Tuesday, December 29, 2009

one night, in tsim sha tsui

we just got out from the train, walked up the grey tiled steps of the subway and out onto the greeting streets of tsim sha tsui, the slicing, yet ever welcomed winter wind chill greeting us as we emerged from the underground. the sights, the smell, the energy, the frenzy of the whole place was overwhelming, almost like the sudden intoxicating rush of rum taken on an empty stomach. tsim sha tsui was just how i remembered it, almost a year ago with its the huge shops and the multitude of shoppers drowning you in a sea of people.

kuya saw the gaze on my face as i lost myself in my reverie. i think he finds slight joy in the fact that i could always turn to my sense of nostalgia to keep me readily entertained. he tried testing my memory and asked me to lead the way to harbor city, the most prominent mall complex this side of the territory. HK is as familiar to him as the back of his hand, the signs of a serious shopper. i, on the other hand, am not as well gifted and would have to often follow him around, hoping i wont loose him amidst a throng of similarly faced orientals in what must be the world's largest chinatown. "lead the way!" he smilingly commanded, as i navigated thru streets and corners until i found my landmark, the beautifully decorated facade of the louis vuitton boutique, flanked by other luxury labels like chanel, ferragamo, hermes and gucci. you really cannot miss it.

to cross to the mall, you would need to traverse thru a short underpass that goes under the main road. this being the shortest route from our subway station and the only route we had taken since as far as i can remember, walking thru this passage almost felt like a tradition for me, like a ritual before you proceed to shopping nirvana. as i approached the entrance to the passage however, my memories of this place got further rekindled, catalyzed by the haunting sounds of a familiar voice, echoing from the foot of the underpass stairs. they were old chinese jukebox tunes, happy songs to be honest, even love songs for some, i can only presume, yet sung by a most melancholic of voices, so sad, you cannot help but try to ignore it. this old lady, singing her heart out, sporting a never waning smile and a practiced twinkle in her eye, together with her small sound box, a red plack card containing the names of some twenty something chinese songs, and her plastic bowl, sang for alms. taking advantage of the acoustics of the underpass, she sings here continuously, song after song after song, from morning to night, everyday. i presume thousands pass her daily, yet basing on the amount of money in her bowl, most of them, like me, chose to make her simply disappear behind the dizzying cityscape.

to ignore her would be effortless. to push her existence into the background and have her voice blend in with the ruckus of the bustling city would have only been too easy. indeed, my kuya and i only found ourselves briefly acknowledge her, stating that she was still here, then quickly moved to a different topic. however, as we slowly walked away and began to hear the fading sound of her voice, in mid song, this old lady, found herself in a coughing fit, triggered probably by the intense cold slicing in the air. i don't know about my kuya but i bowed my head all of a sudden, walked faster away, partly hiding my shame, exposed for being so calloused, partly to hide the fact that hearing this lady cough suddenly made me begin to cry.

* * * * *

"i want to do a good deed today." kuya said as he took his wallet out of my bag. we were making our way back to our hotel after finishing a scrumptuous dinner, chinese naturally. "i want to do a good deed too!" i said in retort. the day was almost over and the winter night and the slight drizzle brought the temperature down even more. kuya and i casually walked back, the path already familiar. we barely spoke during that night stroll, maybe because there was nothing much more to talk about. maybe because both of us already knew what the other was going to do.

her voice reemerged from the curb of the passage right on cue, still singing the same years-old tune. i approached her plastic bowl first, bowed in front of her and dropped in a portion. kuya, walking not too far behind me followed suit. she did not break from her song. she continued singing with her consistent disposition. i stopped and look back at her, kuya walked past me already and was now waiting at the top of the steps. i stood there and watched her from a distance, this short, old lady, both hands clasping her old mic, singing her heart out, panning the underpass corridor until she turned towards me and her eyes met with mine. i saw the twinkle in her eye again, and her lovely smile. i smiled back, turned away and walked to meet with kuya. this time however, i didn't mind showing people i was crying anymore.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

the line

i have always loved the sight of a crisp, straight line. i marvel at how such a simple, plain element can be so powerful in dictating how we see, perceive, and appreciate a lot of things around us. this is probably one of the reasons i love wrapping gifts.... in a way, with each fold of paper, with each run of my fingers onto sharp edges, i pay homage to the line, thanking it, acknowledging it, for making the world, despite all its uncertainties, a bit more defined.

