I’ve been trying to write this since I got back, but fell asleep every time I would sit down and try. I’m not mad at it, coming back from 4 weeks in the Philippines has been one of the most impactful trips I’ve had to date. So if the tradeoff is jet lag and being up at odd hours, it was totally worth it.

Prior to leaving, I was super stoked. It’s been 12 years since I last visited and my memories are vague and merely of family. I didn’t know what to expect and was really keen to explore the homeland through the lens of curiosity I would travel any other country now.

Growing up a first generation Filipino Canadian, my parents did their best to pass on our language, culture, and (most importantly) food. I respected and was always grateful to come from a rich cultural background, but until I started making my own Filipino friends, I never really had anywhere to share this outside of family parties. In essence, I felt like I existed in sort of a cultural limbo - born and raised Canadian but in the visible minority and in contrast, when in the Philippines even though I am of Filipino descent, there is a clear distinction they can tell I’m a foreigner. 

Besides attending a couple of rad weddings and spending time with family, my personal goal was to immerse myself in the culture, and explore what that means to me being Canadian-born. Truthfully, I felt honoured I could spend this amount of time in the Philippines. We had the opportunity to not only explore all around Metro Manila, but made it to Batangas, Cebu-Mactan, Palawan and surrounding islands, and a brief stop in Los Banos. That was merely scratching the surface.



It’s pretty ignorant of me to assume that there wouldn’t be diversity within the country itself. Even though we’re all Filipino, the diversity that existed from island to island, even neighbourhood to neighbourhood was really amazing to see. Each island had its own unique personality, local delicacies, and in some places their own dialect of language that I could barely make out. Regardless of where we were though, we were welcomed with open arms and a smile. A trademark of the Filipino people.

Simple living…

It’s incredible that in some places we were with people who live with very little. I’m talking they live off the land, wear hand-me-down clothes sent from abroad, and still get their water from a pump. Yet, these are the same people that want to give you the world when you visit. Often, all you need is karaoke, paired with a few San Migs and you’ve got a party. Plus, the country is full of talented singers and dancers, it’s hard not to be impressed.

One thing that absolutely made me smile was seeing children genuinely play (without the crutch of a screen). I would literally sit and watch for hours just to see what their minds would come up with, and I’d feel the joy and playfulness even from afar. I think at one point I was standing in the middle of a pretend war amongst the coconut trees and all they were using were a few tree branches and their vivid imaginations. If you want to make me melt, tell a small kid to speak tagalog and you’ve got me. Hella cute.

And the opposite.

In contrast, I experienced the luxe of luxury too. Being influenced by places like Singapore and Japan, Manila is very much a bustling metropolitan where you can get or experience almost anything your beautiful heart desires. Filipinos are creative, smart, and resourceful. They are quick to bring new ideas from abroad, and execute these new concepts really well. If you know me, I love a good cocktail, and there were no shortage of cool speakeasies and high quality restaurants to try. Every major luxury brand was represented throughout the various malls, and there’s a shit ton of super malls there - like a lot. To see where the wealthy hung out was dope… and I know what I experienced didn’t even touch how the richest of the rich live out there. It is evident that within their own respective socioeconomic classes, the rich, the middle-class, and the poor, each have a hierarchy too. I realize every country has a version of this, but this extreme divide is so fascinating to observe first hand. Picture beautiful cutting edge, modern building right next to a squatter settlement built amongst the wreckage of an abandoned construction site.


I finally got my sun fix and experienced just how beautiful I’ve heard the Philippines to be. No offence white friends, but when ya’ll tell me how beautiful my homeland is, I got huge fomo because I had no idea. But seriously, WOW. Beaches, clear water, the fishies, perfect temperature, and I could clearly see the stars at night - my absolute fave. Considering how far our dollar goes, vacationing here is a no brainer if you can score a decent flight.

Plus massages and fresh mango shakes on the regular?! Stop. My only qualm (and I knew I would feel like this), is that the Filipino diet hasn’t widely incorporated the notion of a vegetable lol. So anytime a salad was available I was one hundy all up on that. Otherwise, I didn’t have a terrible meal our entire 4 weeks. Like at all. Even excursion buffets which typically serve shitty food were actually pretty good. Granted I had friends who didn’t have the same pleasant eating experiences all the time. But my advice? Do your research to finds grinds you like in your area so you’re not always stuck chowing down Jollibee, there really is so much to try. When in doubt, rice and adobo is usually a safe bet. 


A strong sense of pride.

