TRAVEL: SEOUL Asylum (Part I)


15 October 2012 — So, after months of waiting, Emperor Eric and I finally arrived in Seoul, South Korea for our third international (budget) travel together.  From Incheon Airport, we took the airport taxi to take us to our hostel somewhere in the heart of Seoul. When we got to the area, our airport cab driver could not point us to the exact location of our very posh and very expensive hostel (it was on stealth mode, apparently) – so he called for Police assistance. There we were by the side of the main road, looking every inch the turistas that we were, trying to figure out how to dial in on Eric’s phone so we can ask the hostel staff to give us clearer instructions on how to get to Elm Tree Guest House. The Police came and took us in for questioning, errr, I meant, helped us find the hostel which turned out to be on the corner right next to where we were standing.

Help, we’re lost!

We went to a lot of places in Seoul starting with Seoul City Hall and Seoul National Library which were both VERY IMPRESSIVE, architecture-wise! The City Hall ground was where PSY had the concert the night before and when we passed it, they were still dismantling the stage.

Seoul City Hall on my right; National Library on my left

Then we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace which was quite similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, except that Gyeonbokgung looks ‘refurbished to perfection’ it no longer has that truly ancient feel to it, you know? The paint was all very fresh, but I guess keeping the whole palace well-maintained will guarantee longevity for more tourists to enjoy and appreciate in time.

Gyeongbuk Palace

You can actually borrow these traditional costumes for free! Eric and I wanted to but the waiting time that afternoon was 120 minutes. uh-oh.

One of the palaces of Gyeongbuk

At night, we quickly freshened up and had a quick dinner at this quaint lil’ noodle place just outside our hostel street and I enjoyed my dimsum to bits but Eric wasn’t too pleased with his very cold noodles. From there, we went to Myung Dong for some shopping and I walked away with some nice stuff from Uniqlo and H&M. It was a beautiful night for walking around and appreciating the sights, sounds, and taste of that part of Seoul.

‘Sale’ shopper!

Follow the sign.

On Day Two, we found ourselves in standing in awe of EVERLAND! Not much of a theme park person myself (only because I am absolutely terrified of rides that go over 3ft above the ground – I’m lame like that), I had only ever been to Enchanted Kingdom (Phils.) and Universal Studios in Singapore in all 33 years of my life. So when Eric mentioned that we will be checking out EVERLAND on our second day in South Korea, I must admit I had my own reservations. I know for certain there’s no way I’m going to do any of the rides there but if there’s enough sights and people to take photos of, then surely it can’t be that bad.We took the train to Gangnam (Oppa Gangnam style!) where bus 5002 bound for Everland picks up passengers/tourists.

Allow me to digress a little here: Gangnam, apparently, is their version of Paris’ Champs Elysses where high-end brands are lined up on either side of the avenue. People here are visibly more fashionable and I suppose, affluent, than in some parts of Seoul.

Welcome to Gangnam!

So anyway, there we were, still nursing residual exhaustion from the activities of the previous day, sleeping soundly during the entire one-hour journey to Everland Theme Park at Yongin. Everland is HUGE! It’s a sprawling property featuring rides for both kids and adults, food parks, zoo, lush gardens with flowers which were almost blinding in their vibrance! What more, entrance fee of 40,000 KRW (one day pass) is a lot cheaper than that of Universal Studios or Disneyland.

PORORO in 3D!

Food is also reasonably priced at an average of 10,000 KRW which is about 370 pesos for a full meal.My favorite, aside from taking photos and gushing about how nice and sweet the Koreans are, was the 3D show of PORORO, this cute animated character who’s all the rage among Korean kids as we were wont to learn within a few seconds of the pre-show.

And yes, I love, love, love the gardens with all the October flora in full bloom!

Autumn flowers a-bloomin’!

Who’s up for some Columbus’ Adventure?

Colors of autumn!

Aesop’s Village

To be continued…

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Fresh: REEBOK RealFlex Flight & World Vision Run 2012


Take flight with Reebok RealFlex Flight. Engineered with individual flex-friendly nodes (76 sensors) and a lightweight, minimalist foldover tongue and sole, the RealFlex Flight is designed to help your feet move and flex naturally with an ideal balance of support and flexibility. Now available at all Reebok stores nationwide for Php 4,295. I will be wearing these babies, which I have decided to call Fiona, this coming Sunday at the World Vision Run where I will be doing another 21k. See you guys there! xoxo

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Speaking of World Vision Run, this is going to be held on June 24, 2012 (Sunday) at the Bonifacio Global City. World Vision is inviting runners to share the same kind of love that can change lives—lives of children in need. With a very small act of kindness these children will be able to look ahead to better lives with better opportunities, all because runners like us and even non-runner kindhearted souls out there, have made the decision to willingly open our hearts and share love and care to kids who are in dire need of it!

