Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Fall to Remember: The Hague, The Netherlands

All captured memories of Amsterdam and The Hague are in my head because in a most tragic twist of fate, we lost all the photos we took. We did not find out until it was too late that there was something wrong with the camera.

So, this is me trying to find images of how I remembered the places I visited there. Sadly, there are very few pictures that really capture the beauty I have seen. There are some I found that bring back memories of days and nights traipsing around The Hague.

I just wish I can find pictures of those routes I followed and the parks I ended up in when I did my morning or afternoon runs.

(Map; Fall in the Netherlands)

(Schipol Airport and the Bi-Level Train Station Below)

(Peace Palace; The Gate; Inside the Palace)

(Going around by tram)

(Bikes; West side of Churchillplein)

(The Hague)

(Royal Palace; Kurhaus)

(UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; Milosevic)


(Scheveningen; windmill)

Girl Talk #3

...on how some people are like Carefree (i.e. they're Barely There)...

Ela calls them emotional vampires and I agree with her. We've been talking about how some people have this innate skill and talent to suck the life out of those who care for them.

All relationships should be simple. I mean, yes most times it's so much fun to complicate the fairly simple and selfless act of caring. I guess people are just wired that way. But it's one thing to play a game that both players know the rules and another for one player to keep changing the mechanics and rules of the game to gain an advantage.

Players are much like warriors. Respect for the opponent is the true measure of a warrior's strength. A warrior goes into battle ready to bleed. The battlefield may change, the rules may change, the opponents change but always, a warrior knows that once the fighting begins...he will fight to death.

Barely there is not fighting to death. Barely there is employing all the tactics to gain the best advantage without having to commit to the possibility of fighting to death.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I just love WTF days when you decide to wear high-heeled shoes to work and one of the heels come off. You'd think it's probably the worst thing that could happen to you that day. Then you had to go home late and the FX that you're in gets followed by a police patrol car with 5 policemen inside. The policemen then instruct the driver to stop at a stretch of dark and unfamiliar road where flagging another FX or a cab would be difficult.

Then a policeman tells the driver that the plate number is bogus and asks for the registration papers and driver's license. Then you hear the policeman tell the driver that the registration papers and the license are fake. By this time you feel numb that you don't even react when the policeman tells the driver to return the passengers' fares and ask them to get off.

You get your money back. Get off the FX. Walk along a dark side street without anger, without fear, without worries. You walk away and feel nothing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Girl Talk #2

...on high-heeled shoes...

I'm the flat shoes, sneakers, rubber shoes, slippers type. The reason for this growing collection of high heels are 1.) I had to -- i.e. my former job entailed a lot of "dressing up", 2.) my mom sends me more than one pair every chance she gets (which makes me think that maybe my mom wants me out of my usual tattered rubber shoes).

This morning, I decided to wear one of my not-so-high-heeled shoes because I took pity on my favorite Mary Janes. Undoubtedly, my MJs are overused because I have been using them since after that day I bought them.

So, for a change, I dusted off a pair of shoes that I thought would afford me the closest thing to comfort that I can get from wearing "heeled" shoes. It turned out that it was a bad decision after all because one of the heels almost came off while I was on my way to work.

I realized that there was something wrong halfway through the commute. I just tiptoed my way to the office just so the heel would not completely break off. Good thing it worked. I arrived at the office with both heels "intact". Now, I'm just waiting for the stores to open so I can buy myself either a pair of cheap shoes or slippers.

Argh! I miss my MJs.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Girl Talk

...bathroom conversation...

Chiho-san: There's a half-marathon this July, c'mon let's join!
Jerz: Seriously?!? Have you done the 10K already?
Chiho-san: Not yet. I'm training everyday at the gym. Yesterday I've done 9K on the treadmill.
Jerz: That's great! Keep that up. I suggest you do road runs also. Try to join a 10K run before your half-marathon. Sounds really fun, Chiho! I might just be crazy enough to join you.

(and them thought balloons: this just might be exactly the sort of crazy stunt i need to perk things up; sa fort kaya to? damn! that killer flyover again; tsk...can my busted knee do this? ...bahala na si batman... aja!)

