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Photography by Shutterpanda

It’s the first time I’m featuring a family member outside my immediate family here, but I have good reason to. I have so many relatives who are doing wonderful things! Anyway, meet my cousin, Rina Atienza, who recently came back to Manila after growing up, studying and working in England. Way before #Brexit, she came home to Manila to try a new path, and not just work-wise. She knows she is a work in progress (We all are.), and she is navigating her way through the questions we all ask, like “Why am I here?” “What’s my purpose?” “How can I help others?” and so on. What I love is that while she’s at it, she’s got plans and she’s putting herself to work — which I always feel is a positive attitude towards growth.      

1. Tell the readers about yourself, what makes you “Rina.”

When my sister’s kids recorded a video greeting for my birthday, they said I was funny, relatable, inspiring, crazy and weird. Out of the mouth of babes, right? I like to think these fall under one trait, which is being playful. Like a boisterous type of Wendy Bird, who keeps running with scissors, Lost Boys brothers, cousins and misfit friends. This manifests in how I see the world, like a child who wants to play it, and test the boundaries of what I can do.

As for why I’m here, the notion of ikigai is something that continues to unfold. I believe it involves faith, hope and love… with sprinklings of games and joyful nerdbait.

2. Please tell us a bit about your life in London. Why move back to Manila?

Becoming British was part of my heritage thanks to my English lolo (grandad), but it was my half-Kapangpangan mother who sacrificed a great deal and paid the cost of her children’s citizenship. I absolutely love being a Londoner. I treasure the richness of its history, art, park life, and all the adventures I had with friends.

After 21 years in the UK, I moved back to the Philippines to answer a calling that had been constant for some time. In Jan 2015, I attended an ‘unconventional’ retreat to Morocco, and discovered I was ready to explore what I could do with my Filipino roots. There wasn’t a catalyst as such, rather a matter of timing, or as they say in Tagalog, “naboo yung loob ko,” and there were signs that affirmed my decision. My heart was willing to serve in whatever capacity God was willing to deploy me. I frame it as a quest to expand my ‘world domination’ game, and I’m here with an allegorical bag of magic beans, to trade for sacred carabaos and plant in tropical soil.

Oh, as a small aside, I was craving the sunshine and beach life as extra perks that come with the kind of hanap buhay I want to create.

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Photography by Shutterpanda

3. We speak of “bliss” on this space as a mindset, a way of living one’s life with meaning. What, for you, is a life of meaning, based on where you are in your life stage.

In 2009, an annus horribilis, my friend Elysia (her name uncannily means ‘blissful’) recommended I check out Rob Bell, who that year published ‘Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering’. It was a timely intervention because it helped me see that our making is in our breaking:

“Many of the most significant moments in our lives come not because it all went right but because it all fell apart. Suffering does that. It hurts, but it also creates.”

When it comes to ‘passion’, it’s more than having a lust for life or a project, because its etymological origin is in ‘suffering’. Joy is found when we overcome darkness and despair, remembering that hope is contained within pandora’s box – We always have the choice to convert towards more positive outcomes.

I am not chasing perfection or happiness. Like many people, I have an itemised wish list of work in progress desires and dreams, and I remind myself to be thankful for what I’ve received so far, rather than worrying about what I haven’t got… yet.

I’m currently working on various income streams to sustain a free-range lifestyle. When someone comments “You’re glowing”, sure, maybe it’s the tan from sunny beach trips, but in truth, it’s because one shines by being at peace with who you are. It’s a process that involves acceptance of everything that has been in the past, being gratefully content with the here and now, and optimistic about a bright future.

Meanwhile, am also learning how play the guitar, rock climb, surf, practice kundalini yoga…

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4. Let’s talk about your advocacy, which you brand under “Evil Schemes, Ltd.” What is it, exactly? It intrigues me.

In 2013 I was encouraged by mentors to brave doing freelance work. I was meant to create some kind of company. That inspired me to be a founder of a creative agency, but one that doesn’t’ officially exist, though is nevertheless a real enterprise. I have this unusual nickname given to me at university called ‘eevilmidget’ – I chose the persona of a ‘wicked person always up to something’, but I apply this seemingly malign model towards more benign experiences.In other words, because like the true villains of the world who never stop plotting their reign of darkness, good agents too should never rest and likewise work for world domination, in order to keep the netherworld at bay.As per Hugh McLeod’s book Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination:

“World domination is about everybody living in their own little world. The planet is just too damn big for one person to take it all in. So every human being seeks out their own little microcosm, and these are the worlds that we want to dominate.”

You can find out more by listening to a radio interview from last year, where I mentioned returning to the Philippines: https://www.mixcloud.com/londoninterview/rina-atienza-the-london-interview-009/

5. You had some experience with the School of Life, London. Concepts like these are new to many in Manila. Please explain what makes this type of “school” relevant.

Traditionally school is an official place (a building) where you’re supposed to study to become numerate and literate, then pass exams and get qualified so you can get a job and have money to pay for things. Many people skip this entirely and seek employment straight away, sometimes by choice but often not. Regardless of educational levels or achievements, LIFE and the universe has its own agenda for tests and lessons.

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It is often said that experience is the best teacher of all, hence why storytelling has been a crucial cornerstone for societies. Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word… that is spoken, written, read and heard by another person. Books, music, painting, movies, Facebook, Twitter, name your text-based technology.

Our species crave information and knowledge. We are all students, as we daily figure out what we do with our lives. However, the ultimate assessment is how we become better human beings, for our personal development, and in our various relationships with other people.

6. What are your plans, moving forward?

I just finished helping out with the production of Art BGC’s 2nd Mural festival in collaboration with Lebasse Projects and Honeycomb Arts.

In addition, I recently passed an exam so that I can be a certified life coach, and will be working with the amazing motivational marketing company TrainStation.

As a social engineer, I’m working towards making the next day better by building on a preferable present and future. The E.S. brand specializes in creative mischief, social experimentation and epic adventures that group people together.

Together with partners, am keen to run radical workshops. Am toying with the idea of some sort of Anti-Finishing School’ for women… like how to unveil their more queenly ability beyond the princess trope. I also intend to write a history or sociology syllabus called ‘World Domination 101’, as I plan on teaching in universities at some point.

Looking forward to collaborating with Rina on the last part in particular. To reach her, you may send her an email or contact her on social media. Visit her blog at evilschem.es