Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Michael Owen joins Newcastle

After about 3 months of people not knowing exactly what Michael Owens' footballing future would be, he signs up for a 4-year contract with Newcastle. A very interesting, albeit controversial move, which has put both Owen and Newcastle on the headline of the footballing world over the last couple of days.

I feel a bit bad for him though. He left Liverpool in the hopes that he would win more silverware. And really, anyone in his shoes would've done the same thing, given an opportunity to move to Real Madrid. The problem was, his style of play didn't seem to fit with the rest of Real, despite scoring quite a few goals during his short stint there. And then Real bought 2 Brazilian strikers, dropping Owen to 5th choice. In a World Cup year (during which time he will need to play a lot to remain sharp and fit). Which left him with no option actually but move to a club that would let him play. And well no other club seemed interested which is terribly sad. It would've been nice if he ended up in Liverpool again, especially since 'Pool doesn't seem to have a great striker right now. But Newcastle put in such a high bid and Rafael Benitez didn't really seem interested enough in Owen. So net, Mickey ends up in the team that is currently 2nd from bottom of the league.

I just hope now that Owen gets to start all the time and score lots of goals. The golden boot award would be nice for him to get this year. And who knows? If England do win the World Cup, then I guess all his critics and naysayers will eat crow.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rafting in Cagayan de Oro

(You can read about my previous post for the background on this trip. Thing is, all the pics were taken using Ben’s camera, and I haven’t been able to get a copy yet, so the pics will have to follow.)

We left Manila really early on Saturday morning, July 30. Our flight was at 510am which would bring us to CDO by around 630. The flight was pretty much on time and we got to McDonald’s Divisoria at around 7am. We were supposed to meet up with the rafting group at around 830am so we had a bit of time to kill. After breakfast, Ben, who was out clubbing the entire night before and hadn’t gotten any sleep, decided to have a quick nap. The rafting folks were about 30 minutes late but that was okay since it meant Ben got to sleep a bit longer.

At 9am, we boarded a jeep that would take us to our adventure trip (I just realized we never got to take Ben's picture in the jeep). Inside were a family of Koreans with their Filipino yayas (apparently, the dad was a golf teacher in an exclusive golf club somewhere in the Phils) and a group of Pinoys from Manila. After a short drive, we picked up an international group consisting of two American guys (one of whom originally came from Trinidad), a Japanese girl, and a Cebuana. Turns out the Cebuana, Christine, is a very close friend of Irene and she said I looked familiar – we must’ve run into each other in one of my office parties where she had tagged along with Irene. Small world!

Our first stop was actually the canopy walk, which may be CDO’s second claim to fame (after the river rafting, of course). This part of the adventure (P300) involved walking on a set of rope-and-wooden-plank bridges that are set really high up on the treetops (there’s a safety line that is attached to each person to prevent any accidents). Once you get to the end of the set of bridges, you return to the starting point via a zipline. Pretty cool! Anyway, as you walk along the first bridge (there are three of them, one after another), it still feels pretty normal. Then somewhere along the second bridge, there’s a sheer drop (with a neat little waterfall close to the bottom) and all of a sudden you can hear people gasp as they see just how high up they are. I think I stopped looking down after a few seconds of trying to control my fear of heights. =) Finally, we got to the zip-line: it was about ten seconds of great fun! I would’ve loved to do it again since it wasn’t as long I wish it were (medyo bitin). But there was the main event beckoning, and I didn’t want to shell out another P300.

