Monday, March 31, 2008

The True Cost of Rice...For Some

For weeks now there has been much talk about a looming global rice crisis and the Philippines, despite having vast agricultural lands, is also busy importing rice from countries like Vietnam in an attempt to address this problem.

Just this morning, I hear this news that the NFA provincial manager for North Cotabato has been relieved of his duties and reassigned (take note, reassigned) somewhere in Zamboanga. It seems that the said provincial manager allowed private retailers to purchase 14,000 bags/sacks of rice that are intended for distribution to local NFA accredited dealers. One could just imagine how this happened. How did 14,000 bags/sacks of rice just disappear like that?

Apparently, the ruse was to borrow the "cards" of the accredited dealers and make it appear that they were the ones who purchased the rice. With the deed done, this country and its people suffered one more blow from:

  1. Possibly (because, after all, one is innocent until proven guilty) corrupt government official(s) who direly need(s) to learn the basics of public service
  2. Unscrupulous traders who appear to be oblivious to the suffering of millions of Filipinos

NFA rice are usually sold at Php18.00++ per kilo. That amount is probably the cheapest that people can buy a kilo of rice for. The government is subsidizing the entire operation to sustain the delivery of this service. This only means that a substantial amount of taxpayers' money is poured into this initiative.

News like this are not exactly "new" anymore. It brings back memories of college days when idealism and hope brought me to places where I found a new way to look at existing realities.

I remember the pragmatism of farmers who till the land but ironically were left with almost nothing come harvest time. These were farmers who do not have enough food left to feed their families because countless middlemen buy their produce at such a very low price. It is when I heard about farmers barely getting by and their children not being able to go to school that my eyes were opened to what injustice truly means.

I think that this rice crisis will blow over, just like those countless other crises that this country and its people weathered. But the true question is, will corruption ever wane? It is always said that hope springs eternal. I will just have to hold on to that thought.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wrong Click

The cost of making a mistake in doing online booking:
  1. Three hours and eight minutes stuck in a room full of equally desperate and restless people. - I arrived at the airline ticket office to process my rebooking at 3:02pm yesterday and managed to survive the longest wait I did for such a task. It was a good thing I brought a book and maximized the time reading instead of staring into space and absorbing the frustrations of the people around me. The irony of it all was, my entire transaction took only about 12 minutes. Finish time: 6:10pm

  2. Php2,000 - Say what?!?!? "Can you please tell me again why I need to pay Php2,000?" was all I had to say to the airline crew/staff. She said that was for the upgrade and the rebooking fee. Good thing I had money in my wallet because I was naive enough to proceed to the ticketing office thinking I would be paying a minimal amount for that one lousy mistake I made with my online booking.

  3. One more e-ticket that I need to make sure I do not lose. - "But why can't you just give me one ticket?", I said. And the staff said, "because if I do, you need to pay me the Php1,600 for the travel tax". Then I said, "but I have travel tax exemption, I just don't have it with me right now". To which she replied, "Sorry, but I can't give you just one ticket since I need to see the travel tax exemption first". That, I said to myself, I will just have to live with.

It has always been said that something good always come out of something bad. This entire exercise in patience and waiting taught me that lessons really need to be learned. Sometimes, it is better to suffer first to make the lesson stick. I most definitely learned mine. Next time I need to book online, no mistakes will be made, absolutely not if I can help it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Power Woman

(I think that one of the best things we have for being alive is the time and the opportunity to meet people who can inspire and help us discover more things that we may otherwise fail to notice.

My friend, Ani, is one of those people that are such joy to find. I think that it is our chance to meet and celebrate life with people like her that is truly the amazing thing about every day that we get to wake up and explore.

Ani is truly a power woman. Her feats further make me firmly say to myself that everyone has a story to tell the world. All that is required is the zest to tell that story through actions that resonate far beyond words can ever achieve.)