and since we are already on the topic of love, and 'tis the season for giving love, allow me to say, from the bottom of my heart... (in no particular order)

to outednarnian. i love you. thank you for the crazy times and all the salacious stories of your very interesting life. thank you for all the insights and for all the wacky, scandalous comments. thank you for running. for having me to join the singapore marathon and for convincing me to run the 21k. thank you for the heart felt hugs, i feel you broux! LOL

to misterhubs. i love you. thank you for being my friend. thank you for being hilariously funny and for your (rather presently dormant) blog. thank you for your wit, your intoxicating smile and for your positive attitude. getting to meet you that one xmas party not too long ago was definitely a highlight in my life. when i said i was a fan... i meant it.

to joel mcvie. mader.... you are my mother goose with facial hair. ahahahahaha! thank you for all the nurturing and all the truth slapping you offer me when i need it the most. thank you for keeping me in line and for being my "auditor" when i begin to stray from reality. you may have your weaknesses, but you have always been strong when i needed you the most. thank you. i love you much.

to ian. munchkin. mahal kita. bwisit ka lang na binansagan mo akong aslan, pero, keri lang, nagpagupit naman ako so no one will get ur joke anymore... sadly, u cant correct ur LITTLE predicament. ahahahahaha! i love you to bits!!!!! i can't help it. a pramis is a pramis... magpapakasal tayo!! ahahahahaha. missing you always dear.

to ewik. just so not to cause trouble, i won't say i love you, but know that i do. hehehehehe. thank you for being my friend, for giving me those side splitting laughing trips that only a deranged nutcase like yourself can provide. thank you for all the good times and for all the better times. for introducing me to so many people and for allowing me to be part of their lives as well (chismoso ka kasi... bwahahahaha!)

to jaybeecc and jc. mahal ko kayong dalawa, and now that you guys are together, masmahal ko pa kayo. i just LOVE you guys, to the point, gusto ko kayong paguntog-untogin!!! ok lang jaybee, fluffy naman si jc. ahahahaha! thank your making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside whenever i see the two of you in your simple existence. jaybee, you have one of the kindest heart i know. jc, i love to be lost in your hair (GANUN!???) ahahahaha....

to syoti. alagaan mo 'tong puso ko, sa piling ng iyong maliit na palad. datapwat alam natin na may hangganan 'tong oras nating magkapiling, gusto kong malaman no na mahal kita. pwede na to. oks na ako. ayaw ko nang humingi pa sa tadhana. natutunan ko nang maging masaya. sana ikaw rin.

to all the friends i have met, to all the new ones i have made, thank you. i love you all as well. thank you for making this year special. i count my blessings this year in the form of faces, for i remember them more. looking back at the year, i can only be overjoyed by how many i can recall. your lovely faces, how they shine brightly in my memory, gracing me with happy thoughts and filling my small heart with the most unspeakable thanfulness.

happy holidays!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

countdown to 2010

goodness me, it's almost the year end yet again! i almost didn't even feel the year go by and lo and behold, it's christmas again. whatever happened to all the months before december?

i (officially) have two more days of work, after which, my kuya and i are flying off to spend the holidays in the mad christmas shopping rush in HK. not really saying wer going there to participate in the rush (i still have to recover from the singapore trip), wer really just going there to experience the weather and get to finally use the winter gear we have strangely accumulated through the years. why we have winter gear while living in a tropical country is beyond me, we just do!

i can almost taste HK now and smell the city air, perfumed with the scent of steamed dimsum and pots of noodles glistening in oil.

before that however, i am bracing myself probably for the two most toxic working days in my (recent) professional life. details aside, i think trying to squeeze in demands of THREE jobs in such a tight schedule is a recipe for disaster, but i don't really have a choice. BAHALA na si BATMAN, as people often say. there's going to be trouble eitherway, anyway, so might as well just do what can be done and hope for the best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

in my arms

despite the harrowing start to my day (involving an inconsiderately idiotic jeepney that swerved through 2 lanes and almost SMASHED into my car and STILL continued to drive off like nothing happened), i am choosing to mellow myself down with a dreamy wish....

i would like to sing this song one day, if God permits, to my future child, when i have a family of my own. to the future recipients of my undying love and devotion...

