TRIAL: THREE FACIAL OILS

facialoilsI’ve always had a pretty good complexion.  However, at my present age, I’ve noticed some dryness and peeling on the sides of my nose, around my lips and between my brows.  I asked my dermatologist friend about it, and she said it was pretty common for one’s skin quality to change as it matures.  At one point the peeling became so bad I was prescribed applications of an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid cream on the problem areas.  There were days my skin would remain moist and not peel, and there were days when the facial peeling looked downright embarrassing.

Like most women I’ve tried the mainstream moisturizers on the market:  Brand O, Brand N, Brand P, Brand L.  While they all worked reasonably well for me, I thought this time I’d try something more natural, and if possible, organic.  For the past three weeks I’ve been trying a different natural facial oil for a week each:  Argan Oil, Ilog Maria Royal Jelly Facial Oil, and cold-pressed, culinary grade Virgin Coconut Oil.  It sounds counter-intuitive to put oil on one’s face, but for me (and this is a subjective review) it works.

The most exotic of the three, Argan Oil, I found at a stall at Mercato Centrale.  It cost PhP 1,500 for a 30ml dispenser bottle.  A fair trade product that supports the women of the Berber tribes, this edible oil is imported from Morocco and repacked by local distributor The Souq International.  While some people would balk at the price, consider that one application is only about 1-3 drops.  On the site it is advertised as a hair-skin-nails moisturizer – “treatment for acne, pimples, scars/keloids, dark spots, large pores, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, split ends, weak nails, aging skin, lack-luster skin, etc.”  Since I had facial dryness and contact dermatitis on one finger and had the extra cash, I thought, why not?  Some beauty/anti-aging products that I’ve tried (that actually worked) cost as much, if not a lot more.

I used the Argan Oil as a night moisturizer after washing my face, applied with the fingers and not with a cotton ball (at that price, would you lose the oil to the cotton ball?).  It spreads easily, and has an initial natural scent of “sour forest floor”, which disappears once the oil is absorbed on the skin.  If you’re not used to putting oil directly on your face, go with 1-2 dispenser drops (or the size of a 25-centavo coin).  When I woke up the next day I was pleased to find no oil or scent on my pillows, my pores looked smaller and my problem areas looked moist but not oily/shiny.  It helped my dermatitis-affected finger, too.  Verdict:  I loved it.  On the last day of my week’s trial I was lazy and forgot to moisturize.  I woke up with the usual dry reddish areas on my face and peeling around the sides of my mouth.

The second week I used Ilog Maria’s Royal Jelly Facial Oil.  I had bought this on my last visit to Ilog Maria, Joel Magsaysay’s bee farm, in Silang, Cavite.  I couldn’t remember how much I bought it for, but on the website it’s currently PhP 121 for a 50ml bottle.  I read on someone’s blog that it retails for PhP 150 a bottle at a stall in Marikina Riverbanks.  On the bottle it reads: “Handmade in our bee farm using rejuvenating royal jelly and a melange of tropical flower, fruit, nut and seed oils.  Can be used as a night cream.  Restores aging, dry and sensitive skin.  Ingredients tend to separate; No emulsifiers, preservatives or thickeners used.  Shake well before using.”

The tropical flower must be ylang-ylang.  I remember the scent was stronger when it was newly bought.  A friend of mine declined using it because the added scent was too strong for her.  Since I hadn’t had a chance to use it since buying it I smelled it again and the ylang-ylang scent had mellowed.  The oil must be a combination of edible oils I can only guess at (sweet almond and grapeseed?  I really don’t know).  The oil didn’t separate in the over-six-months it hadn’t been used, so I figured it was ok.  I used a similar amount as the Argan Oil.  I find the texture of this oil to be a tad heavier or thicker, but it wasn’t hard to spread it evenly on my skin.  It smelled good.  When I woke up in the morning the reddish areas on my face from the previous day’s laziness disappeared.  My skin was supple and the pores were small all week.  Verdict:  I loved it too.

