Category Archives: Filipino

Sensei Richard Rabago #shorinryu #karate #martialarts #tradition #btilc

The door opened around 6:00pm today. I heard happy notes being sung as boxes rustled and keys clanked on the kitchen counter. It is comforting to hear such lovely sounds at the end of a long work day. I was making my bed on the other side of the house when he walked in, arms full of stuff. 

First, I spotted the grey gi, perfectly pressed without a single wrinkle. I remember that gi very well. The sound of the “snap” when Sensei Richard pulled a punch or perform a series of moves in a kata would echo off the walls of the dojo. 

Sensei Butch stacked up a mountain of movie costumes and trophies but I fixated on the grey gi. All those nights filled with physical training – running basic blocks, kicks, punches, stances over and over and over until the movement became automatic and natural.  Countless hours of challenging my shyness to feel ready to perform kata alone, in front of strangers and classmates. And numerous moments of laughter and smiles after class was pau, just talking story or ribbing students about nothing and everything, it all came back to me in a flash. I walked to the kitchen and found my Rabago Shorin Ryu patch from 15 years ago. We will sew it onto Sensei Richard’s gi before we hang it in the dojo. 

“…and this Hakama from one of his movies…and this ninja hood from the movie, ‘Pocket Ninjas’  and ‘Full Impact’ which he produced…” we went through each item and shared memories. Sensei Butch worked on a lot of these projects and had stories about Sensei Richard and other black belts. On some films, Sensei Richard choreographed stunts, in others he was an actor and at times, he produced the films. He also spent years playing “Tao” in the TV series, “V.R. Troopers.” 

Sensei Butch always talks about how lucky he was to have a father who supported his martial arts training and a Sensei who treated him like a son. They both pushed him to train hard and stay focused. Butch often states that karate pulled him out of the ghetto, that’s real. Because of his talent and hard work, Sensei Butch travelled across the country and around the world to compete in karate tournaments. 

None of these costumes would possibly fit Sensei Butch so I decided to try on a few items. 
  Do I look like a “Pocket Ninja” in my Hello Kitty kigarumi and ninja costume hood? 
   Costume from “Big Trouble in Little China.” 

This little walk down memory lane felt like a gentle reminder as to why I train. Karate gave me an anchor and home base after college. I had a new home and an expanded family as I grew into becoming an adult. I know that so much of my life success as a single mom with a demanding career can be attributed to what I learned on the dojo floor. My responsibility is to pass along what I can to help instill the values of discipline, respect, tradition, humility, integrity and Ohana to our students at Togisala Shorin Ryu. 

#SurfNinjas Podcast coverage with @hydratelevelfour @kellyhu @erniereyesjr

Such good fun to talk about the 1993 comedy “Surf Ninjas” with Peter from “Hydrate Level Four” 
Check it out and post your favorite “Surf Ninjas” quote here!  
“Money can’t buy knives” 

Leadership – Do our values change over time?

In 2003, I found myself invited to apply for a Fellowship Program with an organization called Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI).  The mission of APAWLI was to develop Asian American and Pacific Islander women for leadership roles in the United States. Founded in 1996, APAWLI’s signature Fellowship Program selected a group of outstanding women to take the three-week leadership training course which culminated in each individual developing a leadership impact project that would positively change the lives of at least 25 people.

The interview process consisted of written essays, collecting multiple letters of recommendation, and face-to-face interviews with APAWLI board members.  The experience helped me examine my hopes for the future and my career goals.  It also forced me to ask for help, something that I find to be a challenge, but I needed letters of recommendation from people outside of my work team.  When I read the letters that these well-respected leaders in business and the community wrote, I kept looking around and wondering if they were actually talking about ME.  It is very true that we do not see ourselves the way others do and being Asian, humility gets in the way of honest self-assessments.

Unfortunately, the APAWLI ran into budgetary challenges in 2003 and had to place the Fellowship Program on hold for a few years.  I found my application and decided it might be fun to read through it.  Before I started, I asked myself if our core values change through the years.  What I am about to share in this DiversityNerd posting was written over ten years ago:  before I earned my promotions at work, before I almost died from a ruptured hemorrhagic ovarian cyst, and before I developed my voice in Diversity and Inclusion.  How much have I grown since then?

