Of Cruelty and Kindness

“That’s a nasty rumor,” she said quietly.

He replied matter-of-factly, “Didn’t really put much stock in it when I heard others talking.” He shrugged, “I mean, I’ve always liked you as a person.”

If there’s one thing I have experienced all my life, it’s that people are cruel. Unconscious cruelty I can take, when they’re just not self-aware enough to know that what they say or do hurts others. It’s when they gleefully and wilfully engage in behavior and talk that tears another person down that I wish the earth would swallow them up whole.

I’ve been on this planet 30 years and I still am amazed at our rapacious appetite for gossip, whether it’s about a celebrity or a nobody who just happens to be in our social circle. “Did you hear about…?” is a surefire conversational kickstarter. So who cares if what we talk about happens to paint someone in a bad light? As a matter of fact, bad news is even more enjoyable to share with others. It sticks longer in our memories, too.

Maybe it’s because we want to feel better about our own lives — that’s why we tell stories of other people failing at theirs. In an effort to make ourselves feel more significant, we attempt to make others look insignificant. Cruelty is a sign that there’s a deficit. When we are cruel, we are attempting to take from others what we feel we lack.

Notice that I’ve used “our” and “we”; I see this capacity for cruelty in myself, too.

And then I experience kindness, and all is not lost. I store up these moments in my heart. Our capacity for kindness is determined by our own experience of it.

When you can choose to be kind instead of being cruel, you can count yourself blessed that someone cared for you, so you can care for others. You overflow, so instead of taking, you are able to give.

I remind myself of the greatest kindness I’ve received and continually receive every day: John 3:16.

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. — John Watson

Braven BRV-1: A Wireless Speaker for the Klutzy

Just this morning, I dropped my new BlackBerry Z10 in a parking lot. On the hard, rough cement. It’s a little the worse for wear. Anyway, that story has almost nothing to do with the Braven BRV-1 I’m about to review — except to show you how clumsy I am, which is a bad thing when you’re as mobile and traveling around all the time like I am. Inevitably, you’ll drop something you shouldn’t. It’s why I’ve always bought protective cases and shockproof, waterproof stuff.

Well, the Braven BRV-1 wireless speaker is touted as a hardy little companion designed to play your music wherever you are. I have to tell you, getting this in the mail for review made me want to book a trip to the beach the very next day! It’s lightweight enough not to be a burden inside a backpack, and it looks so much like a pair of high-tech binoculars so it won’t stick out like a sore thumb among other travel essentials.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Braven BRV-01 Wireless HD Speaker

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Slick packaging for this tough-as-mud piece of equipment.

The BRV-1 was a breeze to pair with my iPod Touch. All I needed to do was turn the unit on by a long press on the Power button, then a long press on the Play button so it could start searching for Bluetooth devices. Approve the connection on your music device, and it’s ready to go.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Power and Play buttons

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

volume control

There are also volume buttons on the side so you can turn it up or down without having to fiddle with your iPod. You can also pair the BRV-1 with a Bluetooth-enabled phone and use it as a speakerphone to answer calls.

It’s also not just a Bluetooth speaker. The rear compartment contains an audio-in jack for devices that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities, like the iPod Classic . There’s also a USB port which enables you to charge other devices from the BRV-1’s battery. Unfortunately it only has about 1400 mAh, which might be enough to give you a full charge on a BlackBerry 9360, but not on phones with higher-capacity batteries. Still, it could come in pretty useful in a wilderness survival situation, like running out of phone juice while camping.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

rear compartment

Read more

Uniqlo U-Shop, U-Win

Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to attend the launch of Uniqlo’s new game app called U-Shop, U-Win.

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

(The launch was held at Fully Booked in BGC as a nod to the opening of Uniqlo’s third store in the country at SM Aura Premium on May 17, 2013.)

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

the U-Shop U-Win virtual store game

The U-Shop, U-Win game app on the Uniqlo Philippines Facebook page allows participants to “shop” at a virtual Uniqlo store. Read more

Why I No Longer Use Creative Commons on My Blog

Recently, I’ve started to question the wisdom of offering my written works under Creative Commons. A long time ago I started using Creative Commons licenses for my blogs. I was inspired by my editing on Wikipedia (which asks you to license with Creative Commons everything you create on that website) and thought it was a great way to allow people to quote freely from my blog. “Hey, this will get the word out about my blog!” were my thoughts.

When I began optimizing my other blog Kikay Runner for better placement in search engine results, I also checked on the RSS feed I provide via FeedBurner and noticed that a website was listed under “Uncommon Uses”. RSS feeds are commonly used to bring your blog posts directly into email clients, web-based feed aggregators, news filters, and more. An Uncommon Use could be “a neat little news filter somebody wrote, a blog somebody assembled from feeds, or even blog spam.”

So I went and checked it out and found dozens of my posts from the RSS feed auto-reposted on another blog (what is called a “scraper site“). Worse, there were no links back to my blog and aside from the short footer appended by Feedburner to each post on the RSS feed, there was no attribution.

