Hands-On

Sights and sounds of summer in the Upper East Side

Capturing New York City on film

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“You need to come back, New York is different in the summer,” a friend urged one absurdly cold day back in May. “It has a different energy to it; it’s more alive,” another friend noted with excitement about the magical effects of the impending warm weather on the city.

Living in a tropical country my whole life and enduring constant humidity year per year, I never really understood the hype. What could be so special about spending yet another summer in another city, I thought.  On the contrary, it’s lower temperatures that always excited me. The thought of layering with soft wool sweaters and thick coats, and wearing thigh-high boots on vacation was ideal. It was something I never get to do on the daily, so I longed for it — until I was forced to live out of a suitcase from winter to spring, that is.

Having gone through the chore of exactly that — wearing wool sweaters, thick coats, and boots just to get eggs at the nearest bodega or go for a coffee run next door — made me appreciate being able to wear just about anything I want in the summer including the potential sweating that goes along with it. After months of freezing weather, summer just feels so liberating that you’ll appreciate the heat even if it means smeared eyeliners and a face so oily you could fry two eggs on it.

That je ne sais quoi of summer in the city is not something anyone can describe with mere words or capture on Instagram without losing its essence. This article certainly doesn’t, but here are some vignettes I caught on film, complete with audio recordings, using the Instax Mini LiPlay, one Sunday morning stroll along Upper East Side.

One large cold brew to go

Like any other day, I start with a nice cup of cold brew. Cafes like Bluestone Lane usually gets packed for brunch. It’s especially nice when the sun is out that friends and families eat al fresco. Listen to the audio recording here.

Hotdogs and city performers

Hotdog stands can be found at every corner of the city. This one is outside the Guggenheim Museum, which tourists flock and buskers frequent. Listen to the audio recording here.

Honking yellow cabs

The sound of the train arriving or cabs honking is normally unbearable, but in New York it’s part of what makes the city full of character. Listen to the audio recording here. 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This spot in Central Park is beautiful whether you’re there to see snow falling or flowers blooming; hear trees rustling or dried leaves crackling. Listen to the audio recording here.

Pick a spot at Central Park

Central Park is so big of an oasis that you can have your quiet little spot for reading and alone time, or watch kids and dogs play if you wanted to. Listen to the audio recording here.

Sun’s out, bikes out

Whether it’s for cardio, getting from one place to another, or just for leisure, everyone seems to be on their bikes during summer. Other locals take advantage of this and sell ice cold water for $2 in the middle of the park for anyone who needs to cool down. Listen to the audio recording here.

Grab something quick and cheap

For those who might want a quick bite after a long walk or bike ride, there are food trucks everywhere. Tacos? Check. Gyros? Check. Ice cream? Check. Listen to the audio recording here.

The Met

It can get too crowded for my taste, but The Met is quickly becoming my favorite place in the city. It’s where I can run to for shelter when it’s below freezing outside, or when temperatures get higher, walk around the vicinity for no reason or people watch on the steps. I can get trapped here for days and not feel like I’m wasting my time. Listen to the audio recording here.

Witnessing New York City transform from a dark, cold abyss in the winter, to a city with blossoming tress in spring, to the vibrant concrete jungle that it truly is in the summer, is special. If you live in this city, or travel here a lot, it’s something you will learn to cherish once you see and hear it for yourself.

WATCH: Winter in New York

Features

Playing Big Brother with the realme Smart Cam 360

Cat spy

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CCTVs like the realme Smart Cam 360 are often marketed as home security devices. Most people use these kinds of cameras to monitor strangers passing by the house or to prevent criminal activity.

I, however, had something else in mind. As a pet owner, I often wonder what my cats are up to. What are they doing when I’m not looking? Could I be missing a moment of cuteness whenever they’re up in their hideouts?

So, I decided to play Big Brother and document their days using the realme Smart Cam 360.

Setting up the mobile CCTV

Initially, I thought that the camera was rechargeable like a smartphone. It is not. It has to be constantly plugged into a power source. This was a problem for me since the areas where the cats frequent, don’t exactly have accessible electrical sockets.

But lo and behold, A LIFEHACK! My brother helped me devise a way to use the CCTV camera portably, so I can move it from place to place, wherever the cats are. We plugged it to a power bank! The 16000mAh power bank was able to supply electricity to the camera for a little less than 24 hours.

The next step was installing the realme Link app on my phone so I can use it to view the camera’s feed. I just had to create a realme account, link the camera to the app and voila, I can already use my phone as a monitor and a remote control for the camera. Another thing I like about the app is that you can use it to customize the camera’s name.

Last is putting in a memory card. This part is actually optional, but having a memory card in the camera is very handy if you want to review moments you might have missed. The Smart Cam 360 has event-triggered recording which means it automatically saves any activity whenever the camera detects sound or motion.

Big Brother: Cat Edition

The cats found it strange at first.

But eventually, they learned to werq it.

Changing the direction of the camera is not a problem. The mobile CCTV is very responsive to the phone’s remote control. The camera adjusts to the lighting conditions of the room. Even in the dark, it’s still able to show what’s happening.

