The Rituals: Pierra Calasanz-Labrador, writer and treasure hunter
Teens and preteens of the early 2000s may remember Pierra and her quirky, heartfelt writing and Editor’s Notes about her cats during her past frenetic life (her words) as the Editor-in-Chief of MEG Magazine. Pierra is currently a freelance writer, stylist, and calls herself a treasure hunter. You’ll find her championing proudly local finds on her stories and her Instagram page (@fifis.finds). She has also authored two poetry books: The Heartbreak Diaries and Dear Universe, and is ½ of LabTeamPH, her team-up with photographer husband, Toto Labrador.
1) Tell us about your favorite rituals.
My day always begins with the cats meowing at the bedroom door, asking to be fed. I feel like the Pied Piper padding down to the kitchen, furry parade behind me. I serve them breakfast, make myself a cup of tea, put on a calming playlist, and set my intentions for the day—it really helps ground me before the onslaught of emails and daily concerns. I also try to read a few pages of a good book every morning—this used to be just a weekend pleasure (#CaturdayBookClub), but in quarantine, I've tried to make it a daily ritual—my favorite form of self-care.
Afternoon coffee break is sacred; whatever I am doing, I put it down once I hear the whirr of my hubby's beloved coffee machine and breathe in the comforting aroma of freshly ground beans. Toto and I—and sometimes, neighbors that drop by—will chat over merienda, before returning to our separate workstations, caffeine fueling a second wind.
My evening wind-down ritual involves gratitude journaling, preparing a task list for the next day (I keep a self-care daily planner by my bedside in case something comes to mind in the middle of the night), and then a 10-minute meditation assisted by the Calm app.
Toto and I usually watch something together—Grand Designs or The Office clips or YouTube concerts, then “me time” is a quiet J- or K-drama episode to ease me into sleep, while Toto watches an action flick or cooking show (“David Chang is my Captain Ri,” he once quipped).
2) How do your rituals fit into your morning or night routines? How much time do you allocate for them?
My rituals and routines sort of blend into each other—the morning routine of walking the cat around the compound/getting vitamin D/literally stopping to smell the flowers is also a joyful bonding ritual; washing the dishes after meals is part chore, part meditation. And when I really need to process something, it comes out as poetry.
Because my assignments vary, every day is different; I usually go with the flow depending on how much work needs to get done. Lately though, I’ve been relishing having more time for personal rituals and relationships (my besties and I realized that we’ve seen each other more often in video calls over the past months than in the entire 2019!), so my post-quarantine promise to myself is to be more discerning with assignments so I don’t disrupt this thoughtful, steady pace.
3) How long have you been following these rituals?
Journaling, reading, and writing poetry—on and off since childhood. The daily Calm app meditations for about four years now, and subtitled marathons (my trusty stress-buster!) for over a decade.
When I’m stuck in Manila traffic, I listen to the longer Calm Masterclass—”Embracing Stillness” by Pico Iyer is a favorite, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Creative Living Beyond Fear” had me discreetly wiping away tears in a Grab.
4) Who or what influenced you to follow them?
More than just a good habit instilled in me as a kid, reading is the ultimate introvert's place of refuge—I grew up in my grandparents' house constantly surrounded by a huge extended family, and books offered a portal to a universe of my own.
I can't pin down who influenced specific rituals, but in general, I'm inspired by the mindful vibe of the Mystic Matter Girls Chinggay Labrador, Wiji Lacsamana, and Mansy Abesamis, wellness guru Mawi Fojas de Ocampo, and my sister/kooky holistic healing kween Michelle Calasanz, to name a few. I also love the book “The Things You can See Only When You Slow Down” by Zen Buddhist teacher Haemin Sunim.
5) What tools, items or products do you use in doing your rituals?
Pretty journals (currently loving the native flora and fauna designs of Cynthia Bauzon-Arre ) and nice pens (usually MUJI) inspire me to write (personal projects are done in longhand). I wish I could be as prolific as other writers, so when I need help setting the mood, I light a Saan Saan candle. Scents have the power to stir memories or create an atmosphere, and Saan Saan's Teahouse and Kung Tag-Araw are favorites for summoning the muse.
Music is important, too—I have playlists for everything: Happy Chores, Have a Good Day, Nostalgia Afternoon, Writing at Midnight...Music turns the drudgery of tasks into a mood.
As for future projects: I've always wanted to learn to sew, and now is the perfect time to wipe off the dust gathering on the precious machine gifted by Toto. I have no wild aspirations; I just want to be able to mend our clothes myself, or rework favorite pieces that no longer fit but deserve an extension of life. More conscious fashion.
My home office is the dedicated spot for work and most of my daily rituals, so it was important to turn it into a happy, inspiring space. The wall I face is filled with favorite art prints (mostly by local artists), Japanese stationery, and postcards from friends. On my desk you'll find a ton of notebooks, White Flower and other lola remedies, a Saan Saan candle (right now, it's Teahouse), and a rosary. It's next to a picture window, and I love how the light changes in this space throughout the day; the afternoon shadow dance is especially magical.
7.) Do you use a particular mantra, self-talk or positive reinforcement as part of a ritual or routine?
I'm awful at multi-tasking (I know, I'm a disgrace to fellow even-keeled Libras). Once, when I was feeling especially overwhelmed and spinning off-kilter, my (Virgo!) hubby sat me down, told me to breathe, and gently instructed, “One by one, it will get done.” Do things calmly, thoughtfully, deliberately; quality over quantity. It's become my mantra for everything.
I also always find myself saying “Thank you,” for all sorts of things, big and small—throughout the day. A meaningful project, every meal, a sliver of sunset. Acknowledging everything as grace.
8.) Have you ever stopped following a ritual? If so, what is it and why?
I don't journal as religiously as I used to; at most, I will scribble a few lines a day, instead of kilometric entries. Every night, I end up too lazy or tired, and will scroll my IG feed instead.
But that's ok, I don't want to pressure myself. When I really want to say something, the words will come.
9) How did these rituals help you on a daily basis?
Meditation brings calm and clarity; reading is both anchor and escape.
Gratitude—not just when I journal at night, but a 24/7 attitude—helps me see the good in situations and in people, and even myself. When I have bouts of self-doubt or pity or even pettiness, it's gratitude that pulls me out of it—I have enough, I am enough. And there's always a warm, deep need to pay it forward and contribute to making the world a kinder, brighter, more compassionate place, even in my tiny way.
Perhaps my nightly decluttering ritual is best described in this poem, which appears in my book Dear Universe:
Stones in my Pockets
Every night I remind myselfTo empty out my pocketsDiscard all the random bits and bobsThat have accumulated thereThroughout the dayTissue, spare change,Theater ticketsMustBe discarded before theyContaminate theWash
Sometimes,When I fish deep enough,I dredge upAn unkind thoughtFistfuls of angerShards of envyI didn't realize I'd beenCarrying aroundNo wonder there are daysMy dresses feel inexplicablyWeighed down.These sticks and stonesMust not be permittedTo sink into my recessesAnd so, every night,I turn my pockets out
Till only warm hands,Well wishes,Little prayersRemain,
Light as air.
Photos by Pierra. She is on Instagram as @tinypoem.