So we then headed to the river. After each of us put on our lifejackets and grabbed an oar, we got a short overview of what the trip would entail – the river was about 12km long, had 14 rapids I think, and it would take us about 3 hours to get to the end (including a break for lunch somewhere along the river). We then got grouped into different rafts – Ben and I ended up in the raft with the Pinoys from Manila. The people in our raft didn’t seem like they were the athletic type so I was a bit worried that our raft guide would bring us to the calmer parts of the rapids, which would have made the experience slightly disappointing. My concerns were short-lived, though. It seems our guide wanted us to get as much kick out of this experience as possible! In one instance he instructed all of us to paddle in such a way that made the raft spin clockwise while we were going through one set of rapids! And on three or four occasions, he told everyone on the raft to stand while paddling through rapids, including one of the strongest ones! Unbelievable! Would've been more interesting if someone fell off the raft, but no one did. =)

Somewhere close to the end of the trip we got off our our rafts and walked over some huge rocks to a small set of rapids. Not everyone got off the boats this time, it was only me, Ben, and the international group (and I think a couple of other people). It turns out there was another activity to do - we would all locks elbows and walk side by side across the rapids from one riverbank to the other! It wasn't very wide (maybe about 15-20 feet only) but the rapids were really strong and it made for a very interesting activity! In fact, people were worried that they might lose their sandals or flip-flops. And once we managed to get to the other side, we got into the river and let the current take us back to where the rafts were. Ah, so much fun in one day! =)

The adventure was over at around 3pm and we headed back to the city. After getting a room in Casa Crystalla (right smack in the Divisoria are) to clean up a bit and put our stuff down, we had a very late lunch in Max’s (we weren’t able to instruct the guides to prepare food for us in advance so we subsisted on Magic Flakes and ube bread while on the river). We had lumpiang ubod and crispy pata so Ben could try out some local food, and we also had sizzling barbecue chicken (first time I tried it in Max's and it was very good!). He also found out that in the Philippines, iced tea (which he doesn’t like) is lemon iced tea (which he likes).

Later that night, we walked around the city. It was good timing as well because there was some music festival going on in CDO in all Saturday nights from April to August, so the atmosphere in the streets was incredibly festive and alive. Aside from the live music, there was also a “mini-showdown” of break-dancing that was very entertaining and amusing to watch. Restaurant owners also set up food stalls, tables and chairs on the streets so that people could dine al fresco (hehe this is the first time I ever used al fresco in a sentence). I also ended up eating balut to show Ben what it was. He had some of the yolk part of it and agreed that if you could get past the chick bit, then it was actually quite good.

We had a choice of getting up early on Sunday morning and going to a beach about an hour from the city, but we decided against it as we wanted to sleep in and get a bit more rest after not having any sleep on Friday night. Turns out it was the right idea because it was absolutely pelting when we got up on Sunday.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience that I wouldn't mind doing again and bringing more friends to. The rafting itself costs about P1200 per person so it’s not too bad (+ the zipline makes it P1500). The only downside is that you have to fly to CDO from Manila, and the airfare is what eats up most of your budget. If anyone what the cheapest flights are that you can get to CDO, please let me know by leaving a comment. =)

Long day

This morning, I got up at 6am, which is terribly terribly early for me (those of you who know me well can attest to that). However, my nephew Ciera was at home and my bro couldn't bring him to school because he is on night shift which finishes at around lunch. My mom couldn't get a driver either so I figured I might as well bring him to Community of Learners.

As is always the case when I leave the house during rush hour, the traffic was quite bad. And since I had to take a detour to bring Ciera to the San Juan area, it took a while for me to get to Makati and I arrived in the office shortly before 9am. And from that time until late afternoon, I worked on finishing the job aids we need to complete by today at work. That's a huge chunk of work out of the way, and now I can focus on everything else.

I also finally went back into the gym after not going there for the last 2 1/2 weeks or so. As such, my workout was fairly light, and even then I struggled quite a bit, much to the amusement of Marlon, my trainer. I did manage to get the bicep and back workouts done fairly well, but everything involving triceps was a bit of a disaster, and my ab workout was nowhere near where it was right before my gym break. Hay naku, this is proof that I shouldn't take such a long break from going to the gym! My 30 minute run after the workout redeemed me a bit though (and I guess after I run a full marathon, 30 minutes on a treadmill should be a cakewalk). My heart rate was quite high the moment I took to the treadmill, though, because I was so tired from the workout. But I managed to go from 8.5kph to 12kph (with a 13 kphs[rint finish). I burned nearly 400 calories with that run, and so at least I ended my trip to the gym on a high note.

