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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kaiseki By Way Of Deal Grocer

Having bought fantastic deals from popular online site Deal Grocer in the past, I resolved to look into things and places that I have never been to, instead of making a trip to somewhere I've already been, or even frequent. (Though that "resolve" is just for now, it's not really written in stone.)

Prior to the deal I'm about to post now, I also purchased another offer from Deal Grocer. Unfortunately, the merchant offering it through the site made a mistake - I think quite honestly, and not intentionally - about how much to charge Arthur and me when we availed it, and it differed from the terms stated in the fine print of the deal mechanics. I wrote Deal Grocer about it, and they immediately apologized on the merchant's behalf, giving me a refund as a sign of goodwill.

On top of that, they gave me a complimentary coupon for one of their current deals (at the time I wrote them), which involved a restaurant I have never been to, although when I saw the pictures in the ad, it looked oddly familiar to me. The offer was being given by Kaiseki, a Japanese restaurant located in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.


I immediately looked up and researched about the restaurant, and in most of the reviews, blogposts and articles I came across about it, it seemed to be a haunt of people who can best be described as purists when it comes to Japanese cuisine. While it is a concept I frown upon in the area of genetic breeding (Hitler being its staunchest champion), it is something I look forward to almost as much as I also look forward to fusion in cuisines. (It's nice - and informative - to know a particular fused dish' lineage.)

As soon as we parked, it hit me why it looked so familiar: our company held an event last year at the bar that was close to it, and I had to go back and forth to the car to get some paraphernalia and I would cross Kaiseki about 5 times that night.

As the weather was scorching hot, we almost ran towards the restaurant and were both enveloped by a sense of calm as soon as we entered it, mostly because of the cold airconditioned area, but also because of the quaint set up that greets you.







As with most Deal Grocer offers, we had to call and make a reservation, so we knew we had a table ready when we got there. As soon as we sat down, Arthur noticed the table setup and drew my attention to it. The "placemat" was shaped like a black fan, and true to Japanese decor, was very minimal.


The "fan" turned out to be something only "for display", as the waitress returned to take them away and asked for our Deal Grocer coupons. She also served us the appetizers.


The "typical" Japanese appetizer I was used to in my childhood when we ate in Kimpura, some veggies in a treatment I'm still not sure of, and sweetened dried fish.



Arthur opted for the iced tea to quench his thirst.


I was immediately drawn to the watermelon shake, and am happy to say that on these hot days, if ever you're in Kaiseki, this shake is a must: cool, lightly sweet and utterly refreshing, the complete opposite of the heat and conditions outside of the restaurant.

We waited for about 10 minutes after our drinks arrived before the food made its way to us.

The Deal Grocer offer was Unlimited Ebi Tempura and Tenderloin Teppanyaki. As the name implies, you could order as much of these two items as long as you still have space, because it had a No Leftover policy, which I fully support as a way for people to only get what they can consume and not be greedy. It also came with Unlimited Rice, which has, in my mind, become synonymous with Mang Inasal.

Our food came in a bento box, which Arthur liked, and said that we should also get some as part of our dining ware.


In the reviews I read, the Tempura was given high marks all around, so when I saw the shrimps in my bento box, the first thought I had was "they aren't that big". Big mistake in thinking that, happily. But I was also drawn instantly by the smell of the Tenderloin, which I knew, even just from sight and smell, would be ravishingly delicious.


The meat was so tender, it had a nice texture and solidness to it when you placed it in your mouth, but as soon as your saliva and teeth do their work, they offer very minimal resistance and gladly lose their "shape", revealing a rich, earthy aroma that well-prepared meats emit instantly. It was not salty, at all - which I experienced at another Japanese restaurant, as if the teppanyaki was doused with sodium - and despite it being beef (read: heavy) it managed to exude a feeling of airiness and lightness, which was no small feat.


The tempura deceived me, and in a pleasant way. This is the Tempura that my mom would gladly pay for: it was "filled" with shrimp. That may sound strange, but more than two decades ago (or probably less than that), a restaurant named Saisaki introduced their Eat-All-You-Can Tempura concept, and we trooped to the restaurant.

Lo and behold, my mom was displeased with her first bite of the dish, and she picked on the shrimp (hinimay in the vernacular) and revealed to us that it was about 90% flour and batter, and the "shrimp" was only a fourth of an entire whole. She didn't even bother taking another bite.

The Tempura by Kaiseki was a universe apart: It was all shrimp, with just the outer covering of the batter to give it that familiar Tempura look. Even the batter was light, I was tempted to ask if they had injected it with something because when I go to Japanese restaurants, Tempura is one thing I don't really get because of previous experiences of having them fill you up right away, taking away the joy of sampling other items. Kaiseki's version does not do this at all, in fact, it does the opposite.

The shrimp was perfectly done, and the batter did not have the smell of having being fried in oil that was used over and over again, it tasted "clean". For the first time in many, many years, I was again liking Ebi Tempura.


The dish came with the usual vegetable siding of bean sprouts, which I also have come to associate with the Japanese restaurants here in Manila. There wasn't really anything too remarkable with this.


The rice that came with it was sticky enough to hold on its own when picked up by a pair of chopsticks, and was lightly fragrant and just the right amount of heat when it was served. It was the perfect backdrop to place against the Ebi Tempura and Tenderloin Teppanyaki to showcase the flavors of those two items.

I have to say that this was a very pleasant experience, because aside from the excellent food, the service of the staff was great as well: they were attentive when called, they were mindful of when you were about to finish your serving and would immediately ask the chef to cook another batch, they weren't pushy or overly attentive to the point of cloying.

Kaiseki is a quaint little gem in The Fort. It's no wonder those that are adamant about having "pure" Japanese cuisine rave about this place, because it serves the popular, basic Japanese fare, but does it in a spectacular way. If you're hankering for a taste of Japan, head over here and you - and your tastebuds - are assured of getting the royal Japanese treatment.

I would like to thank Deal Grocer for introducing this fine place to us.


--------------------------------


Kaiseki Japanese Cuisine
The Fort Pointe, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila
(02) 889-1005
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kaiseki-Japanese-Cuisine-at-The-Fort/260147213139

Saturday, April 28, 2012

More Casualties Of (Gym) Etiquette

If you're just joining us, this is the continuation of delightful habits - yes, it is used sarcastically, in case you didn't get it the first time - I have observed from people who frequent fitness centers. While many gym goers are respectful of other people who share the same paid space and facilities and act accordingly, there is a segment of the population that feels differently - these posts are about the latter group.

(See http://theguywithablog.blogspot.com/2012/04/death-of-gym-etiquette.html for the first part.)

And now, on to the next items in our list of (ill) manners.

6. The Place Savers

Regular gym goers know the type: they're the ones who have a "hallowed" spot, either in particular classes, or in using the treadmill that's closest to the window. These clients seem to act like they "own" a piece of fitness real estate (did they have a separate bill entry for this in their membership fee? How ever will their accountants...well, account for this in their tax returns?) and that any intrusion (read: people who got to their usual spot first) are given such a staring down that if looks could kill, the "usurper" would have suffered more bruises and would have been more bloodied than a Mixed Martial Arts contender.

(Courtesy of myspace.com)

In case it wasn't clear, the gym is a free space: that means no holdsies, no reservations, no absurd rationalizations. It is strictly First Come, First Served. Just like any line in life - or at least those who honor lines, like myself, like to think so.

Do not get "angry" if someone is standing on your favorite spot. Di mo yan pag mamay-ari, di tulad ng inaakala mo. (You don't own the spot, even if you think otherwise.)

Do not hurl invectives at the person who got to the stair climber 5 minutes before you did, because the machine only says "Property of ABC Gym", it does not say "Step out whenever _______________ is present, this machine is all his/hers!!!"

