My Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore Anniversary

Today marks another milestone in the long, colorful history of running : Dec. 2, 2012 – Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS).

I’m going nostalgic over it.  I ran 42.195KM in last year’s edition.  It was my first time to join a full marathon event abroad, and my first to cover such distance without the presence of any of my teammates.  I intended to run it that way, for I wanted to test my WILLPOWER so badly‘What the mind conceives, the body achieves’…on with it!  I registered as soon as SCMS started accepting runners for the 2011 ed.  I had my flights and hotel accommodation booked, as well.  I invested on this test.  I had to finish it no matter how crazy it sounded.  I posted it in Facebook, not for the bragging rights, but to challenge myself even more.  Failure was never an option. 

I have a way of working on and around my goals, but at that time, it wasn’t working.  If it wasn’t working in a certain area of my life, then I would have to compensate the need to accomplish something – running did it for me without fail.  I was certain to beat all doubts in my head. 

SCMS 2011 - From Orchard - East Coast Park - Raffles Blvd - Padang

SCMS 2011 – From Orchard – East Coast Park – Raffles Blvd – Padang

Friday, Dec. 2, 2011 – I spent only half of the day in the office.  I had a late afternoon flight to catch at NAIA Terminal 2, and a carbo-loading dinner waiting for me in Pasir Ris, SG.  The dinner was hosted by Ate Emma – whose friendship I cherish for two decades and counting. 

I checked-in at Concorde Hotel Orchard Road around 11PM.  Staying in my friends’ flat meant that they would also need to wake up at wee hours of the morning, so I opted to stay in a hotel near the START line (Ngee Ann City, Orchard). Five things about Concorde: spacious room, courteous staff, good food, location, and competitive rates.  Adrenaline and dopamine fueled my excitement.  I can’t wait to start the next fun-filled day with my long-time friends.

Concorde Hotel Orchard - my home away from home for two tonights

Concorde Hotel Orchard – my home away from home for two nights

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 – It was never too early to give myself a small reward for being gutsy enough to join SCMS.  It was a breakfast treat – the best strawberry pancakes via room service! 

Concorde Hotel Orchard serves one of the best strawberry pancakes in town.

Concorde Hotel Orchard serves one of the best strawberry pancakes in town.

Right on time, 10AM – my SG-based soul sister Atty. Cashmere fetched me from the hotel, and we headed straight to Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for the Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC).  With almost 60K runners, the REPC that morning was surprisingly hassle-free!  We still had time to do a little shopping before we met up with Renchie to lunch.  We were greeted with fine dining at Sky on 57, and the best aerial view of Metro Singapore at the SkyPark.

Bestfriends from Bukluran days! =)

Best friends from Bukluran days! =)

New form of liquid therapy. This sumptous soup is served with a shot of Johnny Walker Blue Label.  Superb! =)

New form of liquid therapy. This sumptuous soup is served with a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Superb! =)

Kuya Renchie conquered his fear of heights! - MBS Skypark / View Deck

Kuya Renchie conquered his fear of heights! – MBS Skypark / View Deck

View from MBS - The Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer – view from the SkyPark

Esplanade on a cloudy day.

Esplanade on a cloudy day.

Another tourist coming to life...

Another tourist attraction coming to life…

The day didn’t end at MBS.  It started to rain again at 3PM, and I was thinking – here’s another epic run waiting to happen, a full marathon in the rain.  Cashmere probably noticed that I was beginning to feel the pressure.  The remedy:  we went to another shopping destination – Takashimaya, later to be joined by the lovely couple Kris and Jenny-Vi.  Good conversation over Korean food – we called it dinner!  Cashmere accompanied me back to the hotel.  She asked for my after-race (kikay) kit and promised to cheer for me at the Finish line.  At 8PM, it was ‘goodnight, Orchard’.


Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 – My day started at 2AM.  A bit before 5AM, I was one with the crowd as we cheered at the START line.  No time pressure, I told myself,  finish it

SG has a relatively flat terrain and warm climate – same as Metro Manila…but humidity in SG was a major factor. I didn’t expect that level of humidity.  After KM5, I felt that my body fluids were gone.  At KM23, East Coast Park – I saw a number of runners down to their knees, agonizing in pain called cramps.  It was shocking.  At KM31, I thought it was the FINISH line for some distance categories, as the crowd was thick.  It wasn’t a finish line, it was the MEDICS area.  I passed by and saw a lot of people lying on stretchers.  They were so pale.  It gave me ‘The Chill’.

