[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta

2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta
Hazewinkel, Belgium
10 to 13 September 2015

Wednesday, 9 September

One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar on September 9th.
One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Umpire boats
Umpire boats
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Official programs distributed during the seminar.
Official programs distributed during the seminar. There were over 3,000 rowers who participated in the event. Jury members had to work in shifts. It was the busiest race I have been to with only 3 minutes intervals between races. Day 2 & 3 of races started at 8:00AM and finished just before 7:00PM.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.

 

Thursday, 10 September

Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Spent the free time after my shift at the "Checkpoint Charlie" post near the Aligner's Hut.
Spent the free time after my shift at the “Checkpoint Charlie” post near the Aligner’s Hut.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
8+'s at the Start.
8+’s at the Start.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians – rowers over the age of 80 during the opening ceremony.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians (rowers over the age of 80) during the opening ceremony.

 

Friday, 11 September

It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.

 

Saturday, 12 September
2nd Shift: Control Commission – Out Pontoon 4
4th Shift: Umpire at 500 (350m to 750 zone)

Sunday, 13 September

Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races.
Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races. Out Pontoon 5 where I was assigned for my last duty for the 2015 WRMR.
Very Special Race - Umpires vs Organizers vs Volunteers
Very Special Race – (L-R: Volunteers vs Organizers vs Umpires)

 

(September 8-13, 2015)

[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Championships and WhatsNext2Rowing Conference

2015 World Rowing Championships
Lac d’Aiguebelette
30 August to 6 September 2015

Info board at the lobby in our hotel.
Info boards at the lobby in our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d'Aiguebelette.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d’Aiguebelette.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators' area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators’ area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators' area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators’ area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Near the Finish area.
Near the Finish area.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.

What’s Next to Rowing Conference
Lac d’Aiguebelette
4 September 2015

Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair) (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair)
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects - Project Manager The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects – Project Manager
The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)

A Fall To Remember Photo Journal #2: Seoulful Wanderings

The trip to Seoul from Chungju after the rowing events at the 17th Asian Games was something I was really looking forward to. Fall was just beginning, but I can already see the hint of beauty it will bring during my wanderings.

~  Day 1: From Chungju to Seoul

Finally leaving Hotel the Base in Chungju which has been our home away from home for over a week.
Finally leaving Hotel the Base in Chungju which has been our home away from home for over a week.

~ Day 1: Gyeongbokgung Palace (Northern Palace)

Touring the palace on my own. View while waiting for the English tour to start.
Touring the palace on my own. View while waiting for the English tour to start.
Tour guides in front of the Information Center at Heungnyemun Gate
Tour guides in front of the Information Center at Heungnyemun Gate
Cute kindergarten students about to start their tour
Cute kindergarten students about to start their tour
Geunjeongjeon (Imperial Throne Hall)
Geunjeongjeon (Imperial Throne Hall)
Gyeonghoeru (Pavilion)
Gyeonghoeru (Pavilion)
I forgot the name of the hall but I think it was inside one of the buildings in the Geoncheonggung (Palace). It is said to be where the King meets with his ministers.
I forgot the name of the hall but I think it was inside one of the buildings in the Geoncheonggung (Palace). It is said to be where the King meets with his ministers.
Walked past this area, which was no longer part of the guided tour so I don't know exactly what this place is. But it's one of the quietest places I've seen while doing my solitary walk in the palace.
Walked past this area, which was no longer part of the guided tour so I don’t know exactly what this place is. But it’s one of the quietest places I’ve seen while doing my solitary walk in the palace.

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Juxtaposition of the old and new
Juxtaposition of the old and new
Gwanghwamun
Gwanghwamun
After the changing of the guards at Gwanghwamun
After the changing of the guards at Gwanghwamun

~ Day 1: Insa-dong

I have visited Insadong very briefly two years ago with my friend who’s based in Seoul. But I did not get the chance to walk the entire stretch of road that’s the heart of Insadong. From Gyeongbokgung Palace I headed to Insadong and enjoyed a meandering walk (despite my sore feet). There is much to see and soak in. I was not able to take a single photo of this walk though.

