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Dani Girl Remains a Bright Beacon of Hope in its 2019 Restaging

What better way to see and experience hope than through the eyes of children, as Marketing and PR Director Sab Jose mentioned before the show. Dani Girl is one such story, told through a little girl’s reimagining of her own struggles in reality into a whimsical fantasy. The Sandbox Collective staged it for the first time 5 years ago, and is now bringing it back, at a time where we need a little more hope in our world.

Dani is the titular girl, battling through The Big C (that’s cancer) by imagining a more fun, less bleak world. In her imaginary world, her parents are rulers of a fantasy kingdom, and her guardian angel, Raph, plays games and sings fun songs with her. Having been alone in the hospital for a long time, she meets new ward-neighbor Marty, who shares her depth of imagination. They embark on adventures to discover why they were befallen with the “curse,” and more profoundly why it even needed to exist in the first place. “Why is cancer?” is the question.

I watched the show on its first weekend, and as part of the production’s charity efforts, they matched every social media post with the hashtag #DaniGirlMNL with a financial donation to the show’s partners. That was a nice way to not only promote the show but also help save lives.

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Singing and Other Feelings

I love to sing but… I wasn’t great, even good, at it. I learned the hard truth when I was a freshman in high school. The day that made me stop singing. Actually no, I still did sing but it was the day I believed I couldn’t sing and could not be better at it ever.

Ever since I could remember, I have always loved to sing. I would sing every song during mass. Or belt out “Anak ng Pasig” playing on our old karaoke radio. My first public performance was during a family reunion where I sang Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts”. Discovering videoke channels on cable TV, I would sing when I was alone on lazy summer afternoons. I even asked my parents to buy me a Walkman with a recorder (for the youths reading: it’s a portable music player; like an iPhone but without all of the features save for listening to music).

I love to sing but… I wasn’t great, even good, at it. I learned the hard truth when I was a freshman in high school. The day that made me stop singing. Actually no, I still did sing but it was the day I believed I couldn’t sing and could not be better at it ever.

The day I believed my voice shouldn’t be heard.

I was a freshman finding my place in the not-a-child-not-yet-an-adult (hey Britney!) world. High school was a new start for me, and I thought it was time for me to break out of my shell. I wanted to stop being shy and timid and start joining clubs. Many of my friends joined the Math club. I first thought of joining a Filipino writing club. I changed my mind: wanting to take a risk, I joined my high school choir club. Something I had always wanted to do.

Together with a classmate, we were just two club members, not yet officially part of the choir. The rest of the members from the upper batches were singing in the choir already. Naturally, we were expected to audition in order to join in that exclusive group. Long story short, my audition sucked. My classmate got in. I did not. No formal announcement. No Glee moment of the disappointment of not seeing your name posted on the bulletin board. Those who got in knew they were in. But I, and the rest of those who failed, just assumed we were cut.

Not passing the audition wasn’t a problem for the others; they weren’t part of the high school choir club. But not for me: I was part of the choir, the club that is, but I couldn’t sing with the choir. Being shy and quiet then, I didn’t even bother to ask what my status was in the club or what the point of my sitting their every week was. The club moderator didn’t teach us to sing. We just wrote essays about music the whole effin‘ school year.

Found love in a hopeless place

Fast forward to 2014, I was already in my twenties and I just got a second-hand iPad. One of the popular apps then was this singing app. I forgot what it’s called. Anyway, the more frequently and the better you sing, the more coins you collect to unlock songs. You needed to record your voice to get the coins BTW. And so, I did.

One day, I let a friend borrow it. When he returned it to me, he started teasing me. Mockingly singing Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. I immediately realized that he listened to my private recordings. Of all people. I was so embarrassed and angry at the same time. I was vulnerable at that time for so many reasons reserved for another post. And so he pushed my buttons and really hurt my feelings. Little things like this. Unsolicited comments coming especially from people you care for hurt the most.

Wandering around SM Megamall, I’ve always seen The Academy of Rock. Many times I would pass by it and pause for a second to think if I should enroll for voice lessons or not. But the following weekend, I really felt that the Academy was calling to me. So I heeded its call: I took one big breath and went inside to inquire. Knowing voice lessons were expensive, I didn’t want to be hasty with my decision. I stepped out of the shop. But it only took five minutes for me to return and finally enroll.

Slowly but surely, note by note

My lessons started immediately that week. I was initially nervous but what the heck. It’s the voice teacher’s job not to judge me, right? I dove right in knowing that voice lessons, however expensive it was, would make me happy. Slowly but surely, I was improving. My family even acknowledged my improvement after the first four sessions during one family gathering. I was so not used to getting papuri that didn’t know how to react. Regardless, I did feel and hear I was getting better.