At KM32, I noticed edema (water) in my fingers.  All 10 were swollen already and started to numb.  I knew it was temporary, but I didn’t want to risk it – not being able to finish the marathon.  I didn’t fly all the way to SG to DNF (Did Not Finish – a term use in running.  It means ‘dropping out of the race’).  I had to lower my pride.  I knew at that moment, I wouldn’t be able to beat my time at MIM (Manila International Marathon).  I had to walk all the way to the FINISH line.  The good thing about it was, I had my cellphone-camera with me. 

The course wasn’t all pretty as I reached the FINISH line.  Runners dropping out of the race in pain, assisted by the paramedics and race marshalls – it was a common, disheartening scenario.  I continued to pray.  The race became my metaphor.  I set goals to achieve…then what?  I realized that I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life, not like this – ALONE!  Pride had no room at that moment.  I was confronted by my metaphor.  I knew there was something out there for me, which was more than running and chasing goals left and right.  I knew it all along. 

START Line - Ngee Ann City

START Line – Ngee Ann City

7KM na lang! =)

7KM na lang! =)

Scenic race route

Scenic race route: it was like touring SG by foot

Imposing view of Marina Bay Sands; runners trudging under the scorching heat of the sun

Imposing view of Marina Bay Sands; runners trudging under the scorching heat of the sun

My favorite shot during the race - an SCMS official photo

My favorite shot during the race – an SCMS official photo

Finish! =)

Finish! =)

One for the bucket list! =)

One for the bucket list! =)

After-race-treats! =)

After-race-treats! =)

Atty. Cashmere waited for me at the FINISH line.  She knew that I would have a tough time negotiating the impact of SG’s natural humidity.  She didn’t bother to tell me before hand; it might be quite discouraging.  She also knew I would get through it – come hell and high waters.  (Thank you, sis!  You’ve got faith in me! Thank you for supporting me all the way! It meant a lot.)

That same day at 5PM, I was already in Changi Airport, bound for Manila.  This was, indeed, one for the bucket list.

Wait, there’s more!  I managed to shop online for an original DVD as soon as the official SCMS announcement came out.  Addict! =)  This one is for my (future) children. 

Talk about drafting a personal history...

Talk about drafting a personal history…


‘Positive Activism’ – Trying to Keep It Really Positive

Photo grabbed from:

“Fiat justita ruat caelum” – a legal phrase which means, “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”

Today, I’m fed up by three of the more sensational heinous crimes in the broadsheet and television.  There are accounts by people who are utterly capable of evil deeds – a seemingly innocent young lady who allegedly masterminded the murder of her best friend, and young adults high on drugs – no plans for their future, decided to curtail other people’s future. As I was reading a witness’ tale of the murder, it made me shiver.  It was so inhumane, deliberately inhumane!  Why are we becoming so inhumanely selfish?  There is just too much suffering that some people totally forget about living, giving, and everything good and innately human. 

I never wish to violate human rights, but at the legislative level, the crime rate today is enough warrant to revisit death penalty as capital punishment for heinous crimes in this country.  “Eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” – not as a legal fancy but for the welfare of the majority.  So many innocent lives we are entrusted to nurture and protect. 

As a citizen, I don’t feel secure anymore whenever I roam around the Metro, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to pack my bags now and leave for Amsterdam.  I’m in for a good fight.  I don’t know if I could ever reach the stage of ‘in aid of legislation’, or go back to the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ kind of deal.  I don’t have that same level of energy to take the cause out in the streets like the way I did back in college. 

I’m taking the ‘preventive side’ of things and make it a commitment.  I’m referring to any forms of positive activism which I will be able to sustain.  One takes the form of guiding young children – those within my reach; my future babies, included.  Social Studies 101 in the old school curriculum emphasized family as a building block of the society, as cell is to the human body.  I don’t want to be contributing to the statistics of children and young adults misguided by porn, violence, and evil drugs (so help me God).  Another form of activism, though it really is tough to choose the best candidates nowadays, I’m accepting the challenge to be more conscientious in examining candidates for public office.  Operative word: more.  The form which I’m into right at this moment: blogging. 

