Sekaya Expert Talk: Noelle Hilario on Going Organic, Mindfulness, and the Value of Choosing your Own Path to Wellness

One afternoon, at the height of the Philippine summer, we stepped inside Noelle Hilario’s charming Hillside Café in Quezon City. We chose Hillside as the venue for our new video series called Conversations Over Infusions, featuring Noelle and her close friend and business partner, Denise Gonzales-Bernardo.

After spending a few hours recording the clips, we asked Noelle if she could sit down with us for a short interview that we wanted to publish on our website as part of our Sekaya Expert Talks.


The following conversation focuses on Noelle’s key takeaways from her health and wellness journey, and the role of yoga and mindfulness in her daily life as a mother.



When it comes to food and skincare products, how important are organic ingredients to you?


Everyday, we’re bombarded by toxins from the air, the food that we eat, and the products that we use. It’s impossible to control all of them. But we can control the ingredients that go into our food and on our skin. That’s why I choose products that contain natural or organic ingredients. It’s important because I know that if I’m not careful with what I put in my body, it’ll eventually get stressed from all the toxins, which can lead to sickness. By choosing my food and skincare products wisely, I’m able to minimize the damage that the environment does to my body. It’s prevention. And prevention is always the best.


How do you make sure that the ingredients you use for cooking are organic and safe?


I buy from stores that sell organic, or natural products. I like advocating honest brands who use honest ingredients; those who really care about your health. Also, I make sure to always read the labels so I know what I’m buying. Knowing where to buy food is very important if you’re serious about going organic or vegetarian. It can be challenging to find real, healthy food at first. It still is (for me), sometimes. But the good thing about it is that healthy food is starting to get more popular. A lot of stores are beginning to offer organic products.


Any advice for people who want to start buying and eating organic food but don’t know where or how to start?


Do your research. There are tons of articles online, and there are a lot of books out there on healthy living and how to practice the organic lifestyle. Go to talks and workshops, and watch documentaries as well. It’s all about educating yourself and learning from others.


If you’re thinking about going organic, I can tell you that it will be difficult at first. But once you know where to buy, it’ll get easier. Eventually, you’ll also get to meet others who have the same goals, people who also want to be healthier.




When did you realize that you wanted to practice clean and healthy living?


It started when I turned vegetarian. I got turned off by the meat industry and how it’s mostly all just about profit. I was disgusted when I learned about how some companies add hormones to their meat so they can sell more. It’s all about making money, and I decided that I didn’t want to support that any longer. So I switched to vegetarianism. Eventually, I learned that living healthily involves making changes in different aspects of your life as well.


Tell us how you got into yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.


Yoga and meditation go hand in hand with being vegetarian or when you’re trying to practice living healthily. It’s part of the lifestyle. I guess I just naturally gravitated towards them.


Through yoga and mindfulness, you’re able to become more aware of the things around you. And when you become conscious of your surroundings and what you put in your body, it spills over to your mental health. You’ll want to stay healthy mentally, as well as physically. It’s not just about exercise and proper diet. You also need to keep your mind in balance. That’s where yoga and meditation come in.


How do you incorporate yoga and meditation into your life as a mother?


Yoga is not just a physical practice. I realized that.  At first, I saw it as a form of exercise and stress release. But, eventually I learned that the more I did yoga, the more patient I became with the things around me, especially with my son or with relationships. I can say I’m more patient now, more forgiving. I believe that yoga and meditation keep me sane.


I do my best to practice yoga at least 3 to 4 times a week. Whenever I can, I follow videos online. If I don’t have much time, I’ll do 20 or 30 minutes. If I have more time, I do it for an hour. I also join classes sometimes.


For meditation: I make it a point to meditate at least once a day. It’s the first thing that I do when I wake up. It really helps me feel more balanced.


What advice can you give other young mothers who are thinking about switching to healthier and more eco-friendly lifestyles?


Again, the first step is research. Read as much as you can about it. There are a lot of resources available now. Attend workshops on healthy eating and join Facebook groups. Engaging with the community is key. When you begin to absorb all the information, it will be easier for you to find your own path to wellness. And later on, you will discover how you want to be healthy in your own unique way.


How does your family practice sustainable living on the household level?


I always carry an eco bag. I bring my glass straw with me when I go out to eat. I avoid using single-use plastic. Just those little steps for now. But eventually, I would really like to do something more concrete. I’d like to be part of something bigger.


In what ways are you able to share what you know about clean living with other people?


I’m able to do it through Flow Retreats, because that’s our advocacy. We do surf, yoga, and detox retreats. Our goal is always to help others get into the healthy lifestyle. A lot of those who join us are new to being healthy. Our retreats, workshops, classes, or events become stepping stones for people who seek to incorporate health and wellness into their lives. And, you know, I like seeing them talk about how Flow has helped them. I see them post about their smoothies, I see them do more yoga, and I see them go out to surf more. It’s nice to know that they’re learning to develop their own ways to become healthy. We encourage them to find their own path because there is no one way to wellness. We all have our different lifestyles, our own schedules to consider. So, it’s good to find your own formula for it. And that’s what we want people to understand through Flow.


I also post a lot on Instagram; mostly about the things I drink, some recipes, and the healthy restaurants that I find.


That’s how I share what I know about health and wellness with others.



You can watch Noelle discuss wellness, going organic, and mindfulness with her Flow Retreats co-founder, Denise Gonzales-Bernardo on Conversations Over Infusions

Share this article