Yes, there were times when I would get frustrated and feel inadequate when I couldn’t get the timing or pitch right. Or when my voice got tired pretty easily. Or when I would record my voice, cringe and hit delete. There were times when I felt that I had plateaued. That my improvement could only get me so far. That was when my motivation was to impress other people. Family and relatives during reunions, officemates during Christmas parties and friends during videoke sessions. The turning point was my very first recital.

After my recital, my mom said to me “Ang galing ng kasama mo.

My first recital was a bit of a disaster but it went way better than expected. Even if I was thinking twice to invite my parents (because I was shy and all that shiz), I still did (kasi walang magpipicture and video). They were in the audience with my baby niece. After the recital, my mom remarked “Ang galing ng kasama mo.” Again, this hit me like a truck. I shouldn’t have invited them, I thought. It’s like I created this whole other happy place for just me, invite people in and have them destroy it. This happens all the time. My niece on the other hand was elated. I almost cried when she congratulated me and said “Ang galing-galing mo.

I was learning for myself.

Right there, I remembered that I wasn’t taking voice lessons for my parents, my friends or my high school choir moderator. I was learning for myself. Not because I wanted to be a recording artist or a member of a rock band. Singing just makes me happy. It was one of the few decisions I made in my life where I didn’t consult anyone. It wasn’t an easy decision but I chose to be happy.

Now, I don’t mind unsolicited comments. They just go in to one ear and out in the other. Some people would say I got better at singing. I appreciate them but their opinions don’t really matter. I learned to focus on myself and be aware of my mind and body. As my teacher always says, as long as it feels good, I must be doing something right.

Dani Girl Gives Us Hope Anew on Its Re-staging

I watched Dani Girl’s premiere in Manila back in 2014. I was still a newbie with musicals when I watched it with my theater workshop classmates. Without any expectations or whatever, the show left me in tears. The show struck many heartstrings not only because it tackled cancer but for how it was told through the eyes of little innocent children. As young adults among all our responsibilities and the issues the world face today, we often forget to be like how we used to be as children: brave and hopeful.


In celebration of its fifth year, The Sandbox Collective is re-staging their maiden production, Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope. Half a decade later, the show underlines, among other things, the importance of friendship, and the family that can blossom from it.

Dani Girl opens on August 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium RCBC Plaza Makati.

Dani is a precocious nine-year-old girl who has spent her childhood battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia (A.L.L). Years of semi-isolated existence led her to develop quite the imagination, and she spends her days in the pediatric ward spinning fanciful tales that mostly feature her “guardian angel,” Raph. In her mind, her mother is a kind-hearted queen, and her absentee father, a king on a faraway quest. On most days, she has no one but her guardian angel, Raph, to turn to, until one day, a boy named Marty moves into the pediatric ward. Together, they decide to find the answer to the question, “Why is cancer?”

Rebecca Coates and Felicity Kyle Napuli as Dani

The two-hour musical rarely looks at the two children’s prognosis through a dreary lens, and instead takes you through a whimsical ride through Dani’s fantastical imagination, one full of spaceships and sword fights. But amidst the fanciful settings, is a grounded core. Beyond the characters’ bleak reality, is a tale of friendship, and finding family in those you least expect. As audience members join Dani on her journey of self-realization, they will walk away with questions of their own. Who is my Raph? My Marty in life? Who do we turn to in times of turmoil, and whose shoulders do we know will always be there when we need them the most?

Dani Girl 2019 Cast (L-R): Daniel Drilon and Luigi Quesada as Marty, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez and Pam Imperial as Katharine Lyons, Lorenz Martinez and Juliene Mendoza as Raph

Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope will star Philstage Gawad Buhay awardee, Rebecca Coates in the title role (Agnes of God, The Secret Garden). She is set to alternate with Felicity Kyle Napuli in the role of Dani Lyons (The Lion King, Matilda). Luigi Quesada will return as Dani’s best friend and fellow warrior, Marty (Hair, Waitress). He will be sharing the role with new cast member, Daniel Drilon (The Secret Garden, Fun Home). Returning cast members, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez (Binondo, Guadalupe, Shrek) and Pam Imperial (RENT, The Sound of Music) will be alternating as Katharine Lyons, Dani’s mother. Meanwhile, Lorenz Martinez (Miss Saigon, Binondo) returns and alternates with new cast member Juliene Mendoza in the role of Raph (Dekada ‘70, All Out of Love).