Cover Story
Power Woman
By Aries Espinosa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:14:00 03/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines - In recent years, the high walls that surround what has always been described as a “man’s world” have slowly been chiseled away, thanks to women who will not be boxed by tradition. These days, people no longer do a second take when they see women cab drivers, welders, soldiers, scientists and top level politicians.

But nowhere is the concept of woman empowerment more apparent—and more challenged—than in the world of sports. By sheer bulk and brawn—nature and testosterone at work—as well as constant practice under the approving gaze of a male-dominated world, men’s winning performance has set the gold standard for athletics. For the longest time, men have been believed to be the stronger sex.

Well, tell that to the Marines. Better yet, tell that to Ani Karina de Leon, multiple National Triathlon champion, who last Feb. 23 again emerged from the box labeled “petite, fragile woman inside, handle with care,” and emerged victorious in the Ironman triathlon in Langkawi , Malaysia .

Competing among a field of 700 triathletes, 22 of them fellow Filipinos, De Leon swam 3.8 km, biked 180 km, and ran 42 km for a back-breaking, lung-busting, muscle-tearing 12 hours, 21 minutes and 17 seconds, to cross the finish line first in her age category (30-34), leaving many of the supposedly stronger men eating her salty dust.

More importantly, De Leon’s victory earned her the right to represent the Philippines in the mecca of triathlons: the Ironman Hawaii in Kona this October. “I’m the first ever homegrown Filipino in history to qualify in Hawaii,” she says with justifiable pride. (Take that, you chauvinist iron man!)

And there’s no doubt as to her gender, either. This triathlete may swim, bike and run like Mars, but she’s got a soft spot when it comes to matters of the heart. In fact, she admits to a budding romance with another triathlete—a foreign male—but ssssh, mom doesn’t know just yet, she confesses sheepishly. Alright, we can print that, she says, “because I’m about to tell her anyway.”

That’s all in the future though. Right now, what she’d like to tell the world is how she started on the road to Langkawi, and eventually, to Hawaii.

It all started about 21 years ago, when she was 12, De Leon reveals. “I began as a gymnast, then took up swimming when I was 14 at the UP Integrated School.” Her coach and swim buddies apparently noticed her all-around strong physique and encouraged her to run and bike as well, as a way of “cross training” for her main sport of swimming.

In 1994, when she was 19, she joined her first triathlon, a “beginner’s” distance of 1.5 km swim, 40-km bike, and 10-km run. “I was traumatized after that,” she laughs, “and I didn’t join another triathlon until 2000.”

What actually kept her busy during that time was college. She concentrated on finishing her Interior Design degree in UP Diliman and passing her board exams. As an artist De Leon also painted, and was already working for an interior design firm when competitions beckoned once more.

She joined the national team from 2000 to 2006. “At first, my life was like 70 percent devoted to career and 30 percent to the sport, but then the ratio just slowly swung in favor of the triathlon side. Now, my life revolves 100 percent around the sport,” she explains.

More like 120 percent, if you look at De Leon’s typical week. That’s because aside from training her already well-conditioned body (read: 12-percent body fat) for upcoming triathlon events this year, she also trains the next generation of triathletes.

De Leon runs a race series for children 15 years old and below for the Superkids Youth Development program of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (, click on the Superkids link).

“More than just developing their skills and preparing these children physically for multi-sports such as triathlons, this program also develops their confidence to face life as a whole,” she explains.

De Leon also manages to find time to run the Pinay in Action race series and fitness programs. Pinay in Action, as described in, was “created primarily to uplift the lives of the Filipina…to empower women and girls by providing venues for a healthier lifestyle and tools and information for a better future. Organized by Senator and fellow triathlete Pia Cayetano, Pinay in Action’s principal advocacies include a year-long program that involves conducting running clinics nationwide for public schoolgirls (Check out

“We’re trying to remove the typical stereotype of women as being emotionally and physically weak, using the sport of running as our main medium to get the message across,” stresses De Leon.

