Friday, July 31, 2009

Things I Remember About Jolo

These are just random thoughts of things I remember at the time that I was writing it. I really don’t have any idea on how to start it or end it. It might be a sort of living document where I may add more anecdotes or edit some that may be proven incorrect. My fellow Tausugs, please forgive me for the incompleteness of this entry. Please add yours at the comments section below. Thank you so much.
School in Jolo meant Notre Dame all the way from Kindergarten to high school with the nuns and the brothers. They were all strict disciplinarians. We went to school in the morning, went home at noon for lunch and siesta, then went back to school in the afternoon. The mode of transportation was mainly jeepneys or human powered tricycles.
At kindergarten, my parents and the parents of someone named Carol were trying to match us up. Sister Ursula was our teacher at that time. I had an unfortunate and embarrassing accident in kindergarten which I hope nobody noticed or have already forgotten after all these years (well now you know about it).
During fourth grade, our classmate Thomas died due to a motorcycle accident. His Uncle who was our homeroom teacher was driving the motorcycle. I think it was also about this time that I joined the boy scouts and a nun whose name I don’t recall recruited our class for choir and glee club (this lasted through high school). We sang in church and school shows. At this time I liked a girl whose initials were D.A. and she was a majorette for the drum and bugle corps and boy scouts. Nothing ever came of it, just an admiration from afar.
Elementary school was a time that when conflicts between the boys arose, an arrangement would be made to meet after school at “lubbak” to fight. Again, nothing ever came of it other than some pushing and shoving, then everyone went home.
When we were in fifth grade, classes had to be moved to Notre Dame Annex in Asturias due to renovations at the downtown building. It was in Asturias where after school activities involved cultivating a garden plot. I don’t remember ever harvesting anything from there to take home and eat. It was also at this school where we explored the woods behind the school and searched for a World War II plane that was supposed to have crashed there. There were also some wild coffee plants which fruit we ate because it was sweet. Tigbao pool was down the hill from the school and me and some classmates swam there once. I remember the cool mud you stepped on when you went in the water. It was in this pool that a Tausug whose name I don’t remember trained and qualified for the Olympics a long time ago. The Sulu Provincial Hospital was next door to Notre Dame Annex and next to that was the Philippine Constabulary Headquarters, and way beyond that was a place called Nangka-nangka which we never ventured to. It was a place where you can supposedly find prostitutes for hire.
We returned to the downtown elementary school during sixth grade. By this time, the girl’s high school moved to the college building and the college students moved to Gandasuli. During the weekends and summer vacation, I would sneak into our school to read books from the unlocked classrooms. One I remember were the Rin Tin Tin stories. How the nuns and Poldo were not able to detect me remains a mystery. It was also during this grade when I had a crush on two cute sisters who went everywhere in the school inseparably. This soon faded as soon as we left for high school. Out of sight, out of mind, but never forgotten all these years.
High school was at Notre Dame of Jolo Boys Department in Gandasuli. Part of Gandasuli is reclaimed land where the town’s trash dump site is located. After the morning flag ceremony, prayers were said by the Catholics, then the Muslims afterwards. I can still remember parts of the Muslim prayer up to now. It was during freshman high when I broke my clavicle when I got run over by adults playing basketball at the Department of Public Highways’ basketball court. It was also the time when I experienced my first detention. When we misbehaved in class, we were sent to after-school detention where we had to stand for an hour studying. I was sent there a few times in my freshman year, maybe once as a sophomore, then none thereafter. Physical education in high school consisted mostly of intramural competition between classes and the teams were named after American Indian and Canadian Indian tribes. Sports consisted of basketball and “jungle” volleyball. The students discovered a spring behind the school where the water was so fresh and clean and cool like ice water. Someone also showed us a hiking trail that led from our school, though the woods, towards Maubu beach. I started playing tennis while in high school after meeting the kids of the provincial engineer who was our neighbor. I was getting very good at it until I broke my leg during a motorcycle accident with my cousin. We were seeing our grandma off at the airport as she left for the U.S. and on the way back home, we got hit head on by a jeep. I was in a cast for about 8 months with a broken ankle. I even won the town spelling bee contest with that cast on in my senior year (I finished second the previous year). At the time that I was playing tennis, I also sold home-made ice candy, which my mother made, to the players and guests of the tennis club. One of the pastimes around town in those days was a game called Wahuy. It consisted of a riddle being given by the organizers and the players would guess the answer based on the riddle and some characters. The players would place their bets with bookies around town. It was supposed to be partly a game of chance but we had suspicions that it was fixed sometimes.
Someone from the Notre Dame Girl’s Department developed a crush on me during junior high. Her initials were F.A. She nicknamed me “Renault”. Groups of her classmates and mine often hanged out after school. I don’t know where she is now and internet searches have proven fruitless.
The Writ of Habeas Corpus was suspended by President Marcos and that started the rebellion by the MNLF in our province. They were considered “Maoist” rebels after the teachings of Mao Tse Tung. At the time, if you had long hair, you might be suspected as Maoist because while the rebels where in hiding at the outskirts of town, they couldn’t get haircuts.
Senior high was slightly tumultuous. There was always talk that the rebels will invade town so there was uncertainty on what was going to happen next. Protests and riots in Manila trickled down to our school and one day the seniors walked out of class for reasons I can no longer remember. Because of the threats of an imminent attack, we never had a graduation ceremony which was sad because it was supposed to be one of the highlights of growing up. Part of the requirement to finish high school was YCAP (Youth Civic Action Program). For our part, we gave the town’s trash collectors a day off and picked up the trash all over town in a dump truck. We shoveled the garbage from the ground and tossed it on the dump truck, then climbed on the back of the truck where we had just tossed the garbage in and moved to the next pickup location. Since the cast on my broken leg was just taken off I had to chase the dump truck with a limp.
I was a member of the Notre Dame Band where I pounded on the bass drum. We were in every parade and procession and would give concerts. Occasionally we would be hired to play in Muslim weddings where we piled on the back of a big truck and played music while the wedding party paraded all over town in a convoy of vehicles. We were given 5 pesos each for the service.
As seniors, a handful of students went to Zamboanga to take the University of the Philippines – College Admission Test. We were hoping that we could hitch a ride on an army plane. When that didn’t pan out, we headed to the wharf to take the trip on a kumpit. When my father learned about that, he picked me up and got me a ride on a private plane of one of his customers. I don’t know how I passed the UP-CAT but I did out of pure luck. Only the honor students from my class passed it and I wasn’t one of them.
There was a week-long event called the “Boys and Girls Week” where high schools from all over town competed in academic decathlon type contests and also the spelling bee I mentioned earlier. I don’t remember if it also involved sports. Anyway, one of the questions asked was “Where are the Islets of Langerhans located?” Another school buzzed first and answered “South China Sea” which elicited some laughs and snickers from the crowd who where in the know. My classmate – Francis, who is a doctor’s son correctly answered “the human body” which was accepted by the judges (more specifically, the pancreas produces them).
Lawa’s Café is often mentioned by friends because of the addictive coffee that they served. Plain coffee was 10 centavos, with milk it was 15 centavos. Mr. Lawa was a relative by marriage and every Christmas we would always get a whole leg of ham from him. When we went to Zamboanga every October to celebrate Fiesta Pilar, he would often pay for the hotel and the meals. He was a very generous man. After the fire in Jolo, he opened a café in Zamboanga named A-One.
My family ran a lodging house in town named, what else: Delaspenas Lodge. During weekends I remember applying floor wax on the floor and scrubbing the floor with coconut husk afterwards. To borrow a phrase from a song in the musical “Annie” – It’s a hard knock life for us, it’s a hard knock life for us.
I left Jolo to study in Manila in 1973 and only returned once during semester break when I met up with Brother Ted and played bowling with him. After that, the rebels invaded the town, burned a lot of homes , and my family evacuated to Zamboanga City and lived there since. In my humble opinion, Jolo was never the same again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Complaints of Weight Gain