Bugs Bunny on Dead Ends

"I like dead end signs. I think they're kind. They at least have the decency to let you know you're going nowhere."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tainted Hues and Empty Cups

"You taint everything and strip them to nothing. If something doesn't make sense, it means it's not real." - Wilson talking to House

I got myself stuck in front of the TV yesterday. It's one of those rare occasions that I consciously make an effort to stay home on a weekend and basically do close to nothing but read books and watch TV. I figured, I'm paying for cable subscription that I don't get to enjoy so might as well make time (read: calendar it) to make said subscription worth every cent.

I usually stick to one channel because I'm not the channel-surfing type (I think that's the politically correct way of saying I hate channel surfing). Not that I don't do it sometimes. And yesterday was one of those days I did, which turned out to be a good thing because I had the chance to watch (again) two episodes of House.

I've always believed that watching House episodes over and over again will never be wasted time. There's just so many things going on in each one. Take this episode where House got shot. It's an old one and I've watched it a couple of times already from what feels like a long time ago. So while I was watching it yesterday, I couldn't help but think that it's a deja vu of a different sort.

I've already created connections between scenes and conversations with certain thoughts, reflections, reactions and feelings. But I was surprised to realize that while watching it again yesterday, a part of me knew what's going to happen and yet I was still drawn to the story like it was the first time I'd hear and see everything.

In a way, it was indeed another first. First of the old. It's like picking up new things from what appeared to be beaten paths. This made me think of how apt that lesson was for how I try to understand an avalanche of thoughts and feelings that are attempting to drown me. I feel all these things hence they are real to me. But I may be grasping at flimsy ropes of salvation the wrong way.

Drowning is a threat but I'm not one to go down without a fight. It could be I'm drowning because I'm burdened with so many useless things that I need to let go for now. Who knows, if I'm lucky, as I always am, I might find them all again. If not, I'm sure I'll recover some and move on to find more to replace what was lost.

A famous Zen master once said: "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" And that reminds me once again that I'm here to learn. All these which I think, feel and sense are real. They don't matter much though because I'll always take away as much as I can from life regardless of the recurring fear that what I take may forever chafe my soul.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Touching Base: On Fear and Fighting Regardless of Fear

Coach Mark: Ang mas magagaling na fighters yung mga nakakaramdam ng pinakamatinding hirap at pagod pero lumalaban pa rin.
Jerz: Nakakaramdam ka pa rin ba ng kaba o takot coach?
Coach Mark: Oo naman. Normal yun. Manok nga na sinasabong kinakabahan din, tao pa kaya? Mas dapat akong mag-alala kung hindi ako nakakaramdam ng kaba.
(L-R: Mark, Jerz, Eduard, Coach Mark)
It's nice to touch base. It's nice to see people again and learn that so many things have changed yet remained the same. I think this just shows that the essential things are there. Life is fluid and we all flow with it but we flow bringing that essence with us. We evolve, we grow, we conquer, we might fail, we stand up, but at the end of the day, we have changed. But we are still the same.

This week is officially the beginning of my "touch-base-with-Team Lakay" mode. The Sanshou national team that trained in China for five months is back, which means Mark is back. That's one core member back.

Mark won the gold in the 65Kg weight category of the Asian Wushu Championships in Macau held last May 13-16. Coach Mark said it took a lot of will for Mark to get that gold because he was competing with an injured left knee. I could just imagine how hard that was. But he did it anyway.

Just recently also, Eduard shared to me the happy news that he graduated already. For all of us in the core group, that's an achievement that we are all proud of. Everyone who knows Eduard is aware of the tough choices he had to make to pursue this dream. In the end, he had to leave the national team so that he can finally finish his studies.

Then, there's Coach Mark who's steering the entire team. It's funny that someone who goes by a ring name such as "The Machine" can be all heart. There's been too many instances already that we've seen this but it doesn't fail to inspire us to continue what we do despite the individual and collective challenges that we face.

Coach Mark and I talked yesterday about the team's plans. We talked about the lessons they learned from the Asian Wushu Championships and how these takeaways can be optimized to improve the team. But more importantly, we talked about fighting on the ring, the heart of the fighter, the fear that a fighter feels, and the will to fight anyway.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drowning in Stagnant Waters

"Serendipity goes against the grain of narrow focus thinking, where you concentrate your mind upon an objective or goal to the exclusion of all else." - John Adair

Swimming is not one of my strengths. But I try. I swim upstream and I make it happen, I get there. Swimming in stagnant waters is another matter though. It is slowly killing my will to move forward. It seems as if every effort, every small win, is never enough.