Actually, De Leon and her family ARE the message. Older sister Sinag is considered one of the female pioneers of triathlon in the country. Younger sister Daniw has already begun participating in run races, and 12-year-old niece Raya has already started doing triathlons.

Mom Anna Leah Sarabia, a known advocate of women’s empowerment, whom De Leon ironically describes as “not having a single thread of athleticism in her body,” serves as her greatest inspiration.

“She has consistently shown strength of character from the time I could remember, up to now. She has always allowed us do our thing, while leading by example,” the daughter muses.

But De Leon is now in lonely territory, being the only homegrown Pinoy to compete in the Ironman Kona in Hawaii this October, an event that only about six percent of all triathlete applicants worldwide can get to start in, much less finish. A lifelong dream for this triathlete, the Ironman Hawaii will test every inch of what De Leon has become, and what she has become, she says, has been the result of thousands of decisions made every single day of her life. These are decisions, she proudly declares, that she has made herself.With such ironclad determination and character, who can doubt that De Leon is made of sterner stuff? Alas, ladies, the IronWoman cometh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Zip Me Please

My Tita is enticing me to come home to join the family (and some friends) in a planned trip to Camp Sabros. I am really curious about this place because the first time she told me about it, I caught a hint of excitement and something else that I cannot quite define.

When prodded, this is all she had to say: "Dun yan paanan Mt. Apo. Itatali ka sa cable as if lilipad ka parang Superman. Longest cable dito Philippines as in bundok to bundok distance."

And with those words, my mind went into overdrive. I am now imagining myself attached to that cable and freefalling/freewheeling from one mountain to the next. I am sincerely wishing for the heavens to catapult me to Davao so I can join them.

But of course, as reality draws me back from all these musings, all I can do for the moment is learn more about the place through the Internet. Undoubtedly, what I found only strengthened my resolve to visit the place before the year ends!

"The zip line was 380 meters long, affording a good view of Mount Apo's peak, and the rows of pine trees jutting out like toys from below at a height of 180ft. It was an unbelievable sight, and therapy for those with fear of heights, if they dare. "

My feet are longing to feel the grounds of Camp Sabros. I am absolutely sure that they will find their way there soon as well as in all the other places I intend to travel this year. Shanghai will be first (because of this), Sagada is next, then of course Camp Sabros. If I can squeeze in Camiguin Island then that would definitely be a bonus.

(Photos from here)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sakura Dreams

It is Sakura season once again in Japan (see blooming forecast here). I wonder how it feels to be in the midst of all these trees as they blossom. It has always been a dream for me to visit Japan in spring and stroll in as many parks as I can just to see them.

In the meantime, I have this photo to remind me of that cold November day that I got to see a real Sakura in bloom. It was not often that they continue to bloom so late in the year. But I was lucky enough to see one. I think it was God's way of saying that every hope and dream will blossom in their own time. All I have to do is keep the faith and believe.

At the Pinay in Action Race '08

I first heard of the Pinay in Action advocacy from Ani. We were at the airport, waiting for our flight when she told me about it. I was really fascinated by it that I vowed to join the Pinay in Action race that she said they organize annually. And this was before I took up running again.

Looking back, I guess it was what triggered me to run again. It reminded me of just how good it feels to run, more so if it is for cause. It did not harm either that eight days with Ani in the JASA study tour further inspired me as to the kind of people behind the advocacy. Ani epitomizes a Pinay in Action woman and based from the many conversations we had about this topic, Sen. Pia Cayetano is another inspiring figure behind it.

I felt strongly about this cause because it has issues and concerns that resonate. They beg to be addressed. But more than that, I feel that people like the movers behind this intiatives deserve to be celebrated. And I cannot think of a much better way to do that but to share their gift of inspiration and action to my friends.

