On All Things Brave and Sexy.


It being a Sunday and F1 Race Day at that, I will keep my post as concise and straightforward as possible. At least, I will try.

How many of you have seen the movie Hunger Games? Show of hands! One, two, 300. Good for you. I haven’t. Yet. Now, how many of you have read the book – at least the first installment of the trilogy – before making a beeline for the cinema? I see a few hands raised, good! Now I’m probably one of the many who crammed reading The Hunger Games in anticipation of the global premiere last Thursday – except that I haven’t made a trip to the cinema just yet.

In which my 'hunger' turned out to be just transitory.

I have read The Hunger Games, yes. In fact, I finished the book in less than 12 hours – totally sacrificing some precious hours of sleep – first, because I didn’t want to be the only person on the planet who’s clueless about the book that has the whole world raving about Suzanne Collins and second, well, because I found it riveting enough not to put it down until I’ve read it from cover to cover.

I think Katniss Everdeen is all things brave and sexy…at the beginning and all the way to her emergence as one of the victors of the 75th Hunger Games and even farther down the intricate labyrinth of gore and brutality of the Quarterly Quell in Catching Fire (Book 2) – where she was ‘conveniently’ thrown back into the death arena along with the living victors of the previous hunger games.

But when Mockingjay, the final installment of the trilogy, opened to our favorite heroine’s pained ambivalence and annoying ‘uncooperative’ spirit just when the wheels of the revolution against the evil dictatorship of President Snow and the Capitol, have already been set in motion – I couldn’t help but feel pangs of disappointment. I thought – and not that Katniss cared about what my thoughts are – she was being fickle-minded and selfish by hesitating to see the revolution down the wire. But then again, perhaps, I, too, am being unfair by denying her the right to be human and therefore be susceptible to feelings of doubt, self-loathing, and vulnerability. After all, I was not the one who was forced to kill and watch other tributes die in the most brutal way possible in order to save the people I love.

It turns out, I’m not alone in this. My friend Gail was just as disappointed with Mockingjay and having my feelings validated like that has officially killed whatever little excitement I still harbor for the once-anticipated climax.  But since I got the box set, I feel it would be doing my hard-earned money a disservice by not finishing the book – however long it would take me to read it because frankly, I am no longer psyched. Katniss and her emotional outbursts have become excruciatingly boring.

***

You know what else is brave and sexy? Having tested for HIV.  I hope all of you reading this post right now are not viewing my declaration with myopic eyes. Take away your predilection for sanctimonious behavior and self-righteousness just for a moment and instead, think of the staggering number of Filipinos now confirmed to have been infected by the virus and are consequently reeling  – if not dying – from its full-blown effect. The last thing they need is your coldhearted judgment or worse, apathy.

We live in dangerous times and the sooner we accept that, the smarter and more vigilant we will be in handling certain situations we still have control over. Like staying HIV and STI-free, for example.

Sexy and I know it!

Late last year, my dear friend Noel and I signed up for the HIV/AIDS seminar, after which, we got certified by the Department of Health (DOH) as peer educators or volunteers whose main vocation is to help spread knowledge and information about this dreaded virus and hopefully, prevent it from spreading far and wide. Sadly, if you go by statistics shared by the DOH and independent parties, the number of confirmed HIV cases is rising.  However, that can also be viewed positively (no pun intended) as perhaps having the shroud of ignorance and denial being lifted, little by little, which has resulted to more people getting tested and myths getting busted, i.e., AIDS is a gay disease (IT IS NOT!) – thanks to the small number of social-medical workers and volunteers who make it their mission to drum-up support for a vigilant HIV-prevention strategy coming from all sectors of the society.

With photographer and dear friend Noel Abelardo.

As volunteers, we share our two best and readily available resources: time and talent, for the purpose of advancing this noble mission. Take Noel, for example, who makes use of his great photography skills by conducting an open ‘themed’ photoshoot and sharing chunk of the proceeds with Take The Test and its various programs including free testing/screening, counseling, seminar, and certification.

In which Ian tries to make me look presentable for the lens. Napagod yata siya dun.

I just came from the second Official Take The Test Open photo shoot session and I am simply in awe of the volunteers who share so much of themselves, and selflessly at that. I am especially in awe of Atche and his commitment to this cause.

