Review: I’M Hotel’s Onsen Spa

Two weeks of the new year have gone by and I have already ticked off two new experiences:

Today, I’m nursing my aching body. After the Crossfit event yesterday, I went straight to I’M Hotel to try their well-reviewed Onsen Spa because my entire body was hurting and I knew I had to do something before delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sets in. Glad that they were able to accommodate me even if I didn’t have any reservations: I got in close to 6:30 p.m. and fortunately, in 45 minutes, they would have a therapist available for the treatment I wanted, which was a 90-minute Philippine Hilot (P2,100). I used the time to shower and change into my yukata. Immediately, I was impressed by the service and facilities: the shower/locker room was on an open-air floor right in the heart of the noisy and busy intersection of Makati Avenue and Kalayaan, and yet, with strategic design, they managed to create a private and lush oasis. The shower rooms are so spacious, the one I took could fit 10 people in it. The same floor has a sauna, steam room, and onsen but I knew I didn’t have time for those because what I really wanted was to sit down, have tea, and maybe take a nap at the relaxing lounge before my massage; I’ll try those next time.

So I went up the mezzanine level, where I got to have my fill of ginger tea, which was perfect because I could also feel I was coming down with a sore throat (they also have green and cold tea). I sat in one of the giant recliner sofas and reflected on my day—but not without truly admiring the hotel facilities: I could see part of the swimming pool below as well as the bustle of Makati Ave, from which I felt so isolated and removed. Their website photos do not do them justice.

Close to 7 p.m., my therapist fetched me to bring me to another floor. (I didn’t mind the numerous transfers; the elevator is exclusively for Onsen guests, meaning you won’t run into I’M Hotel guests in their finery while you’re in your robe.) Again, it all looked monastic and luxurious, it almost felt like I was being ushered into a new religious order. The minimalist spa pod looked like it was lifted from a movie set, with its high ceiling ambient lighting. By 7:05 p.m., we got started.

Oh my god—best massage ever (though my massage experience in Bangkok came close because that made me sleep and no other massage has ever done that). At the spa lobby, there was an information sheet I filled out, which included how I wanted the pressure to be, and in the drawing of the human body, I encircled the parts I wanted the therapist to concentrate on: my instructions were followed to a T. His pressure—which never wavered from start to finish—was extremely strong, his hands felt like foam roller. I was wincing the entire time and I wanted to stop him on several occasions, but I knew it was the type of muscle kneading I needed. I also couldn’t count the number of times my body parts cracked, lol. That massage made me feel like a new person and the irony was, I was no longer feeling sleepy (I actually kept yawning during the competition, haha), but energized. Which was great, because I’M Onsen’s Spa’s package comes with a buffet meal! So I changed into my normal clothes, went up to Bloom Restaurant and wolfed down as much as I could because I only had protein shake, burger, and fries the entire day. By the time I was finished, I was so happy I booked a treatment here: it was so worth it.

I want to grow up and be the type of person who gets a weekly treatment here, haha. Five out five stars!


Review: My 2017 grooming stash & lineup

I’ve been switching up my grooming products every now and then. It’s mostly out of boredom, so you can still go back to my previous reviews and they still work just as well for me. Lately, my skin has gotten oilier again, which harkens back to my teenage and twenty-something years. And at my age, oil is a welcome problem, as long as it doesn’t come with acne (but which I do still get once in a while.) So I’ve tweaked my lineup to address my concerns.

This was my lineup in 2016:

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Day Cream (Normal) with SPF 15 Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
The Face Shop The Fresh for Men BB Cream with SPF40 Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

And this is what I use now:

Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Skin Brightening Exfoliator
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate VMV Id Anti-Acne Toner
Olay Total Effects 7 in One Day Cream (Normal) with SPF 15 mixed with Quick FX CC cream Kiehl’s Age Defender Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Men alternating with VMV Illuminants+ Cream: Advanced Brilliance Treatment
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Listing this down, I realized I have so many products, lol.

I decided to get rid of Cetaphil after having read the article, Cetaphil: Why The Popular Cleanser Isn’t Doing Your Skin Any Favors, and I have yet to read a statement from Cetaphil debunking the allegations.

“Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser contains just eight ingredients: water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.

“All but the water are chemically manufactured (let’s hope), and propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and the three parabens have a seat on the dirty dozen, a list of cosmetic ingredients to avoid as potentially toxic.”

Gaah. So I switched to Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion, which couldn’t get any more emphatic in its name. It is fragrance- and paraben-free and made in France. Its water “originat(es) as pure rain mixed with sea-spray rich in mineral salts… mak(ing) its 50-year journey through the Cévennes Mountains in Avène, France.” LOL. It has an entire brochure included in the box on the subject, which could be seen as pretentious at first glance, but which I realize is really pride for their history and work, particularly in treating skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema. Anyway, I thought it was all wonderful, but you can decide for yourself.

My latest drugstore buys

It is a no-rinse formula, which I have yet to try doing, because being in Manila, I just have to rinse off all that grime and dirt from my commute. So I damp my face with water, then get a dollop of the cleanser—and my initial impression is that it is luxuriously creamy, even if it doesn’t lather—then rinse with water. As an “extremely gentle cleanser lotion,” it did the job well because when I used my VMV Id Toner (when I tested this cleaner at night; I don’t use toner in the morning), there were no residue on the cotton ball.

The Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate I’ve written about here. This is my second bottle and I have to admit, this product hurts my wallet the most. But my overall complexion has never been better. I have a couple of tiny spots now and I have yet to get a haircut, but if you look at this video from a month ago, which does not have any filter, this is how my skin looks on its best day.

Since I use quite a number of products, I cannot qualitatively attribute everything to the concentrate, but based on my one-year experience with it, I know this is one of the products that I cannot leave out of my grooming stash.

Olay Total Effects is a staple for decades (here’s a 2012 entry) but I might soon replace it because among all my products, I noticed that it’s one of two things that is making me oily along with The Face Shop’s The Fresh for Men BB Cream. I plan to buy the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer—and I will soon—but during one of my drugstore jaunts, I came across the Quick FX CC cream. I find it a bit expensive for a sachet that’s worth P99, but it does the job of providing the bare minimum coverage. (I mix it with Olay, which is my default way of putting on tinted moisturizer because I don’t like tint-heavy coverage.) I most like it for its zinc oxide, which is a natural sunscreen that’s also good for burns, rashes, and irritation. The cream is light green in color, which is good for cancelling out red tones, if the primary color wheel has taught us anything.

Night routine
I got a sample of Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Skin Brightening Exfoliator and I’m sold! I got two sachets and I made the mistake of using too much from the first sachet because as I realized, this is the most lather-y cleanser I’ve ever used. So now that I’m on my second sachet, I’ve been very prudent in my application, squeezing out as little as three drops and it would still lather my entire face. So if I eventually buy a bottle, I know for sure it would last me for over a year.

I love how my skin looks clear and radiant after every wash. Along with the Line-Reducing Concentrate, I know that this is one of the products that have made a huge difference on my skin. It is paraben-, fragrance-, and colorant-free. Unfortunately, the product page doesn’t say what the microbeads are made of, so it must not be environment –friendly.

For everyday use, I apply the VMV Id Anti-Acne Toner, which I’ve written about here and as far back as 2010, so folks, this is tried and tested. I only use the Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion for spot treatment because it can be very drying. Then for the last step, I alternate between the VMV Illuminants+ Cream: Advanced Brilliance Treatment, which I’ve been using since 2012, and one of my newer additions, the Kiehl’s Age Defender Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Men. The Age Defender smells so good and it does a good job of moisturizing without the greasy feeling, though I wouldn’t use it on a hot summery night. The ingredient to watch out for here is the capryloyl salicylic acid, which is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and an exfoliant, according to this website.

“Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, which are water soluble, beta hydroxy acids (and its esters—such as CSA -jason) are lipid (oil) soluble. This means that they not only exfoliate the upper layer of skin, but also penetrate deep through the epidermis to exfoliate the dead skin cells and excess oil built up in the pores. For this reason, capryloyl salicylic acid is frequently used to treat blackheads, whiteheads and acne. Yet its keratolytic ability is not the only reason for why it is so often administered to treat blemishes and breakouts. This ingredient also functions as both an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent, making it an ideal anti-acne ingredient. While many other exfoliants (i.e. AHA’s) often irritate the skin, salicylic acid does just the opposite by reducing inflammation. This is due to the fact that it shares a similar chemical composition as Aspirin, a well-known analgesic and anti-inflammatory, and thus shares many of Aspirin’s functions as well.”

Afterward, depending on the weather and usually when I’m in a hotel, I would use Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate just to seal all that product in. (I bought it last year and I’m still nowhere near halfway through my bottle.) Into the Gloss has a very informative guide on how you should layer your products.

My latest grooming arsenal (involves a whole lot of Kiehl’s)

Since my last post on my grooming products in March 2012, I stayed loyal with VMV and Olay. I’ve finished two bottles of the Re-Everything Cream: Anti-Age Advanced Treatment and Illuminants Plus Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment—each bottle lasts an entire year—while I’ve restocked my Id Anti-Acne Toner and Olay Total Effects every two-three months.

As a fan and regular reader of Refinery29, once in a while, I’d be swayed into buying products they’ve written about. That’s how I learned about Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. So I bought that, got samples, and those samples sucked me into buying more. (Good job, marketing team!)

And I love them.


So here’s how my grooming lineup looks like these days:

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DIY: How to make your own body scrub

Yesterday, as I was about to dump my used coffee ground into the bin, I had an idea: why not use it to make a DIY body scrub? I immediately put it in a bowl, added jasmine paste and body oil, and voila: a DIY body scrub.

coffee body scrub


Later, I added shower gel to help with cleansing and next time, I’ll add a dash of cinnamon, which is an excellent idea from Free People—I cannot wait!

I love the smell of coffee and to smell it all over me was nothing short of religious. I used French-press ground so it’s coarser than your usual grind which is how I like it; I didn’t need to scrub hard except for the skin on my elbows and knees. As I rinsed off, my skin was as smooth as silk; it had never felt that good, I couldn’t stop touching myself! (Okay, that sounded kind of wrong, lol.)

Once done, I spritzed myself with body oil in case I rubbed myself raw. An hour after my shower, I could still smell the coffee on my skin, which is really sexy 😉 .

And that’s it—a spa experience without hurting your wallet! You can also make it your own by adding your preferred ingredients: coconut oil, muscovado sugar, honey, vanilla extract, or other essential oils—the sky’s the limit!




Things I Love: Bench Organics

I’ve written about how I’m a fan of Neutrogena’s Body Oil, but I had to admit that at some point, I got bored by it. I’ve been looking for alternatives, and it was by accident that while accompanying a friend in Bench, I saw that it had a good stock of bath and beauty products.

Obviously, I gravitated toward these. With my skin having gotten drier, any product that screams ‘oil’ calls my attention.

Bench Organics Moroccan Argan Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (P200 each)

Understandably, with the cheap price, you don’t get 100 percent organic oil, though it does have macadamia oil and vitamin E. And in any case, I don’t mind!

It’s subtle on the skin; in fact, I wish it’s oilier. Even if you apply it on dry (as opposed to damp) skin, it is easily absorbed in minutes and does not leave a gooey residue. In fact, I use it on my face before going to bed! If you have normal skin, this would be perfect. In my case, it’s good enough–could be better–but I love the smell, particularly of Argan Oil.

For now, these will do until I miss Neutrogena’s Body Oil or I find other cheaper alternatives.

Online shopping with VMV Hypoallergenics

To help Typhoon Haiyan victims, VMV is donating part of its November and December sales to the Philippine Red Cross.

VMV Haiyan Donation

 I also learned that BPI is slashing 30 percent off ALL VMV products when you make an online purchase using their credit card.

Which surprised me as I didn’t know that VMV Philippines now has a local online store.