All in all, I left feeling inspired to get back as soon as possible to explore the islands. Though I am foreign born, I felt a common underlying thread connecting me there. I believe there is a certain sense of pride we carry as Filipinos - we are family. And you know I had the Pacquiao fight playing when I got home. I still have so much to process since coming home. I am definitely coming back with a sense of perspective and gratitude for the lifestyle I am able to live. Beyond that, one thing I do know is building a legacy means even more to me when I understand my lineage.



Karleen ValenciaComment

This spring, we've been fortunate to have a series of killer adventures, with very little time to settle in between. It was only a matter of weeks between getting back from Auz, a quick weekend in Van, then jetting out to Coachella. In that period, we barely had groceries in the fridge, and tried my damndest to make the best decisions when eating out, but somehow ginger beef or chocolate chip cookies always made it into the mix.

When we got back from Coachella, I was determined to hit a lifestyle reset button. This meant actually getting to workouts, sleeping at a decent hour, and most importantly eating better. We chose to do a Juice Because 3-day juice cleanse to jumpstart the healthy train. I've done other cleanses in the past and found that I wasn't successful because some cleanses didn't give me enough nutrients or energy for my active lifestyle. What attracted me to JB's cleanse is that they are advocates for listening to your body - so if you had to eat something, the cleanse police doesn't come after you, actually its pretty normal to nourish your body as it needs.

A few hours into day 1 of the cleanse, Winifrey and I didn't think we could make it. Everywhere we turned, we saw temptation (we live close to a Chinese restaurant and a Shawarma place, and wanted a combination of both for breakfast). It's funny and sad because food was literally all we could think about that morning. Thankfully we had each other to keep in check. Pro Tip: have a cleanse buddy to hype you up the whole time. Also, because we had some pretty full days scheduled, I opted to add a cup of bone broth in the mix for a protein kick and because it was nice to also have something savoury.

JBFAM - 001.jpg

Verdict? Getting through the first day was probably the toughest, mentally. Otherwise, I found myself scrambling to finish all 6 juices by the end of my day. This told me I need to drink/eat more often throughout the day! We got through it, and I felt GREAT. In fact by the end of it, I was going to miss not having think about and prep what I was going to eat because my meal was always ready for me. The effects for me weren't necessarily immediate - I definitely made better food choices, which coupled with a more regular workout regime did WONDERS in the weeks following our cleanse. For the first time in a while, I was feelin' myself, and I went into another Honubelle photoshoot confident for the first time ever. Consistency and mindfulness of choice is key.

I recognize cleansing isn't for everyone, in fact I was against it for so long after having a negative experience. For me, it helped to shift my mindset about what I was choosing to fuel my body with, and like anything, the experience is what I made it to be. Luckily I had the support of my hubz and a daily note from Juice Because cheering me on along the way. Been considering it? I say go, invest, be serious about your intention in cleansing, and see where your journey takes you. Also eat a piece of lettuce or an apple if you need, it's not the end of world. 

Photo via Juice Because by  Irving Crea Photos

Photo via Juice Because by Irving Crea Photos

First off (and I've said this before), but I am so stoked and honoured to have been part of Juice Because's #gotmylk campaign for so many reasons. I have always been a huge fan of this local juice company, what they stand for, and how they've executed their shit - literally a couple of bawse babes killin' their game. The amount of milk bottles I've hoarded from consuming their juice probably says a lot about my obsession (their charcoal lemonade JUDY is the best on the market, and has gotten me out of some sticky situations *ahem teaching hungover af). Also, the premise of this campaign is iconic. Who didn't grow up wanting their own milk moustache? A lot of the celebrities I idolized at the time all had their very own milk moustache, and I used to be fanatical about buying magazines just to collect the print ads. Seems so crazy this day and age. 

A couple of nights ago, I listened to the IG stories of a fitness influencer I religiously follow about the body positivity movement, and how there's a lot of controversy right now about representing the ENTIRE spectrum of diversity, specifically in women. I thought back to the time I idolized celebrities in "got milk?" ads, and recognized I never really had anyone in mass media I could relate to, except the odd token Asian, who often at that time was super nerdy and definitely not Filipino. This is probably why I favoured my Hawaiian Barbie so much - not only because my love for Hawaii started before I knew it, but she kinda sorta looked like me. This idea of diversity in race being underrepresented is not a new one. But as of late, this idea of representing diversity in female body types in the media has been an ongoing topic.  

