Photo credits: clairelyhappy

Live While We’re Young

I’ve always wanted to own a bicycle. As a kid I would watch my friends stroll about and listen to their stories of over the weekend escapades at school. I wanted to drive one of those blood red bikes with rims as white as toothpaste, but my mama told me it was not proper for a girl to be seen in one of those in public.

Photo credits: clairelyhappy

At our house with my brother’s red bike. 1988 Butuan City, Philippines.

And it was not just about the ride. It was about my getup too, and I was darn sure mama would kill me if she saw me in shorts roaming around the village. My legs were so skinny, besides; like Fido-Dido, the female version of you-know-who.

“But maaa?” I’d say in hopeless protest and walk back lugubriously to my room. Bicycles remain a symbol of adventure for me. Sometimes, peering from our window, I tend to wish this and wish that.

I do not want to be rueful about it, however, so I end up saying to myself that I shall live my life to the fullest from now on and, yes, I’m still young enough to do and learn a many new things. I’m not the sporty type, can’t drive a bike, I can’t swim, but I still want to be that free spirit I imagined myself to be as a child, always alone in my room.

We went trekking up the hills before the year ended, chartered a boat to visit some close by islets, and I was nearly sucked in by huge waves in Puka beach. I was so scared and could have sworn to never go near the shoreline again. But at the end of the day, I realize that’s the most risky thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve never felt so happy to be alive.

Photo credits: clairelyhappy

Puka beach, Boracay Philippines.

Photo credits: clairelyhappy

Puka beach shoreline.

Photo credits: clairelyhappy

Sunny day in Puka beach.

Known for their upbeat songs, such as “Live While We’re Young,” I would like to share this handmade One Direction – inspired canvas tote bag for my close friend. Grace and I go back in high school together, and she requested this for her daughter Erika. I hope she likes this. Go live while you’re young, Erika!

Photo credits: clairelyhappy

My handmade One Direction – inspired canvas tote bag.


Photo Credits: clairelyhappy


I drew inspiration for my recent paintings from my recollection of summers past. Sketching my owls, I think ahead of bright cerulean skies in the months to come. Blue, orange, and green… I swipe colors that keep me in union with the earth.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Working on leather material.

I feel the owl’s eyes stare back at me, round and smiling, cooing. I am pulled toward it, as if it has its own stream of consciousness, and I am reminded of my days as a young girl in Butuan City.

In my hometown, during summer, my brothers and the boys would have their hair shaven. They would run in khaki short shorts, and the girls and I would play in the park in floral dresses and ponytails that exposed the back of our necks- thin and looking elegant against the light, the green of the trees and the balmy weather.

Summer isn’t far away now. I can sense my owl smiling back at me. I’ll be hanging out with my friends soon, preparing for our homecoming, and the family will be bonding at the beach. It shall be golden.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Done with two owl themed leather bags.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Clairelyhappy Owl themed leather bags.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Autism: Owl we need is love

We were on our way to visit my brother’s family when the rain started to pour. I haven’t visited their home for years and decided the rain wasn’t going to keep me from dropping by on the holidays. It was getting heavy, and we heard the news of a storm coming. I wavered a little, supposed I should defer my plans and go the next day. But I started to feel guilty for not even keeping in touch with my family as much as I ought to over the years.

Peering through the windows of Dunkin Donuts that have become dense in the cool weather, I started to evaluate lost time. Mark talks about his family often, about how he loves to hang out with his brother and his kids. He always says it’s great to be able to spend time with people who are literally a reflection of your person-hood. No matter the differences, physically, or of opinion, you’ll still see yourself somehow in each and every one of them.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect the moment we stepped inside their home. I’ve heard few stories about kids with Autism and, lacking sufficient knowledge on the disorder (ASD), I thought their eldest son, Raphael would reject my presence the very moment he sees me.

