I write this blog on the occasion of Dr. Jose Rizal’s 153rd birthday. Read More
As I write this, our country is still reeling from the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Sendong (international name Washi) in Mindanao. Read More
For those who want to join in on the fun, it’s not too late. Just lace up, head out the door and start running.
I thought it might be a good idea to encourage more people to stay fit throughout the most tempting season.
After the recent hijacking incident involving a military official who hijacked a bus load of foreign nationals and some Filipinos, another public uproar emerged when his casket was draped with the Philippine flag. I had twitted that I was of the view that this was inappropriate.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted the Chinese embassy’s statement:
“The person who deserves a national flag at the funeral should be someone of heroism, decency and integrity, not someone who inflicts atrocity on innocent lives. This is nothing but a smear on the dignity of the Philippine national flag.”
PDI further quoted Director Leocadio Santiago Jr., the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office saying that they did not give the Mendoza family the flag, but that if the family draped his coffin with a flag, they could not forbid it.
Section 2 of Republic Act No. 8491 otherwise known as the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines” states that:
“Reverence and respect shall at all times be accorded the flag, the anthem, and other national symbols which embody the national ideals and traditions xxx”
Sec 24 of the said law further states:
“The flag may be used to cover the caskets of the honored dead of the military xxx”
The respect that must be accorded our Philippine flag, which the law states “embodies our national ideals and traditions” is blatantly disregarded when the flag is draped over the casket of a person who caused the loss of lives of innocent people. To do so would be a distortion of our ideals and values as a people. Likewise, Captatin Mendoza, cannot be considered an honored dead of the military. Consequently, the Philippine flag should not have been draped over his casket.
After my conference in Geneva, I flew to London. I had requested the Philippine Embassy to set-up a dialogue with the Pinay OFWs, particularly the nurses. I have been working on our problem brought about the migration of our health professionals and knowing that we had a large number of nurses in the UK, I wanted to meet them.
Before the meeting, I chatted with Ambassador Lagdameo who is an old friend of my mom and dad. He knew my parents when they were still studying in the University of Michigan and actually gave me my very first present when I was born! Imagine that. It was a delight chatting with him. I asked him and Con Gen de Vega about their visit to the queen where the ambassador presented his credentials and they had to bow and curtsy 3x in keeping with protocol.
I was delighted to be among such an empowered group of Pinays! Among others, the group included a nurse, teacher, businesswomen, solicitor, domestic worker, chef and urban planner.
We had a lively discussion at the Embassy. Ambassador Lagdameo and Consul General Tess de Vega welcomed everyone. I began by giving the women a background of the issues affecting women and why I believe legislation and policies still need to be improved. I talked to them about the Magna Carta of Women. I also mentioned the Millennium Development Goals and the salary standardization law (see my previous blog on the discrepancy between the salaries men and women. I explained my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), where I currently am the President of the Women Parliamentarians.
For this talk, I focused on migration issues and how migration affects both the OFWs and the families left behind. I emphasized the need to create more programs directed at the social impact on OFWs and their families.
After my talk, we had an open forum to give the women a chance to air their views and concerns. Many of them spoke of the long hours they endured to send money back home. Many worked 2-3 jobs! But despite the long hours, they felt rewarded and fulfilled in their ability to improve their standards of living and provide for their families.
They also spoke of the difficulty of being away from their families, the frustration of not getting the support and understanding they needed from loved ones back home. Many nodded their head, when one woman spoke about the despair of working so hard and yet feeling unappreciated.
They were a hardy happy set of women, confident about the lives they made for themselves in the UK. They spoke of improving their support system for newcomers to help them adjust to the lifestyle in the UK and the need to encourage Pinays to get better by getting a better education.
The next day I went to the Financial Learning Campaign sponsored by the Central Bank and the Philippine Embassy. I think this is a great program and committed my support for continuing financial literacy programs for the OFWs and their families back home.
In between those meetings, I was able to visit a few historic sites including the Tower of London and West Minister Abbey. I am an enthusiastic student of history, including English history. And I was thrilled to visit the places, I had only read about in the past. I have always believed that we can learn a lot if we look back into history.
