Friday, February 27, 2009

Memories of a Caimito Tree

Earlier this morning I saw a fruit vendor peddling caimito (star apple) and I was suddenly hit by nostalgia. Vivid memories of my grandparents' home just filled my head and it was like I was a kid again. It was like being transported back to their home in the province and seeing the backyard where lots of fruit-bearing trees have provided the family, and sometimes the neighbors, with sweet treats.

There was a big caimito tree that consistently produced its sweet fruits that we all enjoyed eating especially during the summer. I remember we used to fill baskets with its fruits. Probably the only tree that grew as big, if not bigger, than the old caimito tree was the mango tree that stood near the fish pond. And it also rivaled the caimito tree in frequency and sheer number of produce it gave us through all those years. Apart from those two biggies, there were a number of other trees like cacao, pomelo, guava, balimbing, calamansi, and langka (jackfruit) as well as bananas and a whole bunch of other vegetables and plants.

My childhood years in that home was probably one of the best times of my life. I never thought much about it but I now believe that a strong family bond started to form in me during those years. It was a place where everyone in the family stayed for long periods of time especially during summer breaks and holidays. It was where simple needs are met and nature's abundance and generosity is within arms reach.

I wonder if the caimito tree still stands where it used to stand tall and proud a few feet from the back of the house. I'm curious if the small pond still has its small pagoda structure and the little stone dwarves with their frozen smiles and happy faces. I suddenly long to see that place again.

I haven't been visiting my grandparents' home much since my lola died ten years ago and after my lolo remarried and moved to Cebu. My lolo's death last month has caused me profound grief that I can't fully quite understand. Maybe the reason for the magnitude of such grief is a feeling of losing someone who was part of that foundation of childhood memories I have.

(Image found on the Internet)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What would you save if your house burnt down?

Actually, the exact question was "What (people aside) would you save if your house burnt down?".

Well, now that I have the luxury of time to think about it, I'd say both my cellphone and my wallet. But that would be if I have the presence of mind to do it in panic mode. Of course if I had superhuman strength and speed or perhaps some teleporting powers, I would save all of my books first then grab some essentials like some clothes then my cellphone and wallet.

Unfortunately, experience has taught me that I operate on pure reflex and instinct in emergencies. When I was in college, I lived in a dorm in one of the buildings near the campus. There were four rooms in our unit and I was occupying one of the rooms. I guess it was a blessing that we had a housemate who was a Computer Science student, which meant he rarely ever slept.

Our housemate had a love affair with Erika (his computer) and that made him the most effective fire alarm in the unit. He proved to be good at it one time because he was the one who alerted us that a fire was already raging in the unit above us. He quickly woke everyone up and we all were just like fishes suddenly thrown into a vat of hot oil.

Thick smoke was coming in from every possible gaps and openings in our unit. It was past 2:00am already and we were all sound asleep. Luckily Mr. ComSci guy was awake so we had a chance to get out before we became fried meat. I grabbed one of my sports jacket and flew out of the door with my housemates like some strong gust of wind just practically pushed us out of the door.

It was when we were assembled at the basketball court a safe distance away from the building that our wits returned. We were talking about what happened then somehow got to asking each other what we ended up saving from among our belongings. It turned out everyone grabbed their wallets and almost all managed to bring their cellphones as well. I, on the other hand, ended up to be the only one who flew out of the burning building (uhm technically, a building with a burning unit) leaving everything behind except for a sport jacket.

My housemates thought I "saved" it for sentimental reasons (seeing that it was my first SEA Games jacket). However, my reason was much simpler than that. See, I was right in the middle of a good sleep and I don't sleep wearing a bra. I wasn't actually consciously thinking about it but it seems that my instinct at that time was to put something on before running out.

At the end of the day, I can't help but think, perhaps it's in situations like that when I get the chance to be truly free. Imagine acting by pure instinct alone, making decisions without fear, and just doing something without wasting time thinking too much about it may be the closest brush to freedom anyone would have.

Our unit didn't burn by the way. But our unit smelled like smoke for more than a week and some of our stuff got wet. And I did remember my cellphone halfway out of the building and almost ran back, which was a pretty stupid thing to consider doing at that time. I guess I always think about saving my cellphone because it's the easiest way to communicate with my family. It's always reassuring to know that such a gadget can connect me to them especially when in times when I just need a comforting talk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So This Is How It Feels

To have a malware steal one's instant messaging account password is probably one of the most annoying things that could happen. What irritates me most about this experience is that feeling of being violated somehow. We're talking about privacy here. It's not a comforting feeling to discover, to know for a fact, that despite my best efforts to keep my account information secure, I'm still vulnerable to having my password stolen.