He doesn’t look directly at anyone, nor did he say a clear word at me the whole time we were there. I think he mumbles and makes grunting sounds regularly, but I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Mark says that’s usually how kids with ASDs are misunderstood in public places, and many get bullied in school for it. Most of their peers and teachers may think they’re naughty or a nuisance, when they only do not know how to respond at the same wavelength, nor socialize properly.

I do not like to refer to it (Autism) as a disorder. I look at Raphael and I see a child who’s different, yet aren’t we all from each other? I look at him, and I somehow see myself in him just as Mark said he does with his own family in one way or other.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

With my nephew Raphael.

Like our dear Raphael- whose skin is white as milk, whose brown hair flows smoothly over his forehead, who likes to flap his hands on the table and against the wall, but does so with the purest of intentions- I long for my family’s attention too. I love to be loved, and that’s how we all learn to love ourselves. I like it when people try to understand me when I fail at comprehending my emotions. At times when I prefer to be alone and not talk, just as when our Raphael does not utter a word, I wish for people to sympathize with what I am going through no matter how illogical that may sound.

I don’t slam our table or hit a wall, but if I ever do something uncharacteristic I am happy to know I have someone who’d hold my hand and not highlight on my personal oddities. How we love to be accepted for who we are.

Love is beyond comprehension. We just love without being able to pinpoint exactly why, like a malaise. It’s illogical, encompassing, a disorder. I guess we’re not much different from Raphael.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Finishing touches. Watercolor painting. This is a manifestation of how Raphael inspired me to work on Owl We Need Is Love.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Autism: Owl we need is love. Thanks to my nephew for inspiring me to create this painting, which is now displayed at our home. It’s all about understanding, acceptance and love. 


Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

The Outliers

Heading up the green highlands we toyed with the notion of moving. From our secret spot behind the brush, an island within one, close to the beach, to the ranges not too far from the late president Magsaysay’s C-47 plane crash site at 1,003 meters above sea level.

At around twenty kilometers from the city, going up, thatched houses along the circuitous road sold fruits and vegetables displayed on bamboo tables, where travelers occasionally stopped by to purchase the rich produce of the mountains. On these same tables, in the afternoon, on a good day where there is none left to display you’d likely find someone lying down on it, blanketed by the shadows of trees, enjoying his time for the rest of the day.

It was a grand sight, from the roof deck of the first café we stopped by for lunch.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Zip line area at Adventure Cafe.

“I would really love to live here, and why not?” Mark asked. It’s a sparsely populated town and it gets real cold when the evening is nigh. We thought about living a simple life in a house like the El Camino, close to the cliff, that’s sheltered with Pine trees around it.

Mark dreams of working on his articles by the fireplace, and outside the window one sees the mountains looking down a steep valley thickly covered with foliage that runs toward the edge of the sea. And the sky looked so grand from our dining table, as I finished up my share of the Pochero, nibbling on soused corn.

We love our life in the island, and living close to the skies could be a great idea too, one foolish thought a couple like us would be attracted to. It’s a perfect place to paint, and we’d still be outliers, living in a house that’d appear floating on a cloud at dawn.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Exploring the town of Balamban.

I walked by the side of the road lined with tall and slender Pines. Mark took pictures of me from the other side, while he kept saying how lovely the day was for poor people like us. We’re poor enough to learn to truly appreciate the food on our table, to spend evenings together watching movies at home instead of being out in a doggoned corporate meeting, to be walking on a beautiful day with our Chucks soiled instead of riding a fancy automobile, to be stopping by a quaint café in the middle of nowhere in the mountains to buy a soft drink, instead of having a waiter come to us for room service in a fancy hotel, or something like that.

It’s a humble and noble life, he likes to say.

As soon as we reached the entry to a colorful hanging bridge I read the sign board that said, “No running, no playing, no jumping.”

It was the perfect cue for Mark to go running, playing, and jumping. Of course, much to my distress.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Colorful hanging bridge connecting the hills.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Enjoying the view.

