Thursday, December 27, 2007

A look into that shift to automatic mode

I just realized that airports are right there at the top of my list of “automatic mode” triggers. As soon as I stepped out of the cab that brought me at NAIA II for my early morning flight (by early, I mean REALLY early) I sensed a few shifts inside. For one, it was like I just stopped thinking and did everything mechanically. And mechanical seems to aptly sum up the numbness and the obliviousness that took over.

I can’t help but think that I’ve slowly learned to “unfeel” the sadness of leaving (which I often associate with airports, go figure). Not that going home makes me feel sad. On the contrary, it was something I was really looking forward to. But then again, I also knew that I wouldn’t be staying home long. And I didn’t wish to dwell on what that would make me feel.

Interesting how innocuous things (like stepping off cabs, walking through airport security, etc.) that often go unnoticed, reveal a lot of stuff. It makes me think that in between the constant shifting of chaos and stillness inside and out is a treasure-trove of details that can be fun to uncover.

Monday, December 24, 2007

All things great and beautiful

I've been feeling particularly chirpy for far longer than I'm used to. And today I realized that the reason for this feeling-on-top-of-the-world and everything-is-absolutely-bright-and-beautiful-I-don't-care-what-you-think kick-ass attitude is just plain happiness.

It's kind of weird accepting that I'm happy. Yes, that would be little Ms. Melancholic me being happy despite habitual efforts to dig through the mayhem between my ears. I've stowed enough loot to satisfy my constant wondering, seeking, pondering on the minutest things that are guaranteed to catapult me to the land of sadness. I imagine all the stuff inside, the tons of baggages preserved like relics encased in cold hard glasses. There's just so many things in there.

I'm a collector. Good or bad, I just collect everything. There's a load of stuff of every possible shapes and and sizes, inconvenient things that mold truths and half-truths, the intrusive facets of experiences gained, and so the epic goes on. Still, I can't seem to stop. The great and the mundane never lose their charm. And so I yield, I harvest, I store, and I wait for whatever it is that I'm waiting for.

For now, I'm just happy. Happy that I'm still standing despite a decade's worth of love lost, of finding and losing twice that someone who made me feel alive again after dying ten years' worth of deaths, of letting go of the familiar things that made me feel safe, of finding a new path to explore, and of finally accepting that I'm whole.

Everything is just absolutely great and beautiful because I've finally realized, I'm now much bigger than my previous self. I think my collection has quietly expanded me to make way for more stuff. And for that, I now have more room for all the things that life wishes me to have.

Of blessings and a dozen wishes

My sister sent me an SMS of what probably is a list of the best Christmas wishes I've received so far. I'm sharing them to all my friends as well. Here goes:

My dozen wishes for you:
  1. Sunrise after the darkest of nights.
  2. Friends who bring out the best in you.
  3. A love that makes you smile.
  4. Belief that anything is possible.
  5. Courage to finally do what you've been putting off.
  6. Time for yourself.
  7. Promises that are not broken.
  8. An answered prayer
  9. A heart that forgives
  10. A Christmas feeling all year round
  11. A soul that heals, and
  12. A good life and healthy body...

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My own amazing Christmas tree

I got a special gift today, one of the best Christmas presents I’ve had this year. It’s a corporate giveaway in the guise of a Christmas card made from recycled carton. It has a picture of a tree and the words “The Amazing Do-Everything Christmas Tree” printed on it. It also says that the said amazing tree is so great that the giver(s) thought I should have one.

Apart from the creative appeal of the card, the real gift is the tree that will be planted in my name at the Caliraya watershed. Once planted, the giver(s) will also be responsible for supporting for its care and protection by the local community through Haribon Foundation.

Imagine that, people using their time, effort, and resources to give a truly special gift for others this Christmas. Now, that's what I call thoughtful giving. Many thanks to the giver(s) and many Merry Christmas trees to all!

The greatest stuff just keep coming in. I can't believe I'm getting all these things that are so full of meaning for me:
- a friendship voodoo doll (the underdog) + the quirky vouchers from Miray
- a Teddy (Mr. Bean's best friend) phone strap from Mark (because I've always been Teddy to his Mr. Bean :-)
- a canvas tote bag from Myla (interesting note: it says on the tag that 10% of the amount paid to purchase the bag will be donated to Greenpeace)
- the book Alexandria Link from Arlady (because I just miss reading so bad)

Thank you all!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It can begin in the playground

(Backtrack: Random thoughts while doing rowing umpiring duties at a reservoir in Pattaya.)

There is really nothing much to do in the middle of a reservoir after each heat except wait for the next one to begin. Everything seems to stand still. It is the kind of stillness that brings a vibrant quality to the breeze that carries with it a sense of peace.