If there’s anything I could be thankful for, it’s that I had the foresight to offer only a summarized feed. Google penalizes websites with duplicate content, but sometimes it can’t distinguish between the original source and the copy (so both source and copy are punished by lower ranking in search results). Because I’d only put a portion of each blog post in the RSS feed, a large amount of my blog’s content remained unique. This means if people search on Google for a topic I’ve written about with my own spin, they’re still more likely to find my blog instead of the scraper site.

Aside from reporting the copyright infringement to Google so that the scraper site would not appear in search results, I also changed my RSS feed settings to be even more stringent. Instead of 400 characters in the summary I limited it to 200 characters, and worded the post footer more strongly by saying “If you see this on a website that is not KikayRunner.com, it may have been used without permission.”

Scraper sites have justified their actions in the past because of a notion that RSS feeds are free for syndication anywhere. The Creative Commons license also allows for copying with attribution (even without permission).

My words are precious to me; they’re an extension of how I express myself, so they’re an extension of me. So when another site reposts my blog posts without attribution, without my knowledge, without my permission, I feel violated.

I realized that I needed to retain more control of how my work is used online. People still have fair use rights when they want to quote me, but if they want to use my words for anything else (like creating an entirely new website!) they will need to get in touch with me.

Kuala Lumpur By My Lonesome

Chalk it up to a sheltered upbringing, but I’ve always traveled with companions when going outside the country. Last year’s Singapore trip was the closest I’d ever gotten to traveling alone, and that was because I needed to fly back to the Philippines earlier than my travel buddy Julia.

Last February 14-18 I went to Kuala Lumpur to attend the Les Mills Ultimate Super Workshop at Sunway Resort Hotel. Anyone familiar with Kuala Lumpur knows that Sunway isn’t inside the city itself, so I booked a room at Sun Inns Hotel Lagoon for about P1,000/night. The Agoda.com listing said it was a 10-minute walk to Sunway Resort from there, so I figured it was convenient enough.

Using Google Maps

Using Google Maps

I would just commute into the city if I wanted to see the Petronas Towers or go shopping at the major malls there. I downloaded some apps to help me get around, like CityMaps2Go, TripAdvisor City Guides, the KL Trains app, and of course, Google Maps. These apps helped me get a general sense of where everything would be in relation to each other, but I knew things would be different once I was actually there. Read more

Les Mills Ultimate Super Workshop Kuala Lumpur

In the grand scheme of things Les Mills, the Philippines hasn’t been a major player. I’ve been instructing for about six years now; up until recently only one gym chain had acquired the license to use Les Mills group exercise programs in their clubs. We were blessed that we had Arnold Warren, a program coach for BODYJAM in Southeast Asia, residing in the Philippines, and twice a year we’d hold our own workshops and invited trainers from the region. At least we didn’t stagnate, but not much was happening with us beyond purchasing the new releases with new choreography and music on DVD every quarter.

Then the advanced instructor modules were introduced, and for long-time instructors like myself it brought us back to why we had started teaching in the first place: because of our passion for these programs that had brought about so much change for the better in our own lives.

We had our first official Les Mills metro workshop in the last quarter of 2012, which made us feel more connected to the whole network of Les Mills events in the region. So a large number of us decided to make the trip to Kuala Lumpur for the Ultimate Super Workshop happening on February 16-17, 2013. It would be the only official workshop held for the first quarter of the year (we have workshops quarterly) and it was an opportunity to represent the Philippines among the other Southeast Asian nations. Read more

Met Gala 2013 and the Contemporary Filipino Art Exhibit

Metropolitan Museum: Contemporary Filipino Art Exhibit

Met Gala 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum

As a kid I loved visiting museums during field trips. They were an occasional treat to feed our creativity and our minds.

One of my school’s favorite haunts was the old Ayala Museum, which had a permanent exhibit about Philippine history (loved the dioramas!). During my university Spanish class our professor required us to visit the Metropolitan Museum, which had an exhibit on Spanish artifacts found in the Philippines.

At the Met Gala 2013, I encountered a different Metropolitan Museum. Read more

I Love My Job!

BODYJAM 46 Megamall launch

Let’s dance!

I used to post a lot about Les Mills group fitness classes here, but haven’t in the last few years. This is strange because they’re a huge part of what I do weekly and a huge part of who I am, too. I know thousands of people worldwide attend Les Mills programs in order to get fit and stay fit, and they’re passionate about it.

So I’m going to come out and say I LOVE MY JOB! I love being part of a life-changing experience for my participants — the calm serenity and strength of BODYBALANCE or the madness and euphoria of BODYJAM. I love that by delivering these two group fitness programs in their essence, I’m able to help my participants get the most from their time at the gym. Everyone knows the saying mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. When someone takes care of their body, the benefits translate to other aspects of their lives. The mature find functional fitness, so they are able to fend for themselves even in their age. Parents have more energy and can give more attention to their children. Yuppies feel empowered and able, so they can make the most of their prime years. Etcetera, etcetera.

These two programs have also contributed to my personal development and I don’t think I’d be who I am without them. And in my effort to become a better instructor, last year I invested in the Advanced Instructor Modules for BODYBALANCE and BODYJAM. They’re meant to help us go deeper into what each program really is and how to give our participants a great experience more consistently.

