Viewing: work it

Do not disturb

Sorry for the blog silence this week. There’s been much to write about—Open Monument Day, our first house-hunting tour, and the discovery of a neighborhood that I just might be in love with… and I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to find the time or energy to do it.

I’ve been busy with an unusual amount of work the last two weeks. Not complaining… income is always a good thing! When I’m not working, I’ve been sleeping a lot because I’ve been feeling under the weather on and off since last week. It’s more than a little frustrating to not be in control of my body and energy, but I’m trying to remind myself that duh, I’m pregnant! And that makes taking care of Little Mango’s housing situation (a.k.a., myself) my first priority.

Today I’m finally going to the midwife to get a quick checkup just to make sure everything is okay. Then it’s another busy weekend, with a few more apartment viewings and a free trip to Inside Design Amsterdam (!). So I know I need to get as much rest as I can now to avoid being a total zombie on Monday.

So, I’m offline for now. Be back soon!

Work from home

The past two days have been great on the work front. I’ve gotten to produce work I’m extremely happy with (good feedback is starting to trickle in, too) — all while working from home.

So now I’m all warm and fuzzy about working from home, thus this post. Working from home is something I have wanted to do ever since I first saw Marlon’s company grant him the privilege of working from home one day a week, plus a budget to set up a small home office.

Six years ago, it seemed far-fetched and decadent, like something only an deep-pocketed, ultramodern multinational leviathan could handle.

But technology has improved and mindsets have shifted. Employers are more open to the idea that you don’t have to be physically present to do good work. And so working from home has become, happily, a part of my working life as a freelancer — even now that I’m working what is essentially a 9-to-6 day job.

I love working from home for its many perks. Foremost is sleep. My morning primping and commuting time is added to my sleep time. My bed is less than three feet away from my desk, making a hasty escape from the heavy-lidded unproductive desert that is siesta time oh so easy.

Second is, time. I work at my own pace and at the times I am most productive. Although I don’t like to pigeonhole myself as a morning/afternoon/night person (why would I want to limit myself?), I like to sleep late and get to thinking after a slow start. Still, I can get up early and hit the ground cracking if I need to; working from home isn’t for people who can’t manage their time, that’s for sure.

And to be honest, I work fast most of the time. There have been times I find myself done with what I need to do and just kill time until the “respectable” hour to go home arrives. Trust me, maraming nai-imbiyerna kung mabilis ka; kasalanan ko bang hindi sila efficient? Among these are the creatures who wear their extended work hours as a badge of honor, the ultimate proof that they’re working hard (never having heard of working smart).

Working from home allows me to cut out all that useless crap. If I’m efficient at my work and am done for the day, then I’m done for the day. No raised eyebrows, no wagging tongues.

Third is, simply, home. Since I never feel the need to physically get out of the office (admit it, sometimes it’s a real and pressing urge, isn’t it?), sometimes I even end up working later into the night, and for longer hours, than I would at a regular office.  I’ve had days so packed, I’ve had to crawl out of bed at 7am and keep to a strict hourly schedule until midnight. But I don’t think I could do that at an office and still feel good at the end of the day.

I have my cat to bother or cuddle or be tormented by; I have a beautiful sunset right outside my window to mark the end of each day  The comfort of home makes a huge difference. And that’s what makes working from home work for me.

Back to school

I feel like I ought to be writing an essay called “What I did this summer.” I started working in June, upon my return from San Francisco, and it felt much like going back to school after summer vacation.

I had intended April, May and June to be my “break” — but it didn’t really turn out that way. I worked through my break, and I say that with gratitude and joy. One of the things that kept me clinging to my old job was the fear of leaping into a void of nothingness… no work, no income. I was wrong and for that I could not be happier. It was nothing like when I first started out in Singapore. What a difference two years can make.

Then again, this summer was like the ones I had when I was younger. I was never really idle.  There was always Rep or tennis or Spanish or art lessons. Heck, even the summers without parent-initiated activities were jam-packed with boy-watching.

This time around, going back to school was more like transferring to a new school. Getting used to new teachers, classmates, new ways of doing things; maybe not making lifelong friends right away, but anxious to do well and be liked. Even struggling and doing well at the same time.  
But I had my summer vacation (the first I’ve had since leaving school almost seven years ago!) and it was a good one. And even now that the summer is over, the sunshine seems like it’s here to stay. 