This Run  is a way for us to make a real and lasting difference for ONE precious boy or girl in need. Proceeds from registration fees shall be pooled together with other World Vision resources so children, families and communities may be provided with the following:

  • Education
  • Skills training
  • Improved Nutrition
  • Livelihood assistance
  • Health care
  • Safe water
  • Values formation
Again, let’s support this run and help children gain access to a better future for themselves and their families. For more details, check poster below:

UNILAB Run United 2012


I haven’t been around road races lately but UNILAB Run United 2 has, more than anything, shown me just how huge the running community has grown since I became part of it in 2009. Until Sunday, five thousand half-marathon runners were unheard of in the Philippines. In a way, it’s nice to see more runners taking more risks when it comes to pushing their capabilities. That most of them don’t just look at 5k or 10 and stop there is, I think, a very good thing – not only for physical fitness but also for general wellbeing. There most certainly is a good deal of pleasure to be had in besting one’s personal record and moving on to longer distance categories.  Trust me, I know, because I haven’t been able to shake-off the urge to keep doing better in whatever race I join – even when the odds are stacked high against me.

Run United 2 Expo

Just like this Sunday. I woke up around 3am to aching joints and that all too-familiar abdominal cramps. Yep, it was day one and what do you know, it was raining too! I briefly contemplated ditching the race and continue with my dreamy slumber – bed weather and all.  But after consuming six heaping spoonfuls of Nutella the day before, along with a few other unhealthy nibbles, I was too guilt-stricken I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to burn some calories – even when in period-related discomfort and pain.

We reached BGC twenty-five minutes before gun start and I was pleasantly surprised to see the starting line crawling with runners; all of them oblivious to the steady drizzle drenching everything on sight. After dumping our bags at the luggage area, we made our way to the barricaded starting line, where the marshals were no longer allowing anyone to check-in until the first two waves of 21k runners have been released. We wound up on wave 3 – Bave, Cris, and I – and we snaked our way just a few layers behind the lead pack.  You see, I am not a fast runner but I kind of resent getting stuck behind runners much slower than I am. When this happens, first, I get exceedingly bored and then gradually, my temper starts to bubble up at the surface. I suppose it’s called aging, this ‘getting annoyed so fast’ syndrome.

Team Reebok with Eric Caramay and Sir Rene ‘Jazzrunner’ Villarta at the Unilab Media and Bloggers area (Thank you, Unilab!)

I have always enjoyed running in the rain so I started skipping happily past the starting line, momentarily forgetting about the painful spasms. Now I must say that Run United 2 has done very well with hydration. I’m not much of a hydrabelt-sporting runner but it was clearly unnecessary for me to worry about that in this case because hydration did not leave anything to be desired. There were piles of banana and sponge in some water stations, too, much to the runners’ delight. At least, I thought it was delightful! I had half a banana at one of the stations and chewing on it helped get my mind off the cramps I’ve been battling since I woke up.

Now the fun thing about starting at wave three is that you get to pass by so many runners from the first two waves who have slowed down. Not that I got any faster but I suppose they were more tired than I was, so I managed to squeak past a number of them.

Team Reebok

And then there was the finish line, with the digital timer blinking away beautifully. It was just the respite I needed. The pain in my abdomen did not recede one bit and in my drenched state, I was exceedingly uncomfortable too. One of those days when being a woman is not much fun.

After crossing the tape, I immediately went in search of my luggage so I can take my digicam and snap photos of the post-race revelry while waiting for my teammates to arrive. I visited the Reebok booth and was glad to see Ms. Yoya and Villy, both of whom have been very supportive of the team for a year now. We saw some of the latest designs in running shoes and apparel and they all look pretty ingenious! Too bad, most of them are for men.

Reebok Phils. family

Polecats Manila was also there and I stood there in awe of the grace and athleticism of the pole athletes led by Ms. CD. I really shouldn’t have stopped at just three lessons. I had been busy with work and travel that I wasn’t able to make time for it but now that I’m here and actually have a few days before I leave again and again, I’m definitely enrolling for some pole fun! My dream to become a pole athlete is still very much on.

Now that’s pure athleticism – with a sexy twist!