APAWLI is a part of The Center for Asian Pacific American Women (The Center) is a national, non-profit, non-advocacy organization dedicated to enhancing and enriching leadership skills for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island (AANHPI) leaders.

Taken from their website:

“Our mission is to address the challenges facing us and to nurture trusteeship within our communities by expanding leadership capacity, fostering awareness of AANHPI issues, creating a supportive network of AANHPI leaders, and strengthening community.” 

2003  Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute
DiversityNerd’s Fellowship Application

Current Job Responsibilities

The goals of the Inclusion Strategy group are to:

  • Create lasting corporate cultural change that impacts our company’s future business success by attracting, retaining and developing associates and customers.
  • Ensure that Human Resource systems, processes and policies are inclusive of every individual and leverage the diversity that each associate brings to the workplace.
  • Build strategic partnerships across the organization so accountability and ownership is internal to each business unit.

    Major accomplishments:

  1. Developed a three-part process for creating lasting change, considered the benchmark diversity and inclusion strategy for my company.
  2. Established Business Partnering Groups (affinity groups).  My proposal and policy was also implemented at our manufacturing affiliate in the Midwest.
  3. Education of Officers on Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Career Goals

In five years, I would like to be managing a larger staff at my company and completing a post-graduate program.  The APAWLI Fellowship would provide me development and growth to achieve both of those goals.  First, I would obtain invaluable skills in becoming a stronger leader.  I would like to find my voice in the greater society, especially to aid the Pilipino community.  I have always felt like there were no Pilipina American role models for me in the private sector, I would like to be there for the younger Asian American and Pacific Islander generation.  Secondly, building my personal network with a group of high performing, community focused, Asian American and Pacific Islander will provide a challenge to raise the bar on my personal and professional goals.  There are so few Asian American or Pacific Islander people in executive positions in my company that I often feel alone.  Finally, although my skills are strong enough for me to thrive in my current position, a graduate or post-graduate degree will afford me a sense of accomplishment and confidence in my professional abilities.  If I am not selected for the APAWLI Fellowship, I will pursue other professional development opportunities.

Talents based on the Gallup Organization’s Strenths Finder:


This talent affords me the ability to see the larger picture.  In  addition, I always work to anticipate potential roadblocks and design strategies to address them.

My greatest joy is in taking the best and making it better.  If I am working with an average performing individual or organization,
making them good is not as rewarding as taking a strong achiever to the highest level of performance possible.

This strength allows me to inspire others.  I have been likened to a “Pied Piper” in my organization.

I am always looking to the future and stay excited about the possibilities.  Change is an exciting opportunity to make the world or the organization a better place for everyone.

This strength allows me to adjust my responsibilities and workload to achieve my objectives.  In addition, I have a talent for finding 
alternative ways of approaching challenges.

Areas for My Own Improvement
I have yet to establish myself as a force in the Pilipino American community.  Although my parents were very involved in the local Pilipino Community Centers, it was never clear to me how the organization was reaching out beyond the center and into the larger community.  Now that I am an adult and a single parent, I see that I have the power and responsibility to make an impact on my community, leaving it up to others does not equal commitment and progress.  However, I have to build my network of Pilipino colleagues in order to find opportunities to impact my community.
Another area of improvement is in my self-confidence.  It has been a struggle to work as an internal change agent in my workplace.  I liken my job to banging my head against the wall to create change.  If I achieve a little success, wall cracks, I rest and start banging away again.  As an individual contributor with no direct reports, sitting in front of high-level executives and insisting that they listen to my ideas and recommendations has never been an easy road.  Many individuals make it a point to equate competence with a job title.  Despite my success at work, there are times when I allow my lack of executive status hold me back.  Perhaps with more experience and maturity, this will dissipate.

