Let’s talk about mental health and idol worship.


I was 15 when I first tried to kill myself.

I just came home from school and the house was empty. I can’t remember what prompted the action (if there was any recent event that triggered it), but I do clearly remember wanting to end my life so much that I downed x number of anti-depressants all at once.

I woke up some six hours later in the same room. I tested my body; I wriggled my toes and pinched myself to see if I’m still alive. To my disappointment at the time, the answer was yes.

I was 18 when I tried to kill myself for the second time.

This one has been more ‘planned’ for the lack of a better term. Farewell letters were written, a last ‘will’ that includes notes for which possession goes to whom after my death, a goodbye text message was sent.

The letters were, ultimately, scrapped in the end. The attempt failed.

Still, I told myself I’ll never make it past 20.


Three years later, I’m still alive. I’m already three years past the deadline I once imposed on my life.

I’m in a much better headspace now, I think. I still get episodes but the ‘urge’ to want to end my life is no longer stronger as before. There’s still that voice that lingers at the back of my mind — the what if’s — and I don’t think it’ll go away completely, but at least I know better now, or maybe I can handle my demons better now than say, nine years ago.

I’d like to believe I have already come a long way in terms of strength.


From those days I battled depression and anxiety as a teenager up to this day as an adult, there has been another constant: idols.

It’s safe to say I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not obsess over an idol. I’ve gone from worshipping American emo rock stars, to fangirling over j-pop idols about 20 years older than me, to loving j-rock icons, to stanning kpop idols again.

Not many can understand, but those who do know the feeling too well of finding happiness and comfort in simply watching an idol you admire. The pure, unadulterated joy of seeing them succeed and achieve their dreams, watching them soar and improve even more as the years go by.

For almost nine years, I experienced the simple joy of watching them from afar through constant updates. I was used to seeing their photos almost everyday, seeing their schedule for the week, watching them bag awards while they hone their craft. Perhaps, that’s the reason why they feel closer to me than say, Western celebrities, even though I’m essentially nothing more than a stranger to both.

Perhaps, this is also the reason why Kim Jonghyun’s death affected me as much as it did.

As someone who suffers from depression myself, I know the feeling all too well. His battles are different from mine, but I understand the feeling of spiraling into that crippling loneliness, succumbing into that pit of utter hopelessness until you start feeling numb and thinking there’s no end in sight but death.

This doesn’t lessen my grief. If anything, it makes it even worse, because there’s the knowledge that a man I admire so much went through so much pain and I, as a person, wasn’t able to do anything to help him.

The juxtaposition of being an idol — a profession that involves making other people happy by entertaining them through their music and art — and being the one of the loneliest people in the world.

As a fan, it really hurts, because Jonghyun was one of those idols who once helped me cope and gave me comfort in the days I felt like I had nothing left. I wish I could do the same, because now I realize that I can’t even give back half the happiness that these idols give me, even though they don’t know it. It’s a reality I have to deal with.


What I could do at the moment, though, is to spread awareness. Jonghyun’s death is another prime example of why mental health should never be undermined and should be given just as much importance as physical health. I think everyone needs to realize that compartmentalizing the mind and the body shouldn’t be the case. Our thoughts could affect our physical health, in the same way our physical health could affect our mood once strained. These two are part and parcel of who we are as one human being and we should take care of both in all ways that we could. Workplaces in each and every industry should hire an in-house therapist or make psychiatric services more accessible for their employees at the very least.

Depression is real. It bears no name, no status, no age. It’s not a matter of who can handle themselves better or who has a ‘higher’ EQ. Instead of contributing to the stigma, let’s take the time to talk more about it and put more effort in understanding it.