On the third week I tried Cocowonder’s cold-pressed, culinary grade Virgin Coconut Oil.  It cost PhP 375/liter.  Given the different kinds of VCO available, my sister and I decided on cold-pressed because extraction using heat would destroy the health benefits claimed.  We chose culinary grade because it is also cosmetic grade.  Our goal was to find a viable and cost-effective alternative to the Argan Oil.  I transferred some C-VCO to a small cosmetic dispenser bottle I had repurposed.

I used the same amount of C-VCO as I used with the previous two facial oils.  I also used about a tablespoon to massage into my hair an hour before shampooing, to see if it would help a dry scalp.  C-VCO smells like nutty baked goods.  I mention this because not many people like the heavy smell of bukayo, a cooked coconut candy.  Many assume that VCO would smell like that, but it doesn’t.  The scent disappears once the oil has been absorbed by the skin.  Like the argan oil, it left no residual smell on my pillows.  In the mornings my skin had a lovely texture, and my hair was soft and my scalp had no flakes.  I’ve done the hair conditioning several times since then.  Verdict:  I loved it as well.

My skin has never looked so good.  I can’t afford to be lazy, though, and forget to moisturize nightly.  Not once have I broken out with a pimple.  Not once.

Now while I love all three, Argan Oil is simply too expensive, in comparison to the other two oils.  It is also the best for my finger that suffers from dermatitis (stays on, keeps moist longer).  If I have a chance to go to Ilog Maria in Cavite, or even to Marikina Riverbanks, I’d buy the Royal Jelly Facial Oil again.  But for everyday hair, skin, nails and internal needs, I think I can stick with VCO.  While I’ve done my part helping the Berber women of Morocco, I think it’s good (not to mention patriotic) to put the rest of my money in a Philippine product.  (And oh, the lovely savings!)

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This blog is not affiliated with any of the enterprises mentioned.  All products were purchased at full retail price.

SHEAFFER VS. MERCURY RETROGRADE, SHEAFFER WINS!

sheafferpfm-01A year and a half ago I bought one of my favorite pens, a Sheaffer PFM III, from a collector friend at the first anniversary party of Fountain Pen Network – Philippines.  It’s black plastic, with a fat barrel, and was missing the white dot on its clip.  It was my first Snorkel filler , and it sported a beautiful, extra-fine inlaid nib, the kind only Sheaffer made.   I called the PFM the Pen For Mona.  The Pen For Me.
sheafferpfm-02Fast-forward to 2011.  The Pen For Mona was in constant rotation, as it was one of my smoothest writers.  One day I was going to fill the PFM with some Diamine Claret, a pink-magenta ink that I often use for editing and highlighting text.  After only two pages of writing in my journal, it suddenly ran out.  Something twisted in my gut.  I ran to the bathroom sink and tried filling the pen with water.  Yes, I heard the “whoosh” sound the internal latex sac makes when it sucks in ink.  Problem was, it wasn’t spitting out any when I depressed the Touchdown tube.  Snorkels are those fountain pens naughty people used to use in the 1950s and ’60s to shoot ink at annoying classmates.  They should shoot out streams of ink.  Or inky water, when you’re cleaning it.  Anyhow, something was very wrong.  Maybe there were minute holes in the sac.  I was afraid ink would get the metal innards wet and cause rust.  I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t sleep, because I had to figure out how to send the pen to the US for repair.  I’d decided on sending it to Danny Fudge, who has repaired pens for several of my FPN-P friends, among them Prof. Jose “Butch” Dalisay.  The very next day I bought one of those Jiffy #00 padded envelopes, and a cheap, hard plastic toothbrush container.  The pen, wrapped in Kleenex, went into the protective toothbrush container and into the padded envelope.

Problem was, someone at the main post office of our neighborhood didn’t want to accept the package for mailing.  They opened my envelope and read my letter requesting for repair. And then they insisted on not accepting it since “it may contain ink, and you know how strict the US Post Office is these days.”  Facepalm moment.  Um.  Hello.  The letter specifically said it wouldn’t load ink correctly, how could I send it filled with ink???  Fortunately I’d had some good coffee before this, and immediately tried sending it at another nearby PO, where it was accepted without any questions asked.  I paid PhP 170 (around USD 4).  That seems like a lot, but when you think of a fountain pen as being something you’d like to pass on to your family later on, it’s worth it.