VMV Homepage

And to top it all off, I discovered that it was giving away a “purse-proportioned” “Skin-Refining Non-Makeup” aka BB cream for every P3,000 purchase! (Um, unfortunately, the promo ended on Monday, November 18.)


Obviously, the message was clear: I had to stock up on my VMV favorites! 😛

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‘The Real Dirt on Face Washing’

In my younger years (ha!), I tried to embrace my oily skin by justifying that it would help me in the long run. Oily skin = moisturized skin, and from articles I’ve read, it would help stave off wrinkles as I age. I learned to love my greasy face!

Well, what do you know? Early this year, I woke up to discover that I now have dry skin. My usual regimen was no longer working: washing my face twice a day and using a toner, even with Olay Cream at the end, was irritating my skin and it began to look and feel scaly.

I basically had to unlearn everything I’ve trained myself to do, a regimen I’ve honed and perfected since my acne-riddled teenage years. I had to re-adjust to my skin needs.

First to go was the foamy facial cleanser. I used to hate cleansers like Cetaphil because I felt it didn’t clean my face enough. I had the misconception that having a bubbly cleanser rid my face of every dirt. Now, I’m using this Canadian brand, Spectro Jel which is similar to Cetaphil; I’m sure Cetaphil would work fine, but I get Spectro for free thanks to generous balikbayan relatives, yay!

Second to go was… gasp the morning wash! For someone who was traumatized by acne and therefore got obsessed with that squeaky clean feeling, it was initially hard for me to just use water. During my first few ‘tryouts’ I was afraid I’d start having bad skin again. Thankfully, that never happened.

Hence, it was with relief that I read this article, The Real Dirt on Face Washing, on Wall Street Journal:

“Face washing at night is most important, dermatologists say. It removes dirt, grime and pollutants that have gathered on the skin during the day, as well as makeup. Some doctors say people without a serious skin-care issue, such as acne, can skip the soap and just rinse in the morning.

“Your skin has just slept on a pillow, it is clean, it doesn’t necessarily need to be washed,” said Gervaise Gerstner, a Manhattan dermatologist and consultant for L’Oréal Paris. Dry skin from overcleansing is a problem for people as they age, she says…

“Many Americans, especially teens, prefer cleansers that foam or create suds. “They like the sensation,” says Cindy Kee, senior brand manager at Cetaphil, a line of gentle skin-care products, both foaming and nonfoaming, from Galderma Laboratories. People also tend to believe foam cleans better, which it doesn’t.”

I’ve retained my VMV Id Toner though, which I’ve already blogged about, just so I’m assured my face is clean before going to bed. (And apparently, based on my first entry on VMV, I’ve been using the toner for more than 3 years now!)

Speaking of VMV, I recently replenished my stock and–surprise, surprise!–I got a free bottle of their… okay, this is a tongue twister–Skintangible “Faint”Ation Skin-Refining Non-Makeup SPF30 (Purse-Proportioned Edition). I’m a huge fan of BB Creams, so this was such a treat!



It was also my first time to try their online delivery. More on the BB Cream and their delivery service in my next post!

Beauty review: Richenna Bubble Color

Ever since my college days, I’ve been wondering how I’d look like as a blond (the other hair-related thing being how I’d look like as a skinhead). Japan and Korean boys make it look so easy, and perhaps there’s the catch right there: boys.


Yesterday, I decided to have my hair cut shorter than usual as I planned to dye my hair blond afterward, DIY style. I figured that a four-day weekend was coming up and so in case my skin tone can’t pull the color off, I have time to dye my hair back to black.

From my research, I learned that Tony Moly has hair bleach and blond dye so I went straight to SM Makati after my haircut. As it turned out, my research was lousy for all they had were two dyes in tones of red and brown.

I took this as a sign and went to Watsons, where there are other hair colors, and I wasted an enormous amount of time vacillating between going blond or not. In the end, I picked this:


Imagine me, a 6ft-tall guy, paying for this at the cashier, lol.

