Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Shopping in Metro Manila

By this time, the first day of December, people should have started doing their Christmas shopping for gifts for their friends and love ones. Gifts need not be expensive because this holiday season is about giving and sharing your blessings no matter how simple they are. In our family, we usually ask or see what does our love one needs the most in his or her everyday life and if we can afford it, then we give it with all our hearts. I heard a lot of people who dread the Christmas season because for them it is such a big expense and they cannot afford it. What I say to them is just give what you can and if you can not afford to give then simply greet them a Merry Christmas, pray for them and wish them the best of health. Prayers are such a powerful gift that people should not take for granted.

Anyway, if you have still time and the budget to shop, here are a few suggestions:

1. Divisoria - by now, shops are open 24 hours daily but you have to have extreme patience to go through the crowds. Items are so cheap that you can end up buying more if your budget is based on mall prices. Security is a bit questionable since a lot of thieves and pickpockets know people go here to buy and spend.
2. Bazaars located at schools, church grounds, offices and parking spaces. Prices are higher than Divisoria but still cheaper than malls. Noel Bazaar at the World Trade Center in Pasay City is a good example.
3. Malls - they offer extended mall hours for the weeks approaching Christmas. No more sale by December and tenants jack up their prices to get more profits. Security is better compared to Divisoria. If you plan to get a taxi, forget it. Just commute, by bus or jeepney because taxi drivers are usually so picky and lines are 3-5 times longer than ordinary days.

4. Greenhills - a favorite among shoppers. The atmosphere is like a mall, tenants are situated just like bazaars and shoppers can actually ask for a bargain. Items are usually imported from Hong Kong, China, Bangkok, Taiwan, etc. and they are a bit cheaper compared to mall tenants. Security is comparable to any other first class malls.
5. Non-government organizations - NGOs such as Haribon Foundation have gift suggestions during holidays. They sell shirts, books, fans, kids activity books and seedlings to anyone. Proceeds go to projects which help their cause. Some organizations pool the funds they get from their merchandise and use them for sponsoring scholarships for children who cannot afford to go to school.
6. Online shopping - sites such as Sulit.com.ph, Ayosdito.ph, Bili.ph are all local sites that posts sellers and the items they sell. If sellers do not have stalls to display their products, they ask buyers to pick up items at their homes or just do meet ups. A word of caution to online shoppers, just like everywhere else, there are people who manipulate buyers to get payment and run away without giving the items which were purchased. Be sure to get the item first before paying or just to "kaliwaan" to be sure.

Happy shopping to everyone and do not forget that Christmas is not about gifts and money but it is the spirit of giving and spending quality time with your family. Have a blessed Christmas to all!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My First Race - Haribon Million Hectare Challenge

First of all, I would like to congratulate Haribon Foundation for the successful Million Hectare Challenge last November 21, 2010. More than a thousand people joined the race and supported the cause to raise funds to restore our forests by the year 2020. Everyone had a great time and some runners can not wait for the Haribon Run next year. As for me, I am very happy for my first run and I decided to continue running as what I mentioned on my previous blog post.

I joined the 5k race and successfully finished it in 37 minutes and 10 seconds. It was a slow pace but I know I will improve in the coming months. I could have finished earlier if I knew the route and was not dependent on race marshals. I was a bit relaxed, saving my energy for the last 50 meters because I was planning to finish in a bit of a sprint. I had a hard time during 2 uphill stages and I relaxed a bit to gain strength. To my surprise, race marshals were pointing to a direction towards the finish line and I have plenty of energy left. I was a bit smiling when I crossed the finish line because I knew that in my next race, I would definitely get a better time and I knew 5k is not that difficult after all. I can run for 6 or 7k next time, to prepare for the next 5k run and in a few months, try the 10k run.

I am planning to join another race this December and train during the holidays. I am so excited to start this running hobby and I am also looking forward to meet new runner friends. My wife has always been very supportive and in fact had a great time running the 3k race too. Hopefully, she'll have more time on her hands and try the 5k run next year.

