Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In The Dark

There are just too many stories, too many facets of life clamoring for clarity. The darkness is rife with uncertainties that lead, hopefully, into the light.

But sometimes, it is the dark that fascinates us most. It is in not knowing, in that pursuit of light, that we feel most alive.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beware Of What You Don't Wish For

(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

I think among the many duties that an umpire gets to do, it is Umpiring duties that I am a bit dreadful of. It is such a huge responsibility and definitely, it is during an Umpire's watch that a lot could happen.

A 2,000-meter stretch of water is like forever. It takes about less than eight/seven minutes for a rower to cross the finish line and yet it feels much much longer than that.

Once the race starts, and the boats have crossed the 100-meter mark, then the Umpire is on his/her own. Judgment calls and so on. Concentration is paramount. Focusing is essential. Guylaine (FISA Umpiring Commission Continental Representative) told us, "Always, always, it is in that brief moment when an umpire loses his/her focus that something happens". And that absolutely makes sense.

The first day of races dawned bright but cold...really, really cold. The wind made the biting cold more harsh. Nicholas handed us the sheet containing the information on our assignments for the first day of races. I looked at the sheet and immediately found my name.

I am Umpire boat no. 2. Four umpires on the water since there is just 10 minutes interval between races. Four umpires, and a lot of heats. And I am an Umpire in these races.

Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blindsided By A Malware

(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

A USB malware wiped out ALL of Nicholas’ (FISA Umpiring Commission Chair for Asia) files in his laptop. The race summary lists, heat lists, progressions, umpires’ assignments sheet, umpiring exam sheets, updated umpiring seminar files, they were ALL gone. Nicholas tried for hours to recover what he could but unfortunately, most of the files had to be built again from scratch.

Dr. Siu (from Hong Kong) jokingly told Nicholas (while looking at me) that next time, he better make sure that he has Trend Micro product installed in his laptop. The Japanese umpires, Koji-san and Azuma-san, laughed and agreed with him.

At the end of the day, we managed to have all the requisite forms ready. Nicholas is Nicholas, after all.

But I could not help but think that malware is also an important concern in the upcoming Olympics. Imagine if all the results get wiped out? Or whatever important data needed to run the various events in the Games? Now, THAT would be a problem.

No Room For Fear

(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

I am the youngest umpire here, both in age and experience. I honestly am nervous for what lies ahead. There is just too much at stake. The atmosphere is rife with intense focus on a singular goal, to qualify for the Olympics.

While I am thinking about all these, my eyes zeroed in on the trees not far from the Starter's Tower. I cannot explain why but my doubts suddenly began to fade. I sense the wisdom of the trees, the resilience of the earth, the fluidity and calmness of the water, the intellect and speed of the wind. I feel as if all these things triggered this burning passion to deliver my best despite all the doubts and fear.

I am nervous. Yes I am. But that is a good sign. I am nervous because I am now acknowledging the presence of fear. I am allowing fear to come closer. I am now face to face with it. Looking at it in a much closer distance diminishes its power. I have seen fear from up close and I am still standing.

Fear is a friend. It connects me to so many things which I may otherwise fail to notice.


(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

Day 2: Morning was spent for Technical Rehearsal. I could not help but think again how precise and meticulous FISA people are. There was neither small nor unimportant detail.

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. Everything had to be checked, double-checked, and re-checked again. As Guylaine said, "you should always have back-ups".

But when I really think about it, we were dealing with dreams here. The best athletes have converged here. They prepared hard for this chance to qualify for the Olympics. It was up to the rest of us to ensure that they get equal chances in capturing that dream.

Safety and Fairness. Everything else are just details.

Important details.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hit The Ground Running

(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

Off to Shanghai: I was pleasantly surprised that I breezed through check-in and immigration. I was quite prepared for a repeat experience of that trip last December where delays after delays happened. And where I traveled all alone, sans my accreditation card, feeling lost and confused amidst the SEA Games confusion.

I still couldn’t quite forget that missing accreditation. For whatever reason, they seemed to have lost all the documents that our national federation’s president previously submitted. I arrived in Bangkok with no accreditation card waiting for me. I had to stay long at the SEA Games information center at the airport while they tried to figure out what to do with me. I had to travel alone with a sleepy driver at past 2:00am to Patayya. I had to wait quite a while again for them to assign me my room at the hotel (because not one staff was at the hotel reception when I arrived). I was lost, sleepy, tired, and totally confused as to how messed up everything seemed to be.

