“My friend, Thomas, is getting married on March 15.”

This was the one thing that was running through my mind between this weekend and when Thomas broke the news to us during lunch in the Fort. As soon as he did, I immediately pulled my phone out and asked him which date he was free to celebrate the bachelor’s party.

We all agreed on March 13.

When you’ve met someone who’s as good a friend as Thomas, you take the responsibility of trying to be a better friend and live up to what it means to be part of the entourage. So, when this Friday finally came along, I made sure to push the entire group to go a little further, take out anything to do with strip clubs, and follow the advice of what a very important series in our generation taught us: suit up.

Five bachelors about to have a good time.

We decided to go and have dinner out, walk around the Fort and take a few photos, and go to a club where our very close friend, Migs Santillan, would be the DJ during the peak of the night.

When we finally had our table and drinks, we made it a point to toast every time before taking in anything to drink. Though not delivered in full, below was a toast and short message I had for the groom to be and the other friends who would be by his side throughout the course of this lifetime. As a writer, I take every opportunity I can to bring out a little more of the ‘special’ into the ordinary world through words. And, as far as I’m concerned, marriage is one of the most special moments of any person’s life.

A Toast to a Bachelor and Groom to Be

Friends, brothers, what is left to say really but: here is to tonight!

Not to celebrate it like our contemporaries who believe that nights like these are the last days of freedom– no. Anyone who thinks of marriage as a binding cage, or the end of a game, is probably missing the entire point of it. Tonight is nothing close to celebrating a last night of freedom, or any last for that matter– it’s a celebration of beginning, a celebration of firsts.

Tonight we celebrate the first night of a stronger bond of brotherhood– a bond so strong that no demands of work, med school, law school, or any amount of alcohol, will be able break it.

Tonight is the first night of our dear friend’s journey into a life of freedom and commitment– two things many people misunderstand to be mutually exclusive.

Tonight is not about lasts, it’s about firsts.

So, tonight we drink our cups to Thomas not because this is the last night he can but rather because it’s the first time we celebrate this renewed, stronger brotherhood. We drink to the start of a new adventure– our new adventure, and not the end of one.

Tonight we dance not because these are the last steps, twists and turns we have to give but because we can and we will for a brother! If you can’t dance to save your life like I do, you’ll dance to celebrate it for the gift of Thomas.

Tonight, we celebrate not a last night of freedom, but the freedom and love to choose someone to commit to for the rest of eternity– exactly what Thomas will do; which is the exact same freedom and love that brings us all of us here tonight.

What words are left to say but… bottoms up and here’s to tonight, boys! To the first of more adventures!

Four bachelors and one husband about to have a good time. Not so different? I thought so, too.

As promised: friends and bros for life, Thomas. Congratulations to you and Mrs. Cruel!

*Author’s note: I make a lot of references to drinking alcohol here but I didn’t drink any. While I dance like a drunk person when the music’s really good, I only drank water and Coke. I was designated driver for the night and made sure not to have anything unfortunate happen to any of my friends, most especially the groom. This is a message to anyone who believes that they’re invincible and can rationalize that they should drink because it’s a special night. You can– just make sure you’re NOT driving. Don’t drink and drive. Be smarter than that.

When you leave no space for questions, you leave no space for growth.

I remember discussing similar points made in this article during my Philosophy of Religion class under Sir Calasanz. This, as most of his students will agree though, is a much simpler read but remains to be, in my humble opinion, a very timely one for the Lenten season.

I do believe Lent really is a time for self-growth and appreciation of what we cannot fully understand. Hope we can all try a little harder to give up what we’ve grown so comfortable with in order to deepen and appreciate what it is we already have or believe in.

Thank you very much to Brandon Ambrosino for this piece, and to Gian Dapul, dear friend and classmate, for introducing it to me years ago.

Original Art: God by SoundArt

The first time I met Nietzsche was on a t-shirt.

One of the guys from my youth group was wearing one of those shirts that I think people buy from Pacific Sun, and it was emblazoned with a slogan that I didn’t understand at the time.