Now I have to make time to change ALL my passwords lest the others have been stolen too. And I cringe in embarrassment just to think about the people who must have received similar messages from me. Apart from the fact that whoever composed the message that SUPPOSEDLY came from me couldn't even spell exercise correctly, it pains me to know that my interest for fitness/wellness make this fake message even look more real. Argh! As if I would advertise such things!

Experience like this make all the Internet-borne threats more real. And this is just a plain and simple manifestation of the many threats out there. I pity those who have to go through worse experiences than this.

Phases and Seasons

I think each sport I get into has its seasons or phases in my life. Sometimes I stick to it for a year, sometimes for more than a decade. But no matter how long I stay, there's going to be what I call a "time-out" from playing the game regardless of how much I've learned to love it. This is when I just decide to take some time away and move on.

My love affair with any sport has to have two key ingredients:
1. It has to be fun.
2. I have to see and feel that I've made a significant improvement in playing it after a period of time (i.e. it should be able to TEACH me something, to make me LEARN something)

If one of those two things are missing, then I know it's time for me to call the "time-out". And this is what's happening to me now with my attachment to Futsal. I've been playing it for exactly one year now. I can still remember how excited I was when I started out. It was something new for me. More importantly, it was my first attempt to play a sport that use balls (I always thought of myself as a wuss in sports that need balls -no pun intended- to play).

I think that one year is a long time for me to invest time, passion, energy, and money without seeing any significant improvement in myself. It was really great in the beginning especially when others spend time teaching us newbies the basics. But I don't think that I've learned what I needed to learn in the time I dedicated to it. For now, it's really time for a break.

What I would love to do now is really to go back to my Wushu-Sanshou training. That's one love affair that's burning hot even from the time I've been away from it. Unfortunately, it's not something I can pursue again right now because my work schedule conflicts with my training time.

I guess it'll have to be boxing for now. It's timely that Ken invited Badette and I to try it. I haven't done boxing as a sport although I've had training in boxing since it's one of the core skills in sanshou. It would be great to improve my skills on it. I'm sure I'd be gradually burning all my excess fat along the way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh-So Sweet Affairs

I asked Christian earlier if I look like I've been losing weight lately (which was really just a rhetorical question seeing that I'm probably ballooning faster than I can say diet). The reason I asked was because some uber-nice people have been giving me lots of great food (and tons of sweets!) since last Saturday.

Saturday was probably the ultimate uncontrolled eating session I've had in recent memory. It's not actually easy to say no when you're not buying the food in the first place. And telling them that I'm on a diet sounds pretty lame since these are people who know how I love to eat.

All that eating started with the rowing meeting at the Quezon City Sports Club. James bought us food and drinks where I had my favorite tuna sandwich and brewed coffee. Then after that, sis Daisy bought me the triple chocolate brownies at Goldilocks when we met at Ayala on our way to see sis Aina. I thought then that we're done eating sweets for the day but it turned out the universe had other plans for me.

It was when Daisy and I got to The Manila Peninsula that we did more eating than we could possibly imagine when we set out to meet sis Aina. Aina arrived last week for a brief visit so we blocked off our Saturday afternoon to spend time with her.

Joined by some sisses and Danvic with her wife Melissa and daughter Kiarra, we finished the biggest serving of ice cream I've ever had. There were at least eight of us in Aina's room and yet we weren't able to finish the ice cream quickly as we've thought we could. The picture on the menu didn't do justice to the real thing and I'd say it was a fun experience to be served that much ice cream.

As I was planning on leaving, somebody egged Daisy to treat everyone to T.G.I. Friday's to which she promptly said yes. So we ended up at Glorietta for dinner. After ordering everything that would satisfy our craving for dinner, we finished off at Friday's and went back to Manila Pen thinking that we wouldn't probably be thinking of food again sometime soon after that. However, as soon as sis Babs arrived Aina ordered food for everyone to share. I'd say that food and conversations made for that great Saturday afternoon/evening.

If I think that it was probably the end of all that eating then it appears that I'm wrong. It seems that people are extremely sweet these days because today a colleague just had this inspiration to buy me a cup of coffee from Starbucks. It was a nice but unexpected gesture which prompted me to wonder if I look as if I'm not eating much lately for some people to offer me food every chance they get. I'm amazed and feeling blessed with all these nice gestures from the sweetest people I know.