Remember, you aren’t brave or sexy enough if you don’t take responsibility for your sexual behavior.  Whatever you do, remember these five letters: A, B, C, D, and E.

A = Abstinence

B = Be Faithful

C = Consistent and Correct way of using condoms and other protection

D = Don’t do Drugs or drink alcohol

E = Early detection

Be guided by this 5-point rule book and save your own life and that of your loved ones.

***

In other (BREAKING!!!) news, FERNANDO ALONSO claims victory at the 2012 F1 Malaysia Grand Prix against all odds – especially Sergio Perez’s relentless pursuit of his Ferrari! This has got to be one of the best races I have ever seen and one I prayed hard for. So hard, in fact, that I almost reached for my bible and just clutch it really close to my heart. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m really hoping this would be a Ferrari year. Okay, fine, an Alonso year. I really think he’s the best driver in F1 today and it’s unfortunate that his car is taking a while to adjust to levels where it can be considered worthy of going wheel-to-wheel with the McLaren and Mercedes cars.

Even today in Sepang, he had a bit of a tough time shaking off the relentless Sergio Perez who, by the way, is rumored to be on top of Ferrari’s shopping list for a Massa replacement. A long time coming for Massa, I would say. I can imagine his self-esteem taking a wild beating each and every time Alonso would outperform him – which happens to be all the time. Maybe it’s really time for him to pack his bags and let someone else take the Ferrari wheel. It’s painful to watch him being relegated merely as a charity case.

Oh would you look at that! Over a thousand words already and I did say I wanted to keep this short! Si Fernando Alonso kasi eh!  Anyway, I hope you guys had a fantastic weekend. Mine is superb on so many levels and not just because of today’s Take The Test activity and Alonso’s F1 victory.  If you would allow these few words of sharing: I am happy because finally, I can see God’s hand at work in my life and I am happy to finally be in a state of genuine gratitude and need for His presence.

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Made of WIN, are YOU?


So you know that I lead a very boring kind of life… on days that I’m not near-drunk with life’s awesomeness, of course. But the past months have really been exceedingly grand in oh-so-many fronts – work, romance, fitness…even my reading has picked up! I had just finished reading Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings and am now almost a third of a way through A Storm of Swords, thanks in large part to Gailey who shared her books on Kindle with me when I couldn’t find book two in some of the bookstores I checked some days back. Well it seems half of the Philippine population have decided to pick up the Game of Thrones novel series after watching the show and learning that season two is not due for release until early next year. I don’t know about you guys but when I started watching, I just had to pause everything momentarily – including running – and didn’t feel an iota of guilt afterwards. No, not even after learning I gained a pound or two doing the damned GOT marathon. Just so you know how hooked I am on George Martin’s obra these days, I locked myself up in the house this weekend just so I could finish Clash of Kings. The usual number of three showers I take on a daily basis was drastically cut into just one shower and I took it just before bedtime because I literally could not peel my eyes off Wilhelmina (my Mac, y’all)!

Thank you (Gail's) Kindle for Mac for this!

And last night, while waiting for Team Perfect aka FTW team at Serendra, I decided to pop in at Powerbooks (used to be A Different Kind of Bookstore) and saw some awesome titles on sale at dirt cheap prices! To cut the long bull short, I left with these two books in tow:

I have always been fascinated by this larger-than-life superwoman.

I was torn between this and Frank McCourt's 'Tis and having remembered how melancholic Angela's Ashes made me, I picked up Rex.

And then Kassy, bless her heart, gave me a copy of You Are an Ironman which she got from the book publisher themselves – now isn’t that just fabulous?!? Ikaw na Kassy! I remember sms-ing her one morning when I saw one of the featured athletes in book making a guest appearance on the Today Show and he told his amazing Ironman story. He had a serious health problem/disability, if i’m not mistaken (I have to read the book to get the details), but instead of wasting away and wallowing in self-pity, he conquered his disability and became an Ironman! And I remember feeling so inspired while watching that short interview, so much so that I have decided I am seriously going to be an Ironman before I turn 35. It’s either that or run the New York marathon. Better if I can do both. Okay, done, I will.

Thank you Kassy!

So there you go…three books + an eBook to keep me intellectually and creatively stimulated in the next few days and even as we prepare for FTW magazine’s second issue with Mr. Awesomeness personified on the cover (we’ll let you make a few guesses on our fanpage very soon).