The front of the shirt said,

God is dead. 
Nietzsche

And the back of the shirt said, 

Nietzsche is dead. 
-God

I asked this guy about his shirt and he told me it just meant Nietzsche was some atheist philosopher who was now in Hell because he told everyone that God had died.

The next time I met Nietzsche was in a college textbook. But this time, I knew who he was.

“The ‘God is Dead’ guy,” I answered when my teacher asked our class if we’d heard of the German philosopher.

“Yes,” Dr. P laughed, “Nietzsche did say that. But do you know what he meant by it? Do you know the story of the madman?”

I didn’t feel like explaining to the teacher that entire stories couldn’t fit on hipster t-shirts, so I shook my head no and waited for his explanation.

Dr. P told us Nietzsche‘s parable from The Gay Science about a madman who rushes into a marketplace, carrying a lantern and announcing the death of God. When his listeners respond with mockery and laughter, he realizes that he has come too early, and that no one is ready to hear his message. He smashes his lantern and leaves the marketplace, and breaks into several churches, where he asks the chilling question, “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

After Dr. P finished the lecture, our entire class followed him to his office where we laid into him. God is dead? Churches are tombs? Did you just read Nietzsche out loud to our whole philosophy class?

God, contrary to what Nietzsche or my philosophy teacher thought, was most certainly not dead. He was living in my heart, and I was certain of it – and that was the problem.

One year later, while sitting in a different class with Dr. P, I discovered that maybe Nietzsche was right. My professor began this particular lecture by writing two Greek words on the blackboard: eikon and eidos. The first he translated as “image” or “icon,” and used it to refer to God as a wholly God — tout autre, wholly other. The second, the Greek term for “idol,” Dr. P explained was what happens to God when we comprehend him firmly in intellectual hubris. Dr. P told us that when we’ve finally understood all there is to know about God, then all we’ve really understood is a God we’ve created in our image. “Whenever you think you’ve arrived at eikon,” he warned us, “you’ve really only gotten to eidos.”

Lent, the period of 40 days leading up to Easter, is meant to prepare our hearts to receive God: to receive God as God, as wholly other, as the Other who is coming, who is always coming, always arriving, always surprising us in the face of the dinner guest who shows up unexpectedly asking if we’ve remembered to prepare him a seat. And to ready ourselves for this meeting, Christians traditionally give something up: coffee, alcohol, the Internet — one clever, gluten-free friend of mine mused he was giving up wheat. But the purpose of this giving up is to empty our hearts so that when God arrives — and God is always arriving — we are ready for the event. Our “idols,” those things in our lives undeserving of worship, must be released from our hands, so that we may hold them open to the startling event that is God’s Kingdom Come.

As the Psalmist writes, the one who will be permitted to ascend the hill of the Lord is the one whose hands are clean, whose fingers do not reach for idols — idols either of the heart or mind, of passion or intellect, of philosophy or (God help us!) theology.

Indeed, the God of my rigid ideologies, of my complacent Theology; the God who validates my unwillingness to explore heresies, and rewards me for arrogantly dismissing them as sinful; the God who grounds my intellectual arrogance in His omniscience, and my politics in his omnipotence; the God who vanquishes all of His and my inquisitive foes, forever silencing their obnoxious questions with the fires of Hell; whose very Nature demands that humans separate and categorize the world into manageable divisions; the God who has made His Will known to us through Natural Law, and a Holy Book, every word of which we are to follow without hesitation or consideration; whose ethical character remains beyond discussion; whose decisions remain beyond the scope of human analysis; the God who grounds all Thought in his Being – this God, who is Himself nothing more than an idol of Modernism, is dead.

My goal for Lent is to remember this death, and to meditate on it in reverence, humility, and mystery. And to reflect not on the God who rules by power, but a god who leads by love; who identifies with the weak; whose foolishness upsets omniscience; a God who reveals Himself in many ways, who reveals Himself in a first century peasant named Jesus; a God who empties Himself of God, and offers Himself to his enemies in submission and servitude; who is concerned with the plight of widows and orphans, the least among us, and the disadvantaged; who sends Jesus to go after the marginalized and the misunderstood, and to bring back home again those who have been ostracized and forgotten.

