Life in the Fast Lane


In Instagram, the official IRONMAN Triathlon account sometimes reposts people's #WhyWeTri photos. And the reasons people get into triathlon are as varied as there are colors in the entire spectrum. I like reading everyone's posts, and seeing their reasons for getting into the sport.

Sometimes, while training, I also think about why I tri, especially after a hard workout; especially when I'm so tired after a long day that I'd rather sleep instead. And then I always feel better after training and feel grateful for having pushed myself.

I don't think there's just one particular reason behind my wanting to do triathlons (or being in the multisport scene), but I do think it's important to know why I do this and to constantly remind myself.

Here are some — at least the ones that come to mind — of the reasons why I tri.

1) I tri because I can

I have always been an athletic person. My mom first enrolled me in swimming classes at the age of two (fun fact: I was actually terrified of the water as a toddler), I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years, and I have also tried and taken classes in several other sports.

I've always been grateful for what my body has been able to accomplish physically, but it's not always easy. My left foot has two kinds of injuries that I have to manage (plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendonitis), plus my calf muscles on my left leg are prone to cramping. I also have asthma, which I have to be on the lookout for. I'm not the fastest, nor the strongest; I'm just an amateur athlete who isn't even an IRONMAN finisher yet.

However, I am able to train and to race, despite my setbacks and despite my busy schedule. I am physically able to endure swimming, biking, and running separately and in succession. I am thankful for being able to do this, and I seek to glorify God in what He can accomplish through me.

Subic International Triathlon, April 2016
Photo © Pet S. Salvador

2) I tri because it is an outlet

My line of work can be really stressful. From long hours, to working on some weekends, to the day-to-day demands, it can take a toll on a person's health and sanity. In my earlier years of being in this industry, I would just take everything in. And admittedly, there was really a time when I would question if I was cut out for all of this.

Thankfully, eventually, I decided to start working out. Initially, it was a tricky balancing act. I had to figure out a schedule that allowed me to sneak in enough time for running (I got into tri years after I was already running regularly; then I brought back swimming, then I got into cycling).

But I stuck to it. And this habit progressed to where I am today.

I realized that triathlon was an outlet I really looked forward to. And when I thought about it further, I noticed that many people in my line of work also had their own outlets — from trekking, to calligraphy, to other sports, to vinyl records collecting, to doodling and selling their works in art fairs. Mine just happened to be more physical in nature.

Triathlon helps me think and not think at the same time. When I do laps in the pool, there have been times when I would come up with ideas or storylines that eventually were turned into TVC scripts. And there are some times when I need to tune out from the demands of this world, and I can do just that while running. It depends a lot on what I'm feeling at a particular moment while training or racing, but the wonderful thing is that I have the liberty to do so.

Biking with my teammates, March 2016

3) I tri because I'm inspired by other people who do it

The tri community is a very giving one. From spectators who cheer for you by the finish line, to your teammates (shoutout to my Poveda Tri Team; my sisters in training and racing!) who will motivate you like no one else, to numerous coaches who will give you tips, to tri friends (both locally and internationally) on social media who will "like" your posts and encourage you, to seeing people of all sizes and shapes racing just as hard as you — how can you not want to be part of it?

Podium finishers (1st and 3rd in the all-female relay category) at Regent 5150, June 2016

4) I tri because it gives me a sense of purpose

I enjoy being able to find that balance among work, life, and training. I enjoy knowing that I can help people (from swim tips, to cheering people on). I enjoy knowing that this — the triathlon scene — is where I'm meant to be right now. I enjoy discovering how training keeps me feeling younger and healthier. I enjoy knowing my limitations and that there is so much more I can improve on (in terms of beating my previous times, in terms of skills and techniques). I enjoy being able to glorify God with what He has allowed me to accomplish in this (multi)sport.

Triman Triathlon, June 2016
Photo © RUN CAB

5) I tri because the finish line feeling is indescribable 

I don't always do individual events (meaning, the whole swim-bike-run by myself). There are many times when I'm just part of a relay team and I usually do the swim. In both cases, though, it's always a joy to cross the finish line; whether it's me after doing the swim-bike-run individually, or whether it's seeing my relay runner crossing it.

It is really the culmination of all the hard work that I (and my teammates) have put in; proof that the training has sufficed, that I've improved (or need to work harder next time), and it erases any pain or discomfort I (or my teammates) may have encountered while racing. I always thank the Lord for carrying me and my teammates to the finish line, each and every race.