Aspirations for the future
In the future, I would like to be working in a community-focused non-profit organization or as independent consultant where I can impact many different individuals or companies.  The best way to break stereotypes is to be out in the world, living the life one has always dreamed about.  I have always wanted to accomplish what others say is impossible.  My motivation comes from a bit of a rebellious streak, the challenge of achieving an elusive goal.  My power is felt by extending my knowledge and skills to other individuals and allowing them to grow to become their full and complete self.  To me, there is more reward in seeing others thrive than in receiving a larger paycheck.

 I cannot honestly say that organizational development/diversity and inclusion was ever in my career path plan.  Being able to earn a living by helping individuals and organizations build more inclusive work environments by leveraging their diversity cannot be labeled a “job” for me.  I feel so blessed to have this kind of impact on the world at a young age.

I am successful in my current role and I receive so much gratification from this work.  I would like to continue to impact organizations on all three levels:  systemic, group and individual.  The ultimate goal is higher performance, which only comes about when people are feeling valued, supported and respected for their individuality.

My role models for leadership are all in my family.  First of all, my paternal grandmother exemplified pride and strength in everything she did.  During World War II, as a young mother of four children, my grandmother found herself widowed.  A transplant from Manila, she lived in a province with my paternal grandfather.  Her training and education as a nurse afforded her great respect and her home was a haven for people and soldiers victimized by the war.  Despite having no medical supplies, Filipina did her best to comfort those who were suffering and cared for her four young children as best she could.

After the war ended, Filipina made the decision to leave her four children in the care of her sister and brother in law.  For many years, my grandmother corresponded with her children via hand-written letters as she sought out the “American Dream” in California.  She married a Pilipino immigrant, my dear grandfather who was willing to raise her four children, sight unseen, as his own, along with his son from another relationship AND have three more children together.  They saved enough money to bring her four children to the United States and created the Pilipino Brady Bunch.  Their family was filled with love and it was a hybrid of first and second generation immigrants under one roof.  Brothers, sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters, it never mattered, they were all family.  This extended to their children as well.  My cousins are like my own siblings, I could never fathom when my friends would say that they hated their cousins.

This relationship was the foundation for my core values – work hard, service, integrity, honesty and most of all, family first.  My grandmother showed incredible bravery while my grandfather exemplified unconditional love.  These clear messages shaped my perspective on the world.  I strive to find the win-win outcome.  I do not believe that anyone has to be a loser, when you extend the flame of your candle to another, there is always more light in the end.  Your candle loses nothing by sharing.  The light is actually doubled, not diminished in any way.  That is how I want to lead.  I believe very strongly in team first, if my team is successful, I am successful.  To me, a great leader follows her heart as strongly as her head.

Most significant learning experience
I can think of no other experience that has impacted me as strongly as becoming a mother, specifically, a single mother.  The father of my child was not ready for marriage or fatherhood and I knew that it would be my sole responsibility to raise my daughter.  My lifestyle changed the minute I discovered I was pregnant.  During my pregnancy, I became aware of how trivial my “stress” seemed.   I immediately lost 175 pounds by kicking him out of my house after our daughter was born.  Then, I grew up.
Becoming a mother taught me how to prioritize my life.  My daughter, her safety and happiness were the only things that mattered.  I made a conscious decision to leave the demanding field of advertising and find work closer to my home.  Being alone never scared me, I developed a sense of power and control by being forced into single motherhood.  I became keenly aware of my independence and my strength.  This reminded me of my grandmother, leaving her home and family in order to seek out a better life for her children.  If she could travel across the world, surely I could become a leader in a corporate environment to support my family of two.

Leadership – What kind of leader am I?
At this point in my career, I lead purely by instinct and heart.  Thus far, both have served me well.  My direct reports have told me that I made them feel empowered and protected to take risks, learn and grow.  I do my best to challenge them to take on stretch assignments and to never settle for less than their best performance.

When I think about the kind of leader I want to become, I have opportunities to develop new skills.  While I do believe that I have the talent to set a vision, I am very clear that my business insight is not as sophisticated as many high-level leaders in corporate America.  Because of this, I seek out partnerships with leaders who are very different from me in terms of work experience and education.  Actually, I do not have to look very far to find either.  Many leaders who I admire seem to have all the answers.  I would like to have a network of colleagues who can give me the answers that I need.

