Beautiful Christmas, Beautiful Philippines


See, the thing with blogging is that you have to be committed to posting updates, which, in this technology-driven age is not such a tough feat to accomplish. However, seeing as I have not exactly touched my blog since Davao, I’m a bit hesitant now to label myself a blogger. Nope, not simply as one who’d talk about having eggs for breakfast and picking up stuff at the dry cleaners after, but someone, I hope, who makes just the slightest bit of sense when she posts something. If not that, then at least someone the grammar nazis out there would not want to hang upside down and flog a hundred times until blood is spilt.

So where was I these past few weeks?

Vicky lands in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Christmas fever at the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta

Let’s see, there’s work and whole lot of it going on. There’s a bit of travel and a whole lot of fun both of it turned out to be. And then there’s Christmas, of course, and how over here in Singapore where I spent it, was quite sedate because of the gloomy and oft-rainy weather running a stretch of over two weeks now I’ve been told; but still, it was a lovely celebration punctuated by a dollop of excitement as the two of us ran around hunting for the elusive raclette grill and the cheese itself.

Christmas in Singapore

And then there’s the mad drive to raise funds internally, in our company, for the devastated families in Cagayan de Oro and nearby areas because of Typhoon Sendong. The drive which began in the morning of Christmas Eve, I am very proud to say, has come up to a 5-digit collective monetary donation — in greenback! There’s really no stopping the power of Jesus when he moves and touches the heart of people with such power as one cannot deny  or refute. The outpouring of pledges from nearly everyone at work was uplifting beyond words and I am proud to be in the company of such an amazing bunch of people.

So, what was Christmas like for you guys?

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Speaking of Christmas, did you know that Epson Philippines Corporation (EPC) has recently launched its regional photography contest – the Epson Color Imaging Contest 2011? Themed “Beautiful Philippines, the contest encourages photography enthusiasts to explore the beauty of our country from various aspects – human, landscape, nature and architecture. The contest is open to all amateur and professional photographers aged 18 years and above who are residents of the Philippines.

For those of you who are interested to join the contest, visit www.facebook.com/EpsonCICPhilippines and submit your original and unpublished photos through the Epson CIC contest application, which you will find in the left hand column of the Facebook Page. A registered contestant may only make ONE (1) submission of up to a maximum of three (3) Entries.

I’ve heard that this is the 18th consecutive annual Epson Color Imaging photo contest, jointly organized by Epson sales subsidiaries in Asia, and the very first to be held online via Facebook to appeal to a younger and net-savvy audience.

The photography contest will last for eight weeks from November 7 to December 31 on Facebook, so if you happen to be in front of your computer now, cyberstalking your Ex and his/her new squeeze or just posting photos of yourself in various states of holiday drunken stupor, why not post your entry and actually have a  shot at the following VERY exciting prizes?

  • First Prize – All-expenses paid holiday to Taipei and the opportunity to attend the region-wide award ceremony and photo exhibition where your winning artwork will be displayed mong the regional finalists PLUS $1,500 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Second Prize – $1,000 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Third Prize – $500 cash prize PLUS an Epson PictureMate PM310.

In addition to the top three prize winners to be selected by Epson’s judges, fans are also encouraged to vote for their favorite so that the highest voted photograph wins a “Voters’ Choice award.” The winner of this award will get USD200 and an Epson PictureMate PM310.

Every week, Epson’s judges will also pick the top 3 photos. The winners of the Top 3 photos of the week each gets SM gift certificates worth P1,000 and their photos automatically qualify for the final judging.

Now this is truly a great way to showcase the beauty of the Philippines by getting the youth involved as they share their inspiring images with a worldwide audience – thanks to Epson who has been running this contest for a while now.

So what are YOU waiting for? Go on Facebook and join the contest. Who knows? You might find yourself on a flight to Taipei very soon! I have a very valid passport by the way and can travel as your companion, anytime and anywhere.:)

Take The Test!


So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.

Thank you Tony!

For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?

The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.

What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)

Here at work, we believe that knowledge, indeed, is power.:)

Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.

At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?

11 out of 11 Passed!

On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the  test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.

Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.

***

Note: EDITED to add this.