Some of my coworkers complain that they are gaining weight. Some even ask me for exercise tips since they know I like to workout. Sadly, these are the same people who like to talk about dieting and starting an exercise program but never get around to it or are unable to do it consistently. I try to tell them that exercising is a lifestyle change, that they have to put in the time to do it and make it a part of their daily lives. If only talking about dieting and exercising were an aerobic activity, these people would have lost a lot of weight already. We had a registry nurse working with us a few weeks ago and by the way she talked, she knew just about everything about dieting. Yet…she was obese. I don’t say this as a way of mocking her, I’m just stating the truth. Just stop talking and start doing. Losing weight and keeping it off takes a lot of effort. How many times have we read or heard of that? A coworker asked me earlier tonight how I can motivate her to start running. I told her as a joke - pay me to do it. I suggested that she should just start walking for now. Other coworkers have started exercising but after losing control of their food intake and gaining a couple of pounds, they get discouraged and stop. Gaining a couple of pounds is more reason to increase the duration or intensity of your next workout to get things back in control. I know of people who are so enthusiastic and motivated that they overdo things during the first workout and when the soreness sets in the next day, they couldn’t get started again and that’s the end of that. These are the same people who like to sit on their behinds all night when all the work is done instead of moving around. I tell them that every little bit of activity helps. They see me pacing up and down the hallways or doing squats in the middle of the night to stay awake and they still wonder how I manage to keep my weight down. I practice the old Nike advertising exhortation: “Just Do It!”. I wish it was that simple for others.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Overshooting The Plan