If you or someone you know is feeling emotionally unwell, don’t hesitate to call the HopeLine Hotlines at (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673). Alternatively, you may want to check out these self-help apps:


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Pacifica is an app that provides daily tools for you to handle your stress and anxiety better. This is my favorite so far, and one I’ve been using religiously since my anxiety relapsed again this year. It checks in on you by letting you track your mood each day, lets you reframe your (negative) thoughts, and also contains relaxation resources (their meditation feature that allows you to listen to peaceful sounds while guiding you with your breathing is my absolute favorite). It’s basically an all-around resource for helping you manage stress.

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7 cups is another app I recently discovered. If you ever feel the need to talk your feelings out, I highly recommend this app. It connects you with trained listeners and therapists for free, and even has sub-communities for discord (I downloaded this precisely because I didn’t know where to talk about my feelings about Jonghyun’s death).


Help is available. But ultimately, I wish for everyone to have more strength and for the world to lessen your pain, despite how unforgiving it may be.


On fighting acne

It’s been months now since I started my medication for my current nemesis: acne. I’ve also been putting off writing my concurrent acne story for months now. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t publish it unless my skin had completely cleared already so I would have a sufficient before and after photo for proof.

So why this post? My skin is still a far cry from being clear – my acne had gotten a lot better, sure, but I’m left with acne spots all over my chin. After stumbling upon this article though, I thought I shouldn’t wait any longer to share my own story in order to (hopefully) help people and prevent them from going through the same experience.

Before anything else, let me give a short background about my skin. I’ve always had an “average” oily skin type. “Average” in the sense that I get acne breakouts every now and then, but it has always just been little pimples that would go away after a week or two. Nothing too serious, although some have left nasty acne spots on my face, particularly on my left cheek. Still, they were nothing that a concealer couldn’t cover.

I began having really bad acne breakouts this year, sometime around July. My left cheek and chin were covered with red, painful acne and so was my right cheek as well – which, mind you – had never had pimples before.  Due to the nature of my profession, I know I always have to look my best and so for the first time in my life, I finally decided to visit a dermatologist and get proper treatment for my acne.

I was prescribed with anti-acne soap, oral antibiotics (tetracycline), acne solution, acne lotion, and a topical antibiotic which I had to use day and night, doing spot treatment on the affected areas on my face. All of these were exclusively available on the clinic of my dermatologist. I used this medication for almost a month and a half. My acne, particularly the ones on my chin, were finally beginning to heal when a week later, I noticed new ones growing on the same area again.

My horror story officially began from thereon. It was really frustrating to be on acne medication and see your acne begin to heal, only to have a new batch grow on your face again. Thinking it was the same kind of acne I had been experiencing for weeks, I continued to treat it with the same medication I had been using at the time. Little did I know that it was so much more than what I thought it was.

I began to suspect there was something wrong when the acne on my chin began to hurt. I had itchy acne before, but I never had painful acne, and I was sure it wasn’t supposed to hurt the same way mine did. It was so painful that I couldn’t sleep at night. Thinking it would heal faster, I tried to put warm compress on the affected area to make it pop. When I woke up the next day, my entire chin became more red and inflamed while having multiple pimples that are filled with blood and pus.

It was one of the worst work weeks of my life. I had to go to work with an acne-inflamed face and I was so ashamed that I began wearing face masks as well. I took comfort in the idea that some of my office mates initially thought that I’m simply sick, thus my mask. I continued my treatment along with the warm compress every night, hoping it would get better. However, things only seem to have gone for the worse when my chin started to throb painfully. It was too painful that it began bothering me at work – there were days where all I could utter was “My face hurts too much” to my office mates. I couldn’t bear it any longer so I decided to pay an overdue visit to the doctor. And boy, was I glad I did.

I went to a different dermatologist this time (my former derma was from the province, I currently live in Makati) and she told me that what I had back then was already infected acne. It was similar to impetigo contagiosa (mamaso  in Filipino), a bacterial skin infection that can be caused by  Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus. I say similar because in retrospect, my derma didn’t warn me about the risk of infecting other people even though impetigo is highly contagious in nature. She also told me that it was a good thing that I decided to have a consultation right away because the infection that I had is dangerous and could spread to my bloodstream and affect my other organs.