Now I have heard so much hype on the 3-piece RU2 medal, each piece of which you will have to collect for every RU2 race you join, and I can totally understand how so many runners have bought into it. The idea itself is nifty and it creates some form of loyalty from the audience. Since I wasn’t around when RU2 Leg 1 happened – at that time I was fighting for BDM 102 recognition with blood, sweat, and tears – I don’t have the first piece of the medal puzzle. So if there’s anyone out there who wants the second piece of the puzzle (I dunno. Maybe you were ill or incapacitated last Sunday and couldn’t run), I’m willing to donate mine. Kidding. Or not.

Thank you Mr. Photographer!

All in all, I thought UNILAB and Run Rio did an amazing job with Run United 2, which turned out to be a mega success despite the inclement weather the night before and on race day itself. The celebrity sightings and mini concert also added flavor to the show and even though I did not stay long enough to check out the booths and other activities at the Expo, the runners all seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely that day.

By the way, here’s my 21k race results and analysis. I wasn’t fast enough, it seems. Oh well, let’s hope I do even better on my next full-mary: the 36th MILO Marathon.

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Race outfit: Reebok top, Reebok RealFlex shoes (since it was raining, I wanted to go lightweight with my kicks), pink Newton socks, Smith Optics Pivlock shades, and a bright smile.:)

Picstitch: Because I’m too lazy to do a proper blogpost…for now.


The weather is cruel at 5 degrees with rain showers and strong gusts of wind so we had to abandon our plans for staying outdoors and doing outdoorsy things. But, we made up for it by spending more time on the dining table and playing hide-and-seek with the adorably cute, incredibly smart, undeniably sweet kids named Raphael and Claire. I mean, seriously, with kids as beautiful as these two, who would need dolls?

All things bright and beautiful...

All creatures great and small...

All things wise and wonderful...

Obviously I’m too lazy to do a proper blogpost so i’m letting these photos do the talking…for now. I’ll be back once i’m properly acclimatized. In the meantime, we have one and a half more days to spend with Chris’ family before we set out on our own Paris adventure. I have said it once before and I’m saying it again: All things considered, I know I got a good man right here. Yes, Salt n’ Pepa, a mighty, mighty good man.:)

 

Review: Reebok RealFlex


Reebok Optimal Flex

Note: Reviewed in November 2011. Thank you Reebok for my swanky purple pair!

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Having taken the plunge by registering for Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 happening in March next year, I am supposed to be on serious training mode as of writing.  With over 100 kilometers to cover, I cannot emphasize more on the necessity of keeping my feet, legs, knees, and core in their best fighting form, yet.  As part of my training, I make it a point to log 10k runs during weekdays and if I’m in town, LSDs on weekends.  Suffice it to say that my running shoes are seeing more action now than they ever did in my history of sporadic racing event participation.

Lately, it seems that barefoot/natural/minimalist running is all the rage and this movement is fueling huge industry growth in the Running business. Not wanting to be left out, I decided to look for a pair that can give me the closest possible feel to barefoot running. When I heard about Reebok RealFlex, I got myself a pair and immediately took it for a 10k spin around Ortigas, followed by a round of Insanity Plyometric circuit training the following day.

At only 9.2oz, RealFlex is indeed lighter than most running shoes out there. But aside from it being lightweight, RealFlex capitalizes on its 76 independent “sensors” located at the bottom of the shoe, strategically positioned to adapt to all training surfaces as well as provide much-needed stability.  Having been used to running shoes with ample layer of cushioning, it took me a while to settle into the minimalist construction of RealFlex. But once I did, there was definitely natural movement and flexibility in each of my stride – whether running or doing executing Insanity moves. I also noticed that the sensors in the heel provided great heel impact absorption as I made several downhill trips at St. Martin’s Loop in Pasig.

The upper part of the shoe made mostly of mesh, gives the feet almost a ‘sock like’ feel while ensuring that feet stay dry and cool. The toebox also allows enough breathing room for my toes.

Of course, knowing that two of the fittest CrossFit athletes in the world, Graham Holmberg and Rebecca Voigt, are openly raving about RealFlex technology is really just an added bonus.

Flexing with Real Flex

RealFlex is available for P4,295 at the following Reebok Concept Stores: U/G Level SM Megamall, 2nd Level Festival Supermall, 2nd LevelTrinoma & 2nd Level Citywalk 2, Eastwood, Galleria, also available at Royal Sporting House Ermita.