Suffice to say, I was so looking forward to joining the race that I invited my friends to participate as well. Hence come race day, I was happy beyond words to see friends from the different pit stops I have had in my journey:

1. ISM friends: Lizeth, Lidie, Tita Myrna (with her daughter), Chrizelle (also with her daughter)

2. Dragon Boat Rowing friends/Manila Dragons teammates: Anna Liese, Mary, Rizzo, Anton (no pictures...)

3. Officemates/former officemates: Bixie, Macky, Mayee, Badette

I think that it was truly a great day to be out so early in the morning and be with friends. It was a great day to celebrate the different facets of being a woman. It was a great day to appreciate humanity and realize that we can all be the best of what we can be regardless of our gender.

Bliss In Disguise

If (by Rudyard Kipling)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Bible, And Open Road, And Three Books

Lent has always been a time of reflection for my family. It is sad that I cannot be with them again this Lent, but distance does not change how I plan to celebrate it. Lent is really a celebration for me. A time to celebrate my faith and time to worship in forms that I know will always make me feel close to God.

Tranquility and clarity are my goals in my journey to reflection. And to help me achieve that, I have the following to keep me company:

1. The Bible - here the best teachings for meditation and reflection can be found

2. An Open Road - my favorite running route. I have always believed that running is one of the best forms of worship. It is when I feel most open to what life has to give. It is when I can go inward and be closer to myself. It is when I am closest to nature. It is when I feel the energy pulsating from all around me.

3. Three Books - which I all intend to enjoy and finish by Easter Sunday :-)
- How To Travel With A Salmon by Umberto Eco
- Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry
- Wikinomics

All in all, I am pretty excited to embark on my usual reflective pursuits this Lent. This is a time of unloading to make way for new things. This is a time of death and rebirth. This is all about life...and more is all about faith.

The Downside of Kermi

Kermi, carry, kayamitch, can short KAYA or KAKAYANIN. It is a mindset that people have. Pero pag sanay na silang kermi ako, feeling nila, kermi na lahat. But no, no, no, and no.

Marunong din naman akong masaktan. At sa totoo lang, masakit talaga ang ankle ko. Twisting it four times is not normal. Damn. The pain. The pain. It is there. But I guess, I just got used to carrying on despite the pain.

Good luck na lang kasi baka masabihan na naman ng "ang tigas tigas mo..." At magtatanong na naman ako sa world...PANO BA MAG-INARTE?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Simple Lang...

"Kung gusto, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan."

Kaya ang bata, parating masaya. Kasi nakikita yung simple lang naman talaga. Simple lang naman ang matulog, kumain, maglaro, magmahal, umiyak, magalit, at magpatawad.

Lahat naman nagagawang gamutin ng kendi at hug. Kaya mas matalino ang bata dahil mas nakuha nyang mabuhay ng simple lang.

Kaya naman sa dinami-dami man ng nabasa at narinig kong wise words at mga pilosopiyang talaga namang nakakabilib, wala ring silbi sa akin yun kung di ako lalabas at subukin ang mga simple lang.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sino Ang Baliw?

Capoeira yesterday was at the CHK covered court because there was an arnis competition in our usual venue. Unlike in Classroom 1, the covered court was open so anyone can see us even from a distance.

While we were all busy learning the more complicated moves that Nathan wanted us to do, I noticed this girl loitering and avidly watching us. She was wearing jeans and had a towel draped on her upper body. It took me a while to realize that she was naked beneath that towel...and I was really hoping she does not remove the towel because that would really be awkward for us to see her prancing around half-naked.

I took my eyes off her because Nathan told me to do the cartwheel. The next time I looked at her again, she already removed the towel and was watching us practice. I think everyone was trying to pretend that she was not there...or that there was nothing unusual about her being there (and half-naked). Gino, definitely, was trying not to look and that was very Gino...gentleman to the core.

Of course, me being me, I thought out loud and had the following conversation with Nathan:

Jerz: Brod, look at her, doesn't she look so free? Don't you ever wonder as to what kind of freedom she has for being able to do that?

Nathan: Sis, kaya nga siya baliw. But I know, I know...tsk...ikaw talaga.

