21 Things I Did Before Turning 21

Jul 21, 2015

On career, love, life, art, and (finally) turning twenty-one. 
(Also, TL;DR)

I live my life in a certain pace. I make sure to do things that I want to and want things that I do. I also consider time as I have a strong feeling that I won't be here in this world for a long time. I want to live my life the way I want — without regrets and what ifs.

I turned 21 last July 9 and I made a list of the things that I did before my 21st, hoping to inspire you to just do what you want do... Because why not?

(L - R: My first tattoo, photographed by Adrian Gonzales; Hong Kong; Singapore; My first zine, This Is Where You Lose Me; Taro Cake The Cat; My trip to Cebu last year; Swimming in Samal; Luna Cake the Cat; A room I stayed in Manila; Please Take What You Need: Love)

L I F E / S E L F / L O V E


I wanted to have a tattoo eversince I was in highschool. I even included having a tattoo on a list of things I wanted to do in college. And I did. I had my first tattoo when I was 16, I wasn't much of a rebel because I asked my Dad if I could have one and he was cool with it. On the right ribcage was my first tattoo, my second name, Augustine.

Well, guess what... I now have 9 tattoos.


I started traveling by bus from Cagayan de Oro to Cotabato when I was 12, a high school freshman. I never stopped since then. Moving around, traveling to unfamiliar cities, and eventually settled in Davao when I graduated high school.

From buses to airplanes, I braved my first flight alone when I was 16. I went to Manila for a little excursion but it continued to become a habit, flying there for events and other things.

A few months before and after graduating college, I wanted to explore more — just last year, I went to Cebu, Camuigin, La Union, Baguio, Siargao, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mati, Iligan, but still more frequently Manila — mostly alone.


I've always wanted to write poetry but I was never good at it. I kept writing anyway, trying so hard to improve. Although I'm still not very good at it, I try to read and learn from authors and poets, taking notes and reading between the lines.


One life achievement that I really consider is having a Bachelor's Degree (AB Mass Communication in Ateneo de Davao University) at the age of 19. I know, I know, it's almost normal for people my age to graduate at a young age. But it wont hurt you or me or anyone to say, with pride, that I have graduated at a very young age.

Mind you, graduating on time when your an ABMC student is a tough job. We were assigned endless media related tasks, from making short films to creating our own magazines. I did all of that while having part-time and freelance jobs.


After graduation, I moved in with my best friends, Janna and Ramon. Along with our cats and Janna's turtle. It was the best days of my life. Although it had to end because I moved out again and lived in Manila.


My first cat, Taro Cake, was from the streets of Damosa. I took him home after seeing some kids bullying the poor cat. (Or you know, I just wanted to steal him.) But yes, after that I got another cat from a friend, I named him Moon Cake, but unfortunately he died because of bacterial infection.

Now I have two other pets, Luna Cake and Carrot Cake. Luna is a half-Persian cat from Xiao, and Carrot is a dog (I don't know the breed) from Jesh.


You know, when heartaches and heartbreaks get into you so much and all you want to do is to just leave everything behind and try to forget. I did that too. It was stupid but it was therapeutic.

I lived in Maginhawa and ate a lot. It was the saddest, poorest, shittiest time of my life. But it was also the time when I met some people that I now consider my "Manila" family. They saved me from a shitload of things. (Read: they fed me when I only had 10php in my wallet.)


Yes. They say, make lots of mistakes when you are young. And I did. I did it good. I had a lot of mistakes to choose from, but hello, I chose love. Girls came and went, in and out of my life. Boys too. But I chose to go back and be hurt by the same person. Because why the hell not?


I was a bored kid trying out Tumblr for the first time on the summer of my 15th. Fast forward to three years after, I was getting recognitions and nominations for having a blog full of my photography and poetry experiments — that soon became a lousy fashion blog.

Blogging played a very important part of my career. It introduced me to the world of advertising, marketing, and visual aesthetics. Throughout the years, I've been using my knowledge I got from blogging and applied it to most of my endeavors.


Deep waters always frighten me. It was only this year that I decided to not be frightened by it anymore. So I went to Siargao Island, met people there and enjoyed the island life for almost a month. I did the beach things and completed my We Are Water exhibit there, with one goal in mind: to learn how to swim fearlessly. Now, with pride I am going to say, that goal is achieved.

(L - R: My iPhone Case collaboration with Paragon Pieces; Thank You Mom Exhibit with my Brush Lettering work; We Are Water Photography Exhibit; Brush Lettering Workshop at FIDA Davao; One of my billboards for Abreeza Ayala Mall; Edge Of Seventeen Photography Exhibit; EAT STREET DVO)

 C A R E E R


On my sophomore year, I got tapped by a local fashion brand to become their photographer and social media associate. I liked working for them but I wanted to finish college on time and I was almost failing subjects so I decided to let that go.