~ Day 1: Donhwamun-ro, Jongno-gu

Finally met with my friend Bixie after her work. We had dinner at a restaurant a few meters from where I was staying.

I am not really a bulgogi fan, but this one was the best I've tasted so far.
I am not really a bulgogi fan, but this one was the best I’ve tasted so far.

~ Day 2: Suji’s Deli and The War Memorial of Korea in Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu

Brunch at Suji's Deli
Brunch at Suji’s Deli
View from our table
View from our table
We both ordered the lumberjack, but mine's with iced cafe latte while my friend opted for the orange juice. Love the food!
We both ordered the lumberjack, but mine’s with iced cafe latte while my friend opted for the orange juice. Love the food!
At the entrance to the War Memorial of Korea
At the entrance to the War Memorial of Korea

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Countries who helped
Countries who helped

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Went to a place 2 or 3 bus stops away from the War Memorial to meet with my friend's German friend who's renting out his home. My friend wanted to check so we took the (very) uphill trek to his place. We passed by to what the German friend said to be the house of the richest man in Korea. The house occupies a whole block and this is just one part of it.
Went to a place 2 or 3 bus stops away from the War Memorial to meet with my friend’s German friend who’s renting out his home. My friend wanted to check the place so we took the (very) uphill trek to his place. We passed by to what the German friend said to be the house of the richest man in Korea. The house occupies a whole block and this is just one part of it.

~  Day 2: Myeong-dong

From Yongsan, we went to Myeong-dong for more sightseeing. We explored most of the area and ended up shopping. Enjoyed huge discounts on my favorite face care products. We also tried some of the street food and bought some cheap trinkets at the sidewalks. A pleasant albeit tiring detour with no photos to speak of.

~ Day 3: Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Hapjeong

The DMZ was in my list of must-see places for this trip. I initially planned to take the train from Seoul to Dorasan station, but my friend said it would be better if we join one of the many tours being offered. We were picked up by the tour operator from my place then we transferred to another bus where we joined the others. Looking back, I think it was a good thing that we opted for the tour. There were certain areas where taking pictures is not allowed and that includes the 3rd tunnel. The said tunnel was bigger and less difficult to squeeze into unlike the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. But for some reason, the trek back out drained me out. So if you are planning to take the tour sometime soon, a little endurance training would help.

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Looking out to the north
Looking out to the north

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Inside Dorasan Station
Inside Dorasan Station
Lunch at Hapjeong
Lunch at Hapjeong
Coffee time
Coffee time

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Cafe across us
Cafe just across from us

There were several other places we went to or passed by briefly that’s not on this journal. I have had a tiring eight days before the Seoul trip, but I somehow managed to muster the energy to visit as many places as I can. I was not able to go back to Gwanghwamun Square as  planned. I am glad that I was able to go there during a previous visit. There are many still I have to see. I hope I get to visit again soon. Fall, indeed, is a great time to see Korea.

I left the hotel at 4AM to catch the bus to the airport on September 29th. It was drizzling outside. I did not have my umbrella with me and there was no one for me to borrow a spare umbrella. So putting my coat over my head, I started the roughly 300M trek to the airport bus waiting shed. A few meters from the hotel, an ahjussi with a big umbrella came out from one of the buildings. He saw me walking in the rain with my luggage in tow. But he did not stop. I was following him the whole time and even stopped beside him while waiting for the green light to cross the street. I suddenly thought that if I were home, I am sure that anyone who would see me in that situation would offer to help. Still, despite the drizzle and all, there was something soothing and peaceful walking in the rain lugging a suitcase. I wish that I could do the same at home and feel as safe as I did then.