For three weeks, I was prescribed to drink antibiotics 4x a day, cleanse my face with Cetaphil, put a sodium chloride solution to my chin (the same solution that hospitals use for wound irrigation) for 20 minutes, and apply Bactroban cream on the affected area afterwards. The treatment process was long, and I continued coming to work with a mask on, sometimes with only a gauze to cover my entire chin. It was so hard to eat, but what was even harder for me was having to face people and answering the inevitable question of “What happened to your face?”. I know they were only concerned about me, but I still felt really bad that it’s the first thing people notice and there was no other way for me to hide it. If only I could, I would’ve completely shut myself in our apartment and not go out AT ALL so people won’t have to deal with my nasty face and I won’t have to deal with curious stares from strangers on the street. But you know how the old saying goes: shit happens and life goes on. I can’t afford to lose my job, especially during the time where I needed it most to pay for my medical bills, so I continued coming to work, face mask and all with my tail between my legs.

After three weeks on intensive oral antibiotics and anti-bacterial cream, I went back to the derma and my medication shifted to complete anti-acne medication. My derma told me that she had to make sure the infection had completely gone away first before she could prescribe me anti-acne meds, which she noted are a lot more painful than my previous meds for impetigo. This time, I was prescribed to be on Doxicycline (oral antibiotics) for six weeks (which I have to drink twice a day), and to apply Benzoyl Peroxide (5%) cream during the day  and Tetrinoin Retin-A during the night. I was also advised to put on sunscreen with a SPF 30 during the day when I go out.


It’s been two weeks since I began this anti-acne medication and so far it has been super effective. In comparison to the first acne medication that I tried from my first dermatologist, I can say this one is a lot more effective, considering my acne have completely dried up in a span of only a week or so. However, as I mentioned earlier in this post, my skin is still a far cry from being completely clear: I still have acne spots on my entire chin area. They’re like a battle scar that I have to wear everyday, but the mere fact that my acne had already healed is comforting enough. It’s enough reassurance that while this is a long battle that I’m fighting, I’m not losing.

The whole experience was as painful as it is emotionally exhausting (I wrote about it here). I know I’m not pretty, but I don’t think I looked that bad either until I had my acne infection. I did not bother to put on makeup anymore because aside from not being allowed to, I just began to feel apathetic with my overall appearance at the time. Why bother putting on lipstick if I’m ugly anyway, right? It just felt wrong in all sense of the word. I knew putting down myself was not going to help  but I couldn’t help it at the time – my self-esteem was being torn apart.

Fast-forward to where I am now, I’m still on my way to conquering acne. I’ve yet to get rid of all of my acne spots but I’m getting there – I will be there. Plus, I can finally put makeup again – I can now hide my acne spots with concealer – and it’s enough to help me pick up my torn self-esteem and fix it again. But before I end this blog post, I also just want to share some of the lessons that I got from this entire experience. Some of these are tips you’ve already heard from known beauty experts but I just want to reiterate them, for my own reference as well.

1. See a dermatologist (or a doctor) as soon as you can.

Experience taught me that of the several things that you can put off, paying a visit to the doctor should not be one of them. In my case, what I initially thought was just a terrible breakout on my chin turned out to be a potentially harmful infection. Another reason why you should go straight to a dermatologist if you want to cure your acne as soon as possible is because sometimes generic topical treatments just won’t work.

Acne affects a lot of people but remember that acne treatment can still be a case-case basis as we all have different skin types. The facial cleanser that worked for a friend might not work for you simply because the cleanser is meant for dry skin (which she has) while you, on the other hand, have oily skin. When I told my first dermatologist of my skincare routine (cleanse, tone, and moisturize) at the time, I was surprised to be told that it’s not yet advisable for me to moisturize on a daily basis as my oil glands are still active at my age and are therefore enough to replenish moisture on my face. So taking into consideration that I already have oily skin, applying moisturizer to my face was a little too much and clogged my pores, which then resulted to acne. It’s always better to have an expert look at your skin and prescribe what works best for you rather than for you to play a guessing game.