Travel: A Whole Lotta Cherry Poppin’ in Davao


I love my recent trip to Davao City to bits for a lot of good reasons but having my cherry popped specifically on these three things: (a.) zipline (b.) having a photo taken with an albino python, and (c.) civet coffee – certainly takes the cake out of any fun activities I recall to have done in any of my past local travels. Except, perhaps, my intro to diving experience in Batangas and surfing in Zambales – as I don’t think these two will ever be taken out of my ‘awesome adventures’ file box.

Thank you WITHOUT LIMITS and OPERATION SMILE!

But first, thank you to our dear friend Ian Alacar of Without Limits and the people behind Operation Smile for sponsoring our trip to Davao! As you know, I was there along with Team Reebok, for The 500 Smile Fun Run (Davao Leg) – an initiative of Operation Smile in celebration of its 30th year in the Philippines. Through the race and other local and nationwide efforts, Operation Smile is hoping to create awareness and rally support from the private sector for its ongoing campaign of providing free reconstructive facial surgery to indigent Filipino children and young adults born with cleft lip and cleft palate deformity.

The race was held on the 27th of November so we had a bit of time to enjoy most of what Davao has to offer. If time and resources were on our side, we would have gunned for EVERYTHING, and not just some of the city’s offerings. The first thing I noticed when we landed at Davao International Airport was how beautiful the airport was! It’s clean and welcoming and, well, nothing like our old international airport in Manila. As we drove out of the airport and into the city proper, we also noticed that there is hardly garbage strewn out and scattered about in the streets and in plain sight of people – which is quite a common sight where we’re from. Later on, we would learn that they practice proper waste segregation and management in Davao and the Davaoenos really take it very seriously! Kinda makes me wonder why these things don’t work as well in Metro Manila.

So anyway, I don’t have much time so let me just quickly go through the three things Davao has successfully deflowered me on:

I am Super(wo)man!

1. Zipline. I have the greatest fear of heights. Take me five floors up and make me look down and I’d be all green in the face. That’s why bungee jumping, skywalking, parasailing, hot air balloon ride, etc, are never going to make it into my list of Things To Do Very Soon. I am terrified of heights and I’m NOT even contemplating doing something about. Until Kassy and the guys egged me on to try ziplining and before I knew it, I was doing the superman on my first zipline and sitting next. It was exhilarating! Of course I was shaking like a leaf when the guys were strapping the harness on and would shake more violently when I was given the instruction to lower myself and get ready to be released on the cable. I thought I was going to keep my eyes painfully shut the whole 600 meters of the first zipline but I manned-up and even managed a split-second look-down into the trees and water down below. Boy, was I brave!

You guys ever tried touching a python? They're very strong and cold to the touch. Kaya pala 'coldhearted snake'...

Five against one.

2. Touching and having my photo taken with an albino python. As much as I harbor fear of heights, I am equal parts terrified of reptiles  as well – snakes, especially! And so imagine how I was shrieking and cringing each time I would attempt to get close to the python for photo op. Even though the zoo attendant reassured us over and over again that it is quite a nice snake and that it’s used to having humans give it a good petting, I was still terrified! But after doing ziplining even with my fear of heights, I figured, what’s one more act of ‘valor’? haha.

If only they needed sip and smile models outside the zoo in Davao...

3. Civet coffee. Now I am far from a coffee connoisseur or of anything, actually, but I have heard of civet coffee (who hasn’t anyway) and have always been curious about its taste and aroma. And since I was on some kind of a roll in Davao with items 1 and 2, in addition to a wild  time spent at the Bazaar, I simply could not break the awesome pattern by letting civet coffee pass. So, ayun, tumikim ako. (So there, I succumbed and had a sip.) I took it pure, no sugar and cream (I assume that’s how it’s supposed to be taken, ya?), and my initial reaction was: ‘Well, ya, it’s totally different from the instant coffees and commercial staple I pick up from Starbucks or Coffee Bean.’ Now I hope I don’t offend coffee lovers and especially those who think the world of civet coffee by my paltry review – if you could call it that – because like I said, I really am far from being a decent food blogger/critique. It’s been one of my greatest frustrations, trust me, and it breaks my heart every single time because I can’t seem to get any better at it! *sob*

Kariton kids

So there you have it, my lovely Davao adventure in three stages of deflowering. As for the primary reason for our being there – The 500 Smile Run – I am pretty pleased to report that I took podium again by placing 3rd in the 16k female category!  It feels good to be back on the road and (the) podium finish certainly became the sweet, lavish layer of icing on the cake.

Vicky wearing Reebok Easytone top, Zigtech shorts, and RealFlex Optima.

The 500 Smile Run(ners)

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.

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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!