Cosmetics shopping with a conscience

Last week, Sephora just announced that it’s going on sale for as high as 60% off, coinciding with The Great Jakarta Sale.

Sephora The Great Jakarta Sale

At the risk of sounding either preachy or party pooping, I’m using this time to update you on the 2017 list of cruelty-free cosmetics and brands.

2017 cruelty-free brandsTwo years ago, I started cleaning up my toiletry kit, vanity dresser and shower room to get rid of cosmetics, toiletries, bath and body products that are using animals for testing. At the same time, I researched on brands that are organic, vegetarian and those that do not use harmful chemicals.

Personally, I have a bias for the following brands:

  1. The Body Shop –  certified vegetarian and a fair trade supporter, The Body Shop remains to be on top of my list. I used to lead the brand’s marketing division some lightyears ago and until now, I have a strong affiliation with it. I use most of their product lines: face, fragrances, bath and body, essential oils and even candles.
  2. Josie Maran –  I am a fan of Josie Maran! I discovered this brand when I was in the US 3 years ago and I have been using the argan oil and moisturizer ever since. Sadly, Sephora stopped carrying it here in Southeast Asia and I’m still stumped where I can continue to get the products.
  3. Urban Decay – is my favorite when it comes to eye shadow palettes and prep spray. This brand also has a vegan line already with no animal-derived ingredients!
  4. Nyx – is my alternative brand for face powder, eye liner and prep spray when all my other brands are out. Although it started as an alternative for me, their soft matte lip creams, lip creams and whipped lip and cheek souffle are noteworthy.
Bella local brands

Local brands that I recently road-tested: Serambi Botani, Utama Spice and Indoganic

Very recently, I started testing out Indonesian brands and so far, I have not been disappointed. They are reasonably priced, too! I chanced upon Serambi Botani in Grand Indonesia and tested out their face powder-foundation in chocolate shade. I stuck to the face powder ever since.

For body and hair oil, Utama Spice, a Bali-based brand, is a favorite. A lot of their products are coconut-based, which I love. They have consignments in Grand Indonesia for Jakarta-based customers. Their customer service was quite fast in responding, too, which is a definite plus.

For wellness oils, essential oils and wellness sprays, I turn to Indoganic, which I discovered last Christmas. I buy it online from Milamili.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not expensive to convert to environmental and animal-friendly brands. If you will read my list above, there are cheap drugstore brands and mid-range brands that won’t break the bank. I stick to my mid-range brands because they are easier to maintain and more accessible, too.

So yes, Maybelline, L’Oreal, Revlon, Mac, Bobbi Brown and Kiehl’s are NOT welcome in my vanity kit. You won’t find these brands on my dresser table. I tossed them away a long time ago. For other brands who still mercilessly test on animals, see below.


This Great Jakarta Sale season, I hope more shoppers will and can shop with a conscience since there are more and more brands accessible to us in the market who are organic, vegan or vegetarian, environment-friendly and cruelty-free.

Happy cosmetics shopping, everyone!

OMG: The Great Jakarta Sale is here!

A public service announcement to shopaholics like moi in Jakartown: the much-awaited Great Jakarta Sale is here!

The 9th Great Jakarta Sale (GJS) kicked off last June 2 (Friday) throughout the city.  Scheduled to last until the 12th of July, we’ve got more than a month to shop ’til we drop. Take note that brands discount up to 70%!

One of the most exciting parts of the GJS is the midnight sale, which will be conducted alternately by malls. Here’s the schedule all over the city:

The Great Jakarta Sale map

Central Jakarta

  •     Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, June 16-17
  •     Plaza Atrium, June 17
  •     Senayan City, June 16-18
  •     Plaza Indonesia, June 16-17

South Jakarta

  •     Transmart Cilandak, June 10-11 and June 23-24
  •     Gandaria City, June 10
  •     Kalibata City Square, June 10
  •     Pejaten Village, June 10 and 17
  •     Lippo Mall Kemang, June 10
  •     Plaza Semanggi, June 16-17
  •     Plaza Blok M, June 17
  •     Kota Kasablanka, June 17
  •     Lotte Shopping Avenue, June 17-18

West Jakarta

  •     Central Park Neo Soho, June 10-11
  •     Mal Taman Anggrek, June 17
  •     Mal Taman Palem, June 17
  •     Lippo Mall Puri, June 10