We rode a cable car that crossed above treetops, and mid-way to the next station we saw how the hillsides graded deeper to hundreds of feet below. It was a vast country all right, and far out to our left was Toledo, direct on our line of sight was a large shipyard, and the blue sea, and the city of San Carlos.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Cable ride.

In the afternoon when the sun was about to set, and us, now, going uphill we saw how the faraway land had been transformed into gold. It’s how El Dorado would’ve looked by the Amazon River, not just gilded but also fully converted into one magical city of gold, I supposed, and it was afloat, suspended in the cloudy sky where the largest ships glided out with the wind and the force of our imagination.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Pathway to the cable car.


Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Artist’s Milieu

I love waking up on a Sunday morning consciously not knowing what to do, and not feeling the need to do anything at all, which is the best way to get things done beautifully, at your own pace. That’s the secret, Mark said, to do things strictly right. One has to perform beyond the cuffs of time and the dictates of a boss, even if you actually have one, and even if it’s just you. One needs to be fiercely loyal to one’s art and nothing else.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva

Working on a bench just outside the villa.

I unpacked my colored pencils, sketchpad, and whatnot, started to draw, while Mark simply took out his book and read by the side of a salt-water pool in this nearby resort. We were a few chairs apart, bordered by coconut trees, and didn’t seem like we came in together.

But it was blithe everywhere under the kind cerulean sky that held us all captivated by its natural beauty, as if held by its encompassing arms, and it was like every one within the resort knew each other somehow, or were part of a beautiful conspiracy to make each day as positive as it is laid back and stress-free.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Crossing a pathway that leads to the clubhouse.

I could have drawn up anything, absolutely anything my heart desired to satiate my artistic goals without the fear of reproof, or the sight of a single raised brow.

I hardly noticed that Mark had gone out from his chair and squatted at the end of a wooden platform that jutted out into the body of water. He was now sipping beer and staring out into the bordered pools, a dimming sky, and the clubhouse, where Kalesas skirted around with flowers trotted by.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/clairelyhappy

Sketching with my feet just inches above water.

At the end of the day I barely got any work done. If only for a couple of pages with vague sketches, and it was impossible to continue in the evening. It was hardly worth anything, except my heart was content, and if there was any value in the day at all it was knowingly having done nothing of economic value, and still be happy about it.

The moon was up now, hovering a few inches above a Christmas lit mango tree.

Life, like art, is too beautiful it makes you aspire like the lonely pale moon a world away reaching out.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Walking around the resort in the moonlight.


Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Denim Art

It was a perfect day to be out and about. We decided to go to the city to watch the movie The Secret Life Of Pets. We had our late breakfast of the usual bacon and eggs, and we talked about our cat. We wished she were as fat as a cartoon character and colored blue, or green, or, any color that suited her temperament.

And then it rained. Hard.


The Secret Life of Pets Movie

Mark was devastated. He wanted to go to Sugbo Merkado at the Cebu Business Park after the movies, and drink beer and relax. He wants things smooth and predictable, and the rain ruined it all right. But I felt it was nothing new. The weather here is almost always unpredictable, and you can’t let it run your day.

The rain faded to a drizzle, and we made it to the city.

“See?” I told Mark. “You got to think positive.”

But Mark hates positivism. He likes things predictable and estimated like a punch and a counter-punch.

“You can’t expect me to jump out the window and grow wings, right? Don’t lecture me about Paulo Coelho, and all that. I’m not delusional.”

“Are you saying he is?” I asked.

“Well, it’s fiction, so, of course not. But the idea makes me nauseous. It’s too doggoned corny. Let’s talk about ‘papa’ instead. I’d love to talk about realists more. I love how they strike it as it is. It reminds me of how I felt when I punched the heavy bag and predicted its return. There’s so much beauty in all that, you know? It’s all about flow and counter flow.”

“I miss boxing, and it’s not far from reading a work of realism.”

But he calmed down when I mentioned our cat. He likes pets. He loves our cat. He misses his dog that passed away the day he came back from Manila. He thinks dogs are noble and cats are royalty.