 

 

 

 

 

ITO Duties at the 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014

Serving as International Technical Official (ITO) for Rowing at the 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014 from September 17 to 25 was the best experience I have thus far since I got my international umpire badge. I have had my share of good memories in past umpiring stints, but my Asiad experience improved my confidence in carrying out our various duties. All of us rowing ITOs likewise developed a camaraderie that far exceeded the usual ones I have experienced in the past. I felt the pressure of performing at my best easing off on our first day. It is truly much easier to accomplish things when you are enjoying every moment. While I have always known that, I used to worry about what my next assignment/rotation would be in the past. I was anxious about commiting mistakes in critical posts. This time though, I did not think much about what my next tasks would be. Stoic acceptance of whatever comes my way. I think it is one of the things Kendo honed in me. And it worked in keeping me grounded and focused.

The Asian Games is the biggest sporting event in the region, second only in scale and prestige to the Olympics. This year’s host, the Republic of Korea is highly experienced when it comes to hosting sporting events having previously hosted the Asian games, an Olympics, several World Championships for different sports, and more. Despite knowing that they are quite experienced in organizing these events, I was still impressed by the efficiency by which the host city ~ Incheon~ handled the preparations. Both IAGOC and the Rowing Organizing Committee handled the communications and all preparations smoothly thus ensuring that we have our accreditation (AD) cards and etickets on time.

The trip was filled with unexpected but pleasant surprises since Day 1. I read somewhere that the organizers aimed for a more cost-efficient Asian Games that could be used as a model moving forward. I do not know if they managed to make it the cheapest Asian Games hosting, but I can say that whatever measures they have taken to keep the games simple and cheaper did not diminish the beauty of the various experiences anyone can get from it. And I for one could stand behind any initiative that would make multisporting events more cost-effective to encourage more nations to host the games in the future.

Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing
Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing
Finish Tower ~ Lake Tangeum International Rowing Regatta Course, Chungju, South Korea
Finish Tower ~ Lake Tangeum International Rowing Regatta Course, Chungju, South Korea
In and Out pontoons (photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
In and Out pontoons (photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Start Tower
Start Tower
TISSOT Swiss timing system ~ Start Tower
TISSOT Swiss timing system ~ Start Tower
Boat Weighing
Boat Weighing
Athlete Weighing
Athlete Weighing
Day 2 of competition ~ Judge at the Finish (photo credit: Kin Wah Siu)
Day 2 of competition ~ Judge at the Finish (photo credit: Kin Wah Siu)
At the start area
At the start area
Traffic Rules
Traffic Rules
Out Pontoon
Out Pontoon
Umpires' parade/salute after the last race on the final day of races. (Umpire 1~Mon Khaing, Umpire 2~me, Umpire 3~Youngsang Hwang, Umpire 4~Ying-Hai Mao, Umpire 5~Rucong Huang)
Umpires’ parade/salute after the last race on the final day of races. (Umpire 1~Mon Khaing, Umpire 2~me, Umpire 3~Youngsang Hwang, Umpire 4~Ying-Hai Mao, Umpire 5~Rucong Huang) (photo credit: Razemin Omar)
Umpires' parade
Umpires’ parade
Lake Tangeum International Rowing Regatta Course Stadium (photo credit: Youngsang Hwang)
Lake Tangeum International Rowing Regatta Course Stadium (photo credit: Youngsang Hwang)
Weather report (photo credit: Mon Khaing)
Weather Forecast (photo credit: Mon Khaing)
Photo credit: Sevara Ganiyeva
Photo credit: Sevara Ganiyeva
ITOs in front of the Asian Games cauldron at the Opening Ceremony
ITOs in front of the Asian Games cauldron at the Opening Ceremony
Outside the stadium gates before the start of the Opening Ceremony (photo credit: Kin Wah Siu)
Outside the stadium gates before the start of the Opening Ceremony (photo credit: Kin Wah Siu)
EXO performing at the Opening Ceremony (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
JYJ performing at the Opening Ceremony (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
Kim Soo Hyun (EXO performing at the Opening Ceremony (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
Kim Soo Hyun (EXO performing at the Opening Ceremony (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
Psy (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
Psy (Source: 2014 Incheon Asian Games Facebook page ~ click image for source)
After the FISA Umpires Seminar
After the FISA Umpires Seminar
Goofing around while waiting for lunch after the final day of races (photo credit: Ying-Hai Mao)
Goofing around while waiting for lunch after the final day of races with our awesome LOs/volunteers (photo credit: Ying-Hai Mao)
Group photo with our dedicated volunteer bus driver on his last day with us ~ in front of eMart, Chungju
Group photo with our dedicated volunteer bus driver on his last day with us ~ in front of eMart, Chungju

 

 

 

Dealing with Mindanao’s daily rotational power outages

Thinking out loud when the second power outage hit.
Thinking out loud when the second power outage hit.

