I should start off by introducing myself. I’ve been planning to write again for the last two years and I spent most of 2014 procrastinating on it and ironing out all my intentions.
I’m Marla and I’m a graphic designer for a small design company I run with my husband. I got married and got involved with entrepreneurship around the same time, and the last three years swallowed themselves up. I also moved out of my parents’ place that year. It was the first time my husband and I were completely on our own. We bought our own furniture and our first car. He learned how to fix toilets, I learned how to cook in lovely Le Creuset imitation pots. We renewed passports, applied for visas, registered our business, hired an accountant, bought life insurance plans, and yet we still feel like we’re faking adulthood. We just hired our first intern last week and I can only pray that we keep up the adult charade as long as we can.
I wasn’t always like this. It was too long ago that I squandered all my earnings every month, lived with my parents, hitched rides with my mom to the MRT every morning, and drank all my sorrows away with the greatest set of friends anyone can have. I also wrote a lot. 1,200-words-of-creative-non-fiction every month a lot. I have the hardest time remembering 2011-2013 but 2009-2010 still hit raw nerves, because I wrote all about it.
I needed a creative outlet again. The unique format we did with my old site New Slang intimidates me now and I want to see if I can play around with a new medium. I knew I woke up every other day with something I needed to get off my chest. I knew I wanted to experiment with different kinds of content, instead of rambling about my feelings. I knew I didn’t care about native advertising and unique visits — but I also knew that should it start factoring in, I’ll let Future Me deal with it.
The big thing I wanted to do though is to meet other people and document their lives. Hence “Darwin Dispatch.” My last name is Darwin and I want to send dispatches. There will be themes that will revolve around the cranky thirty-something demographic but the first one I wanted to do is “creative tandems.” I wanted to meet couples who are doing creative work and who live together. I wanted to know how they’re pulling it off and how they’re co-existing with their respective crafts.
I wanted to peer into people who are just like me and my husband — it’s a sneaky way to learn and to make friends.
I also wanted a sneaky way to hang out with existing friends under the guise of a collaborative project. So I tapped my favorites Bia Catbagan (film maker and photographer) and Wanggo Gallaga (screen writer, writer, and HIV advocate) to spend a Saturday with me. I had Bia shoot and I had Wanggo devise the questions for our creative tandems. Thankfully I was able to get some couples to say yes to the project, but I also want to be exploring outside my social circles in the future. In order to get strangers to be vulnerable, I have to be the one to get vulnerable first.
So, hello. Welcome to our apartment!
Photos by Bia Catbagan
Is there a room that is solely yours? That you designed yourself, for yourself?
Marla: The area that’s totally mine is my work desk. I selected all the furniture and my pride and joy is my replica Eames DSW chair. I had the color customized; I showed the paint guy the color swatch I wanted because there’s only one shade of pink that I like in this world. I hate any other kind of pink. My back is now paying the price but at least it looks pretty. I’m also touchy with what people (i.e., Joel) leave on my desk.
Joel: No. I wish I had one though.
What room do you do your work? And can you work while the other is present?
M: I stay on my desk, but where my aforementioned back starts acting up, I move to the bed so that I can prop my pillows for support. Otherwise we work fine. We’ve been working from home for a while now and we’re used to each other already.
J: Working with my wife next to me can come with its fair share of distractions (i.e. sharing clickbait etc.), but we’ve figured out other’s ‘in-the-zone’ moments and generally know how to stay productive together.
When you know your partner is working, do you do anything different to help them? Or do you just disappear in the background and let them be? Or do you go out of your way to make the place more creative?
M: I check to see if the dishes need to be done and if the laundry has to be sorted. It’s hard to get to a good pace going work-wise when the house isn’t neat. On the creative front, I have the hardest time buckling down to sort out our deadlines and tasks for the day but I do it because Joel is a mess when we don’t have our to-do lists in order. If we’re working late in the evening, I become the resident DJ and queue up annoying alternative songs from our high school years sandwiched in between our favourite hiphop songs.
J: Marla is a pretty pampered worker in that I’ll try and have snacks available and help her with other things so she can stay focused on designing. As the first born in my family, serving doesn’t come that naturally to me, but seeing her happy and clicking away makes it fun and rewarding.
What has changed in your creative process since you moved in together?
M: I work best by myself. It got highlighted even more when I used to work in an office and I realized I get so thrown off and distracted when people would keep bugging me to show Youtube or 9gag links. In the offices I used to work, I developed little cues for people to know when to leave me alone (keep my headphones on, wear a hoodie, etc.). When it’s your sensitive, empath husband who wants to show you the links, I’m learning that I should be more of a wife than a worker sometimes, heh.
J: I’ve developed a creative process.
If you had to describe your home, how would you describe it?
M: We live in an Ikea showroom, but I love that it’s homey and warm. It’s always a challenge to make a windowless space welcoming, but we somehow did it. Homey, warm, welcoming, that’s our apartment.
J: Comfortable, colorful, warm and a bit worn down – just the way we like it.
What are your future plans for your home? What’s missing? What do you want to improve on?M: My big, big dream is to have a bigger apartment with a ton of natural light. With the bigger apartment, I want a more delineated office area. With our current space, I would really like a bed frame. It used to be all romantic and fun to sleep on a mattress on the floor but it’s getting trickier to get up to pee in the morning.
J: We’d like to eventually upgrade to a bigger apartment with more living room space and a proper office area. I think we’d fill it up with a few more bookshelves and plants as well. We’re particularly partial to succulents.
On the flip side, what do you love about your home right now?
M: I love living in Makati. We just renewed our lease for our third year and I cannot imagine ever leaving Legaspi Village. My mom’s office is on the same street (she retires this year and has been in that office for 35 years) and that has been our urban anchor all my life. This is where I feel safe and I love that I have my own piece of it.
J: It’s got a quirky personality and can take whatever personalites are out there and make them feel comfortable and cozy.