I am giving up God for Lent to make room for God. I am prying open my fingers, and letting all of my theological idols crash to the ground. And I am lifting up my empty hands to Heaven in anticipation of God’s arrival, and quietly echoing the unsettling words of Meister Eckhart: “I pray God to rid me of God.”

Original article by Brandon Ambrosino. Original Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandon-ambrosino/why-im-giving-up-god-for-_b_2683164.html

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Below is the eulogy I delivered last Thursday, 12 February 2015, for Amanda Hsieh during her memorial at the Church of the the Gesu in Ateneo.

After the mass presided by Fr. Dacanay, Sei had many of her friends from various groups speak to her and share their memories. I spoke for the Kythe alumni.

Sei was my friend, and I will never get to thank her enough for changing my life and the lives of all the people who loved her. I hope by sharing this piece publicly it gives people even just the slightest idea of how big a part she was in the lives of all those she loved and served selflessly. We love you, Sei. In all ways, we always will.

Good evening, everyone.

Friends, Kythers, OrComm, Lights for Hope team, GK, ASLANS, schoolmates, fellow alumni, the Psychology department, the Health Sci department Fr. Jett Villarin, faculty and staff, all members of the Ateneo community, and all of Sei’s family and friends, good to be with all of you tonight. The past six days have been very hard but it’s definitely been a blessing to be around so many loving people and old friends again. Despite what’s happened, being around loving people to grieve with, to cry with, to cry on, to remember her with, and to love Sei with is one thing I’m very thankful for. To be honest, it’s one of the many things I have to thank Sei for again—the gift of knowing who are the people you can really run to when things turn out the way they do.

Before I speak about our loving friend, I’d like to ask you to take a moment to think about the past few days and the people that you’ve been with. How much harder it would have been without the person on your left, your right, the person you’re texting, the person you called up on Saturday, the people you went to the wake with, and the people you went here with today. These friends, these loved ones, have not only proven to be real friends but became better friends. They became closer to you these past few days and you have Sei to thank for that also. This was how great a friend Sei was to all of us—she allowed us, not only the opportunity to make better friends but to be better friends. That’s how much love Sei had in her because you never touch and move this many hearts to cry on people and allow people to cry on you without being as a good a friend as Amanda Hsieh was to all of us. So, thank you, Sei. Thank you.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never written a eulogy in my life. I’m 23 years old and all I have is the power of google to tell me what a eulogy is supposed to be like. It told me just to speak to the audience and tell you about how she was in my life, and how she lived. I hope you’ll forgive me if I can’t bring myself to do that because I don’t want to talk about how she was, I want to talk about how she is— I don’t want to talk about her life, I want to talk to her. When you love someone this much, they never really die. They live in our actions, remain in our lives, stay in our hearts. And if you’re here tonight, I’m sure Sei is very much present in your heart, also. So, please allow me not to speak to you but to speak to her. Please allow me to speak to her by speaking to you.

MESSAGE TO SEI

Hi Sei,

It’s been a little over a week since we last spoke. Do you remember? It was Wednesday last week around midnight, and you were talking to me about Kythe and the recent miting de avance. You were telling me about your general feelings about the week because big decisions regarding what responsibilities you’d have for your senior year would be decided in the next few days.

You also talked about your platform and some small insecurities that can never be shrugged off after putting yourself out like that. Do you remember? Hope you don’t mind if I remind you a little bit of what you typed.

You said: “Platform ko, basically. Alam mo yung lalo na seeing my write-up beside the other applicants… sobrang wow…

But I really do believe in my platform though…

Syempre, di naman matatanggi na gusto ko siya because I really do but I want to see my plans through.

