I didn't exactly disconnect from the world when I was in Camp Agos, because it wasn't necessarily a sabbatical or no-tech retreat but it was extremely easy to not get any signal ( especially if you're a globe subscriber).

There were no other 'attractions' other than the river. No other 'activities' other than lounging around the place, swimming in the river or waterfalls ( after trekking to it). If you get antsy by the lack of activity I suggest you bring a book, a tablet (for movies/reading), and a physical activity item (beach ball, floatie, frisbee etc).



But if you want hours of doing blissful nothing and just soak the sun and nature all around you, this is a pretty good spot albeit a little expensive if you're by yourself or in a duo.





What to pack :

  • Trekking/hiking outfit
    • I recommend leggings if you're prone to insect bites and slipping. Also, it helps with the itchy plants that you'll be wading through and the rocks/pebbles in case you do slip.
  • Snacks
    • Chips, crisps, juice packs, and sodas (maybe some 🍷 🍹 🍻 ) are optional but highly recommended. There are stores near the camp where you can buy snacks but they close pretty early (as early as 5PM)
  • Non-perishable food
    • Canned food, bread, and noodle packs/cups are nice to bring if you want to experience cooking but don't want the trouble of lugging raw meat around and spending a fortune on ice so it won't go bad.
  • Mosquito repellant, sunblock, sunglasses, a hat and wet-proof/dry bag
  • Swimwear but not string bikinis because they will fly off and the river faeries and waterfall nymphs will laugh.
  • Cash
    • You'll be surprised how often people forget to bring cash to places like this
  • Optional
    • Floatation devices/floaties, volleyball, water sport paraphernalia etc
    • Your own pillows and blankets
      • We brought our own blankets for fear of the ones there not being clean enough, but they were, thankfully. Still we ended up using the blankets as a cover for the rope 'seating section' because 1, it was dusty with lots of cobwebs and 2, the ropes hurt.






Suggestions:
  • Ask the caretakers for a cooler (separate payment) you're probably going to need it
  • Buy drinking water (from the caretakers) instead of packing gallons for the duration of your stay
    • Trust me, it's easier this way and not pricey at all
  • Go in a group
    • It's cheaper and the costs of food and transportation are significantly reduced
  • Use trekking sandals not flip-flops or sneakers
    • There's a lot of walking so you might think Oh! Sneakers! but it becomes heavy once the water soaks into it plus the stones and mud are very slippery after your shoes get wet. Pass on the flip-flops as well. The strong rush of the water might render your flip-flops useless.
  • Go trekking
    • Watch out for a lot of animal shit
  • Visit the waterfalls
    • Time passes by slowly here and you need something to do for the rest of the time you're not relaxing/sleeping


Have you been to Camp Agos? I'll probably go back, but this time in a group 'coz I think it's infinitely more sustainable and fun in a group. And like I said, cheaper.


xx,
CJ


Camp Agos Daraitan Rizal
https://www.facebook.com/camp.agos.daraitan/
https://www.instagram.com/camp.agos.daraitan/?hl=en




A fraghead is someone who collects, reads about and discusses fragrances. Simply said, a person who loves to inquire, read, and discuss perfumes in more detail other than 'this smells good/this smells bad'.
I believe I tick those boxes, although this is just a self-diagnosis. Buying perfume is an expensive vice or hobby (depending on where you are in your fragrance obsession) so some brands are not enticing enough for me to try, especially niche and high-end designers like Tom Ford and Diptyque. So what I do is go to clone houses.

Clone house - Perfume brands that specialize in creating clones or duplicates of scents of more 'expensive' brands/houses.



Here are 3 local clone houses that you should keep on your radar

Eternal Scents and Fragrances
Safe to say this might be my favourite local clone brand as of the moment. The glass bottle is simple and easy to stack -albeit being pretty basic and devoid of imagination. That said, this is the longest wearing perfume and 'closest to the real thing' that I own.


I've tried US clone brands that are close to their inspiration as well and while I like those immensely, this brand is pound for pound or drop for drop(?) better. Mostly because it's easier to acquire. The presentation is (box, ribbons, and hand-written note from the owner) *chef's kisses* as well.




The roster of scents is quite large in my opinion, they have Tom Ford, Diptyque, MFK, and Le Labo for the niche and Chanel, Dior, etc for the higher-end lines. Some celebrity brands and designers are there as well, but personally if you're going for clones, go for the clones of high-end or niche.