Thanks everyone! :-)

Pahabol: Just when I was about to publish this, Jason gave me dark chocolates (Dark 60% Cacao woooooot!) that he said Shimizu-san gave for everyone to share. What more can I say? Thank you universe!


"Who Is the Most Powerful Member of Your Team?

Teams perform to the level of their least-committed member. To predict your team's performance capacity, examine the commitment of all your partners.
Is the team leader the most powerful member of your team? Is the most inspired member the most powerful? The smartest member? Nope. None of the above. Like it or not, the most powerful member of your team is the one who cares the least about your team's task. Sorry, but that's the truth. The least-committed member of your team is the most powerful because his lack of commitment establishes a low baseline to which other teams may fall. The success-or mediocrity-of your team likely will be determined by him." (Source: Teamwork is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility, p.96)
The excerpt brings to mind what I have learned with my teammates in dragon boat. In dragon boat paddling (and I think in most team sports), the strength of the team is its weakest man. Of course it would help to have really good players around. Think Michael Jordan in basketball or Ronaldinho in Football, they definitely have the skills and talent to drive their teams to top place. But imagine how it would have turned up for them their teammates left them alone to dribble and drive the balls on their own.

Team sport is a pretty interesting study. There's such dynamism, energy, drive, focus, and shared goal in it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sound of Dead Silence

I think dead silence is the absence of that ringing noise in your ears when there's absolute stillness all around. It's like when even the most persistent sound ceases to exist. Or maybe, all the sounds just withdrew someplace where I can't connect with it.

This is me in the midst of that dead silence that seems to be coming from within.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Riding the Wave

It's all about ebbs and flows lately.Yesterday was all about being keyed up and mega-productive.I was quietly rejoicing for finding myself in the zone again.I succeeded in finishing everything on my very demanding checklist and even managed to go home much earlier than I anticipated.

But today,well,it was like probably the opposite of everything that happened yesterday.I couldn't seem to pull myself out of this mind-numbing stupor that's pressing like a dark cloud.I was coasting that I just had to find ways to breathe life into what felt like a dead soul.

I thought a serving of a good strong coffee from Starbucks would awaken my dull senses.Unfortunately,it seems coffee was not the answer either.And because of that brief visit, I almost lost my wallet.I totally forgot about it and just left Starbucks with Colleen.I only noticed I was missing it when we got back to the office.

I wasn't very optimistic about getting my wallet back because we were sitting outside and who knows who might have just picked it up.But I guess the one good thing that came out of it was to experience first-hand how Starbucks tries to live up to its brand promise.

I swear I was grateful that they found my wallet but what I found most impressive was the measures they took to inform me that they have it. By the time Colleen and I got back to the store, they've already found the time to call me on my cellphone (which I left at my desk) and inform our team's manager that they have my wallet.Now, that's customer service at its best.

Of TV, Radio, and Games that Kids Play

I'm possibly the least informed person on this planet especially when it comes to what's hot on TV and on the radio. I can count to less than ten the number of times I've watched TV since I've had my cable disconnected in June last year. The truth is, the only reason I was so gung-ho about paying for the monthly subscription for years was purely because of House, Heroes, and Bones.

But not even my love of Dr. House could make me pay for a monthly fee that more often than not provided lousy (customer) service. I sure miss watching TV and I've often wondered what happened to those shows I've been following. My TV stayed silent and unused for more than six months. This is probably why when I tried to open it last week, it didn't even do anything but stay quiet. Now I'm thinking, it's probably busted for good. I didn't realize that it would get broken when I don't use it for a long time.

With no TV and no radio in my room, I'm practically clueless on who are the celebrities of this generation. I therefore find it fascinating to listen to people who seen to know everything about the lives of public figures.

Fortunately for me I have a long ride to work everyday and I seem to have the knack of flagging FX's whose drivers like listening to this station where Christsuper and Nicole Iyala host a regular show. It's because of this instances that I discovered that I actually enjoy listening to these two.

This morning, Nicole Iyala was talking about how it's nice if kids would play more with others like they used to do when she was a kid. Now, I don't know if Nicole and I are from the same generation but I share her views on this one. Before kids play more with their friends (not the virtual kind that kids now seem to be more accustomed to playing with). Games like bahay-bahayan, tumbang preso, piko, luksong-tinik or luksong-baka, habulan, taguan, etc. were the popular choices at that time.

Today kids have more options and the more popular ones seem to be those played on the Internet. This only means less time for them to play outside and "socialize" with other kids.While this may not be a bad thing (since things evolve and change after all and it's futile wishing for the old ways to stick), it does have its dangers.