And THEN I read another friend’s post about the upcoming Mercury Retrograde.  At one retrograde period four years ago, the monitor on my Powerbook G4 went kaput and I had to have it replaced.  I had only one year’s worth of Apple Care on it and had to find another Powerbook secondhand which I cannibalized for parts.  Ever since then, I became apprehensive whenever someone mentioned the words “Mercury Retrograde.”  To me it meant Murphy’s Law, even though planetary alignments seem like the strangest things to affect human day-to-day lives.  The more people joked about it, the more I worried. I needed to think positively, but was failing.

Since Mercury Retrograde took up most of April, I worried that the PFM would get lost in the mail, on its way to Danny Fudge.  Or that it would get lost in the mail on its way back to me.  When the retrograde period ended, I immediately sent an email inquiring after my pen.  “I already sent it, with an invoice,” Danny wrote back.  An invoice!  Good!  Then in case Customs people decide to charge any arbitrary fees I can always reason out that I only sent an old pen to be repaired!  (That was another thing I worried about.)

It was an old pen.  It had lots of scratches.  It was missing its white dot.  But it wrote wonderfully.  That’s the thing with acquiring vintage pens.  It’s 50 years old.  It’s been pre-loved.  It may need a bit more maintenance, more TLC.  There’s some part of me that reminds me not to get too attached to physical objects, but I LOVE this pen.

During the two-week wait I muttered the affirmation, “I am receiving my pen back quickly, safely and easily,” a million times.  Well, what do you know.  I only paid the PhP 40 (around USD 0.90) handling fee.  The pen came back to me in its original hard plastic toothbrush case.  Polished!  No white dot replacement, unfortunately (Danny didn’t have any to fit), but that’s only cosmetic.  I rushed to the bathroom sink and tried filling it with water.  Oh joy!  It made that “whoosh” sound.  It shot jetstreams of water again!  I immediately filled it with Pilot Blue-Black ink and tested it.  Danny Fudge has this policy about only paying for the pen when you’re satisfied with his work.  Boy, was I satisfied.  I immediately went online and paid the guy, and spent the rest of the day feeling like I was floating on clouds.

sheafferpfm-03(Old photo of writing sample with Waterman South Sea Blue.)

I feel sheepish about all the worrying I did during the Mercury Retrograde period.  It was needless and irrational, but I’m human.  The distrust of the local postal system’s efficiency is something I have to work on.  What matters is, the Pen For Mona is back.  It’s a small thing, but I’m happy.

RAPTURE AT MERCATO, COCOWONDER

mercatohaulWhile the world was supposed to be ending, Joy, Tristan and I were out hunting for organic and fair trade products at Cocowonder and the Mercato Centrale weekend market.

Cocowonder is an exporter of virgin coconut oil based in Makati.  Joy was researching on VCO in an attempt to find cost-effective organic local or fair trade products for cosmetic and internal use (hair, face and body).  She bought culinary grade and raw VCO (both cold-pressed), VCO hair conditioner and body wash, amino seasoning, nectar and cocoa tablea.  Local sellers at various trade fairs don’t label their products very carefully, and oftentimes can’t answer detailed questions, so she found the Cocowonder site very useful.

I’ve tried VCO massage oils in the past, but this time I finally tried the culinary grade VCO as a facial night moisturizer (a tiny amount goes a long way) .  It’s only been a couple of days, but I notice it’s absorbed quickly by my skin and it seems to be successful on my dry problem areas (more on this in a future blog entry).  It doesn’t have that off-putting bukayo smell, just an initial faint scent of nutty baked goods, which eventually fades.  As a family we’re trying to use more natural products, so this is right up our alley.

We arrived at Mercato just before noon, and decided to have lunch at the al fresco dining area.  It’s fun to walk around before deciding what to eat – there were so many yummy choices!  We shared a quarter-pound burger from Monster Burger, delicious grilled sausages, some very tasty prawn-bacon and kani-bacon skewers, cheesy baby potatoes and stuffed tomatoes, washed down with icy cold cantaloupe juice.  I don’t have any pictures since we were so hungry we ate it all.  Only then were we fortified enough to browse in the market.