Above all, do not make a lame attempt to justify your insistence on a particular machine or spot by saying something along the lines of "EVERYONE knows I stay on this machine/spot always!"

This is not high school. This is the real world - and not an MTV produced TV show.

7. The Pick-Uppers

Colloquially referred to as a pickup joint that's better than a bar because you see what people look like in bright lights and hear how they grunt as a preview to, er, horizontal delights, the gym is usually thought of as a place to "score" in terms of sex/dating.

I'm not a prude, let me state that clearly, and that's the reason I "get" it. People who go to the gym have to have some form of vanity in their genetic make-up, and it's only natural that they also seek this same desirability in potential dates or lays. Add to the fact that sexual attraction is perfectly natural and a basic part of what makes us "us" as humans, and I completely understand why "hookups" have become almost synonymous with gym culture.

(Courtesy of mindcafe.org)

But, for the love of all things, could you take your "dance" outside of the gym? Once you've established your interest in each other, please do not act like you are in a badly directed pornography flick, tossing off sickening one-liners as a come-on to your potential "score". And I say this to both clients of the heterosexual and homosexual variations: Don't shit where you work (out). (Again, I understand there are "gyms" where actual intercourse takes place with the hooded consent of the management. I'm not talking about those establishments, which aren't really "legit" fitness centers to begin with.)

A friend told me of such an encounter between two members of the human species elite genus: fashion models who cannot gain weight even if you force fed them a hunderd years, who "work out" to gain weight as opposed to everyone else trying to take it off.

The female was constantly doing her bicep curls from a seated and bent over position, the better to enlarge her breasts and cleavage - as I mentioned, she is stick thin so she needed all the help in "magnifying" her assets. The male model, who typically had "chicken legs" (overly developed upper body with a serious deficiency from the waist down), kept posing his guns and chest, also for purposes of "mating".

Both unfortunately and fortunately, my friend was in the middle of their "courtship", seeing them exchange their glances of longing and desire, and (like me if I were in her place) was rolling her eyes internally.

It all came to a head when the female took the direct approach, went up to her male counterpart, and asked, in full bravado: "Are you trying to seduct me?"

Someone please call Webster Dictionary. We've been saying it wrong all these years.

8. The Clique Formers

The gym is a social space, so it's no surprise that small sets of people, clumping in groups based on affinity or interest are formed. It is pretty much the same everywhere else, except that the ones in the gyms tend to have more, uh, passionate expressions of their loyalty to their cliques.

(Courtesy of ghow.info)

If you've seen the movie series of Step Up, you'll know what it boils down to: a dance-off. But not a formal one; instead, nag papabonggahan sila (they try to outdo each other) in class. It starts out with someone from the other group hearing that Ms. Thing said you look fat, so you have to retaliate by saying "your level of fat makes me look like Paris Hilton!" Pretty soon, we have two sides calling each other every name in the hog-raising handbook, culminating in a show of "talent" on the group exercise floor.

I pity the bystanders in this affair, who only went to the gym to get their daily dose of endorphin rush, and burn a few calories, who did not know that today would be the day when they walked into the middle of a television drama episode of "Gym Days Of Our Lives".

Hair pulling, spitting, chair throwing, hissing and spewing...I've seen these happen before my very eyes.

And those are the antics of the male population.

9. The "Loyalists"

In the course of work that is physically draining, it is inevitable that teachers of group exercise classes will have to endure injuries, or just have a vacation in order to recuperate both body and mind. In those instances, they are forced to call in a substitute to cover for them while they are on leave from teaching their regular classes.

(Courtesy of jwsokol.com)

You should hear what "fans" of the original teacher say once they see it isn't who they expected standing in front of the class: they can be vicious.

"Is this your first day on the job?" is an entry-level insult.

I have seen substitute teachers who have had to stop teaching midway because they had to rush to the bathroom to let out a good cry from the verbal abuse they had to endure. Some teachers have had to withstand being called names, being cursed at the way unsavory characters would give them, and being looked down upon and called a "waste of time, I went all the way here...for you?!?"

(This is the reason why teachers have to announce beforehand that they will be absent for certain days and why the gym has to inform the clients well ahead of time so that class schedules can proceed as smoothly as possible without jarring the experience of clients, and while we as teachers are grateful for their loyalty, we also feel badly for those who have to cover our classes. They certainly expect better treatment as they can choose to be elsehwere doing something much more pleasant than fielding death threats.)

True story: I had barely a year teaching under my belt when I was tasked to cover for a very popular teacher. I took it as a challenge because I wanted to see if I would be well received, and was very open to criticisms, in order to better myself in the profession I have chosen.

A co-teacher who found out where I was teaching and who I was covering for felt the need to see me personally, and gave me a tersely-said advice: "Whatever you do in that time slot, leave your pride at the door. You won't have any to speak of anyway by the time they're done with you."

She turned out to be right, and it was an eye-opener as to what kind of clients I had the possibility of facing in the future.

I was teaching a step class, and I saw the spaces beside me rather "vacant", so I asked the class to come closer to me, and in jest, assured them that I bathed before I came into class. They all looked at each other and said "Wala pa yung Mafia." (The Mafia hasn't arrived.)

Yes, it was that kind of client.

The "Mafia" turned out to be 4 "Ladies Who Lunch" types, in full make-up and jewelry hanging on them like ornaments on a holiday tree. The clear leader was the one who placed her step beside me on my right.

Did I say placed? I meant "dropped noisily while looking at me from head to toe".

As we were still warming up, I had the class go through some basic steps and a little preview of what was about to be taught ("rehearsal moves" in industry-speak). Already, I could see the pack leader smirking, hear her sigh audibly, and in less than 5 minutes, considered herself astute enough to size my teaching ability and class to render her "judgement".

She kicked her step towards my direction, which flew smack into the mirror beside me, she screamed "WALANG MAKAKAKUHA NYAN! PUT-NG I-A!" (Nobody will get your steps! Your mother is a whore!) and stood there beside me, trying to induce death by staring.

Everyone - including me - suddenly went in Slow-Mo Mode (slow motion): We had one foot on top of the step, one on the floor, mouths opened wide with the realization of what just happened, and thankfully I had enough presence of mind to remember that I was still conducting a class and told everyone "Alright, everyone, continue holding in this pattern while I show you the next variation."

Oh, Pack Leader wasn't done.

My indifference caused her to rage in a different direction: she then went up to the row of treadmills (which were filled up to the brim as it was a "primetime" slot for the gym, 6 PM), went up to an unsuspecting "puller" (the treadmill exerciser who raises the machine to the highest incline, locks her arm in front and starts "walking" as if being dragged in front) who happened to be at the corner, then Pack Leader proceeds to yank off the girl from the treadmill (if memory serves, she had long, beautiful black hair), who was more stunned than hurt from the shock of her being "ejected" forcibly from the treadmill, all the while Pack Leader kept screaming, "AKO NA DIYAN!!!" (It's now my turn!!!)

Loyalty can take you to some dark places.

10. The Mirror Lover

Initially, I pegged this as a men-only affliction, when those with ripped bodies - thank you, steroids! - like to face any reflective surface, lift off their shirts or tank tops to reveal to one and all their ripped six-pack, then posing for a forced audience while simultaneously saying "I'm still a little fat, I need to work out more."

Conceited much?

(Courtesy of psychcentral.com)

Lately, however, even the ladies seem to enjoy their unabashed self-love they abuse on the mirror: lifting their breasts up to seem perkier, claiming to their friends -loudly - that they still need to lose three inches from a waist that measures 20, and pouting their lips endlessly as if they are applying to be on those ads for the "Call Me If You're Lonely" hotlines.