What I find really alarming and sad about this whole thing is the unnecessary but sometimes unavoidable exposure to information or things that are not appropriate for their age. Perhaps one of the most recent news that shocked me was about the "Rapeplay" video game that Amazon pulled off from their virtual shelves.

"Rapeplay" is supposedly (since I haven't actually seen one) "a computer game that lets players simulate raping girls". I think the report illustrates the danger of inadvertent exposure to inappropriate content. Warnings and notices aside, there's always a chance that some people would opt to use available material on the Internet that might end up viewed or downloaded by kids.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Simply Bliss

Mayee's back from her YinYang stint. Apart from having her sweet and sunny presence back, she returned with my first ever SIGG water bottle! :-) I've been soooooo excited to have one since I first saw it featured here.

I got my bottle since just before lunch this morning and it's been sitting on my desk for hours now, still unused. The thing is, it looks really new and shiny and clean there that I don't have the heart to use it yet.

Mayee has a cute .6L bottle and Christian got a flask and both designs are the coolest. Argh! Now I'm thinking I need to seriously save more money so I can buy myself another one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Life Less Complicated

I needed a break - got myself one.

I wanted to take one step back - ended up taking three.

Sticking it out is a need. The need sustains the passion. If the need continues to cause what amounts to a sustained crushing of the broken little pieces of my heart, then so be it. For now, the need still makes me explore and pursue what I'm passionate about.

Simple things. Need meeting want.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Water Overflows

This idea has been going around for ages. It still proves to be true. Things that happen repeatedly eventually loses its impact. Let's use as an example a recurring disappointment or a wish that you keep hoping for. If the same things happen over and over and over again, they gradually begin not to matter.

It's really like filling a glass with water. Once the glass fills up, all the water you keep pouring in it gets wasted.

I now feel that it's futile to care for some things that shouldn't matter anymore. Let go. Let it slide.

I'm beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, there's a limit to that human capacity to care.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Recollection on Prayer

My friend and dragon boat teammate Anna Liese invited me to a seminar on prayer held yesterday at Union Church of Manila (UCM). The event was organized by UCM and Open Hearts Open Minds.

When I accepted the invitation, I had no idea who the speaker would be or how it would be conducted. Somehow, knowing that it’s a seminar on prayer was enough for me. It was therefore a very nice surprise to discover that the speaker was Father Thomas H. Green, S.J. Father Green is a spiritual director and a prolific writer of books on prayer and spirituality.

The seminar (or recollection as Father Green calls it) was very timely especially after my family’s recent loss. On a more personal level, I wanted to process some specific events during our time in Cebu that shook my belief in the act of praying. Perhaps one of the most trying times for me during that period of mourning and handling all funeral arrangements for my Lolo was the experience with the second wife’s prayer group (my Lolo became a Catholic after he remarried).

My Lola was a Protestant so I have vivid memories of the family’s daily prayers at dawn in my grandparents’ home and Sunday services at the UCCP in Davao City. But despite being devoted to their faith, I felt the openness of it. I grew up very open to other faiths as well.

Religious preferences have never been an issue. I even have a Tito and Tita who chose to become Catholics and I don’t remember that creating any ripple at all in the family. I even went to a high school run by the Society of Jesus. My stint in that school instilled in me a great respect for the Jesuits.

I think it’s because of my upbringing and exposure to different faiths that I haven’t been one to encourage religious debates or to allow myself to see religious denominations as a barrier for treating others as fellow children of God. And I’ve been exposed to a lot of people to believe that there are many who share this belief. This is probably why I was unprepared to find myself around people who taught me that sometimes faith without discernment can breed certain prejudices.

To my utmost disappointment, the second wife’s friends and prayer group challenged my perception. Without going to the sad and painful details, there were several decisions made by the girl that were heavily influenced by the group. And all these decisions were made without regard or respect for us in the family who were grieving as well.Apart from the extremely inconsiderate behaviors I’ve observed, there was also that matter of money. At first I thought the traditional prayers done by rote were sincerely given for someone they’ve known and said to respect. But it seems that even prayers need to be paid.

The seminar helped me process the desolation that was gripping me. I guess at this point I need to teach myself to forgive for I’m still honestly filled with grief and anger over everything that’s happened. I need to understand and accept this because I’m done feeling all these negative emotions.

Father Green said that loving is not liking, that God asked us to love our neighbors. He said God didn't mention anything about liking everyone. Love is an act of will and like is about feeling. To love is to desire the good of others regardless of how we feel about them.