Talking about the fragrance itself, there might be some sharpness in the scent or a note or two differences. Despite that, to a casual fraghead (or non-fraghead), their mixes are pretty good copies. Longevity is approximately 6+ hours

I recommend Eternal Scents for people who want a cheaper backup or every-day version of their pricey fragrances. Shhhh! They won't know the difference!

Price range : 450 - 550
Store link : eternalscentsmnl.com



Symmetry Lab
I don't have much experience with Symmetry Lab compared to Eternal (where I have had more than 4 scents in total), I only have this one clone of Carolina Herrera Good Girl. 

Let's start with packaging. First of -the bottle design is gorgeous. The all black square bottle is visually different from most local clones. Topping it off is a nice wooden cap, very reminiscent of Nasomatto. The box itself lends a bit more credibility and adds to the over-all brand presentation.

As for the scent, at first it was more alcohol-heavy than I expected. It also didn't last long and didn't project. So I kept it in my closet for a few weeks. Tried it again in cooler weather and it fared much better- stronger and more projection. Definitely less alcohol in the first spray and lasted longer over-all (approximately 4-5 hours). Please note that I spray quite heavily, a minimum of 5 sprays in total for all my fragrances.


I read this particular scent is very close to the original, which prompted me to get it. Bottomline? It's a pretty solid introduction to the scent without shelling out a lot of money. Symmetry also produces popular niche as well as designer fragrances, similar to Eternal Scents, though the latter has a wider range of offerings.

I recommend Symmetry Lab for people who are looking for an over-all good scent in display-worthy packaging. Great for gifting because of the box!

Price range : 499 - 1,250


Le Fofo
Like Symmetry, I only have one scent from this brand but that's enough for me to sing its praises.
Housed in a plastic tub, inside a velvet pouch is this cylindrical bottle and "Sauvage" cap. To be honest they really got me with this unique bottle design. I've only ever seen this type of bottle in designer brands. The label is quite simple, maybe a bit 'cheap-feeling' but the over-all look is good for gifting. 



What I do like about this particular scent is the oil content and the fragrance itself. It's a clone of a discontinued fragrance of By Killian. That day I was looking for a coconutty scent that I could layer with my other fragrances, to get the 'beach sun tan/sunscreen lotion' vibe and I heard that By Killian Love The Way You Feel was a great scent for that particular profile.

While this doesn't say much in the projection department, it makes up for it in the longevity office. (*sorry*)Lasts for about 4-5 hours on my skin, but layered with another fragrance lasts up to 6+. 

This brand is lovingly hand-made with the perfume oil flown from Dubai!

I recommend Le Fofo to people who are looking for discontinued and luxury/niche fragrances.

Price range :699-900

I know there are a lot more brands out there I have yet to try. What clone brands do you love or would you like featured? Let me know in my socials or email!


xx,
CJ



PS. The sprayers and atomizers for all of these brands are pretty good except the Eternal one- it's a hit or miss tbh. Some Eternal bottles tend to leak as there's a high oil content in the liquid and it loosens the cap.


At the start of 2020, people tried their hands at viral recipes and trying popular as seen on 'social media' products, delving into untapped interests or re-discovering them as well as acquiring new hobbies. Hobbies that some have turned into viable businesses as the months (and years) dragged on.


I don't know about everyone else, but I think coffee started slowly becoming a thing after that first viral wave of 'dalgona' coffee. Then came 'viral posts' and reviews of international chain coffee shops, then pop-ups and kiosks then finally the local 'mom-and-pop' start-ups which seem to always have picturesque furniture, walls, art, drinks and  foodstuffs. 

NOTE : I know coffee has always been here, and it's always a thing (I see you fellow coffee addicts) but I believe, the coffee craze really picked up at the start of 2020 and it never really died down.


These local coffee places/cafés don't always looks the same or have the same 'aesthetic' but most if not all, look great in pictures.


Kaulayaw Coffee - This initial visit didn't impress. The monte cristo while good was laughably minuscule. The coffee was watered down (stayed at the pass too long probably). The small bowl of tuna pasta was expensive for what it was. The service from the staff was poor (we waited too long to get a menu, for each dish as well as the bill). We eventually came back but to a different branch, and had a much better experience.


First of all, I'm ecstatic and proud that we have local businesses thriving under normally difficult circumstances. It's also quite refreshing to know that most of these are run by people around my age- younger even. It speaks to the mindset of people that having one's own business is the same as or even better than going the corporate route. 


Now, I've tried a number of these local shops to date, and more and more keep popping up on my feed to try (don't worry I'll visit you all!) I noticed something interesting.


Kaulayaw Coffee - The food and coffees were good. The view was stunning. A bit pricey though. Definitely worth a visit.