So the daily, one-hour rotational power outages we’ve been having for months now just escalated to up to four hours. I read a friend’s comment that there’s probably a greater demand for electricity since a lot of kids are now on their summer breaks. And I’m guessing several of them are playing with their gadgets or on their computers while enjoying their free time to the hilt.

Power came back two hours later. A relief because the heat's definitely on.
Power came back two hours later. A relief because the heat’s definitely on.

I’m way past complaining and whining about the sorry state of power supply in these parts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer as much as before. I find myself wishing I’m a kid again. That I have the kind of time and freedom children have when school’s off. If I could, I would spend my days unplugged for as long as I can and doing stuff like:

Play outdoors. I’ll play every backyard or street game I can with family, relatives, friends, and neighbors. I’ll sweat it out and have fun.

Join a sport I like even if I suck at it.

Go for hikes, get lost, and find interesting things along the way.

Learn to ride a bicycle and bike around wherever I want.

Volunteer.

Read a book at the library or in a shaded area in a park.

Learn to cook afternoon merienda from the elders.

Reconnect with nature. Learn as much as a I can about the plants I see.

Join a tree planting activity.

Swim in a lake, river, or at the beach.

And simply be intensely happy being busy doing nothing.

Throwback Thursday – Mt Pinatubo Trek

In 2008, I joined the Mt Pinatubo trek organized by one of my former co-workers. The planned activity started out with a few people that somehow quickly ballooned to a bigger group. It was a memorable trip with plenty of life lessons learned and rediscovered along the way.

4 x 4 vehicles that would take us to the jump off point
4 x 4 vehicles that would take us to the jump off point
at one of the
Stopped at this area for some reason I could no longer recall
Passed by soldiers who we reckoned were on some sort of training
Passed by soldiers who we reckoned were on some sort of training
4x4s in very rugged terrain
4x4s in very rugged terrain
At the jump-off point getting ready for the 2-hour trek
At the jump-off point getting ready for the trek
Hydrating and getting a few minutes' rest
Hydrating and getting a few minutes’ rest
Ready to move on
Ready to move on
Ttrekking can be desolate and difficult and joyfully sublime
Ttrekking can be desolate and difficult and joyfully sublime
View of the crater from campsite
View of the crater from the campsite

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Enjoying the frigid waters
Enjoying the frigid waters
Deep, cold, and beautiful
Deep, cold, and beautiful

Some remembered thought balloons on that trip:
~Being comfortable does not necessarily bring happiness. And truly, miles away from your comfort zone await the simple joys of life that you could miss out when you are busy not looking.
~There are moments in life that giving up is not an option unless you want to get stuck in terrains that could get dangerous for you at any given moment.
~There are some people, often strangers, that you just have to trust. And most times, they would not fail you.
~Nothing reveals character than an extremely challenging trek where you are stripped of all the comforts you are used to.
~Everything is really about the trek, the climb, or whatever personal hell you need to go through to reach your destination. The view from above is just icing on the cake.

5 Things I Love About My Trip To Myanmar

The long road to Naypyitaw, literally and figuratively, just about sums up my trip to Myanmar last December. A myriad of things happened before it, which could have given me plenty of reasons to rethink my plans of going. But I am not one to back off from a challenge once I have set my mind on something.

All of my trips are memorable to me. Myanmar was no exception. It was where some of the craziest things occurred, enough to potentially ruin the entire trip for  me. But if there was one thing I learned in the few days I was there, it would be the importance of choice in happiness. Dealing with the unexpected, annoying, or bad things is like traversing at the edge of a slippery slope. The best thing to do is to be mindful of your steps, keep yourself focused in that moment, and hope for the best. That way, you can either get past that particular path unscathed or have the wits to grab on to lifelines that can save you from making things worse.