While we're on the subject, I wish the ladies would apply less makeup, perfumes and whatnot before they workout. It would be better if they could wear none at all, as the powders block facial pores, which have to be open to sweat naturally during a workout, the body's defense and response against too much heat induced by exercise. Some people also cannot stand certain scents of perfumes, which can lead to an unpleasant experience for them, and may trigger asthma attacks in some who are sensitive.

One of them actually came up to me, in her skimpy bra top. This girl has won fitness and bikini contests, and because she had just come from the USA, she felt she had transformed into a morbidly obese person, and while still in her bra top, complained "I was so EVIL in the States! I had corn dogs, fries, chips and soda! I am SOOOOOOOOOO fat!!! I hate myself!"

I could not see where she had gained this so-called weight, even if she did ingest the things she said she did, her body had been morphed into such an increased metabolic state that she was burning calories just by standing and breathing.

So I told her honestly: "You don't look like you gained an ounce at all. In this current state, standing in front of me, you could pose for a magazine cover and be asked for your diet secrets."

She then feigned incredulity. "OH MY GOD!!! Are you blind?!? Can't you see that I am, like, the most hideously obese person on the planet?!?"

I sized up her waistline (probably a "perfect" 24), her bosoms bouncing merrily in her taut bra top, with an abdominal area that would make Heidi Klum weep, then stated nonchalantly: "If you're so hideously fat, why are you running around in full view of all these mall goers in a bra top, then?"

That stopped her cold. Talk about false humility, and bad manners.

11. The Spatially Challenged

I seem to attract this special subspecies of ill-mannered clients, which I consider to be the rudest of all the etiquette offenders on this list.

They are marked and characterized by:

(a) a seeming incapacity for remembering that a class is ongoing, even if the schedule is clearly posted at the entrance to the group exercise room;

(b) possibly irreversible deafness, as the loud music does not cue these creatures that "there must be something going on here";

(c) possibly irreversible blindness, as they are oblivious to the number of bodies moving in unison, to the instructions of an exercise leader standing in front of the room or on the stage;

(d) and due to the foregoing conditions, they proceed to go on stage or the front of the room - WHILE the teacher is onstage as well - to cross to the other side of the room to get a mat;

(e) and who suddenly regain their hearing and sight, reacting to the catcalls of the clients who boo and make comments loudly at the audacity of the said creature to show such blatant ill manners in front of the entire class;

(f) and trapped in an embarrassing situation of his or her own making, proceeds to do the logical thing: turns his/her nose up in the air, claiming some form of moral superiority in the face of public ridicule, gets BACK on stage to cross back to where s/he came from with the mat, making a facial expression to indicate "I haven't done anything I should be ashamed of!" and proceed with feeling smug that they are "correct".

I have experienced this at least 5 times in my years of teaching. In one instance, the shamed party had the temerity to lodge a complaint that she had never been so humiliated in her life, and that she worked for the Solicitor General's office, making an implied threat that she would file charges for the episode where the clients made fun of her disrespectful behavior, to the class, teacher and the clients. She even made use of the letterhead of the Office of the Solicitor General in her letter threatening legal action, implying that she had the "blessing" of the head of the government agency (and making the gym manager practically pee in her skirt). I should've hauled her ass to the Ombudsman and made a formal complaint about inappropriate use of office equipment and misrepresentation.

I get not wanting to apologize for something that cannot be taken back, but to imply - publicly - that they were "in the right" and that everyone else is wrong in their etiquette compass just reeks of what we experience in politics nowadays: those who have done grievous wrongs against our nation justify it by saying "I'm right! Besides, everyone's doing it!"

Sobrang kapal ng mga mukha. (The thickness of their hides knows no bounds.)

Who knew that the gym would be witness and party to so many lapses in judgement, manners and character? I suppose it comes with the territory: with all the attention and focus given to the physical aspects of one's body, some people utterly forget to develop the other, more meaningful parts of what makes them truly engaging: their ability to connect with others, a large part of which is dependent on how they treat others, the way they want to be treated themselves.

I have met some of the most wonderful, magnificent and lovely creatures I have had the pleasure of knowing fully and calling friends from the fitness world. It is unfortunate that, like most groups, there are bad seeds and bad apples, which give credence to the accusations of our world of being a shallow, vain and bordering-on-stupidity universe populated by dumb individuals who just happened to have won the genetic lottery.

When the truth hurts, it's time to ask why it does.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Death Of (Gym) Etiquette

In the pursuit of better health, and more importantly for those going to the beaches, better looking bodies in photographs to be immortalized over Facebook, gym goers have had to set up near ridiculous goals in order to achieve this "perfection".

(Courtesy of criticalbench.com)

While it is admirable when clients are fiercely determined in achieving this singular goal, a subset of this population has learned to do these goals "at all costs" - at the expense of others, in terms of convenience, time, camaraderie, and sadly, manners.

Having taught group exercise classes and conducted private sessions in one-on-one and small group settings, and having done this since 1998, I have seen an entire spectrum of Bad Behavior in the gym setting, and thanks to a question posted by Power Music, it gave me excellent fodder and much food for thought for this piece. (And, it seems, people around the world are prone to these lapses in etiquette, it isn't merely a local thing here in the Philippines.)

Here is but a sampling (scary to think this list is not exhaustive!) of ill-manners and poor etiquette that make up some of the worst behaviors exhibited in fitness centers everywhere.

1. The Weight Droppers

This is personally one of my biggest pet peeves, and of course, it happens with the most artificially-induced bulked-up guys in the gym: He -it's almost always a he, come to think of it, I haven't seen a woman do this - makes a big "production" about how this is the "heaviest I've ever lifted", with some acolytes around him cheering him on, lifts the weight for about three to four times in improper form, grunting for everyone to hear, then drops the weight with a thunderous thud.

News for he-man: If you can't control the rate of descent (any action that works towards gravity instead of against it) of what you carried, then it's too heavy for you.

(Courtesy of buyfitness4less.com)

I don't mind the announcing of it being the heaviest he's ever lifted, it makes public humiliation that much easier when he can't even complete one repetition of the exercise. I also don't mind the heavy grunting and groaning, as it provides a boost mentally to some athletes. (I am reminded of Sanchez-Vicario in professional tennis, her expression when she returns the ball is, uhm, unique.)

But to drop the weight as if your sworn enemy is underneath you and about to be crushed, it's in bad form - both literally and figuratively - because (1) you scare the living daylights out of anyone in the immediate vicinity, especially those who really weren't giving you any time of day (2) it reeks of being an attention whore, trying to announce what a big, strong man you are (but it betrays the opposite) and (3) you cause damage both to the plate and the floor, in other words, you are destroying gym property.

Not to mention the worst part of it all, he-man isn't aware that carrying that much weight may actually throw his back out or cause even more serious injuries because of overestimating what he can do, all for the sake of showing off his supposed physical prowess.

Don't make me get out a ruler to measure your real size.

2. The Incessant Phone User

Today's fast paced world demands that we be on call all the time, and understandably, people bring their mobile phones and devices with them even when working out. However, some clients forget that they are also sharing space with other members - paying members - who did not come to the gym to hear you talk about how much of a revision you need to do on your latest sales report, or how you are instructing your secretary to tell your patients that the doctor will be coming in a little late due to an "emergency" (aka you want to finish your workout).

(Courtesy of h2andyou.org)

I understand, your call is important to you. But the key word there is that it's ONLY important to you, and to no one else: Kindly take your call outside of the group exercise room and go to an area where you will be the least disruptive, pwede? This practice is most insensitive when the class in particular is a mind-body class, and a phone conversation defeats the very atmosphere that the teacher and class is trying to achieve.

And if you're on the inclined chest press when you receive a call, please don't sit on the machine for the next 20 minutes discussing how much you lost in the stock market yesterday. This is a gym, and other people are waiting to use the machines as well. This is not your personal office or private space where you can do as you please without nary a thought of how your actions affect others.

Take note: these are paying others.

