Category Archives: Essay

Run for all Seasons

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Fire tree

The gated community where I reside in Metro Manila has plenty of matured trees. Running all year round, I unconsciously got into the habit of observing seasons for blooming or fruiting. One couldn’t possibly miss the duhat season once its fruits littered the roads. Even in those designated running lane at the parks, one has to be careful to run around its fallen fruits or else you’ll get stains on your shoes or worst you’ll trip. Seeing those abundant duhat fruits just for the birds to eat and for the overripe ones to litter the ground, makes me want to harvest them myself and eat. Duhat season usually starts at the end of school year, on March.

When the duhat season is almost over, the Indian mango trees will by then be filled with fruits, a signal of the height of summer season in the country. There are plenty of mango trees in the village and there’s this one house who wants the whole village know that no one is allowed to pick their mangoes. They put up a sign that reads “Bawal magpitas ng mangga.” Beside the mango trees, the bougainvillea bloomed and colored the gardens of residents in its most saturated look under the intense summer sun. By the end of summer and around this time, santol trees are beginning to bear fruits while the fire trees are blooming intensely.

Sakura

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I have never heard of any other culture that give that much reverence to a certain flower, plant, or tree like how the Japanese adored the cherry trees and its blooms. Only in Japan where viewing of a certain flower is being done countrywide.  They even coined a term for it – hanami. As far as I know, viewing of cherry blossoms in certain spots of other countries was introduced, if not influenced by the Japanese.

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Appreciation of the cherry blossoms is like a festival that entails a picnic, party or a quiet reflection of its positive symbolic meaning. Only in Japan where the blooming forecast of cherry trees is a major news item. That is how much they look forward to its annual beauty, and for it to be short-lived makes the level of anticipation very high. Moreover, their love for cherry blossoms is deep enough for it to be a constant subject in poetry, arts, food, and in almost every aspect of their lives. They even regard it as valuable enough to be offered as gift to other nations, a national pride. With this, I can never doubt the significance of the cherry tree to them.

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The Japanese love for their cherry blossoms spread to visitors of their country

I’m inclined to think that the Japanese are deep people. Who would have thought of planting cherry trees in great numbers at most parks, temples, and public roads as part of urban planning. The foresight to beautify the cities at spring because everybody feels so much joy viewing the cherry blossoms makes them quite a profound culture.

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Cherry blossoms on a sidewalk floor tile in Tsuchiura

 

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One of the roadside poster stand on cherry tree varieties

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Another cherry tree variety in this stand

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Outside this school in Taito-ko was where I spotted those cherry tree poster stands during my morning run

Of Running & Barely Racing

It was through racing that started my running life. I became a runner 6 years ago when I decided to join a 5k race. Since then and for next 4.25 years, racing was my primary motivation for running.  I would constantly train to race. And there was always that personal race calendar to look forward to. Nonetheless, my love for running developed as I run and run to race. Then for some reason I weaned myself from relentless racing. Runners who were used to seeing me on the race route and in race pictures (even non-runners) thought I had stopped. I did not. I just barely race.

Running became enjoyable
Running never stopped even though there are no finish lines, medals and pictures. On the contrary, running became better. It has evolved into a very gratifying pursuit as the motivation does not come from external sources but from within. I have derived pure joy from running regularly just for the sake of running.  By rarely racing, I was able to run to the tune of my body. Hard runs, easy runs, long runs, and shorts runs depended on my time and mood at that moment, hence freedom replaced structured runs. Somehow, constantly running ‘in the present’ made each run marvelous.  Every run turned out to be good run in the sense that it never took my time for other things that I value equally. The great feeling after each run is pure.

Running became health-giving
A race as its name implies is a competition, and as a participant it is expected that we’ve prepared to aim for good performance. We also target improvements in succeeding races. It is an event where the runner can aspire for what is generally considered as outstanding finish time result that is relative to one’s age and gender in a non-elite field. This is how I perceive racing and to respect one is to do away with mediocrity.

Accordingly, when there is no constant and rigid training as what we normally do for a marathon, and likewise when there is no pressure in maintaining peak performance for half-marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, I became a wholesome runner.  Running injuries due to over taxation of one’s legs and feet are non-existent any longer. With no nasty cycle of injuries due to cycle of races, running has never been this beautiful and continuous.

Moreover, I value my sleep that local races turned me off because of their unhealthful gun times at 4 AM for 21k, while earlier for a marathon. I can manage to run 21 km by myself beginning at 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM and be done 2 hours after, of which by this time the warmth of sunlight is still health-giving. Of my daily runs, 45 minutes to an hour is enough, and this I get to start only at 6:30 AM. No sleep deprivation at all, plus nowadays I have time to read at night with no pressure to wake up so early just to have high mileage training for a race.