It is exactly during these moments of just sitting and waiting on the catamaran (or rubber boat if the catamaran is not working) that I stare into a vast expanse of water. A backdrop of trees with brown leaves burnt by the sun completes the picture that is being etched in my mind. Then I look up and notice the clear sky. And this is when I realize, again, that this is exactly one of the reasons why this sport makes me feel much closer to nature.

Seven years of active training in dragon boat rowing have given me a treasure trove of memories that include beautiful sunrises. I have rowed in different bodies of water, each one unique and nestled in breathtaking landscapes. Each place has made me yearn to see more.

It is hard not to feel blessed when I am out there. It is like nature is infusing its energy into me and giving me the much-needed strength to perform. I think this is a feeling shared by almost everyone, especially those who engage in sports whether for fitness or competition. More than the endorphins, more than the camaraderie and friendships, more than the satisfaction of going beyond limits - sports offer a lot of opportunity to commune with nature.

It more than makes sense, therefore, why the International Olympic Committee has included sports and the environment as one of the pillars of the Olympic Movement. It even revised its mission and role to include the following:

“to encourage and support responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly…”

Quite simply, it is reciprocity at its best. Everyone depends on the environment, sports people even more so to achieve optimal performance. The Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks said something that resonate in the consciousness of sports people worldwide and I quote: “I breathe at least twice as deeply when I’m running. Air pollution is a threat to my health and my physical performance” (UNEP 2005).

Almost all sporting activity I know, if not all, rely heavily on the environment. In the Philippines alone, the Rowing team feels the weight of the sorry state of Pasig River. Around the world, athletes are feeling the effects of climate change, which is perhaps one of the reasons why sports luminaries and organizations are actively campaigning to help raise awareness on environmental issues and promote sustainable development.

Apart from the efforts of these sports personalities, there is also an increasing involvement from the grassroots level, which is an untapped goldmine that can really help turn the tide against pressing problems such as climate change. It is in the grassroots level that children learning the values of play can be taught about the important relationship of sports and the environment. It is in the grassroots level where clubs can be a rich resource of volunteers for various environment-related projects and initiatives.

The environmental issues has become so big and complicated that sometimes I feel helpless just thinking if there is something that I can really do to effect change. Thankfully, I have my sport that consistently reminds me of how beautiful and precious the environment is. It deserves all the attention and concern it is getting.

As I continue to draw energy from around me, I am also beginning to feel the infusion of hope just thinking of the people who see what I see. The world is a big and beautiful playground. I think appreciating it begins with really seeing and experiencing its beauty.
Play time is nature time. Now, more than ever, is a good time to stand up, go out, and play.
All images are from here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"We only accept payments in peso" and other firsts: Thailand adventure

"Peso lang po tinatanggap namin", the guy at the Travel tax booth told me. Uh-oh, I'm screwed. Paying the travel tax at the airport was a first for me because I got used to traveling with all these details already taken cared of. No amount of pakiusap with manong can force him to accept payment in US$. He just directed me to the arrivals area and have my money changed there. So I did and finished the whole check-in business much later than I expected.

Another first for me: We had to change gate twice prior to boarding. And I mean gates separately located in two different wings. I didn't find out why we were bounced back and forth like that. Nobody from the ground staff really gave a clear explanation. Maybe I just didn't care anymore. In my mind, this trip is really showing signs of becoming an adventure and I decided to just wing it and have fun.

The flight arrived at past 1:00am local time. My luggage was the last one out so there was a moment of mild panic when I thought it somehow got its way into another plane or something. Imagine standing alone looking at an empty carousel and all the people have happily left with their baggage already...tsk.

Next first: I had no accreditation (AD) card, no information about transportation and booking arrangements, nothing. Good thing I asked James (my co-umpire) before I left if he knows the details about the arrangements for us. It was comforting to know that we were on the same boat, that the only thing we can count on was the fact that there would be an information center at the Bangkok airport.

Yet another first: Still no AD card at the SEA Games information/accreditation center at the airport. Worse, they can't seem to find my application for accreditation. Argh! The protocol and accreditation people wanted me to go to Korat because maybe my accreditation is there, they said. Say what?!? Korat is like hours away from where I should be. Not that I don't want to go to Korat, Wushu will be played in Korat so I want to go there...but after I finish what I came here for, which means I need to be in Pattaya, not Korat. Buti na lang there were two Pinays there from the PSC who somewhat helped me (assured me actually that there's also a Secretariat in Pattaya and they probably have my AD card).