Speaking of FTW, have you guys seen our maiden issue? I’ll be very upset if you say NO! Seriously you guys, we have a number of distribution channels you ought to visit – preferably right after you read this post.

Your primer for everything made of WIN

  • Reebok stores in festival Mall and Eastwood
  • Plana Forma
  • Curves
  • Nav Thai
  • Wellness Studio by Sport Fit at Power Plant Mall
  • Wicked Kitchen
  • Chris Sports

And a few other places we’ll be announcing soon. And oh, we are also expanding our roster of advertisers and partners so if you or your company would like to be one of the great ones, get in touch with any one from FTW on Facebook here. Or send me an email at vicky@ftw-magazine.com. We’re launching our website soon, as well, so watch out for it!

Oh, just before I go, may I introduce the FTW Team of Kassy Pajarillo, Marga Deona, Chad Villarmino, Erwin Feliciano, and Lawrz Libo-on. Lawrz and Erwin joined the team after maiden issue was launched so their names will appear in the year-end issue. 🙂

Team Made of Win

Lastly, and I promise I’m clicking ‘publish’ on my blog na after this, FTW is FREE! That’s right, F. R. E. E! Do you know how many great things there still out there that come with zero cost to you readers?! Not a whole darn lot, that’s for sure! Even your crush may not at all be that great and free — but FTW? It’s FREE AWESOMENESS duuuuuude! And that right there is called subtlety at its finest. *wink*

So tell me loves, what are YOU made of?

Bookworm Chronicles #3: SONG YET SUNG


A room without books is like a body without soul.

Let me begin by saying that James McBride is a fine writer. With Song Yet Sung, he was able to weave gender, race, class, human emotions, and geography so beautifully that readers get a colorful yet moving portrait of what it must have been like living as a slave in the eastern part of Maryland in the mid-1800s.

Song Yet Sung’s main character is Liz Spocott, a runaway slave, who was running away from the attentions of her abusive master. When we first meet her, Liz had been shot in the face, and ends up chained in an attic of a tavern belonging to Miss Patty Cannon, a notorious slave stealer who also picks up runaways and sells them to slave owners in the south. Liz comes to be known as “the dreamer,” because she has prophetic visions of the future, which come to her in dreams. While barely conscious in the attic, an older slave woman tells her bits and pieces of “the code,” an intricate set of signals and words by which slaves can communicate and which may also pave the way to freedom. Eventually, because of Liz’s daring and Big Linus’ help, all of the captives break away from the attic, and Patty Cannon decides to go after them to recoup her monetary losses. But there’s also another person who is hired by Liz’s former owner, Denwood, to track her down, so the odds against Liz have now been stacked higher – even for those who make the mistake of helping her. It is only while she is on the run that she begins to understand the code, and she realizes, with the help of her dreams (visions of what freedom – or the lack of it – means in the future for slavery’s descendants) that it is not yet complete.

The novel brings to fore questions such as: What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to be human? What does loyalty mean? How far will people go for money?

What really sticks out in this novel though is the notion that no one – even those remotely connected with slavery and earning from it – is absolutely free. For example, Denwood, the white slave tracker hired by Liz’s owner has his own reasons for doing what he does. He was feared by most but when his son died and his wife left him shortly after, he himself quite the slave tracking business, withdrew from society and decided to live life in remorseful seclusion. Miss Kathleen, the owner of the slave who helped Liz, is tied to her land and wholly dependent on her slaves for the upkeep of her estate after the death of her husband. Even the feared villain Miss Patty is heavily dependent on slavery for her lifestyle and survival.

Overall, this was a fine read, one that I can definitely recommend. I stayed up pretty much through the night to finish it. James McBride is now on my list of must-read contemporary authors.

 

What are you feeding your mind these days, Loves?