I had dinner (Chasyu Don, Miso Soup, and Tofu Steak with house tea) in Teriyaki Boy after my workout before heading back to the office to do the finishing touches on my last job aid. I also read up a bit on a few documents I received over the last couple of days.

Too bad that it's past midnight now because that means I won't be able to watch tonight's episode of One Tree Hill season 1 on Starworld. But after seeing the season-ender of season 2 in ETC last Sunday (with all its loose ends!), I guess I don't really need to see these early, character-establishing episodes anymore. Oh wait, that means I don't get to see Peyton (Hilarie Burton)! Okay well too bad I am going to miss it then. (Btw, if the WB don't give us a 3rd season of OTH, I will... I will... okay I will send them a nasty note and probably not do anything else. =))

Monday, August 22, 2005

High School Reunion

One more friend of mine who was celebrating her birthday in August (Aug 18, to be exact) is Joyce. Last Thursday, she had a party at her house in Project 4. Naturally, Anna, Iona, Mitch and Ferg were there as well. We were all late actually but it was still fun. I haven’t seen all of them together in maybe a couple of months (or at the very least, it felt like a couple of months) so it was great seeing them again.

Then we got into talking about this new Irish Pub, O’Mally’s (sp?), in Greenbelt 1. This is where Price of Wales used to be. We were supposed to hang out there with Gary and Winnie last two Saturdays ago, but as it turned out, only Mitch and Ferg could meet up with them (the rest of us had prior commitments). So the four of them opted for a different venue, and as such, they didn’t get to check out the Irish Pub just yet.

So during Joyce’s party, we thought of going there on Saturday night. However, because Ferg was playing in a badminton tournament that night and the Liverpool game wasn’t going to be shown on TV anyway, Mitch said that we could just all hang out in their place.

We got there shortly before 9pm and feasted on food from North Park and had some Dreyer’s ice cream for dessert. Then we just hung out and conversed ‘til past midnight. It was great fun as it always is when hanging out with them, and it’s great that after not seeing them for a while, I get to see them twice in a span of a few days.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Birthdays in August

Last Friday, we had a dinner birthday celebration dinner for Joh. I came in late since I had an ATM problem, and when I got to Gourmand in the Fort, the rest of the folks were already there - Joh, Raffa, Paulo, Peegee, Tim, Hannah, Che, Pia and John Q. The food there was quite expensive but it was incredibly good. Nice quaint place as well and fairly easy to get to if you have a car so I guess you can say it's a good date place.

After dinner, everyone but John Q and Peegee headed over to Coldrock, this fairly new ice cream place somewhere between Jack, Jill, and Gonuts Donuts. The setup is similar to Dairy Queen except that instead of having a machine mix the ice cream and 'mixins', the people there did it by hand. (And I must say, those people must have Popeye forearms because you could tell how hard it was by watching what they were doing!). I tried a made-up combination of mint chocolate and Aussie's best cookies n cream, with rocky road marshmallows mixed in. Not bad. But at P174, it's not something I want to have too often. We then capped the night off at UCC (I ended up having two coffees, but the second one was decaf so it's not too bad hehehe).

On Saturday I had to get up relatively early for the Bukas Sarili meeting in Makati at 1030am. We had great attendance once again, 11 people came - Vangie, Tess, Cushee, Audris, Kendrick, Avi, Susie, Sarah, Bunky, and MJ (plus me of course). The meeting went fairly well, and the latest news showed that we have now raised about P165K from the Pledge Run!