Jerz: (thought balloon: ...but really...if you look at see this inexplicable freedom. sino nga ba ang baliw? the ones who don't live because of the restrictions they think society impose on them? or the ones who deviate from the norm...and hence become baliw?...)

She stayed there watching us while we went on with Capoeira training. Everyone was happy. I guess, at the end of the day, we were all crazy there. The girl, because her profile fits the definition of "baliw" and us Capoeiristas who were out on a Sunday morning to embrace suffering for two hours.

Sa usapan o mga gawaing baliw...WALANG PAKIALAMANAN NG TRIP.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Memories of Sunrise

For more than seven years I have watched the sunrise at Manila Bay. Nostalgia, perhaps, but this is one of those sudden visits down memory lane that give me pause. It makes me realize how fortunate I am to have collected those extraordinary moments.

Most times, those sunrises were just backdrops of run of the mill days. After all, I frequented the bay to train...not to capture memories of sunrise. But even now, the memory of the calm and soothing water as I paddled reminded me of how beautiful each experience was. Somehow, despite the grueling training, I have always left the water feeling happy about myself.

On the boat with teammates, during each rest, there was this sense of peace. If we were lucky enough, the sun came out just when we have paddled out of the breakwater.

I can still see our boat sitting quietly on calm waters. I see myself sitting there, psyching myself out for another hard training. Somehow, despite the promise of torture, of more self-inflicted muscle pains...I could not help but notice how beautiful it was when the sun emerged.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dropping The Ball

Sometimes you are so focused on holding on to the ball that you fail to realize you are already alone in the court. You have been running around clutching at the ball trying so damn hard to win that you never paused and considered if the person you thought you were playing with wanted to be in the court or not.

Suddenly, you realize, that person was just standing there near the line the whole time, just standing there watching, waiting, and not knowing what to do. While you, you played your heart out and carried that ball like it was the most important thing in the world.

Then it dawns on you that you are actually playing it alone and that you are already tired of playing the game alone. You know you can play it forever but you begin to think that what you do not have is a willing opponent. You then begin to feel sad because you know you no longer want to play, that you want to step out of the court. You are sad bacause you know, once you step out, you may never want to come back again.

You stare at the ball one more time. You stare at the other person one more time. Then you drop the ball...and walk away.

Friday, March 14, 2008

That Kind of Sexy

There is something sexy about a thinking man. Usually, when I discover that he is a thinking man with a vision, well, that only makes him sexier and a person really worth listening to. But in the course of that short span of time that I briefly catch a glimpse of the cause that fuels him to pursue that vision...I can only think to myself that he is definitely my idea of a close-to-perfect man.

I spent the better part of yesterday listening to a person talking about a topic I was initially neither interested nor eager to learn about. I was there because to be honest, I was told that I need to be there. So off I went...and consequently learned something about so many things. But I think my most important takeaway for the evening was that inspiration that there are people like this man who are actively doing something to pursue their visions.

Among the many things he has accomplished (he is a physicist, an engineer, and a doctorate degree holder), he is one of the movers behind the Brain Gain Network, which from what I understood is brain drain in reverse.

As I listen to the man speak I felt a rekindling of hope. It is not easy to believe when the current realities give so much reason to lose hope. But I see in him a believer. And more importantly, I see in him a desire to let that belief translate into a new reality.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Staying Hungry

The Pinay In Action race earlier was another one of those occasions when I get to be introspective. Probably it was because it is when I am running or doing something that is really testing my resolve that I tend to really draw from the inside.

I noticed that most times, it is when I am going inward that I appreciate what is outside more. I think it is part of the realization that what I am is a result of how I was honed, and continue to be honed, by the million things happening around me. I aim not to pass by. I want to be truly part of the world, to be in it and to be fully alive.

This morning, my only thought was I wanted a better time than my previous run. That was my only goal and nothing else mattered. Not even the pain in my old injury can stop me.