Toff de Venecia (No Filter, The Boy in the Bathroom) makes his much-awaited directorial comeback in this re-staging of Dani Girl. He is at the helm once more as director and executive producer. Joining him is Sab Jose as assistant director and marketing and public relations director. Completing the artistic team are Ejay Yatco as musical director, Stephen Viñas as choreographer, Faust Peneyra as scenographer and costume designer, Miggy Panganiban as lighting designer, Joee Mejias as projection & video designer and Myrene Santos as hair and makeup designer

Santi Santamaria leads the production team as co-executive producer (9 Works Theatrical). Rounding out the production team are Anna Santamaria as operations and finance director, Maine Manalansan as design director, Elliza Aurelio as associate producer, Pauline Gaerlan as production manager, Myka Cue as marketing and public relations associate, Jonjon Martin as public relations manager and Anissa Aguila as head stage manager.


Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope will open on August 10, 2019 and will have a limited engagement until September 1, 2019 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. Tickets are now available through Ticketworld online.


Dani Girl: A Musical About Hope is co-presented by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, together with our gold ribbon sponsor, Make-A-Wish Philippines. Special thanks to our silver ribbon sponsors: Privato Hotel Group, Toy Kingdom and St. Luke’s Medical Center; our institutional partners, Carewell Community Foundation, Childhaus, Philippine Cancer Society, Inc., CanHOPE and Cancervants; our community partners, Pineapple Lab, Classic Chef, K Best, and DC Superheroes Cafe; and our official media partners: Crossover 105.1, Pitchworks, Broadwayworld.com, Theater Fans Manila, Young Star, Uniquely Pinoy, and Art+ Magazine.

I Finally Got Promoted.

You see I’ve waited all my life… for this moment to arrive. Yes friends, I finally got promoted. *cries* Since most of you already know the story and I really don’t want to get into the details (some are already blurry anyway), I will keep this short.

I always dreaded the end of July, when promotions are released at work. I would cry and drown myself in self-pity every year since 2013 or 2014 (not sure). My heart broke each time I saw the “list” without my name on it. Eventually, I had to stop looking. I stopped congratulating others and pretended it was just an ordinary day. I learned to plug my ears and fake my smiles. Rude, but it hurt that much.

Year after year, friends and colleagues went up the corporate ladder. Some resigned and got better offers elsewhere. On the other hand, I was stuck, on the same level that I’ve been in since I first got this job.

The first couple of years were especially hard. I literally sobbed all day: after waking up, while taking a shower, during my commute (yes, even in public transport), and before going to sleep. Maybe I was immature or I might have overreacted, or my hormones were all over the place. I don’t know. Ang alam ko lang masakit.

The sadness inevitably turned into bitterness and anger. I felt the never-ending need to prove myself. To prove that I was better. That I deserved that spot.


Even though I was spiraling, I was willing to do everything to stop feeling that way:

I started with my hair. Different color: I dyed it light brown. Different hairstyle: crewcut, semi-kalbo, and even a perm, a.k.a. Cedie hair.

I joined company events. Became an organizer of sports and charity events. I met other employees (some with the same promotion stories as mine) and became friends with them.

I joined acting and theater workshops to have an outlet for my emotions. I even gained more friends and widened my circle outside work, which was a nice bonus.

I enrolled in drawing lessons to feed my damaged ego. To feel the validation of at least being good, or better, at something.

I shopped a lot. Duh.

I took voice lessons. It was way out of my comfort zone but something I have always wanted to do.

I traveled. I broadened my perspective by seeing and experiencing different places. Cliche, I know, but it made me realize that I’m just a speck of dust (or even littler) in this vast universe.

Name it, I said yes to it, I did it. Zumba, yoga, dancing lessons, networking, everything.

I also prayed a lot. I’ve memorized the Serenity Prayer and all other prayers that granted wishes. I cried each night asking God to make everything stop; I almost quit my job. I just wanted to escape everything: the insecurity, disappointment, and all of these other negative emotions. I thought of joining the others who have left company and, regardless of the risks, start over in a new environment.

I just wanted to stop feeling sad and bitter.

I just wanted to be happy.


Anyway, I didn’t resign but I transferred to a slightly different post. Little by little, I was able to move on. I focused on what my purpose was: to help people in the organization. I wanted to be of value and not just someone who aims promotions.

My various activities helped. Theater and voice lessons thought me how to recover. One bad performance won’t define me forever. I just had to do my best the next time and the next after that.

Occasionally, I still felt sad and insecure about not being promoted. Like times when people would assume that I was already holding a higher position. Or when younger and newer employees would get promoted before me. Or when people I help get promoted again and again.

