Gabriel was never well enough to have an operation. But through the foundation we named after him, we have been able to fund operations that put smiles on hundreds of young faces
Like every night before our 12-hour multi-sport event in memory of my son Gabriel, I get very little sleep. Read More
My son Gabriel lived for 9 months. Every September, we celebrate his short life with a 12 hour event in his memory. Friends come to run, walk, bike or do a triathlon. By doing this, our foundation, Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation, raises funds for kids who are disadvantaged either because of a disability, sickness or poverty.
I like to think of it as a venue for families to have a day of fitness and fun while helping others. My own kids have done different things over the years. The first year, they actually biked and ran throughout the day stopping only to eat and rest. The succeeding years, they did the kids tri. This year, they both ran the 3k run with their friends. Anthony Pangilan and his son Donny won the Parent and Child buddy run (official results of all the events will be posted on Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation).
The kids triathlon and aquathlon was fun as always. Coach Ani de Leon’s Super Kids, our future national triathletes were there in full force. Three year old Kira Ellis was our youngest participant (youtube video of super kids).
Fresh from the CamSur 70.3 Ironman, my tri-friends, organized themselves into groups to do an ironman relay. There were 12 teams in all, including two all girls teams called Little Twin Star and Hello Kitty! The Carpo sisters crossed the finish line with their teammates in colorful head gear and attire. Similarly, the sea princess, Tessa Prieto Valdes biked in her tutu. Inspired by all this, I told Ani and Mailet, we should have a best in costume award next year!
Some of the visually impaired kids, beneficiaries of our Foundation were there too. They did a demo swim, which prompted me to tell their coach that they may want to train and participate in the aquathon next year.
Later that morning they did a demo of table tennis specially designed for visually impaired individuals. We have donated 2 of these tables to blind schools and has committed to donate some more.
We also forged a new tie-up with Carewell Community, a foundation dedicated to provide support for cancer patients and their families. We did a Carewell Bikes for Hope and raised funds both for Gabriel’s foundation and Carewell.
And of course, my friend, Maiqui Dayrit, did his 5th ironman. Every year, he worries that he is not in shape. But regardless of the shape he is in, he does his 3.8k swim, 180k bike and 42k run. He is by far, the foundation’s, longest running, largest individual donor. God bless your heart and keep you healthy and running strong Maiqui!
As Maiqui was finishing his run, my brothers and some friends on a whim, decided to do a 200 meter sprint. The arrangement was regardless of who wins, the group would donate to the foundation. The run lasted all of a few seconds but it was totally fun watching them.
Then we came up with the idea of having my senate staff do the same 200 meter sprint. Some of the women in my office are quite fit… In fact, three of them Mich, Marvee and Karen did their first sprint triathlon relay in the UP College of Law Dean’s Cup a few weks ago.
There was just too much that happened that day for me to be sad. I miss my son every day of my life. But so much goodness has come out of his short life. I thank everyone who has made this day memorable, for taking time to join us and for making a difference in the lives of children.
This is a refrain from a song in my ipod shuffle, which I hear a couple of times a week when I’m out biking or running. I often ponder on that song and wonder what I have done to make, not only myself proud, but my parents, and the people around me? I wonder if people ever ask themselves what they have done to be proud of this country.
I had planned on posting this on June 12 in celebration of independence day, but as usual got caught up with a billion things. Delayed as it is, I think we should all ask ourselves that question. As a human being, as a God fearing Filipino, does my existence contribute to the general welfare of the people around me, my country? Do I complain about what’s wrong with this country before asking myself what have I done to make it better?
It’s a serious question but depending on your mood, you can answer it lightly or with as much as serious thought as you wish to put into it.
I’m choosing to answer this from a personal point of view, as in what I am personally proud of, and also collectively, as in my views on what we as a people can be proud of¦
1. As a mother, I am proudly raising my two daughters to be responsible citizens who care about others and the environment we live in. During the summer, I had each of them list their energy-saving tips and ways of saving the environment (subject of a future blog). I try to expose them to all aspects of Filipino life, so they understand that there is still so much poverty around us and that each of us can do something to make a difference. I want them to be cognizant of the fact that life is tough for many. Their baby brother Gabriel did not have an easy life. He could not breath without assistance, could not eat without a tube in his mouth.
So every year, we celebrate Gabriel’s life with a 12-hour fundraising and awareness multi-sport event for the benefit of children with disabilities (www.gabrielsymphony.com). I hope my daughters will grow up to be compassionate Filipinos who care about the well-being of others.
2. We Filipinos take pride in our love of family and respect for our elders. We take care of our parents and grandparents. We are proudly the best caregivers in the world, from doctors to nurses to caregivers; our professionals are sought worldwide. But government must not lose focus on the fact that as we supply the world with our human health care professionals, we must also plan on how to take care of our own. These were some of the issues I have been working on locally and abroad, most recently at the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Cape Town last April (future blog). We need to focus on improving access to healthcare for our own people.