But like I said yesterday, mas gugustuhin kong manalo platform ko kaysa sa akin. Masaya na lang ako na at least bits of my platform was evident in the 3 others’ din. :)”

After some time and some hugot jokes I’d rather not mention because I still want people to respect us, the both of us just arrived at the conclusion that Kythe would always be the same regardless of whatever results came out. “Kythe would always be Kythe”, I said. But you know, Sei? I was wrong. I really don’t know how Kythe will ever be the same again now that you won’t be running around with us on Kiteflying and taking pictures, or making kids like Aaron and Penpen laugh in the hospital. You played such a big role in this family and we, including the alumni, were really glad to have you as one of the youngest people who kept going out with us. And, let me speak for all them when I say I love you.

Your TNT AC loves you. Your friends in med school Issa, Elijah, Mea, Dianne and Jar love you. Aimi, your sungit sister from BPI loves you. All your other friends who work in banks, corporations, schools, in Manila and abroad love you.

Your friend Eli from Canada says you really are an angel a now—a blessing to everyone. She’s eternally grateful that she met you and she’ll never forget you. The same we’ll all never forget you.

Alberto, all the way from Borongan, Eastern Samar, says he’s sure you see us grieving but he knows you’d want us to continue on with the work to be done. Nakagiginhawa siguro kung patigilan natin ang pagpapatuloy ng mundo at huminto, manahimik, at iyakan ka lang pero hindi eh. Ikaw rin nagsabi “magpatuloy lang” at yun gagawin namin. We’ll all continue to move on with you and without you.

And for all other alumni, whose full messages I can’t read anymore, just please know your friendship was valued by everyone and that you were one of the biggest reasons why we always felt like Kythe-Ateneo was something we could always come home to. Truly we’ll miss you a lot but we’re glad all the kids who’ve touched our lives and gone on ahead now have you to watch over them. Please make them laugh there like you did here. I hope you take lots of pictures with Ashley and Alecs whose wakes we visited 2 weeks ago. Know that many of us smile every time we think of them knowing they’re with you now—no longer in pain and can never be hurt again.

Sei, I know you’re beside God right now listening to all of these things so if you’ll let me, I’d like to just say these last few words to Him.

MESSAGE TO GOD

Hi God,

You already know what I prayed for but I hope you don’t mind if I say it again.

God, you’ve got a wonderful, loving person beside you. The angel wings look wonderful on her. I know I pray for many things but for now, I hope you hear these 3 simple requests. Hug her, love her, and keep her in your love.

Please hug her and whenever you do, please hug her so tight that she feels every single friend who has ever loved her in that embrace. Hug her for everyone, and not just for the people who never got to hug her to say goodbye. Let her feel so warm and welcome in your arms that she’ll never want to be anywhere else but with You. Leave it to us to want and wish she could come back home, but let her feel at home wherever You are.

Please love her. Love her and make her feel so loved that it overflows and spills from the glory of heaven and into the hearts of every person who has ever loved this beautiful girl.

And lastly, please keep her in your love. Please remind her every day that you love her, and that we love her. Remind her just as many times as we will remember her whenever we do something for Kythe, for OrSem, for psych, for Christmas, when we do something to carry out your name, to be a ripple of change, to be more, to be men and women for others, to be Atenean, to be good. Please remind her of how loved she is, and remind us that whenever we’re around good friends on our right, our left, on the phone, or on the way to wherever, that’s where she is also. Where there is a good friend, where there is love, there she is. There is Sei.

Take care of our beloved friend, God. We entrust her to you now.

And Sei, one last thing? I’m just really really going to miss you. Thank you for being my friend, our friend. I’m never ever going to forget you. I love you and see you on Saturday for Kiteflying. Bye for now, Sei.

Thank you.

Growing up, I remember telling people in high school that I’d give anything for a magic carpet. I was convinced that if I ever had one, all I ever had to do was say or ask any question followed by ‘Do you trust me?’ and it was an immediate opening to any person’s heart. To demonstrate:

“Will you go to prom with me?”

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Do you trust me?