2. Use gentle and non-comodegenic products.


If for some reason you can’t see a dermatologist when you’re having a breakout, don’t jump to the first anti-acne soap that you see right away. Instead, opt for gentle cleansers like Cetaphil. When it comes to your skin, remember that less is more. The less products that you apply to your skin, the more room you’re giving it to breathe. Again, all of us have different skin types and while anti-acne soaps/cleansers all have the same claim, a particular product might be too harsh for your skin type.

3. Hands off!

Keep your hands off your face as much as possible. Acne is caused by bacteria – and with our hands doing so much of our work for us – just imagine the amount of bacteria that thrives on your hands which you could be transferring to your face when you rub or scratch at your cheek. If you can’t help it, try to dab the itching area with a clean tissue instead or use the back of your hands/fingers as they are cleaner than your palms. Always wash your hands with an anti-bacterial soap, too.

4. Keep your hair away from your face.

You may not notice it but a lot of dirt also collects on your hair especially when you go out. Keep your hair away from your face to prevent additional bacteria from landing on your skin. When you go to sleep, tie it in a braid. Aside from doing your skin a favor, it will also help prevent you from having tangled, messy hair when you wake up.

5. Practice proper hygiene. 


Change your sheets and pillow cases on a weekly basis. Another culprit that might be contributing to your breakouts is the dirt that collected on your sheets, which you have to lie on when you sleep. If you can, put a clean towel on top of your pillow every night. This way, you can be assured that your face only comes in contact with clean material.

6. Use a clean paper towel to dry off your face.


Don’t use on your face the same bath towel that you use to dry off the other parts of your body with. After cleansing, pat dry your face with a clean paper towel instead.

7. Use a sunscreen!


As someone who lives in a tropical country, I think one thing that most of my people take for granted is the effect of UV rays. Just because you have enough melanin on your skin, it doesn’t mean that you’re completely safe from getting skin cancer. Skin cancer aside, another reason why you should put sunscreen when you go out especially if you’re currently suffering from acne is because it can trigger hyperpigmentation, which causes acne spots. I currently use Dermplus Moisturizing Sunblock with SPF 35. It’s highly recommended that you use a sunscreen with SPF 30 and up because it blocks 97% of the sun’s UV rays. After applying the sunblock on my face, I usually wait 30 minutes before I go out because that’s how long it takes for the skin to absorb the product and for it to fully take effect.


I’ll let you in on another tip. Most beauty websites advise you to only do spot treatment when you’re using Benzac or any other anti-acne product. That’s what I initially thought too but this is what my dermatologist advised me: apply it on your whole face.


The reason? You can’t predict where your acne will grow next so it’s always better to take preventive measures. What I do right now is I squeeze a pea-sized amount of Benzac (and Tretinoin during the night) onto my palm and apply that onto my entire face. I make sure to avoid the sides of my nose and my lips because those areas are extra sensitive and easily burns. During the first few days, both Benzac and Tretinoin REALLY stung for me (Benzac feels cold and nice to the touch but it starts to hurt when your skin absorbs it). But I learned that’s normal because my skin was still learning to adjust to the product. The pain eventually subsided on the following days. My derma also told me that if I thought the pain was really too much, I could alternate the application of the products and use them every other day.

So far, I haven’t grown a new, single pimple since the day I started this regimen. However, please take this with a grain of salt because your skin type might be entirely different than mine; I’m only sharing what works best for me at the moment. Acne is literally a long battle – the head of Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), Ms. Blossom Chan once told us that acne treatment can take 1-4 months before you really start to get results. On that note, be patient, be brave, and remember that you’re not alone in this fight.