3. I am proudly promoting the cause of health and fitness. I cannot talk enough about how important it is for each one of us to be responsible for our own health. It does not come for free. One must eat well, exercise and live a healthy life. For more on my health agenda, visit my official website www.senatorpiacayetano.com
4. I am proudly fighting for a greener cleaner Philippines. We are working on the passage of the sustainable forest management bill. We are also trying to increase awareness and compliance with our solid waste management law (RA 9003). More and more Filipinos are aware of the need to segregate waste. And yet according to Ecowaste Coalition, of the 42,000 barangays only 2,000 have a segregation program and an MRF (material recovery facility). Is there one in your barangay?
5. We were all born into this country that is rich in natural resources. I am proudly sponsoring bills to declare many of these areas as protected areas. I have called on Filipinos to vote for Tubattaha and our other natural treasures on www.new7wonders.com. But what have we each done to contribute to the preservation of these Philippine wonders? There are rivers and mountains that need to be restored and rehabilitated all over the country. You can each take up a cause close to your heart. (there are a lot of causes, more on these in future blogs)
6. I am proudly working towards the attainment of our Millennium Development Goals in 2015. We need to decrease our infant, child and maternal mortality rates. Today, there are still many women in the rural areas who die of childbirth, simply because they do not have access to a childbirth attendant (a certified midwife, nurse or doctor). Many newborns are underweight, malnourished and sickly because their mothers did not have pre-natal care. Access to prenatal care is vital.
7. I am proudly promoting breastfeeding. Many mothers still do not know that they are capable of exclusively feeding their baby for the first six months with their breastmilk without the need of supplementing with formula milk or food (visit my breastfeeding blog on www.bestforbabies.wordpress.com)
8. Filipino women are the bedrock of our homes and our society. I proudly support women empowerment thru my Pinay In Action programs. Every year, we celebrate Women’s Month in March with an all-women’s run and expo. My team, headed by national team tri champ Ani de Leon goes around the country giving talks on empowerment to young girls and teaching them how to run.
9. I proudly support the Philippine teams that compete in international competitions. These athletes work hard, despite the limitations in training facilities, financial and sometimes even moral support. They persevere and excel..and bring glory to our country.
I could spend a whole day on this list. But the point of this exercise is to get people to think, just as the song goes, â€œwhat have you done today to make you feel proud?
September 11, 2001, I was in the coffee shop of a hotel when the news of the twin tower attack reached us. It was horrible horrible news. I was left thinking of all the families who had lost a parent, a sibbling, a loved one. I kept wondering how would they cope…how would they go on after that..
I had no way of knowing that a week later, September 19, 2001, I too would suffer such a devasting loss..On a day that was otherwise a regular working day to most moms, a school day for most kids, my only son and baby, Gabriel, breathed his last.
That day i walked out of the hospital, not like most moms with a content sleeping baby in her arms. I walked out carrying a baby who no longer breathed. As I stood in the parking lot with Gabriel in my arms, I realized the cool air brushed against his cheeks for the first time. If he could open his eyes, he would have seen the beautiful sky..How I wished that he had been normal, that I would have been blessed to see him grow, to run after his sisters, to learn to ride a bike..But that was not God’s plan and I had to accept it..
Many days before that in the middle of a run, I would find myself thinking that one day he will be gone and I will know sadness as I have never known it before. How will I cope? How will I go on?
When he died, I had to break the news to my children, Max who was then 6 and Nadine who had just turned 3. Max cried silently when I told her. Nadine didnt seem to understand then. But today, 6 years later, Nadine comes to me crying saying she misses her brother. I end up crying with her because I miss him too.
Last September 9, we celebrated our annual 12 hours in Memory of Gabriel (www.gabrielsymphony.com). I ts a fundraising multi-sport event we organize where we invite people to join us for 12 hours of walking, running or biking to raise funds for children with disabilities..Every year, I strive to make it more family friendly to encourage more people to come. I want it to be a venue for families to have a fun time, enjoying a beautiful day outdoors and at the same time raising awareness about kids who have special needs. I want my kids to know that their brother was special in many ways – special in the medical sense, because he had special needs – he could not see and hear. He would have never talked, walked or read a book. But also special because, through him, other kids would have a chance at a better life.
We also had Maiqui Dayrit do his 3rd ironman distance triathlon (swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run 42km) and this year we also had a woman! Ge Santiago did an ironman distance as well! Both Maiqui and Ge went out of their way to get friends and family sponsor them, thereby raising more funds for our cause.
Maiqui, did an amazing race in just over 11 hours. He actually finished before it got dark. I did not know what to do with him because he looked so fresh and was happy just hanging around the area waiting and cheering for Ge.
The girls decided to do a “girl power” and keep Ge company in the run. Ani and Angeline (Labs to George and the tri community) ran with her almost from the start. I joined in later.Way after the sun had set, my kids, the Torres kids,their dad Joey, my brothers and other friends were still playing soccer and cheering on Ge everytime we passed by..
Maxie and her best friend Amanda, feeling they were tri-veterans, didn’t train for the triathlon. On race day, they winged it on the swim, biked comfortably and dragged their feet on the run, but in the last hundred meters, managed a sprint!