3. The Class Talkers

Some people astound you with how many decibels their voice volume can go - and not in a good way.

Another infamous act that causes great irritation is when people who attend a group exercise class mistakenly think that they are on a talk show, and proceed to talk over the teacher, the teacher's instructions and the music altogether! Talk about your unordinary loudmouth - that is not an easy feat to accomplish, but I have seen this personally with my own eyes, and sadly, my ears have heard them as well.

(Courtesy of ehow.com)

Back when I was starting out teaching, I used to raise the music volume to match the loudmouths. Unfortunately, I also realized that some people took it as a challenge - and were actually able to still talk over the increased volume!

Over the years, I have learned that the opposite is just as effective, if not even more so: Whenever someone obnoxiously loud would disrupt a class, I would lower my voice and soften it so that my instructions became unintelligible. I would also minimize the music volume so you could only hear a faint beat. It resulted in the same scenario: clients straining to hear what I was saying, making the noisy party a standout, and they had to totally shut their traps lest they relished being given the evil stares from everyone else.

True story: I was conducting a mind-body class in the group exercise room, when two ladies and their personal trainer come in the room, to do exercises on the stability ball (located inside the room). One of the ladies is a medical professional most utilized by "celebrities" to "sculpt" their bodies and faces. They were both yammering away about a party they went to, who they saw, what this person was wearing - in a room and class that was supposed to induce concentration, calm and focus.

Unsurprisingly, some clients began giving them dirty looks, and I decided to approach the trainer to let him know - as if he didn't know - that there was a class being conducted while his clients kept harping on makeup tips. He gave me an irritated smirk, informed the clients that "pinapalabas tayo sa kwarto" (we're being asked to leave the room) and on the way out, the two ladies continued chattering obliviously - and loudly - over their lunch plans.

I guess some people are too dense for words. Even "celebrity doctors".

4. The Maid "Owners"

While it really isn't legal in 2012 to "own" people - and I know some people who want to see those days come back, shudder - some, uhm, "masters" are so used to their maids picking up after them that they bring this (un)pleasant characteristic with them to the gym.

The result: You have weight lifters who, ironically, cannot return the plates they used for their "public lifting" (read: for show), leaving them on the bars, while Ms. Senior Citizen, next in line to lift, is frantically hoping a fitness trainer will help her remove at least one of the plates off the bar, which weighs more than her entire body.

You have irresponsible clients leaving dumbbells of all sizes all over the place, giving headaches to the gym management for potential lawsuits and disability claims.

"Grunters" try to outdo their previous record of doing 1000 situps in one go, and after that show of endurance, cannot be bothered to tap into that same endurance to return the mat they used to their rightful place - out of the way, stacked in a corner so others may use the same equipment.

Bands, steps, "sliders", Bosu balls and so much more equipment getting unaccounted for or lost, because people pick a spot to do their "thing" then conveniently forgetting to return where they got them.

Are they expecting the "maids" to pick up after them? Do the gym employees have to start wearing maids' uniforms as well? But before we do that, maybe we should discuss adding "Servitude Pay" into membership fees. Are these clients amenable to that?

(Courtesy of my.88db.com)

We are all adults. Kindly pick up after yourselves. Please lang.

5. The Perennial Complainer

It's too hot. Now it's too cold. I want a towel with my membership - scratch that, I want an entire Bed, Bath and Beyond collection to go with my daily usage, together with Clarins bath products. And I want a buffet waiting for me after my workout...hello! In other gyms, they give clients bananas, bottomless softdrinks and a coupon for a car raffle!

(Courtesy of socialstrategy1.com)

Seriously?

I understand clients who complain about the basic necessities: having a functional ventilation and cooling system, having machines that work efficiently and not cause more bodily harm than good, having enough equipment and paraphernalia so that a large number of people can enjoy the full workout experience, making sure the floor is safe, dry and ready for physical activities.

I differentiate those valid concerns from those that come close to asking for a chocolate fountain next to a auburn unicorn spewing euros out their mouths: I actually had a client ask me if it was alright to bring her Lhasa Apso with her to class, because she can't bear to be without her baby, and the uniformed maid has to fan her (the client) while in class and deliver her Evian water when she needs it, while poor Lhassie Baby has to do without someone fanning her and giving her expensive doggie treats.

If you think a request like that is appropriate, I suggest heading down to the counseling center of any major hospital. You need help, fast - and not from a fitness center.

Don't worry, we're only halfway through this list. More etiquette gems in the next post.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Case Of The Lost Black Wallet

Anyone remember The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries? They always had these titles that gave away too much, too soon. (If memory serves me right, each chapter was practically hollering, "Here's the clue!!! In neon!!!)

Which isn't to say I didn't have fun reading them - I had a target of one book a day, as my cousins who left for the USA bequeathed their entire collection of both series to me and my sister. She never got into them (like most teenagers in her day, she latched on to Sweet Valley High) so I practically devoured both series on my own.

Today, I would have a mystery of my own, hence the title of the post.

Having come from an early morning training with a client, I stopped by the ATM machine to withdraw some money to settle some bills. Travel is horrendous in Makati once 8AM kicks in, unfortunately that was the exact time I was on the road (did I mention I met my client really early?) so I decided to stop by the convenience store of a gas station to let the rush hour pass by.

I got my goodies (the largest bottled water they had plus a sandwich) and paid at the counter. Unfortunately for the cashier, I withdrew thousand-peso bills so I didn't have "smaller change". After getting the change, I got my stuff and stayed at one of the available seats.

Little did I know that my wallet fell from my bag, onto the floor.

(Courtesy of global.rakuten.com)

All of this was witnessed by a child of not more than 10 years old, who probably was an only child, the way he was bibo (can't find the exact English translation of this that captures the thought perfectly) with strangers, used to playing with himself, using various voices for his imaginary scenarios, and running around playing hide-and-seek, all by his lonesome. (His dad and mom were busy discussing something in earnest, leaving the child free to do as he pleased.)

I did not even notice him being able to hide under my table to get my wallet from the floor.

I left the store, and while driving, I started to think of when I had to renew my driver's license, so I opened my bag to see the date on the card. The traffic was at a standstill so I could actually fry an egg by the side of the road and I'd be finishing the egg before the car would even move an inch. That was the only time I became cognizant of my missng wallet.

I began spewing invectives inside the car, and I must have looked ridiculous because I could see a couple of passengers in the bus beside me pointing at me. It's difficult to stay calm and composed in immovable traffic, while the thought of all my identification, credit and ATM cards were possibly being utilized by some thief at this very moment? I've heard the stories of how within 30 minutes of a credit card theft, the card was already maxed out and used to buy appliances.

It was an eternity before I was able to loop back to the convenience store. I parked the car and ran inside to look at the area I was seated in, which was obviously already cleaned up. So I approached the guy mopping the floor, and he said he did not see any wallet. We both went to the counter to confirm if anyone had left a lost wallet, and unfortunately, no one did. The cleaner thought of the surveillance camera and when we all looked up at the screen, it tunrs out they decided to close it that very day.

Great, I thought. Now I have to start calling the card companies, begin lining up for a lost license, etc. I also called Arthur before beginning the calls of frustration to the other parties, and he just chalked it up to "that's the way it is".

I was already dialling the number in the car for the credit card company when I saw the guard running towards me, in an obviously happy/excited combo. I knew right then and there that the wallet had been found.

As it turned out, the little boy's family left as soon as I also left, and the mom was wondering why her bag felt a little heavy. The little boy had actually also placed the wallet inside her large handbag without her knowing; they were already on a bus to the opposite direction I was headed when she discovered the wallet. Her husband had to go to work so she went back with her son to the convenience store to drop it off, after getting the information from the boy of where he found the wallet.