Again, first: A sleepy driver was roused from his sleep in the van reserved for delegates. He was then told to bring me to Pattaya. I was the only passenger. There were not much cars/vehicles on the highway so he was really stepping on the gas pedal while I sat at the back praying that he doesn't fall asleep. But manong was such a good driver, I got in one piece at Pattaya after 1 hour, 50 minutes of travel. I checked-in at the hotel at 4:30am.

See, more firsts: No AD, no contacts with the Philippine delegation, nothing. I made sure I was up by 8:30 to hunt Nicholas Ee (who is the Asian Rowing Federation Technical Delegate) or the rest of the FISA people. I haven't found them still, but I bumped into Steve Banta and the Philippine rowing team, which was even better. Finally, kababayans! But I can't really spend much time with them since I'm supposed to be neutral here so I guess I won't be hanging out much with them. I hope they do well in the competitions.

Finally, the AD card: Processed in front of me, thanks to the copies of the documents I kept in my email account. Buti na lang kasi, in the SEA games, you don't exist as a player, coach, official, volunteer, etc. unless you have an AD card. Maybe I can sleep now. It's been a long night.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hello, fear

I am still thinking about the accident that happened in the dragon boat race in Cambodia. I cannot imagine the shock and emotional upheaval it has caused to the families, teammates, and friends of the victims.

One of my former teammates told me that it all happened during the first competition day. She told me that the Singapore team was on their way to the docking area already when their boat capsized. She said that even she and the rest of the Philippine team was scared because the boats they were using were very unstable.

This tragedy reminded me of the past. I remember feeling scared days before the competitions. The fear stem mostly from the uncertainties of the racing conditions. I was always particularly concerned everytime I discovered that we would be competing in reservoirs (maybe it all started in Jatiluhur when a teammate told me that the water in the dam where were were competing was 300m deep). Since then, everytime I hear the magic word reservoir, my mind usually went into overdrive thinking how deep the water would be and how safe I would be in the boat. I have often thought that I was probably the only rower who had this huge fear of the water. I mean, not that I do not like being on the water. It was just that, it does get scary out there, which was why I always had to psych up and assure myself that I would be safe.

Retirement quieted those fears. But as the rowing events at the SEA games approaches, the feelings resurfaced. In the past few days, a thousand butterflies seemed to have found their way into my stomach. I realized that even if I am not competing, I still worry about how safe the racing conditions would be.

I am now wearing a different hat. Before, my foremost concern as an athlete was to win. Now, as member of the Jury, I need to make sure that I do my part to ensure that competitions are safe and fair for everyone.

As for my fears, I guess they will always be there. The beauty of struggling with fear is that I always discover the resolve to overcome it. Rowing has taught me a lot in life. It has repeatedly made me confront my fears. I am a rower at heart. I meet my fears head-on...because I can.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Somebody nudge me from this seat

If not for that SMS I received from my aunt who lives in Davao, I would have remained oblivious to that so-called Makati standoff last Thursday. It was a bit disconcerting for me because I used to religiously read newspapers from cover to cover and can easily relate to a slew of topics related to current events. This time though, a relevant story was unfolding in Makati and I only got wind of it after I read my Tita's message.

Since I was feeling so out-of-the-loop and clueless on what was going on outside the office that has become my world, I immediately began to start reading the news and tried figuring out what the new "crisis" was all about. One of the things that crossed my mind was that the standoff in Makati was like a culmination to a series of events that have been happening for a week. Notably, there were those typhoons that battered certain areas of Luzon and an earthquake that rekindled the traumas of those who vividly remember the July 16, 1990 disaster. These events, the standoff included, was stretching the Filipinos' resilience once again.

To keep abreast of what was happening after LtSG. Antonio Trillanes IV and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim walked out from their court hearing on a separate rebellion charges , I made sure I was home in time to watch the late night news. I was struck by how passionate these soldiers are, particularly LtSG. Trillanes. He was more vocal than Gen. Lim. But somehow, it was Gen. Lim who made quite an impression to me. The guy exudes integrity and quiet pride. I feel the Magdalo, that is my funny take on this entire thing after watching all those news coverage. Amidst the noises and platititudes that politicians and government people make, I hear the sincerity and urgency behind the voices of these soldiers.

While I fully believe in the need for change and consider their grievances as valid, I cannot bring myself to support actions that would only undermine this country's endless efforts to stand up and move forward. However, despite my misgivings to their means, I was moved by the passion in which these soldiers fight for their cause. Their voices resonate and manage to penetrate this growing apathy that has been creeping up on me.

It is hard to condemn LtSG. Trillanes, Gen. Lim and the Magdalo group when I am safely seated on the fence, watching historic events transpire. I may not agree with how they choose to achieve their goals but I am truly amazed and humbled by their commitment to challenge the status quo and be the catalysts for the badly-needed changes for this country.