I think that loving is really the most difficult thing to do. But sometimes, to choose to love can be a form of penance or purification as we seek to step closer to that place and time where we hope to see God.

I wish I could choose to love and start by forgiving them:
-For insisting that we bury my Lolo there instead of bringing him home to Davao
-For leaving us alone to fend for ourselves in an unfamiliar place
-For finding out that the family would take care of all the arrangements and fees despite the fact that it was them who insisted that we bury him there
-For not even offering words of sympathy and for treating us like we’re not my Lolo’s family as well
-For always demanding as if we have an obligation to them especially in providing money for the prayers that their traditions require

It’s been a truly difficult time, and continues to be still. It’s hard not to react in anger from the continued demands. I hope things get better. As I write, things are already looking up. God’s purpose for all of these will unveil itself in due time.

(Image used was found on the Internet.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Of Poems and Calligraphy

I've been looking for more translations of Mitsuo Aida's works on the Internet for a few days now. I've recently posted one of the variations of his poem about "tomatoes" here and was since inspired to find English translations of his masterpieces.

This is probably why I was very eager to share to Tom (our Japanese colleague) that I've recently joined the ranks of the calligrapher's staunch admirers (too bad I can't, for now, yet read his original works and have to rely on translations). It turns out that Tom's a fan also and that he makes it a point to visit Mitsuo Aida's museum whenever he's in Tokyo.

He then shared this calligraphy and one of the variations of "tomatoes".

Once again, I'm amazed by the genius of a man who reminded me that the simplest things contain intangible treasures that resonate to the heart and soul.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Random Thought

I don't have to be best buddies with a person to respect him/her.But getting my respect,is an entirely tricky and tedious process.Not that a lot would want to.I'm pretty much good at keeping to myself.Consider it a character flaw, but as soon as my finely-tuned senses pick up signs that I'm being labeled then I make it a point to not prove it otherwise.

Today something about my gay friends and acquaintances gave me pause.I've always wondered how I seem to find myself connecting with them.Personality-wise,I might as well be on the opposite side of the spectrum.I'm far too serious that I find it amazing I can easily relate with them.

I think it's about them being open and real.Not that I'm saying they're always nice.I've seen and experience how they can be mean but I keep thinking,they are the people who have endured so much just to be who they are right now. I think, regardless of anyone's personal views and beliefs about the issue,they are people who essentially sought to find themselves and chose to live the way their hearts tell them to.

So why am I suddenly thinking about all of these? I guess it's because I admire how Paul and Jake try to reach out and be helpful even in the most trying circumstances. This once again proves the point that acts of kindness is not exclusive to circles of friends. I think this shows that sometimes, the kindness that resonates is the one that is most difficult to give but is given anyway.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Other Way But Up

I've always believed what a friend told me when I was in college (although I can't quite recall now who said it but the idea stuck). It was about how we carry along when we fall so hard in the darkest, deepest pit we could possibly imagine. I've had my share of discussions along these lines. See, being young, uprooted from the quiet life of the province, and exploring the complexities of independence of college life somehow made me feel like I've been handed out a license to milk all the dramas of life for all its worth.

The friend said that if we really think about it, when we're down at the bottom of the pit we fell into there's really no other way but up. The idea was of course kind of cold if we hear it just when we've recently fallen. It seems cold, harsh even. But if we really look at the logic behind it, it kind of makes sense.

I remember thinking my friend was right. I thought then, if I somehow fell and found myself alive after the experience, no amount of pain or suffering can erase the fact that I survived the fall. I think the survival part is the crucial thing here. If I somehow managed to keep myself alive, breathing, and functioning regardless of the circumstances then perhaps God has a reason for me to have somehow survived the fall.

I've long embraced this belief and I'd say that it has proven to be an anchor in all those stormy days I've been. Perhaps one thing that I've learned to accept as well from previous experiences is that it's important to be fully present inside that pit. Sometimes, it's easy to pretend that I'm in a better place, that I'm nowhere near that dark, cold, and hopeless place. Most times, it's easy for the mind to be elsewhere. But I learned that it's much easier for me to recover when I allow myself to feel every pain. This is critical because it is always when I embrace the moment that I discover that it is not a place I would want to be in for the rest of my life. And I guess that's the time I begin to look up and find the strength to start the climb.

The beauty of falling is that when we hit bottom we couldn't be any lower. And once there, we'd begin to realize that indeed, there's no other way but up.

*(Image from the Internet)