The darkness is real to me. The cold is seeping through my veins. My heart is beating a loud lament of confusion and dismay. I am drowning in stagnant waters. I am dying of something from which my heart is yearning to be free.

It is always never enough. Never, ever enough.

Scratching the Surface

Got myself tagged by my dear friend Lizeth:

1. What is your occupation? technical communications
2. What color are your socks right now? not wearing any right now
3. What are you listening to right now? across the universe by beatles
4. What was the last thing that you ate? cheese naan from breadtalk
5. Can you drive a stick shift? no
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? indigo!
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? bix
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? absolutely
9. Favorite drink? chocolate milkshake
10. What is your favorite sport to watch? wushu and football
11. Have you ever dyed your hair? never
12. Pets? cats
13. Favorite food? filipino, chinese, french, italian
14. Last movie you watched? forbidden kingdom
15. Favorite Day of the year? Christmas
16. What do you do to vent anger? run or vent it out on the bag during sanshou training
17. What was your favorite toy as a child? train set
18. What is your favorite, fall or spring? fall
19. Hugs or kisses? hugs
20. What kind of pie? apple cinnamon
21. Do you want your friends to email you back? of course
22. Who is most likely to respond? friends
23. Who is least likely to respond? 'friends'
24. Living arrangements? living alone
25. When was the last time you cried? can't remember
26. What is on the floor of your closet? nothing
27. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this to? badette, bix, macky, mayee
28. The friend you have known the shortest amount of time that you are sending this to? to follow
29. Favorite smell? citrus
30. What inspires you? selflessness, advocacies, ...a lot actually
31. What are you afraid of? the absence of fear
32. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? spicy
33. Favorite car? not a car person
34. Favorite cat breed? i prefer the big ones. tigers. cheetahs.
35. Number of keys on your key ring? 3
36. How many years at your current job? 1
37. Favorite day of the week? Wednesday
38. How many provinces have you lived in? 2
39. How many countries have you been to? 8

I'm tagging Badette, Bix, Macky, and Mayee.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fish Mucus and Foot Fungus - Gian Dapul's Winning Speech

Gian Dapul is the 16-year old student from Philippine Science High School who topped the English-Speaking Union International Public Speaking Competition held in London last May 9, 2008.

by Gian Dapul

When I was in 6th grade, I hated Mathematics. You would have, too, if you had my teacher. He would drop huge workbooks on our tables and croak, “Thirty problems, fifty minutes.” A lot of these problems seemed unsolvable, so we complained: “Sir, there are no answers to these!” But then he’d reply, “To every question there is an answer, to every problem there is a solution.”

Although I’m only sixteen years old and an incoming 4th year high school student, I know that my country has more problems than any Mathematics book. Strangely enough, the answers to some of our problems are fish mucus and foot fungus. These seemingly improbable items are products of what we call scientific research.

Research turns our guesses into real knowledge, serving as the sifting pan of our hypotheses. It challenges what we assume, because, as they say, if you only learn from what you ASS-UME, you make an “ass” out of”u” and “me”.

In the early 1800s, someone warned that the streets of London would be filled with horse manure due to the uncontrolled use of horse-drawn carriages. Of course, that never happened. Combustion engines,products of research and invention, replaced horses, and the manure piled up in Parliament instead.

While on the subject, few people know that the most expensive coffee in the world is taken from the droppings of the Asian Palm Civet found in the Philippines and Indonesia. The small mammal excretes the coffee berries it eats, and forest trackers recycle the fruity feces to create what is known as Kopi Luwak in Indonesia or Kape Alamid in our country. Research has led to a synthetic process that simulates the droppings’ exotic flavor and quality.So, who’s had coffee with their breakfast? Well, soon nobody will have had coffee and breakfast if the looming global food crisis worsens.Are you all feeling fine? Well, nobody might be fine for long if some new disease creeps up on us.