The APAWLI Fellowship and the organization as a whole will grant me empowerment as a professional Asian American woman.  Having the opportunity to apply for this Fellowship has already given me more self-confidence in my abilities as a leader.  The application process alone has taught me to ask when I need support and to lead when others have no direction.  I truly believe that the best way to improve is to surround oneself with greatness.  This can only raise the bar on expectations of one’s individual performance and achievements.  As I reviewed the list of past alumni and considered the incredible impact projects that each one developed, I felt my heart swell with pride.  I was proud of my Asian American and Pacific Islander sisters reaching out, proving our strength and exerting power.  In the end, I realized that I own and hold that same power, it just needs to be unleashed.  I would be so very humbled and honored to be associated with APAWLI, in any capacity.

The most difficult leadership challenge I have faced is being young in a hierarchical company like the one where I work. Young in age, work experience and tenure means that it takes four times longer for me to build credibility in the eyes of key decision makers in the company.  However, despite this obstacle, I have achieved my goals to date at work.  In fact, I have also developed new skills, which I find to be extremely important as a leader:  patience and perseverance.  As long as one keeps her eye on the long-term strategy, one can stay focused on the big picture and the goal.  Patience and perseverance have been critical to my success.

Five key values
My five key values exemplify a common theme, service – making the world a better place.  Based on a self-assessment tool used during a leadership development course I attended, my five key values are:  Authenticity, Tradition, Vision, Advocacy and Consistency.  They are defined as:

  • Authenticity:  Being true to oneself
  • Tradition:  Honoring customs and practices of historical significance
  • Vision:  Creating compelling pictures of the future
  • Advocacy:  Passionately supporting an issue
  • Consistency:  Remaining faithful to the same principles and practices

As I consider how these values developed, two things are clear.  One, my family upbringing has built this foundation for me.  And secondly, my values compliment and support one another in both my personal and professional life.

First of all, I recall the sacrifice that my grandparents made to provide new opportunities for my parents.  I have already discussed my paternal grandmother’s journey as a young widow across the ocean on her quest for the American Dream.  Leaving her children in the Philippines as she embarked to an unknown country, exemplifies a strategic and futuristic mindset, which I model in my life.  In addition, my maternal grandfather survived the “Bataan Death March” as a Philippine Scout during World War II.  He persevered and became an officer the U.S. Army, a part of the military pull of talent out of the Philippines in the 1950s.  Knowing this recent yet rich history is a part of my family.  I appreciate and respect the sacrifice.  There is no way I can ignore that tradition and it drives me to excel in service.

 As I apply these values to my career, it is clear that I have a purpose in this world.  I own my values with pride.  In my mind, I have been given the opportunity to refine my five key values and apply them on a daily basis.  Building a more inclusive work environment within a successful company such as mine, challenges me to raise the bar on performance, both my own and the company’s.  Respecting tradition is an integral part of creating culture change, particularly in a Japanese owned enterprise.  I must understand the heritage that built this company in order to be most effective in impacting change. I am driven by hope for the future, advocacy for the under-represented voice and remain true to my integrity and authenticity.

For example, one manager to whom I have been providing education, leadership and support gave me a small gift from Hawai’i as a token of appreciation.  She was on vacation and found a bookmark with a quote:  “Po’okela (Excellence) Ahuwale ka po’okela i kau hana ia ha’i…It is through the way you serve others that your greatness will be felt.”  The fact that one of my customers/colleagues sees me in this light re-affirmed my values.  She said that she immediate thought of me when she saw the bookmark.  I keep it nearby every day at work.  The monetary rewards and material recognition pale in comparison to receiving this kind of feedback from a fellow change agent in my company.  I am motivated to create change for the greater good.  I always strive to find the win-win alternative, utilizing my values of service to others.



Looking back, I see the core of who I am has not changed.  I have definitely matured and experienced a lot of living over the last 10 or so years.  Almost dying and raising a teenager will do that to you.  (Those two things are not directly related.)  My self-confidence has grown and I have an extremely strong sense of who I am and what I stand for in this world.  Reading this application has inspired me to think about my plan for the next ten years of my life and in my career.  More to come…



The War Rages On… My Face

Today is Day Four after my IPL Photofacial. My face still has Oreo cookie patches all over my cheeks but it is starting to clear up. I also went back to work after being off for a week to spend Spring Break with my teen-aged daughter. Here is what my skin looked like this morning, I don’t think I look as scary as I did on Saturday.