Looking out his window the next day he saw our cat facing the same direction. It was a bright day with refulgent skies above, and who knows if it’d rain in an hour or two. The weather here is always unpredictable. It’s what’s bad about it, but on a positive note, it’s what makes it fun too. Unpredictability makes it more fun, and it adds more whims to a rather boring day.

I say, dress for the occasion. Dress for what’s unforeseen. Dress for the unpredictable.

Rainy days aren’t solely about gloomy skies or muddy pathways. It could mean pleasant conversations over tea, or play board games with a friend; go watch old episodes of Frasier all over again. For me it’s an opportunity to finish my artworks. Rainy days are not that bad at all.

My hand-painted work on denim shorts from start to finish:

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

My work in progress.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Working on the final touches.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

My finished product! Hand-painted owl design on denim shorts. One of Clairelyhappy’s Owl-mazing Collection.

No matter your style choice, denim shorts are a must-have. Whether it be light wash, dark wash, cuffed, or distressed, it’s easy to find a pair that suits your preference. And since they’re an essential piece, they can be styled with practically everything. Denim shorts helps you achieve the perfect combination of comfort and style.

Below are three cool ways to wear denim shorts on rainy days. I styled my hand-painted owl-themed pair of denim shorts. From comfy denim fur jacket and long sleeves top with scarf, to colorful cardigan.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Three different ways I styled my hand-painted owl themed pair of denim shorts.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Style No. 1

Denim Fur Jacket: Relaxed Jeans

Pink Plain Tee: Penshoppe

Denim Shorts: Clairelyhappy Owl-mazing Collection

Watch: Baby-G

Shoes: Dr. Martens

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Style No. 2

Black Long-sleeves Top: Penshoppe

Pink Scarf: SM Accessories

Denim Shorts: Clairelyhappy Owl-mazing Collection

Watch: Technomarine

Red Shoes: People Footwear

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Style No. 3

Yellow Cardigan: Five & Co.

Graphic Tee: Penshoppe

Denim Shorts: Clairelyhappy Owl-mazing Collection

Watch: G-Shock

Shoes: Converse

Rain should never compromise fashion. Everyone should feel comfortable while still looking fabulous!

Don’t be afraid to wear something bright and fun on a rainy day. Bad weather can be depressing, but it doesn’t mean you have to look that way too.

You can look cool under the rain, or under the shade of a coco tree in the sun. Don’t let rainy days be an excuse to look down. It may be an opportunity to use your styling expertness and creativity to brighten up the mood by wearing the right clothes and accessories for whatever season.

How do you like to style denim shorts? Let us know in the comments below!





Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

ClairelyHappy: Islander’s life with a twist

We had planned on taking a week off work to roam places across the Visayas region both by land and sea, envisioning a final stop at Bohol after a short visit in Kalanggaman sandbar, but instead found ourselves unexpectedly stuck for a fortnight in Bounty Island, now known as Malapascua.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Pump Boat going to Malpascua Island, Cebu City Philippines

We had our prior inter-island commitments cancelled, including a dive at the Monad Shoal, where thresher sharks and manta rays are regularly sighted. We were way off target, a week over our budget, and woke hungry.

The sound of the pounding of the shore instantly flooded our ears, the wind blowing past the light green curtains- blowing it hard as if caped behind an invisible super hero. Below the hotel an orderly had trouble lighting a match to start a fire. The second staff watched him closely, amused. I stood on our porch in my nightgown and heard a long whistle.

On the settee was a bird lying on one side, stiff, with lifeless eyes glaring. The gale must have collided her against the window, killing it in an instant, even with the typhoon exiting the archipelago. The whistle. It reminded me of Bruce Lee’s shrill.

We were running very low on cash. Prior to Malapascua, we traveled to Bantayan Island first and stayed at the Beach Placid. We were the only guests there, so its charm was accentuated in our isolation. Outside our shack was a hammock. Straight ahead is a perfect panoramic view of the ocean, where there was practically no one around, save for a few staffs.