I’m still technically a newbie in this international umpiring role. For years, I was an athlete. I traveled as a part of a team. I got used to everything being arranged for us already.

My FISA Umpire license, I guess, officially closed that chapter of my life and opened a new one. For one, James, Mark and I wouldn’t be doing umpiring duties all together. This means, there’ll be a lot of traveling…alone. And more importantly, it also often means hitting the ground running.

I think that it was in my last umpiring stint that it really dawned on me that an athlete’s life is by far the “easiest” during competitions. Because as an athlete, there’s really not much else to do but focus on the game and give 100% to that few minutes in which a year’s worth of preparation boils down to. Apart from that, an athlete’s mind has to be free of distractions. Everyone takes care of the athlete. No detail is so small just to ensure that each athlete competes in the best possible conditions.

So, with that “traumatic” experience still fresh in memory, I was fully prepared for the worst in Shanghai. This is probably why I was thrilled that my trip seemed to be seamlessly easy. From the check-in at NAIA (now I have my travel tax exemption ready), to the flight itself, everything was a breeze. This time, the flight was not delayed, there were no changes in the assigned boarding gate (we were not asked to transfer from one gate to another), and I arrived in Shanghai 30 minutes earlier than schedule.

I think it was midnight when I finally cleared immigration there (again, everything was quick and smooth). I was a bit worried no one would be there to pick me up (I was already thinking of Plan A down to Z). As soon as I emerged from the arrival, I saw the guy holding the big sign which says “FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta Jury Members”. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and with a big smile approached the guy. As it turned out, I have two escorts, the driver and the representative from the organizing committee, who speaks English quite fluently. And that really made me happy.

My final destination is supposedly 1.5 hours away from Shanghai. We reached the hotel only about an hour after leaving the airport. Talk about flying on wheels. I was sleepy, a bit tired and ready to wait it out at the lobby. But to my surprise (again), Nick (our official liaison officer) was there waiting for me. I got my kit, with my accreditation ID, plus everything else. He took care of check-in and escorted me to my room. It was already 1:45am and I was thinking I’ll finally be able to get a good sleep when Nick told me I have to be finished with breakfast and ready at the lobby by 7:45 as all the umpires who have already checked-in will have a jury meeting at the venue plus other technical check-ups to do. Whew. I was suddenly worried I’d sleep through the alarm.

At exactly 7:40am Koji-san (Japan), Azuma-san (Japan), Tat Yeo (Singapore), Smita (India) and I were already on the bus. All dressed in FISA Umpire’s uniforms. All ready way before the scheduled time of pick-up from the hotel. All prepared to do what needs to be done.

Mike Tanner (FISA Events Commission Chair), Guylaine Bernier (FISA Umpiring Commission Continental Representative for North America), Nicholas Ee (FISA Umpiring Comission Continental Representative for Asia), Dr. Peter Kokas (FISA Medical Commission) and the other three Chinese FISA Umpires were already there.

The whole morning was for Jury meeting, orientation of the venue, and checking the minutest details for the next day’s technical rehearsal.

Once again, I couldn’t help but think that FISA Umpires have OC tendencies.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Everything I Don’t Need

No need to pick me up,
Because I can stand up on my own,

No need to cry for me,
Because I am not unfamiliar with tears

No need to soothe my soul,
Because my soul embraces pain,

No need to carry my burdens,
Because I am capable of carrying them myself,

No need to shower me with words,
Because words are often meaningless to me

What I need is a glimpse of truth,
Stolen from light and dark moments,

In those pits and peaks
And everything in between,

All I need is to know
That everything I do not need
Will be given anyway.

Tired is Relative

The past two and a half days have been more frenetic and crazy than the usual craziness of my simple and ordinary life. There is barely enough time to do much else except breathe, breathe, and breathe because to even consider that I am tired is unthinkable.

Most times, I do not get tired in that gosh-I-can’t-do-this-anymore kind of way. I think I am one of those people who will always take that extra step in that exact moment when shut-down is imminent. This is one blessing I am truly thankful for. It comes handy and a wonderful ally in the unexpected twists and turns.

