Welcome to Leila Land
It's almost nine in the morning and we're walking to the first shoot location when we get a text from Ogie Alcasid, just one of the greatest singer-songwriters of his time, NBD. It doesn't come as a surprise though as we have been coordinating with him about his eldest daughter Leila Alcasid's first ever photo shoot a week (or two) prior. "Regine is trying to call you." Beat.
We re-read the message and convince ourselves (again!) that it couldn't be possible—by this time, we reach the conference room that we've turned into our hair and makeup prep area and see—that OMG Regine Velasquez, Asia's Songbird, is Leila's companion at the shoot. "Good luck sa'yo, teh. Ma-no-nosebleed ka diyan," she jokes referring to Leila who admits that she still finds speaking tagalog challenging. "I can understand certain general sentence structures, but I'm still having difficulty understanding a lot," she says. Off the top of her head, she knows gutom, Tom Jones (technically not a tagalog word, but definitely Filipino slang), pagkain, and tulog. A girl after our own heart—this is going to be fun!
We get Leila started with hair and makeup (up close, her eyes are gorgeous and her skin is flawless. "Ganyan talaga kaming mga walang pores," says the Songbird laughing) and ask about her life in Australia. "It was...very normal." She lived with her mom, 1994 Miss Universe-Australia Michelle Van Eimeren, stepdad Mark, and sister Sarah around the south of Sydney and had very close friends. "I was quite a social person. I've had quite a few very, very close friends."
She went to a Catholic, co-ed school and admitted that she genuinely enjoyed school, not only because she would see her friends every day, but also because she loved learning.
"I was a very driven student in high school. I don't know how healthy I was, but I always needed to be the best," Leila shares with a laugh.
She explains that she was obsessed with being first in many things because she needed to do really well to get into a university she liked, especially since it's quite hard in Sydney.
She was also quite the overachiever when it came to extra-curricular activities. She did swimming, soccer, and dancing for a while, sang in a choir when she was younger, and learned some instruments for a time. "In my later years, my extra-curriculars were more towards volunteer work. So I went to visit the poor, went to Red Cross..."
Needless to say, Leila got into the uni of her dreams. And while the common thing to do in Australia is for students to take a gap year between high school and college, Leila, who was very set on getting her law degree, continued on to college. "So I went, and I realized halfway through the year, that I really needed a break because my final year in high school was so stressful, what with me being an obsessive overachiever." While she loved learning and the whole aspect of being in university, Leila needed time to assess her life and think of what she's meant to be doing and where she was headed.
"I'd probably say that about 80% of my friends took gap years. The common thing is to go to places like Europe." But Leila saw it right to spend hers in the Philippines with her dad, stepmom, and brother.
"The plan, initially, was to stay for a year. But, I've been here for a month or so and I'm really, really loving it actually, so, let's see how it goes."
Funnily enough, Leila didn't know she had the option to move to the Philippines. She was here with her family for a visit back in July and her mom noticed how much she enjoyed being here and that she had gained new followers on Instagram. "So when my mom said, 'You know, you have the option,' that made me kind of consider it."
It hasn't been a full month since her move to the Philippines, but Leila had already booked her first shoot (with Candy!) and she's been taking acting workshops already. "I was actually kind of surprised that I'm doing it this early. I guess you can say that it's in preparation for [joining show business]." What excites her the most is being able to make people happy and being able to use her influence in a good way.
"If you think about it, being what I wanted to be, a human rights leader, that was me wanting to help people and wanting to improve lives."
In a way, being influential is kind of the same thing—she can use it to help people and make them happy—just a different process.
Having a super talented singer-songwriter for a father and Asia's Songbird for a stepmom, you'd think that Leila would be more into singing than acting.
"I sing, but it's not my strength. I enjoy acting much more. I like the whole process of it."
And it shows. Our shoot with her was a breeze. She nailed every prompt and direction we gave her and the camera most definitely loves her. Even if she says that it's still too early to think of dream projects and co-stars because she still has so much to learn, we think that with her smarts, looks, and determination, it won't be surprising to see her sharing the screen—big or small—with the artists she admires: Kathryn Bernardo ("she's my favorite person") and Sue Ramirez ("She's so talented [in acting and] singing as well").
As the shoot comes to an end, we accompany Leila and her stepmom to the elevator where a slew of Asia's Songbird's fans wait excitedly to have their picture taken with her. We stand in the sidelines with Leila and can't help but feel excited for the time she gets to experience meeting her own adoring fans herself.
PHOTOS and STYLING Shaira Luna MAKEUP Robbie Pinera HAIR Eddiemar Cabiltes
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If you know me, and know me well, I am not the biggest fan of idyllic lifestyles. With a Type A personality, I act immediately upon whatever challenge that needs to be addressed. I actually enjoy keeping my mind preoccupied: doing university work in my favourite cafe then running errands around town, grocery shopping here, updating my accounts there, photocopying documents on the way down the street - all just in time before having a glass of champagne at the bar with my friends come evening.