I would also like to give my sincerest gratitude to the Rotary Club of Midtown Diliman for supporting the Haribon Million Hectare Challenge, most specially President Randy Tan for being present during the event. Finally, congratulations to my loving wife, Yasmin Mangila Ponce for doing a great job as the overall logistics supervisor, I am very proud of her accomplishments and will always be there to support her future projects and endeavors.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nike, Adidas and Reebok Running Shoes

I will be starting my goal to get serious in running this coming Sunday at Haribon Foundation's Million Hectare Challenge at Mckinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. A must have is a good quality running shoes since I will be running the 5 kilometer distance. I plan to run 3-4 races more for the 5km distance then I will decide if I will be ready for the 10 kilometer race. I recently talked to a friend who has been running since last year and he told me that shoes will be my biggest investment. He already has 3-4 pairs and he is again looking for a new one. I knew that it is a bit expensive but compared to my other interest, which is to build my own mountain bike, this sport will be hands down much cheaper.

Now, after visiting a few malls and running shoes shop, I became confused. There are a lot of nice shoes to choose from. Other than the usual brands- Nike, Adidas and Reebok, other brands have good looking shoes too. New Balance, Salomon, Merell, Mizuno, Asics, Newton, etc. made consumers have a wide variety of brands to choose from. From these options, I asked my friend's advice and he told me he prefers Adidas. I agreed it was a nice choice since I bought my Samba 4 or 5 years ago, been using it regularly and it is still alive and nice to look at. I also had my experiences with Nike but unfortunately, they never last for more than a year. Will I give Reebok a chance or try other brands? I searched the internet about reviews of running shoes and most American say they prefer Saucony, Nike and Adidas. Too bad we do not have a retailer of Saucony brand here in the Philippines.

I will have to wait and see, try one brand this year and probably another one or two next year. Then I will know which brand do I truly prefer and recommend to use for running.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Manny Pacquiao Simply the Best Boxer

In what appears to be Manny Pacquiao's biggest opponent and test to his illustrious career, against Antonio Margarito, 4 1/2 inches taller and 17 lbs heavier, Pacquiao did what he does best-winning a boxing match in a very convincing manner. Margarito suffered a devastating defeat that he needs a surgery to his fractured eye socket. It was such a one-sided match that you may think that Pacquiao had the best training and Margarito had so many distractions.

Much has been written and said about Team Pacquiao's camp and training being the worst ever, from distractions in Baguio City and meetings with politicians, a singing engagement in a tv show, coaching a basketball team in the US, campaigning for a US Senator, preparing for a concert after the Margarito match, Pacquiao has done it all. He has multi tasked once again, in the weeks before his bout with Margarito, and pulled off a very convincing win that makes people wonder how did he do all that? Will he ever be called the greatest boxer even if does not have a match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. at all?

I say, yes. Definitely. Pacquiao does not need Mayweather to be called the best. Mayweather may be a defensive specialist, and has not lost once but he has not made any convincing win as convincing as Pacquiao has done from the last boxing matches he had. According to Bob Arum, his manager, Manny has not only won his match against his opponents but perhaps ended or altered their careers. From David Diaz, Oscar dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Among the boxers mentioned, only Joshua Clottey seems to probably have a future in boxing. Diaz has not been heard for a while, Dela Hoya and Hatton retired, Cotto is still recovering and Margarito will need several months, probably a year to heal his wounds and spirit. Mayweather has repeatedly avoided having a match signed against Pacquiao and with legal issues hounding him right now against his former girlfriend, I doubt he will agree this time. Mayweather is not a multi tasker like Pacquiao and has not handled mental pressures as well as Pacquiao. At this point in time, Pacquiao is right, Mayweather needs him and Pacquiao does not need Mayweather.

If the match will defy odds and push through, when Floyd losses, everybody will expect that his reason for loosing will be his distractions outside the ring. This will be unfair for Pacquiao. Before every fight, Manny trains as hard as he can and it will be unfair to not credit him the win against Floyd. So, the best option may be a fight with Marquez. Will Marquez be a formidable opponent against Pacquiao? Is his performance against Mayweather a good gauge for him to be worthy of Pacquiao's stature? I say no. Some boxing analysts say that Pacquiao could have lost to Marquez once or twice but the Pacquiao who was against Marquez during those time was only half of what he is today. He is such an excellent boxer today that a match with Marquez will be a mismatch once again. Pacquiao's desired weight of 145 lbs is high for Marquez because he was so outclassed by Mayweather during their last match. But who knows? Maybe Marquez has improved too?

