525,600 Minutes

The minutes count down and the clock strikes 11:59 on this last day of 2009. It’s hard to believe only twelve months ago I was re-starting this blog. Twelve months ago I hadn’t yet made the decisions that took me through this year — and it has been a rollercoaster of a year, even if I didn’t get it all down in twelve months’ worth of blog entries.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife

I wrote around some personal drama earlier in the year, so some months in the Archived Posts seem less action-packed in terms of content. In reality, those were the months something was going on that I didn’t want to record for myself or others. But I still have so much to thank God for.

It’s time now to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Before I take a step into the new year, I’ll take one last glance back. Here are my five favorite posts from 2009.

Looking at these posts now, I realize I didn’t write about the happiest moments I’ve had this year. I saw my sister fall in love and get engaged to a wonderful man. I’ve never felt more loved by my parents and friends. I have not been deprived of anything I want or need, whether materially, emotionally, or spiritually, because God loves me. Now I understand, it has been a great year.

For next year, my blog entries will reflect more of the love I receive and give.

Oh you got to, you got to remember the love
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure, measure your life in love

(All lyrics from the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent)

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Cam On!

My camera was stolen a few weeks ago, and while my old Casio Exilim EX-S1 was adequate when I needed simple snaps, it just wasn’t excellent. I was confident we’d be able to buy another camera; I just didn’t know how soon.

The other day, my parents and I were supposed to watch Avatar in IMAX at SM North EDSA. Unfortunately, when we got there all the tickets had been sold out, except for the last show which was far too late for us to attend. So, we went to the Annex building to have dinner instead and bum around. The Annex is home to computer and electronics shops, so we found ourselves browsing for new cameras.

I’ve been looking at product reviews online for waterproof shock-proof cameras, and people have been recommending the Canon PowerShot D10 as the best in its class of point-and-shoot cameras. I didn’t want to get another Olympus (like my previous camera) because of its annoyingly slow capture time and noisy photos at high ISOs (meaning anything above 200). Unfortunately, the PS-D10 is also the most expensive in its class, and all of the stores we went into had priced it at almost p27,000.

I was resigned to getting an IXUS instead because of good reviews and sub-P20,000 price tag. Never mind if it wasn’t waterproof and shock-proof; I’d simply have to be more careful, and we’d just find a waterproof case.

Then we wandered into a store with a sign in the window that announced a Citibank promo. If my mom used her credit card, we could buy a PS-D10 at P18,900 in a Paylite scheme (0% interest for 14 months). Of course, we walked out of there with this baby:

Canon PowerShot D10

I was able to take the camera during our family trip to Hamilo Coast yesterday, and it performed beautifully above and in the water. Here’s my favorite shot:

Hamilo Coast: Sunset Light

If we hadn’t planned on watching IMAX at North EDSA… If we hadn’t been unable to watch… If we hadn’t gone to Annex for dinner… If we hadn’t gone window-shopping… So many factors had to be in place for us to have gotten wind of the Citibank promo on the camera, too many factors to be coincidence. I am just so grateful that everything I’d lost was replaced with better things, all within a month! God is good. Ü

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Putting My Feet Up

Subtitle: I Can’t Believe I Took Up Running

My parents tell me when I was younger that I was flat-footed — ergo, prone to falling over when walking — and didn’t know how to run. My “running” looked more like a fast-paced walk. (I believe this is why I’m a fast walker to this day.)

I used to run occasionally on the gym treadmills or at the UP Academic Oval, but I was prone to slowing down to a walk, or I’d quickly get bored. When I ran my first race back in July (Globe Run for Home), it surprised me how much I enjoyed running. No, let’s correct that. It surprised me how much I enjoyed racing. For me, a “fun run” is fun because I get to try beating my previous time running the chosen distance, and I pick up on the energy of my fellow competitors. It’s a different feeling running against others versus running by my lonesome.

