Women's month

Get ready with sex education advocate and UNYAB member, Cai Antonio

Patricia Li
Get ready with sex education advocate and UNYAB member, Cai Antonio

CAI ANTONIO. Illustration by Alyssa Arizabal.

Cai carves out time every morning for her self-care ritual which includes yoga, meditation, and journal writing

Editor’s Note: This Women’s Month, we listen to strong, independent women who are at the forefront of the most important issues we are facing today. In this piece, we get to know Cai Antonio, an LGBTQ+ feminist and a representative of the Young Women and Girls Sector of the United Nations Youth Advisory Board.

As we grow older, we realize that “growing up” isn’t just about the passage of time. We learn that it’s also about learning to forgive, understand, and empathize with people. And we sometimes forget that we are also worthy of the same thing. 

With our formative years spent with Tumbler and Twitter, now replaced by Tiktok and Reddit, we continuously discover new stories and struggles from women of different backgrounds. We jump from insecure high school students into active, educated feminists. But in between that, we are hard on ourselves; we tend to blame our immature past for thinking a certain way, for not having known better.

It’s an ongoing process, of course, the journey to self-empathy. But that’s where Cai Antonio shines. Even when she was just a young undergraduate, she was brave enough to be one of the pioneering sex-positivity advocates online. She eventually co-founded the alternative sex education platform Now Open PH

You’ll find that her social media accounts are always active and she tries to answer all the questions asked of her as much as possible. She’s not apologetic about sharing her thoughts, making mistakes and owning up to them, and celebrating her journey to inner peace.

Today, Cai is a gender diversity consultant and sex education advocate who represents young women and girls on the United Nations Youth Advisory Board (UNYAB). She is also an LGBTQ+ feminist who is taking her MA in Women and Development at UP Diliman.

She continues to promote sex education by speaking at different workshops, special lectures, and online at Now Open PH. Currently, she’s working on publishing educational materials on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

To achieve all these, she always starts her day with intention. Here’s how her mornings go. 

FIRST GRAB. I grab my phone to check my schedule for the day. Fun fact: all of my days are time-blocked and always have been even before the pandemic. Google calendar is my guiding light throughout my days. I’ve found that scheduling all my tasks and events is a good way to set a routine, and setting a routine has really helped me with staying mentally healthy and productive.

After checking my schedule, I make myself a cup of coffee, take a shower, and get my day started with my morning self-care ritual.

SKINCARE ESSENTIALS. My skincare routine hasn’t changed much since the pandemic. As I’ve mentioned, I function best with a routine and that goes for my skincare as well. Generally, my routine includes a facial wash, toner, and face oil. I use Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract facial wash and toner, and then I top it off with 2 drops of Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate and 1 drop of Odacité Pimples Serum Concentrate. 

BEFORE I START. Part of my everyday routine is my morning self-care ritual. First, I meditate and sit with my thoughts in kindness and in silence. I’ve found it to be a good way to remind myself of why I do what I do and why it’s important to keep going, especially when I’m hit with bouts of uncertainty. After meditation, I write down what I’m thankful for in the past day, and I write down some issues I’m encountering and brainstorm ways to solve them in my journal. Afterward, I do a quick yoga session.

I personally think of my self-care ritual as not only a form of me-time, but also a practice of my feminism. Women are often tied to a multitude of responsibilities usually done for other people, most especially their loved ones. I’ve come to see my self-care ritual as a consideration of myself as my most important loved one. 

Gotta take care of me regardless of the situation. If I can’t show myself the love I want to feel, how can I know the love I want to share with others?

After my morning self-care routine, I’m ready to start my workday with a lit candle (my favorite is an earthy scented candle from La Vela Manila called “Mapulon“) and some lo-fi beats blasting from my speakers. 

IF I MUST GO. Before the pandemic, I was known for being that friend who shows up just to hang out at your house fully dressed and made up.

I still do that – with less makeup nowadays – even if I’m only headed to the grocery store. I feel my best when I look my best!

My usual outfit for going outside depends on my mood. On some days, I feel like wearing a blouse, an a-line skirt, and sandals. On other days, it’s straight-cut jeans, a pair of Air Force 1, colorful socks, a black tank top, and a Hawaiian shirt.

No matter what I’m feeling, I have a face mask on together with my COVID kit (alcohol, liquid soap, tissue, wipes) stashed in my bag. That, with my hair always pulled back. 

IF I’M STAYING IN. When I’m working, I’m either in my sports bra and leggings with a sweater on, or I’m in shorts and a tank top.

For conferences and speaking events, it’s comfy shorts and a blouse. That, and some makeup!

ROUTINE REMINDERS. One of the things that I’m happy about is how I’ve been able to stick to my routine a lot better given all this time at home. My routine has also changed in the sense that I’ve had more time to reflect on myself. I’m thankful for that. 

At the beginning of the quarantine, I felt extremely lost. Throughout time though, I’ve learned to handle the uncertainty better and, likewise, have a clearer sense of purpose.

My self-care morning ritual is truly essential in helping me stay level-headed, but I am aware that my form of self-care may not be accessible to all.

This Women’s Month, however, I would like to urge women to take some time for themselves. It doesn’t have to be grand. I urge women to do something they really want to do, even for just a few minutes. Self-care shouldn’t be a luxury or something only afforded to certain women. It’s essential. 

For just a few minutes a day, I urge you to take some time to do something you want. Close your eyes and breathe. Cook something you want to eat. Take some time to put on a full face of makeup just because. Do something you like because you like it and because you deserve it. Make this time for yourself a non-negotiable for the day, no matter if it’s only 5 minutes or less.

Taking care of yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself, the people you stand for, and your loved ones.

CELEBRATING WOMEN’S MONTH. Ultimately, the goal is to drop any facade and learn to be unapologetically authentic in my work and personal life. Authenticity is not always easy, but it is always worth it.

I always try to find a solid reason why I advocate for what I do, why I work in the field that I work in, and why I am who I am.

To any young woman looking for direction right now, know that you don’t have to have it all figured out. Sometimes, focusing more on the steps throughout the process is the best move we can make. So no matter what happens in your journey – be it a setback, a detour, or a major win – be kind to yourself.

Cai’s items
Get ready with sex education advocate and UNYAB member, Cai Antonio
  1. Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner (P1,950)
  2. Odacité Pimples Serum Concentrate (P1,899)
  3. Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate (P3,500)
GRWM recommends
  1. Speakers: JBL GO 2 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (P1,839)
  2. Journal: Wreck This Journal: Black, Expanded Edition by Keri Smith (P720)
  3. Yoga mat: Decathlon Domyos Essential Yoga Mat 4mm (P500)
  4. Scented candles: Wix & Match scented candles (P400)
  5. “Newtro” Hawaiian shirt: Hawaiian floral polo (P158)

– Rappler.com

Patricia Li

Patricia Li consumes all types of media: mangas, K-dramas, C-dramas, young adult books, and Timothee Chalamet films. She is acidic, but will not let anyone stop her from getting her caffeine fix.