And she’s off…

Today’s post is brought to you by Blogger’s Remorse!
It’s been crazy in the Paul-Plazo household these last two weeks.
After scrambling to get my Dependent Pass (which I now have! I am no longer a tourist in Singapore! Long story…) Marlon and I flew off to Beijing for an exhausting but definitely… interesting five days. I would describe most of it as fun although there were more than a few lost-in-translation moments, the occasional bouts of frustration and fatigue, and even an open-air lovers’ quarrel for all to see. What the holiday pictures don’t show, eh? 
marlon and i in beijing: having fun but a little overwhelmed, tired but still going
At the same time I was being yanked onboard a three-month freelance contract that I haven’t officially signed yet because I don’t have the right work papers sorted out (again, long story…). 
I rushed back from Beijing to a pile of work from said freelancing gig. I am working from home these days and am so surprised at how much I am working for a job that I am not even officially yet on (again, long story). I really get how everyone I’m working with needs me to come on board because they are all so damned busy! I’ve been doing as much as I can, but it’s been a struggle to work with just a few days sandwiched in between trips — plus the other, odder factor of me not being officially onboard and asked to work from home till the contract is signed. Long story… 
Long story seems to be the story of my life these days!
It seems like I was just struggling to onboard myself a few days ago, and suddenly I have to quickly and thoroughly turn over what little work I’ve done (which seems like a lot to me already!) before I disappear to San Francisco for the next two weeks. 
Still, the job was a huge and unexpected blessing so I’m doing my best to shut the complaints and to do right by it and The One who gave it to me. And there’s no way I’m complaining about this trip because the tantalizing tandem of discovering new places and seeing old friends simply fills me with such anticipation. 
So I’m off again, and looking forward to a trip that will be every bit as exciting (and hopefully, a wee bit slower) than life on the ground, here at home, has been the past two weeks. 

Back from business

I’m back from my first ever business trip! While the people closest to me, Marlon and my sister, have been pretty much jetting all over the world on business for many many years, this weekend marks the first time I have had to travel anywhere requiring a passport, in a professional capacity.

I spent the last six days in Kuala Lumpur on a shoot for a long-running project. The team that flew down was composed of me, James, Jerrold, Mike and Leang — a producer, director, assistant director/editor, graphic designer and director of photography, respectively. We each got our own rooms in a surprisingly decent hotel: the Dorsett Regency right smack in the middle of Bukit Bintang in downtown KL. For $70/night, the hotel wasn’t bad at all! The location couldn’t be beat, and it was a dead ringer for the pre-renovation Manila Pen.
The whole experience of being away on business seemed slightly surreal to me. It was like I had momentarily stepped out of reality into something that was pretending to be my life, but was distinctly separate from it. Shooting on location all day and coming home to an empty hotel room simply nothing to do with my “real” life. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, and I even feel grateful that my days were so full and I was so tired there wasn’t much room for loneliness.
But I felt like being away had hit the “pause” button on something inside me (my ability to be fully present? To fully enjoy an experience?) and I was just waiting for the time when I could… unpause myself.
Still, it feels good to be sent to another country because of something that I can do, and do reasonably well. (Let’s hope it’s a good sign of more travels to come, hmm?) I enjoyed spending time with my team (it’s James’ last shoot before he leave the company) and my sister and her friends. I also enjoyed the “me” time in the cushy hotel room, and shoe shopping in Sungei Wang, the Greenhills/Tutuban Mall of Kuala Lumpur. And of course completing a successful shoot always gives me a high.
But now I’m back home, cocooned in the arms of my Bulgari-scented husband (he knows I love it so he wore it to the airport!), in the comfort of my very own home, and in the spotty affections of my tempestuous cat. And no professional high can beat that.

New office: first impressions

It’s a very short walk from the bus stop to the office. I think I’ll stick this route: free shuttle from condo to MRT station, MRT to the hubby’s office, bus from the hubby’s office to mine. With the number of transfers it almost feels like a Manila commute. Travel time: nearly an hour and a half.

Our neighbor, the International Academy of Film and TV (still empty as yet) has what I’d say is a 100-inch plasma TV mounted on the wall. That there is the biggest TV I’ve ever seen.

Stickers on the frosted glass telling everyone what we do. This is probably to distinguish us from a bank, which is what I think of when I see these half-frosted, half-clear all glass facades.

Well, at least the London bosses finally get the fancy reception area they’ve been insisting on for years.

Whoa. The floors are shiny.