So here are some of the things I love about the trip:

1. The Southeast Asian Games Volunteers

After over four decades, Myanmar once again opened its doors to its neighbors to host the 27th Southeast Asian Games. Hosting the biennial event is not an easy feat. Having been a part of a SEA Games organizing committee in the past taught me that it is a most challenging job. So I was not daunted by the initial hiccups, especially concerning communication. Emails do tend to get buried by the amount of correspondence organizing committees have to deal with.

My itinerary was a bit tricky because I opted to take the shuttle from Yangon to the new capital city instead of taking the 50-minute flight. This previously caused a lot of concern to my contacts at the rowing organizing committee who pointed out that it is a 6-hour trip. But the prospect of traveling for that long was a non-issue for a nervous flyer like me. I think the hometown-Manila-Kuala Lumpur-Yangon flights were already enough flying time for me. Besides, I enjoy traveling by bus so I quickly assured my hosts that I would be fine on my own.

When I landed in Yangon, I was prepared for anything. I trusted the people I was communicating with have done whatever they could to ensure that I reach Naypyitaw on schedule. I was also on no-expectations mode. Given past experiences in event airport reception, I thought it best not to expect anything.

As I walk to the airport arrival hall, I saw a volunteer wearing a uniform standing at the side near the Visa on Arrival booth. I approached to confirm if I do not need the said visa and showed him my SEAG accreditation card. He welcomed me warmly then led me to the airport reception area where a group of volunteers were manning a long table with computers and all the equipment they need to activate the AD cards. They quickly checked mine, validated it, and put the sticker that now made it an official ID for my entire stay in Myanmar.

Inside the arrival/departure lounge for SEA Games participants
Inside the arrival/departure lounge for SEA Games participants

Everything was so efficient. I was happy with the thought that I now can proceed to immigration and leave the airport early for my long road trip to Naypyitaw. To my surprise, the lead person from the airport reception walked with me to a special lane in the immigration counters. He waited with me then accompanied me to the baggage carousel. He then grabbed my luggage and walked me out of the airport arrival hall to another building which serves as the SEAG arrival/departure lounge. There he introduced me to the transportation committee and made sure I was taken cared of before going back inside the arrival terminal.

Arrival/departure lounge at past 4AM taken on my last day at Myanmar
Arrival/departure lounge at past 4AM taken on my last day at Myanmar

The transportation volunteers were equally welcoming and nice. They settled me in a seat informing me that the bus to Naypyitaw leaves at 6PM. Less than 30 minutes after, a group of them escorted me to a car that would bring me to the bus station. Another volunteer, this time a liaison officer, introduced himself and hopped in the car next to the driver. A group of transportation committee volunteers then waved us goodbye.

Transportation Committee table at the arrival/departure lounge
Transportation Committee table at the arrival/departure lounge

As we reached the bus terminal, the liaison officer asked me to sit at the waiting area while he purchase the ticket. He waived off my money saying that the organizing committee will take care of it. We waited a few minutes before we were told to get on the bus.

At the bus terminal in Yangon
At the bus terminal in Yangon
Waiting for the bus to leave
Waiting for the bus to leave

I was happy to find out that I am on the window seat at the first row. There was a lot of leg room, the bus was huge, and there was no overpowering smell of freshener that usually makes me throw up. The volunteer then sat beside me. By this time I was wondering when he will get off since the bus is about to leave. When I asked, he told me that he would be traveling with me to Naypyitaw. Now THAT was totally unexpected.

Enjoyed the trip chatting with the liaison officer who traveled from Yangon to Naypyitaw with me
Enjoyed the trip chatting with the liaison officer who traveled from Yangon to Naypyitaw with me
Saw this pagoda as the bus exited the gates of the terminal
Saw this pagoda as the bus exited the gates of the terminal
Leaving Yangon
Leaving Yangon
Dinner at one of the many restaurants at the one and only bus stop halfway to Naypyitaw
Dinner at one of the many restaurants at the one and only bus stop halfway to Naypyitaw

I found these first encounters with the volunteers heartwarming and impressive. Being a volunteer at the games is hard. And they have been at it for several days. The mix of efficiency, warmth, and sincerity was one of the best welcomes I have experienced on these trips.