The infrared night vision does give the cats some creepy-looking eyes though!

In typical Big Brother fashion, the Smart Cam 360 also lets you communicate with whoever’s with your camera. Sort of like a PA system, or a walkie-talkie. I tried using it to call my pets’ attention, but cats do as cats do–ignore humans.

A helpful housemate?

In a lot of ways, yes. The realme Smart Cam 360 has been my extra set of eyes at home.

It does a good job of notifying me whenever there’s activity in the room I placed it in. It can capture moments I would have otherwise missed, like that one time my cat was causing mischief in the dining area.

It’s ideal for when you need to watch home, away from home. The realme Link app is also fairly easy to understand, a plus for people like me who prefer their tech simple.

But, there’s the question of privacy. There have been reports of home security cameras that accidentally leaked their feed to other households. With the current digital landscape, you can’t help but wonder where your data is being sent to. Who else could be watching? Who else could be listening to what’s happening at home?

It would be ironic if, in the course of trying to be like Big Brother, you yourself became the subject of observation. It’s good to keep that in mind and set some limits to what the camera has access to.

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Accessories

Huawei Classic Backpack: The girl with the green backpack

A fashion statement and everyday accessory

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Huawei Classic Backpack

When you’re juggling a job and a side hustle, style ends up as one of the last things you consider in your everyday life.

Admittedly, I wear hideous, bulky handbags to carry my essentials: makeup, hygiene kit, power bank, cables and organizers, and other accessories. Sometimes, I slip a book unless I’m carrying a laptop for business meetings, which proved to be harmful to my posture.

The extra weight shouldered when using a handbag had me reeling in unnecessary body pain. When I was looking for an alternative, a confidante offered the Huawei Classic Backpack — a stylish, everyday bag.

Green is the new black

Huawei’s Classic Backpack comes in lavish Forest Green. It’s quite a recherché, looking luxurious especially in its satin-like nylon fabric. In certain lighting conditions, the color shifts from emerald to dark teal. Frankly, the bluish tint is frequently evident, making this backpack challenging to pair with your outfits.

If you’re unsure how to wear this backpack in such a rare colorway, you can always pull-off an all-black outfit. Or you can go green all the way and do a bit of tonal dressing.

Huawei Classic Backpack

Green, when done right, can be chic and contemporary — all eyes will be on you, darling. It’s never as bold as red, but it’s exotic to look at in a sea of neutrals.

Taste of Paris

Huawei’s Classic Backpack emanates a Parisian vibe — chic, exquisite, serious, respectable, and admirable. If I can think of two words to describe Paris, it’s fashion and architecture.

The same values I mentioned honor the minimalist approach, as seen in the backpack. A semblance of Parisian architects’ craftsmanship; a straightforward utility bag without forsaking style.

There’s a microfiber leather flap priding itself with the label ‘Designed in Paris’ together with Huawei’s logo debossed in gold. This complements the satin-like green body, presenting a luxe appeal.

For security, the backpack features an adjustable drawstring design with a magnetic clasp underneath the flap that connects with the fabric.

Huawei Classic Backpack

Just like the Parisian architecture, the overall design exhibits durability and comfortability — using a 290T nylon fabric for the body and wide straps that reduces pressure on your shoulders. This helped to carry my laptop and other essentials easily even when I take long walks.

Inside, it uses a 200T polyester fabric lined with an H-pattern à la prominent designer bags like Gucci and Chanel. The backpack also comes with a luggage strap, making it the perfect travel carry-on. If we get to travel again, that is.

Carry what you need

If anything this backpack has taught me, it’s learning how to carry only what’s necessary. I used to wear handbags, most are large enough to fit my hairdryer or straighteners. Who knows when I would need it, right?

Sure, it has a separate compartment that can carry laptops 14-inches and under, and an abundance of zipped storage areas. But that doesn’t mean you’ll stuff your bag so much, you’ll hurt your back.

At the very least, there’s plenty of room for whatever you need to store: accessories, cards, keys, and miscellaneous stuff you think you need.

The girl with the green backpack

The Huawei Classic Backpack is the fashion statement you didn’t know you needed. Wearing it can state your persona in a glance, and create a lasting impression just like The Girl in the Green Scarf.

More importantly, it’s the perfect everyday utility bag that you can wear with certain outfits (definitely not yellow, please don’t). It also teaches you to bring only what’s essential.

This backpack, certainly, is an icon of balance between functionality, comfortability, and style. Don’t let anyone tell you to sacrifice one in order to have the perfect bag match.


This lifestyle feature was written by Nicole Beltran. She owns a pastry brand named The Cookie Nook. Her free time is mostly spent baking, taking her Shih Tzu for a walk, or trying to catch up with Netflix originals released a year ago.

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Cameras

A love letter to the Sony a6100

A poignant piece filled with yearning and regrets

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It’s been a month since my hands last held the Sony a6100. I can still remember its chic white colorway, reckoning a classic, sophisticated look. Like the grandeur of a white rose being admired by a white butterfly. Or like a swan gracefully dancing in the lake, during a majestic sunset.