Because I was going back to work today, I took extra time to blow dry and style my hair. One thing I will admit is that I have pretty hair. It’s jet black and very naturally shiny. People ask me what kind of products I use in my hair so I have to tell them that I just wash it with normal shampoo and let it air dry. I don’t usually take much time styling it because I’m a very low maintenance kind of woman in the morning. I’d rather spend an extra 15 minutes cooking a hot breakfast for my daughter, sleeping, or checking my Facebook page in bed than styling my hair. Of course, I was going to be in the office with patchy skin today so I blew my hair out and put on red lipstick. That’s usually a dead give away that I’m tired or feeling a little down, red lipstick is like camouflage to hide behind. Here is a selfie from my car this morning:


Today, my calendar was filled with conference calls and meetings. The sides of my cheeks are marked with Oreo cookie splotches. That made me very self-conscious as I walked around campus.

When I’m paddling, the areas that absorb the most sun exposure are the sides of my cheeks. Despite wearing a hat and heavy duty sunscreen, my cheeks have suffered the most exposure over the years. What makes it worse, when I’m at outrigger canoe practice, quite often my face is splashed with salt water from the ocean. No doubt my sunscreen is washed away, leaving my skin vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. This exposure is exponentially multiplied by the sun reflecting off the ocean.

I realized this fact when we were paddling out towards the eight minute pole at practice tonight. As per usual for a Spring evening, the ocean was choppy and temperamental. It felt as if our canoe was paddling through a washing machine. It was definitely not gentle cycle. Our ama popped up from time to time, threatening to throw us out and make the canoe huli (flip over). Between the rookie in front of me splashing water on me and the rough ocean conditions, I found my face doused with salt water for almost 90 minutes straight. My cheeks stung from the salt water, extra sensitive skin was just another side effect of the IPL Photofacial.

I do NOT recommend going out on the open ocean immediately after having an IPL Photofacial treatment.

This morning is Day Five and the Oreo cookie patches or coffee grounds are starting to flake off.




I felt like I looked horrible when I woke up. Thankfully, after I washed my face, my skin looked much better. What I noticed was that the skin beneath the Oreo cookie patches looks pink and new. But that also means I have small pink splotches on my cheeks. Hopefully those will blend back in to match the rest of my skin. What I am seeing in my forehead and the un-Oreo cookie patched part of my face is really glowing and healthy looking skin, thank goodness. It looks as bright as it does after I have had a spa facial plus a good night’s sleep.

Once I was out of the shower, I applied my make-up for work. The Oreo cookie patches were harder to cover today. The dead skin wanted to flake off of my face but I didn’t want to go to work without trying to cover it up. This is what I looked like before I left the house:




Wednesday morning aka Day Six.
The Oreo cookie patches are almost gone and I didn’t have to wear foundation or red lip camouflage today. Instead, I used a tinted moisturizer and one of my favorite NARS lip colors called, “Club Mix”. I discovered it when I was out to lunch with a colleague one day. Her lip color was a shimmery plum and it was just gorgeous to me. The color is from the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil so it is a chubby glossy pencil and all kinds I gorgeous. Here are my before and after from rolling out of bed to walking into the office:



No vanity here, can you tell?





Now, I’m curious to see how my skin is going to look on Saturday, which will be one full week after my IPL Photofacial treatment. My thoughts regarding doing it again are doubtful. The money I spent could have gone into my Gino Vacation Fund for our Italy trip.  Also, the recovery time is longer than I had expected. However, the experience was not as traumatic to my face compared to when I did a Vi Peel. That is a very intense chemical peel that essentially made my entire face fall off in sheets.  I looked like a Walker who had been cooking inside of an abandoned vehicle in the hot Georgia sun.

