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. Monday, 18 May 2020 .

1. I have seriously been missing Polyvore lately. So many fond memories of my early 20s involve Polvore. Evenings spent listening to music and creating sets with friends! Getting creative, looking at all the clothes we can't afford (and not available in NZ) and still creating looks regardless. It was the ultimate fashion moodboard and I was so sad when they shut it down! Recently discovered URSTYLE and honestly this is going to be where I spend most of my time in quarantine from now on.

2. There's this pair of shoes I've been dreaming about ever since the day I laid eyes on it back in Feb/early March. The Benson slipper from Mi Piaci is something my feet have been craving for (is it weird to say that? I don't really care. I love it way too much) and I hear it will be out soon! The sheepskin is from Christchurch tannery, Bowron Sheepskins. I just love that this collection in particular focuses on the themes of home so much. I don't think they realised just how significant home was going to be this year for all of us and it's something I've been pondering a lot lately. Anyway. I'll keep you posted when the shoes are on sale. I've been checking the website regularly, much to my wallet's dismay. But oh well, you gotta treat yourself during these unprecedented times, right?

3. Speaking of home... last week I shared my new home - Loudly Quietly - was currently being built. I've always said that the best thing to happen to my blog for the last 16 years was what was once just my home on the internet started feeling like home for other people too. For people I have yet to meet, people I may never meet, people who are part of my gorgeous online community who for some reason is here for me. Mind. Blown. Every. Single. Time! I've been building a bigger and better home but really taking my time because it's important to me that I get this right. Loudly Quietly has existed as a web domain for a year before I decided what I wanted for it. So watch this space. Things are brewing and I'm really excited! What will happen to this blog, you ask? It's still going to be here and I'm excited to turn it back into what it was before social media was a thing, before there was an online community - a place for unfiltered thoughts. A journal, but online.

4. I've been obsessed with "Light On" by Maggie Rogers since hearing it on the Late Night soundtrack last year and recently discovered this rendition. It's magical. I cried the first time I watched/heard it!

5. So, umm, THIS happened. I'm still SHOOK.

6. Is there anything better than dancing alone in your bedroom to Springsteen songs on a Sunday night? I lit up my candles, turned the lights off, and just had a mini dance party for one until I was ready for bed last night. Would totally recommend.

7. I took advantage of the Masterclass sale and split a membership with a friend. HOW GOOD. I've been wanting to join for ages and now I've got a year to learn from some of the people I look up to. My only 'regret' is not buying it during lockdown when I absolutely had more time. But then again everything happens for a reason I guess.

8. Our washing machine broke about a week into Level 4 lockdown and for most of the month we have been washing everything by hand. And it's an exercise in patience and mindfulness, I'm telling you!

9. I wrote about some of my favourite book to screen adaptations in my column over on It was a hard list to narrow down but I think I got there in the end.

10. To dream of a life I have left behind. To forge a life I have only imagined.

. Sunday, 22 March 2020 .

Oh, OPPO. How do I even start? For one, it makes me smile every time I say it out loud, every time I type those words. Why? Because back in the Philippines, the word 'opo' means 'yes' and also a term used to show respect to people older than us. Isn't language such a great thing?

Anyway, back to the OPPO Reno2 Z. After trialling it for quite a while now, I can officially say that I love it. If you've been a longtime reader here (hello!!), you'll know that it takes me ages to trial products because I want to make sure that it's something I would 1) absolutely use 2) be happy to share with you and be confident that it's something that would be of value to you, and 3) purchase or repurchase. Well, let's just say my brother tried to find an OPPO phone on boxing day after months of bugging me if I could have mine and it was sold out in Noel Leeming at Sylvia Park. And my former boss purchased an OPPO on his last day at work because he had to give up his workphone and had to buy one quick (can you imagine being without a phone at this day and age? I can't!). I remember we took a selfie just before he left, impressed with how the built-in filters made us look flawless despite it being 4 pm on a Friday. What can I say? It really is the kind of phone that's easy to use. It's a handy phone especially if you're someone who enjoys snapping away often.

For this review, though, what I'd really like to focus on are my top three favourite features. These features were what turned it from a 'like' to a 'love' and I also think are the features that are unique to OPPO alone. As always, even though this phone was a gifted item, all opinions and views are my own. Let's get into it!

The design

Sleek, stylish, and surprisingly quite light. Gone are the days where your mobile phones need to be bulky and weighty for it to serve its purpose. This model is easy to lug around, fits in evening bags, and sits comfortably on your hand while walking (this is very important to me, okay! lol). I like that there's something discreet and elegant around the way the logo is placed in the back under the different camera lenses. It does the job without compromising style and aesthetics!

The way the selfie camera pops up

Of course I had to include this one. I smile everytime that front camera pops up - it's like having your own magic trick in your pocket. One of the most unique features of the OPPO Reno2 Z is that the selfie camera is hidden and only pops out when you want to use it. I'll film it on my Instagram stories (@jessmolina) and show you because it's kinda hard to put that into words but you'll see what I mean when you see it! The selfie quality is good too. I feel like it captures you in your best light (and the other camera also has a potrait/bokeh mode which is great for taking outfit photos out and about).

The night mode

Capturing images even in total darkness. This is the MVP for me! I love nighttime photography, I love the way the twinkling lights of a cityscape looks so majestic, and it's often so hard to capture it in all its might. It's either you don't get an accurate image of the warmth of its lights or it appears blurry. Happy to report that the night mode on the OPPO Reno2 Z is amazing. It was the first thing I tested when I got it - I've got a good view of the distant city from my balcony and this one captured even the night clouds in the darkness. I think it's best used for more up close evening shenanigans, though. The photo above of my favourite cityscape is vibrant and captures it exactly the way I see it. Impressive, huh?