Atleta Ako Aquathlon, February 2016

With this, I'd also like to thank the people around me who've also had to put up with this madness: my family, close friends, and even my colleagues. It's hard to understand something you're not really a part of (in the same way I may not fully be able to relate to other people's hobbies or passions), but the fact that they indulge me, cheer for and pray for me, and support me makes me feel like a winner. 

I'd also like to thank the Lord for continuing to help me find joy in this passion of mine, and for understanding that most of my races fall on the Sabbath Day (which means some Sundays are spent doing "solo" worship, hehe).

What's your passion? And why do you do it?

I hope that whatever it is you are into, that it gives you joy and a sense of fulfillment!

P.S. By the time you read this, some of my teammates and I will be on our way to another race, Tri United 2. Kindly say a prayer for us!
Disclaimer: The author of this post has 1.8 years' worth of experience being a #TitaOfManila1 in terms of blood relations. Prior to this, she has had the fortunate privilege of being a tita (or auntie) and ninang (godparent) to the kids of her cousins or friends for over a decade. Needless to say, you could consider her an expert (or close to being one) in the realm of tita-hood. 

Being a tita and ninang is a weird but fun role. For one thing, you will (or probably already) feel this insane, inexplicable bond with your pamangkin2. You are not his/her mom, but you would gladly take a bullet for him/her. You don't have to deal with him/her day in and day out and experience the highs and lows of parenthood, but you don't want to miss out on his/her milestones and daily antics either.

Nevertheless, I take great pride in having a pamangkin and being present in his life as much as possible — sometimes even going over and above the "scope" or job description of being a tita (especially since I only have one pamangkin, at least within my immediate family).

Thus, I would like to share some techniques honed over time, like fine wine, which would enable soon-to-be or newbie titas to achieve the pinnacle, the very best of tita-hood. It would be a disservice on my end if I were to share only watered-down, safe tips.

Thus, I would also like to encourage each of us to go all-out and embrace our tita-ness.

(These tips are applicable for titas of pamangkins who are still infants, all the way to titas of pre-teens and teenagers.)

1) Do not hesitate to be or act like a child — or a pa-cool teen

Being a tita means being a source of entertainment, especially when your pamangkin's/pamangkins' parents are exhausted. This means taking on the role of storyteller, playmate, and sometimes, mascot. This also means altering your voice as needed, crawling on all fours, sticking your tongue out, and brushing up on Elmo's World, Sofia the First, and everything else your pamangkin likes. If you want to be his/her BFF, you have to be fully invested in what he/she likes and do what he/she does. Including understanding what "carps", "starbs", and "pics" mean.

The more entertained he/she is, or the more you understand him/her, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

This is the stuffed toy I bought for my nephew. I've sent my nephew Elmo "selfies" on Viber, copied Elmo's voice, and pretended that stuffed toy Elmo could draw on my nephew's sketchpad.

2. Slowly but surely brainwash him/her to like the things you like

Once I spotted my nephew's interest in drawing or coloring, I bought him two sets of crayons and sketchpads. A good chunk of our bonding time involves me drawing for him, especially when he points to his crayons and looks for his sketchpad in our house (he has another set in his parents' condo). When he brings his 'ayons (his contracted version of "crayons") and papoo ("paper") to me, I take the time to brainwash him into learning a new color, or identifying a letter or a new animal. He has also expressed an interest to "bike!" (which he says really loudly), so being the triathlon freak that I am, I have not-so-secret desires of making him an Ironkid someday.

The more brainwashed he/she is, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

I must have made over 500 versions of Elmo in the past two months. I am hoping that in the next few months or years, he will master how to draw not just Elmo, but everything else and become an artist. That way, he can fulfill my not-so-hidden desires of being an animator or working in Disney. Heh.

3. Spoil him/her rotten (while also mastering the art of not turning your pamangkin into a brat)

On the days you're not together and you come across something he/she would like, get it immediately. Don't even hesitate to do so. A new pair of shoes, a shirt, a toy — the sky's the limit. Not only will it satisfy that semi-maternal instinct you might possess, but it will amuse his/her parents, and naturally, score more BFF brownie points in your pamangkin's/pamangkins' eyes.

The more spoiled he/she is, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

He's now tall enough to ride bikes for 3-year-olds, even if he isn't even 2 years old. Guess what I plan to get for him in the near future.

4. Take a gazillion photos of/with him/her/them

If I were to look at your phone's camera roll, I should expect to see at least 100 photos of/with your pamangkin/pamangkins. In a variety of poses, and in various situations. And they better be your phone's and computer's desktop wallpaper and screensaver. If you already have a pre-teen pamangkin, do not hesitate to upload 1,029,241 snaps with him/her on Snapchat.