Since the release of the iconic Dove ad, the door was opened to feature many women of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds in mass media. "Love yourself, just the way you are" is often the message given and one I also preach. But it was brought up that right now if you're not on either end of the body spectrum (slim + chiseled fit or plus size + curvy) then often you're not represented in the imagery we commonly see. My first thought? Marketers will never catch a break. There is no way to fully capture everyone, I totally get it. Imagery in the media has come along way since I was young flipping through magazines, but we still do have the opportunity to change the rhetoric around it all. Wouldn't it be nice if we got to a point where a woman is a woman in an ad and not just fulfilling a certain size and demographic quota? Reality is we still see colour, and size, and shape, and even orientation. Woof. 

I then reflected on where I'm at in my journey... my best friend put it so well: I'm training for life. I mean, I get my workouts in for the most part, I'm attempting to eat more plant based but can't quite cut the chocolate and cheese, and don't get me started on my love affair with a good Old Fashioned. I mean, aren't we all trying to make better choices while still trying to live life? No, I'm definitely not the size 0-2 I once was, nor do I have the defined muscles I once did. I'm not skinny, nor am I considered large. And yep last time I checked I'm still standing tall at a mere 5'3" on a good day. I can see why marketing someone like me, to me, would not be considered aspirational because it can come across as kinda average. I'm ok with that, it's working for me. Would it be rad if a little Karleen out there saw what I was up to, and thought it was pretty cool? Absolutely. Is that a reality? Maybe, maybe not.

Where I have a tough time is what I consider normal vs. aspirational is most likely different from your idea. I willingly choose to fill my feed with things I find inspirational, people who I believe are up to cool things, or stand for ideas I can relate to. I have made a conscious effort to weed out things that have negative affect on me or on the way I think. So, I think this debate goes both ways. Those responsible for projecting imagery in the media have the duty of being inclusive, positive, and inspirational for all races, shapes, orientations (And damn well better add in a darker, shortish, Filipino gal where they can lol). But I also challenge that media doesn't entirely happen TO us. With so many outlets to receive images and ideas, we need to recognize that we are willing participants in the game too. Much like you choose to surround yourself with certain people, surround yourself with brands, companies, and accounts that put out things that excite you and align with what you believe in or that you think are straight up dope. Straight up.

VLNCA | The Proposal...

5 years ago today I starred in a surprise flashmob beautifully conspired by Winifrey and about 100 of our friends and family. #spoileralert, I said YES.

One of the best days of my life so far, second only to our actual wedding (and when Common pulled me on stage to rap to me). If you have 10 minutes, grab a tissue and relive that day with us. 

Karleen ValenciaComment
A love letter to Studio Revolution.

With the announcement that Studio Revolution was sold and would be evolving, I, like everyone else was shocked. Receiving the news only hours before the rest of the world, I didn't actually know what to think in the moment... and really for the days to follow. I think my boy Travis described it best, "like getting dumped" with the old "it's not you, it's me". However, I fully understand the why, and can completely empathize with our bossbabe Mal's difficult decision.

I've been pretty silent as I process what this place means to me and has done for me these past 3 years. So I wrote a love letter, 'cuz that's what you do when your heart broken, right?


Dear SRF,

Where do we even begin? You stepped into my life 3 years ago at a time that I needed you the most and didn’t even realize it. You welcomed me with open arms, and even though the AC is hella cold the welcome was always warm. 

I will never forget my first. There was two of us, and the most beautiful unicorn, Mallory… absolutely kicking my ass. By the end of this Surf Salutations class (a yoga inspired class on the instability of the surfboard) I was rocked. Like… I totally sucked. So bad. I thought I had been a solid yogi prior to this moment, but man, this thing called SURFSET changed the game. It became a new multi-faceted challenge I instantly wanted to conquer, but even more so, a place I wanted to be fully immersed in. So I did. 

SRF, you have given me more than you know. A physical challenge that totally transformed my concept of working out and showed me how strong I am. A place of endless opportunities, to escape, to dream… usually about living on a beach someday. A space for personal growth, inside and out, mentally and creatively. Helping me find my confidence in my inner Beyonce, making me feel significant with a sense of purpose. A platform to teach with the hopes of inspiring the same transformations I felt. Most importantly a community, no - a family. Who knew that these four walls would be the venue where I cross paths with some of the most courageous, fun, and electrifying beings anyone could ever meet. You know that feeling when souls hug? It happened here in a big way. 

So, this is it. I am extremely saddened that this month marks the last time I might ever teach a SURFSET class. I take comfort in knowing that the magic was not necessarily in what we did on that surfboard, but it was in what we created as a whole. Thank you, all of you, for helping make huge waves in our community. It has truly been an honour and so exciting to be part of something bigger. 

Riding that last wave with the fullest heart.




Side note: I guess this post comes up when you search surfing + yoga (?) so if you're ever wondering the best mat is for your yoga practice, check this out. 

Karleen Valencia Comment