Japan: Lost in a Dream

A  few months ago I flew to Japan to spend my Christmas vacation with my family in Tokyo. The trip had long been dreamed of, with my mother expressing her ambition to take me there for the past 18 years or so, but the dream did not fully materialize until the year 2014. Despite being only two weeks long, it was a trip that meant so much to me and my family, and I want to remember it as much as I can before it completely falls into the void of my (declining) memory stash, so here we are.


December 23

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Day 1 was a morning of anxious nerves. The trip being my first time to fly out of the country alone was a factor, but it was mainly due to excitement to see my dream country. Much of it was spent trying to find definitive ways to kill time while being 38,000 feet off the ground and sour-graping that if I could handle four hours worth of travel time from my workplace to home – thanks to EDSA’s world-class traffic – then I could definitely handle another four hours of being in a plane. They were the most torturous and yet the most thrilling; time suddenly seemed to have gone by so fast when the captain finally announced that we had already entered Japan’s airspace and Fuji-san came into view.


I was greeted by a snowflake on my window, a cold yet pleasant welcome that was preemptive to the many pleasant surprises that were still waiting for me.

I landed at Narita by 12:05 pm, five minutes shy of my supposed landing time. By the time I reached the arrival lobby, I was literally freezing my ass off, but the cold was temporarily forgotten when I started to see the warm smiles of my family, huddled together and eagerly waiting for me.

I started tearing up out of joy the moment I hugged my mom and so did she. My stepdad hugged us along with my two sisters. We probably looked ridiculous in the near-empty Narita arrival lobby at the time but we couldn’t care less. Other people who were present in the area probably thought we were a family finally united after several years (and it was partly true) because I remember seeing a woman smile at us when mom asked me and my sisters to pose for a picture, the first memorabilia of my trip taken at land.

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I spent the next hour admiring the view of the streets we passed by, the kanji on the signage of the nearby buildings were the constant reminder that yes, I am finally in Japan, as I found myself sometimes staring in disbelief. It took 20 years in the making  – what was only yesterday’s dream was now happening in real life.

Our first stop was at Asakusa Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Tokyo and a common place for locales and tourists. The place first reminded me of Singapore’s Chinatown, but this one is more colorful and is busier, with several stalls lined up along the path to offer various Japanese souvenirs for tourists. The cold was no hindrance to the continuous bustling of activity in the area; tourists continue to flock the shrine while locales went with their business as usual.

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It was a series of firsts. A first visit to a Japanese temple, a first immersion to the culture. A first try at amazake, a Japanese sweet drink made from fermented rice – a delightful treat in the freezing weather. A first attempt at calling my stepfather ‘Papa’ after several years of separation, offering him my own cup of amazake after noticing he only bought cups for me and my sisters. The relief of knowing that he welcomes the title entirely. It was long overdue anyway and he was probably waiting for it more than I was practicing to say it.

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The day ended with my first proper Japanese meal for the trip: yakiniku, a personal favorite since I was a child. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it was the result of the same blood flowing in our veins, but Papa happily recalled that it was also yakiniku that mom first asked to eat when she started residing in Japan, remarking that there’s really no denying that mom and I are related.


December 25


 Christmas was simply celebrated by decorating and eating cake, feasting on yakitori and salad, and exchanging toasts of pretend-wine. To any Japanese household, the Santa-adorned strawberry-cake is usually the highlight of the noche buena. However, in my case, what truly captured my heart was this baby below:


Prior to cooking this, Papa told me, “I’m going to serve you high-quality beef,” and he wasn’t lying. Wagyu beef is a term that I often see in food articles, and the mere mention of the name is usually equivalent to a rave review of the dish and now I know why. It was the show-stealer of the night; the soft meat almost melting in my mouth, the yakiniku sauce seeping through the meat generously, the richness of the flavor enveloping my taste buds all at once. Every bite was like a one-way ticket to food nirvana. The instant I took my first bite, I thought to myself, “This is the kind of meat that food writers rave about.” And here I am. I don’t even eat cooked fat, but the meat was too delicious and cooked really well that this meal had to be an exception.