Since our last visit was only 2 Saturdays ago, we didn’t really buy a lot this time.  I bought more different brands/varieties of whole coffee beans from the National Coffee Board stall.  One was from the Mt. Apo area (Altura Blend, a Dizon Farms coffee).  Continental Coffee is a CAFEX brand, which is a local coffee they serve at McCafe’s nationwide.  I was curious about Culinary Exchange’s Embarcadero Blend, which has beans from Northern Luzon and the Visayas. There’s coffee from Mt. Kanlaon which I mean to buy next time (I didn’t get it because it was already ground) – I tried the coffee sample they served me and it was very good.  Joy bought Ifugao Heirloom brown rice, and wasabi vinaigrette from Comida Rica.  One day we’ll go on a Sunday morning instead of a Saturday, bring our parents and have lunch.

“Fate could not harm us, for we have dined today.” – Sidney Smith (1855)

ANVAYA COVE

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Occasional thunderstorms reminded us that the summer wouldn’t last forever.  Going to the beach was my five-year-old niece Lilo’s nightly prayer.  Thanks to the kind sponsorship of a family friend who was a member, we were able to visit Anvaya Cove in Bataan, some 30 minutes’ drive past Subic.

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We arrived just before lunch.  We were ferried to our rooms via the scenic route in an electric golf cart.  Because of the electric transportation, there was little pollution near the living areas.  Ayala Land did an outstanding job with the landscaping – shady mango trees, beautiful bamboo stands and variegated bushes lined the paths.  There were even several ponds along the route, supporting flocks of geese.  My brother-in-law Tristan was also pleased to note that all the public buildings offered free wi-fi.  Each bedroom was even equipped with a LAN cable, cable tv, and a dvd player.  We went off to lunch in their airconditioned restaurant.  Food prices were competitive and food quality was quite good, although we weren’t impressed by the buffet selections.  Every comfort room was spotless, offering lotion, hand sanitizer, and powder apart from the soap.  The level of comfort and customer service was consistently high all throughout.

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There was a bath house with lockers near the multi-level swimming pools and the beach, where you could rent your towel and change into your swimsuit.  As we walked to the beach we noticed there were little “bird houses” around which were actually disguised cold-water dispensers!  In the heat, this was a major plus.

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The sand was light grey, and we were very happy to see that the water was very clean and clear.  There were lots of small fish and shells, and a few harmless jellyfish.  High tide was in the mornings.  We all had a grand time beachcombing.

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When we arrived there were lots of people at the swimming pools (many were day trippers), but few at the beach itself.  It was like we had the whole cove to ourselves.  The following morning a number of young families joined us.  There was a section of cove reserved for a team-building group, where the noise of the activities couldn’t disturb the other guests.  We swam all day.  We had to check out of our rooms at 12 noon in deference to other guests, but we didn’t have to settle our bill until 330pm!

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On our way home we were greeted by another thunderstorm on NLEX.  We wished we could have stayed at Anvaya Cove longer, but then we were actively making plans to plan for another sponsored visit again one day.

ULTRASONIC!


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My friend Eilu posted in the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines yahoogroup about a new product from CDR-King:  an inexpensive ultrasonic cleaner.  It’s a machine where you immerse jewelry or other small items in a vibrating water bath for a three-minute cycle.  The vibration causes pressure waves to produce tiny bubbles that dislodge hard-to-remove dirt.  There’s a more detailed explanation here.

I first read about using ultrasonic cleaners for ridding fountain pen nibs of stubborn ink on the Fountain Pen Network a couple of years ago.  At the time the going price for an ultrasonic cleaner locally was about PhP 3,000++.  I said to myself at the time: I don’t really need an ultrasonic cleaner, I flush my pens regularly. At PhP 880 the CDR-King machine was suddenly tempting.

I checked CDR-King Podium, but they had no stock.  The lines in Megamall were way long.  Miraculously, my friend Karlo called and said he’d found the last two units at the Starmall branch.  I asked him to get me one.

CDR-King started out selling branded and generic data storage and related computer accessories, and then moved on to stocking some odd novelty items, such as mini-refrigerators that fit a single softdrink can.  Many of its products are cheap and cheerful, but the quality levels tend to vary.  A number of us in FPN-P thought that PhP 880 for a real ultrasonic cleaner was a good deal. “Besides, that’s only the price of two inks,” Karlo said.  Couldn’t hurt to try it.

