed-toy making. He mentioned that he saw the need for toys made of environment-friendly, safe and locally grown materials because almost all toy brands available in the market are made in China which unfortunately are mass produced and laden with harmful chemicals such as melamine, lead, zinc and the likes. He said that he wanted to create a quality toy brand that this country can be proud of.

Fabien also happily shared with us the amusing names of all their stuffed toys one of which is Anne Kamatis (Anne the Tomato) in reference to the widely-popular, Filipina actress, Anne Curtis. This tells a lot about how much this country adore and worship celebrities.

Fabien Courteille - the young social entrepreneur behind Plush&Play

Fabien Courteille – the young social entrepreneur behind Plush&Play

 

the different stuffed toys made by Plush & Play

the different stuffed toys made by Plush & Play

This demo is the one that I enjoyed the most because we were able to try ourselves how to make our own stuffed toy. I was actually being ambitious and wanted to make a complicated design but I was advised that for beginners it’s always best to start small so we all ended up making a simple, heart-shaped stuffed toy.

my teeny weeny heart-shaped stuffed toy

my teeny weeny heart-shaped stuffed toy. Pardon my oily face :D

 

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I’m very proud to say that among-st all the participants, I’m one of the few who were able to do every step on my own, including operating the complicated and intimidating sewing machine! I also did a bit of hand sewing and  stitching. I have my dear Lola (grandma) to thank for it.

doing some serious stitching

doing some serious stitching

That's a LOT of hearts!

That’s a LOT of hearts!

We also had a farm tour with Raf Dionisio later in the afternoon who explained to us the very interesting and rich history of the farm and how it all started. The farm also had its share of growing pains but the persistence and resilience of the volunteers steered it into where it is right now. I am the type of person who gets very much affected by stories of hope and triumph and Raf’s stories and tales about the community and its people definitely left a huge positive impact to my whole being.

Would you believe that this work of art is a concept borne out of a calamity that hit the area many years back? There was illegal logging and when flash flood came, the logs got all wet and cannot be sold anymore so the residents decided to make wooden fish carvings out of them. Amazing!

Would you believe that this work of art is a concept borne out of a calamity that hit the area many years back? There was illegal logging and when flash flood came, the logs got all wet and cannot be sold anymore so the residents decided to make wooden fish carvings out of them. Amazing!

 

The Hyundai Center for Green Innovation - a fascinating structure that prominently showcases the beauty and strength of indigenous materials that we can find in the Philippines

The Hyundai Center for Green Innovation – a fascinating structure that prominently showcases the beauty and strength of indigenous materials that we can find in the Philippines

 

The Bamboo Palace

The Bamboo Palace

 

inside the Bamboo Palace

inside the Bamboo Palace

 

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I was not expecting the farm to have a swimming pool but they do have one and a beautiful, infinity pool at that! It’s also a donation to the Enchanted Farm from Tito Tony’s friends. They also have available accommodations for guests who wish to stay overnight. My sister and I got to enjoy the pool at night before we went to bed and early morning the following day. We really had a great time at the pool that we swam two times!

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Cottages near the pool

Cottages near the pool

 

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And the food, let us not forget their food which is made from all organic, freshly-picked ingredients from the farm. We ate a number of meals when we were in the farm and each meal was as bountiful and delicious as the last. I also noticed that organic vegetables and meat leave a clean taste on one’s palate.

Their meals are served buffet style

Their meals are served buffet style

 

Covered dining area. There's another area which is Al Fresco

Covered dining area. There’s another area which is Al Fresco

The following morning Cherrie Atilano, gave us a tour of the agriculture part of the farm and allowed us to experience first-hand how it is to feed the farm animals and get up close and personal with them. Cherrie is the social entrepreneur behind Agricool which aims to make farming the new cool and to make agriculture smart and sexy. It is interesting to note that Cherrie is an achiever and an extremely intelligent lady who chose to postpone her Fulbright Scholarship in an Ivy League University (Cornell University!!!) so she can continue working for the GK Enchanted Farm. She is quite the perfect example of the kind of youth that this nation needs.

with the wonder girl, Cherrie Atilano.

with the wonder girl, Cherrie Atilano.

harvesting some algae, a natural feed for the farm animals

harvesting some algae, a natural feed for the farm animals

 

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The GK Enchanted Farm lives by the old adage that goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. I realized that we have been looking at the poor as people who need alms, charity and hand-me-downs when what they really need are opportunities, proper guidance and sustainable solutions.

watching the story of Gawad Kalinga and its advocacy

watching the story of Gawad Kalinga and its advocacy

Tito Tony believes that poverty is a behavioural problem more than it is economic. He also believes that poverty in this country is deeply rooted in the culture that Filipinos have grown accustomed to and this is where GK Enchanted Farm comes into the picture because GK Enchanted Farm serves as an avenue in encouraging and developing social entrepreneurs who will create solutions and jobs for the less fortunate. The farm was developed not just for profit but for a cause. It is a non-government, non-profit entity. When you say non-profit it doesn’t mean that the farm is not earning anything from the products that they produce and sell, it only means that the profit that they earn go back to the community and is used to improve the lives of the people who work and live in the farm.

fresh produce sold in the Enchanted Farm

fresh produce sold in the Enchanted Farm

 

Bayani Brew, another product of the farm that is now getting widely popular

Bayani Brew, another product of the farm that is now getting widely popular

Now, how do I even begin to explain how I felt the first time I set foot on the GK Enchanted Farm?