“I promise I’ll get you back before midnight.”

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Do you trust me?

“I’ll pick you up around 8PM and I promise we won’t get stuck in traffic.”

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DO YOU TRUST ME?

As much as I pride myself with being a feminist, there’s not much you can do when it comes to a magic carpet.

It’s only of recent though, and after a barrage of old philosophy classes, that I realized that there is much more to this Disney film than literally sweeping someone off their feet. After watching the film for possibly the hundredth time, it’s not hard to pick up a few life lessons from the 1992 classic. No better place to start writing for February, the season of love, than with one of my favorite Disney movies.

So, what love advice do you have after almost 23 years, Aladdin?

1) Any beautiful person will be beyond the words you describe her and that’s okay.

Take this from someone who enjoys writing poetry and telling stories. When you meet someone you can honestly say is ‘beautiful’, good luck finding the right words to describe her beauty in all its fullness.

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Though titans such as Shakespeare and Wordsworth in the literary world have blessed us with words like ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration it finds‘ and ‘That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind’, respectively, sometimes the simple: asdlfhalksdjfkljasdf or ‘eh’ gets the same message across.

If you’ve ever felt this way about anyone, rest assured you’re not the only one.

Photo c/o 9gag.com

Photo c/o 9gag.com

2) True friends always have a place in any loving relationship.

There wouldn’t be much of a movie without Genie, Abu, and Carpet having Aladdin’s back. Personally, I can’t imagine how the film would come to life without Robin Williams’ personality. He did a great job proving that Al never had a friend like him.

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I’ve noticed that it’s a recurring theme in a lot of dramas nowadays wherein the lead character is always forced to choose between his/her friends and significant other. Ideally though, true love shouldn’t force you to give up your friends– it’s supposed to make you want to be a better one to the existing ones you have.

True friends are always there to help turn you into a better version of yourself

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and knock sense into you when you’ve forgotten who you are.

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They pull you out of sticky situations you’re stuck in

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and give you that much needed push when you need it.

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They’re always the best wingmen

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and inspire you to be an even better friend.

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Take care of your friendships. There’s always room for them in any loving relationship.

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3) Where there is love, there is music.

If this wasn’t evident in this scene:

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Or this scene:

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Or this scene:

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You should probably watch the film again. It’s one and a half hours of gold but this scene is probably what we remember most. Why? You guessed it.

Aladdin would have never been the romantic Disney film we love looking back on without A Whole New World. He taught us that, apart from a magic carpet ride that is guaranteed to win anyone over, music is a sure-fire way to any person’s heart.

There is nothing more romantic than a person who creates music for someone else.

4) Love is a magical, transformative force you’re naturally drawn to.

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I’ll jump to a deeper point with this one.

Like music, genuine love is a magical and transformative force that is naturally longed for. It is an unexplainable force that sticks to people.

Why magical? Because while it can never be fully explained how or why it happens but we still know it to be real. It is the magic of love that lets Aladdin and Jasmine make it all the way to Egypt, Greece, and China in a matter of minutes. Love, as depicted in Disney movies, never seems to be bound by the rules of space, time, and physics.

And on a side note, Disney’s very good at doing this magic thing.

Photo c/o Tumblr.com

Transformative? Because it changes people for the better and introduces them to a world of infinite possibilities. For Jasmine on the carpet ride, it turned her fear into wonder, doubt into excitement, and resentment into love. In that span of 2 minutes and 56 seconds, her eyes were opened to an entirely different point of view.

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So really, falling in love is literally being introduced to a whole new world.

5) Lastly, all you really need is one perfect moment to be yourself.

It might be an accident

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or just dumb luck

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but, regardless of the circumstances, a single, magical moment of being yourself can change the rest of your life and the life of another person.

Take it from Jasmine who met Aladdin twice.

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The first time around was meeting a kind-hearted man on the streets who saved her from getting her arm chopped off. The second time, was being introduced to a wealthy prince who ended up taking her on the first date of a lifetime.