Suffice it to say, at a time where women were subservient to men, England had a succession of Queens that ruled the land. Each of these Queens have their own stories to tell. I’ve been reading about the lives of queens, including Queen Katherine of Aragon (first wife of King Henry VIII), Queen Mary and her sister Queen Elizabeth (daughters of King Henry VIII). If I can find the time, I hope to blog about my thoughts on the lessons we can learn from the women and the Queens of England in 15 and 16 century England.
We found ourselves in Desaru, Malaysia when the 70.3 Ironman Putrajaya was suddenly postponed. We had trained for months and were ready to race. Ani de Leon instantly found another race, just 1 week after the original race we trained for. It was called the Desaru Long Distance Triathlon (2k swim-90k bike-21k run).
Our small Philippine contingent consisted of National tri-champ Ani de Leon, Phil team triathlete and now Coach Peter Gonzalez, my training partner Joey Torres and me. Ani’s boyfriend Patrice also joined us. We flew into Singapore and caught a 30 minute ferry to Malaysia.
None of us had ever been there. The roads were beautiful, perfect for biking. Unfortunately, the hotel we stayed in was not as nice as the roads. It was run down, there were leaking pipes in the bathroom, and there was hardly any food in the restaurant. We had rice and eggs every meal. Breakfast buffet was..all you can eat rice and eggs. Buti na lang girl scout ako. I had gone food shopping in Singapore and bought fruits and yogurt and some bread.
On Friday morning, we got on our bikes in search of food. We biked about 25km til we found heaven – a Petronas station with a store. We loaded our back packs (I loaded Joey’s since I did not have one) with instant noodles, drinks and chocolate bars.
Race morning breakfast was boiled water in the coffee pot and voila..instant noodles and egg. We biked to the Desaru Golden Beach Resort where the race would start. Nadine, my daughter and Che would be our water girls and cheering squad rolled into one.
The swim turned out to be a mini-roller coaster. I felt I was moving up and down, not forward. Thankfully, I made it and transitioned into the bike segment. I loved that bike course! The roads were smooth and wide, rolling hills without too many turns.
Soon enough, I was on to the last segment – the run.It would take me about two hours. Course was hilly with one killer hill where I found most people walking. I didn’t walk it, but I could feel the strain on my calves going up that hill. We passed the Desaru Golden Beach Club a couple of times.This was the best part. Spectators and supporters waited there, cheering and handing out refreshments. Nadine and Che handed us water, energy bars and whatever they had.
Halfway through the run, I was running towards the crowd of people, and I spot Nadine holding out a banana. She shouts,” Mommy, mommy, banana?” As I pass her, I shout back, “Later, later, after the turn around.”
Throughout that turn-around I dream of that banana. All I have had for the last 4:30 hours is water, some energy drink and gel. 4k later I am back. I can practically taste the banana. I imagine its sweet taste, the potassium and whatever other nutrients a banana has flowing thru my veins and nourishing my body to give me 1 more hour worth of strength and speed.
As I approached Nadine, I shouted, “Banana! Banana!”
My daughter replies, “Sorry mommy, its gone.”
I said, “What?! Why? What happened?”
“The monkey ate your banana, mommy.”
What can I say? In some triathlon races, you look out for cars, in others you look out for potholes on the road. In Desaru, you look out for monkeys…and your banana.
I took 6th place in the age group 35 and up. Ani took 5th place in her age-group and Peter Gonzalez took 2nd. Not bad for our small Philippine contingent. We dedicate our race to President Cory Aquino.
Like many other women, I’m a trimom. I had promised Nadine that after my race, I was all hers. She wanted to go swimming and show me her dive. So we swam in the pool, and then headed to the beach to catch the waves. Then we we went back to our hotel to pack-up and eat.
What was our post-race meal?… but of course more noodles and eggs.
How do you spend a day in Hong Kong with the Running Priest?
Contrary to what many of my friends guessed, there was no running (we’ve done that), no mass, no confession (at least not real confession). But it was still a cardio-packed day filled with spiritual reflection, thought-provoking conversation and inspiration.