I didn’t buy hair bleach (for one, there was none) so I didn’t really expect my hair to go the way of Sailor Moon. I only started to get scared when I found no reviews of the product on Google, save for one, who wasn’t too happy with her result. At that point, I didn’t even mind if my color wouldn’t change; I just didn’t want my hair to fall off.

Richenna Bubble Color (P350 at Watsons) is a Korean brand. Somehow, my fears were assuaged when I opened the box and I noted how the instructional brochure and coloring materials were of good quality. The brochure is poster-size, with full color photos and respectable grammar. The gloves were made of rubber and even had a garter at the base so there was no way your hands would get dyed or wet. It also provided a plastic cape to protect your clothing.

What I loved the most though, was the coloring bottle: it was a foam dispenser! So I guess that’s how it got the ‘bubble’ in the name.

The color and developer are 50g each. You’d probably need two boxes if you have shoulder length hair. Once you mix the two in the foam dispenser, you tear off the perforated dots in the box and voila! Your dispenser is secure and won’t topple.

I love how considerate they were about that. At this point, I trusted the brand 🙂

The great thing about foam is that your color won’t drip and it spreads out evenly on your hair. I wished though that the smell was nice—it was as bad as hair dyes normally come.

I left the solution on my hair for 30 minutes. (Normal is 20mins; additional 15mins if you have darker or ‘virgin’ hair, according to the instruction.) However, looking at the mirror, I ‘felt’ (usually you really can’t tell until you’ve shampooed your hair) that nothing changed with my color. I decided to do a second round, applying the same amount of foam in my hair as in the first. Within two minutes, I saw the pop of color. I decided to leave it on again for 30 minutes, but the burning sensation on my scalp wouldn’t go away, so I cut this down to 15 minutes and shampooed.

Here’s the description at the back of the box:

The formulation with lavender and sage extract minimizes hair damage and helps to leave your hair silky and shiny. The amino acid provides moisture for your hair to look healthy.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t even lather the shampoo and run my finger through my hair because it was so coarse and I assumed, damaged! To think I had no more than 4 inches of hair; I can’t imagine how harder it would be for those with longer tresses.

It was so bad I panicked. After rinsing the shampoo, I used the conditioner provided by Richenna then added a spoonful of Neutrogena Body Oil.

Thankfully, that did wonders. Although it felt coarse again after my final rinse (though this time, I could now run my fingers through it), with a few drops of the oil on my towel-dried hair, it felt and looked good again.

So how blond am I? Actually, not at all; I’m brown!

I LOVE how I actually have highlights. I suppose this was the effect of the second coating I did. (Since I have short hair, it’s really not worth for me to get one at a salon.) The tone also changes depending on the lighting, but overall, I like how it has given me a fresh, new look.

Will I use it again? Well, I really like the foam idea, and most dyes smell bad and do dry out your hair. The only exception has been Revlon. That was a way better experience actually, but the color I got that time was subtler and in Pam’s case, it faded easily. (In my case, it lasted really long; my stylist, who did not color my hair and was from another salon, commented on that and how subtle it looked.) I probably would not use Richenna again IF the color doesn’t last long and if my hair feels damaged for more than two weeks. I’ll update this post if that’s the case.

Tony Moly’s DandyGuy Moisture BB cream

Blemish balm (BB) creams provide light coverage for your face to hide imperfections like scars and dark spots. They often come with color—ergo, they may look like liquid foundation—hence for brands that also target guys, it’s important that the packaging and design do not emasculate.


I’m happy to say that Tony Moly’s DandyGuy Mositure BB cream is one you may proudly display on your bathroom counter or carry around in your bag. Tatin gave it to me over a month ago and I’ve been using it as my alternative sunscreen since Manila weather is searing these days.



I like it that the product is easily absorbed by my face; I don’t feel greasy after use, which is important in a hot and humid weather such as ours. As for the tint, I don’t notice a difference in my skin color after application so it means the product blends well with my face. As the product label says, my skin does remain ‘looking natural.’

Before and After


I think some of my acne scars are too deep and my eyebags too heavy for my face to look exponentially better after using this product, but as you can see in the right photo, it does offer a bit of eyebag and pore coverage. It also reduced some of the shine from Olay, which I used prior to the BB cream.