I’m not gonna lie. My wounds are still healing but for the time being, I am happy and content.

My career came to a full circle in the last two years. The people I dealt with were the same people I met in either my early years in the company or in my many “extra-curricular” activities in the office. It made it easier for me to interact with them and accomplish what we were supposed to do. My job was also familiar as it was similar to my first job. The knowledge and wisdom I gained through the years helped me become what I am now. I get teary eyed when I think about it.

I guess my stars aligned this time.


Thank you to everyone who was part of this journey. Thank you.


No, it’s not too late to post about my Batanes Trip.

Going to Batanes has always been a dream since the time I first saw the music video of Tara Na! Biyahe Tayo! (by Various Artists— HA!). This song really molded my travel goals. Revival please!! Like most of my trips, I impulsively booked this flight on a lazy idle afternoon made possible by another seat sale and my credit card points. I’m glad I did as Batanes was indeed, as they say… breathtaking. And no, it’s not too late to post about my Batanes Trip even if it’s just random ramblings and utter nonsense. :p

Sabtang Island
Batanes is known for its spectacular views so make sure to bring your cameras.

The two hour airplane ride was a breeze contrary to everyone’s perception. Maliit ang plane, nakakatakot. Di naman! The pilot who was a little too enthusiastic in having us see Banaue Rice Terraces from miles above was rather entertaining. See a very magulo video below.

My friends and I booked our tours ahead but I think it wouldn’t be a problem if you choose not to (except for big parties, I guess). Basically, all tours are the same. They cover Batan North, Sabtang Island & Batan South. In our case, we had different tour guides with very different photography skill levels so pardon if my pictures are mostly from Day 2. HAHA! Speaking for our guides, the iPhone’s Portrait mode is preferred when taking pictures. Maganda nga naman so make sure you bring one. #ThankYouPo #NotSponsored

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Nostalgia Never Ends in Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! 2019

Last year, 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live! produced their first original Filipino musical based on the music of APO Hiking Society, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!. The critically acclaimed feel-good musical made an audience of different generations laugh and cry while resisting the urge to sing along the greatest hits of APO. Answering everyone’s Panalangin (including mine), Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! is back for a second run from February 2 to March 17.

Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! is a heartwarming story of love and friendship. Set during the country’s turbulent 70’s, a college barkada decides to join a singing and songwriting contest. As talented as the young friends are, they find that like real life (especially during Martial Law), finding the right lyric to the perfect melody is not as easy as it seems.

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Cheapest flights with Skyscanner

I may or may not have spent the year traveling almost every other month. Believe it or not, I started 2018 with no flight bookings at all. It just happened. Amiciness had used up all his VLs. 

LWOP (Leave without Pay) or not, I have no regrets. 2018 was a trying year but traveling made it more meaningful. More experiences to learn from, more people to meet and more stories to tell. I had six major travels this year but the most memorable was my recent Singapore trip. Why? Duh. *wink*.

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Travel Tips pt. 1

My travels weren’t as smooth-sailing as it appears on my Instagram. I’m not the perfect travel buddy and I’ve had my fair share of palpak moments (especially when I travel solo).  Slowly, like anything, with constant practice, I am learning. This was one of my epiphanies during my recent solo travel in Singapore.  With this, I’d like to share some of my tips I learned over the years for a newbie traveler or an old-fashioned excursionista.

“Bok bok, bitch!” At one of the Crazy Rich Asian shooting locations. 
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Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Finale “The Girl Who Had A Roller Coaster Ride” Recap

Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Finale premieres tonight 9 P.M. on FOX Life, and simulcast on the FOX+ app (country availability may vary). Who among Adela, Dana and Mia will become Asia’s Next Top Model. 👏

If you haven’t watched the last non-recap episode, check out the Amiciness recap of Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 8 “The Girl Who Is Left Hanging”.

Follow Amiciness on Twitter (@amiciness) for live updates as the show airs. You could also check this page after the show for a recap of the Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Finale.

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Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 8 “The Girl Who Is Left Hanging” Recap

Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 8 premieres tonight 9 P.M. on FOX Life, and simulcast on the FOX+ app (country availability may vary). It’s the customary Subaru episode no. 2. It’s the Top 5 and we’re only two weeks away from the finale. Another girl will be eliminated from the running towards becoming Asia’s Next Top Model. 👏

If you haven’t watched the previous episode, check out the Amiciness recap of Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 7 “The Girl Who’s Out of Time”.

Follow Amiciness on Twitter (@amiciness) for live updates as the show airs. You could also check this page after the show for a recap of Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 8. 🙌

Continue reading “Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6 Episode 8 “The Girl Who Is Left Hanging” Recap”