We all have the capacity to show different sides of ourself to other people. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend to be someone else because the idea of putting yourself out there in all your bareness is a scary thing to even think about. But for most people whom we truly consider to be worth it, we owe it to them to be no one else than who we really are. We owe it to the people we love to be real.

In Aladdin’s case, it wasn’t until the prince and the pauper came together to reveal who’s been there all along:

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a genuinely good person

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and a great friend

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who deserved a happy ending.

All other photos are screen caps of the actual film, Aladdin (1992).

Finding God in everything.

Growing up and being educated by the Jesuits, I always loved how these men of the Church stressed, in every opportunity, to impart this value to all of their students. This lesson became one of the many reasons why the Jesuits became my heroes.

Considered to be at the core of Ignatian spirituality, finding the Domino (Lord) in Omnibus (everything) became a practice for everyday. It’s a piece of St Ignatius himself that I’m glad to have taken home and take with me wherever I go.

Undoubtedly, I owe much of who I am today because of my Jesuit education.

So, you can imagine my excitement when a very good friend of mine, David Lozada, who was covering Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, messaged me asking, “Do you want to see the Pope?”

“Yes,” I said. And I had never been so excited in my life.

My “yes” meant joining Rappler’s MovePH team and being on-site wherever the Vicar of Christ would be during his stay in Manila. The first two days had me going around Quirino and SM MOA and interviewing people regarding their thoughts and feelings on the pontiff’s visit. As our team lead told us, there were stories everywhere.

Waking up at 6am and fighting through crowds were just some of the challenges we had to go through everyday just for the chance to see the pope. It was all worth it. In those 3 days, I found myself encountering the God of surprises my educators have introduced me to.

Through all that scrambling, I got more than I bargained for: I saw Christ. Not just once but over twelve times.

He sold me a Pope Francis pin for P10

Her name is Ana, a 47 year-old vendor selling papal memorabilia. She was very excited to see the Pope. All photos by Serge Gabriel

Her name was Ana, a 47 year-old vendor selling papal memorabilia. She was very excited to see the Pope. 

He then introduced himself as Antonio Cabreza

The man said he made the flags for Pope Francis after he saw the pontiff speaking to a large crowd. "Ginawa ko ‘to. May kasamang ‘We Love’ dapat yan." (I made these flags. I was supposed to add 'We love' before his name.)

The man said he made the flags for Pope Francis after he saw the pontiff speaking to a large crowd. “Ginawa ko ‘to. May kasamang ‘We Love’ dapat yan.” (I made these flags. I was supposed to add ‘We love’ before his name.)

I saw Him stand up for those who were distraught by Typhoon Yolanda
Artists and activists from Sining Bugkos storm the Apostolic Nunciature before Pope Francis arrives, asking the pontiff to fight for Yolanda victims.

Artists and activists from Sining Bugkos storm the Apostolic Nunciature before Pope Francis arrives, asking the pontiff to fight for Yolanda victims.

I saw Him excited as the sirens preceding the Pope mobile came closer

A young boy perches on top of his brother while waiting for the papal motorcade enter the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena

A young boy perches on top of his brother while waiting for the papal motorcade enter the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena

I saw Him come alone
“Shy ako (I'll be shy),” Carol said when I asked what she would say to the Pope if she could talk to him.

“Shy ako (I’ll be shy),” Carol said when I asked what she would say to the Pope if she could talk to him.

I saw Him come with 350 parishioners
Fr Willy Benito, OFM, brings his parishioners to Luneta to see the Pope

Fr Willy and his parish of over 350 members stood from 4am until evening on Thursday, January 15, just to see the pope.

I met Fr Willy Benito, a Franciscan parish priest of 21 years in Sta Ana. “It makes me happy. Who would have thought he would have taken the St Francis of Assisi’s name? In history, St Francis was known for causing great change in the Church – you can see that’s what he’s also doing now,” explained the Fransiscan.

I saw Him wave from the popemobile
Pope Francis waves to the crowds during his arrival in Manila

And without a doubt in my heart, I swear those two seconds changed my life.  