This article is more of saying: ‘I rant. Now, I stop.  I hereby pen my commitment with the most sincere intention of keeping it.’

How about you?  Are you joining the fight?

Seven years and counting… =)

It’s October – my anniversary month @ SM!

I treat October as if it’s my biological birth month; I commemorate my birth into the SM organization – where I practically spent a big chunk of my waking hours in the last seven years.  It’s a fun-crazy-challenging work life, but if I could sum up the experience down to a single word, then it’s gotta be worthwhile!

Celebrating my 7th year at work – it’s like having two birthdays! =)

This is the first time I’m posting an account of my career – other than those facts which could be viewed in my online CV.  I’m excited to be writing about my more colorful experiences at work, in parts or sequences, attuned with my anniversary month.

In the beginning…

I’m fresh out of college…12 years ago. Five years into building a professional career, I was job hopping – I wanted to believe that I was good / flexible / go-getter / but-so-not-a- supermodel, so I seized up opportunities ala-Tazmanian devil, until I landed an opportunity to establish my career at SM.  Joining a retail giant was never part of the plan but fate had its way of bringing me here.  Just like any other job applicants, I had to undergo several interviews.  The recruitment process I chose was one that was (decidedly) longer.  I got an offer in July, I joined in October.   It took my former boss 3 hours to discuss the final offer, and it took me a week to sign it…I was excited and (so) scared at the same time.  I badly wanted the opportunity, but the responsibilities were daunting – the most difficult was to build an IT organization!  It was a make-or-break situation, and I never expect to reach such a point quite early in my professional life.  I was a clueless yuppie.  I only had guts, a pending MBA thesis, and an ECE license.  Are these enough to warrant success?  I was never a fan of the idea of failing – a standard which I deliberately ingrained in my head.

Now reminiscing about how it was seven years ago,  I requested a meeting with one of the corporate consultants before I signed up.  (I’m very fortunate that he has become one of my mentors).  I asked him several questions in a way that could have been regarded as a folly for a yuppie like me.

Consultant:  I heard that you have a concern about the opportunity at hand.

Me:  Yes, sir.  May I ask for the updated job description (JD), including the qualification?

The Consultant gave me a two-page JD.  I carefully read the text.  First item under job qualification, “+10 years relevant work experience in retail…”  I paused, to ask the Consultant a very honest  (bold) question in Tagalog…

Me: Sir, sigurado po ba kayo na ako ang iha-hire nyo?

Consultant:  Of course, we are.  Why are you asking me this?

Me:  Sir, five years pa lang po ako nagta-trabaho.  I don’t have a solid background in retail.  I only know retail in the context of CRM and BI.  That’s about it.

Consultant:  The technical aspect of the job will be very easy for you to learn.

Me:  Sir, this is a make or break situation for me – the experience is entirely new, the responsibilities are tougher, and I don’t know how to play management politics. As much as I’m up for the challenge, I’m also afraid to fail.

Consultant:  I see.  Your concern is valid.

Me:  By the way, sir, may I also ask for the table of organization?

Consultant:  Only this one, the rest you have to build.

Me:  Do you think I can do it, sir?  I don’t want to fail.

At that point, my former boss showed up at the Consultant’s office.

Consultant:  We will guide you through.

AGF:  Sign it, Ann.  We promise you, we will not let you fail.

They had interviewed a lot of applicants before, but may be the scenario of an applicant bringing up her fear of failure is rare…I attended a number of job offer-meetings in the past, but it was during that meeting with the Consultant and AGF where I truly felt the organization’s commitment to my growth as an individual – It was not just about the organization that I would be supporting.

I took a deep breath. In my head I said, ‘this is it, Lord.’  I signed the offer.

I would be forever grateful for that day – a sanctifying grace.  =)

Gains and Losses

Life is good. Gain.  Life is not fair.  Loss.  It’s a matter of perspective – sometimes easy; oftentimes, challenging.

For more positive chi to flow, I should be writing about, ‘life is a beach,’ or something as hip as ‘politics/stock market/traffic – it’s more fun in this country.’  Today I’m more keen about bursting some bubbles, so it really is tempting for me to write about, ‘life is a bitch’ or ‘haters get a life’, instead…oh, but I do have some positive comments about the stock market!  Talk about balance between good and evil.

