(Published in The Philippine Star, Features Section, on January 22, 2012)
Talk about feng shui and certain expressions come up. Cures and enhancers. Lucky and unlucky directions. Animal signs. Is feng shui a form of magic, science, or religion? The country’s foremost authority on the subject talks about how it became her personal mission to educate people on the true essence of feng shui and how it could, with proper guidance, make a difference in their lives.
A: I am an Earth Monkey. Earth monkeys are supposed to be hardworking, trustworthy, reliable and jovial, down to earth, caring, genuinely concerned for others, serious in friendship and about work.
Q: Have you always been lucky?
A: Insofar as having been born to a huge yet closely knit family, I would say yes, I was lucky. But that also meant going through some difficulties. We were 12 in the family and growing up I remember having boiled saba (plaintain banana) regularly for my school food in Masbate. We all went to college in Cebu where my father had this system of having the older sibling assist the younger one through school. I was 10th in line so I was somewhat spoiled by my brothers and sisters.
Q: You have been quite open about your first marriage, which did not work. Was it something that could have been avoided had you practiced feng shui then?
A: As I’ve always said, feng shui is only one-third of our luck. The other two-thirds consist of Heaven Luck, which is pre-ordained, and Mankind Luck, or our actions and decisions. Feng shui covers the things we do to harmonize our environment. At hindsight, I now realize how bad my feng shui was. For instance, there was a huge mirror across our bed, and a television with reflective screen. There was a water feature, which represented tears inside the room, and soon enough we were separated. Maybe the annulment was something that was pre-destined.
Q: And was meeting Mr. Allen something that you also ‘charmed’ into happening?
A: When I left Cebu to work in Manila I was not desperate to get married again. I did not want to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I wanted to focus on my career so I could look after my kids, but I was not totally against the idea of romance so I placed a big vase of silk peonies in my living room as I was told not to place them in my bedroom because they might attract too many men. Modesty aside I did not lack in admirers, but Nicholas was different. He didn’t mind being an instant father to my three children. Within two years we were married. That was when I really started to believe in feng shui.
I wish to say as well that coupled with lots of prayers, hard work and correct feng shui practice, you can achieve them all. After my annulment, and for the last 15 years, I have been very contented with my life. I am very lucky to have married someone who does not smoke, doesn’t gamble, doesn’t drink, but most especially has been a loving husband and a great provider to me and our children. Everybody is healthy and although Nick and I travel a lot, we make sure that we do a lot of things together as a family.
Q: What does a British guy like him, an international business executive at that, think about your feng shui activities?
A: One of the few things I did was activate his Wealth Corner. At first he thought I was nuts. Initially it was hard for me to make him appreciate what I was doing—he being British and thinking feng shui was nothing more than nonsensical superstition. But when business started to pour in, he changed his tune. He got more and more contracts and from then on he has always consulted me for important business decisions.
Q: Please tell us how you came to meet your mentor Grandmaster Lillian Too.
A: I first came across the name Lillian Too through her books. While vacationing in London to meet my husband’s parents, I read her book “The Complete Illustrated Guide into Feng Shui” and got so fascinated with it. Other books followed after that, which made me understand why things didn’t go well with my personal life. And then in 2004, while my husband and I were on a holiday in Hawaii, it so happened that Lillian Too was having her Feng Shui Extravaganza in the same hotel where we were staying. It was a dream come true for me being at the right place at the right time. I attended her talk and bought as many luck enhancers as I could. Lillian invited me to attend her Master’s Practitioner Course in Malaysia and then it was all good news after that.
Since then, I further studied with many other great feng shui grandmasters in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand. I also developed a better understanding of the Buddhism practice after meeting His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV in India and after joining pilgrimages to Burma and Nepal. Amidst all these, I am still a devout Catholic. I just never stopped learning about feng shui ever since so I can continue to share to the public whatever I can so most people will benefit from it.
Q: Are there any misconceptions about feng shui that need to be set straight?
A: For one, I would like people to understand that feng shui is not about guesswork. Feng shui provides indications of what could happen but we should not rely entirely on it. We have to do our part as well. For example, when we say that one has speculative or windfall luck, that’s not saying that you should rush to the nearest casino and bet as if there’s no tomorrow. There are other things to consider like is it a lucky day for you, are do you even deserve to receive the good fortune? In order to benefit from feng shui, one needs to propagate good deeds also. It’s about karma and it is only when you give that you receive. If you keep getting, but you don’t lift a finger to help others, you’re making it difficult for the universe to bless you back.
Q: How can you tell if one is a reliable feng shui expert?
A: There was a time in my life after I finished my MBA at the Ateneo de Manila University and had started a small company, when I told myself it was time for me to consider getting married again. Therefore, I sought the advice of a Chinese feng shui master in a posh hotel in Makati. The purpose of that “destiny reading” was for me to make sure that Nick was really the one for me and my children. After a 30-minute “reading,” the feng shui master told me bluntly to forego the idea of marriage as I will never have the chance to get married to Nick and that if we did, it would be short-lived. I left very sad and dismayed, holding that piece of paper scribbled with some Chinese characters (I still keep it until now!). However, instead of listening to him, I told myself, one day I will prove you and the stars wrong, I shall learn more about this science of feng shui and I will try to spread and make a lot of people happier, especially in the “love department.”
