Tuesday, January 03, 2006

SNIPPETS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON

The holidays, anywhere between December 24 and January 1, were spent shopping for gifts. Yes, gifts for friends, officemates and family. The shopping drained my finances leaving me without anything for myself. Don’t get me wrong peeps, I’m not whining. I still believe in the adage: It’s better to give than to receive. Amen.

Holiday shopping was done in parts ‘coz I was financially incapable of a one-time grand pocket-slashing shopping journey. Like majority of us, I needed to budget my wads, limited wads. So practicality dictated a shopping list that had to be revised a couple of times. And mind you, revisions were made in just a matter of minutes. You know how it goes: list, de-list, re-list and aided with the calculator feature of my 5-year old mobile, finally, I came up with a shortened but meaningful list.

In the midst of the materialistic fervor that’s shopping, I was able to squeeze some time for exercise. Instead of buying something, I opted to give myself a gift of fitness. Nakks!!! In case you haven’t come across it yet, the “gift of fitness” is the mantra of an international fitness club that is aggressively marketing its presence in the Philippines and banking on the Pinoy “pa-macho/pa-sexy” psyche.

The holiday rush (plus the booze and food bingeing) did not deter me from my “holy” training plan. Running, my running, had never been this really freaking serious. The past days and nights were totally awesome. Training had me running from the Fort Strip all the way through a minor ascent to McKinley road in Forbes Park until slightly reaching EDSA for a turnaround. The final stretch had me running flatly in the direction of the Bonifacio stopover turning right toward Market Market! and finally heading back to the strip. I lost count of the rounds I made. What stuck in my mind was the almost three hours of sweet hell!

I kept outdoing myself with each run. It was like a revelation. I never thought I could be this passionate and focused with road running. I loved every second of it; cherished every sweat that trickled from my pores; ached for every grasp of breath and wickedly mouthed expletives whenever I felt exhaustion knocking into my senses, enveloping me with fear of physical limitation…and yet I kept running.

OK I feel I’m boring you with running 101’s, let me go back to the holidays. My family’s Noche Buena feast was the usual stuff, nothing fancy, just the tried and tested hamonado, fruit salad, spaghetti (the sweet Pinoy version) and Coke (make that Diet… Hehehe). So for the Media Noche fare, I decided it had to be a little different. I devised a New Year’s Eve dinner menu consisting of fresh greens in vinaigrette and mixed seafood soup and ramen for appetizer; followed by the main course of grilled lamb chops with buttered button mushrooms in parsley and tuna kebab; dessert was the heavenly mango-jelly salad prepared by my sister and sweet bloody red iced tea for refreshment. A bottle of Merlot for the adults capped the sumptuous feast.

The dinner menu was my idea. Well, it was not exactly wholly mine ‘coz some dishes were inspired by a bit of a Lifestyle Network exposure. That’s kudos in part to Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Nigella Lawson, Ming of Ming’s Quest and those really amazing Japanese Iron Chefs.... Hiyaaa!!!!!!!! The coiffed Iron Chef host announces in his trademark smirk: Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Iron Chef Nobu’s contender from Nagasaki prefecture, Master Chef Hirosan… Hahaha…

Planning the menu was fun. Shopping for the ingredients was another story. Whoever said that shopping was therapeutic, relaxing or enjoyable must have been feverishly out of his mind. Well, I realized shopping was really tedious. I decided to get everything from Market Market! because of its extensive outdoor tiangge-style fruit and veggie stalls and the surprisingly huge Metro Gaisano supermarket at the basement. The whole place was packed. The counters had queues to forever. It was terribly annoying. What made me more fidgety was the fact that I was on a budget and that I needed to buy everything for a thousand or less! Apart from that constraint, my knowledge on food items was so limited that I had to buy them through mind-recall (Is this the dressing that Mario mentioned in Molto Mario? Did Nigella ever mention that parsley goes well with buttered mushroom?). I had to ask help from the other shoppers as well which was admittedly pleasurable. Somehow in the midst of this chaotic consumerist exercise, I was able to apply a few socializing skills.