If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.

Act NOW!

In Which I’m Not Allowed To Get Sick


But I’m only human and so yesterday, I did. And it was so horrible I couldn’t talk because my throat was inflamed; I couldn’t move much because my joints ached like there’s no tomorrow; and I couldn’t feed myself due to combination of the first two. And so it came to be that I must’ve lost 2lbs at least from yesterday’s unwanted house arrest. All I managed to eat at around 8:30pm was half a cupcake and a glass of milk.

I thought it was perhaps the long hours of meetings and work from my last trip that somehow took toll on my body. And of course, in one of my most stupid stunts yet, I made STC+hiphop+bodyjam nonstop my first agendum when I arrived. Hoping that sweating out the early signs of flu would deter it. I was wrong. My immune system only got vulnerable to the virus’ onslaught. So in the end, there I was in bed yesterday, fever-ravaged and majorly debilitated.

But, now I’m back. Still feeling weak but hellbent on coming to work and getting stuff done. And perhaps, later, if I’m good, I would treat myself to Old Spaghetti’s newest lunch set promo which I have recently favorited because it’s good stuff – and cheap! I’m still thinking if I’m up for pole dancing + power yoga later after work because I’m still really not a hundred percent okay. We’ll see.

On a totally unrelated note, lately it’s been pretty warm outside I’m always nauseated. The other day, I walked no more than 30 feet outside the building and my back was already drenched in sweat within five minutes! I miss those chilly days, and especially the chillier nights, of the ‘ber’ months. Remember those days? They seemed to have gone on a semi-permanent retirement, never to be felt again in our side of the planet. But as Nora Ephron would say, consider the alternative. I would take my sweat-drenched clothes anytime over having to wade in waist-deep flood waters which, as you know in the Metro, is almost similar to opening the floodgates to various water-related diseases and infections and literally inviting them to take your mortal body hostage. This climate change is really alarming and I would loathe to imagine how the next generation would cope if the worsening situation is left ignored.

***

So I bit the bullet and finally registered for Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 next year. That’s right, 102 kilometers and over 10 hours of nonstop road-pounding under hot weather conditions. I know a few people who survived the ordeal which gives me some level of comfort that I won’t be signing my life away…hopefully. But that does not, in any way, excuse me from being lackadaisical when it comes to my training (it hasn’t started yet so i’m starting to feel jitters sprinting up and down my spine) – a major character flaw of mine, I must admit. I’m such a slacker I never would have made it as a serious athlete!  But just so you know, I’m an entirely different animal at work. My dedication, loyalty, and hard work are unquantifiable! Hello, colleagues! *wink*

This is it!

No why am I even doing BDM 102? Good question. It’s because I can. haha. No, seriously, it’s because I see it as the apex of my ultrarunning career (naks!) while my knees are still good. I’m 32 and obviously, I still want to keep my knees for many years (and I heard you need them for walking down the aisle, i’m just saying…) so at some point, I will have to take it very easy. But only after I have carved my name in BDM history.

So, training it is. But aside from that, I also need to talk to serious runners and get valuable ultrarunning pointers from them because my bara-bara ways simply won’t cut it anymore. I can usually charm my way out of anything BUT I don’t think I can charm my way out of a DNF, haha. I’m still carrying emotional scars from my last DNF, thank you very much, and I have resolved never to take that course again. Dinamay ko pa si Dennis the RunningPinoy!

So tomorrow, I will start running again, only this time, I am breaking-in my pair of Reebok RealFlex – which I’m thinking of naming Basia because the original Basia (my pink ZigTech) along with Chris’ pair of Zigs were stolen a few months back, sob sob sob – which I’m reviewing for Total Fitness. RealFlex is Reebok’s major entry to the lightweight footwear category  and it is truly light at only 9.2 ounces in weight. I am also very excited to see whether the famed 72 “sensors” underfoot really work in  providing a new free form and natural movement experience while running. I just love Reebok’s innovative technology and fresh designs!

Check out the 72 sensors...in purple!

Basia in another form - sleeker and lighter.