Running became inexpensive yet priceless
With all the downside of racing I have identified for myself, paying for those high local registration fees is unwise. What if for instance my race bibs are free, but then, constantly racing still comes with a price that is even greater than its monetary value. Why pay when I can run for free anytime and anywhere without sacrificing sleep, reading, traveling, and spending time with those who matter.

By participating in a race, one can gain abubots (bling-blings), bragging rights (though I’m partial to finish time results than podium-based), shirts and photos. I absolutely don’t mind not having pictures as I solely focus on my running. Once more, why do I need to spend for races with unholy gun start times if what I mostly see in the route are lights instead of sights. So I don’t mind not having any of those race booties at all for these do not add significant value to my running life.

Tracking distance is not anymore as important as tracking time and quality when I run. It’s been quite a while that I haven’t worn a Garmin watch and it felt really good. As long as I am familiar with the route I’ve taken, distance can be determined beforehand or later on with maps. Pace can be mentally calculated. What I’m trying to say is that, Garmin is just a nice to have accessory but not a must have. No gear can ever buy me speed. Now, being stripped down to the essentials of having comfortable running shoes and clothes, plus total well-being, running became a value for money endeavor, if not priceless.

Racing once in a blue moon is enough
Once in a while I may sign-up for a race because of the beautiful scenery in the route – as a treat. Occasionally, I may sign-up to test my capability – as a challenge. Racing has now become a sporadic supplement to my running. Perhaps, the pleasure I seek from running goes beyond the finish line moments that racing once in a blue moon is enough.

On Traveling Light

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My pack is 5 kilos only for 5 days including my race gear and I don’t even have to use my allotted 30 kilos for check-in baggage. Though I’m very fond of my lightweight Highland duffel bag, this time I’ll be hopping on buses and trains of which I imagine that I may need to be hands-free most of the time, hence a backpack.  This is not Japan, in other words the conditions may not be as precise and predictable. And I’m not fond of wheel bags. It’s too cumbersome, there is no freedom of movement, and you need a bit more space around you which is not practical at times in public places. Aside from that, the concept itself is plain boring.  I believe that I must be fit and strong enough to carry my personal stuff for it is an indication that I can do more, travel far and be flexible enough for spontaneous decisions.

What I routinely do in my everyday life, I can afford to eliminate when traveling. If one’s reason for traveling is to have some diversion now and then, then one can do away with daily rituals and this varies from one person to the next. It may be all sorts of body creams and beauty regimen for some, fancy shoes and clothes, or electronic gadgets for others. Without these, then one may realize that it is easy to pack light after all. But if you absolutely cannot do away with creams and extra fancy clothes, then objectively, maybe that kind of traveling is not the same as what I have in mind. Or presumably, you are not that cute as you think you are.

On Itinerary

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In relation to the traveling I have done, often times I would get polite requests for itinerary.  Itinerary is non-existent in my realm. I do have an idea what kind of stuff I want to see, and what sort of place I want to immerse myself that my decisions were largely based on that. I think I do it on purpose to go on a trip unprepared, sort of. Without some extensive pre-journey notes afforded me with observations and discoveries entirely my own. Several people may tread the same path, may perceive things the same way, may do things the same way, but I may see things differently if my mind is independent.

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Walking about for some Kyoto enlightenment

Moreover, without itinerary there is no timetable to follow as this is something that I truly have an aversion to. Something repulsive as: 5 AM: Wake-up call; 7 AM: Hotel breakfast; 8:30 AM: Temple hopping; 10 AM: Off to this museum ; 12 PM: Lunch at resto X; 2 PM: Photo-ops at this tourist spot; 4 PM: Souvenir shopping; 6-8 PM: Free time; 8 PM: Dinner at resto Y.

Spontaneous decision on what to do and where to go is more fun. And when time is not micromanaged, ideas flow freely. Learning becomes more profound when you check out certain curiosities and make discoveries in an unhurried mood, thus making your trip an exceptional one.

Laid Back Existence in the City

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Social media has become a mainstream source of every sort of high level information. Things have seen to evolve just to integrate social media, a telephone for example. As observed, the fundamental needs of food, water, clothing and shelter in order to live are not enough any longer. Internet is on the list. Filipinos type their complaints of slow internet connection in social media as if it’s a life and death situation. Just the same I believe they would die, though not physically. That’s how dependent humans have become to our virtual society in order to live.