My junior year was more fun as I was able to book a layout artist position in a national magazine based in Cebu. I had the job during the busiest time of college; doing layouts and school projects, attending classes and going to meetings, changing from school uniforms to event outfits. I had to let that go too because I needed to concentrate on my under graduate thesis.

Straight out of college, I applied for a graphic artist position in a company in Davao. I didn't know it was a BPO company and I couldn't see myself being part of that industry, so I didn't finish the training and told them I wouldn't grow as an artist there. I quit before the training ended, but I never AWOL-ed.

I needed money, so I tried having an online job. It didn't work.

Working for a mall happened after that. It was the best job experience I've ever had. Making and understanding marketing and advertising was tough yet rewarding. I could go on and on about how I loved it, but I had to take a break and finally left.

Now, I'm working for Swedish photography websites as their photo curator and editor. I've been working for them for almost three months — 10AM to 7PM, Mondays to Saturdays. I plan to stay longer.


My first solo photography exhibit happened when I was 17. It was entitled Edge of Seventeen, featuring hundreds of 4x6" photographs of people and other things. It was a clutter but nevertheless a milestone. I was even called the local photography scene's golden boy.

I recently had my second solo photography exhibit, We Are Water at Abreeza. It was a collection of ocean-themed photographs, taken in different places in the country. It was cleaner, organized, and a hundred times better than my first. It was more personal. People said it was my "quiet departure from portrait and fashion to fine art photography." I'd like to believe that too.


When I was offered to host a Brush Lettering workshop at Fashion Institute of Design and Arts Davao a few months ago, I immediately said yes. It was a dream come true, you know, to be able to share my processes on a hobby I loved doing. After that, I was again offered to teach Principles and Elements of Design (I call it the ~aesthetic~ class) once a week for three months. I said yes, even though I already had a permanent job. It was an opportunity worth taking!


I started selling stuff to people when I was, what, 10? I was an assistant of an Avon lady, my teacher. She gave me 10% commission for every item I sold. So I harassed and market the shit out of the catalogs she gave me to my parents' workers, my cousins, my titas, and everyone else who was interested. In high school, I took photos of girls and boys, smoothed their skin, changed the colors of their eyes, and did all the shit they asked for. What I am trying to say is, I started yearning for money at a very young age. I used my talent and skills to produce money for all my kaartehan.

Now, I'm selling zines, shirts, bags, and art stuff to fund my travels and adventures. Very recently, I also became a part of this food stall business my friends and I have.

So, don't wonder why my Instagram is filled with shameless plugs and promotions. Okay?

(L - R: Bodies and Water Photography Book for FOTOSEMANA MANILA 2015; Augustzines at Print Ta!; My mom looking at We Are Water; The crowd during one of my talks; LIEU Magazine Style Guide; My Kadayawan billboard for Abreeza Ayala Mall; Afterdark, my second film.)

 A R T


My dream was to create a platform for young artists like me here in Davao. With the help of the greatest people on earth, aka the people behind LIEU, it became a dream come true.

Now, we've gone from online publishing to printing! Yay!


One billboard of a photograph taken by me was enough for me. I had my first billboard for Pickled and Peppered, a local fashion brand, when I was 17. Yet on my 20th, the universe gave me two other billboards.


It was and still is very therapeutic for me to make zines. The first one, This Is Where You Lose Me, was a zine filled with three-year-old film photographs of people and one poem I wrote about leaving comfort zones. Then came three other zines about love, loss, and longing.

Now I have another one up coming.


I created a photobook for Fotosemana Manila, the micro photography festival in Manila. It was one of the most exciting photography events that happened during the first quarter of 2015.
And I missed it.


While I was making my undergraduate thesis, I collaborated with JM Santillan and Jon Jose for Taxi TV commercial. It was fun and I'd love to do it again... If the price is right.


One thing I am really passionate about is film. I took film workshops and forums in Manila. I made two short films before I turned 20 and both were recognized in local and regional film fests.

While a new film of mine is still on pre-production, I'm making music videos for Davao musicians.


I started giving out talks about photography, creativity, and arts when I was 17. It was for Canon Photoskwela, probably still one of the biggest talks I gave about photo-blogging. Then came small talks to students about advertising and graphic design. After that was the talk I did about making online magazines for Behance PH Talks in Davao. Eventually, I was able to talk about my art as an advocacy for #YOLOTalks, in front of 300+ teens.

I don't talk really well, albeit being a communications graduate, but it's inspiring for me to share my stories to people who really listen.


  1. Wow, I'm 20 and I feel like I've done nothing out of my life. But I guess that leaves me 9 months to change that. Thanks.

  2. Hi Mariel! I'm sure you've done something meaningful! Keep doing things for yourself.



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