I thanked her profusely and wanted to meet the little boy; his mom said he was embarrassed and was hiding while I was talking with her. She apologized on his behalf, and that, in her defense, he's always been, uhm, "creative", with how to amuse himself as an only child, and that he never meant to steal or cause other people inconvenience.

I was just so happy that I did not need to reapply for new cards, I gave her a small reward, and just chalked it up to a wonderful day where people still valued honesty.

And parents who teach their kids by example.

That's what I got out of the whole exercise.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

15 Years From An "Island"

These pairs - and this pair - have walked together for fifteen years.

Meeting two friends over dinner this past weekend (I had green hued risotto, a real treat), it was impossible for the three of us not to delve into each other's personal matters, which is usually code for "how's your love/family life doing?"

Which highlighted the fact that 15 years ago to the day, I officially dropped the word "single" as a response for that oft-asked question in "slumbooks" of years past, Status. (Come to think of it, Facebook is a giant "slumbook" for this generation.)

Both of my friends were amazed at how long it has been since Arthur and I have been together, and I was prodded to relate how we met, and to post it in my blog, if only for the sheer novelty of having any couple last as long as we have - or I should say, have and counting - and in an age where fast food has been deemed too slow to catch up with everything else, I certainly am grateful for the outside perspective that highlights what an accomplishment it is to have been together with my partner for a decade and a half.

Whenever we are asked where we met, we humorously say "at an island"; already, the person who asks almost immediately gushes at how romantic it must have been, and never fails to ask us to name it: "Is it Boracay?" is a usual followup question we field, an obvious nod to the party island of this archipelago, where people frolic, ingest booze and hopefully fall in love. (Not in that order.)

The "island" we refer to is of the mundane kind, the concrete slab that separates vehicles going in opposite directions. To be technical about it, we saw each other across one of the busiest streets in Quezon City, and - cheesily, now that I have the benefit of hindsight - met at the middle of the street, the "island". One of my friends immediately commented "it sounds like a movie production", and truth be told, I am amused at the memory of it, but it was no laughing matter at the time.

I believe it was one of the philosophers who commented that finding the one you are "destined" to be with is not so much a matter of fate, but of two souls who are part of a whole, who will spend their entire lives looking for the other half, long before one of Hollywood's most famous lines was ever uttered, "You complete me". It certainly rings true in our case, as it seems that everything just "clicked" and fell into place from the very first day we saw each other.

Much like magnets with polarities attuned, we have been inseperable ever since, to the point that so many people have mistaken us as siblings, as we seem to lay claim to the notion that couples who stay together as long as we have will begin to share even physical similarities.

Now that I am writing about this, I can say that our relationship is mostly an enjoyable mundaneness, punctuated on one end by inexplicable joys and unbearable melancholy on the other. As someone once said, it is inevitable that the person who takes you to the highest of highs will also be capable of bringing you to the lowest of lows.

It is a testament to how deeply intertwined two lives are, and while I do not relish the fights - oh, yes, we've had many of those - they are not unexpected, and I might say even necessary, as a couple does not achieve compatibility without knowing practically everything about their partner, some of which will be cause for great conflicts, and as years pass and people do sometimes change, you have to decide if these changes are not so insurmountable to accept, relying on the love, attraction and affection that brought the two of you together in the first place.

Whenever there are people who believe that we "would never last", I can't help but think how blameless they are for even thinking that way.

For starters, our parents were against one of the most salient parts of our very persons, a defining characteristic for both of us that they "disapproved". Which must account for songs like "I Will Survive" supposedly with our community in mind, because we learned early on to sink or swim, long before it was formally discussed in science class as a defense mechanism.

Happily, Arthur's brothers have been instrumental in making me still believe that families can go beyond their comfort zone and truly see past their preconceved notions. They have welcomed me openly into their family and I know this has been a large part of why we both feel grounded and solid as one family unit.

The same cannot be said for the other areas of our lives.

We would find no solace in our religions, which, for many people, is their source of strength and peace amidst the turbulent waters of life. Arthur was raised a Catholic, and I, a conservative Baptist. (The very definition of a double whammy.) Our respective religions constantly try to outdo each other to see how many young children and teenagers like we once were they could drive to suicide, seeing as we were fed from these "loving, peaceful" institutions a steady diet of the following words to describe us: evil, sinner, abominations, aberrations, freaks, kasuklam-suklam (worthy of the highest disdain), nakakasuka (vomit-inducing), and the only way we could ever be "accepted" would be to deny an integral part of who we are as humans, our sexuality.

(Side note: I still think conservative Baptists run circles around Catholics in the "neuroses" department.)

We would find no role models in popular media. There are no songs that celebrate our couplings, no wedding announcements that mirrored what we envisioned in our minds to be "perfect", no greeting cards to commemorate our unions. The only images I grew up with were of men covered up in hideous make-up, almost grotesque really, often clothed in garments that epitomized the term "flounce", who only served as fodder for cheap laughs, most often killed off in some gruesome end, implying "poetic" justice.

We would have no protection under the law. Whenever a member of our community would be beaten up, it would be justified as "trying to shine the light of God" into the life of a victim of violence, that their religion gives them the right to "teach" us some perverted "lesson" on what is "acceptable behavior", and anyone who would dare complain would be met with statements from perpetrators who, outrageously, use "religious freedom" as their defense for inflicting physical harm onto those they consider "unclean" and "unworthy".

Most couples like us, who would find no social support from institutions tradiitonally tasked with this important, vital function, have learned to see our friends as family. Given what we been through and still go through, this is not a statement we say lightly. We cherish the friends who honor us with their friendship, their affection and their laughter - a sweet sound, indeed, to hear them validate our relationship when they invite both of us to family dinners, when I am introduced to Arthur's former classmates as his "better half", when I bring Arthur over to social functions where I am constantly asked "When can we meet him?"

We also realize how difficult it must be for some of them to continue being friends with us, given their particular religious persuasions, with none of their faiths giving us the stamp of approval by any shot. We are grateful that, in those instances, they are able to connect with us on a basic level of what our shared humanity calls us to do, to treat each other for the persons we truly are, and not for the labels we attach, or what certain institutions insist on attaching.

When I look at the enormity of obstacles we have had to face to keep our union not only surviving, but thriving, and thriving most beautifully, I am covered with an enormous sense of gratitude that my partner continues to stand by my side and behind me, the same way I do with him. And my friends were right, it really is "amazing" that we are now on our fifteenth year, seeing as there is a resurgence of hatred and vitriol aimed at our particular community, and so many factors and forces bent on breaking us up, all for the absurd reason that our being together "offends" their "sensibilites".

We are together because we love and adore each other, and just like most everyone, we want to be with someone who will love us for who we are for as long as humanly possible. We did not get together with some nefarious agenda to "offend" others who think differently, nor did we ask for your "blessing", and we certainly are not asking for your "permission".

We will take your friendship and your love, if that is something you choose to share with us, and share freely. We cherish those who take the time to know us. As that is what we do with family and friends, we share, we laugh, we love.

And even though this has been said in countless ways, it bears repeating: wealth, power, positions, all of these will fade, but what matters, at the end of our lives, and what truly counts, is who and how we loved.

I am just overjoyed that I have love in my life. Thank you, my beloved. Here's to 15 years, and to even more years and more love in our lives.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"World Peace" According To Miriam

As a country obsessed with beauty pageants, I have little doubt that most Filipinos know the stock answer of every beauty pageant contestant, should a "difficult" question come up during their Q and A portion, oftentimes the deal breaker, determining who gets to be coronated as the winner in the said contest.

"World Peace."

I have made my feelings patently clear about these sorts of pageants, in my previous posts - anyone who uses physical attributes to replace the concept of their own self worth must not have a very substantial emotional or mental life - and while the issue of "allowing" transgenders in the Miss Universe contest is all the "rage" these days, I paid nominal attention to it as beauty contests are as relevant to my life as Mikey Arroyo claiming to be the representative of tricycle drivers and security guards.