I had to hurry after the meeting though since I had a lunch party in my grandparents house in Novaliches. Pretty long way from Makati actually. But it was the join birthday celebration of my mom (Aug 9), grandfather, her dad (also Aug 9), my bro (Aug 3), my cousin (Aug 8), my nephew (Aug 31 - okay we are actually having a separate party for him too =)), and our household help, Mama Guading, who has been with the family since forever (Aug 11). Obviously that is such a huge party that there is no way I am missing that. Unfortunately, my bro was on night shift the previous night and had to fetch my nephews in Malabon so they arrived after almost everyone had left, at around 430pm.

I left about an hour later so I could go to Paulo's place in Greenhills (yeah, Fairview to Makati to Novaliches to Greenhills to Fairview! ouch!) which was where we were celebrating part 2 of Joh's birthday. This one was a surprise, and the fact that we had dinner the night before really threw her off. I came in late with birthday candles and pansit from Razon's so I missed the surprise part. Anyway, here's a question: What do you get when you have a dozen IT folks in a party? Answer: a geeky party! When I got there, I saw two laptops, a couple of webcams, a projector, and Giselle's webcam shot being projected on the wall. Later on, Suzanne and Nenen would connect with us as well - one laptop and one webcam per connection. Amazing! There was even audio with both Giselle (in Japan) and Nenen and Suzanne (in Philadelphia). Ian and Cathy called as well (or texted, I'm not totally sure) since they weren't able to buy a webcam. We then browsed through pictures of Paulo and Giselle in Japan, as well as a few other photos of trips people have taken (like to Boracay, Clearwater, etc) before calling it a day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Presenting: The Philippines!

A couple of weeks ago, a English friend of mine, Ben, came to the Philippines for a 2 ½ week holiday. Ben has been in South-east Asia for the last six months or so, doing charity work in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, and Indonesia (most of his work has revolved around helping out with tsunami relief), and will be doing much of the same over most of the next four months. As such, he decided to take a short vacation from all that hard work and spend a couple of laidback weeks in the Philippines.

He didn't really know anyone else from here (he knew Omar, but well Omar is in London) so I came up with a list of suggestions of what he could do while he was here. Once I came up with that list, I suggested an itinerary for him which he thought was really cool.

Now during the course of this planning, the fact that there was still a lot of places in the country that I haven't been to and wanted to see was reinforced. So I figured it would be good for me to take some days off of work and accompany Ben. After all, once I realized a few years ago that I had seen a lot of places in other countries but not enough of my own, I decided to visit at least one new place in the Philippines every year. Plus Ben gets a free tour guide and translator.

So this is how the final itinerary looked like:

First stop - Boracay. He spent his first night (Monday) in Manila before heading to Boracay and spending 3 nights there. I would have gone with him if it were not for the fact that this was the same time as the SNS offsite in Shenzhen. I also had too much work to do during that week that I couldn’t take a couple of days off. Didn't matter. Boracay is very tourist-friendly so Ben didn't have problems going around, and I've been there a few times before so not a huge deal that I missed it.

Second stop - Cagayan De Oro. We met up on Friday night before splitting up again - I had dinner with Joh, Raffa, Chris, Shar, Meann, Hannah, and Paulo while he hung out with some new found friends at the Fort. As such, we had very little sleep since our flight to Cagayan De Oro was at 510am on Saturday. Spent the day white water rafting then headed back to Manila on Sunday.

Third stop - Coron, Palawan. I couldn't take Monday off since I still had to finish a ton of stuff, and I ended up working til about 430am on Tuesday but I did manage to sort everything out before leaving. We got there on Tuesday right before lunch and returned to Manila on Friday. I was supposed to have a meeting on Friday afternoon which was thankfully postponed because my flight was delayed by 2 1/2 hours and I would have missed it if it pushed through.

Final stop - Metro Manila. I took Ben to Malate on Friday night. On Saturday he watched a couple of UAAP games (UP lost to FEU, unfortunately). On Sunday he joined the other Bukas Sarili people for the celebration breakfast right after the marathon. On Monday, he played basketball with Chris and his friends (Basketball is Ben's sport and wanted to play it here, so when I found out Chris was playing on Monday, I managed to get Ben to join them). And on Tuesday, his last night here, he watched my band perform.