The trip only took less than five hours. Another set of volunteers picked us up at the bus station. As I settled in for the night in my room, I marveled at how there were so many I could be grateful about since I arrived.

2. Rowing at Nga Laik Dam

The host country poured a lot of resources in preparing the venue for the canoe-kayak, rowing, and traditional boat race events. New structures were erected to meet the requirements of the three water sports.

Nga Laik Dam
Nga Laik Dam
Boathouse
Boathouse
At the out pontoon during afternoon training
At the out pontoon during afternoon training
Start area
Start area
Crew at the start
Crew at the start (photo credit:

Đoan Trang Trần

 

In pontoon
In pontoon
LM2- Silver medalists on their way to the boat weighing area
LM2- Silver medalists on their way to the boat weighing area
Boat Weighing
Athlete/Boat Weighing Area
Dragon Boats (Traditional Boat Race)
Dragon Boats (Traditional Boat Race)
ITOs (International Technical Officials) and NTOs (National Technical Officials) during the last day of the rowing event at the SEAG.
ITOs (International Technical Officials) and NTOs (National Technical Officials) during the last day of the rowing event at the SEAG.
#nofilter
#nofilter

3. Nga Laik Kan Tha Garden & Resort

The resort sits next to the dam. This was the first time that us umpires stayed that close to the venue. This meant a later start for us in the mornings since we did not have to leave early to get to the site.

The building that houses the reception area and dining hall
The building that houses the reception area and dining hall
Alone in a big room
Alone in a big room
Home away from home
Home away from home

2013-12-13 16.55.28

Nature's colors putting on a show
Nature’s colors putting on a show

4. Sightseeing in Naypyitaw

Getting around Naypyitaw is not easy if you do not have a car. There are no buses or subways that tourists can use to navigate the city. I heard that there are motorbikes for hire but I have not ventured far enough on foot from the resort to find any. Thankfully, our hosts arranged a sightseeing trip one afternoon after we were done with our umpiring duties.

5. The unexpected challenges

This was one trip where I had the most health-related issues:

The medicines the doctor who was part of the medical team at the event venue gave me for my infected left eye.
The medicines the doctor who was part of the medical team at the event venue gave me for my infected left eye.

Eye infection. My left eye got infected because of my contact lens. It was a stupid mistake on my part. I usually do not wear my contacts when I travel. But I wore it just before I left for the airport at 3AM and was only able to remove it when I got in my room at Nga Laik Kan Tha at  past 11PM. I woke up around 2AM and got scared out of my wits because I could hardly open my left eye. I was alone in my room and in so much pain that I really thought my left eye’s going blind. Since I could no longer sleep, I spent the next few hours crying hoping that the tears would help clean the affected eye. I immediately left my room at 6AM to look for the medical team that I knew would be in the area. The reception staff told me that the doctors were not there yet and promised to call me in my room as soon as they arrive. Someone personally picked me up mid-morning and brought me to the medical area. I was given antibiotics and pain relievers. Despite the pain, I couldn’t help but notice that once again, I was in the hands of able and kind volunteers. My eye got better the next day.

Stomach problem. Just when my left eye was healing, I suddenly had diarrhea. This was not entirely surprising since I have always had a weak stomach. But I could not figure out how I got it since I did not eat much given the previous day’s painful episode with the infected eye. It was probably  because I was stressing out on how I could possibly perform my umpiring duties half-blind. Good thing I brought medicines so I only had to endure it for a day.

Throwing up like there was no tomorrow. On the third day, I threw up until there was nothing left to lose in my stomach. This happened soon after I came back to my room after a late dinner. But I saw this one coming since I was inside a hot van with a funny smell the entire afternoon going from one place to another on our sightseeing tour.