Christmas in Japan was quieter and much simple than the extravagant and colorful celebration of Christmas in the PH, but definitely livelier than the dull celebration that I’m used to at home.

December 28 



The day was spent taking in the beauty of a white blanket covering the mountain range of Hida, a short trip to Shirakawa-go, a small village famous for its traditional farmhouses built 200 years ago. It was my first time to see snow in the flesh, but it was my mom and sisters who were probably even more excited for the experience than I was. We were stuck on traffic when my mom went out to grab a handful of snow from nearby and placed some on my hand to let me feel it for the first time. My sisters, on the other hand, immediately took turns on throwing snow balls at me the moment we stepped out of the car and entered the village.

December 31-January 1

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Takahatafudo, a place I used to only read about in history books due to my fascination with Hijikata Toshizo and Shinsengumi – now viewed from my own eyes. As 2014 gave way to the new year, the temperature drastically dropped, the first onset of snow in Tokyo heavily hovering in the air.

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We were on our way to Takahatafudo when the snow really started to fall. The entire street leading to the complex was packed, but I was too busy being amazed by my first snowfall to pay any mind. Plus, crowds during winter were not much of an issue when all of us were seeking for more warmth anyway.


My mom dubbed it as a blessing since the weather did cooperate and let me experience snow during the remaining days of my stay. Here she is in the corner of the frame, frantically trying to take a video of me as commemoration for my first snowfall experience. An extremely cold yet fascinating welcome for 2015. 
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Japanese festivals are something that I’ve always been fond of, especially from glimpses that I’ve seen on anime. Characterized by a bustling crowd, numerous food stalls, and various forms of entertainment – it was something I’ve always wanted to experience first-hand. My mom warned me of the cold and the crowd, asked me several times if I really wanted to go, but I answered ‘yes’ every time. Our schedule for the day was initially limited to shopping, but I insisted on going to Takahatafudo again because I simply cannot miss out the core of the Japanese new year celebration – the Hatsumode, the first visit to a Shinto/Buddhist temple. It was extremely cold indeed but every second I spent out in the below zero weather was utterly worth it.

January 4


As my vacation came to its end, I spent my remaining hours in Japan admiring the country’s sunrise, the sky a beautiful gradient of dark blue transitioning into a rich orange. As the city continues to sleep, the backdrop of the city begins to show the signs of life for the day. Yet the dark does not fully give way to the day yet, but the beginning of the day continues to edge its way in. This tension gives way to the middle ground – to the transition of dark to light and vice-versa – and it perfectly defines that time frame when it is too early to get up yet but already too late to sleep, to that feeling when it is time for you to go but you still don’t want to leave.

Japan was a lot different from what I expected. Although not entirely, there was a great gap from the image I had formed in my head due to the representations I’ve watched from what I personally experienced, but the difference was not unpleasant at all. It’s just that Japan is more peaceful, more reserved, and definitely more beautiful.

Also, this trip, if anything, solidified my relationship with my loved ones and showed me the definition of a family that I may have always been secretly looking for. As Papa and mom accompanied me to the airport with Papa carrying my luggage, I felt like a kid all over again being sent to school by her parents. Except that I no longer was a kid and instead of going to school and going home to the company of my parents by the end of the day, I was leaving for another country – to my home country – and the next time that I would come back to the comfort of my parents is left uncertain. It may take years, months if I’m lucky.

As this dream eventually gets crossed off my bucket list, I find myself wondering, what now? Where to? When I told Papa how happy I was because Japan has always been my dream, he told me, “Dream bigger.” And this trip taught me just that – sometimes life just gives you the things you’ve been longing for, regardless of the wait, sometimes they do come. I would be waiting until the time I can finally come back, but until then I will be dreaming of bigger things until these bigger things also materialized for my next trip.