Manila shopping: The new & improved Bleach

I may have been adventurous with dining out on my recent trip home, but when it comes to shopping I’m completely a creature of habit. I have a roster of favorite shops in Manila that I hit for what I’ve come to think of as a kind of annual restocking.

My shopping list might not all be the stuff of Pinterest-worthy blog posts (plastic file folders and Japan-made pens at National Bookstore, for example), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store that’s consistently at the top of my list got a major makeover. I’m talking about Bleach, formerly known as Bleach Catastrophe.

Bleach Greenbelt new look

In the six years I’ve lived away from home, my yearly trips home are never complete without a few new goodies from this store. Some of my favorite shirts of Marlon’s are from here, and I wore Bleach all throughout my pregnancy (which says a lot about their roomy yet flattering cuts).

Bleach Greenbelt menswear

Alongside the launch of an updated look for her store, Bleach owner Tinay Villamiel also expanded into home and interior items with a pared-down, modern sensibility.

Bleach Greenbelt new interior

I love that these are designed and made in the Philippines, using natural materials (linen, canvas and cotton), but offer a younger, hipper alternative to the usual Asian-Filipiniana fare.

Bleach Greenbelt new home items

Bleach Greenbelt banquet placemat

Bleach Greenbelt eggs and bacon tote

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to seeing a lot of gray, but after the sensory overload that is Manila, Bleach was a welcome visual break with its subtle palette. It’s refreshing to see something a little bit different, like these French- and Scandinavian-inspired details tucked into Bleach’s clothing, homeware and interiors. We all crave a little something that will transport us elsewhere, which also explains the proliferation of Buddha heads in homes across Europe.

Bleach Greenbelt merci dress

Bleach Greenbelt oui pillow

Bleach Greenbelt French inspired details

I like the new home items, but I do miss the wider clothing selection of the old store. I’ve always loved Bleach’s comfy basics with a twist—although every time I visit the store, there always happens to be some kind of pearl-earring-and-Lacoste-wearing preppy girl who’s walking out looking like she doesn’t get it. Haha.

Naturally I couldn’t leave without picking up a couple of things for myself: this cozy charcoal gray graphic sweatshirt…

Bleach Greenbelt gray sweatshirt

and this little black dress with an asymmetrical hemline for just Php 495, or €7. Ridiculously affordable, even if you’re not converting to Euros!

Bleach Greenbelt little black dress

Looks like this LBD will have to stay hidden for a few more months before it makes a debut. Can it be spring now, please?

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Exploring the Jordaan

Full term and 37 weeks today! At this point I’m in serious nesting mode, reluctant to leave home unless absolutely necessary—kind of like how mama cats hole up in a dark corner before giving birth. With Little Mango heavy in my belly (2.6 kilos, or 5.7 pounds!), walking is becoming uncomfortable and tires me out easily.

This is why it’s been hard to find the energy to explore our new surroundings. It’s a bit of a shame, because I was so excited to move here! Not only is our new ‘hood Westerpark diverse and interesting in itself, it’s also just off the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque, charming neighborhoods.

I practically have to force myself to get out of the house for short weekend strolls. I don’t always succeed! But when I do, I end up wide-eyed and delighted. I become a tourist all over again… or maybe I never stopped being one.

Jordaan red shutters

For example, just minutes from our doorstep lies what I think is one of Amsterdam’s prettiest canals: Brouwersgracht.

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Maternity style: Tropical edition

By the time I flew home for the holidays, I was tired of piling on ten million layers before going out. So I was looking forward to wearing my “real” clothes (which is how I think of my summer clothes) and feeling like myself again for three weeks.

What I loved about dressing for pregnancy in the tropics:

  • Getting to wear sandals. Pretty toes, yay.
  • Packing only two pairs of shoes, because staying with my mom and sister means a bottomless shoe and accessory closet—and a trip to Landmark means shopping for cheap flats!
  • Putting away my thick, woolly maternity tights and seeing my legs again

What I didn’t love:

  • THE HEAT. OMG. Being pregnant, your body temperature is already higher because of increased blood circulation and being plunged into tropical heat does not help. At all. On my last few nights, I couldn’t sleep unless I had both the aircon (set to 21 degrees) and the electric fan on. December showed no mercy to this pregnant mama.
  • Bloating and expanding because of said heat. I didn’t go up a shoe size, thank goodness, but I gained FIVE POUNDS of water—which I lost the day I returned to wintry Amsterdam.
  • Humidity-triggered frizzies. Good thing there’s The Twist!
  • Sweating your way to that dewy (read: oily), no-makeup look. I found myself quite startled to see how much makeup women pile on in Manila (some women really need to lay off the foundation!) until I remembered that it melts off in minutes.
  • Being forcibly reminded of how everyone dresses in the same preppy/simple girl uniform. I lost count of the number of neat ponytails, Longchamp Le Pliage bags and round pearl earrings I saw in my two weeks back home!

All that aside, what I loved most about dressing for the heat was getting to dig out some of my favorite outfits from storage—like the printed vintage shirtdress I hadn’t seen since August…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and being able to wear my normal, non-maternity clothes… even in my third trimester.

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