I must have forgotten how to count. My brain cells are either disappearing slowly due to age or oxygen debt. The joints and muscles of my lower extremities are still sore from Saturday’s 14 miler so I decided to do a 5 minute run / 1 minute walk workout so as not to aggravate my right ankle which hasn’t fully recovered. After all I have no business running 14 miles on that ankle anymore but I still did it. The plan today was to do 10 repetitions and that would have given me a whole hour of running and walking. Well along the way I miscounted the number of repetitions even though my GPS watch was giving me a countdown (I have it set at 60 repeats in case I would ever run a marathon again… NOT!). When I finally thought I did 10 repetitions and clicked my watch off, I found out that instead of running for an hour, I really ran for an hour and 12 minutes, which was 2 more repeats than I intended. Jeepers! How difficult is it to count to 10?! Today I lost my mind and couldn’t do it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Phone Tribulations

I bought a new phone from Virgin Mobile last week and after receiving it in the mail I tried to activate it through their website. It was just a matter of swapping the service from my old phone to the new one. What was supposed to be a simple procedure turned out to be a two day exercise in patience.

First, a background. I’ve been using the prepaid Virgin Mobile service for the past seven years and about three years ago I gave up my landline service since I don’t make many calls. From home, I just use Skype to make phone calls which is cheaper than the minute by minute rates of prepaid cell phone service.

Last December, I bought a Virgin Mobile cell phone from Target but was unable to use it because of programming problems. It turned out that Target hadn’t scanned the phone into their system so Virgin Mobile didn’t recognize it and couldn’t activate it. So I had to return the phone. It was a disappointment because the phone I’ve been using was already two years old.

So finally last week my budget accommodated the purchase of a new cell phone so I ordered one online from the Virgin Mobile website. After having problems activating it myself, I finally called their technical support line via Skype (Skype doesn’t charge for toll free numbers). After going through several layers of Virgin’s voice recognition system, I finally talked to a “live advisor”. When they tried to activate my phone they found that the new phone’s serial numbers were already in use. I informed them that it was not possible because I have a new phone and I ordered it directly from Virgin Mobile. The live advisor consulted with her supervisor and said that they were going to open an investigation which was going to take between 24 to 72 hours. So I was resigned to the fact that I have to wait a little while longer to play with my new phone. I took the reference number from the investigation that they were going to start and waited. I called them again the next day but there was still no resolution to the problem. Finally, 48 hours later when I called again, they found the problem and fixed it, and my new cell phone was finally activated and ready for use. YAY!!! By the way, Virgin Mobile’s tech support is based in call centers in the Philippines. I complimented the live advisor for her American accent which made her laugh. These call centers train their staff in imitating an American accent even though their Filipino accent is still detectable.