The whole task of planning, shopping, preparing and partly cooking the dishes had me exhausted. Mid-way through dinner I felt a kind of familiar, comforting and undeniably tempting drowsiness that had me early in bed. I was in oblivion while the rest of the city noisily celebrated New Year. I even missed my friend’s Sunlounge party at Rockwell. I was supposed to go there around 1AM or until after the “bombs” had subsided; unfortunately, I woke up past 2AM and still sleepy.

December is undoubtedly the country’s official party season. What with the barrage of party invites here and there. Although I got my fair share of engagements, I felt I was less of a partygoer in 2005. I don’t know what happened. It could be that I am getting old for brazen drunkenness and nights of debauchery or that my usual gimmick buddies who I constantly invite and unceasingly remind of the fabulous (night)life are the ones feeling the bite. Hahaha…. Some friends will cry foul after reading this blog. Hey, the season of peace still lingers in the air… Hahaha.

The holiday season made me realize the essentials of one’s existence. Life, however chaotic; happiness, however shallow, all go back to the basics: family, friends and oneself. Amidst the blatant commercialism and the perceived loss of the true meaning of the season, it is reassuring that one still has family, friends and the sanity that collectively remind you of the meaning of Christmas and the New Year- a celebration of life and a continued journey to blissfulness.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Whoosh


I had a stressful weekend. I spent Saturday in the office working on a major program that is to be launched in the plant next month. Considering that two days from now is already next month and the fact that I’m still working on its conceptual framework makes me a bit uneasy. In fact, I am in a state of anxiety.

Sunday started quite okay. I had my routine weekend run. You should know by now that a major run for me is anywhere between 20 to 25 kilometers of road running – that’s about 2 hours nonstop. It really helps if you had ample rest prior to running, say, 6 hours of sleep or more (but no more than 8!). Excessively long sleep retards charged muscles. On training day and just about an hour before you start, I recommend (though optional) taking a power gel/bar or dark chocolate (or drinking a glass of Extra Joss – equally powerful but a tad cheaper) and some oatmeal cookies – goodie-foodie stuff that will surely boost your energy level.

Completing my morning routine was a visit to the fitness club for a much needed power stretching and abdominal workout. And then lunch! Tomato smoothie, chicken vinaigrette salad and tuna pesto wrap. All from Chamba Juice – my favorite healthy stop at the Fort Strip in Fort Bonifacio Global City.

But everything went wrong when I sensed something was missing with what I was wearing - a Nike cross-training top whose whoosh was conspicuously absent from where it used to be. The whoosh was originally located mid-chest. Now, what could have happened? Apparently, the last time it was machine-washed, the rubberized whoosh detached itself from the shirt and disintegrated upon contact with the machine’s blades.

That top was barely a month old and I particularly liked it ‘coz the material was sweat-proof and it matched well with my Nadal-like ¾’s. I was about to explode with anger and was so tempted to throw expletives in the air (I sensed that a minute more would have me erupting with the ferocity of Vesuvius); however, I did the most sensible thing – dialed Nike Park in Greenbelt, where I bought the item, and complained.

The lady who answered was very accommodating and gracious. She asked me to bring the item back to the store and it’ll be replaced appropriately. True enough, after rummaging the backside for stocks, she handed me a brand-new shirt, of similar style, color and size. No questions asked, just submitting to the whims of a demanding customer who was temporarily displeased and now was beaming with pure delight like a child being given his first serving of ice cream, double Dutch.

What a commendable customer service! Nike Park rocks! It’s good to know that, nowadays, companies are becoming consumer-centric where the customer is recognized as the most important aspect of a business’s success or failure. Indeed, discerning customers have nothing to worry about, except when the item you fancy is out of size. Now, that’s a major disaster!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Little Bit of Politics

Get Real : Truth is Arroyo won
By Solita Collas- Monsod
Inquirer News Service


(PDI) Editor's Note: Published on Page A12 of the October 29, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer


IT HAS been said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will start thinking it is true. And this has obviously been taken to heart by various groups and individuals, who peddle their lies as “truth.” Unfortunately for them, there is another saying: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Let us try to “unfool” the gullible and/or expose the weak underbelly of one of the “truths” being peddled.

Item: “Gloria Arroyo is an illegitimate president [because she cheated to win].” This has been repeated most often, probably because the further claims of her detractors are based on this assertion, claims such as “she does not have to be impeached to kick her out,” “her illegitimacy makes it impossible for her to govern effectively” (so she must be made to resign or be kicked out), “she is not credible,” etc.