I can still remember the first time I saw it. There was that familiar feeling, “Oh, hello there. I feel like we’ve met before.”

Maybe because I’ve used Sony’s mirrorless cameras countless times over the past three years. Or because cameras are inherently part of my life, no matter which brand I use. But one thing’s for sure: I liked the a6100 the first time I met it.

Page one: You bring out the best in me

Using the a6100 was like child’s play, grasping the controls and interface were easy when you’re used to Sony cameras. But currently, it’s also one of the best beginner-friendly cameras out there.

That was the reason why my friends loved shooting photos and videos with it while we were on the beach, before the world paused for a lockdown. Everything was just easy on their part, and I loved how the people I love got along with something I like.

During my stint, I was reminded of my potential and my ability to execute my vision and grand ideas. It was like when Shoyo Hinata skyrocketed as a promising player when he was paired with Tobio Kageyama in Haikyu!!.

For any situation, I can rely on the a6100 — my ex-mirrorless camera, companion, and partner. I can shoot using the 1.4mm dot OLED electronic viewfinder when I want to focus on my subject (and possibly lose myself in the art of photography).

But oftentimes, I found myself shooting using the 0.9m dot LCD tilting rear touchscreen. Shooting Live View gives you more awareness of what’s happening. The a6100 was just as versatile as me, and I loved how it can keep up on whatever crazy idea I have at the moment.

It’s true when they say it’s the photographer, not the camera. But I have to believe that having the right camera that perfectly suits your skills, style, and personality helps bring out the best in you. Just like finding the right person that lets you work on yourself so you can become better, and hopefully be more deserving to love and be loved.

Page 02: You were everything I was looking for

Everything I was looking for — and possibly praying for, for the last two years — manifested in the a6100. How I’ve always wanted to have what’s apt for me, through my lifestyle and personality, and of course, my money.

All the essential features I could ever need was here. USB charging, Wi-Fi for quick transfer of images to my devices, a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, 4K video capture, and Flip Screen. There was also an advanced AF system, highlighting a dependable subject tracking.

No, they were not cutting-edge. There are a lot better cameras (probably) that gives enthusiasts better features, at a higher cost.

But my standards weren’t high for a camera nor in love. All I need is what’s best for me, not the best among the rest. What the a6100 did was give me a simple and effective system that made shooting fun again, whether it’s through photo or video.

On paper, the a6100 might not mean much. But my experience says otherwise. Moreover, it’s priced accordingly. Just like what I need. Keyword: need.

Page 03: You made me discover parts of myself

I miss it. The way I held it in my arms as I walked along the beach, wandering at the sight of beautiful waves crashing down the shore, washing my feet and worries away.

The carefree days that I yearn. To take another moment and capture it, hopefully preserving its memory on my Instagram account or printed for a photo album. It was so lightweight, compact, and portable — you can bring it anywhere you want to go.

Its looks can be deceiving, but it can be on par with professional cameras. So you don’t have to worry being held back by some law enforcement securities telling you it’s not allowed to shoot here and there. Point, shoot, love, enjoy discreetly.

The a6100 was madly powerful, that I brought it along with me on my journey to self-discovery. As I rediscover parts of myself through art, photography, music, and spiritual healing, I realized something.

This camera made me see parts of myself that I didn’t bother examining. That behind my aversion to creating videos, I really am capable and up for the job. After all, I did ace my audio-visual production class in college and even won an award for a collegiate competition.

I’ve never liked shooting videos until the a6100 and its grip — the Sony GP-VPT2BT — came into my hands. My life didn’t change when I started shooting, but I gained a deeper appreciation for videos and the shooting process.

Throughout the seven months I had it, I was able to remember why I love my job. I even discovered what skills I can hone and develop. It was like a whole new path opening before me, and I want to take it with me.

I created beautiful sets, shot graciously like it was published at a print magazine. I also shot unboxing videos and clips I never thought I would delight in doing. It was realizing these little joys that made you want to hold it more, and probably never let go.

Page 04: You were the one I’ve always wanted

The truth is, I didn’t have the a6100 longer than what I wish it would. And I took it for granted the whole time it was with me.

I spent more days hugging my laptop and my phone. I couldn’t find time to explore my hobbies, let alone play with the camera. Frankly, I only used the camera when it was convenient or when I need it, and now that it’s gone I wish I took more time to wrap my fingers around it.

Guess it’s true you realize the value of something once it’s gone. It struck me that maybe, just maybe, the a6100 was “the one” — my GadgetMatch. It could’ve been, but it’s no longer with me.

I’ve traded it for work because duh, I got bills to pay. But maybe when we’re free to go out and the pandemic’s over, maybe I can get a second chance. Until then, I’ll just keep doing what I need to do. Maybe next year, the price will be a bit cheaper or maybe, there’s another camera that’s waiting for me.

Who knows what the future holds?

Post scriptum

The Sony a6100 is the perfect mirrorless camera for beginners and those starting their journey on both photography and videography. It retails for PhP 49,999 (US$ 1033). It’s available in Sony’s official stores and authorized retailers. Visit Sony’s website for more information on the Sony a6100 and other cameras and accessories.

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