Featured Slider

Baring the ink

It’s easy to forget that Shaira Luna’s arms are riddled with ink. We see her strut in long sleeves, with its soft fabrics draping gracefully around her arms. But underneath the dainty clothing, a collection of memories is revealed—with fragments of time embedded onto her skin.
Shaira’s tattoos have multiplied since she got a small half moon engraved on her back. She was 17 then and thought it was a nice mark to symbolize her last name, which, in Spanish, translates to the celestial figure. But even tattoos transform over time, and the symbols that people carry on their body find new meaning. 
Over her first tattoo, an image of a tiger now takes over her lower back. “The tramp stamp is now a tramp envelope,” she jokes.

She recently had an old-school metronome inked. The photographer estimates more than 30 tattoos have found a home on her skin, and at this point, Shaira has stopped counting them altogether. What baffles her is the public’s unceasing curiosity about her tattoos, with all its meanings and histories. “It’s funny because I think the more tattoos I’ve gotten, the more I kind of cover them up,” Shaira says.

For someone who’s been getting inked almost half of her life, she insists there are no profound meanings that attach themselves to her tattoos, but each one is a link to a certain past that she wants to remember. A lot of them are objects that belong to a different decade, and there’s an obvious fascination on symbols, a gravitating curiosity on things that are lived in.
Detailed line work in black and white ink—that’s how Shaira likes her tattoos. The designs often take shape with the guide of old photographs. It’s important for her that each tattoo holds its own flaws and, to an extent, mirror its image of being in the past. The tattoos are trajections of how she remembers these certain objects.
“I think that extends to everything that I collect or acquire. I just like things that are used, things that have a history or have a story to them,” the avid vintage collector shares.
Among the tattoos she likes to show people is her dad’s favorite drag racing car—the 1979 Ford Escort. “I really love vintage cars and things with wheels. I don’t know how to ride motorbikes and I’m not a very good at parking, but I love driving,” Shaira admits.

An old-fashioned desk-mount pencil sharpener sits on the back of her wrist. It makes her reminisce all those times when she would sharpen pencils while waiting for her grandfather, who used to own an office and school supplies store.
She also has a table that stands for her favorite band. It is a nod to the Dave Matthews Band 1994 album “Under the Table and Dreaming.” Shaira became a fan of their music in the late 2000s, and this particular tattoo was on her list as early as 2017. “I was supposed to put Matilda under it so she’d be the one under the table and dreaming,” she shares.
Every Sunday, she sets aside time for personal shoots. In these productions, she pours in a remarkable attention to detail. Shaira sources tableware, fabric, and all sorts of decors from decades before, putting all these little things to channel that distinct nostalgia in her images. Often, it goes unnoticed. But Shaira finds no need for validation as she seeks to build reflections of the past through her photographs.
“I have attachments to certain objects, not in a materialistic kind of way but objects really help me tell stories. So I think it was just natural for me to put objects on myself,” she adds. 
Among the map of vintage trinkets are the words "Stevie" and "Wonder" on her forearms. It's not a tribute to the singer, but to her most loyal cat. “I used to doodle in my notebooks, and I just think of my skin as kind of like the back of my notebook where you put your extra thoughts and things that you want to remember, the things you want to look back at,” Shaira says.
As for the tattoo that means most things to her, it's got to be the word "Machine" inked on the side of her left arm. Apart from borrowing the word from Florence and the Machine and Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine,” Shaira explains it stands for two other things: "I want my photos to feel like a time machine. And also because I feel like I don’t really stop and I don’t really need to rest so much—so I feel like a machine."