Anyway, at the end of my workday, I noticed that my skin was peeling and very dry.  Ugh.  This is frustrating.  I lost the Oreo cookie splotches but gained pink patches and flaky skin.  This IPL Photofacial recovery time is no joke.

These last six days have given me an opportunity to figure out why I’m spending so much time and money to fight this war against aging.   A realization came to me that it may be about control.  Or trying to hang on to my looks as a way of controlling the aging process.  It isn’t logical.  I know can’t stop time but our society is geared towards valuing youth.

Pick up or download women’s magazines on health or beauty and there will be articles helping you to “Look Younger Longer” or to advising you to eat “Foods That Fight Aging”.  The message isn’t subtle, it says that looking young kicks ass on aging. I recently saw a quiz that helped the reader answer, “How Old Do You Look?” with younger scores being more highly valued.  These articles and quizzes were located just below a headline that read, “Beat The Clock.” Time keeps slipping through the hour glass of aging for us as we scramble to keep the sand from filling up.

I stated in part one of this blog that I feel 28.  That’s not entirely true. My body feels strong and healthy.  And luckily, my hobbies include dancing hula, paddling outrigger canoes, half marathons and Okinawan Shorin Ryu so I stay active.  I will admit that I love my red wine and wine tasting is also an interest of mine but I’ve been limiting my alcoholic intake lately.  If I open a bottle of wine at home, I always have two glasses when I drink, I tend to want to nosh on something yummy.  Red wine and Trader Joe’s Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds are a killer combination. You get chocolate with a sprinkle of salt and a kiss of sugar. Mmm, it can bring out the best notes from some of my favorite wines. Other times I enjoy red wine with a spicy Gouda from Whole Foods Market. The cheese needs a cracker or other carb to sit on before I devour it. I think I am as addicted to the crunching sound as I am to the yummy snacks. My point is, if I drink wine, I tend to snack and if I snack while I drink, I may over snack. That is not good for my waistline or my skin. But I digress.

I had stated that I feel 28 years old, which is true as far as my body goes.  But my heart and my brain are a wise 43 almost 44 years old.  I finally understand what it means to feel romantic love.  Let me correct that, I finally understand what it means to feel mad, passionate, sappy, romantic love with a man who values my nerdiness as much as my intelligence and my 28 year old feeling body.  It took me a while to find him but he is definitely worth the wait.  And my 40-something year old brain realizes how short life really is.  I don’t worry about having stuff to keep up with the Joneses.  I’m not sure who the Joneses even are but I know that reference is appropriate.  And I stopped sweating the small stuff.  Financially, I am doing ok.  My mortgage and bills are paid on time and I know I can’t spend like a maniac.  But I also don’t feel like I need to shop for things to fill a void in my life.  The things that are most important to me aren’t things.  They don’t cost anything other than my time and attention.  My daughter makes me see the world with fresh eyes and she rescued me from being dragged down into a dungeon of despair and distrust.  I experienced more pain before I turned 25 than most people can imagine. Becoming a mother showed me how love heals everything.  And I already had incredible parents and siblings and family that I like to hang out with as much as I love them.  Some people don’t like their family members but I adore mine.  My house isn’t impeccably decorated nor do I have the latest flat screen TV and appliances but it is warm and welcoming.  Just ask my amazing friends.  Some of them are my age and older, some of them are in their 20s and 30s.  I bet some of them have tried Botox and photofacials, not that it matters to me.  Sometimes I am afraid of looking older and that fear drove me to try an IPL Photofacial.  I thought I was fighting a war against aging but I realized I was trying to defy the laws of nature and control it.  Instead of desperately holding on to my youth and spending hundreds of dollars to control the aging process, I think I am going to let go and live life all in.  I may have another treatment to hide the 11s between my eyebrows, if I start looking upset again.  But I haven’t enjoyed feeling like I need to hide my Oreo cookie patches on my face.  Living life all in, laughing loudly every day, and loving the people who mean the most to me is how I will win this war against aging, all while wearing 30+SPF sunscreen.




Growing Old, Not Getting Old. This is War.