***

Up next: Game of Thrones by George R. Martin

Not Really A Blogpost


Aside from running 16.61k in 1:31:38 this morning – in lieu of 21k at Earth Run which I had had to beg off from due to lingering migraine when I woke up at 3:30am – my life during the past few days has been pretty uneventful. Painfully vapid. Blah. Oh but perhaps I exaggerate, because it’s really not entirely boring, you know.  There have been some great moments worth mentioning, such as:

  • Davoud and I recently went on a business trip to Singapore to attend a workshop/conference on SEO/SEM optimization facilitated by Kevin Ryan. It was a two-day workshop which taught us a great deal of tricks we will soon be applying on our corporate website. On the last day of training, we dared to volunteer our website to be dissected by Kevin and the rest of the participants and much to our delight, we got rave reviews for it! He mentioned a few things we need to work which shouldn’t be that hard to do, given how skillful oure respective teams are. Davoud’s team handles the technical side of the website, whereas mine, handles the content. It feels great to get validation from an unbiased third party for something we painstakingly worked months and months for.  I’m sure you know exactly how lovely that feels, don’t you?

Davoud's quite enamored by Google maps in Singapore. Helped him loads in getting around the city though it's only his first visit. Me? I'm forever geographically-challenged!

It was also Davoud’s first time to visit Singapore and although our schedule did not exactly permit us to go out and do the usual touristy things, we did have a fantastic time. Met a few nice people, too, especially the fun X-Mi guys who were at the conference as well. Not only did Anette and Max give us a tour of their Google-ish office (with a badass pool table, PS3, massage chair, and endless supply of cold beer), they also gifted us (Kevin, Davoud, and I) with an X-mini stereo!

At the X-Mi office in Singapore.

Darling Chris also took us to this club called Altitude which sits atop (63rd floor) of this building whose name escapes me at the moment. What did I tell you? I have the memory of a dying goldfish! At Altitude, you get a spectacular 360-degree view of Singapore! Drinks are, as expected, a bit pricey but I suppose you do have to shell out a wee bit more for the view. But then again, inexpensive Singapore is most certainly NOT! Ugh.

*kilig*

  • FTW. I cannot tell you more about this lil’ mega-project (little and mega in a phrase: how’s that for an intriguing paradox, eh?) except that it has truly been wonderful working with Kassy, Marga, and Chad.  Three of the hardest-working people I know. These guys don’t know the meaning of the word ‘rest’. One of the few things we share in common. For The Win, indeed. See it for yourself in September! Oh but perhaps I can share this photo?

Reebok Girls

  • I have also been keeping to my bookworm-ing pursuits. I had just finished reading Michael Scott’s The Warlock, the fifth of the Immortal series which Noel got me super hooked on since he lent me the first book, The Alchemyst, last year. I remember it was one of the books I brought to Bali when Chris and I went to attend his friends’ wedding. Now that book five’s out of the way, I feel rather bitin because the last book is not due for release until next year, I think. In the meantime, I have started reading Song Yet Sung by James McBride. It’s a story revolving around colored slave-protagonist, Liz, and the cruel plight of the negro slaves in the 18th century. In that, it may seem reminiscent of Uncle Tom’s Cabin which I have read back in college – not to mention, cried many a night for – but I have only reached page 27 so far, so I really won’t be able to tell you guys more. One thing I can tell you though is that I am finding it quite hard to put the book down. Definitely one of the unputdownable reads I have come across so far. What are you feeding your mind with these days, Loves?

Bookworm Chronicles #2: STEALING WATER


What are you feeding your mind these days?

Just how lucky are we to have all these little comforts and excesses around us to enjoy on a whim? Regular trips to the cinema, expensive meals, ostentatious clothes and accessories, flashy cars – things that sometimes we tend to ignore because, well, we have never experienced deprivation. Or hunger. Or living in constant fear of being hunted down by creditors and loan sharks we are heavily indebted to.

But this guy, Tim Ecott, a one-time army brat, has had it rough in South Africa (where they moved from a middle-class living in Ireland) where and when his family experienced a mad reversal of fortunes and became so poor they had to literally resort to stealing water from their neighbors at one point.

To keep the family afloat, especially after being kicked out, very publicly, from their home, Tim’s enterprising Irish mother started selling junk from a small shop in an almost inconspicuous arcade in downtown Johannesburg. Meanwhile, his Welsh-English ex-army-officer father failed at everything he tried. This little junkshop is also the setting where some very interesting, colorful, and sometimes mental/criminal characters make regular trips to see and be seen. In fact, you will meet all of them at the beginning of the memoir.