North Jakarta

  •     Mall Kelapa Gading, June 10 and 17
  •     Baywalk Mall, Sabtu, June 10
  •     Mall Of Indonesia, June 10
  •     PIK Avenue, June 10 and 17
  •     Emporium Pluit Mall, June 17-18
  •     Mal Artha Gading, June 17

East Jakarta

  •     Lippo Plaza Kramat Jati, June 10 and 17
  •     Cibubur Junction, June 16-17
  •     Arion Mall, June 17
  •     Lippo Plaza Kramat Jati, June 17
  •     Mall Bassura, June 17

Aside from the malls, another one of my much-awaited event is the pre-loved luxury brands sale in Kemang. This year, Colony 6 Kemang is hosting it from the 13th until the 17th of June. Guaranteed authentic luxury bags including Hermes, Chanel, Goyard, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Christian Dior, Givenchy, YSL, etc. can be had during this event. I just saw that some of the reputable Instagram sellers selling mint to excellent condition bags that I follow and consign my bags to will be participating in this event. This is definitely in my to-do list this week.

Colony 6 Kemang Brand Sale

Aside from shopping, there is also a blood donation drive in the malls during this time. And while the shopaholics spend, they can also win shopping vouchers, motorbikes and TV sets totaling Rp400 million worth.

For more information, visit the official site The Great Jakarta Sale.

Haji Lane: Singapore’s glam street

After 3 weeks of hiatus, here are photos of my favorite stores in Haji Lane located within Singapore’s Kampong Glam. Whenever I go to Singapore for a quick weekend break, I never fail to visit Haji Lane to check out if my favorite quaint shops have something new to offer. And they always do!

This summer, I introduced my bestie to the joys and pleasant sensory assault of Haji Lane shopping. Trinkets, leather bags, vintage dresses, what have you. It’s a nice breakaway from Orchard Road’s usual brands.

Haji Lane_Bella2

Oh yes, I do my shopping here for Bohemian tops and skirts. This was where I also got my Jia Bamboo shades and it was a steal!

Some stores come and go though, so it may be tough to recommend specific stores, but I have been visiting regularly for 2 years now and there are several shops that have been around for quite some time now, including Moodswings Vintage, Spoil Market, Time After Time and Kolombiana. 


Aside from the shopping, I go to this street for the vibe. So if you like things Bohemian and vintage, Haji Lane is the place to be. And after shopping, Piedra Negra is the perfect stop for margaritas. That, for me, is the definition of a pleasant Saturday afternoon in Singapore.

Check out more photos of Haji Lane below.

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Buenas tardes de Madrid!

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Bella at the Parque del Buen Retiro

Today, we covered a lot of ground in Madrid because of the segway tour that we booked. Not the first time that we did this. In fact, it was one great discovery that we had when Arshad and I went on tour in Italy last year.

We covered several areas in Madrid in a span of three hours, which was physically impossible if done on foot. Walking tours are good, but segway tours are amazing!

For this trip, we booked through Segway Fun ( It was a private tour customized for me and Arshad so there was no waiting for other people and we chose the areas where we wanted to go to.

This photo was taken at the Parque del Buen Retiro, my favorite park in the whole of Madrid. I don’t mind coming back here early in the day to just read under a park bench!

The romance of the Pena Palace

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Pena Palace in Sintra on a bright spring-summer morning

According to Joao, our friendly Portuguese tour guide, it was a very good day. Sometimes, visitors come in the area and the castle isn’t visible because of the fog and the mist. Today, everything was clear. Everything was picture perfect.

The Pena Palace or Palacio Nacional da Pena in the municipality of Sintra, Portugal is a Romanticist castle perched on top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains. It is now considered a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. This was the summer palace of Portugal’s royalty.

When visiting Lisbon, an out-of-town visit to nearby Sintra to see the Pena Palace is something that you shouldn’t miss!

Ola, Cascais!

Bella in Cascais Portugal

Today was a full day. After going to Sintra to visit the Pena Palace, I went to Cascais.

Cascais is a coastal municipality which is 30 kilometers away from Lisbon. It used to be a sleepy fishing village that became a popular vacation place for tourists. This also used to be the royal family’s resort in the 19th and 20th century.

There are a lot of hotels, restaurants, bars and local shops in the area. I highly recommend spending 2 days here after Lisbon.

Bom dia, Lisbon!

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Bella at the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal

Today is my second day in Lisbon. I’ll be here for a few more days before heading out to Spain. The weather is spring perfect!

So far, so good. Experience maravilhosa!