These unfortunate episodes were the worst I have had in my travels. It was crazy because accomplishing my duties as umpire hinged on me being in good health. I was grateful that I was able to get through each experience with my optimism intact. And for some reason, each problem lasted only a day. By the time we started doing our work, I was back to my normal self. Once again I get reminded that no matter how bad things seem to be, everything gets better if I just ride the wave without losing enthusiasm and hope.

8 Things I Wish Our Government Would Do

Volunteer centers like the DSWD repacking site at the DPWH Panacan Depot in Davao City are among the most uplifting places to be during these trying times. You see people who care deeply about the plight of those who have suffered so much because of Typhoon Yolanda channeling their energies in ensuring that more relief goods are repacked and prepared for shipment the soonest possible time.

I came back to the repacking center this morning fully expecting a much bigger volunteer turnout since it is a Saturday. But I was still caught off guard by the number of people I saw queuing to sign-up at the DSWD registration tables. Groups of students, volunteer organizations, the military, a busload of people from a certain municipality, barkadas, foreign and local tourists, and individuals registered as early as 8:00AM. By my calculation, there were over 500 volunteers by 9:00AM and there were more coming in.

The turnout was overwhelming, especially as I observe the people around me. Everyone’s on a mission to do something, anything, even if just a little, for those who are in dire need of help.

It was while I was standing there waiting for my turn to sign my name on the volunteer list that I thought to myself, if there are wishes I would like to be granted by our government, it would be these:

  1. Learn lessons well. I think most Filipinos understand that we were essentially unprepared for the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda. While predicted to be the strongest typhoon to ravage a country in history, no one could have imagined the scale of damage it can cause. But while we struggle to comprehend what happened, many of us hope that our government would learn, and ensure that we all learn, the lessons this tragedy taught us. Learn them well and use them to mitigate the risks and losses should something like it ever happen again.
  2. Listen. I have repeatedly seen several social media posts in the past suggesting what types of relief goods to send to those affected by typhoons, floods, and other calamities that hit the country. But as I was repacking rice, canned goods, packs of instant noodles, and sachets of instant coffee, I realized that the suggestions I have read many times seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. I was expecting that the initial wave of relief goods would be comprised of easy-to-open canned goods, ready-to-eat meals in tetra packs, high-energy biscuits similar to what the UN World Food Programme distributes for emergencies, and water. Because, really, how can victims get the much needed relief as quickly as possible if some of them, if not most, do not have the cookware and the means to cook the food they get from DSWD? I think it is time that the DSWD improves its responsiveness and systems in addressing victims’ needs. Sense of urgency should always outweigh bureaucracy and political influence.
  3. Be more responsive to people’s (realistic) needs. This is related to #2. Filipinos are not a demanding people. Many even suffer poverty with stoicism and patience. But it is hard not to ask ourselves, and yes, the government, if there is indeed no money to spare for our basic needs if we keep seeing and hearing stories of corruption. Napoles’ alleged 10B scam is just one of the many frustrating cases of corruption that has plagued our country. As citizens of a nation vulnerable to calamities like we have had in the past, would it be too much to ask that the government invest on disaster relief equipment that Japan has? But if the government does not have the money for it, we will try to understand.  But please work on the rampant corruption that’s bleeding the country’s financial resources dry.
  4. Prepare for the worst. Typhoon Yolanda gave us a glimpse of the devastation that unpredictable weather disturbances and disasters can cause. Please help us prepare for the worst. I find these disaster experts’ take on the matter seem to support the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework. The real challenge is how to implement it.
  5. Empower your people. We are not asking the government to solve all our problems for us. But we expect you to take the lead on how we can better prepare ourselves to survive in times of disasters. Better yet, empower us to minimize the losses they can cause. Now is a good time to look around. Everywhere in the country people are doing their share to give aid in whatever way they can. Harness those people’s desire to help in doing volunteer work not just for relief but in supporting and promoting disaster preparedness.
  6. Your critics are not essentially your enemies. Try not not attack your most vocal critics. They may just be advocating for something we could all benefit from. Discern and differentiate genuine concern from mere rantings. Help those people channel their passions and convictions in creating positive changes instead of marginalizing them.
  7. Be creative in finding solutions. Some of us compare our disaster response to Japan. Some of us wish that we have the same capabilities. But we are fully aware of the huge gap between Japan’s resources and ours. We know we have limited resources. But I strongly believe that comparing ourselves to Japan is an opportunity to be creative in finding solutions to aspire for the standards they have set. Japan is just one of the countries that actively provide scholarships, training, and exposure for government people. It would be great if we see those training cascade down to the farthest reaches of the country. Enable local leaders. Put lessons learned to good use or tweak them to suit our abilities and needs.
  8. Climate change or not, let’s take better care of our environment. Because when disasters strike and all else are gone, the quality of our environment will help us rebuild.