Source: MSOffice Clipart

I’m about to spend the next couple of minutes writing about musings on personal/family relationships, mundane stuff like weight gain, somewhat-annoying political thoughts – things which I need to bounce off the wall called blog (and it’s right here!).  I haven’t been so keen about keeping this kind of ‘stress’ list, but I should be able to jot it down so that the counting of sheep – something I do before bedtime when sleep becomes elusive, is kept in its state of effortless peace.

On a more personal note…

1.  Gain : Strong and promising lifelong friendship with five people.  High five for honesty and open communication.

Loss : falling out with two people whom I used to look up to.  Hypocrisy and lies are never good elements of a healthy relationship.  Over it!

2.  Gain : Weight.  Uh-oh! The worst in 6 months, following a hospital confinement…the positive side – I can start training for my third full marathon after almost 6 months of rehab.  I’m at it!  Weight loss is underway.  Hopefully.

Loss :  I need to defer plans for a 50km ultra marathon, shoulda-woulda-coulda first half of 2012.

3.  Gain :  We successfully fought a terminal illness in the family, as a family.  My aunt made a big come back with a stronger testimony for her Christian mission.

Loss :  Sleepless nights, wondering how the treatment was progressing – a scenario in the family wherein everyone was face-to-face with the big, bad ‘C’…but faith is much, much greater than any illness.


I also think about this country.  To me, this is home.  I’m sooo here that it is warranted, I be called ‘a dumb citizen’, should I fail to notice news or issues at the level of national consciousness.

4.  Gain :  Philippine stock market index!!!  It’s a concrete measurement of the sentiments of investors towards the Philippine Economy.  The market has been enjoying growth, rising from a 3K+ last year, breaking the 5K barrier,  and now maintaining its position at the 5K+ index for months…and the outlook remains bullish.  Stay invested!

In 2011, financial institutions like BPI and BDO went all-out with their campaigns to draw people to avail of managed funds.  These funds cater to several investor risk profiles :  conservative – moderately aggressive – aggressive.  It sure is a new way to earn passive income while leveraging on the growth our stock market.

5.  Gain :  Confidence on the President, most recent rating,+ 67%.

Though, I’m not particular about the label ‘yellow army’,  but a positive trust rating of 67% earned by the President fuels a certain feel-good attitude towards the government, and relevant sectors are motivated to pump-prime the economy.   I’m neutral when it comes to political parties, I support whoever is duly elected and proclaimed President.

Loss :  (Untimely) demise of a great public servant – Sec. Jess Robredo.

Loss : Political divide; many haters still – those people trying to bring down the Administration to its knees, but hey, if you happen to be one of them, I hold no personal grudge against you, but I wish that we be aligned in this thought :  words, including those translated into propaganda are meaningless, until we match it with collective actions to push for reforms.  Talk is cheap.

Loss :  (Figuratively) headless, selfish people from all sectors of the society who are deliberately trashing the environment.

Loss :  Unresolved territorial dispute among China and other ASEAN States over the perceived oil-rich Spratly Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea.  I wonder what the UN is doing in order to effectively implement the provisions of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).

———   List ends here. For now.  =)  ———-

Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata’

About the poem:    Desiderata (Latin: desired things), a prose poem written by American author Max Ehrmann in 1927.  Copies in poster form started to circulate in the mid-60s.  In 1967, the prose went mainstream as recited by artist Leonard Nimoy, calling it “Spock Thoughts”.  –

What it means to me:  This poem is a gem! A theater director handed me a copy of Desiderata twenty years ago; she even asked me to memorize it.  The poem turned out to be ‘a gift’.  A couple of months ago, for the first time in N years, I had to dig it out of a virtual treasure chest —  while I was ‘soul-searching’…for there are moments that warrant the need to read something in order for us to cope – for us to be reminded of things which we already know…  I find it difficult at this moment to paint a vivid picture of how it was to go on a soul-searching mode nearing mid-life. Whew! Over it! =)


Marie Antoinette’s Estate – Versailles, France
Photo by: C. Dirampaten

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 

As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. 

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in  the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.  But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.  Especially, do not feign affection.  Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.  Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  But do not
distress yourself with dark imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the starts; you have the right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. 

Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.