Quite often I hear that I don’t look my age. I remember a time when I thought 40 sounded incredibly old. But today, as a working mother in Corporate America, I realize that 40 truly is the new 30, or perhaps even the new 28. Yes, 28 is how old I feel. This may be the result of having given birth to my daughter around that age. My life as a single woman in Los Angeles shifted dramatically after she was born. There were no more late nights in the clubs on Thursdays but rather I spent time eating really healthy, organizing my home and trying to figure out how I was going to raise a baby alone.

Today, I am facing my 44th birthday and my skin is slowly starting to show it. I’ve always been rather conscious of my skin care and sunscreen is extremely important to my daily routine. I’ve encouraged my teenaged daughter to start this habit as well because the sun seems to do more damage more quickly today. (No comments on the ozone layer or global warming included today.)

About seven or eight years ago, my teammate turned me onto microdermabrasion, a beauty treatment that feels like a cat aggressively licking your face to remove the top (aka dead) layer of skin. It uses finely ground diamonds that are basically sand blasted onto your skin. Microdermabrasian doesn’t tickle but it doesn’t really hurt either. What I liked about it most is that it doesn’t take long for your face to recover and look normal again. One or two days of feeling extra dry and voila! The challenge is to take the time to do them on a regular cycle. The microdermabrasion lady told me to get on a three-week cycle to clear up all the dull/pale skin cells to encourage the bright skin to come to the surface of my face. It worked beautifully but it was hard to make the time commitment. I started going every eight weeks. The other problem is that it is not an inexpensive procedure so I had to adjust my budget to fit it in to my spending.

I was in my late 30s and apparently, skin grows new cells slower as we age so it starts to appear less vibrant and clear. Because I’m an Asian Pacific Islander, my skin has more melanin and it produced brown spots on my face. There is probably a medical term for those brown spots but I’m typing on my iPhone 4S and am too lazy to look it up.

Today, as I approach my mid 40s, the medical spa where I go suggested that I consider a “consultation” to discuss a strategy to combat aging. This is war.

I have been going to Skin Savvy in Hermosa Beach, CA and the CEO/Founder (I will call her General Skin Savvy) is my go-to woman for guidance regarding skin care. She turned me on to medical grade skin care products that include an amazing moisturizer, various cleansers and excellent sunscreens for my active life style and very sensitive skin. They are worth the extra investment, as my eczema has completely cleared from my face. I trust her with my face and we are now going to forge an alliance in my war against aging.

General Skin Savvy laid out options that varied from chemical peels, Vi peels, Botox, laser facials, and microdermabrasion. Chemical peels seemed much too aggressive for my sensitive skin so I ruled that out. Botox scare me but I developed these “11s” between my eyebrows after my marriage dissolved last year and they made me look angry or tired all the time. So, we shot some Botox in between my eyebrows and voila! Bye-bye “11s”, they lost that battle. Pricey, I admit, but I like looking “refreshed” instead of “angry”. My good friend said, “You look…like something is slightly different. The same, but different.” I like looking the same. More rested but the same.

Unfortunately, my microdermabrasians were not the only recommended next step in this war. Because of my advancing age, the “solar lentigenes” (or “brown spots”) were becoming more evident on my face and General Skin Savvy suggested I try an IPL Intense Pulsed Light Photofacial at the beginning of summer and one at the end. Microderms or another kind of on-going exfoliation and/or a lightening cream would be a nice supplement to help keep the IPL treatment effective but they weren’t as aggressive in this battle against aging.

On a Friday morning in April, I went to the spa for my first IPL. The day before, I had spent the day out and about with my teenaged daughter. We took an early morning Catalina Express across the channel to Avalon, CA for a fun-filled day of eating and zip-lining. My face looked like this:


Not bad, but not completely clear of solar lentigenes, either.

My first combat instructions were to apply numbing cream 30 minutes before my appointment. Now, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain so I questioned the General whether I needed to use the cream or not. She assured me I did. And she was right.

After my skin was sufficiently numbed, I went into the treatment room. Unfortunately, the General was on leave so I was being treated by one of her Colonels who happened to be Filipina, like me. Her skin was flawless, no solar lentigenes to be seen. We discussed her experience with the IPL and what I should expect as my skin recovers. Day One, my face would feel hot and possibly swollen, similar to a bad sunburn. I was instructed to wait at least 90 minutes before applying an ice pack because my face was producing new collagen. Apparently, the heat was a good thing. The a Colonel cautioned me that there would be brown patchy areas on my skin, where the sun damage was worst.