I went to Hong Kong upon the invitation of Fr Robert Reyes, otherwise known as the Running Priest. A few weeks ago he was at the Senate and told me about his current work with OFW cancer stricken patients and survivors. He wanted me to meet them and see what we could do to help them.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the meeting held in the Philippine Consulate. What transpired was an emotional yet extremely inspirational 2 hour dialogue. There are clear gaps in policies and laws which I am looking into. I will cover this in a separate blog.
The next day, Fr Robert and I agreed, or should I say, connived to show my staff and friends a different side of Hong Kong. I had been to Lamma Island a few years ago and was excited to go back.. We met at Central station and took a ferry to Lamma. That alone was an adventure because I get seasick very easily. Thankfully, it was a short 25 minute trip and I managed a smile soon as my feet touched land.
We were introduced to island life by the sight of bicycles parked by the pier. This is how people got around in Lamma. No cars, just bicycles and a few miniature vehicles that transport goods. Even their ambulance and fire trucks were miniature versions.
Fr Robert explained to the group that we would walk to the other side of the island. You could hear the sound of resistance to Father’s plan but Father simply said, that’s where we are eating, so if you want to eat, you have to walk… end of story.
After passing thru the commercial area, we found ourselves in the midst of forest cover walking to the beat of bird sounds. Fr Robert pointed out the burial sites which seemed to almost blend with the forest.
Our first stop was the Portiuncula Monastery. We met the contemplative sisters, headed by Sister Mary Ann. They served us cold orange juice and told us about the distance learning program they offer to OFWs. Sister Mary Ann explained that the objective was to keep the modules as simple and relevant as possible to enable to students to study and comprehend the lessons on their own.
Leslie, an OFW walked me thru the course she was taking. I was amazed! The topics were very relevant to the lives of the OFWs. One sample test was to make a marketing plan for the sale of pre-paid cards to other OFWs.
Our next stop was the taho carinderia. Since the Chinese version of taho is served without sago, I took out my bag of trail mix (nuts and dried fruit) and passed it around to be added as toppings.
More walking…. Fr. Robert then announced that we would make a stop to visit Joey Dyogi, an OFW who has end-stage kidney failure. Although, he no longer works, Joey is still able to avail of subsidized treatment from the Hong Kong government because he was working as a professional and was a permanent resident at the time he got sick. Contrast this with our domestic helpers who lose their benefits once they are no longer employed and who cannot attain permanent residency status despite the number of years of work.
The main path then led to the beach. After walking in the heat, the urge to jump in the water was almost irresistible. How I wished I had a swimsuit.. I didn’t and neither did anyone else, so we just took more pictures.
The next segment of our walk was hilly and hot. We entertained ourselves with storytelling, jokes and phone calls from people who Fr Robert wanted me to touch base with.
Finally, we reached the other side of the island. We sat down for lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon just in time to catch the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.
What did we take home from this trip? Because it was led by the Running Priest, our stops were not the usual tourist stops. The people we met and interacted with along the way had stories that affected us, changed us.I think my staff was inspired to take their fitness to the next level. We also felt a deeper appreciation of nature walking thru the well-preserved island devoid of vehicles and traffic. I picked up lessons, I will use to work on legislation and policies for our OFWs.
I plan to go back and take my kids there. They have been on nature walks, they have climbed Mt. Pulag. But I want them to see Lamma Island where it seems modern living and nature have found a way to co-exist.
Every year I am asked why do a run to celebrate women’s month? My answer is because running is empowering. We gain strength and confidence in the company of other women.
We feel good when we run. We may be tired, but when we finish our run, we feel accomplished, proud and happy!
A lot of women are scared to run for the first time or to run a longer distance, but when they do, the feeling is indescribable! And it shows in their smile! I know, because I’ve felt this many times. And last Sunday, women came up to me telling me the same thing.
Whether we are moms, wives, daughters, professionals, employees, students or young girls, we should be proud of who we are.
We should never be scared to pursue our dreams (see my related article Phooey to Limitations, Yes to Possibilities). No one should tell us we are not capable of doing something because we are women. On the contrary, because we are women, we shall excel!
As a mom, I want my girls to have good role models. I want them to be inspired. I want them to meet trailblazing women who beat the odds. At the Pinay in Action Run, I saw lots of these women. And I am so happy my daughters saw and met them too.