The ultrasonic cleaner is a 35-watt machine with a three-minute auto-off function.  Place the items to be cleaned on the accompanying plastic basket and immerse in water.  Close the transparent lid.  As you connect the machine to an electrical outlet, a blue light comes on.  Press the ON button.  The cleaner will vibrate, making a humming noise.  At the end of three minutes, the machine turns itself off.  Unplug and discard the dirty water.  Wipe cleaner carefully and store away from moisture.

ultrasonic-01Here’s a photo for demo purposes only.  DO NOT OPERATE MACHINE WITHOUT WATER.

I cleaned all my removable nib units, the Esterbrooks and Pelikans.  I thought I had  been cleaning my Esterbrooks as carefully as I could for the last year and a half, but then I saw little swirls of old ink coming out of the feeds as the ultrasonic cleaner vibrated.  As these were vintage nibs there was the possibility that some retained dried ink when I bought them.  My regular flushings weren’t enough get rid of stubborn red ink alone!  I repeated cleaning with another three-minute cycle, which got rid of all the old ink.  At the end of this cycle though, the water had heated up.  The manual warns the user not to exceed three cycles in succession.

I cleaned some of my silver jewelry along with the nibs, but ultrasonic cleaning only removes the physical dirt, not the tarnish.  You still need jewelry polish for that.

There is a caveat for fountain pen enthusiasts, however:  you can’t clean your celluloid or hard rubber pens in it.  You also can’t use it to clean vintage lever-fillers, as the metal parts inside the barrel may rust.  (Good thing Esterbrook Renew Tips unscrew!)  You can, however, clean nibs and feeds that can be manually removed and replaced.  The sections of most modern pens are also safe to clean in the ultrasonic cleaner.  So far I’m pleased with it.  I figure I’d only be using the ultrasonic cleaner for my pens once every quarter.

Not bad for PhP 880.

FOOD TRIP – MERCATO & SWEETCRAFT

mercato-01My sister and brother-in-law were going to the Mercato Centrale weekend market at Bonifacio Global City, and invited me to join them.  It was my first time to visit Mercato, I heard it was similar to the Salcedo and Legaspi markets, only in tents.  We were very excited.

mercato-02Joy found some organic sweet corn that she wanted to try.  At the same stall a guy was selling a gigantic sunflower head full of seeds.  I had never seen one before up close.  The heads were going for PhP500 each, and he’d sold 3 heads already.  We were looking for fresh mint for tabbouleh, a Lebanese bulghur wheat salad, but there wasn’t any available.  A few tables further down I found some fair trade coffee beans, a “Red Cherry Blend” from Mt. Apo, and got some of that (the name refers to coffee beans picked at the height of ripeness).  I’ve been trying different coffees from all over the country for some time now, so I couldn’t resist.    Next was a table selling bangus pate in different versions – Asian, Mediterranean and Pinoy.  Joy got a pack of 3 to give as a birthday gift.  Then we met Vicky of Comida Rica, who sold melba toast, salad dressings and dips.  I got a spinach cheese dip to go with the crusty No Knead Bread we bake every other week.  When we mentioned we baked our own bread, Vicky said she wanted to try it at home, and exchanged emails with Joy.  From her we got a tip that we could get different kinds of flour wholesale at Sweetcraft in Mandaluyong.  We decided we’d go there after shopping.

At the next tent Tristan decided to buy a pair of buy one-take one sausage sandwiches.  He had the Schublig and special hotdog sandwiches, which he claimed were the best he’s had in a long time.  Joy met a Moroccan lady selling tagine clay cookware and various Moroccan dishes.  She bought zalouk, a spicy eggplant salad flavored with paprika and other spices.  Next to that table there was an importer of nuts – walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, even dried fruits.  Joy bought a package of assorted nuts, and I found myself a pack of lavender tea.  I use lavender tea for relaxation and to help me sleep when I’m under the weather.  The last place I was able to find lavender tea was at Bizu in Greenhills, and since I ran out I haven’t had a chance to buy some more, until now.  As we walked along we came across a frozen yoghurt seller, who urged us to try their mango, black sesame and green tea flavors.  We discovered their office was near our house, and thought we’d order from them the next time we have a children’s party.  Their frozen yoghurt still had that tangy tartness I love so much and which seems to be missing from some over-processed brands in the malls.  On our way out of the tent I paused to buy some tinapa (smoked fish) and Vigan longganisa (Ilocano sausages) for next week’s breakfasts.  Then we discovered some absolutely delicious spinach and cheese empanadas!  We bought enough for the entire family’s merienda.