Most importantly, it has an SPF rating of 30, which is 100 percent more than my daily moisturizer. I like it since most moisturizers with high SPFs tend to feel heavy.

Pros: light suncreen, barely-there coverage (foundation day, especially for guys, is a no-no!)
Cons: None! I’m just not sure if the product is now available here since Tatin got this from Korea.


Tony Moly Philippines website:


My new arsenal: sunscreen and moisturizers are my must-haves

While my previous regimen of Pond’s facial wash and cream worked (I eventually stopped using benzoyl peroxide), it didn’t completely clear my skin. I’d still get the occasional big pimple. (Though to its credit, I’d only get one major pimple in a month.) So I added the VMV Id Clarifying and Firming Toner and Aftershave in my regimen.

The moment I read the product description on the website, I was sold:

An anti-acne, skin-softening toner with a healthy concentration of beta-hydroxy acid, an effective anti-acne and anti-inflammatory, oil-soluble exfoliant.

Because salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it works at your skin’s most sebum-rich areas: the pores’ inner walls. There, it gives pores a profound spring cleaning: removing deep-seated dirt and excess oils.

Firms up skin and tightens pores. Actively clears up acne, ingrown hair, chicken skin, shaving/waxing/plucking bumps, and other forms of folliculitis. Quickly lessens swelling and dries up pimples.

So contrary to my earlier belief, salicylic acid does work for me after all. I have been using this for two years now and not once I’ve had a huge pimple 🙂 If ever I do get small ones on a blue corn moon, they’re too minute that they never bother me.

Since I had solved that, I now began focusing on my other problems. Primarily, my wrinkles, lol.

I knew I became an adult not when I moved out of the family house, not when I got promoted at work, but when I saw those first few faint lines on my forehead. Months later, a permanent line had squatted at the corner under my left eye. At this point, I knew my Pond’s cream was not going to cut it anymore. (It was also at this point that I waxed sentimental about Pond’s. I had been using it for 14 years after all.) So I switched to the non-fuss Oil of Olay, a product which my friend’s mother, who looks 20 years younger than her actual age, swears by.

I actually tried Olay shortly after my acne years but after a week’s usage, I began having breakouts so I immediately stopped. It was also too oily for me then, too. But now that my skin has gone from oily to normal (another ‘you know you’re old when…’ moment) and with my VMV toner, Olay has worked quite nicely. I’d like to think it has made my skin look dewy. I like that it has SPF 15 and protects me from both UVA (ageing) and UVB (sunburn) rays––that’s actually the main reason why I use this product; sunscreen is very important! I’ve been protecting myself from the sun for 14 years and counting. I’m not sure if this has kept me younger-looking through these years, although people who do meet me for the first time think I’m younger than my actual age. But then again, I’m Asian.

When I bought Olay, it came with a free facial cleanser. I tried it, it didn’t give me breakouts, so I switched to it too. Also, I feel it’s gentler on my skin compared to Pond’s since with the latter, my face would literally feel squeaky clean after using it. With the Olay cleanser, my skin feels moisturized.

Another concern I’m targeting are the dark spots, which I only began addressing over a month ago with the VMV Illuminants cream, the latest addition to my regimen. It’s still too early for me to make a judgement on this because I’m still at the thrice-a-week usage stage. (With most VMV treatment products, you need start with once-a-week usage and gradually increase from there, before you top up to everyday usage.) But so far, there’s a general fairness in my skin that lasts the entire day (usually the morning after I went to bed with the product). Although I haven’t received any compliments yet on such changes; until then, I won’t say the results have been noticeable.

Now, the only remaining facial nproblem I have which I know no product can ever solve are my eyebags. They’ve gone Nene Pimentel. Before, whenever I had them, I’d usually just get eight hours of sleep and the next day, they’re gone! Now, I’ve even tried sleeping nine hours everyday for one week, and still they’re there. If you’ve tried a product that have at least, minimized your puffy eyes, then let me know. I’m afraid I can’t rock them like Benecio del Toro does 😛