***

Oh, by the way, if you guys happen to be at the Megamall area on November 30 to December 4, drop by Megatrade Hall 2 for Royal Sports SUPER Christmas Sale! Get jaw-dropping discounts on brands such as Reebok, Diadora, Teva, Rockport, Oakley, GBX, Everlast, to name a few! And if you’re a hoarder like me, you would probably end up buying something from each brand. Mark your calendars, people!

ROYAL SPORTS SUPER SALE!

The Girl Who Straddled Halloween


…and liked it very much, yes.  So last Friday, as you know, we celebrated Halloween in advance at the office and I showed up as a French maid who must’ve forgotten to go on a serious diet a month before because I looked bloated in some of the photos. ‘Sup with those gargantuan arms anyway, huh? Still, it was so much fun – especially since I don’t have past Halloweens to benchmark last  Friday’s against. So yey, fun!

'Don't Worry, 'V' Happy' Halloween 2011

I'm a good maid, yes?

And then I hied-off to Malaysia for work and arrived in time for my second Halloween, this time, with my Malaysian colleagues. If I was impressed by the costumes of some of the staff in Manila, I was even more impressed by what some of our Malaysian counterparts wore to the party. Some of them were pretty scary, I tell you. Izzan and Vijiyar startled me when they walked into the room garbed in their vampire costumes – complete with vampire contact lenses! Tanyen looked sensational in her Goth bride outfit and Jamie was a knockout in her Japanese schoolgirl/sailor ensemble. That night, I was a fairy with turquoise wings and lavender wand which does absolutely no magic, except to look pretty when (being) waved about. It was quite a transformation from the naughty maid that I was back home.Our Boss joined us at the tail end of the  poolside party and we had a managers meeting right after – which lasted well until past 1 in the morning. That’s exactly how we roll in this side of town where fairies attend meetings of the human kind.;)

Halloween in Malaysia (Photo by Eugene)

Japanese schoolgirl/sailor and the Blue Fairy

Vampires and a Fairy

With (the) Goth Bride and (the) Queen of the Damned.

And of course, after stuffing my face with sweets, Twisties, and mee hon, I felt so guilty I wanted to run around PJ, except that I forgot to pack my running kicks! I have Matilda (my EasyTone shoes) with me though, so at least I can do Insanity but with a bit of restraint because I have to constantly mind my form, which is a bit tough to hold with Matilda’s balance pods creating forced instability. Since I can’t do power jumps and other Insanity routines that could hurt my ankles when I land, I am concentrating on my core and thighs instead with lots of obliques and inner thigh pulses when on plie. At the risk of sounding utterly biased, I must say yet again that Reebok makes me look good. Don’t you think so?

Stretching is important in any workout.

Wearing Cirque du Soleil top and Reebok EasyTone shoes.

Trick or Treat!


For the first time in nearly 7 years that I have been with present company, we pulled-off a Halloween Trick or Treat come-to-work-in-character party and it’s so much fun seeing everyone in costume; the office jazzed-up to look somewhat of a haunted house with a backyard cemetery, and; a scary soundtrack that plays in a loop at the lobby. And did you know that we only planned for it yesterday? Says a lot about how fun and creative everyone is here at the office. No to mention, great team players. Must be all the V-Con trainings we’ve had since day one. Hah!

Later, we will be hosting some kids – mostly children and grandchildren of some of our colleagues – and we will stuff them with so much sugar in their system their parents will have the toughest time making them settle down! And why not? It’s Halloween trick or treat after all!

Not to be sentimental or anything, but this is actually the first time in all 32 years of my life that I’m trick or treating. Ya, you could say I had a very deprived childhood. haha. I didn’t realize it was so much fun until I found myself skip-hopping in the house and grinning like an idiot earlier this morning, putting my French maid ensemble on! I felt like a kid all over again. Except that, well, there ain’t nothing kid-like in what I’m wearing. Except maybe the bunny ears. Yes, definitely the bunny ears.

How about you guys? What’s going down where you’re at on Halloween? If you haven’t any place to go trick or treating, come see us – we’ve got treats galore! Just kidding!

Later alligator!

We are actually trying to scare you here...

The French maid and Budoy

Sometimes I like to ponder on things before I get my feather duster to work