Thus began the past six months’ sojourn into the world of foot races: luxe races like Run for Home and Kenny’s Open Urbanite Run with timing chips and Photovendo coverage; runs sponsored by media outfits GMA7, ABS-CBN, and Philstar.com; product-powered runs like Del Monte Fit ‘n’ Right, New Balance, and Adidas. I experienced heartbreak and loss (Big Blue Run) as well as trumpets and triumphs (Race for Life).

I’ve never regretted turning up on race day — even if the start gun had gone off 15 minutes prior to my arrival, or running with a full bladder was the only option, or the route had an unexpected hurdle. There is something liberating and intoxicating about being on the open road getting to stretch my legs after being trammeled inside buildings and rooms for most of my days.

Running really boomed this year. Next year, we’ll see who really will keep running and find the love in it, and those who will fall by the wayside. Thinking ahead to the races in 2010, I’m already excited by the prospect of breaking 50 minutes once more in a 10K, or getting a podium finish once more at a 5K, or even increasing mileage to run in 15K races.

Running is teaching me patience — one cannot run only 5K and the next week move up to 21K for the first time. It’s teaching me how to think ahead — when to push and when to back off on a route. It’s taught me that finishing strong is determined not by how you start, but by how you manage yourself over the course of a race. These are lessons applicable not only on race day, but in every life’s day.

I can’t believe I took up running — but I’m glad I did.

Race for Life: I Won 3rd Place!
See you at the races!

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Redemption Race: Philstar.com Celebrity Run

I couldn’t bear having my running year end on a sour note, so after taking a weekend off running, I was back on the pavement for the Philstar.com Christmas Celebrity Run. (It kind of helped that one of my friends registered for me.)

Distance 10K: check. A hilly winding course: check. Plus, the route went through McKinley Hill, which kicked my butt the first time I ran it during the Urbanite Run. I began calling it my redemption race.

Emotionally, I was nothing short of grateful to God for the race day ahead. I already knew that whatever I had lost, God would give even more. Whatever happened, I was determined to kick those thieves’ asses the only way I knew how: to return to running and prove what they did to me had not broken my spirit.

Some vestige of paranoia stayed with me, of course. I packed only a change of clothes and a water bottle in my gym bag. Money and my license wrapped in plastic went into the back pocket of my Race for Life singlet, and I slipped my cellphone into my running tights’ back pocket. The car key was in the music pocket strapped to my arm. All this just to ensure my peace of mind.

Since it was a media-sponsored run, I knew there was a slim chance race results would be published. Instead, I strapped on my good old Casio digital watch and started the stopwatch at the gun start (which was late). I started in the middle of the pack with my friend from the Ateneo run, adopting his strategy of slowly overtaking runners in front of us as they slowed down from their sprinting start. A more steady pace would keep my legs fresh for the final kick.

Water supply was plentiful, and I watched the first three kilometers whiz by. Then we turned into McKinley Hill, and I even overtook a woman and man from the David’s Salon triathlon team. On this winding route with three U-turns, I put into practice something I’d only read about: running the tangents. Instead of plodding along with my eyes on the ground, I scanned what was ahead so I could run as straight a line as possible, eliminating extra mileage and shaving off seconds from my time.

Philstar.com Celebrity Run 10K Route
based on Jaeb’s GPS map

As we got back onto 5th Avenue on the 7th kilometer, I checked my stopwatch. Only twenty-five minutes had elapsed?! I began mentally ticking off the kilometer markers I’d passed, and I was confident I’d collected all the checkpoint bracelets being handed out.

And then I realized: McKinley Hill wasn’t as hellish as I’d expected. No way?

The David’s Salon tri-team overtook me at Kilometer 9, but I kept hard on their heels. Breathing steady: check. Pain-free: check. I kept right behind the tri-team as we approached the last stretch of road before the finish. Cameras snapped. I saw the timer at the finish line read 48+ minutes. As the man from the tri-team sprinted away for his own sub-49 finish, I accelerated to keep an older man from finishing between me and the woman triathlete. I crossed the line and tore off my tag to give it to the race marshal. Then I clicked off my stopwatch. 48:33.