Let’s jog our memories a bit:
1. Voter preferences in the run-up to the 2004 elections, as recorded by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which conducted polls every two weeks since the start of the campaign period, showed that while at the beginning (Jan. 16-28) the lead of Fernando Poe Jr. over Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was almost 10 percentage points (36.3 percent vs. 26.5 percent), this was whittled down so that a month later, they were running neck-and-neck, and this continued into March. By the second week of April, the polls showed Ms Arroyo ahead by almost five percentage points (35.3 percent vs. 30.8 percent), although this was not statistically significant (i.e., it still could go either way). But by the week before the elections (May 1-4), Ms Arroyo’s lead over Poe was significant (37 percent vs. 30 percent).

The other major polling organization, Pulse Asia, also noted the same trend, although its polls were taken at slightly different time periods: an increasing trend for Ms Arroyo and decreasing trend for Poe. Its last poll, conducted from April 26-29, showed Ms Arroyo leading, 37 percent vs. 31 percent.

Note that a six-point lead in voter preferences, if translated into actual votes, would imply a difference of 2.0-2.5 million votes between the two candidates, depending on whether we use total votes cast or total registered voters as base.

2. Exit polls conducted on election day itself by at least three media organizations (although only one of them may have used acceptable polling methods) validated the run-up polls. All of them showed Ms Arroyo as the winner.

3. The final official congressional canvass showed Ms Arroyo getting 40 percent of the votes cast, while Poe got 36.5 percent (a difference of 1.1 million votes), while the Namfrel Quick Count, based on 83 percent of total precincts (the election watchdog group Namfrel was not present in all precincts), showed Ms Arroyo with 39.4 percent and Poe with 36.8 percent (a difference of 700,000 votes).

All figures from different sources are within the same ball park, and all indicate that Ms Arroyo won. For those who think that the poll results should not be accepted, it should be pointed out that the head of the SWS is the first cousin of Poe. More importantly, since they are now using the same polling organizations to point out that Ms Arroyo has lost the trust of the nation, or that she is not satisfactory, let it be further pointed out that they cannot be selective in the use of poll results.

What is more, other circumstances obtaining during the campaign period support the conclusion that it is the claim of “illegitimacy” that is a lie: after all, her coalition party, K4, won 58 percent of senatorial seats, 87 percent of congressional seats, 85 percent of gubernatorial slots, 87 percent of city mayor seats, and 85 percent of all mayor seats. Either they carried her or she carried them, or there was some combination of both.

Could this have been the result of a grand conspiracy to commit massive cheating at all levels? But that is not what either the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) or the Namfrel thought. Said the prelates: “Gathered for the 89th CBCP Plenary Assembly of July 10-11 at Pius XII Center in Manila the bishops reviewed the conduct of the May 10th elections and their consequences for the future course of the country. Each bishop present was asked to comment on whether or not massive fraud in the conduct of the elections was observed by him and the volunteers in his diocese so as to have affected substantially the results of the elections. With only one or two exceptions, the rest of the bishops answered in the negative. This confirms our statement of June 1, 2004: ‘that there were some instances of cheating and violations of election law by political parties in their areas but these did not affect the voting in general.’ It is the view of the bishops that the results of the elections reflected the will of the Filipino people.”

Said Namfrel secretary general Bill Luz: “The results of the elections are credible and reflect the vote of the people. We didn’t see enough electoral anomalies at the national level to have a material effect on the national results.”

Then there was the endorsement (albeit last minute -- but this shows that they were jumping on the bandwagon) that Ms Arroyo received from the Iglesia ni Cristo and El Shaddai. And finally, it was generally acknowledged that Poe was shooting himself in the foot during the campaign, and that the opposition was split four ways. In other words, they did it to themselves.

Given all these, the bottom line is: Like it or not, Ms Arroyo is our legitimate President. Let us not allow ourselves to be misled by those who are themselves misled or who have their own political ambitions.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Plan

Running season is almost over. There are a few more scheduled until mid-December but the major ones are done.

2006 looks promising for my running career. My performance this year has been awesome. I’ve broken my records in New Balance Power Race, Milo National Marathon, Adidas King of the Road and to top it all, a new personal best time in the just concluded ANIMO!RUN. What’s so amazing is that I kept breaking barriers. Each run was almost an improvement from the previous one. I’m overwhelmed by the positive results given proper training and diet.