Blooms – Riksjmuseum, Amsterdam
Photo by: C. Dirampaten

The Purple Cat and the Toyota Way

The Purple Cat*

Toyota Production System (TPS). Lean Management. Six Sigma.  Art of War.  I’m making an inventory of my mini-library cum arsenal.  This is also with reference to the learnings I’ve acquired since I joined the industry not so long ago.   

Displayed in my mini-library are my favorite business management books, written or influenced by gurus: Peter Drucker, Spencer Johnson, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Sun Tzu, and Taiichi Ohno (through Jeffrey Liker) – ideas and practices which are being echoed by my most trusted mentors. 

I’m now in a situation, which warrants the need to read some of my favorite books again; not just for conversational piece, but to remind me of things which I was passionate about…methods I used to teach my students…the discipline that made me resilient. I need to regroup.

The Toyota Way**

Book Cover – The Toyota Way
Published by: Mc-Graw Hill
Copyright 2004

First of, is a book published to document the tradition of excellence in manufacturing that is, Toyota – The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker, with copyright by Mc-Graw Hill, 2004.  This sets the spotlight on Toyota as a global enterprise that invented Lean Production.  The book expounds on how the practices by Toyota propelled the company to be one of the most revered. 

Whereas, I’m not in the position to provide authoritative information about Toyota, what I can post here is an easy reference only.  Thus, I’m sharing a list of – The 14 Principles of the Toyota Way.  These principles are presented in an executive summary, which also highlights specific sections of the book (The Toyota Way, page 37).  The book itself is an investment to those who wish to learn from Toyota. It doesn’t speak of any rocket science.

The 14 Principles of the Toyota Way

1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

2.  Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.

3.  Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction.

4.  Level out the workload (heijunka).

5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.

6.  Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.

7.  Use visual control so no problems are hidden.

8.  Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.

9.  Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.

10.  Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.

11.  Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.

12.  Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu).

13.  Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly.

14.  Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).


* Concept based on The Purple Cow by Seth Godin –

*  *  Excerpts are also available at –


Isang boteng alak, isang kahong tsokolate, isang tasang kape

Ang akdang ito ay nailimbag sa wikang Tagalog, na maaring magdulot ng pagdurugo ng ilong sa imahinasyon ng sinumang magbabasa nito. 

Araw ng Kalayaan, ika-labindalawa ng Hunyo.  Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, sa blog na ito, ay mas minarapat ko magpahayag gamit ang aking kinalakihang wika. Ito ay bilang pakikiisa sa makabuluhang paggunita ng ating Araw ng Kalayaan.

Sa isang upuan na nagsimula sa pagsalin ng alak hanggang sa isang tasang kape at ilang tsokolate sa pagitan, muli pumasok sa isipan ko kung paano ba ang pakiramdam ng isang taong malayang naisasabuhay ang kanyang bokasyon? Ito ay ang konsepto ng bokasyon na hindi nangangahulugang propesyon.  Ang bokasyong ito ay ang pumapaloob sa lahat ng maligaya at tamang pananaw sa pagbibigay ng positibong kontribusyon sa lipunan, o kahit sa mga tao o bagay na andyan lamang sa paligid. Hindi pangunahing layunin ng bokasyon ang kumita ng limpak na salapi.  Ito ay isinasabuhay dahil narito ang tunay na pagmamahal sa paggawa at pagbahagi nito sa kapwa (labor of love, sa wikang Ingles).   

Nahanap mo na ba ang iyong bokasyon? O sadya mong isanasabuhay ang itinakda para sa iyo ng iyong pamilya o ng ibang tao? 

Mabigat ang mga katanungang ito sa mga kagaya ko.  Isa ako sa mga naghahanap ng kasagutan; bagay na hindi ko na ikakaila at ikahihiya na para bang sa aking kinalalagyan ngayon ay bakit ninanais ko pa ring maghanap ng mas malalim na kabuluhan.  May bagay na inakalang sagot para dito, pero labis ang aking pagkagulat sa kapasidad nitong pabalikin ako kung saan ako nagsimula.  Sa paglipas ng labindalawang taon, may mga pangyayari na nag-udyok sa akin na tahakin ang isang panibagong antas ng kamalayan.  Nitong taon na nagdaan, naging malaking inspirasyon para sa akin ang pagiging malapit sa ilang alagad ng sining, mga guro, at mga misyonero.  Sila ay walang alinlangang sumunod sa kaloob sa kanilang kakayanan na isulong ang tunay nilang bokasyon, taliwas sa mga adhikain na masasabi natin na ‘playing safe’ or tiyak na may pera.  Sa pakiwari ko ay malaya na ako ngayon na makapagsisimula sa isang bagong yugto habang unti-unting lumilinaw kung alin ang panghanap-buhay, at ang higit na matimbang na panghabang-buhay na bokasyon.