For me, this is the best time for Pacquiao to retire. He has achieved so much for the sport, for his family and for the Filipino people that it is hard to think of what is left for him to prove. His venture to politics may help or inspire more people but it may also be his downfall. Once he retires, I suggest for him to concentrate on helping other Filipino boxers achieve what he has done by providing a scientific way of training them and hiring the best trainers from all over the world. There may never be another Manny Pacquiao to pass by Philippine history but it will be nice to see Pacquiao protegees once in a while. Not only in boxing, he may venture in being the country's godfather in sports and help athletes have good exposure, training and equipment so that in 5 or 10 years from now, we may soon achieve our first, second or maybe third gold medal in the greatest sporting event of all time- the Olympics.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running for Fitness

This coming November 21, Sunday, I will be one of the participants of Haribon Foundation's Million Hectare Challenge. I will be joining the 5-kilometer race and I hope my time will be decent enough compared to other runners in the event. Yesterday, my wife and I went to see a similar fun run in SM Mall of Asia grounds to observe how the organizers managed the event and for me to see what are the best times by first place finishers of the race.

2 Kilometers - around 20 minutes
5 Kilometers - 24 minutes
10 Kilometers - 34 minutes.

First place finishers of 2 and 5 kilometers were Filipinos but the first and second place finisher of the 10 kilometers were Kenyans (I think, judging by their looks). According to one of the organizers of the event, the first place finisher of the 5 and 10 kilometers race were familiar faces of previous races. We were told that these participants are training for a bigger competition, probably a marathon within the coming months. Even kids as young as 12 and 13 years old finished within 35 minutes of the 5-kilometer run.

So in order for me to have a decent time for the 5k race, I have to finish within the 40 minute mark. I hope I can make it. I have been training once a week (its not enough though) and have been finishing 15 minutes for a 2.5k run (with great effort). If my pace is consistent, I estimate to finish the 5k run within 35-40 minutes. So, I have 14 days left to train more and hopefully I will have a good run on the 20th.

After the Haribon Run, I am planning to run regularly and join more running events. Hopefully by next year, I can compete with the 10k run. If I can do 40 minutes for a 5k run, I can probably do 1 hour and 30 minutes for a 10k run. That is way much slower than the Kenyan time of 34 minutes but I am not planning to outdo a Kenyan. These people have been running all their lives. I just plan to be physically fit so that even at the age of 70 years and up, I can still run and join races and inspire my wife and children to be healthy and enjoy sports like I do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sore eyes

Less than 2 months to go before Christmas Day and 2011 and I got a common virus that affects my work. I have so much to do this coming weeks because I do have to earn extra for the coming holiday expenses. I missed an important group meeting last night and I am not sure I will be 100% ready tomorrow. I have another important meeting on Monday so I have to be well by that time. Last time I got this disease was when I was in grade school. According to the Department of Health, there are now several strains of sore eyes and if you get infected with one strain, there is also a possibility that you will also be infected with another strain.

What complicates this situation is I am staying at home to let the virus pass, but I am living with my wife and our two kids. My wife got sore eyes about a month ago and our youngest, a 5 month old baby got infected too. Our eldest son got infected but recovered very quickly but to my surprise, I did not get infected. Now, if i assume that this is another strain, then there is a chance my wife and two kids will be infected again. I really hope and pray that they would not and I am doing everything to disinfect our things to minimize the spread of the virus.

My wife told me that this may be a sign that I should slow down things a bit since I am working very hard these past weeks. She said, I should rest to avoid getting a disease which may be worse than my condition right now. Well, I guess she is right so I am slowing down my pace. I just hope that everything will be alright by the end of the week so I can go back to my normal work pace.