I keep coming back to Manila

A portion of my humble home in Manila

Four months. This is by far the longest time that I spent not going back home to Manila, which I dare not repeat. Four months seemed like forever to me and at some point, I felt increasingly depressed already, not seeing my family, not being in the comforts of my home.

I normally come back home to Manila every 2 months,  alternating with KL, but the early part of this year found me with a role expansion that quadrupled my team and responsibilities. Not that I’m complaining. It is a role that I have been looking forward to, which also needed more time and focus. Thus, the delays in my usual Manila trip.

our Dachschund Dinozzo and Himalayan ASH Manuel

Yesterday morning, as I opened the door of my home, it greeted me with the familiar smell of vanilla and honey candles, my daughter running to kiss me and hug me tightly, the noise of my dachshund barking and excitedly wagging his tail that his human is back, the nonchalant stare of my stoic Himalayan-Ash cat and most of all, the smell of my mother and yaya’s freshly prepared Pinoy breakfast, perfectly paired with warm pan de sal and a pot of aromatic brewed coffee.

Yas! I am home. The sensory assault makes the red eye flight all worth it. The hugs and kisses of my family, the warm embrace and the familiar faces of my long-time friends. It’s just great to be home.

with my daughter Abby enjoying gelato amidst the heat of Metro Manila

I love my job, I love being an expat and travel has always been second nature to me and my husband. I have long come to terms with my paradox that although I am a traveler and wanderlust runs through my veins, I always find myself amidst Manila’s discord. As crazy as that may sound.

With barely 36 hours in Manila, for now, let me enjoy my Mom’s sopas, tinapang bangus and ginisang monggo. Ahh. Definitely home.

Sick Singapore weekend

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View from my hotel at Scotts Road in Singapore

Singapore is a 2-hour flight from Jakarta so it’s easy to fly in and out. Since it’s a long weekend for Indonesia, I decided to fly in with Arshad. I came down with something last Thursday afternoon though, so this weekend I will be on eat-sleep-recover mode, with some shopping here and there if my energy permits.

My flu shots are keeping the flu at bay. I guess the message of this blog post is that when you travel a lot – FLU SHOTS. Always keep your vaccines updated every year. It helps to also be armed with your go-to medicines all the time. Thank God for Bioflu and Kamillosan throat spray. Mental note: replenish my stash as soon as I get back to Manila!

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis

Easter Sunday Bazaar at Tugu Kunstkring PaleisI love bazaars! When I got the announcement from a friend that Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is hosting an Easter Sunday bazaar, I knew I had to go.

Bazaars for me are not just about shopping. It’s the experience. I love looking at rare and hard-to-find bazaar items for sale, since these are normally not sold in the malls. That’s the appeal of bazaar shopping for me.

Tugu Kunstkring Paleis’ Easter Sunday Bazaar was a sensory assault – just the way I like it. There were A LOT of merchants selling batik, jewelry, house ware and other unique finds. Aside from these, there were also bands playing, a Dutch family photo booth where you can don Dutch costumes, a fortune teller (in Bahasa, though), a Japanese clay workshop and a lot of food concessionnaires.

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One happy Bella scouring the ground floor with antique finds

Oh, it was dogs’ day too, since dogs were encouraged to be brought in the bazaar venue.

Here are my interesting finds:

The ground floor teemed with antique items: from Chinese ceramics, maps, furniture, accessories and paintings.

As usual, I was enamored by notebooks and journals with printed batik covers. I cannot have enough! On this day and age, I think journal writing and writing letters by hand are both a dying art.

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At the entrance of the bazaar on the second floor, a booth selling items from Holland greeted customers:

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There were also a lot of locally made products, one of my favorites was the one selling canvass pouches, ID and card holders, pencil cases, vanity and notebooks, with cute and creative printed designs:

A welcomed sensory assault of colorful batik clothes and local accessories were sold on the second floor, too.

Overall, there were a lot of great finds. I had to stop myself from buying things that I don’t need but they were very tempting. In the end, I went home withTK_antique mirror wm one item that I felt I couldn’t let go of: an antique mirror with a blue Chinese ceramics design and a jade handle. I went back for it three times just to make sure I really wanted it. It’s a much-coveted piece to be included in my own antique collection!

The great takeaway from this visit is that in the weekends to come, I will definitely go back and visit Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, not for the bazaar, but for the bar, the restaurant and the antique collection inside that I can still scrutinize and marvel at. Definitely in my bucket list for to-dos over the weekend!