This early, my focus is on the Pasig Heritage Run – a 42K full marathon that starts in the historic Intramuros then steers through the streets of Manila, Pasay, Makati, Pasig and finally Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

I’ve searched the web and read through countless magazines, journals and books on full marathon training. I found an interesting plan from Runner’s World and I’m particularly keen on it.

It’s a bit sadistic, to put it bluntly, for someone who has no interest in running. However, it’s heaven-sent for really serious runners. I’ll share it for the sheer pleasure of sharing something that matters to me. It’s called Marathon Training for Serious Runners. It says that “If you're accustomed to running 35-40 miles a week and are looking to qualify for the Boston marathon, this is the training plan for you.” What??? THE BOSTON MARATHON??? It’s the granddaddy of all running events… Now, this is interesting!

The training plan spans 16 weeks with the running distance varying each week. On the 1st week, it’s 40 miles (yes, that’s about 64 kilometers). Sounds really extreme and that’s just the start. The distance gradually increases until the 3rd week where you’re expected to run 77 kilometers. Wow, truly remarkable! So how does it work? The plan requires you to run 6 days a week, 5 mid-range runs with distances ranging from 5 miles to 7 miles. One day allotted for rest and the 6th training day would be a major one at 11 miles or more.

Fret not for the total distance on the 4th week tapers to 40 miles, back to where you started. You are given a week to relax because the next 3 weeks is hell. Sweet!!! Hahaha. The succeeding weeks will have you running between 45 to 57 miles – that’s anywhere between 72 to 91 kilometers. And to add sugar to a now more sweetened pie, the 10th to 13th week will have you grasping for breath as it requires you to run 60 miles (96 kilometers). The running distance narrows into the 14th week. From there the training takes on a relaxed (read humane) mode until you reach the final week where the distance is just a mere 15 miles.


So what do I think of this particular training??? Well, it’s uhhh…crazy??? Seriously, I find it really exciting, challenging and TOTALLY EXTREME! This is what I call taking the road less traveled. Will I ever get there? We’ll see…

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Genius that is Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was at Power Books a few nights ago and came across two novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Living to Tell the Tale and Memories of My Melancholy Whores. The latter caught my interest, well, who wouldn’t?

Memories of My Melancholy Whores tells the story of a journalist who at the age of 90, looks back on his colorful life – the relationships he had, the women he loved and made love to. It is a “belated love story” of a man who lived most of his life in the company of prostitutes – women who were paid to perform for him the acts of love. On the eve of his 90th birthday, he wanted to relive his amorous past and decided to hire the services of a “virgin adolescent.” What happened next was an intense transformation he never expected, a love he never had and a life he’d been wanting.

Memories of My Melancholy Whores is a poignant story of true love. It celebrates the joys of being in love as seen in the man who realized, albeit belatedly, that “sex is the consolation one has for not finding enough love.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez once more demonstrated his skillful storytelling in Memories of My Melancholy Whores, his latest fictional work in a decade. The book is full of Garcia Marquez’s beautiful sentences crafted in magical realism, a literary style that the author mastered and has since been associated with.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca Colombia in 1928. He received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. His other notable works are: Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

New Record

The 3rd ANIMO!RUN, a 10K running event organized by the DLSU Running Club, was held earlier at Rockwell. It was my first ANIMO!RUN and it will go down in my running history as one of the greatest: 40 minutes & 30 seconds – a new personal best!

As a recap, here’s the list of the 3 major running events (all 10K) that I joined in the last month or so:

October 9 – Milo National Marathon (Roxas Boulevard) – 49 ++ minutes
October 16 – Adidas King of the Road (Fort Bonifacio) – 52 ++ minutes
November 13 – ANIMO!RUN (Rockwell Makati) – 40 min. & 30 sec.

Getting better, getting there!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

(Un)Kingly Performance

The Adidas King of the Road, an annual 10K run, was held Sunday at the Adidas Sports Kamp in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The race route was the same as the previous year: from Sports Kamp to Gil Puyat avenue and back.