Before moving to South Africa, Tim’s mother was drowning in the weight of domesticity and was described as oftentimes taking a cocktail of anti-depressants as her way of escaping the drudgery of life. But amazingly, in South Africa, she was transformed into a multitasking mom slash small-time trader who won’t stop at nothing to earn a little bit more for the family.

Reading the book I often had to stop and think if everything that Ecott was describing were ever real. Some of the scenes were pretty painful to remember, let alone write about – if I were in his shoes. Growing up and even until today, I have lived a very simple life – punctuated only occasionally by my colorful pairs of shoes, surpassed only by my superlatively colorful (mis)adventures.Sure I have had my moments of pained imaginings of a life that can only be described as rolling around in filthy money –  but that is just me feeling bad sometimes that I am not in any position to build homes for and feed the abandoned elderly and babies in the streets.

A few times I had to blink back fat tears threatening to spill over especially when Ecott’s being ever so descriptive of his mother, Pamela, who has a tendency to scorn fate and probability, all the while bravely carrying the full weight of her family’s string of misfortunes and debts on her shoulders. In a way, she kind of reminded me of my adoptive Mom.

How about you Loves? Anything interesting on your bedside table?

Bookworm Chronicles #1: JAILBIRD


If you remember on my birthday some weeks back, one of the resolutions I made was to read one book per week. I must admit, it was not an altogether original thought because I was, in fact, inspired by this blogger whose chronicles I enjoy reading immensely. I love reading and if you come by the house, you will see only two things piled up in the cramped space of my apartment, which I totally refuse to part with no matter how many times I move houses – books and shoes. Sadly, for the past year or so, I have been negligent in the reading department that I am now feeling the backlash. On most days I just feel so dumb and inadequate and though I am probably just being too hard on myself (again) by saying that…but it’s true. There is much to learn and I am beginning to hate myself for not absorbing as much!

On the day that I resolved to go bookworming again, I started with Sophie’s World because that was the book I brought along when I upped and spent time with my fiance. But once I got back, I found this book by Kurt Vonnegut which I must have had since college because the pages were all yellow and slightly brittle to the touch and I even saw a College classmate’s home number which I wrote on the last page of the book! Surreal, isn’t it? Intrigued, because I don’t really remember reading it over a decade ago, I gingerly opened the book — and I was hooked.

***

I finished Jailbird yesterday while I was having footspa treatment for my marathon-tortured feet.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

I am not sure but I think this may be the first Kurt Vonnegut novel I have ever read and I’m glad I did. It is full of dark, dead pan humor, as apparently only Kurt Vonnegut can write.

Are you all familiar with Charlie Brown from Charles Schulz‘s comic strip Peanuts? Then you would know what a Charlie Brown moment/day is. It is when you set out with all the best intentions, putting your best foot forward and making the best impression, only to have things go an entirely different direction at the last second? Sounds familiar? I’m sure, because we’ve all had our Charlie Brown moments, one way or the other. But the protagonist in Jailbird, Mr. Walter F. Starbuck, is painted as someone who seemed to have lived a Charlie Brown life. Not a moment or a day, but life. After a long intro in which WFS and his consequent plight – a lifetime of underachievement and inadequacy, the death of his wife, his estrangement from his son, being sentenced to prison because of his ‘involvement’ in the Watergate scandal – are slowly revealed, the story now focuses on the two days following his release from prison for his unremarkable (and almost completelely coincidental) role in the biggest scandal of US President Richard Nixon’s time. His rebirth into society becomes a frame for the story of his life and how he came to be in prison, through rambling – and sometimes hysterical – flashbacks. The running theme of his life? Well, let’s just say that it would be something Charlie Brown would sum up best as “Good grief!”

What I like most about this novel, although people say it is among the least ‘humorous’ work Vonnegut has ever penned, is that you get a sense of the author’s humanism and his compassion for mankind and its flaws. I could be wrong on so many levels but the way I read it, Jailbird’s underlying theme is the importance of fundamental kindness. Even when the situation is at its most negative, there still lies a flicker of conviction that compassion and generosity would be enough to set things right.  Though Jailbird is replete with biting cynicism, you would feel that it is never completely disheartening to read because of that glimpse of childlike hope that we really could learn to forgive and be kind to one another.

This definitely won’t be the last Vonnegut novel I would read.

What are you feeding your mind these days?