However, strange and stranger things that happened in the past weeks made me think about this never-get-tired-I’ll-scale-the-Grand-Canyons-if-I-have-to attitude. The physical and mental states are the easiest to manage while the emotion is proving to be the weakest link. I am not sure exactly why I even thought about that. Perhaps it has something to do with that brief moment of pensiveness yesterday that I thought about how emotions are sucking out my energy level in far more alarming ways than all my other activities combined.

I think the best way forward is to assess which emotions are worth all the energy and effort and which ones deserve to be left behind. There are just so many things to do in so little time. Crippling emotions are excess baggage. Lugging them along would just cost precious time that is better spent exploring the beautiful and enriching things life has to offer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Life As We (Don't) Know It

From the Reporter's Notebook:

Stolen Childhood: Tales and travails of the babymakers
  1. 14-15 year-old girls "hired" as babymakers mostly by foreigners
  2. Going rate: Php10,000 allowance per month if she gets pregnant, the "baby's father" will shoulder the cost delivery, a one time payment of Php40,000-60,000 (Note: The middleman gets Php4,000 from the Php10,000 allowance, which basically leaves almost nothing at all to the pregnant child.)

The Poorest of the Poor Can Sometimes Be Those Who Farm for a Living: On the Rice Shortage

  1. 400 out of 1,000 farmers in the Philippines earn Php14,000 only per year, a figure much lower than the poverty threshold.
  2. The current rice shortage just mirrors the true state of a neglected sector in our society...the agriculture sector.
  3. 40 years with no investments made on irrigation, no sound seed program, no water, no roads
  4. Another culprit in this state of affairs is the rampant land conversion. In 2007 alone, more than 1,000 hectares of farmlands and large portions of irrigated lands have been converted to factory areas, golf courses, subdivisions, etc.
  5. The Philippines is the biggest importer of rice in Asia, and the third biggest importer of rice in the world.
  6. An estimated 2.1 million tons of rice is expected to be imported this year. This will cost the government approximately 40 billion pesos because of the buy high sell low policy.
  7. The question: Why focus on importing rice instead of seeking genuine reforms that could ultimately lessen the financial impact on the government?

All these are bits and pieces of a bigger picture that we seldom really see. But once we see them, the images they depict in our minds are pictures we cannot truly escape.

Tanong Lang...

Badette: May lalaki ba na cow?
Jerz: Oo naman! Paano sila dadami kung wala?
Badette: Eh ano tawag mo sa lalaking cow?
Jerz: Bull di ba?
Benj: Oo bull!
Dex: Bull ba? May bull ba sa Pilipinas?
Blue: O sige, para matahimik ka Badette, "cowboy"!
Badette: Hindi, hindi. Kailangan malaman ko ang sagot.

(An hour or so later...)

Badette: May lalaki ba na cow? Ano tawag?
Ryan: Oo meron. Bull di ba?
Jerz: See? See? O ha, o ha, pareho kami ng sagot! Bull nga kasi (...I think...)!

(The day after...)

From Tristan:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Rice Chronicles: Band-aids on Gaping Wounds

Picking up from here...

Stumbled into some interesting newsbits again:
  1. 238,000 sacks of rice have just arrived from Vietnam. These will be the NFA rice that will be sold in certain areas to address the rice "shortage". - This is good news, I think, at least there is more supply of rice that could go around for Php18.25/kilo. The thing is, will this ever be enough? Regardless if there is truly a rice shortage or if it is just all the hype that is creating this increasing demand for NFA rice, the bottom line is there is an underlying issue here that really need to be addressed. How long is this country going to rely on importing rice from countries such as Vietnam and the U.S.?
  2. The CBCP will work with the government (i.e. the NFA) to ensure the proper distribution of rice. - Collaboration is the key, so it would seem. Not only is the government asking for the church's help but it also is depending on the local government units to facilitate the proper distribution of rice.
  3. The NFA asked for the NBI's help to investigate on alleged cases of hoarding. - It seems that, again, the laws have no teeth. The NBI said there are existing laws but the challenge usually is the implementation. And that obvious.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sixty Seconds' Worth of Distance Run

I just had this sudden longing for 24 hours dedicated to sloth-like existence. I am thinking empty calendar, no expectations, no responsibilities, and no rush. Just slow, blissful minutes of nothingness.