Whoa. It’s bright. Really bright. The light! It burns!
Wow. James really looks like a creative director now. Too bad he’s leaving. These offices make people look more important.
Wow. All the awkward, oddly-sized pillars scattered around in random places are gone. Or at least, have been well hidden. Good work!
Very nice wavy perforated steel like thingy in the meeting room. And we now have a very big TV. Nowhere near the IAFTV Jumbotron, but respectably big.
The edit and audio suites are nice. They look suitably maze-like, like all post facilities must be required to look. I like the grey walls.
Brrr. It’s freezing in here.
Where is my coffee mug? Where is the coffee? General confusion.

Goodbye Oxley Road

The company I work for is moving to a new office this weekend. With Lilian gone and James leaving soon, moving out of the house on Oxley Road feels like an end of an era, a farewell to the “old” company. I wonder what the new one (both the house and the company) will be like.
I admit I had my doubts about it at first, but I could see the potential. My love for old houses soon won out. With some minor improvements and a fresh lick of paint, the beauty of this pre-war house (which is considered ancient in Singapore) began to shine through. I began to fall in love with its airiness, high ceilings and the abundance of natural light, which I will miss.
The main workroom for me, the interns and the boys (designers). The light fixtures are vintage and come with the house. The floors are polished cement. It always fills me with pride to hear the reactions of clients and visitors who step into our office for the first time. People just love it.
We used to have clients who would come over for meetings more often than usual just to escape the tedium of their own offices. Everybody would rave about how beautiful it was, how we must love working here, how it doesn’t feel like an office at all, how they would love to work here, what a bomb we must be paying for a place like this (it rents for substantially less than people might suspect). I couldn’t agree more. Even when I have to come to work on Saturday, the house is a consolation. It never feels like work. I sometimes find myself calling it “the house”, not the office.
Our head office in London hates it. I think they just don’t understand the culture and how aspirational this kind of place is for people in the region. Thus the move.
We painted these murals using the company motif (fish) and color (blue) last January when the economy was down — business was so slow that we had nothing else to do. It was a brilliant idea of Lilian’s — it was fun and kept us busy until work started to roll in.
When we first moved in, I made sure to get a desk beside the window for the sunshine and the greenery.
Speaking of greenery, there is so much of it around. I will miss it. Here’s the second floor hallway where Jerrold likes to have his coffee and smoke with James.
Right across from us is the yoga studio. Sometimes when I feel stressed I come up here and look out into the green and the neighborhood.
Or I go into the backyard and take a breather. More recently I’ve developed the habit of having lunch outside even though most people find it too warm out. I’ll miss the backyard too.
It’s a perfect place for barbecues, which we do quite often.
Barbecues seem to be one of the national pastimes of Singapore, right after shopping and queuing for something.
We had the last official barbecue last night and I still smell like liempo.
I’ll even miss the kitchen, which is too small to fit more than three people at a time and reminds me of a hobbit kitchen.
I’ll miss the neighborhood and stepping out into this sunshiny, quiet street (which enjoys special protection, considering Lee Kwan Yew lives on the same street). I’ll also miss the five-minute walk to Orchard Road — goodbye Uniqlo megastore, long decompressing lunches, quick decompressing shopping escapes, Mang Kiko’s lechon. I’m sure Chinatown is pretty happening as well, but well Orchard is different.
Goodbye, 55 Oxley Road. You were a lovely home to all of us. Too bad we only knew you for a year and a half.


Last weekend was my big shoot for a project I’ve been working on for over four months. It was the cause of many sleepless nights, working Saturdays, and elevated heart rates for me. It was my first time to be production manager on a project after Lilian left, on no less than a three-day multiple location shoot.In the month before the shoot, my mind was filled with all the things that could possibly go wrong. Would we get our shoot insurance in time?  Would this sixth round of casting finally be the last? Was rainy season in Singapore reallyover? Why wasn’t one of the talents answering my calls and texts? What potential crises could come up and how would I respond? (What a vague question, huh? This is the one that drove me up the wall.)Then I had a breakthrough. And the oddest thing happened — the two final weeks leading up to the shoot were the most relaxed I had had in months. We had pre-production meetings within the team where we realized we barely had anything to discuss. The final PPM with the client was a breeze. We finished packing up all the production stuff — drinks, snacks, props — and loaded them into the van at lunchtime the day before the shoot, and not at the last minute or in the dead of night. I even had time to print all the permits and release forms, neatly print each talent’s name on payment vouchers and put their fees into separate (recycled) envelopes.

Then I realized four months of pre-production might have been like going into long, painful and drawn-out labor, but without all those months of pre-work, I might have died trying to pull off a shebang like this at the last minute.

And so we shot. Yes, sh*t happened — a few things went missing, the usual client this-and-that, even the bane of my existence as a PM: overtime (for each hour of which, everyone on the crew charges me 1.5x their hourly rate! Gak!). Yet each day, after shooting wrapped for the day, I felt only two overwhelming things. Fatigue, and gratitude.