Nawa ay sumainyo ang diwa ng mapagpalayang araw na ito.  =)

alak – tsokolate – kape

Is it impossible to fight graft and corruption?

The natural tendency of a private citizen-taxpayer is to hate everything that is corrupt, from red tape to malversations of public fund; or simply put, blatant corruption in government offices/agencies.

In a speech delivered by President Noy during the recently concluded ADB Summit, he emphasized that corruption, which flourished under GMA’s regime, is over.  The positive macro-economic indicators, which are manifesting in the last 22 months are fruits of good governance.  Many threw negative criticisms after a copy of the same (speech) was published in a popular broadsheet last week.

I am one who is fully supportive of good governance, but sadly, there is still corruption. It will continue – as long as we tolerate it.  Expressing harsh criticisms is one thing, but supporting an act of corruption is another. 

I experienced one of the blatant forms of graft and corruption when I arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 last week.  It was my worst day in an airport – and it happened right here, on Philippine soil. 

I arrived from Paris via CX.  I was carrying a two-piece luggage.  The customs official asked whether it is true that LV bags are cheaper in Paris.  I did not comment.  The official, became officials <– ‘s’, in plural form.  They held my passport and asked me to open my luggage.  They saw 3 LV bags neatly arranged, and they asked me whether I would pay the tax.  They saw several Longchamp bags, but they did not mind; all eyes were on the LV bags.  There was an opportunity to bribe, but I told them to compute for the tax, instead.  They asked me a couple of questions about the bags.  I bought 2 of those 3 bags for friends.  I couldn’t let them confiscate the bags.

I did not have enough peso bills in my wallet.  So they held my passport + luggage, and an officer escorted me to the nearest ATM booth.  He was asking why I look so sad – 20 hours in transit + 5-digit tax to pay.  I told him bluntly, ‘pakiramdam ko na-hold up ako’ (I felt like being mugged).  I was worried about the bags, and what people could possibly insert into those bags.  With all the ‘drug frame-up stories’ I heard, at that instance, I was paranoid.  I even forgot to call up my lawyer.  I can be feisty, or bitchy, but at that point, I was being extra-mindful of my words and actions.

I paid the tax.  They issued me an Official Receipt (OR) for the payment.  Some people were telling me, I should have ‘given’ the officials 100USD / 100EUROS, instead.  I had USD notes that time (but no more Peso and Euros), but still, I won’t tolerate corruption. Period.

I did not feel bad about paying taxes; but what I totally resent is how the officials handled the situation.  I was held like a big-time ‘tax evader’, because I was a solo traveler who came home from Europe.  They asked me about the trip as I was just out there burning Euros.  I felt harassed, like being held up by a mob.  They were talking about LV as if it was the biggest luxury item in town…pardon me for the tone of these comments, I’m simply invoking the Bill of Rights. 

After I got the OR, I thought the ordeal was over.  As I was walking towards the exit door, I was interrupted by another customs official, who was holding a telecom radio.  He confirmed whether I was the one carrying 3 LV bags in my luggage.  He wanted to see the bags…I was appalled.  “How many times do you need to open my luggage???  Can’t you see??? I have an OR already! I paid the tax!  What else do you want from me?!”  He muttered, “I’m just asking.”  I really felt mugged.  

If this ‘bribe-or-tip-situation’ is the norm at our international air(port) terminals, then how could we ‘BS’ (ah, help?) the Bureau of Customs to put their act together when we, ourselves, are supporting graft and corruptionI don’t get it. 

Another lesson learned:  On my way home,  I called up my lawyer.  She told me, those customs officials were not supposed to search my luggage.  Should they inspect my luggage, it has to be in plain view only; no thorough searching, unless, I’m a perceived threat to national security.   