BODYBALANCE AIM1 w/ trainer Riyo Fukunaga

BODYBALANCE AIM1 w/ trainer Riyo Fukunaga

BODYJAM AIM1 w/ trainer Arnold Warren

BODYJAM AIM1 w/ trainer Arnold Warren

This year I’m taking a big step. I’m going to Kuala Lumpur to attend my first international Les Mills Quarterly Workshop! Workshops are where instructors like myself experience the new choreography and music for the first time. It’s where we also see our trainers (who are kind of like our fitness rockstars) in action so that we can learn from their example.

If you think of group fitness programs as coffee shops, Les Mills is like Starbucks: you go anywhere in the world and the experience and taste are the same. Although the instructor may vary, you get the same high-quality music and choreography (that’s been vetted by movement experts) within a scientifically-designed class structure meant to build your cardiovascular and muscular fitness effectively and efficiently. Workshops and the quarterly instructor’s DVDs are a way to standardize our individual performance to meet that expectation.

In a few weeks I’ll be reporting back from KL on what you can expect next quarter from the Les Mills programs. I’m so excited!

Social Media Reporting on the #Megamall Robbery

My mom and I were just finishing up dinner that Saturday when I checked Twitter. I spotted a tweet from MMDA that said there was an ongoing situation at the mall.

Soon, my timeline was abuzz with retweets from supposed eyewitnesses about what was happening: that shots had been fired, people had stampeded, and shops had shut their roll-up doors for security. No one was allowed in or out of the mall.

Then I started seeing tweets about a hostage situation, but something felt off. It was like listening to a story becoming more elaborate the more it was told.

By that time we had tuned in to AM radio to see if they had gotten ahold of more concrete details. I was wary about trusting too much to Twitter because you never know if your source saw it with their own eyes or is relaying a story someone had in turn told to them.

Then DZMM tweeted that their reporter had interviewed someone who told him a woman told him the hold-up had happened at a jewelry store and the perpetrators were wearing cosplay costumes. Yes, you read that right: the reporter reported hearsay!

This hearsay started spreading as fact, and opinion turned ugly against cosplayers. There was really a cosplay event happening at the mall on the day, but I believed that had the perpetrators been in costume, they weren’t really participants at the event but had just taken advantage of it.

After an hour of us breathlessly awaiting more news, finally SM Megamall and the mayor of Mandaluyong released statements.

There was no hostage-taking.

Only two shots had been fired, not five and not repeatedly as tweets had reported.

The suspects were in plain clothes, not costumes. (Nakuryente ang DZMM dun.)

And the suspects had gotten away in the first two minutes during the initial panic and confusion. They’re still at large.

#Megamall trended, but the hashtag perpetuated a lot of the initial wrong reporting. It wasn’t just a Twitter problem, either: Philstar.com reported it too (and still hasn’t retracted the article). The next morning I found myself still reading reactions from people especially about what the suspects were wearing and whether there had been a hostage situation.

Yes, Twitter and Facebook provided a lot of real-time updates at a time when people were desperate for more information. It’s also during those times when it’s most important to discern what is factual and what is not. The nature of the internet and social media being what it is, wrong information sticks around longer (due to search engine caching of uncorrected articles and tweets). Because I’ve been an internet user for a long time, I’ve learned to turn a critical eye toward “news” I see spreading on social media. However, there are thousands of Filipinos who are new to this and don’t know how to fact-check for themselves.

I think it’s important for people to start educating themselves on how to use social media properly so they aren’t swept up and carried away by every trending topic.

Red Ocean, Blue Ocean

In 2009 when I took an improv acting workshop, our mentor Jourdan Sebastian told us about “red ocean, blue ocean”. This was adapted from a business strategy book called Blue Ocean Strategy, which posits that instead of attempting to compete within the existing market (a red ocean full of sharks in a feeding frenzy), a business should create new demand in uncontested market space (a blue ocean).

Improv Acting Workshop 2009

improv workshop activity


Instead of business, though, we applied it to ourselves as actors, performers, and artists. What could we offer that was new to the industry? What did we each have that nobody else did?

After the workshop period ended, we each went our ways. My batchmates went on to make (bigger) names for themselves:

  • Abby Asistio, musician and alopecia awareness advocate
  • Gee Canlas, speed-talking TV host and Amazing Race PH contestant
  • Miko Pepito, spoken word artist
  • JB de Leon, professional photographer
  • Teddy Corpuz, musician of Rocksteddy and co-host of It’s Showtime
  • Roxanne Barcelo, actress

To tell you the truth I felt out of my depth in that workshop. Everyone there had a “blue ocean”; for instance, Abby could sing and rap, and now that she’s open about her alopecia it to set her apart. Gee could talk a mile a minute, which attracted attention from TV networks that cast her as a host.

What was I good at? What did I have that nobody else had? Looking back now, I didn’t turn out the way I thought I would in 2009. But I think I’ve found my blue ocean, and it’s online. It’s not going to be without difficulty that I make my own mark; I’m not the first female running blogger, nor the most famous. But I do have my own unique skills that no one else has. I’m hoping that makes the difference for me this year. 😉