Happy? – Yes!

Excited? – Of course!!

Thrilled? – Absolutely!!!

But even with the availability of a sundry of words to help me articulate my feelings, I don’t think any of them will ever suffice because the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm experience is simply indescribable – it is an overwhelming experience that is beyond words.

Unlike any normal farm, something magical undeniably happens inside the GK Enchanted Farm. It’s not the usual kind of magic that we know but the kind of magic that resonates deep within one’s heart and penetrates through one’s soul.

farmers plowing the field

farmers plowing the field

Let us support Gawad Kalinga and the GK Enchanted Farm by simply visiting the farm or buying their products or partnering with them as a social entrepreneur.

I have posted their website below and the details regarding all the different packages that the Enchanted Farm offers. But the easiest and fastest way to book a tour with them is to send an e-mail to info@gkenchantedfarm.com

poster

My faith in our country and in humanity has been restored. If every one of us, able Filipinos, will do our share in giving back to our country and to our fellow countrymen, then perhaps the road out of poverty isn’t so impossible after all.

XOXO,

micah_signature

Battle of the A’s

14 May IMG_0393

I spent the last couple of weekends having a staycation (a term I’m not comfortable using because I find it corny) in two different hotels.  My family and I recently made our way down to the glorious city of Alabang in the southern side of the metro. There’s something about that slow and relaxing Southern vibe that’s almost as mind-blowing as the noise in the big city of let’s say Makati or Manila, don’t you think?

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I Give To Life

28 Apr

Today I’d like to talk about a charity work that I got involved with a few weeks back. Not because I want to make public the good things that I do but because I want to help spread the word about the organization behind it which will hopefully lead to having more volunteers and donors (fingers crossed!). Through a close friend’s invitation, I was able to attend a feeding program for children organized by Real LIFE Foundation – a Christian, non-profit, NGO (Non-Governmental Organization).

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Accessorize Your Outfit!

3 Apr

One of the best things about being a girl is that we get to dress up! With so many varieties of clothing that we have to choose from, we sometimes tend to spend too much time focusing on the color, design and cut of our outfit itself while forgetting that accessorizing our outfit is the key to polishing up our entire look.

As dramatic as it sounds, one wrong accessory can ruin your entire look.

One thing to keep in mind when accessorizing is that if you’re going to be wearing a statement piece, then that’s probably all you’re going to need. If you’re wearing chunky earrings you shouldn’t be wearing a chunky necklace as well.

Accessories do not have to consist of just typical jewelry. For instance, my personal favorite item to accessorize my outfit is a scarf! We often think of scarves as a winter accessory. But these celebrities prove that scarves are more than just neckwarmers! You can certainly wear them in the tropical Philippines as well. :) Just pick a light-weight cotton one, instead of a thick woolen scarf!

zalora

Adding a scarf to a plain tank-top and jeans combination adds a touch of color and vibrancy to an otherwise dull outfit. Check out these beautiful scarves at Zalora.

The type of purse you carry also adds to your entire look, with structured bags giving you a more professional and polished look, while slouchy tote bags give you a more laid-back, relaxed look.

 

XOXO,

micah_signature

Human Heart Nature: Saving The World One Product At A Time

9 Mar their soaps with their cute vintage-looking packaging. Such eye candies!!!

Human Heart Nature’s logo reads: Pro-Philippines. Pro-poor. Pro-environment. And in my latest InstaGram (IG) post I mentioned that these are more than enough reason for us me to patronize this brand.

I have known the Human Heart Nature (HHN) brand for quite sometime now. Have used some of their products before especially the Sunflower Beauty Oil which I have heard and read a lot of good things about. They call it “Miracle in a Bottle” or something to that effect. You can use it in pretty much every part of your body – from the roots of your hair to the toes of your feet. Seriously. Well, I used it before to help even out my hideous post-breakout acne scars. That was the worst moment of my (vain) life and I think I have tried everything within my capability to remove and fix my acne marks. I’m pretty sure it worked well for me although I found a really fast and potent counterpart in RITM’s dermatological medications so I switched. But that doesn’t mean the Sunflower Beauty Oil was a failure. I just didn’t give it enough time. And I was in a hurry back then to regain my old, smooth facial complexion. Haha.

So why am I posting about this product again when I said I’ve switched products already and was happy with my choice?

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