In My Arms by Plumb

Your baby blues, so full of wonder
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch, you start to grow up
All I can do is hold you tight

Knowing clouds will rage
and storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Story books full of fairy-tales
Of kings and queens and the bluest skies
My heart is torn just in knowing
You'll someday see the truth from lies

When the clouds will rage
And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Castles they might crumble
Dreams may not come true
But you are never all alone
Because I will always, always love you

When the clouds will rage
And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

wanted: a shrink

someone once told me, in all his wisdom, never to air my dirty laundry in public. so taking heed his advice, i won't... i'll just hide my ranting in symbols, codes and if needed, tell my story with interpretative dance!

bwahahahaha! ugh. damn this sickening feeling.

must be the season. all this residual, materialistic, jovial atmosphere filling the divisoria air is causing havoc to my equilibrium! this year seems to be extra special compared to the years prior. theres extra traffic, extra stress, extra drama, extra inis.... extra, extra, extra.

(sigh) i'm sure hoping the year won't end on such a dismal note for me, for next year's sake.

so what has been the catalyst to all of this pent up agitation? a boy. (mader-faxing-gad!!!! of all things, right?)

i honestly have no idea why i feel so affected when on any given day, i could give a rat's (pardon the rats) ass, which i guess is adding to the reason why i feel even more peeved that i'm peeved!

ok. (lamas breathing...)

the entire scenrio is actually super lame, more on my part really. it's so lame and pathetic that its too embarassing to even say. AAAARRGGH, just thinking about it wants me to hit my head on this brick wall.... or even THAT one over THERE!!!! huhuhuhuhu.... what's wrong with me???!!!

why did you have to message me you effing prick!!!???

why couldn't you just leave me in peace, in my life of solace, instead of me now contemplating on stalking you and downloading programs just to know ur VISIBLE even if your INVISIBLE on YM!!!!!???

see what you turned me into??? SEE!!!!!

i just HATE IT!!! i hate it so much, it's exhausting.... and yet, i can't stop. it's like that curse where you get cursed to dance forever, even after you die.... or whatever if even such a story of a curse exists...

LECHE KA!!!!! why do u have to be so intoxicatingly stalker-worthy!!!!

and get this, everytime i muster the strength to be rid of you, u suddenly make paramdam and i find myself going thru the roller coaster ride of getting rid of you ALL OVER AGAIN!



i need therapy, bad.

Monday, December 14, 2009

traffic mayhem

you know traffic is bad when even the motorbikes and pedestrians find themselves stuck.

two hours. two, long, bladder bursting hours. that's how long it took me to get myself home, when normally, it would only take me a good 20mins drive. good grief!!!

i knew something like this was going to happen. i was kidding a few hours prior with my secretary about dreading going home since i had a feeling traffic was going to be bad. Christmas always makes coming home stressful for me. it did not help when i read from a blog that approximately 1,000,000 people flock to the streets of divisoria everyday. ONE MILLION!!!! of course while i was joking, it never occurred to me that the FATES would take my jest seriously.

as i took off on my usual route home and emerged from one of the side streets, lo and behold, chaos greeted me with open arms. there was a raging fire that broke out at the tondo hospital. tongues of flame licked the dark night sky, forming an ominous orange halo around the burning building. the road was blocked and frustrated motorists lined up as far as the length of the avenue, honking in their agitation. frantic traffic enforcers tried to ease the gridlock but did miserably. i had to take a LONG u-turn and get myself to wrack my brain for other alternate routes. i wanted to get home badly. it had been a long day and i really needed the rest. this obstacle was not what i needed and the sooner i get over it, the better. sadly, this little hiccup was just the start.