mercato-03There were tables for cooked food, organic grains and vegetables, baked goods, organic body care and household cleaning products.  We were a bit disappointed that our chef friend Elena wasn’t around selling her artisanal breads, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  Having blowers fanning air all around us in the tents made the experience a pleasure.  (In this heat I can’t imagine going to Salcedo market, which is open air.)  On Sundays and during the night markets there is a different set of vendors.  One day we will return and have lunch at the “food court” area, where the stalls were groaning with delicious food, some of which were exotic or were international dishes.  These weekend markets aren’t really places for bargains, but rather  places to find new and interesting (and mostly organic) products, for which a certain premium must be paid.  Visiting Mercato is a treat, as opposed to going to the way less expensive fresh market weekly.  Of course we’re going back, there’s always something new to try another time.

Once we got back to the car, we immediately called Sweetcraft for directions to their outlet along Boni Ave. in Mandaluyong.  It is across the street from Rizal Technological University.  The wholesale prices of their flours saved us money and parking fees.  They carry everything from flours to baking chocolate to whipping cream to nuts to every baking/confectionery ingredient you can think of.  We were lucky to have been referred by Vicky, who claimed that Sweetcraft ingredients were at a lower price than at Baker’s Depot and similar baking supply shops.  We’re excited to be baking again middle of this week.  Sweetcraft is at 373 Boni Ave., Mandaluyong City, tel nos. 532-1595, 532-6289, 571-8008, 571-7858, email sweetcraft@sweetcraft.net.

THREE PURPLE HERBIN INKS


herbinpurples-01I recently blogged about my three green J. Herbin inks, a comparison review that was posted on the Fountain Pen Network.  This time I thought I’d compare my three purples – Poussiere de Lune, Larmes de Cassis and Violette Pensee.  This is one occasion when the labels on the bottles closely match the actual color of the inks.

herbinpurples-02Poussiere de Lune is a dusty purple with grey undertones.  It’s a dignified, elegant color, a good alternative to black and blue-black.  Karen Doherty of Exaclair, Inc. very kindly sent me a bottle for review (along with Lie de The).  My US-based cousin Jasmin also gave me a bottle, which she purchased at a neighborhood stationery store on the strength of it being a bestseller.

Larmes de Cassis, on the other hand, struck me as a romantic, old-fashioned color.  It’s not strictly a purple, but I’d classify it as a related color on the pinkish side. In my Waterman 32’s EF nib it comes out as a pale berry pink.  In my Parker Lucky Curve’s EF nib it writes a darker, richer color.  I guess it depends on the paper.  It looks great on cream-colored paper.  It also appears darker on the more absorbent papers.  Larmes de Cassis also shades very prettily depending on the nib used.

Violette Pensee is the classic blue-purple ink used by generations of French schoolchildren, and evokes the color of the pansy.  It comes out of the nib purplish, but dries bluer. It’s a beautiful, bright color that’s appropriate for most writing situations.  This was the very first bottle of J. Herbin ink I ever bought.

All this ink reviewing just adds to my irrational desire for more ink, if only it didn’t deplete the wallet so much!  When Cafe des Iles becomes available at Scribe Writing Essentials, I’ll review it along with Lie de The, to show the difference between the two brown Herbin inks.  The third brown, Cacao du Bresil, does not appeal to me as it’s an odd brownish-grey.

J. Herbin inks are available in the Philippines at Scribe Writing Essentials (3/F, Eastwood Mall, Libis, Quezon City) and the Scribe stall inside Powerbooks in Greenbelt 3, Makati.  They come in 30ml “demi-courtine” bottles, at PhP 495 each.

I am not affiliated with Scribe, am just a happy customer.