Did you enjoy your run? Were you inspired by other women runners? I’ve posted the links of some of the blogs about the Pinay in Action run. I enjoyed reading their stories. If you have a story to share, we would love to hear about it .
The Pinay in Action 2009 Race Day by: imom
On Sunday, March 29th, my alarm clock went off at 4:45 AM to wake me up and hub and iPatch and VGood and Nate.
My first race was going to be a family affair!.. (more)
Running with Friends: by Penny
It was a beautiful day for for the Pinay In Action fun run at the SM Mall of Asia grounds. The race for the 10k and 5k participants started at 6:14am (behind schedule for both, by the way). The sun was out but it wasn’t too hot. and there were LOTS of runners. Although it was an “all-women run” there were actually more than a handful of men who ran with us. Also children and pet dogs. ..(more)
1o kilometers: by Regina
I have never seriously run a fun run before. Previously, I and some other troopers only walked in armor, and finished the shortest route, just to raise awareness for the cause..(more)
Pinay in Action with Workmates: by runpinayrun
Finally get to run a race with my co-workers! We always fail meeting up prior to the race so we end up not seeing each other after everyone crosses the finish line..(more)
At the end of the run, we gathered near the stage and awarded the winners (list of winners are on pinayinaction.com. Participants and spectators also took time to visit the different booths that were set up for various causes close to women such as the breast cancer detection booth set up by my friend Dr Cecille Montales, cervical cancer by GlaxoSmithKline, violence against women by Women’s Media Circle and various health products for women.
After the awarding, I headed home, went to church and gave thanks for this day.
Early Monday morning, just when I felt I needed inspiration, I got a text message from my training partner, partner are you up? I am just at Tito Rommie’s house chatting with him and Nino, text me when you are ready to train.
I suddenly was no longer sleepy. I texted him right back and said, pick me up. I quickly dressed, grabbed yesterday’s newspaper that had Nino’s picture on it, my sign pen and my new flip. I wanted to congratulate a champion and get his autograph for my daughters who both play tennis.
And that’s how I met 16 year old, Francis Casey Alcantara. He looked like any other high school kid to be honest, except that he happened to be the 2009 Australian Open Junior Boys Doubles Champion – – the first Filipino to win a Championship in a Grand Slam Tennis Tournament.
What makes a champ? Is it genes and talent? Hours of training? Discipline? Commitment? Support? I think its all of the above.
Ask any coach and they will tell you they’ve seen lots of talents come and go. But without commitment and training, the athlete won’t get that far.
Rommie Chan, one of Philippine tennis long time sincere supporters, relates how he spotted this kid many years ago. He says he saw potential, but from experience he knew that it required major commitment and hours of training for this boy to move up.
When Nino was 13, Rommie Chan asked him how serious he was, desedido ka ba na ituloy-tuloy ito? Imagine at the tender age of 13, when most kids his age are just worrying about what to wear the next day, he was being asked to decide about his future.
And at 13, this young boy made a choice that he would forego normal things teen-agers do. He would practice every day after school and do whatever it took to succeed.
And this is where his mentors, supporters and coaches came in. Because Nino wanted to stay in school, Rommie Chan had to send his coaches to train him in his home town in Cagayan de Oro. During the summers and school breaks he came to Manila to train. His supporters funded his travels around the world so he could compete and hone his skills. Today, he is a high school senior in Xavier University, the only juniors player in the world’s top 30 junior tennis player who is still in school.
A few days ago he made history. He became the first every Filipino to win a grand slam tennis tournament (junior boys doubles).
But it doesn’t stop there. Being a junior’s champ is not enough for him and for all the people who saw him get this far. He dreams to compete on the center court of the grand slam tournaments, where the big boys play. And once again this teenager, at 16, has committed to put in long hours and do whatever it takes to get him to the next level.
What spirit this boy has – a Philippine icon at the age of 16. To honor him, I filed and sponsored Senate Resolution no. 860 commending him for his hard work and accomplishments.
I salute you Nino, and all those who made this happen “ your parents (his dad sadly passed away a few years ago), your mentors and coaches.
Galingan mo pa, maraming naniniwala at humahanga sa iyo.