I saw Him tired yet thankful
With her heart full after seeing the Pope, Grace says, “Sana bigyan pa ako ng buhay at sigla para patuloy po ako makapaglingkod sa Panginoon (I pray for better health and longer life so that I can continue serving the Lord.”

With her heart full after seeing the Pope, Grace says, “Sana bigyan pa ako ng buhay at sigla para patuloy po ako makapaglingkod sa Panginoon (I pray for better health and longer life so that I can continue serving the Lord.”

I saw Him as a grandfather
A grandfather carries his grandson who is barely a year old, while waiting for Pope Francis in MOA

A grandfather carries his grandson who is barely a year old, while waiting for Pope Francis in MOA

I saw Him as a friend
“It's worth it!" this man says after standing for 5 hours under the rain

“Worth it ‘to!” he says after standing for 5 hours under the rain

I saw Him scared
Scared as she rested in the arms of her mother struggling against the millions for a good spot in Luneta.

Scared as she rested in the arms of her mother struggling against the millions for a good spot in Luneta.

I saw Him eager to meet someone she hardly knew anything about
She is Frances, a small girl holding a Pope Francis doll. She promises to hold it up high for the Pope to see when he passes by

She is Frances, a small girl holding a Pope Francis doll. She promised to hold it up high for the Pope to see when he passed by.

As the beloved Argentinian pope flew back home, I can only wonder what other surprises He’ll leave to be uncovered.

When I’ll get to see Pope Francis again, only God will really know. But when will I see Him again? Most likely on the next train ride I take or in the next seatmate in class I’ll have.

If you take a second to really look at someone, you might be surprised. I know I was and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

“When you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love, and this energy to love is lost.”

These are powerful words that Pope Francis shared during his homily in the SM MOA mass last Friday, January 16. He was speaking in the context of dreaming for the family—to dream about how one’s future children can be and protecting the family.

In its own way, I can’t help but think how beautiful a message this is for runners—whether they are words that fall upon ears of an aspiring runner preparing for his or her first 10k, or an avid one always set on aiming for a better PR.

Running-PopeAs athletes, don’t we always dream of being better? Always dreamt or dream for a good first race? Dream for a better record? Where would be if we couldn’t even imagine crossing that finish line? Surely, not waking up at 6AM to train days before race day or at 4AM when it’s actual race day.

The Pope reminds us that dreaming about finishing a race is the essential first step to falling in love with this sport. It’s because we have this ability to dream that we have this ability to fall in love. That love forces us to wake up when the bed is too comfy. That love takes us far—much further beyond the 10, 21 or 42 kilometers we run. It is a love that stays after we cross the finish line, and one that remains when we get to the starting line of our next race.

And for those who have forgotten the joy of crossing the finish line when we’ve become too busy, his coming is an invitation for us to fall in love again. The Pope reminds us to find the reason why we fell in love in the first place: to find that energy—and to be completely honest, runners will take all the energy they can get.

To end, I am reminded of a saying by another Jesuit, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, He wrote: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.“

May never stop falling in love and may we never stop dreaming of crossing the finish line.

Photo c/o: http://www.dudelol.com/running-pope/

“I want to exercise more.”

Probably the single, most popular resolution we all have for ourselves every year after the night of fireworks, food and family.

I’ve always admired that about the human spirit: its ability to strive to make itself and oneself better. With the coming of the new year, the challenge of trying to change becomes even more alluring with the gift of a fresh start. The problem for most people, though, is not knowing how to actually do that.

As a small service to a lot of aspiring runners and to contribute to encouraging others to live more active and healthier lifestyles, I’ve put together a few tips that I have found to be very useful after 2 years of being an active runner. I honestly believe that it helps to have concrete first steps to get anyone going and, eventually, going fast.

So, here we go.

1. Run with someone or say yes to someone who invites you to run with them.

It helps to have someone to run those kilometers with you. Ask someone to run with you or say yes to someone.