Personally, social media, websites and television have become burden to the soul. The downpour of information along with trivial, useless  and false ones give extra work for my mind to filter out those relevant, original and well-researched data only. On the other hand, I can also limit information overload instead of letting myself be fired upon with television ads, self-praising paragraphs from social media, brain carcinogenic television entertainment,  consumerism driven blogs, shallow topics on vanity driven pursuits, and all sorts of public display of affection, spending, narcissisim, and affliction – again in social media.

How can one control unnecessary information overload? Information technology (IT) has always been my occupation where I design software and process data all the time. Implausible it may sound,  but I don’t spend on gadgets and never felt tiny bit of affection for iStuff. Likewise, I haven’t subscribed for broadband connection at home, neither do I have television connection for 8 years already (not missing this at all). Mobile phone internet is the only connection I have. In fact I’m publishing this essay on WordPress just using my phone (which I always do). I guess, this how I forge my laid back existence in the city.

Traveling Light in Life

My next door husband-wife neighbor are both in their twilight years, and one day I went to their property somewhere in Makati for Mister knew about my gardening pastime, and he wanted me to have his terracotta plant containers he was planning to dispose. Their house in Makati is too big and impractical for both of them to stay, so they have it rented instead. Yearly, they live half of the time in America to be with their only daughter, while the other half is spent in the country to manage their properties and be with their relatives and friends. While touring his Makati house, Mister talked about his prized collections of this and that, some stored at his brother’s house, some he sold already. He said, when one gets old, all these stuff don’t matter anymore. I guess his remaining worldly effects have tied him down to Manila. My conversations with him upheld my belief on what I have been doing all along – not being possessed by my possessions.

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To most middle class in the country, the idea of renting is lowly as opposed to owning. Understandably, this frame of mind revolves around material wealth, the kind of thinking where one needs a tangible proof to display one’s success, and again, this sort of “success” they have in mind revolves around properties and possessions. What’s the use of owning a house when years from now, one cannot be certain if the location of the property you’ve invested all your time, money and effort is still desirable for living in every aspect? Just the idea of investing all my resources on a thing is unappealing. When renting, one can easily transfer from one good location to the next, from one town to the next, or from one region to the next.

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Currently, my occupation is based in Metro Manila, but I wouldn’t invest a property within the city even if I have the means, as what normal people tend to do. I can’t see myself spending my retirement years in Manila and do my geriatric exercises in a shopping mall (nauseating thought). Having a property anywhere would somehow tie me down later in life whether in managing it, or trying to sell it, or worst, witnessing its decay. When I retire, I look forward to being a happy nomad, say live, run and work or volunteer a couple of years in a particular place, learn its dialect or language and curiosities until it’s time again to move. The ability to travel light in life and follow one’s yearning is the kind of wealth I aim for.

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No Te Vayas de Zamboanga

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Don’t leave Zamboanga campaign banner in chavacano is posted all over the city, mostly in public places, and I’ve seen a couple at the rear side of a tricycle. Jun, a gracious host and a Christian local says residents are in exodus. He mentioned about the unsolved crimes, and I listened to his tales about the 2013 MNLF siege such as how they brought food to the displaced residents, how they can’t still use the sports complex as the grandstand became a shelter for evacuees, thus he runs at the Pasonanca Park instead. Through him,  I actually saw the displaced residents at the sea boulevard, and even “toured” the “ground zero” with all those burned down houses and structures ruined by bullets. With his tales, it’s not surprising that plenty have opted to relocate in order to live in a consistently secure place.

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More often than not, the everyday life is peaceful. The vendors I’ve noticed don’t force you to buy their goods or even suggest that you buy a bit more.  Ironically, in other places I’ve visited, the more touristy it is, the more badgering you’ll encounter.  Even the beggars in Zamboanga City are not insistent. I also love the fact that there is local law against smoking in public places. It really looks like the local government is exerting some effort to maintain control, peace, and order, and with this, I feel they are also hoping for some understanding from the residents, hence the plea No Te Vayas de Zamboanga.

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Unnecessary Noise

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During my pre-college years back in Bacolod City, it seems there were more major storms then than in the last 15 years I’ve lived in Metro Manila. Back then blackouts were frequent and when hit by typhoons, blackouts will last for a month or more. A few days or even a week of that hardly affects our day to day life then. That was yesterday; today, a 12 hour blackout seems like a personal catastrophe for most. Man have created this dependency on appliances, gadgets and comforts that when deprived of, the noise from the complaints made the natural disaster look more devastating than it should be.

Yesterday afternoon in the wake of the storm, I surveyed the village where I live by running within its perimeter. There were several tree casualties, blackout like the rest of Metro Manila, but no flooding and no major debris blockage. It was very quiet in the village that I suppose residents must have fled to the malls because of electricity deprivation along with impending social media deprivation due to dying battery life of their gadgets.

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