Camera specs according to the website:

8MP Wide Angle Lens
119° | F/2.2 Aperture

2MP Portrait Lens
All-new O6 portrait mode

48MP Ultra-clear Main Camera
SONY IMX586 | 1/2.0” Sensor | F/1.7 Aperture

2MP Portrait Lens
All-new O7 portrait mode

I'll show you some of the pictures I've been taking. All unedited because I want to show you just how good this camera is in different modes. It's delightful to see the subject name pop up when I take it - this phone is very smart! The first time I saw 'food' pop up while I was taking a photo of my food (hehe yeah I'm one of those people) - without even altering any of the settings - just literally point and shooting at a dinner flatlay - I was so surprised and excited. Turns out it does that for a lot of things! I love taking photos of food and flowers, as seen below.

It's also incredible with taking outfit photos outside. Natural light is my favourite type of light for any photos and this one - with its bokeh features - proves to be the perfect street style cam.

Even the zoom function doesn't compromise the integrity of the image. I was literally sitting in the lobby when I took this photo. And the colours remain as is - not overexposed or blown out. It captures what you see in its entirety and I love that.


Lastly, how good is selfie mode even with a face mask this shiny?

And then there's the price tag. It's kinda hard to beat. OPPO Reno2 Z has the same features and qualities of its more expensive smartphone counterparts without the hefty price tag. It's definitely a contender for one of the best phones in the market currently.

It's got a great storage space so I can take more photos of my cat, the battery lasts for ages even when I spend a lot of time on social media or editing pictures, and it's compatible with my favourite apps. My only feedback for it would be the quality of Instagram videos - as someone who wants to do more Instagram story videos (remember when I said this was the year I will no longer be insecure about showing more of my face on cam? Yes, scary, but also #growth), I think when I go on video mode it still appears quite laggy. That said, the video camera itself has an ultra wide angle mode that I admittedly haven't used as much yet. But I will! I'll keep you posted.

All in all, the OPPO Reno2 Z goes above and beyond expectations when it comes to smartphones with the same price - proof that you can have quality without spending a lot, and without compromising style too.

Find out more about OPPO here.

. Saturday, 14 March 2020 .

It's satire. It's satire. It's satire. I kept telling myself this throughout the first act of The Book of Mormon - now showing in Auckland's Civic Theatre. Everyone told me I would love it. I do admit I left the theatre feeling a lot of complicated feelings that definitely made me question my moral compass and ultimately my own faith and beliefs. I'm not the most religious person out there but I did grow up Catholic so the theme of organised religion depicted here was something I was vaguely familiar with. But The Book of Mormon is far more nuanced than that.

It's also one of the most anticipated shows of this year. I checked my phone at intermission and my Instagram messages were inundated with questions about it. Friends who have seen it already, friends who are hardcore fans and have seen it in Broadway (I would have loved to see Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham - a role that is a far cry from his Disney roles so far). I've thrown the questions back at them. What did YOU think about it? And it was polarising. Some loved it so much and called it the best musical ever. Some said it was offensive and racist, that topics like female genitalia mutilation, pedophilia, and the racist portrayal of Ugandans were far too inappropriate even as a satire. Some said they liked it, not loved it. That it didn't quite hit the mark for them, but the musical numbers and performances were fantastic. I think those truths can exist at the same time. A musical can be both satirical and cross that fine line.

I had a conversation with my colleague the next day around it because she had already seen it and so we were free to wax lyrical without the spoilers. I asked her how she would describe the show to someone who doesn't know what it's about and we both agreed it was quite complex and hard to describe. It's a satire that mocks organised religion. It's a satire that mocks Americans and Ugandans. It's a satire that even mocks musicals with deliberately over the top numbers (I thought that was brilliant - Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and it's rock n' roll style showed that clearly). It mocks white saviours and those with a hero complex.

I found the show to really pick up in the second act and redeemed some of the earlier perceptions I had of it. The best number for me was "I Am Africa" - a performance that's as hilarious as it is telling.

From the opening number "Hello" - an ode to door knocking and introductions to the closing number, the hopeful and surprisingly profound "Tomorrow is a Latter Day", the cast does a fantastic job at entertaining and embodying their characters. Every single one of them gave such a strong performance - perhaps why I had to keep reminding myself that it was a satire. They were that convincing!

The Book of Mormon did make a powerful point that this story was told from a western perspective, and that actually, a lot of people from countries like the United States do share those beliefs and othering of people from countries like Africa. Especially the running "joke" throughout the show that Elder Cunningham deliberately butchered the pronunciation of Nabulungi's name (even calling her Nutella and Necrophilia at one point). I think The Book of Mormon did a great job highlighting those subtle microaggressions that people of colour face on a daily basis. Something as simple as people not learning how to pronounce their names properly added a certain gravitas to the show for me. I did love that they flipped some of this negative stereotyping of Ugandans toward the final act - showing that the Ugandans weren't as naive and stupid as they were made out to be. That was the key moment for me.

Ultimately The Book of Mormon stretches the boundaries of satire, self-aware without being self-serving. We arrive at the end of it a little more compassionate and empathetic towards the people who live differently to ours, a reminder that perhaps each of us are on the same mission ourselves, just doing the best we can, in ways that we think is right. That community and faith - in its many shapes and forms and however that looks - is what gets us through life.

The Book of Mormon is now playing at The Civic. Get tickets here.