Getting home late last night, I come in to find Arthur watching Tonight with Arnold Clavio, and the show's topic: Transgenders and beauty pageants.

I internally started rolling my eyes, but then he said: "I don't like what she (Miss Universe 1st runner up Miriam Quiambao) is saying and how she's saying it. It reeks of condescension."

To those who argue that beauty contests are "substantial", I rest my case.
(Courtesy of codamon.com)

Which immediately laid my eye-rolling to rest: A fortunate receipient of the adulation of this country's obsession with physical appearances finds something to be condescending about?

The guests that night were Quiambao and STRAP (Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines) Chairperson Naomi Fontanos.

As I am watching the show almost near its end, I really only have the segment I viewed to comment on, so the context will be based purely on that. (I am giving no weight to either participants' statements before the part I did catch.)

Fontanos talks about how she knows she was born with male organs, but that she has always felt a woman on the inside. And when Clavio cheekily asks whose "fault" it was for her predicament (of feeling like a woman despite being born a man organ wise), she responds humorously "yung doktor".

Later, Miriam takes the hand of Naomi, and starts off her "We Are The World" monologue: how she understands where Naomi is coming from, how in Naomi's mind these feelings are perfectly valid, and then she begins to veer away from it by saying that there are only two classifications of human beings: man and woman, and that her "beliefs" validate this view. (She's not saying the word "religion" although it is clear this is what she meant, and she will reveal this later.)

Fontanos responds by saying that she also respects Quiambao's view, and is hoping that Quiambao will return the same respect when she states how she feels internally. In short, she - paradoxically - is the better representative to espouse that oft-quoted "World Peace" line, where she advocates allowing people to have their own belief systems and not to let one's personal beliefs dictate how and what others should do in their own lives.

Alas, Miriam does not take this sitting down - I imagine the dialogue in her head to be something along the lines of "How dare this transgender talk to me, and lecture me about acceptance and tolerance! I, an almost-Miss Universe winner in 1999, who recently posed for the cover of Playboy, who knows and was trained how to verbalize World Peace in more than one way, being schooled about the "World Peace" concept!"

She does the next "logical" thing: she invokes her God.

"Pero, hindi naman yan katotohanan ko, katotohanan yan ng Diyos." (But it is not my truth, it is the truth of God.)

And as we all "know", once a person invokes "God", you supposedly cannot make any more rebuttals or criticisms, as that would be akin to "attacking" a person's religion.

I'd laugh harder at this kind of "reasoning", if only the consequences weren't so dire for us who have to live with this level of intolerance whilst those who claim "religious freedom" as their cornerstone for sprouting hateful missives adopt some illusory mantle of moral superiority and continue - pun intended - lording it over everyone else they deem inferior by the mere fact that others choose not to believe in the same god they do.

Hey, Miriam, religion is a choice. Get over yourself. Get off your soapbox.

I will not delve into the pros and cons of "allowing" transgenders into superficial pursuits. Even Naomi admits that beauty pageants are shallow and demean women. That pro-and-con list has been dissected over and over and most everyone has give their 5 (Philippines) pesos worth of opinions on.

You may have your own religious beliefs, Miriam, that is guaranteed under our Constitution, and under the laws of any democratic country. It is the very reason why - sorry, CBCP (Catholic Bishops's Conference of the Philippines) - there is no "state religion" in any democracy, as it infringes on an individual's right to choose what belief systems would be most compatible with their particular, individual lives.

In the same breath, you do not have the right to impose your own beliefs onto someone else, and force them to conform to something you have elected to subscribe to as a matter of personal faith. You may think Naomi is "lower" than you, that she is "not a real woman", and I'm sure your religion says much more delightful things about her, more than I can think of if I had to spend a whole day thinking of demeaning things to say under the imprimatur of "religious righteousness".

You're not an actress, Miriam, so don't bother trying to pass this off as a "misunderstanding" of your stance. The fact that you can smile while sprouting off such intolerant statements makes me cringe, but then again, we've had our local CBCP, Falwell, Santorum, Palin, Bush and many other religious zealots giving us practice on this very act: having an innocent, plastered grin while telling those who don't believe "in the same way as I do" that they will be put to death "in the next life".

One of the "heavy" arguments mentioned to me against allowing transgenders to join beauty pageants is that a popular question of this circuit is "what is the essence of a woman?", and the most deemed "correct" response is "to be a mother", and since transgenders are biologically unable to do so, then they should be barred from the contest.

So barren and reproductively challenged women are not "real women" as well?

And a woman who clings to her "religious beliefs", the ones that tell her that sex outside of marriage or artificial insemination are "sins", who do not have children given their particular situations, they are also "not real women"?

Should Miriam herself be declared "not a real woman" since, you know, she hasn't given birth? (Strangely, as Jessica Zafra pointed out in her recent piece, beauty pageant winners are stripped of their titles if they become pregnant during their "reign". Talk about mixed messages.)

And if you're going to be all huffy about being "right with God", you better make sure you've never signed divorce papers, effectively having your marriage "torn asunder".

Was this approved by your religion, too?
(Courtesy of getitfromboy.net)

Hey, if you can dish it, you should be able to take it. And the fact that you can't even uphold your own religious guidelines (I don't think getting a divorce and appearing on the cover of a "men's magazine" qualify you for your religion's Best Representative position..unless there are loopholes, yet again?), that's just a bonus.

Akala ko pa naman "world peace" ang isinusulong ng mga contests na to. (And here I thought "world peace" was a central thrust of contests like this.)

Just more magnificently applied lipstick-covered lip service.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm A Homebody. Sue Me.

Funny how some ideas for a post come from the most unexpected of places.

An old acquaintance emailed me, and after the pleasantries, a mini-nostalgia trip, and the compliment of saying she enjoyed reading my blogposts, she abruptly applied the brakes in mid-sentence, when she said "I didn't think you would like blogging on many places, things to do and sites to visit, your Facebook persona led me to think you were much more comfortable being a homebody."

(Courtesy of livingroomdesignidea.com)

It got me to thinking what I do post on my Wall.

Her observation is actually with merit, as I find that many of what I publicly post (for my "Friends" to see, anyway) are the recipes Arthur cooks up with me as "taste tester", and how we always enjoyed "stay-cations" long before it became some kind of online and marketing buzzword. (And, as usual, advertisers have found a way to co-opt it to their advantage, calling resort stays as "stay-cations". Reminds me of the time coffee was advertised as a "health drink".)

And admittedly, I always, always look forward to lying in our own bed after a lengthy stay elsewhere, and even though some places have sleeping arrangements that are worthy of gods, nothing can compare with the simple joy of placing your head in your slightly deformed pillow on a bed that "knows" your body contour intimately.

(Courtesy of interiorarcade.com)

Here, then, are some reasons why I find staying at home can often be a far superior experience than anything else offered outside of it, no matter how attractive and enticing.

(1) Gone With The Wind.

And by that, I mean the gassy fumes you exhume after a heavy meal, and just preceding a run to the bathroom to do the colloquial "No. 2". Home means never having to apologize for being human - part of which involves us farting, picking at various orifices for, uh, gunk, conveniently "forgetting" to fix your hair. In short, the actions that all of us do but would be mortified if it were exposed in a public setting, you would - pun intended - feel at home doing it, as these things are just as natural as breathing.

(2) Play A Love Game

I really, really loathe Public Displays of Affection, especially the torrid variety. As has often been noted, humans are the only creatures that seek privacy in lovemaking. (Exhibitionists and adult film stars, you are hereby excused from this generalization.) So when I see couples doing anything remotely resembling lovemaking in public, I get nauseous being forced to witness a peep show I don't recall paying for. (Believe me, the mental trauma is too hideously high a cost.)