(Btw, the night that we hung out in Malate, the song 'Call on me' by Eric Prydz played in the bar we were in. He mentioned to me how it was a popular song in England and how the video was so hot. So I searched for it in the internet and manged to find it. And I have to say that it is the hottest video of all time!!! Haha, at least for me. Anyway (well, I guess only if you are a guy) I suggest you try to find it in the net. Note that there is no nudity so don't think I'm some perv hehehe. So now, whenever I feel a bit stressed at work, I just watch that video and I feel re-energized. =))

The details of my rafting and Coron trips will be in latter posts (can't fit them in here anymore). But after Ben left Manila last Wednesday, I felt pretty cool at how I was able to organize a full itinerary for him that represented the Philippines pretty well - great islands and cities to visit, cool places to hang out in, Pinoy food (adobo and adobo flakes, sisig, and even balut!), watching and playing our 'national' sport, and listening to amazing live music (of course it's amazing, it was my band playing! =)). He thanked me for sorting out his trip here and suggested that if things don't pan out for me in IT, I could work as a travel agent. =)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Time to get those anti-depressants out

On paper, this should've been a good week. The marathon is over, so that's one big project off my to-do list. Most of the stuff I need to get done at work have already been done, or are moving along well enough so no worries on that front either. And it surely makes sense that after I go rafting in Cagayan De Oro, snorkeling in Coron, and after a kick-ass gig, I should be on Cloud 9 right now. Or thereabouts.

But the truth of the matter is I'm not. In fact, it's quite the opposite really. I don't even recall the last time I have felt this depressed and down-trodden.

I felt so bad at the end of the day today that I was just supposed to have a quick dinner. But when I was done, I just realized I could not go back to my desk. I just couldn't. Ah, maybe I could watch "The Wedding Crashers." After all, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. Well, it was funny all right and a great movie. But the moment I stepped out of the theater, the weather seemed to match my disposition as the rain was pouring. And I had no umbrella.

I think that's where the problem lies. I don't feel like I have an umbrella while the rain is pouring. It's like no one's got my back. And everyone around me wants a piece of me. Or no, not even just a piece, more like a chunk. Right now, though, it doesn't feel like there is enough of me to go around. I've been holding the fort wearily for far too long, and the reinforcements don't seem to be anywhere in sight. Can anyone say 'exhaustion'?

Of course I do know that holding the fort is not bad. Makes you feel like people can count on you, that you are the go-to guy who makes things happen. That you can be trusted. That's always a good thing.

But the moment people take your willingness to help out as an indicator that you exist for the sole purpose of helping them whenever they need you, then it becomes tough. No, it becomes abusive. And shitty. And sad. This week has felt shitty because it seems as though everything I do isn't working. When you try to be diplomatic, you get maligned and manhandled. When you raise your voice, you become rude and unprofessional. When you tell someone you'll get them something done, they hound you until they get it from you. When you tell people you'll help out, they all of a sudden look at you to lead. Then when you ask someone to do something for you, they don't do it. Or don't do it well so you end up stepping in anyway to fix things. What a f*cking nightmare.

And I think what simply compounds things is that it's not just one bad thing happening, but so many bad things happening all at the same time. When that happens, you just feel like you can't breathe.

Guess I'm just gonna try and hold my breath a little longer. See how things turn up...

(I'll post the fun stories about my recent trips when I am in a better mood)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Marathon-for-a-Cause for the third year in a row

Yesterday, I just ran my third Bukas Sarili Marathon-for-a-Cause. 42 gruelling kilometers over nearly 5 hours. I managed to raise P73,000 raised, and almost P160,000 when you combine it with what the other pledge runners were able to raise. Quite unbelievable really. Especially when you think that running a marathon was never really one of my life goals or in my list of things to do before I die.

