Clear as day, I saw my best friend after a long time, I stood up and shouted, “MIKKKKSSS!” She laughed, and I almost stepped on her foot because of my excitement. We were just so happy to see each other.
If there is one true thing in this world, it is that my best friend was my person. She knew me better than anyone else and was someone I could always count on… no matter what. She was my rock, my confidante, and my biggest supporter.
Mikka and I met way back in 2003 when we worked for an international jewelry brand. She was in merchandising, and I was in marketing. For some reason, we just clicked and got along, despite coming from different colleges and having never encountered each other prior. If you come from Manila, you’d understand how small it is, and people just seem to know people… IFYYK.
We bonded over our shared love of creating. Whether in fashion, art, graphics, or just creating a beautiful life. When she first showed me a collection of leather bags she was creating (under her name), that was the second when our friendship truly began. From that moment on, I knew that she was IT. I loved her aesthetic and sense of fashion. After a couple of years, she left the company while I stayed, but we always kept in touch. She would always ask me to use my so-called “creative skills” to make something for whatever it was she was into at the moment. Most of those projects were graphic design-based. She seemed to always believe that I could create things just the way she wanted.
We shared a lot of special milestones together. For her wedding in Bali, she asked if I could design her entire wedding invite suite, and of course, I said, “yes!” Knowing Mikka, the design had to be something different, customized, and detailed specifically to her guests – and the fact that it was a destination wedding. Those types of details marked her signature, “Mikka Experience” – Meaning that she would always create things, events, and experiences that would make people feel special because they would be specifically tailored for each person – whether you were her client, friend, or family. It was always a treat to be a part of the “Mikka Experience.”
In 2013, Mikka created her company, Seek The Uniq, a lifestyle brand that serves curated “Uniq” finds in fashion, home, and beauty. It became one of her life’s biggest projects. Not only did it become very successful, but it also further emphasized the fact that Mikka’s creativity and her will to succeed had no bounds. While building her company, she brought all of her closest friends along that venture and cultivated what each of us was good at. She made it become more than a business… she created a family. In hindsight, her greatest talent was seeing the talent within each of us, and bringing them out into the open. She showed us how to take pride in what we can do, and showcased them in whatever she was creating.
In 2018, I decided to leave Manila and move to Los Angeles. This sudden decision made me miss my family and friends terribly, especially Mikka. One day in December of 2018, I received a WhatsApp message that said, “Pssst… pssst… I have something to tell you.” I replied, “MIKSSSSSSSS!!!! What is it!? Are you pregnant?” (I don’t know why that popped into mind), and she replied, “No, let’s talk when you can.”
When I called her, she said, “I have breast cancer.”
I was speechless. My mind and heart were in chaos. Those dreaded words. Cancer. I listened to her plans and how she decided to meet that battle head on. Both of us thought that women had survived breast cancer before, so we would fight, and in a year or two she would be okay, and then visit me in Los Angeles. Although fear was present during the battle, we both tried to keep a positive attitude. She will make it. She must!
If you think Mikka would “slow down” because of her condition, it was the opposite. Through chemo and radiation treatments, it seemed that she gathered even more momentum to continually inspire other people – women specifically. She did not let cancer define her, and showed people that she could still do what she loves most amidst what she was going through – and that is loving her work, loving on her friends, and loving on her family. She was even featured in local magazines and recognized for her fashion and business success. Through all these, the most important thing for Mikka was to spend most of her time with her loved ones.
We would often message each other through WhatsApp. During face time calls, we would laugh and discuss the things that we love. She would always ask how I was doing and make sure that I was okay. Yes, even if she was the one with cancer, she would ask ME if I was OKAY. That was just how she was.
In June of 2021, after years of battling cancer, Mikka left this world. She left a big void in the hearts of all the people she touched. There were many who showed up and expressed how much of an impact Mikka had in their lives. She was a force of nature, our “Maman Miks” – who took us all under her wing to create a community of women (and maybe men) in our shared love of creating a beautiful life. Her legacy lives on within each of us – forever touched by her. Cancer did not win, instead, Mikka showed each of us how one can forge triumph amidst it. In the biggest project of her life, Mikka won by leaving behind a legacy of people who are continuing to thrive in whatever their fields are because of how she inspired and believed in them.
When I woke up this morning, I realized that it was all just a dream… a dream that Mikka and I were laughing and hugging in person, and that it hadn’t been years since we’d last seen each other. It felt SO real because seeing her was SO clear. Realizing the reality, the tears began to flow down my face (numerous times). It is true what they say about grief, it has no time limit, it ebbs and flows in its own time, and it will never truly leave you. It is love that has nowhere to go because it remains a part of you forever.
I ache for you each day, Miks. I still continue to keep all of the lessons you have taught and shared with me. I find reminders of you every day – my favorite Seek The Uniq top, your boots that you lent me, your postcards that you sent me when you traveled, your last handwritten card that still sits on my work table, and most of all, our friends that you have forged into a family.
Thank you for believing in me like no other has, the other half of my creative soul, my ride or die, my sister from another mister. Forever and always. <3
And also ^&^* cancer.