Phoro Credits: clairelyhappy

With Mark at Beach Placid, Bantayan Island Cebu City Philippines

The past days we’ve dined in the cheapest diners in Malapascua island, got tipsy on the shore, and sometimes skipped meals. There was no way of drawing cash anywhere, except yonder the rough seas, but the cost guard had called off all trips to and fro for days now.

We lolled along the white beach in the morning. My knees were a bit sore from the climb to the grand lighthouse atop the mounds, across the thick, thorny brush. But the sand was so fine it encouraged us to walk onward and take in the view.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Shore at Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines

I love how the locals have balanced their business with the environment. We walked past some bars with colored bin bag chairs by the foreshore, ordered drinks at the Ocean Vida & Dive Resort that sold them at half the price during Happy Hour. It’s only one of two establishments there that accepted our cards, and so we practically sat there each day we were there for food and drinks.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Daquiri Cocktail at Ocean Vida Beach Bar, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

We were now getting used to our sunburns. A dog had befriended us, and we sat by the shore, staring at the mainland, thirsty. The sun shone brightly.

“It’s a beautiful day to be alive,” Mark said. “The fun at the outset, now, the inconvenience, the longing, the sun teasing up above, and for some reason this dog keeps following us. Life is strange, I swear.”

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Stroll along the beach with my friend Doggy.

With our pockets practically empty we revisited Angelina’s Pizzeria Restorante Italiano, the same restaurant we had dined in for the past couple of days, and charged our favorite seafood pasta. It’s settled at the back of the island, by the alcove, safe and beautiful under the shade.

Are you ready to face the storm today? I asked.

“You mean the monsoon? Typhoon is past us now.” Mark replied.

“The current is just as strong today. It’s making me nervous. You know I can’t swim. I heard the Coast Guard has approved our trip, but I wish we could stay one more night. Let the weather mellow.”

“But we don’t have the money to pay for our hotel. I’d gladly box anyone for money, if I could. The weather has teased me enough to make me want to hit something so hard.”

“There you go again about life and boxing. OK we’re going.”

Embarking on the big pump-boat to Maya we only had enough with us to pay for our trip back to the mainland, and for our fare down to the metropolis. No sooner than we left the beautiful island of Malapascua did the boat started to pitch from side to side, fighting the brewing current.

On the trip with us were Korean tourists, grouped together at the back, ensured with life jackets ‘cause they must have paid the tour guides extra. It made me sick to the stomach, and poor as a local tourist can be.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Korean tourists.

The waves were coming in stronger, crashing at odd angles. My senses were heightened, that I could hear every creaking sound the wooden boat made, and my legs were stretched against a middle fixture, as if trying to keep it from breaking down. Mark was smiling like the devil, telling me to relax, but the Koreans were panicking too, shrieking every time we nosedived.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Pump boat to Maya port. Image/video capture using our sports camera.

It was the longest 30-minute trip of my life. The rain came, and the heavens thundered each time we crashed against the undulating sea, so it was hard to tell between the rain and the seawater that soused us. My arms were feeling tired now, holding on to whatever I could hold on to. We were all wet, sea sick, scared, and Mark was laughing like the devil.

I thought I was going to die that day that I never felt so alive.

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Pump boat preparing to dock at Maya port.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Bantayan Island shore.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Along Beach Placid Resort. Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines

Phoro Credits: clairelyhappy

Free-swimming jelly fish.

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Cool fresh water in Ogtong Cave, Bantayan Island Cebu City, Philippines

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Water bikes at Kokay’s Maldito Dive Resort, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: Mark F. Villanueva/ clairelyhappy

Major Lighthouse, Malapscua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Souvenir items. Thresher shark wood craft, Malapascua Island Cebu City Philippines

Photo Credits: clairelyhappy

Sumptuous food during our stay at the islands.