Health can be enhanced and life can be extended. The nudibranch, a beautiful, soft-bodied creature unfairly called a “sea slug” — a favorite among underwater photographers for its marvelous colors and shapes — has actually been used in tumor research. Samples of fish mucus have also displayed certain antibacterial properties.And as the Home Shopping Network would say, “Wait! There’s more.”

Certain types of infectious fungi that coat some of your toes here form beneficial relationships that support plant growth. The International Rice Research Institute based in the Philippines continues to develop ways to improve rice growth and help alleviate the current food crisis.
New challenges are coming, and they will always confront us. What we need is an army of scientific researchers that will help find the solutions in advance. I want to be part of that army that would cross the new frontiers first.

If only we could make science fairs and contests as popular as the thriving “Pop Idol” franchise. Although I’m not sure if Simon Cowell’s sardonic comments will sit well with my peers. But we need the same hard-hitting passion in research and invention.

To conduct research is to be innovative; avant-garde. Researchers are like artists with test tubes and lab gowns instead of paintbrushes and smocks. When I graduate from the Philippine Science High School next year, I want to begin my “masterpiece” and apply for a university degree in Biochemistry.

But sometimes, I am discouraged by those who say that a researcher from a Third-World nation is like a Jesuit adhering to a vow of poverty, or worse, like a Benedictine monk observing the vow of chastity. It is indeed a challenge, but it’s also another frontier to cross, for me and many young people like me.

We Filipinos are well known for their dedication to service, in foreign homes, hospitals and hotels. In the hotel, I found three Filipinos working there. I want to be one of the pioneers that will make the Philippines known for its excellence in scientific research,as part of the driving force that will expand our horizons towards tomorrow. And I intend as a 1to have a lot of fun while doing it.

Going back to my math teacher, I eventually realized that, well, he was right. As he said, “To every question there is an answer, to every problem there is a solution.” We just have to go looking for the right ones. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be answering the questions that haven’t been asked yet.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

it's all coming back to me now

waking up at 4:30am
trying to find teammates in the dark parking lot
getting blisters on my hand
and what i missed most of all...feeling sleepy after training.

i think it's only dragon boat that can occasionaly make me feel that.

endurance training. power strokes.

i think i just might race in CamSur. bahala na si batman.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Allure of Complicated (Bakit Astig si Iron Man)

It has been almost five months since I watched a movie. That is a personal record, I think. A bit sad too actually, for a movie buff like me. But the long hiatus officially ended yesterday. I watched Iron Man with Futsal friends (RyanG, Dex, and Badette) and I could not still get over how I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Complicated is alluring in so many ways. Tony Stark is a complicated man - an effortlessly complicated, overwhelmingly sexy man. It could be the looks, yes. Robert Downey, Jr. did a Johnny Depp in the latter’s rendition of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean. Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark is so astig in that funny, cool, sarcastic, vain, and selfishly unselfish way.

I guess that the man’s character would totally reflect the hero he would eventually become. Iron Man is not exactly the simplest (super)hero to evolve. I mean, whew, all that genius and effort to create the suit makes it even more complicated than the other heroes I know. Superman was born strong and Spiderman was bitten by a genetically modified spider. They had it easy. The powers came and the suits followed. And theirs were such light suits compared with Tony Stark’s crude invention in the cave.

The suit, however, evolved with the hero. With high technology and gadgetry…and the help of robotics, Stark came up with an uber-cool suit that is quite a weapon in itself. The man and the suit thus merged. And one complicated hero emerged.

Complicated is strong. Complicated is powerful. But behind the strength and the power are equally magnetic appeals. Complicated is misunderstood. Complicated is enigmatic. And most times, it is scary for those who fail to marry the complexities and facets that complete the Complicated.

A man with everything but also has nothing was how Stark’s friend in the cave described him. Sad, if true, but nothing is not exactly a permanent state. Everything changes. Judging by Stark’s transformation into a hero, I am taking away fluidity and choice as thought-provoking lessons from this movie.

Other takeaways:

• Nostalgic is not soft. If Pepper Potts was not nostalgic, Stark would not have a backup “heart”. Nostalgic is good.
• Running low on power is no reason to slow down or stop. Rather, it is in that moment when there is almost nothing left that giving your everything will define the outcome of the battle.