As we packed up, I couldnt help but think what a beautiful day this has been…I realized I had not cried that day..It was filled with so many good things –it was one big celebration of Gabriel’s life (he would have been 7 this year), everyone said they had fun and we raised funds for lots of disabled and disadvantaged kids..I had truly momentarily forgotten my sadness..And then I remembered one of my favorite songs in church which goes “You have turned my mourning into dancing…You have turned my sorrow into joy..”
Truly, on that day, God in his wisdom and grace had turned my sorrow into joy.
Thank you to everyone who joined us, thereby bringing joy to the lives of other children.
P.S. Pictures of the event to be posted soon on mydailyrace.multiply.com
How does a sleepytrigirl who has been a night owl most of her adult life become a triathlete or a morning athlete -runner, cyclist whatever?
It was a process. It started with the death of my son… Running consoled me..
As I added on the mileage, I decided to train for a marathon (the Chronicle Marathon in SF in 2002) to help me deal with my grief. At that time, I was an entrepreneur then working at home, which allowed me to do my runs at sunset, my favorite time. Before that I was a practicing lawyer, doing my runs in the evenings and weekends.
But right after the marathon, I was so sick of running and needed something else to do. My brother Lino, friends Earl Medina and Patrick Joson kept bugging me to try the tri. Lino lent me his yellow mountain bike that he bought, I think, in the supermarket. I’m not kidding!
Despite my bike being an eyesore and my not knowing which was the front or back side of my bike helmet, I managed to learn to ride with cleats and even survived a few scrapes and stitches..
I disciplined myself to sleep earlier than normal so I could wake up earlier than normal to bike. After about a month of this, I had to leave for the US to be with my dad who was very sick…He needed a liver transplant and as it turned out, Lino gave our dad, 2/3rds of his liver…
We eventually took my dad home. I did my first duathlon that weekend (5k run-20k bike-2.5k run). Lino also joined and finished the race, a mere 4 months after the liver transplant. I actually won that race. Sadly, my dad died the week after…Lino and I went for a run when they took him away. It was the only way I knew how to console myself.
I continued to do duathlons, waking up early to bike or run. Fast forward a few months, I ran, uhh.. I mean, I ran for public office as a senator. I squeezed in a run or bike wherever I was. Some of the more memorable ones were, running around a church compound in the pouring rain.. running in a state-of-the-art track oval on a moon-lit night in Lanao del Norte, surrounded by soldiers and the PSG.. biking through Cavite, just me and Dags (our ever reliable former Tour, now bike mechanic), shaking hands with people in the jeeps and going down at every market we passed… Oh, and how could I forget, biking up Baguio via Marcos highway.
As fate would have it, I won, became a senator and went back to a more predictable training schedule – that is morning bike rides and runs 4-5 days a week before starting my workday and 1 or 2 afternoon/early evening sessions. Last year, I started swimming regularly and made the shift from duathlon to triathlon. Today, I do both.
How does a sleepytrigirl do it? Believe me, with much difficulty. I come from a family of late sleepers. I’m used to working past midnight. When I reviewed for the bar exam, I studied til 3 am in the morning everyday, ran in between review classes, joined a half marathon a month before the bar exams and got typhoid fever, but that’s another story…I guess that’s just the kind of schedule that works for me…
These days I’m a sleepytrigirl who needs to constantly review her schedule to balance work and family time, speaking engagements, meetings, study time, training and yes, sleep… I have no fixed sleeping time, and no fixed waking time. Some days, though rarely, thank God, I’m up at 5am (like the days when I biked from my house to Batangas). Other days, even more rarely, thank you, thank you God (!!!), I sleep at 6 am (when we had marathon sessions in the senate and the day after election- that’s at the campaign headquarters). I just do what I can every single day.. and at night, my girls and I thank God for all the blessings.. and then, I pray that my daughters let me sleep and I wake up with a smile without having to hit the snooze button 10x.
Why do I do it? Because…
– i like being fit, I hate being fat and I love to eat.
– i love to race…and race well. But I need to train well, if I am to race well..After the grueling campaign period, Philippine team manager Melvin Fausto signed me up for and olympic distance duathlon (10k run-40k bike-5k run). I knew I would suffer…After the first 10k run and the 40k bike, I was dragging my feet to finish the last 5k. I was so slow, I was almost walking and one of the race marshals, Rene Zablan, who was on a bike beside me kept saying, “out of shape ka ‘no?”..and, “gusto mo nang maglakad ‘no?” I wanted to bop him. But everything he said was true and I realized it wasn’t fun doing this when you haven’t trained well.
-I love being around all these disciplined crazy people who work hard and persevere in the pursuit of victory.
-I love seeing friends and meeting new people at races.
-I love the bond I have with my dua/tri/cycling friends, some of whom have become very good friends.
– when Im out there running and biking, I have peace.
Please check pinayinaction.multiply.com soon for more updates on running, triathlon, fitness and women’s health.