Samal Island Walking

I’ve been thinking of going for a really long walk somewhere far from my usual running route and preferably where I won’t get to see a lot of cars. The only place I could think of that seems to fit what I have in mind is Samal Island, which is only a few minutes away by motorboat from Davao’s Sasa Km 11 wharf. So along with two friends from my previous work, I started my Saturday right by going for a long early morning pleasant walk in the quiet roads of the Island Garden City of Samal.

Motorboat going to Babak District in Samal Island. Fare = Php13.00/person
Motorboat going to Babak District in Samal Island. Fare = Php13.00/person
Samal-bound on an early Saturday morning.
Samal-bound on an early Saturday morning.
Babak District wharf
Babak District wharf
Bloom where you’re planted or in this flower’s case, wherever you find yourself in this world.
Bloom where you’re planted or in this flower’s case, wherever you find yourself in this world.
Setting off with co-walkers
Setting off with co-walkers
Chillax KTV Bar
Chillax KTV Bar
The road ahead. With no map and sense of direction, we just decided to go straight and let our feet take us wherever we end up to be.
The road ahead. With no map and sense of direction, we just decided to go straight and let our feet take us wherever we end up to be.
Cows grazing. No traffic on the road except for three people walking to nowhere.
Cows grazing. No traffic on the road except for three people walking to nowhere.
The heavy rains the night before made the unpaved part of the road squishy and muddy for most parts.
The heavy rains the night before made the unpaved part of the road squishy and muddy for most parts.
Last stretch before the turnaround.
Last stretch before the turnaround.
Back to the wharf. Sweaty, tired, and happy. Homeward bound.
Back to the wharf. Sweaty, tired, and happy. Homeward bound.

Signs of Progress

(click image for source)
(click image for source)

This morning, I passed by the biggest mall here in the city on my way to the smaller one I frequent. I noticed that the expansive free parking area was still empty, which was not really surprising since it was only a few minutes before mall hours begin. But it wasn’t the first time I’ve observed it looking so vacant or less than half full.

In contrast, the smaller and much older mall was teeming with people again. Probably because it’s a payday weekend and classes are about to start so school stuff shopping’s in full swing.

Of Malls and Wo/Men

I’ve often wondered about a lot of things in this city even after the four years since I’ve been back. One of the things I’m curious about is the people’s “malling” habits. The popular mall chain I passed by earlier have several sister establishments strewn around Manila. All of which always seemed to be congested with people, and their respective car parks, with vehicles. But it’s different here from what I’ve observed thus far. Either there’s less people to crowd such a humungous mall or they just don’t spend most of their days hanging out in there.

Of Public Libraries and Parks

Apart from the growing number of shopping malls, I’m seeing a lot of ongoing constructions everywhere. Buildings are sprouting like mushrooms in a city seemingly developing at a rapid pace. And yet amidst those signs of progress I keep looking for some things that would make this place feel more like home.

Just early this morning, I was mulling over the idea of spending my weekend mornings boarding a ferry that would take me to a 10 to 15-minute ride to Samal Island so I could go for 1 to 2-hour walks in the island’s quieter and scenic roads.

I just wish there are more lush, verdant parks than concrete to walk or run to in my city. And that there are more public libraries than malls. I just want to live where there are places to read, trails to explore, and vibrant landscapes to see even if it’s in the heart of a bustling city.

My idea of development must be way off-base and out of sync with the usual scheme of things.