Shaira likens her skin to a furniture store catalogue, and she’s looking to have another vintage chair inked on her neck. If she gets the go-signal from her creative agency, she’ll be back on the tattooing chair of Dyun Depasupil (more popular as @dyuntats) once again to bring it to life.
Most of this artist’s ink work has been done by Dyun, and she shares she’s not looking for anyone else to do the job. Anyone who wants their own permanent marks on their skin should study a tattooist’s work, as each has a different technique and style in designing.
“I was seeing a lot of Dyun’s work over the years and every time I compliment someone on their tattoos, they were done by him. When I started getting my ink done by Dyun, there really was no looking back,” she says.

“You should build a good relationship with a tattoo artist. You’re gonna have these things on your skin forever, you might as well have happy memories while getting them.” 
Photos by Wilmark Jolindon, Gab Loste, and Sean Xie for alike.

The moment Pia Wurtzbach’s youngest (and most dearest) fan sees double

We were told to take a seat at the table located at the very edge of the room, quite far from the stage adorned with the words “Pia Made Iconic.” A wide-eyed, charming 4-year-old greeted us as we approached, and we were surprised it was Pia’s very own niece seated right beside us.
Lara Wurtzbach-Mazen looked simply adorable in her simple black dress, with her hair braided in a tight bun. Her mom had just told her to behave and sit like a lady, and right after she adjusted herself in the middle of her chair, she whispered to my ear: “Tita Pia is inside that red curtain.”

She pointed at the figure enclosed right in the middle of the stage. As the young girl waited for the program to start, she couldn’t help but constantly say “I want to see her already!”
It was a feeling that everyone in that room shared. Right before us was the very first Madame Tussauds wax figure of a Filipino, with the final look of the icon even concealed from the muse herself.
As Madame Tussauds Hong Kong general manager Jenny You and Pia Wurtzbach pulled the curtain back to unveil the figure, the very first words that slipped out of the 2015 Miss Universe was in the tune of disbelief and joy. “I feel like I won again,” Pia said staring at her life-sized and undeniably life-like replica.

Being Ernie’s dad

Mike Gaston is the head of his own company, a Seattle-based video production studio called Cut. Primarily using YouTube as their platform, Cut asks the necessary questions—some are simple, some dig into culture, and some are targeted to make people empathize.
Mike’s creatives company aims to tell stories that matter. Together with his cousin, Christopher Chan, the two have decided to make Cut’s stories navigate through society’s ambiguity. These are videos that don’t just seek to inform, but in the process involve its viewers and make them understand the diversity of individuals and their truths.

Cut doesn’t try to differentiate what’s right from wrong. It revels and resides in realities’ many grey areas, and recognizes the growth of culture and people. Mike is keen on developing this worldview, and Cut remains defined by it.
His work lives on the internet. But in the same digital landscape, Mike Gaston is simply known as Ernie’s dad.

Ernie is a 5-year-old kid full of wonder and curiosity. His imagination never runs dry. On top of that, Ernie never stops telling stories—and his stories never seem to find an end to them either. Ernie has his own cheeky little moments, wearing a bright smile across his face as he faces the camera.

We’ve seen him fish bobba out of the glass with his tiny hands. He’s toured us around his home. And the little fella has even created his own odd recipes that a professional chef obliged to follow.
One of the suggestions that keep popping up is to dedicate a YouTube channel that’s all about Ernie. It’s a great idea, but Mike shrugs it off and says: “It’s all up to him.”
What’s curious is how Mike raises his kids—with 4-month-old Zora as the newest addition to the Gaston family—the same way he runs his company. Together with his wife, Jenny, he treats them with maturity. Even at a young age, he tells Ernie to take autonomy over his own decisions. He makes his son understand that right and wrong are different for everybody. He is firm in his belief that life is made up of ambiguity—it is full of questions, uncertainties, and contradictions—and he wants his kids to be comfortable with that.
“I remember my mom saying ‘Aren’t you glad your parents are so young?’ They had me when they were only 22. I’m like, ‘No. You guys didn’t know what you were doing,’” Mike shares.
He was 33 years old when he became a dad, an age where he was more secure about his place and aspirations in life. alike talked to the Filipino-American Cut CEO, asked him his views on parenting, and discovered he’s the absolute antithesis to how a father raises his child:

You’ve worked hard, Jonghyun, you did well

 2017 was a hard year for Shawols.