And so, you could imagine my bewilderment when the next challenge to be faced was an extensive self-quarantine protocol. I didn’t know what to do when my greatest responsibility in this situation was to do nothing at all. My first few attempts to combat my consternation were very much rooted in distraction and imagination. My distractions involved conducting research, writing songs, calling family and friends, filming videos, and eating chocolate! My imaginations and fantasies were centred on travelling, shopping, even clubbing (which I rarely do) for when they find a cure to COVID-19. I did anything and everything that could be considered constructive in order to pass the time, mainly hoping I could just undertake the basic human necessities to survive - that is, eat and sleep the day through - until the next day comes, until the world is closer to becoming a better place, until quarantine ends, until my flight follows through, until I see my family and friends again.
Days in self-isolation and suspended flights turned to weeks and turned to months. By the third extension here in Spain where I study Fashion Business, I had to tell myself this shall be my new normal now, that I was blessed to be healthy, that I was tired of merely existing and missed what it was like to actually live - even if just within four walls. Little by little, I began to find significance in the simple occurrences of the day: the soft glare of the rising sun beaming golden streaks through my bedroom window upon waking up, the fragrance of freshly washed bed sheets that I had painstakingly hung to fit a relatively small clothes rack without crumpling them, the crunch and tanginess of warm toasted bread topped with raspberry marmalade, the buzzing sound of a phone call from home just waiting to be answered, to the caress of a fuzzy sweater to keep warm at night. I realised, “What pleasures to be enjoyed in the pause of slow living!” Through this continued pause, which I loathed at first, I began to appreciate each moment of the day rather than wish it would pass more swiftly, moments I had overlooked so often before the lockdown. I started to find that the challenge of self-isolation was never to pause both the regular routines of life as well as the positive emotions that came with these - as initially, I thought it meant to pause all happiness, so as to withstand a time of endurance in hopes for a better tomorrow, much like a form of delaying gratification. Life is just too fragile these days to delay gratification any further.
Life has paused, but it has not stopped. Believe that like any punctuation mark in a sentence, the pause will provide the right timing of things to take place. Till then, let us not waste our time waiting. Instead, we could be in the moment, seek substance in simplicity (that is, in what we already have), And enjoy the pleasure in pause. “Practice the Pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.”
Here's my two cents on the letter, call for help of our medical frontliners. Let’s hear what our healthcare workers have to say and try to understand it from their point of view, they have every right to criticize how this medical crisis is being handled by the government... after all, they're the experts on the topic. Though we see the frontliners as heroes in our eyes, the lack of concrete plans from the government to combat COVID-19 makes them feel otherwise. Healthcare workers are already starting to voice out how they feel as though they are being sacrificed as they follow through their sworn oath. We wouldn’t send our soldiers to war unarmed and without a concrete plan; the same should be expected for our frontliners. How can we send them to battle without proper gear? Why is there still a debate on whether mass testing is needed or not when the experts on that field continuously insist its importance in flattening the curve? Why is this still not the priority when it’s literally our lives on the line? It’s not like the medical experts demanding for mass testing are just stating their opinion about this mindlessly, they studied this laboriously. Make them feel heard so that all the sacrifices that they’re doing and all the deaths of their colleagues are not in vain. More than the words of praises, what our medical professionals truly need right now is TANGIBLE support. Here is to hoping they get that soon. @errren.22
*Minor edits have been made for clarity
Here is a photograph taken yesterday from the photo shoot I did in our house. ? I really love dressing up and being dolled up, it makes me feel great and confident of who I am ?
I was actually hesitant to post these pictures of mine. My sister eveb asked me to change my Facebook Profile Picture and it took me hours to decide if I should. But, I realized that this is me, the real me. I should be confident of my body and of who I really am.
At the end of the day, I dress up not for other people but for myself ? To all the ladies out there and even gentlemen who are taking a second to think if they should post their pictures, worried about what will others say their body, remember that we just need to be just ourselves. Be confident and let us support each other ? Let us be friends! IG: @romynaaaaaaa_
They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted?
I have forgotten when was the last time we shared a smile - the last time when I saw the glow in your eyes and the last time when you whispered an I love you to me. I have forgotten when, but here I am - writing to you again.
I do not know if you will read this or you will just add this one to my proses and poems that you left unread, but you see, I am still hoping. I am mailing the pain of us to the gods out there - hoping they can take the pain away. I should have gotten over you, but instead of forgetting and accepting our ending, I am writing about us in tissue sheets, carving about us on trees, telling about us on the back of my journals, hoping that a thousand or a million write ups about us, can make me forget about what happened.
I am writing, waiting for the point where I can no longer write anymore, for I have none to tell - but when? I have nothing in me anymore, but the memories of us - and no matter how hard I try put those to its own grave, the memories grow back like lilies in the swamp - painful and beautiful at the same time.
No matter how hard I try to silence those and put it at the back of my mind, those ring back, playing like the favorite song we used to listen. They say heartbreaks turn into poetry and that is what happening to us - but poetry should be dulcet and dreamy, why does ours sound like pain and agony? They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted? Darling, I guess not.