Ms. Hyphen

I got asked this question the other day on Formspring and I thought it would be worth sharing here instead:

Hi Cat! I’ve followed you for a while now, even read your old blogs on calamansi. I feel like you’re a person who has known what you’ve wanted to do in life. What’s your secret, as I am kind of soul searching for my calling. Thanks!

Such a good question.  

I’m flattered you think I’ve always known what I wanted to do, but it’s a bit of a stretch from the truth. 

Unlike the husband who knew since he was old enough to feed himself that he was going to be a film director, I wasn’t one of those kids who daydreamed about the same career day in and out. And many times, I’m not sure if what I love doing now will be what I’ll do forever. 

Here’s a quick list of the handful of work I’ve done since graduating college.

1. freelance writer: I was associate editor of our college paper, so it wasn’t difficult to get into writing when I graduated. I wrote about everything from food, furniture, to film. I’d get a call from an editor, do some interviews, write up a piece, and pick up my check three months later. I met fascinating people and learned things I never would have bothered finding out if I wasn’t given the assignment. 

2. model: I used to hate saying I was a model, but I guess there really is no other way to label what I did. I sold my smile to the highest bidder and along the way landed on magazine covers and got flown to other countries for commercials. It paid the bills and gave me enough money buy things I needed (like a car) and invest in other ventures (like my business). 


This is the last magazine cover I did. I was living in Sydney and visiting Manila for a month when SL called and asked if I was available for an editorial. I didn’t know that it was supposed to be for the cover till we were shooting. 

3. entrepreneur: Along with some partners, I started my own little company: Planet Zips. This company took a lot of my blood and tears. Running it made me realise that just because you have love for an art, you might not find joy in earning money from it. I may never want to own a business ever again. I’ve since sold this little business and it’s alive and kicking with new energy. 


A little feature done on PZ in 2004 (or 2005).

3. beauty editor: Mixing my love for beauty products with writing wasn’t a very far leap. I worked for Metro Magazine for almost three years and I really enjoyed the process of having a concept become something you could hold and flip through at the end of each month. 


A story I did on Vitamin C products. I had to cut all these fruits. Every single calamansi had to be sliced in the bottom too or else the light wouldn’t go through. 

4. barista and finally teacher: You can read about the journey it took to find the right job for me in Sydney here

So, like you, I was constantly searching as well. But I enjoyed every single step of the journey and I believe it’s because I followed these simple rules. 

a. Do your absolute best: No matter the job, I did it to the best of my human abilities. I was never late to a shoot, never missed an article deadline, and put together pairs of Zips myself when the company was starting out. If you do your best, your network will grow and doors will open. 

b. Give yourself goals: I could have continued freelance writing and modelling till the calls stopped coming, but I told myself that by the time I reached 25 I wanted to be in a job that had a stable salary, so I applied to be an editor. A few years later, I gave myself the goal that I needed to be financially independent by the time I was 30 and worked towards that. If you don’t challenge yourself with goals, you wind up stagnant. 

c. Love what you do: This piece of advice came from my father who told me he didn’t care what career I chose, as long as I woke up every morning looking forward to doing it. That small seed of wisdom has been one of my greatest treasures. I don’t commit to anything that will make me unhappy. Life is too damn short to not find fulfilment from your work. Yes, there will be hard times. But in the long run you should find joy in your day to day life. And when your job stops doing that for you, it’s quite simply time to move on. 

Wow, what a long post. Again, thank you for asking such a great question. I hope this helps.