Run with friends who you’ll be glad to wake up for (or will do everything in their power to pressure and guilt trip you to wake up on) a Sunday morning to train. We all need the extra push every now and then. Run with people you are comfortable enough with to say ‘Let’s walk for a while’, or ‘Let’s pick up the pace!’

I ran my first race only because I said yes to a very good college friend who told me he wanted to finish a 32k. If you’re lucky as I am, you’ll have a great support system of people who commit to training every Sunday morning together.

Run United 2 back in June 2013.

Thanks for the memories and putting me on the right track, guys.

 2. Change your frame of thinking.

Plain and straightforward: Don’t treat running as a punishment for yourself, treat it as a reward.

Running, or any physical activity, feels like less of a requirement when you actually enjoy it. Don’t think you have to do it just because you want to lose weight or because you already signed up for a race and have to train. People who run constantly learn that running and beating their own personal records are their own rewards.

Plainer and more straightforward: Enjoy it.

“Sure. I can metabolize the alcohol by running around the house. In the meantime I think I’ll just stand here and see how much I can drink.”

3. Sign up for a race.

Even if you’ve mastered number 2, there will always be days where you need to force yourself out of bed. Apart from the thought of having your friends waiting for you to train, it helps to have a race you’ve already committed to that will force you to conquer those roads.

Most people probably wouldn’t know that if you sign up for a 10k, you’ll end up running farther than that when you train. For example, here’s the training I had for one of my first 10k races.

WEEK 1 DISTANCE TO RUN
MONDAY 2KM
TUESDAY 2KM
WEDNESDAY 4KM
THURSDAY 4KM
FRIDAY REST
SATURDAY 4KM
SUNDAY 6KM
WEEK 2 DISTANCE TO RUN
MONDAY REST
TUESDAY 4KM
WEDNESDAY 6KM
THURSDAY 6KM
FRIDAY 8KM
SATURDAY REST/CARBO LOAD
SUNDAY RACE DAY

Find a race you’ll want to train for. I’ve signed up for Miles for Jeremiah on January 11, 2015. This one:

http://www.pinoyfitness.com/2014/11/miles-for-jeremiah-january-11-2015/

You’re more than welcome to run and train with me if you’d like to. I’d love to have more runner friends.

4. It helps to get your feet checked and invest in good running shoes.

At first, I thought all running shoes were the same except for the brand and color. It was only back in college I found out that there is technology that actually determines proper foot alignment that will guide you to choose which running shoes best fits you.

It looks like a treadmill with cameras. Have a look for yourself. Here it is in RUNNR Trinoma.

It helps determine your arch type which is either neutral, stability, or motion control.

Wearing running shoes that match your foot type makes you less prone to injury, provides better shock absorption and makes your run feel more comfortable.

Let me be clear that while this is of great help it isn’t a required step for everyone. Remember, there are runners who run barefoot so don’t make the excuse of not starting to run because you didn’t have time to get yourself checked. You’ll only be fooling yourself.

5. Prepare and pack the night before.

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Whether it’s race day or you’re training, you’ll need all the sleep you can get so pack the night before. You don’t want the hassle of waking up earlier than usual just to worry about what you’ll need.

Bring what will help you run better. Here’s my personal checklist of stuff when I go out to run.

a) Running clothes and shoes (Asics Gel Kayano 20 for Stability)
b) Garmin ForeRunner (It helps track your pace, distance, number of calories burned among other things. It’s a very good investment.)
c) Phone and running case
d) Water/Gatorade
e) Slippers
f) Towels (Aquazorb. It helps to have one when you sweat a lot.)
g) Money
h) Hydration belt
j) Change of clothes
k) Carb gel
l) Toiletries
m) Plastic bags

And, no, you don’t need to have everything in order to start running.

6. Celebrate your victories.

Enjoy each race that you finish. It will make you want to do it again.

And again.

And again.

Each race will always have its own unique story of victory from its start to finish. So, get out there and start making 2015 count!

I know I will; just like for 2014.