I was thankful for… 

… the beautiful, sunny weather and clear blue skies on all three days of the shoot — even when we were shooting indoors. The day after we wrapped, it began to rain daily.

… the amazing performances of our talents. Our death-defying skateboarder had all of us applauding after takes. Despite literally skateboarding from 9 to 5, he was smiling the entire time.

… the patience and sense of humor of our extras. They poked fun at each other wearing the compulsory, client-required safety gear, which they said they hadn’t worn since they were 10. They had some mad skills too.

… the energy, enthusiasm, good looks and stellar performances of our cast. Every one of these kids was a winner. We had only one non-teen and you couldn’t tell she was a day over 16. For me, she stole the show.

… the kindness of our clients. They had typical client concerns, but nothing we couldn’t handle and always delivered in the most pleasant and constructive manner. On the whole I couldn’t have asked for better.

… the caring presence of my favorite makeup auntie, Doris. She pampers all the talents, looks after everyone on set and goes beyond the call of duty every time. She even mirrors all the directors’ instructions just outside frame, because she believes it will help the talents. She’s so cute.

… my colleagues. I really felt everyone supporting me. They always know what to do and I felt we all worked really well together.

… the generosity of Joan, who owns the yoga centre next door. She allowed us to shoot in her beautiful ground floor studio with nary a second thought. She arrived on set to find a maelstrom of cables, shoes (we had to take them off to avoid damaging her flawless parquet), equipment and furniture and was totally Zen about it. I guess 30 years of yoga does wonders for your equilibrium. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done. Her yoga space transformed perfectly into a home jamming setup, with ample space for the crew and equipment.
…  the support of the hubby. Marlon massaged my feet after the shoot, treated me to a lovely dinner at Original Sin in Holland Village (I’m sure it was lovely, although I was so tired I can barely recall tasting anything), and even came over to lift heavy furniture and help dress up the set. James joked that next time we should introduce him as our art director.

More than anything, I’m thankful that it’s done! A milestone in my career safely tucked into the folds of my experience. Now, on to the next!

Getting there

I had to stay late at work tonight to finish a Powerpoint presentation for a meeting tomorrow. I didn’t mind at all, because I am just so glad to be reaching a huge milestone in a project that I’ve been working on for the past four or five months.

It’s the final pre-production meeting (PPM), one last run-through and final approval of all my casting, location, wardrobe and other troubles before the actual shoot next week. Getting to this point means that everything has been approved by The Powers That Be and that the shoot will push through as scheduled. Trust me, even after pre-production has been going on for 4-5 months, there’s never a guarantee that it will push through. Parang tour diba? Wala kang guarantee until nakasakay ka na sa eroplano. Or at least that’s what officers tell the trainees to scare them, haha.

There was a time I felt as it we would never get to the final PPM! Clients always have a right to refuse anything we present (a right they love to use, more often than not) and it seemed like we had run into a wall of “no no no no no absolutely not” at one point. Thankfully now the last few loose ends are being tied up, and all I have to worry about is getting through my very first shoot as producer and line producer (without Lilian, I might add, who leaves Yeti-sized shoes to fill).

It’s a three day shoot with multiple locations, so it was giving me sleepless nights just worrying about organizing the logistics and making sure sh*t doesn’t happen. Funny, I used to see the titles “producer” and “line producer” in film credits and wonder what it meant. Now I know it means planning for sh*tmaking sh*t happen according to plan and making sure sh*t doesn’t happen. 

The price we pay for learning things, huh?


I had to go to the office yesterday. It was a sunny, blue-skied Saturday afternoon, and while I’m not the outdoorsy type, I still would have preferred to spend such an afternoon elsewhere. It was to do something that I thought was wasteful and dumb: print, manually collate back-to-back, and ring-bind five sets of an 80-page, full-color Powerpoint presentation as requested by a client for a meeting on Monday morning. Bleh.

The printer was fucking up big time, and I had to print more than one set several times over. I was feeling short-tempered and stressed and utterly disgruntled at having to spend a perfectly lovely weekend afternoon in the office.

Then I looked over behind my Mac monitor to see my husband sitting in one of the office chairs, engrossed in a game on his phone. He looked up and smiled at me.

Then I remembered that I was blessed with a best friend and wonderful partner who willingly, without complaint, kept me company in the dull, stressful, even pointless moments of my day-to-day life.

Then I felt loved — and Saturday afternoon at the office was transformed.