The more photo-op friendly the place is or the more 'ig-worthy', the more 'meh' the menu will be. These cafés all have good to great coffee. The coffees are also priced appropriately, some could knock off the price to like 10 to 15 pesos less, but I digress. But the food accompanying these coffees is, let's just say, not worth the price I pay.


So I'm no expert in the food and beverage industry nor am I a restaurateur or coffee/café connoisseur but I think I know when some prices just don't jive well with the end-product I receive. 


My family has always had businesses involving food so yeah I have a deeper understanding of it than maybe a regular-shmegular consumer.


Coffee Rush - Not sure if this will be visited again in the future. The coffee was ok. The food was a big no and overpriced. The service could be better, but I can't fault that since they seem to be new, or at least they act like they're new. The place though is big, gorgeous, and can pack quite a number of people. Perfect place for events.


Cafés with 'overlooking areas/view' tend to have not the greatest food. There are outliers that I actually do recommend (some are mentioned in this post), but some are just made to be photographed and posted on your feed. Most times, the coffees are really the only thing keeping me as a patron.


Now I'm aware that maybe the cost of gas, the ingredients to make certain things compound etc, but I don't just say it just to be a cheap-ass. These café/restaurants with 'a view', in my opinion, really overprice their food, and paired with sub-par service (cold food, basic menu, inattentive staff) it really is the final nail on the coffin. You're left with the realization that it was the view that you actually paid for, not much else. 


Okay, the view is great, to keep things positive here. And the pictures that you take there are bound to turn out quite pretty. But I don't know about you, the thing I came for was a good experience, and that tends to include the food and drinks, not just the pictures I can post on my feed.

Kape Natividad - The coffee was good. The food was delicious. The price was great. The view was lovely.
I recommend the pizza :) I only go for either black or lattes so regardless of the cafe, my coffee will be pretty standard. Highly recommend this place. Try not to go during peak times as this will be packed and service will be slow.

I think I've ranted long enough. Which cafés and restaurants don't you like because of the price or service? As for other cafes I love to go to, Little Flour/Wildflour has my heart and SOUL as well as Kape Natividad. Oild would be here but they closed their one and only store :( . For more well-known stores, Coffeebean & Tea Leaf is *chef's kisses* and I'm a slave for Mickey D's and Dunkin's coffees. I would put starbucks here too but lately I'm liking it less and less.


Read my experience about another local cafe here : KAULAYAW COFFEE RIZAL


xx,

CJ


PS. The photos I used are mixed with the good cafes that I like. So not everything here was 'bad'. Also, I made a post YAY! You have no idea how great this feels to post something again here.



banner photo of hand with disposable coffee cup


The first time I tried Kaulayaw Coffee I was left feeling severely underwhelmed and a tiny bit perplexed. The café itself was gorgeous, the styling quaint, unassuming and minimalist, the staff, while not as warm and approachable, were not rude. So hopes... were still springing... eternal? Idk how the saying goes.




Bottomline I was expecting the food to be worth it. The coffee to be amazing heck even standard-fare and the service swift and reliable. But what I got was, well, was just bad. Like I mentioned, the people weren't necessarily rude, but they weren't forthcoming, approachable and accessible- most of the time we couldn't find anyone that could take our order, follow up our order and get our bill so we can rush out of that place. The food was a touch expensive for what it was and how little you get. Serving size was smaller than average. And the coffee was quite meh.


Anyway, that was that business. I wrote out Kaulayaw from my cafés to revisit. But...but then they posted a pic on Facebook. And suffice to say I was intrigued. It looked quite nice. I basically gave Kaulayaw another chance because I like pretty things. The Tanay, Rizal branch, looked picturesque. Pretty enough for a second shot.


Location : Tanay Branch: Kaulayaw At Cuyambay, Cuyambay Crossing, Tanay Rizal

Waze : It's on Waze! 





They messed up our order and when it was pointed out, they rectified it asap. Amazing service!

So regarding the price, it was still a little bit overpriced for me. But I kinda get it, you're paying for the beans of the coffee to be ethically sourced and locally grown (which kudos, that's amazing!). Also, look at that view- absolutely stunning. 

The garden alfresco dining setup was also refreshing. Not much people were there and the tables were spaced well so there was no chance of someone breathing down my neck or me 'accidentally' overhearing a scandalous conversation.






Finally, delicious coffee. The coffee I chose was admittedly one of the more affordable ones in the menu but it was pretty good. The whole drip coffee setup that I was given was quite nice.  I drink a tonne of coffee but I'm no coffee connoisseur, that said, I thought the coffee was delicious. 