a million shoppers in an already congested neighborhood certainly will never do a place any good.

after some traffic acrobatics and driving like a maniac, i was able to get myself on what i thought wud be a free street to at least take me near home. i knew there was no escape from the traffic jam but at least, i thought, i could make the experience far shorter than what was necessary. however, it seemed like tonight, EVERYONE had the same idea of taking this very same road. vehicles were locked tight in an interlacing knot, only made tighter as pedicabs and ambulances tried to squeeze their way through.

to say that i was exhausted would put things lightly. i tried to keep myself calm and focused since people go on survival mode when under these stressful conditions. cars were inches away from each other, trying their best to occupy every bit of space they can, hoping that by doing so, they are closer to their destinations. it was like this for a good hour and a half more. i soon found myself inching into divisoria, soon to experience the climax of this entire ordeal. need i also add that in the midst of this harrowing experience, that i DESPERATELY NEEDED TO PEE!!!???

i finally got home without incident. i immediately rushed into the house, dropped my bags and ran straight into the john. i think i peed out my intestines as i let loose what could have been enough fluid drown manila in another ondoy catastrophe!

GOD. let me not have another experience like that again!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the standard chartered singapore marathon 2009

i couldn't believe i was actually doing it. i was falling in line at the gate to board the plane... to fly out to singapore to join my FIRST ever international marathon. to say i was excited would be an understatement. i kept telling my kuya and narnian (who was the main reason why i was "duped" into joining, hehehe) that i can't believe i'm flying to singapore just to run!!! people often jest that i'm a running addict and i have always been quick to dismiss their teases, but after this, well, i guess i am officially owning the brand!

hi, i'm jamie, and i'm a running NUT!!!

in the plane, i could not help but notice the gazes i keep getting, particularly since i feel like the entire plane was full of runners and people were already sizing each other up as early as now. every passenger wearing running shoes was a suspect. every passenger wearing mizuno waves and a garmin watch was a definite give-away! come immigration with luggage in tow and you see all these serious faces emerge. kuya, narnian and i were definitely not alone. indeed, a lot from our flight were in singapore specifically for the race. i never felt so intimidated.

we were graciously greeted (with matching jumps for joy and tight-cheesy hugs) at changi airport by another running buddy, ian, the rainbow runner, who is now based in singapore. seeing him after all these months and running the marathon were the two main highlights of my entire trip.

the standard chartered singapore marathon is an annual event that has been attracting worldwide runners every year to the lion city. this year, there were around 50,000 registrants with 17,500 running the full marathon and 10,000 for the 21k. at first, i thought this was an exaggerated amount, surely there can't be THAT many people right? there really was THAT MANY PEOPLE. my kuya booked us at a very strategic hotel, just a block away from the esplanade bridge so it would be easy for us to get to the venue, and from our room, you could practically see the ENTIRE country lining up at the starting line. it was insane! i commented later that the most people i saw in a race here in manila was probably the condura run which only had around a few thousand participants. the amount of racers at this race made the condura run look pathetic. kudos for the singaporeans to keep things orderly still despite the immense numbers. runners lined up according to their expected time of finishing so that people dont scramble and push come gun start. leading the pack were the kenyans, as always :) how do i know all this? THE ENTIRE EVENT WAS ALSO BEING BROADCASTED ON LIVE TV!!!

the 21k run started an hour later, after the full marathoners. standing near the starting line, i had the weirdest cocktail of emotions, which i guess was normal. though interspersed with some dread, i was for the most part really happy. the weather was cool, the sky was clear, the energy was high as everyone was just excited to run. narnian and i bid each other good luck and awaited for the gun start. BANG!!! 10,000 runners from 40 different countries began inching forward. no pushing, i noticed, since we were wearing chips so there was no rush to start. THIS IS IT, i told myself. singapore, toured in sub 2 hours ( i hoped!) i began my run with a light jog, as i always do, taking great care not to shock my legs too much of the grueling task ahead. i can't really say i prepared that well for this race since days owing to singapore, i had been feeling rather ill. despite wanting to condition myself, i thought it was wiser to rest than to jeopardize my trip.