The fight for corruption is not only for the government to take up.  It is a gargantuan task to flush out cancer, that is corruption.  Do we need to bribe traffic enforcers?  Do we really need to go through fixers when transacting with government agencies?  Is it required to give at least 2USD to airport officials as tip, or what they call ‘pang-kape lang po , sir/ma’am’? (Try NAIA Terminal 2, inbound flights from the US). Would you ever attempt to beat the traffic red light if you are in a progressive country?  Would you ever break the 70-75mph speed limit in a US freeway?  We know the correct answer, for sure. 

Sigh, sigh…

Emotionally ‘divorced’

I went to EU on such a short notice.  I wanted reprieve, silence.  I wanted to hear my heart speak.  I went to a place where people are refined, but most were unfriendly.  I needed to feel alone, and yet secure in my own person.  For three days, while my good friend Cashmer was busy attending business meetings, I chose to explore and walk along the cold, unfamiliar streets of Paris.  It was solitude, at its grandest, the best birthday present I could ever give myself.

For five months, I was silently trying to heal, and somehow, conceal my wounds.  The cuts were deep.  I never thought it would ever run deep.  It was worse than I thought. I was trying to stay strong for I have things to deliver and a number of people counting on me, and I never wanted to be there just for the sake of being there.  I have established myself in this field for over a decade, and I’m not throwing everything away just because I was on the verge of an emotional divorce.  I used to believe in ‘that something’ – I was in love with “that idea”, and it meant more than a career.  It used to be “the life”, which some people thought was  the best for me. I worked hard for it, made sacrifices…and it made me happy and fulfilled for a while, until the day came, and I could no longer ignore the writings on the wall – it’s over. 

I attended a multi-cultural wine appreciation class in Paris.  At the end of that class, I learned about the sophisticated world of French wine.  In the process, I met one facet of my old self again.  She was that one assertive lass who was learning and frolicking in an unfamiliar environment. She did not seem to mind the unknown; she was excited to explore.  She was not giving herself boundaries in terms of learning and walking the high road.  I know she is a rebel for a good cause.  I just have to say it, I know her.  I was her.

To be writing about a broken heart this way, I’m finally relieved of the pain from the cuts and bruises.  I may have flaws, made amends in the process, recognized my weaknesses – but I’m not going to trade the character that took me decades to build with all the love and guidance I received. 

For the times I acted immature, for all the ignorance, and for all the growing pains – I have forgiven myself.  It cannot be apathy for so long.  For all the things which weighed me down for months, I’m now making it official – I am emotionally divorced.  I am moving on.

wine glass = looking glass

AN OPEN LETTER: Give back and thanksgiving – my first full marathon

Dear Family and Friends,

 I hope this letter finds you well.

 I will run my first full marathon on June 26, 2011 at the Manila International Marathon.  A full marathon covers a standard distance of 42.195KM.  I have spent 16 weeks training for it, in the company of my fellow SM Runners.  I did my first half marathon, uphill runs, and trail runs with them; driving up to Baguio and Tagaytay. My pacers – those who will run alongside with me in the marathon:  Ed Escalante, Jigger Meneses, and Jayson Tan.   I must say that I owe them a lot for I would not have reached week 16 if it wasn’t for their support. 

 Why I want to run my first full marathon this year?

1.  Crossing the finish line is a huge gesture of thanksgiving and triumph for living through 33 years of a blessed life – something I owe my Creator and the people who touched my life.
2.  I have truly embraced my passions – one of which is RUNNING.
3.  Unite family and friends for a cause – this marathon is not about me stretching expectations of myself, but I want to do something good which is beyond me.   

You can help me make this event more special.  It’s not everyday I’m being given an opportunity to unite family and friends for a social cause – and I guess, this is one of the best times to do just that.  I want to make my full marathon an instrument to help people – to reach out to the community.  I have chosen a charity program called HAPAG-ASA – an integrated feeding program managed by The Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation.  Enclosed in this letter is a rationale of the said program.

Now, here’s the deal.  I will openly accept any amount you can whole-heartedly pledge for every kilometer that I can cover during the marathon.  Example: P2.00 for every kilometer.  If I finish the full 42KM, then your donation to HAPAG-ASA is, P84.00.  =)

Donations will be collected on week of June 27, or you may send me an email or text message so that I can give you my current account number.  All donations will be turned over to HAPAG-ASA under the name – SM RUNNERS AND FRIENDS.  I will be providing a report thereafter. 

Thank you so much for always sending me thoughts of strength through prayers.