Coming from a euphoric finish in the Milo National Marathon Finals a week ago, I was upbeat on the Adidas run. My goal was 48 minutes or faster. Sadly, I didn’t meet that. What registered in the official clock after stepping into the finish line was a frustrating 51 minutes! Two minutes slower than my personal best time, the one I got a week ago. In swimming, 2 minutes translate into several laps; in basketball, miracles happen in 2 minutes and well, in sex a baby can be had in 2 minutes! Flatly speaking, 2 minutes in running is eternity.

It’s hard to comprehend how an excellent performance can plummet to mediocrity in a week’s time. I was so disillusioned; my ego disintegrating and the pieces landing on deep shit. It was such a bull of a Sunday.

I kept on thinking what went wrong. Was it the pair of shoes I wore? Was my singlet too heavy? Did I eat the right food? Was I too confident? After a methodical analysis (utilizing the 12-step problem-solving technique – fuck, sounds geeky), I came up with a few valid ones:

(1) Lack of training – Prior to Sunday’s race, I only trained twice - Monday and Friday with a combined running distance of about 20K. Nothing impressive if one considers my average run of about 30-40K in a week.
(2) Too much of the good life – Although I declined 2 social engagements last week, I still went ahead with one (several actually) last Friday: cocktails at Embassy, late dinner at Pasto, booze at Jill’s and a private party in a Makati hotel. It was a night of total debauchery! I ended up sleeping the whole Saturday and missing my training at the gym where my trainer was supposed to condition my leg muscles with some power-packed workout.
(3) Work – I was scheduled to run Wednesday, alas, work got in the way. Hey, I’m not complaining. Hahaha.

However, as they say, think right perspective. So what went right? Drum roll please… I was still faster than my triathlete friends and those guys at the gym! Don’t get me wrong peeps, I’m not boasting. Do I look like a swellhead? Hehehe. Well, I just realized that with my ego gone and shitting in deep shit, I had to pick the pieces quick ‘coz I’d hate spending the rest of the week nursing a dejected ego. LOL. And for sounding like an abnormally (thank you) egotistical person, I am considering adding “egomaniac” in the “About Me” portion of my profile in friendster. But, but…I prefer dropping the “ego”, you know, and end up with the big M. Now, that’s more like it… Enough said. Hahaha. Come to think of it, that’s another topic worth writing.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Fitting Finale to a Symphony of Quality

I got back from a 2-day official business trip having been chosen by Kraft along with two other colleagues as the company's representatives to the 17th National Quality Forum. The forum gathered CEOs, GMs, EVPs and practically all business acronyms one can think of. For the lesser mortals like us, we were officially branded as quality advocates and our official function was to sit (and listen- sometimes a hard thing to do on occasions such as this) as the gods spew fires on various quality improvement subjects. I'd rather not expound on it as I'd hate this bulletin becoming, to borrow a word from Sen. Santiago, highfalutin. Six Sigma, TRIZ, MAIDIC... technical jargons that make your head spin 360 degrees.

The icing to the cake, the scoop of vanilla ice cream to an apple tart, so to speak, was the finale: a superb performance by the San Miguel Master Chorale accompanied by the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra.

As the first note resounded, slowly at first then gradually growing into a fiery crescendo, I was instantly overwhelmed with inexplicable emotions. The chorale's repertoire has the power to transport the listener into a journey of melodious ecstasy. This is the kind of music that overwhelms you. It is music that penetrates your inner senses - beautiful, haunting and comforting music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once said that "musical excellence is achieved when twenty individuals are talking at the same time, singing a perfect harmony." San Miguel Master Chorale just did that with its great command performance. It showed musical excellence as the group of incredibly soulful voices melted and swayed into a symphony of sheer perfection. The chorale's mastery of the craft and vast recital experience emerged through its impeccable interpretation of the challenging, quirky, upbeat and poignant scores masterfully arranged and composed by no less than Mr. C- Ryan Cayabyab.

Listening to a live performance from a world-renowned choral group was splendid. Theirs was not my kind of music as I'm more inclined to dance and electronica - stuff you hear and dance with in bars, club and lounges. However, watching them perform and truly grasping the essence of their music made me realize that music at its finest is one of the most beautiful and powerful creations of man. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to upload their compilation into my iPod - they certainly deserve a byte of space alongside my DJ Tiesto and DJ Bisturi compilations.