Day Two my skin would look like it had Oreo cookie patches all over it. There would be no scratching or peeling done or that would cause permanent scarring on my face. Gross. But I could go out wearing a hat and sunscreen that was SPF50, no less than SPF30, which I already wear every day.

Day Three would be more of the same but I would be able to cover the Oreo cookie patches with foundation. Liberal use of moisturizer was highly encouraged.

All right, I understood what I was getting into and laid back on the treatment table. The Colonel placed tiny protective goggles on my eyes and pulled back my hair away from my house. She proceeded to zap my forehead and cheek as test areas. She warned me that it would feel like a snap of a tiny rubber band in some areas and the hardest part would be when the laser was near my eyes. The light was so intense that I saw it with the tiny goggles on and my eyes closed. It made me think of tiny blasters being fired at my face or teeny white light sabers being stroked across my skin. There were areas where it hurt enough to make me flinch and a stench of burnt hair wafted in the air. The entire procedure probably took less than 10 or 15 minutes. Afterward, she applied SPF50 sunscreen and handed me an ice pack to use later. It was expensive, over $200, and I left with my cheeks feeling puffy and hot. I also wanted to hide my face immediately from the sun and from people so I walked into the surf shop below and purchased a fabulous summer hat. Retail therapy helped numb the pain.

Here is my hat:


The hat looked JLO fabulous and allowed me to hide from both the sun and people.

When I got home, the pain had subsided but my daughter said, “What happened to your face???” This is what I looked like immediately after my IPL Photofacial on Day One:




Sorry if the photos are a bit gross. I decided to take my daughter to a movie that afternoon, we saw “Captain America” and I also elected to go out to a Bon Voyage party for one of my hula sisters. The crowd would be mostly my hula ohana at a locally owned Thai restaurant that has karaoke. I figured that I could spackle some foundation on my face and apply some natural eye make-up and go without much fuss. Thankfully, the restaurant was not lit very hot and I felt fine, not self conscious at all.

Day Two was Saturday morning and I looked outside to see cloud cover and cooler temps, about 63 degrees. I slathered on two layers of SPF50, layered my paddling gear (sports bra, tank top, short sleeves and a long-sleeved jersey on top) to brave the outdoors. Practice would be 10 or 12 miles on the open ocean towards the R-10 bouy. This is what my face looked like on Day Two:




I didn’t tell anyone on my team that I had an IPL the day before and only one friend asked about my awful looking face, I know she’s one of my besties because she asked. Honestly, I did feel a bit self-conscious and uncomfortable so I wasn’t as talkative as usual. However, it was my first outrigger canoeing practice of the season so I chalked it up to trying to remember how to paddle at all. I usually stroke the canoe, which means I set the pace by sitting in Seat One, but that felt like the worst piece I paddled all day. Interestingly enough, I enjoyed steering the most yesterday. In fact, I actually kept the canoe running straight and on course. Boom for Pi’i. After practice, I went to lunch with my bestie to catch up on life…vacation, my new boyfriend, work drama, her dating, etc. We had a leisurely lunch together, filled with laughter & gossip. Afterward, I went home to shower and take a nap. That evening I decided to stay home and relax. I needed sleep and lots of water. And, of course, I needed some time to talk to my boyfriend. He and I are in a long-distance relationship so phone calls are very important to us.

Day Three, I went to yoga with a face full of foundation and my hair pulled back in a headband but not off my face. That felt weird. Usually, I have my hair up in a ballerina bun to stay off of my face. But it felt very nice to stretch and breathe and relax this morning. My face looked like this:




I will leave this blog post for the time being. Next week I will continue with my opinions on the IPL photo facial and whether I will continue with this strategy. The battle against aging skin may prove futile and I may need to stick to clean eating, regular exercise and laughing loudly every day. Even if I start looking “my age”, at least I will feel good and be happy. That’s the real way to win this war.