I ran for a very short period of time when I was in college, largely due to the influence of the people I hung out with at the time who were all into distance running. After that, I probably didn't run long distance again until 2003. This was when I just got back from my 3-month assignment in Belgium, during which time the chocolates and beer I consumed helped me gain some unneeded weight. So when Gosh asked me in Jan 2003 if I was interested to join this 8-km race in April, I agreed to join and decided to start running again.

And from March to May 2003, I ran about 6-10km three times a week. But even then, running a marathon was still not something I planned to do. I recall leading a Time Management training session at work in early June and telling my class that running 25km was one of my long term goals. Yup, only 25km coz at the time I didn't feel a need to run any longer than that. But then, I had one very brief yet life-changing conversation with Mike before a Bukas Sarili meeting in mid-June. He asked me if I wanted to run a marathon for Bukas Sarili. I said that I didn't think I had time to train for it since it was 2 months away. He said there was no need for me to finish, I just had to try and run as far as I could. So I agreed. A few months after that, I completed my first ever marathon for charity.

In the process, I not only got fitter but I also managed to raise more than P50,000 through donations by friends and colleagues. I figured that this was something I could do every year. It was like hitting two birds with one stone - raise money for charity and stay healthy. So I did it again last year. With 6 weeks of training (kids, don't try this at home! I never intend to train for just 5 weeks for a marathon ever again), I managed to cover the same distance in less time than I did the first time. I also managed to raise P71,000.

Which brings me to my third marathon this year. What is great about this year is that it marks quite a few records. I improved on my personal best as I shaved 2 minutes off my previous record (4:52 now from 4:54 last year), and as such marks the 2nd year in a row that I bested my previous result. I also ran the longest distance without stopping to walk due to tirednes (I managed to cover 30km before my I walked; prior to this year the longest I had run without stopping was 25-26km). I also managed to raise more money (individually) than I ever have for charity, with donations from dozens of people amounting to almost P73,000! That is still not counting the pledges I will be getting from about five people who said they would donate but sometime later this year. To say that I am inspired right now by the generosity of so many of my friends is definitely an understatement. I mean, P73,000. All I can say is, wow.

Add to that the support I got while running. Ray and Quintin met up with me on their bikes at around the 20km mark (just past Jollibee). Quintin then went in search of Kendrick while Ray kept me company the rest of the way. At around 7:50, I was on my way back at around the Jollibee area when cheers welcomed me as I saw Sarah, Bunky, Joy S, Vangie, Ada, and Jaygat. Then most of them got in Bunky's car and drove to the finish line where they, along with Tess, Susie, Vince and his girlfriend greeted me with more cheers and applause. Then they joined me from breakfast at Manila Hotel where Ben, who didn't get up to his alarm clock, met up with us all. Quintin and Kendrick then joined us a several minutes later.

I recall telling Ray at some point that I couldn't believe I was running my third marathon for Bukas Sarili. In fact, I have never been as mentally prepared for a marathon as I was this year, maybe in part due to the fact that I had already done this twice before. But in terms of the distance I covered during training, I actually felt less prepared. I managed to run 20km only once, 15km once, 12.2km once, 10km a handful of times and 5km the rest of the time. In some ways that isn't as good as where I was last year (physically). Last year, despite training for only 6 weeks, I managed to run >10k three to four times and >20k twice, covering a distance of almost 28km in my longest training run. My legs and feet hurt like hell now, and that must be proof of how poorly conditioned I was this year for a 42-km run.

But then I just think about the money I helped raised that will be used to help dozens of sick patients who are having trouble paying for tests or medicine in PGH. I also look at the number of people who have been so generous with their money and with their words of encouragement (tears have welled up in my eyes a few times from the beginning of this project until now). I think of everyone who worked hard and stayed true to make sure this project was successful. I think of all that, and all of a sudden I don't feel the pain. Of course, the massage helps too. =)

Seriously though, right now, what I do feel is motivation to do this again next year. And every year after that. For as long as I can.