Given that it took me 31 seconds from the gun start to cross the start, and a few more seconds after I crossed the finish line to turn off my stopwatch, my conservative estimate of the time it took me to run the course was 48 minutes, only one minute behind Piolo P’s heartbreak 47.

Wait wait wait. Forty-eight minutes? *faints* I’d been trying to get below 51 minutes since I ran the Globe run, and the flat course during the PIM only helped me bring it down to 51:15. And then all of a sudden to breach the 50-minute mark? I’d have done cartwheels if people didn’t all have their cameras out to take photos with the celebrities at the finish line. Eep!

On GPS trackers, the distance was only 9.8 kilometers. However, since GPS doesn’t measure topographical changes, that’s within its margin of error. Even if the distance were that short, I was running 4:54 minutes per kilometer and would still have finished a 10-kilometer distance in 49 minutes.

I returned to my car, half-expecting my bag to have disappeared again. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw my doors were still securely locked and my bag was still stashed in the back, in the same position I’d left it.

McKinley no longer Hell: check! New PR: check! No thievery: Check! Elation flooded me, and the only thing I could do was lift up a prayer of thanks for a beautiful end to this year’s running. My redemption race was a runaway success. Ü

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Keso de Gallo in Pampanga

Yesterday (Christmas Eve), I had an opportunity to travel to Pampanga, the province of my birth. Kraft (through the GeiserMaclang PR agency) had invited a group of bloggers to witness the last leg of their project called “Keso de Gallo“. So I, along with Juned, Hannah, Vince, Coy, Fritz and other blogger friends left Manila at the insanely early hour of 2am so we could be in Pampanga by 4am.

Catholic Filipinos typically attend mass (misa de gallo) in the wee hours of the morning during the nine days before Christmas. Kraft provided hot chocolate and cheesy squash puto to the parishioners of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor as a way to promote creating dishes using affordable local ingredients (in this case, squash) and Eden Cheese.

Keso de Gallo: San Guillermo Church

San Guillermo Church at 4am

I was asleep in the van and hadn’t been briefed on exactly which church we were heading to in Pampanga, so when I opened my eyes I was pleasantly surprised that I was revisiting a church I’d been to during a Living Asia trip in 2007. Since that trip, the church has become the filming site for ABS-CBN soap “May Bukas Pa”.

The church looked respendent, decked out in Christmas lights in the pre-dawn darkness. As I listened to the priest intone a homily in both Kapampangan and Filipino, TV crews from ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda set up their lights and cameras. Winnie Cordero was even on site to cover the event for UKG.

Keso de Gallo: Lantern

a different kind of Green Lantern’s light

As the sun rose, we were packed back into our van for the short trip to Angeles City. We were about to breakfast at Chef Claude Tayag’s house, Bale Datung. Meals at the gracious chef’s place are only available through registration, so it was a real treat to sample some traditional Kapampangan dishes. Each bite was a flavor explosion in my mouth, while Bale Datung itself was a feast for the eyes because Chef Claude is also an artist who creates sculpture and paintings by commission. (Check out the Multiply album about my Christmas Eve trip to Pampanga.)

Keso de Gallo: Chef Claude Tayag

Chef Claude Tayag

Before we left Bale Datung, the team from Kraft and GeiserMaclang gave out awards for the best photos taken at Keso de Gallo. For third place, Juned won with a lovingly photographed multiple-exposure of San Guillermo Church’s steeple. Hannah ran away with the contest though, taking both second and first place with an angled shot of the steeple, and a close-up of a Christmas lantern.

The rest of us walked away with heavy, heavy gift packs of Kraft Eden cheese. (I ended up handing them out to my friends later that night at the Christmas Eve service I attended in Victory Ortigas.)

Even though I was half-dead from lack of sleep by the time we got back to Manila at noontime, the Keso de Gallo and our festive breakfast afterward had me in a wonderful mood to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. ?

(Thanks to Ms. Amor of GeiserMaclang and Sir Alex from Kraft who made our trip possible. Merry Christmas!)