the first few kms i use to acclimate myself to the run. gross as it may sound, this is the only time i enjoy being drenched in sweat since the moisture keeps my clothes glued on to me like second skin. i managed to get myself new running tights a few days prior to the race and am now enjoying the full compressive support they offer (no laughing on my squeaky voice because of it!). i was trying to use narnian as my pacer since he tends to run more consistently than i, however, i quickly lost him in the sea of people. i was on my own again. i was running down the tips i had made for myself, a sort of mantra i had learned through the many runs i have joined. it's all about control more that speed. i had to be conscious not to waste my energy overtaking or accelerating. there will be opportunities for that later. a few kilometers later and the runners began to clearly get divided, the more serious runners emerged at the front, the leisure runners trailed behind. i quickly found the open spaces i like to situate myself into and with some overtaking, i managed to find my spot. this would be my space for the remaining third of the race.

the run, compared to the other 21k i have joined was pretty easy with lots of flat ground and gradual inclines. i recall cursing everytime i find myself along mckinley or bayani road when racing at the fort since the terrain there is just so hostile. here, everything was smooth. even the weather was cooperating. humidity however became a source of challenge as the day progressed. somewhere around my 17th km, i found myself practically gulping air because it felt so thick. i so wanted to do explosive breathing but felt embarrassed to do so since NO ONE seemed to be doing it (unlike here at home where ppl have screaming matches, hehehe). i had to content myself with brief coughs instead.

since the terrain was generally flat, i didn't stop as much, only doing so everytime i reach a water station. i would slow down to reach for 2 cups of water, one for me, another for my overheating shoes. i was hoping they would offer more energy drinks but that was only available at the latter parts of the course. no fruits for 21k runners as well. i guess according to international standards, we dont need it, hehehehehe.

my body had been pretty patient with me. no major complaints yet. no shortness of breath. no aching joints (yet) and no struggle to stop. that was, until i reached km 19. humidity reached the peak for the race and it was getting difficult to breath. i was slowing down as well since my feet felt like it was burning. i am now wearing anti-blister socks and though they free my feet from chaffing, they leave so much space in my shoes that my feet slip and slide inside, adding more friction. all the water (and sweat) that found themselves in my shoe helped cool it down but unfortunately added undue weight to them as well. i was also making lots of noise while running since my shoes now made loud squishing sounds with each step. people kept looking at me as if the noises i made were distracting them from their run. nakakahiya!

when i finally saw the marker for the last 2kms, i began to accelerate. by this time, we were joined by the 10km runners as well so i immediately found myself in a denser flock. whatever energy i had left, i was mentally shunting them all to my legs as i inched closer to the esplanade. i'm near the bridge, the finish is RIGHT THERE, i tried to psyche to myself. upon reaching the end of the bridge and seeing the starting point, i was greeted by the worst surprise, the bridge wasnt the finish line!!! we still had about 100 more meters to go. hahahaha, i literally though i got lost and heard my entire body scream in protest! what kind of sick joke is this?!!! where the F**K is that finish line. we made a turn at the Fullerton hotel and dashed towards the old city hall. FINALLY, someone cheered from the crowd "don't give up, one more curb and your there!" that was the on-switch for me. RUN, jamie RUN!!!!!! run like ZARA IS ON SALE!!!!!

the mad run to the finish

the manual that came with the race kit said not to sprint to the finish, to savor the moment when crossing the finish line. HELL NO!!!! i had a time to beat and i wasnt wearing a watch!!! whatever energy the running gods could spare me, i availed of them ALL. seeing the clock and the crowd of cheerers at the end was the most joyful sight in the world!!!!

my official time, 1hr 52mins. finishing at 283rd place among 10,000, putting me at the upper 3% of the finishers. i feel sooooo proud!!!!! :)

i hope to run again next year! hopefully a 42km. also, masmarami na sana ang contingent from manila!!! what you say narnian, misterhubs, jaybeecc?!!! ian!!!! lets lets next year!!! rainbow runners, unite!!! :)

kuya and i, displaying our finisher's medals