A case filed last August immediately divided the fans. A petition that demanded that SHINee’s leader, Onew, be taken off the team quickly followed suit, while other Shawols intensely fought to be heard that they want the group to remain intact.

We got emotional over seeing Dubu on SM Entertainment’s Season’s Greetings SHINee teaser, ending his four-month hiatus with a two-second appearance on the said video.

But we never thought things could get more heartbreaking.

On the night of December 18, news of Jonghyun’s passing flooded our digital feeds. Headline after headline reported his alleged suicide: the SHINee member was said to be rushed to the hospital after he was found unconscious in a Seoul apartment.

He was only 27. That evening, we all held on to the hope that he would regain his consciousness. And honestly, that is one wish all fans still have in our hearts.

Jonghyun’s death feels like losing a longtime friend. Fans have known and grown with the idol group, and with its lead singer Jonghyun, for almost a decade.

In 2008, this second-generation K-pop group was the youth’s icon—and continues to be the reminder of the youth we once had. In our coming-of-age years, we sang along to “Replay,” “JULIETTE,” “Amigo,” “Ring Ding Dong” and “Lucifer. As the years went by, our tunes changed to “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “View,” “Married to the Music” and “Feel Good.”

And all these years, Jonghyun had always been the first to sing and introduce that SHINee’s back.

For the rest of the world, he is this South Korean group’s lead singer. But for the fans, we know him as the one who always strikes that first note. The one who constantly slays that first verse of the comeback song with his whistling vocals—a prince of K-pop in his own right.

Growing up with SHINee meant they were part of a past we fondly look back to. They were part of our after-school routines and conversations, and it is with this K-pop group that we learned how an “obsession” plays out.

Even those who didn’t have Bling-bling Jonghyun as their bias loved him. He brought good energy to every concert and show we saw him in—whether we were watching him win Yoogeun’s love, act as his embarrassed alter ego Jong-Mi, or witness his comedic lashing out at the production teams of variety shows.

Jonghyun was the funny one and claimed to be the most handsome member in the group. He was always wearing a smile on his face, and laughed ridiculously like a seal when humored—his smile and laugh were very infectious.

Until now, during reunions, we talk about SHINee, how the group has dynamically changed their sound and identity, and how each member has begun picking up a talent after another to add to their entertainment arsenal.

We were there since SHINee’s debut, we’re still here for every comeback, and we are ready to continue following our favorite idols in whatever track they were taking—solo music careers, dramatic acting, theater, variety and reality TV.

This year, we had been talking about how the group neared the damning expiration date of a K-pop group as the group will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2018. We rallied for “5HINee” to be together when they reach this milestone, only to feel defeated on that Monday night.

I remember watching clips of Jonghyun’s “Inspired” solo concert just a week ago. The same light stick ocean that was glowed brightly in aqua surrounded him. The fans eagerly sang along to each track, never letting that stadium be drowned by silence even for just a second.

He sang his hit single “Lonely” in a duet with the crowd. He never allowed himself sing the word “lonely” on stage, and I hope that at that very moment, he had the company he needed, even just for a while.

Thank you, Jonghyun, for every song that inspired us to be in touch with our own emotions as you were with yours.

Thank you for the light you brought to countless people who had the pleasure of knowing you and to the millions of fans who will continue to feel your loss.

You’ve worked hard, our Jonghyun, you did well.

This blog post previously appeared as an online article published 
in December 2017 by Inquirer Super.

‘Something in the Rain’ isn’t your usual K-drama

The most powerful stories are the ones we could see ourselves in. “Something in the Rain,” JTBC’s romantic drama of the year, shows a refreshing take on the genre with its true-to-life approach, but only if its viewers are patient enough to see it through.