Keep it in your pants, do it at home, don't perform in public.

(Courtesy of michaelnus.com)

Pwede?

(3) Far And Away

That's the one place our car won't be going. It will be parked, in a shaded, secured area (that is what we pay for), it will not be using up gas (Have you seen gas prices lately? Whoaa!!), we don't have to stress ourselves looking for a parking slot, we do not get tied up in gnarly traffic, and we won't deal with idiotic drivers who seem to think that motorcycles are meant to weave beside side mirrors, pedestrians who get down in the middle of the road and cross without looking, luxury cars (always an SUV) with policemen escorting them sans the wang-wang (but with blinkers and lights on, and the same cocky "law enforcers" angrily waving for people to get out of the way, or drivers who think texting and driving at the same time is a multi-tasking act that should be emulated by children.

We save gas, mileage is intact, zero chance of a car accident.

The car gets a vacation. I talked to him, he'd like more days like that.

(4) And The Living Is Easy

Home is a place where the vibe is naturally relaxed. By definition, it is your literal sanctuary from the stresses one encounters with any form of contact with other humans in the outside world. You can lay around, read a book (lately, my e-reader) from whatever position on the couch or bed (believe me, I've explored a number of them), and not really care if you can't find the remote, as the trashy reality show onscreen is numbing your neurons to the point of alcohol-induced stupor.

(5) Close To You

I've heard so many advice columnists saying how important it is to "jazz things up", take a night out on the town, make a grand romantic date where you have to wear clothes you'll only use twice in your lifetime at best, all in the service of keeping the spark alive in your relationship.

While those are certainly appreciated, I find that it is in the mundaneness of everyday life that you can actually gauge your compatibility the best: I can't tell you how many times washing the dishes has lead to an impromptu sing-along in our home, and why the appearance of a cockroach always elicits laughter from Arthur. (I find them hideously disgusting. Seriously. You want me to freak out in a way that would make Roseanne Barr blush? Just show me a cockroach.)

When there really isn't anything "exciting" to do or go to, is that person beside you the one you can stand being with? Or are you using these "social events" to mask the terrible truth that you would rather be anywhere else than trapped at home with the person you are supposed to be the most initmate with? (And I don't mean sex. Well, for the most part.)

(6) The Ugly Truth

You can talk freely about everything and everyone when you're at your own fort. The things that you have to edit saying because you still want to salvage a friendship, the nasty thought you keep to yourself about your co-worker. All of these are given free rein and room to come to life - and gossip about - when you're at home, whether you chat with a friend online, make a telebabad call (how 80's), or make snide remarks for you and your spouse to laugh about. A place to let your guard down, another reason why staying in is more fun.

In the Philippines, or anywhere else.

(7) Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These

A chance to catch up on much needed sleep, in surroundings and furniture that have been with you longer than you care to count. I have not checked the official statistics, but if our own lives are to be the gauge, I am confident that people are sleeping less and less these days, and the time you spend preparing for an "event" until you come back home could be better utilized in nocturnal pursuits.

I remember medical advice stating that we need 8 hours of sleep daily to function effectively. No wonder it's so hard to get things completely well done. I don't recall being able to sleep more than 8 hours straight in recent memory - until this Holy Week, and we were at home.

I slept close to that, or closer than I've ever been: 7 hours. Dang. That was a good snooze.

(8) I'm Sexy, And I Know It

You could go au naturelle, without the accompanying "what the hell gave her the right to strip here" stares in a sauna or nudist camp, or the possibility of an indecent conduct charge from a law officer. (Of course, those with kids have to be more prudent about this, as children have a knack for showing up where they're not wanted.)

And you'd have to keep the blinds closed.

Hands down, given a choice, I would prefer to stay home. Which is vastly different from a house. I thought I'd make that distinction patently clear: Just because your house is a picture perfect, Architectural Digest cover-worthy creation does not make it a home.

So, yes, I am a homebody. Who likes to go out occasionally. So when I rave about a place or anything else, it must be something worth leaving the comforts of home for.


Ehem.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Must Be A Masochist

That's the only logical reason I would agree to doing a Crossfit session on a Saturday, time I could have spent snoozing or lazing around.

Even my shoes were exhausted after Crossfit.

And I'm glad I did it, hence the title of this post.

I am in pain right now. The good kind, the one where you ache in places you never knew could ache so badly. Let me be clear, this is the kind of pain where you tax your muscular and respiratory systems in an attempt to improve your fitness level, and not the pain where a crazed killer comes at you with a hacksaw and chops you up for dinner.

I thought I had better than average cardiovascular fitness, but the exercises and movements that a Crossfit session squeezes in a half hour challenges both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. In layman's terms, it will test your body in terms of bursts and explosions of power, as well as endurance. It is a workout that incorporates high intensity movements that are functional, scalable (can be adjusted to your fitness level), drawing on Cardio, Track and Field, Plyometrics, Rowing, Gymnastics, and Weightlifting, among other modalities.

Checking out Crossfit Manila's website, you will certainly come across the acronym WOD. It stands for Workout Of The Day. The person guiding us first timers into this circle of pain...I mean, our Crossfit "trial" workout, was Byron. I felt a little better seeing the faces of my co-participants, they were anxious, mixed with a lttle nervousness.

Our WOD consisted of wall squats, pushups, box jumps and "burpees". I won't spoil the surprise of revealing what a "burpee" is, except to say that after the three preceding exercises, you may find the need to clobber the trainer for asking you to do one. (Fun fact: Latecomers are punished with burpees. Hint, hint.)

I've never seen so many people hunched over forward, hands on thighs and knees, gasping for every spare oxygen molecule available. I tried to finish a "set" quickly so I could rest longer, but that only signaled Byron to start the clock all over again for "another set!"

I swear, that timer of theirs is broken, it didn't seem to count down faster or nearer to zero.

Loved it.

If you are a longtime exerciser and need to "shake things up", a Crossfit routine will definitely shock you into realizing that your body may be capable of so much more than what you give it credit for. I envy those who have never exercised at all, in the sense that they will be approaching this as "virgins" and everything will seem new and fresh.

I highly recommend this new exercise modality, especially to people who are regulars of the "gym circuit", who may be facing boredom or stagnation in their fitness goals as a result of doing the same thing day in and day out. The WOD ensures that everyday will be a different workout experience, and in a time like today, where there is an emphasis to keep things simple so people can get on board the fitness bus, this is an "off the beaten track" car, definitely an adventure to ride out into places unknown.

And now, I must stagger home, lest the heat finishes off whatever vestiges of strength I have left after that exhilirating, excruciating workout.

Until the next session.

(Courtesy of naturalhealth.ph)



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Crossfit Manila
Philippine Army Gymnasium
Lawton Avenue corner Bayani Road,
Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines
0917-5331787

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Charity Is Now On The Ballot?

Between the rocket launch of North Korea and the tree cutting in Baguio, I didn't think I could get any more "startling" news yesterday, until I saw an item with a typically showbiz picture with a serious headline.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/29172/willie-revillame-forms-political-group-petitions-comelec-for-partylist-accreditation

The first reaction I had was a dumbfounded "HUH?!?"

Why would the host of a variety show be applying for accreditation from the government's election-overseeing body?

(Courtesy of videokeman.com)

It turns out that he is putting his charitable organization, I Wil Serve Foundation - a play on his name, obviously, as his show is entitled Wil Time, Big Time - front and center for election under our partylist system.

Is charity being marginalized?

Do we need to vote on whether charity should be allowed?

Do we need to inject bureaucratic paperwork for people intending to do philantrophy?

I don't "get it" for the simple reason that this course of action of Willie Revillame is anathema to what the Partylist System is all about.

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno7941primer.htm

As I understand it, the system is essentially a way to provide representation for underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Women, despite being the majority in the country, still do not have the same benefits and opportunites as men do, and need to be represented - with laws focused on them - to provide more equality.