But right now, that is just an imaginary state. It is Saturday and I am up and about for another round of meetings for the upcoming Wushu national championship. While doing that, I am silently berating myself for not having started reviewing the FISA rules yet. Barely three weeks before jury duties and I still have not opened the book even just to pretend making an effort to read.

It appears that April is definitely NOT a slow month. Work. Running. Wushu. Rowing. FISA. Capoeira. Futsal. And of course, more importantly, those advocacy projects that are in the pipeline.

So, what is there to do when there is just too many things to do? Nothing much, except smile, breathe, and make that sixty seconds' worth of distance run.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Rice Chronicles: Shackles of Morality

Continuing from here...

...opinions of an expert (a former agriculture secretary ata or something)...

  1. There is no rice shortage, at least not for the moment. - Hmmmm, I think I agree. It could be that the hype is just making a bad situation look worse. And I think that the real issue is the spate of hoarding that some unscrupulous rice retailers/dealers are doing. More importantly, maybe this problem just highlights the lack of policies that could effectively manage it. Or, it could be that there are policies but no sound implementation capabilities.
  2. The government should also look at the population issue. The problem on how to ensure that there is adequate supply of rice is closely tied with the problem of population. It is just impossible to separate these two. - Ayan, ayan naman. Current daily consumption of rice is estimated at 23,000 metric tons according to a report that I read somewhere. This figure is projected to balloon to 36,000 metric tons of rice in a few (very few actually) years time. Clearly, there is an increasing number of mouths to feed. Oo nga naman, how can current production capacity cope with a population growth that is shooting up to the sky in record levels in a blink of an eye? There was a challenge thrown to both the government and the church...please address the population issue. To which the church maintains...they have always been advocating for population control but only through moral means. Hmmm, makes me wonder...saang konsepto ng morality papasok yung hahayaang ipanganak ang mga bata at mamulat sa gutom at kamangmangan? Condom/pill vs. a child abandoned and just waiting to die...where does morality come in?
I remember the song "Magtanim ay di biro..." and I cannot help but think that indeed, planting rice, planting seeds is not quite easy as it seems. But plant, we all must. Plant seeds of hope and change because in the end, it might just be the only good thing we can really leave in this world.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Rice Chronicles: Walang Aminan

Maybe I am just gung-ho about anything related to food, which probably prompted me to write this and this.

As the saga continues...

In the past two days, I have watched news reports of the NFA along with the police conducting surprise visits (that's a nicer way of saying raids by the way) into non-accredited NFA retailers' warehouses. These raids churned out hundreds of empty NFA sacks. Close inspection of the said sacks reveal that they have been opened and emptied...and it is anybody's guess as to where the contents went.

This morning's news show this retailer explaining how 750 empty NFA sacks found their way into a very discreet corner of her warehouse. Then the camera pans out to a warehouse full of sacks and sacks of rice.

I think the lesson here is: Walang aminan. Kung ikaw ang nakahuli, aba eh, problema mo na yan. Kaya nga burden of proof, hindi ba? Good luck na lang kasi sa usapang denial, mas malalim pa sa Nile River ang balon ng kasinungalingan.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

An Attempt To Understand...Futsal

I am attempting to understand Futsal better. Foremost reason is, of course, because it is a new sport for me (and my first attempt to religiously play a ball game). I have always believed that I have this thing with ball games. Ball games and me are chemistry-challenged. There seems to be something missing in the mix to make it really work.

But seeing that I seem to be looking at this as a science (chemistry and all stuff, tsk), I might as well hold on to that idea and hope that I find that missing element which would help create the chemistry I need to improve in this sport.

Another reason why I want to understand Futsal has something to do with what brod Nathan mentioned during Capoeira last Sunday. He said that I could try understand Capoeira movements/attacks by really looking into the dynamics of a Futsal/Football game, specifically on how a good Futsal/Football player handles a ball.

And that, I must say, says it all.



1. The Philippines is the biggest importer of rice in Asia and the third biggest importer in the world.

2. PGMA is happy with DOJ and this other agency for bringing charges to the government official(s) involved in selling NFA rice to private retailers (Take note: the operative words being "bringing charges". And the most pressing question being "will the justice system work in favor of the people"? The answer, unfortunately, may not require much of an imagination.