Let me tell you about the features of this phone. Since Virgin Mobile is a prepaid service, the technology of their phones are in my opinion about two years behind the latest feature packed ones like the IPhone, Blackberry Curve or the Palm Pre. In the case of my new Virgin Mobile Shuttle, this is the first phone they have that records video, years after the Motorola Razor did it. Granted, the Shuttle records up to 30 seconds while most phones record only 15 seconds. The shuttle doesn’t even have a texting friendly keypad, just a regular numeric keypad. They have a newer model called the X-TC that does that but doesn’t record video. The Shuttle also has an MP3 player which is also a first for Virgin Mobile. However this phone doesn't have a touchscreen or downloadable apps. There is no way of connecting the phone to a computer so I also had to buy a micro SD card. I found a great deal on a 4 GB one at Kmart. It’s the biggest size that the phone can accommodate. After loading up some music and while playing with this feature, I found out that regular MP3 player headphones do not fit in the Shuttle’s headphone jack. The plug was too big. With a little bit of internet search I found out that most cell phones use a 2.5 mm. plug as opposed to the 3.5 mm. plug that MP3 players use. The next day I went to Radio Shack and found an adapter for the headphones and they worked perfectly. Problem solved. Jeez, the extra accessories are making this phone more expensive than I anticipated! I also copied some pictures from my computer to the phone and used one of them from the Wrigley River Run as my wallpaper. I still haven’t used the camera to take pictures or video, but those are the least of my concerns. At least my phone is fully functional now and I’m pretty happy with all its features. But oh! What a wait I had to endure! Certainly not a case of instant gratification.

p.s. I just finished converting a whole movie from an AVI file to a .3G2 file that my phone can play and after a file transplant from computer to phone via the micro SD card, the movie plays wonderfully on the phone, albeit on a small screen. But this was just an experiment and I sure am learning a few new things.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting Lucky On The Weather

T’was the day I was dreading this week. The weather forecast was heat and more heat later. To compound that issue, I haven’t ventured past 12 miles running or walk/running in the past nine months. It was going to be a really slow slog or bust.

The sun was already out in my part of town when I left home. When I reached the staging area which is closer to the beach, I was pleasantly surprised that it was overcast due to the marine layer. We don’t get too many of those in the middle of summer. Even though it was humid, at least the sun wasn’t out.

I kept my warm-up short to about five minutes and soon enough we were off on our urban adventure. My pacing partner Monica was missing again this week. That fall two weeks ago must have aggravated something. The other girl – Sophie (the fartlek girl I mentioned a few posts ago), took off fast as she usually does. I didn’t expect to be catching up to her today because I just wanted to run conservatively. The potential heat and the distance can make you do that.

It wasn’t good that my right ankle was hurting early and often. In fact it was hurting the whole way. I was just hoping and praying that the tendon doesn’t tear again. I was faced with a dilemma several times today. Some people were running a few yards ahead of me and others behind me. I had to decide whether to try to catch up with the people ahead, or slow down and run with the people behind. But I found myself running alone most of the time due to the irregular paces of the people I tried to run with. I’m more of a rhythm runner: when I find a good pace and rhythm I tend to stay with it without much variance.

In the end we got lucky because the sun stayed hidden for the most part. I finished the 14 miler in 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 26 seconds, which was 9:36 pace per mile. The surprising thing about that is: when I had my lightheaded 4 mile run last Tuesday, the pace was 9:45 per mile, and the one hour deliberately slow run last Thursday was 9:53 pace. So I ran today’s 14 miler faster than the two shorter runs this week. Not bad at all and I’m happy to have finished. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing the 16 miler in two weeks. I’m only signed up for the half-marathon so today’s run was already one mile beyond that. I’m curious to find out about the change in our training course from previous years though. We will be entering the confines of California State University - Long Beach for a few miles this year. I’ll defer my decision till that time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Deliberate Slowdown

Well, that felt good! Today, I decided to wake up earlier and hit the road earlier than I usually do on my midweek runs. After last Tuesday’s aborted run due to the heat and lightheadedness, I was able to get out the door and pound the semi-heated pavement by 7:15 a.m. It was still very humid and warm but the sun’s heat wasn’t on full blast yet. Despite this, I still deliberately slowed down my pace so I could run a little longer than I did on Tuesday. Aside from listening to Ryan Seacrest on the radio, I was also listening to my body and monitoring how I felt the whole time. No, I didn’t have to bring an umbrella for shade or a fan to cool myself. I just tried to run on the shady side of the street as much as possible. The earliness, the shade, and the slowdown helped a lot because I managed to finish a whole hour, more or less comfortably. I even managed to do three stride outs in the last few minutes.

There are certain advantages to deliberately slowing down the pace. In my case the pounding is lesser and I don’t have to push off my feet harder so my bad ankles are not overstretched, and that means lesser pain at the end of the run. The disadvantage is that I don’t feel that it works my cardiovascular system hard enough. But aside from that trade off, I’m quite happy with my effort today and I hope the confidence that it gave me carries over to Saturday’s 14 miler in similar hot conditions.