The gay community, long cast out in our society's fringes, and even demonized on account of some religious beliefs, deserve the same rights as every other human being, and is definitely qualified on both the "underrepresented" and "marginalized" terms.

I do not see how a charitable organization - one that provides freebies and dole-outs - can ever be considered in the same zip code as the other two groups I mentioned. It harks back to the time when actor Richard Gomez tried to register MAD (Mamamayan Ayaw Sa Droga) as a partylist group as well. Gomez also figured recently in politics, running for Congress but being denied on account of some requirements, and on the proverbial last minute, his wife Lucy Torres-Gomez "took" his place and is now an elected legislator.

No wonder the idea of nepotism is alive and kicking in our country. What is this, Musical Chairs? I can't run, so my spouse should take my place?!? (Yes, it's a rhetorical question. I am just so exasperated that no one even blinks at this phenomenon anymore.)

Revillame has stated that he does not intend to run as the party's representative, but merely wants to push the organization named after him into our ballots.

I'm sure he does it out of the goodness of his heart.

Now excuse me while I go see my opthalmologist. I haven't stopped rolling my eyes ever since I laid them on this news article.

Other Places For North Korea's Missile Launch

Why are we always known for these kinds of things? And this time, through no fault of our own.

Our country is once again in the international news as North Korea prepares to launch its missiles towards somewhere near the northeastern region (technically, the waters near there). As of press time, the weather conditions have prevented our Asian neighbor - doing a very un-neighborly thing - to commence the launch, so this might be a good time to list some places where they might want to consider directing their missiles to, all of which are in North Korea!

Better yet, I have pictures!

(None of which are mine, as only 2000 Westerners are allowed in North Korea annually, according to the guidebook Lonely Planet. All these pictures have copyrights and are owned by Lonely Planet/Tony Wheeler/Jane Sweeney. Please see http://www.lonelyplanet.com/north-korea/images for full information.)







My personal pick would be the last picture, since the missile can land in the body of water beside a populated area. That is what they planned to do, but in our body of water near our populated area, yes? This way, you won't get any international sanctions/comments/diplomatic lashings, your people will accept anything North Korean leaders do anyway, and we will pretty much leave you alone to your own (nuclear) devices, since it only affects your country. (I would hate for the house on the topmost picture to be blown up, purely on the basis of aesthetic reasons.)

Kim Jong-Un, let's talk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Letter For Mr. Sy

Dear Mr. Henry Sy,

(Courtesy of forbes.com)

You don't know me, nor I you, at least not on any personal level. However, I know of you. In fact, I don't know of any Filipino who doesn't know about you in some way. Your malls have become a part of modern Filipino life, their ubiquitousness surpassed only by the eagerness by which people have been willing to throw money your way in lieu of the goods and services you provide.

For me, though, the marvel has been how you have reversed your fortune completely, upside down, from when you started as an immigrant in this country: I remember my mom telling me that she was even able to visit your very first store, a small one in an area not unlike Divisoria. Later on, as a child, My mom would take me to SM (Shoemart) in Cubao, as we lived close by, to buy school supplies, clothes and anything else needed for school.

Through the years, as your fortune and mall empire grew, the stories casting you in a negative light also grew alongside them: How you never made employees regular, in an attempt to escape the obligation of shouldering benefits mandated by law; how your rental prices have been exorbitant, with terms bordering on insufferable; how you would allow a tenant to come in, your people would supposedly study how that business ran, then you would kick that tenant out and consequently open a new store fashioned after the booted tenant.

I don't know if any of these accounts are true, as I have never worked in one of your malls as your employee nor opened a store and rented in your mall. But they are certainly persistent enough, as I hear them to this very day. And now, you are once again in the news, as word (and photos) of your empire cutting down trees in order for you to "expand" your interests in Baguio.

I did not take an interest in the working conditions that supposedly your employees suffered through, I rationalized that it was their choice, and they could find work elsewhere. But the issue of the trees being cut is something that affects not just you or your empire, but it has a direct bearing on the changing landscape - literally and figuratively - of Baguio.

The last time I was in Baguio, I noticed it shrouded in a pall of grey, a far cry from the lush green that characterized it as a summer destination as a child. It was a combination of the exhaust from so many vehicles, of the many buildings rising one on top of each other, the amount of people almost seemingly fused with the asphalt and cement they were walking on.

All of these were congregated on a single nucleus: SM Baguio. It seemed both people and cars were on their maddening way to your shrine to commerce, to part with their moolah for any number of goods or services that would grant contentment, albeit on a superficial level. The traffic surrounding the area was almost as bad as a Manila street, practically at a standstill, as cabs drop potential shoppers off, and pick up happy consumers, and trying their best to rush out to bring back more people to this center of modern Baguio life.

The first thought I had hearing about the tree cutting was "Does Henry Sy need to earn more?" Granted, our Constitution gives you the right to find happiness, and I have no doubt you find much joy in earning money. But at what cost will your happiness cost everyone else, Mr. Sy? If the stories I have heard about your business practices are true, then the tree cutting we are witnessing presently is a testament to the horror that those tales present: You are willing to step on and discard anyone - or anything - in order for you to gain wealth and maintain, and possibly improve, your standing in the Forbes list of richest men, among Filipinos, Asians, and the world's billionaires.

Friends have commented that the issue of land erosion is one area you have not considered in all this. On the other spectrum, I know friends who actually champion your actions, as it will provide jobs, strengthen the local economy, and other benefits related to a business expanding.

I am not a scientist, an economist, an environmental specialist, nor do I have a lofty title before or after my name. I am just a Filipino wondering aloud, if you need to cut down trees to add to your coffers, already in the billions, when will it ever be enough?

Are the stories of your ruthlessness in business true, Mr. Sy? I find it hard to reconcile this image with your origins, of someone who knows how hard it is to have nothing. Your background leads me think that you would have a natural empathy and affinity towards fairness, ethical behavior, working hard without taking advantage of others, champion of an even playing field.

I am still hoping that the stories about you aren't true.

A business as large as yours owes the community it operates on to practice Corporate Social Responsibility.

Where the trees are concerned - in an age where recycling paper has become almost an obligation - I hope your company makes the right decision.


The Guy With A Blog

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rorscharch Blots, Philippine Edition

I'm seeing a couple of pictures on Facebook right now that, in light of the recently concluded religious holiday, are bound to raise the local temperature even higher. And no, this has nothing to with sex. It has to do with the other topic bound to get one, uhm, hot.



I grabbed these off various friends' Facebook accounts, and all these pictures had the link named Duke Erwin. I saw one more shot as well (below), which wasn't too well "publicized".


Having grown up with Madonna (the pop singer), Sinead O'Connor, and other artists who view blasphemy as an individual right - one that is affirmed by the United Nations - I do not find these images shocking, in the least bit. (See http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39170&Cr=human+rights&Cr1= to view the General Comment of the UN.)

What I found interesting, however, were the reactions of those who, shall we say, consider themselves defenders of religion/s, with an implicit assumption of being morally superior.

"One retarded asshole!"

"May kulang sa larawan...pako!" (Missing from the photo...nails!)

"Sna buong ktwn n nya mpko pra msya" (Her entire covered in nails would be fun.)

"B*tch!"

"Sarap ipukpok ang krus sa pepe nya!" (It would be delightful to hammer that cross in her vagina!)

Side note, something I've thought previously: Wouldn't the biggest blasphemers be someone from a different religion than yours? I would think that the underlying statement would be "No, I don't believe in your God, because my God is the real deal." And another meta-message of someone with another religion would be "Your God is fake. Mine is the only one worthy of praise." It is strange that those who feel that strongly about their faith do not wage war against other religions.

Oh, wait a minute. They do.

Carry on, then.