I reached the finish line exactly 8 minutes faster than my last race. It was not the 10 minutes I wanted but it was close. But more than the joy of having accomplished that, I had the chance to think about this insatiable hunger I have. It is a life of staring at a plate brimming with so many things...a plate that just keeps getting filled.

This is probably why I was so moved when I first read this. I guess I will always be hungry that way.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Sweetest Geeks

I had lunch with two of what I think are possibly the most fascinating geeks I have met lately. One of them I met less than 30 minutes before that lunch but had absolutely no difficulty relating with.

Listening and talking with them gave me more reasons to find geeks more interesting. I actually enjoyed spending time with them (mostly I was just eager to hear what they have to say about anything and everything). I think it is the potent combination of brains, intensity, focus, (and often hidden/underlying) passion that makes them different in a really admirable way.

Macky recently wrote about it here . And I love the way she said that she finds "attractive whenever technical guys are in their element".

The two fascinating geeks...well, they are definitely technical (and good at what they do) but they became more attractive in my eyes because they are just the sweetest guys. One is married and obviously madly in love with his wife while the other one is getting married and obviously quite in love with his fiancee.

And what was it that I found really interesting in the conversation that transpired? Well, there are lots of things I can say, but what stood out most was their unabashed and utmost sincerity in talking about wedding gowns, caterings, and almost everything related to wedding plans.

Geek-speak is taking on a whole new meaning for me. I am actually looking forward to hearing more from this breed of what I am now coining as the league of the sweetest geeks.

In A Force Field

Yesterday, Macky asked me "jerz, yung force field, pano yun?". We had that conversation before because I always utter those words when I feel the need to focus on whatever. Most times, I use that to my advantage during training and competition. It has become so ingrained that the words are like automatic shift triggers that quickly summons that force field.

I began by telling her that it is like when athletes, ballet dancers, etc. etc. say that they are in a bubble. A sort of visual image of the self inside an imaginary bubble that is protected from the outside. But I have long decided not to use the bubble as my visual. I thought that force field is what would best work for me.

I explained to Macky that when I say "in a force field" what I am actually doing is I am summoning that force field that would envelope me and separate me from the distractions of my environment. I can see from the inside but everything outside the force field is like a blur. They exist and yet they do not. I cannot hear them, I cannot touch them, I cannot feel them. I am in my own world, protected by a field that is indestructible, so powerful that I can do whatever I wish to accomplish...and do it excellently.

All the athletes I know have it...the bubble, the zone, the force field. I guess it is where they draw that inner strength that sustains them. It is where the second wind and all the the succeeding "winds" come from. It is a well of hope and energy that stores all the energies drawn from the universe.

Bottom line, we all have that power in us to create an illusion so powerful that can shape the outcomes of our actions. Whatever works for us, be it the bubble, the zone, or the force is good to know that we can summon them...and make them work for us.

Inseparable: Loyalty On Wheels

Now, a cat person is wishing she has a dog...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Not Quite The Usual Economic Refugees

In a recent meeting I strayed into, one of the attendees remarked that he personally do not call overseas Filipino workers as OFWs. He posited that they are economic refugees. An economic refugee, as defined here, is a person person who pretends to be a refugee in order to immigrate to improve their standard of living.

I remember thinking to myself that whatever meager economic relief or help our country enjoys from the millions of OFWs come at too great a price. The saddest part is that being an OFW is quickly evolving into being the only solution to economic/financial woes. This country is bleeding out the brains, skills and talents that are ultimately the only hope for development.

The meteoric rise of Filipinos seeking opportunities abroad is really alarming. It does look as if Filipinos are slowly being cornered into a place where there is no way out but to seek refuge elsewhere. They are the OFWs, economic refugees, or whatever one may want to call them. They are the people who deserve respect and support.

So everytime another "economic" refugee is added on the list it is good to remember that they really are sacrificing a lot for this country. A country that could be an extremely better place than what its politicians and bureaucrats are shaping it to be.