There's was an adjacent building under construction overlooking the area and it turned out to be a 'closed' area for Kaulayaw still. Maybe I'm due for another visit. I'll just stick to the coffee this time.



Would I recommend this place? Yes! The view.The aesthetics and the coffee are all good. The food is ok, just a teeny tiny bit overpriced for me. But maybe it's worth it for you. 


xx,

CJ


Have I mentioned these perform too? Read on to for my thoughts on this ₱120-150 local brand lip liners. If you're into lipsticks you might think you don't need a lipliner, but it really makes a difference. 

Swear.

lip liner photo close up

I discovered the power of lipliners when I was trying to do the 'overlined pouty lip' to make it a little more plumper and yes over-all bigger.

ever bilena lip liner close up with names

Keyword here is trying to do. Over time though I learned the trick for my particular lip shape and size. I only need to very slightly overline, like barely out of my lip line in order for my lips to look a little poutier.

To start with I don't have thin lips. My lips are quite rounded already and I would say average sized. So when I over-line a little it looks like I put lip plumpers because...DSLs. Period.

arm skin swatch of the ever bilena lip liners

EB Matte liner and Kris Matte Lip Liners

Packaging : Twist up. No sharpener included.
Texture : Creamy and soft but not brittle.
Scent : No fragrance or very faint if any.
Pay-off : Pigmented. As you can see below.
Finish : Matte but not drying/powdery.
Lasting-power : On i's own, lasting power is average after light eating and drinking. There's still color on the lipline going inside and there's still color over-all but quite faded.

lip swatches of the liners

In terms of its reaction to my dry lips, it doesn't moisturize or make it soft nor do I expect it to. I wouldn't say it dries it out. As the packaging says, it's a matte lip liner and I agree. It's quite a natural matte finish on me. I do recommend you to always exfoliate before any traditional matte bullets.

For this product, I think it would look better if your lips were moisturized, but the most prep I would do in general is slather on a thick lipbalm.

I've used this in conjunction with my BLK matte lippies and with my Sunnies Face Fluffmatte bullets and they work seamlessly together. These perform well at their price point and I don't think I'd want to explore anything else, because these work perfectly already.

Let me know if you've tried these and how you like it. What other cheap lip products do you like?

xx,
CJ





Well, mostly mask-proof. There will be a minuscule bit of transfer because hey, you eat and drink but compared to the glosses and soft-cloudy lippie textures that are the norm now, these are truly great without sucking the life out of your lips at the same time delivering great pigment.



Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink

One of the first few (second iteration) matte liquid lipsticks the beauty community had that stays all day even after eating and drinking without leaving your lips dry as the Sahara. When I say it stays all day- makeup wipes and cleansing/micellar waters can't remove this. The only way I've found to completely remove this was using lip balms or oil-based removers.

While I do find that it tends to transfer when I apply more than one coat on the lips or when I don't let it dry, it fares well throughout the day and night. 


Tip : Only one coat and let it dry first!


I confidently go on about my day without me worrying if I smeared it all over my face after removing my mask (which has happened in the beginning of the Pandemic with other lip products). While it's not 'heavy on the lips' I wouldn't call this lightweight or like I'm wearing nothing at all. I do find that applying it like a tint and spreading with my fingers makes this lightweight though- still pigmented albeit muted.


Breakdown :

  • Affordable 349 (sale price around 199-249)
  • Smells like sweet vanilla cake (not cloying)
  • Non-drying
  • Dry/chapped lips? Use lip balm first, wipe off then apply a thin coat of this.
  • Pigmented and long lasting
  • Not cruelty-free


Maybelline Sensational Liquid Matte

Feather-like, smooth and extremely comfortable this liquidy matte finish lipstick still packs pigment however it does transfer even after letting it dry and blotting. So re-application after eating and/or drinking might be in the itinerary. The formula is quite similar to the Colourette matte tints with the whole oil mixed with pigment idea so be careful when handling this. Don't open/apply this upside-down because it will leak. 


This tends to emphasize dry lips so my crusty and peeling lips need a thorough moisturisation if I want to use this. Even when it does transfer, the texture and comfortability has won me over. Masks be damned.