To this day, Nick and I are together and happily married for the last 15 years and have even added to our brood of three, our lovely little Nikki who is now 9 years old. I have met and worked with the world’s great grandmasters of feng shui and I would like to say that practicing and being responsible for the destiny reading of a person is a very big responsibility and therefore, a 30-minute evaluation of oneself will not yield a proper reading. It would take at least three weeks for me to be able to read and analyze and “write a report” of any feng shui analysis and destiny reading, plus a proper written report for both the client and myself to keep. Real feng shui entails painstaking study and analysis. Studying feng shui is just like any other degree, we have to be certified. Sad to say, there are people who go out and use the media to suggest certain practices even without the benefit of proper feng shui evaluation. That, to me, is purely for entertainment.
Q: Is there such a thing as too much feng shui or was there ever a case when the cures or enhancers just didn’t work out?
A: I have a personal story to share. Before we moved to the UK, we were staying in a house that we renovated in North Greenhills. I had selected the house in accordance to some feng shui principles especially for me and my husband’s lucky directions. During the first few months there were no problems until we noticed that although my husband got a lot of projects, money was flowing out as quickly as it came in. Getting good sleep at night was also a problem. I did some feng shui corrections, but things still didn’t improve. That’s when I realized that our bedroom was directly above the cooking area. Can you imagine the symbolic heat we were being subjected to everyday? So I moved the huge stove to a safer place and things went very well after that.
Several years ago, Nick and I nearly had a plane crash in El Nido, it was an aborted takeoff—the plane’s door got removed from our side, strong wind and impact could have suctioned us from inside the plane…perhaps because of the amulets we were wearing then, we were saved. In 2010, year of the Tiger, my conflict year, a healer in Malaysia told me that I will be having a heart attack in November of that year (my chart suggested it was my double misfortune month, too). So other than doing a full medical checkup and doing healthy things for myself, I went to pilgrimages in Nepal, Burma and India and have come out healthier after that year. I believe that God may have extended my life so I can perhaps be a blessing to others. Doing feng shui helps me with my charity projects for the food and education of the 100 nuns in Kathmandu, Nepal, supporting the World Vision and the Gawad Kalinga projects for my Rotary Club and the Aetas community and several more. Feng shui really makes us a better person.
There is scientific basis to feng shui and yes, sometimes miscalculations can happen, but they can be corrected. I also make sure that I follow the annual flying stars of the year, by suppressing the bad sectors with feng shui cures and then activate the good sectors with feng shui enhancers. It is as important to be protected from the negative energies as it is to enhance good luck.
At one time, I also overactivated the Romance sector to play safe. There were no problems between me and my husband, but then one nanny became pregnant courtesy of the driver, and another one fell in love with the gardener. I learned my lesson and after that I only hired gay gardeners.
Q: At a time when your business is doing very well, why did you even consider moving the entire family to the UK?
A: My husband and I have always maintained that the well-being of our family and the pursuit of the best education opportunities for our children will always take priority over all other concerns. Immigrating to the UK was also a primary concern as we needed our three children to get their British citizenships as well, and my husband insisted that this would give them more options later in life. As a mother, I will do everything I could to give our children a better future. I figured that I can still fulfill my responsibilities as a wife and mother and at the same time continue my feng shui consultations here in the Philippines and in the UK.
Q: How are you managing so far?
A: I have gotten used to shuttling between London and Manila twice a month this past two years. We all love the change and everything is in alignment with feng shui. It was the year of the Tiger, my conflict year when we moved. It is always best to make a shift when it’s your conflict year. At that time, moving to Summertown, Oxford, a very beautiful suburb Northwest of London was in accordance to feng shui because the prosperity star was in the NW, which is the lucky direction of our four children.
It has worked out well. Our children, aged 18, 17, 15, and 9, are all very happy and doing well in school. Life there for me is less stressful. The environment is clean, we eat fresh vegetables and drink freshly squeezed juices every day, simple things that really mean a lot to me, even attending PTA meetings, which I barely have the chance to do here. I also have more time to think and plan about the growth of the business and scouting for other opportunities. I go to the gym and exercise religiously and I am back into riding a bike, considering that I am now 43 and the last time I used one was in my teens, ha, ha. We pedal for miles, go to a church and go to groceries sometimes on bikes. We also appreciate the biggest change the move has brought to our children, that is, they have all become independent, mature and free to move around and experience the real blessings in life. Our two boys insisted on doing some part-time work after school so we are extremely proud of them as they have become more responsible individuals.
Q: How does this set-up affect the business?
A: Whenever I am away from Manila, I use the best technology around. I use Skype and iphone a lot to talk to my team every day. I see all my boutiques through CCTV, as if I never left. More so, I can see things from a bigger perspective and I can plan things better and my time is maximized and I can attend to my consultations timely and effectively whenever I am back in the country.
Q: What new things can we expect from Marites Allen?
I have something exciting coming up in the next couple of months that I’m sure will benefit a lot of feng shui aficionados. Please watch out for the announcements.