Breakdown :

  • Affordable 249 (sale price around 149-199)
  • Smells sweet 
  • Matte finish and may emphasize dry lips
  • Pigmented
  • Last long on the lips but not exactly transfer-proof
  • Not cruelty-free



L'Oreal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Tint

This thing STAINS YOUR LIPS until the next day. The texture is a creamy gel-like lip tint which makes it feel like you have nothing on your lips. This is my most reached for out of the all them in this post. I can apply a sheer tint but also full-on. I'm very tempted to get the rosier and nude colours because I enjoyed my experience with this. Unless I have a lipbalm under my lips that I didn't wipe off prior to application, this barely transfers on the mask.

It's easier to remove, micellar water and oil based cleansers work BUT it still leaves a stain. Like I said, long-lasting.


Breakdown :

  • Affordable 349 (sale price around 249-299)
  • Smells a little like a sharpie haha but not overwhelmingly so
  • Matte finish 
  • Pigmented and extremely long-lasting
  • Comfortable and barely-there feeling
  • Not cruelty-free
  • The stain's lasting power may just be because this is a very vibrant colour- the nudes I'm not sure about


Some might think why wear lip products if you wear a mask all the time? Why not? It's for us anyway right? It's still the end of the world so let people enjoy things Stacy!!!

What are your mask-proof lippies? Do you still wear lipsticks despite the mask and/or transfer?


XX,

CJ


cover page

Vice Cosmetics I can safely say is one of the powerhouses in the local cosmetics scene.  With punchy neon coherent branding and inclusivity front and center in products as well as advertising, Vice Cosmetics has become a household name despite being just shy of five years in the industry.

Touting inclusivity in its makeup with its genderless approach and with a wide range of shades suiting almost all skin tones in the Philippines (unheard of as most locally available brands only release 2-4 shades in base products) at really friendly prices- this brand has cemented itself as the standard in catering to shades darker than 'light, vanilla, beige and/or cream'.

So why don't I like it?


Crayon type products have been in the beauty space for a while now (decades) and it's not some innovative thing especially if it's something for the lips or the eyes. With the most recent iteration by fast-growing local beauty empire Sunnies Face (Eye Crayon) let's actually shine a tiny light on the beauty fixture, tween-rebranded Careline. 

These Kiss Sticks by Careline that are actually a the local answer to the ColourPop Lippie Stix -if I'm not mistaken.




Like I mentioned, in previous posts, old 'established' beauty brands are wanting, in the shade department. Most of these shades cannot work on darker skintones, medium skin has a tiny more option but as always, light to fair skin tones have the lion's share of suitable shades...anyway.

PINCH - Berry mauve
LUCID - Warm rosey-mauve
JUST BETTER - Beige pink-nude



These Kiss Sticks have been around for years now and I haven't written anything on them yet and despite these 3 shades being the only ones that I feel work on me, I'm quite pleased with them.

Priced at less than Php 200, these lippies fall into the cheap or rather, extremely affordable range. With the twist-up packaging and sharpener at the bottom of each stick, it feels reminiscent of school days - but not treading the juvenile category. It feels 'young' & 'hip' while not quite looking like a child's art supply.



As I've mentioned these 3 shades are the only ones I can confidently wear as an everyday lip look. I had two more shades that I wanted that would work, but they were almost always out of stock so I let it go.

Just better is something I do mix with other lippies in my stash -to lighten or do the 'blurred lip' look which it does well.

Lucid and Pinch, I just wear on their own most of the time. So you might ask, how well do they mix with other products?



These are very creamy. While not slippery and/or emollient, these blend out and glide on as well as can be. They aren't moisturizing at all nor do they tout that claim - so exfoliate, moisturize and stay hydrated because these emphasize your cracks, crevices, demons and dry lips.

The finish is your traditional creamy satin, not matte thankfully, but not full on glossy either. 



Despite emphasizing my parched-mummy-lips to high heaven, I still reach for these from time to time because they're: 

Fuss free - The narrow lip color makes for cleaner and nicer application compared to the standard lip bullets tubes. The sharpener at the bottom, keeps it nice and precise when you want it to.

Slim and sleek - The cap fits closely and has a satisfying snap on the body of the stick, so there's no chance of it drawing inside your makeup bag or purse. It doesn't take up much space, especially if the rest of your makeup kit contains 'stick'-like packaging as well (very schoolastic cute).



This doesn't have any particular scent or any additional fragrances like the usual vanilla or candy-like sweetness other lip products tend to have. 



While I personally prefer soft creamy cloud-like matte formulas ala Sunnies Face lip dips and fluff mattes, these are something worth mentioning. It did got me thinking though, if Careline released this or reformulated this but with something similar to Sunnies fluff mattes texture....ooooh can you imagine? I would for sure check that out. I hope they do create it, but with more universally flattering shades across all skintones.

xx,
CJ

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