The more photos you have, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

One out of the quintillion photos of my nephew and me, taken when we were in Hong Kong early this month.

5. Go all-out in terms of tita-hood by sounding even worse than a lola (or "grandma") when you need to warn your pamangkin if you don't want him/her to do something

Do as lolas do, and nag your pamangkin/pamangkins, hover, and worry about him/her/them even more than his/her/their parents when they're about to touch sockets, ride a bike, get dirty in the playground, or look for a date to the prom. In fact, hide out near the ballroom when your pamangkin is at the prom so you can stalk him/her and his/her date.

The more shadowing, "tsk-tsk-ing", and sharp "NO! AYAYAY!'s" you say or do, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

My nephew discovering the joys of fallen branches and sticks in a Makati park, at the risk of tripping, getting dirty, and exposure to germs.

BONUS TIP: Do not hesitate to ask the parents to send you a photo or a video at any given time of the day, or request to do a video call over Facetime, Viber, or Skype. It doesn't matter at what time of the day, or how often you do this. You can always rationalize that you're not with your pamangkin/pamangkins 24/7 and you miss out on important milestones, like his/her witty one-liners or "firsts".

The more you photos/videos have, or the more video calls you make, the closer you are to achieving that legit tita status.

One of many Facetime conversations with my nephew. This was the first time he really recognized that it was me on the other side of the line, and he was responding to my questions and copying my mannerisms.

Truly, being a legit tita is hard work. It involves being fully invested, being borderline obsessed, and being your pamangkin's/pamangkins' best friend after his/her/their parents. Your role in their life is a unique one, and something worth cherishing from their infancy until adulthood.

You may use tita-hood as practice for being a mom eventually, and it actually is the best kind of practice. From diaper changes to knowing how to give sound advice to a pre-teener, you will know essential life skills that will make transitioning to being a mom much easier.

Or you may just be a perpetual tita, a not-quite-mom-but-a-somekinduva-second-mom, and that's okay, too. That's a wonderful dynamic that's worth keeping, crafting, and honing. 

So embrace tita-hood and do everything in your power3 to ensure you have a wonderful relationship with him/her/them whether you're near or far, whether you're ready for it or not.

Because chances are, no matter what you do anyway, your pamangkin/pamangkins will love you unconditionally and think you're the next coolest thing to their favorite toy or app.

1 A cultural phenomenon that needs a separate post. But if you want to get the general idea of it, check out this article.

2 "Niece" or "nephew" in Filipino. Since it's a gender-neutral noun, I decided to use the term so as to avoid repeating "niece or nephew" a zillion times throughout the post.

3 This entire post is obviously an exaggeration in terms of the role titas should play in the lives of their pamangkins. Don't take it literally, but with a grain of salt, of course. Being a tita is, first and foremost, knowing when not to overstep, or to override what your pamangkins have learned from their parents. So what you do with this role or privilege is entirely up to you, so make the most of it!
In a group chat with my girlfriends, one of them reminded us to make time to see each other. Recently, she had left to study and make a living abroad with her husband, and has been very open with the rest of us back here about how homesick she gets from time to time.

So simple, yet so profound.

Make time.

And it got me thinking: I do need to make even more of an effort to spend time with those I hold dear.

Because these six will always be my favorite TV cast.

Admittedly, I've gotten way too comfortable with social media; almost to the point wherein I've taken for granted the fact that real, personal connections > live feeds on a social media platform.

I've become quite lax by rationalizing that I'm actually "updated" in terms of what goes on in people's lives: I know so-and-so is pregnant again, this person got promoted, this person just came back from a trip, this person set a PR in his/her last race, this person is moving out.

And so on. And so forth.

But really, there is nothing quite like actual face-to-face conversations that paint not just the full picture of a person's life, but give you glimpses into the nuances, the nitty-gritties of each thought process, each emotion, each insight.

So why is it getting harder and harder to meet up with people these days?

I can always argue that there are many times when my introversion kicks in; I can get so tired of day-to-day life that on the rare occasions I'm not busy (if I'm not working long hours, I'm training, and even racing in out of town venues almost every other weekend), I just want to tune out and recharge my social batteries.

I can also always argue that I'm not the only one who is busy — everyone else is. And to a certain extent, this is also true. For some reason, most of my friends in the few social circles I keep also happen to be really preoccupied with certain things: new jobs, pregnancies, children, milestones, passions or pursuits. When a lunch or dinner doesn't push through, it's increasingly more "okay" to accept that we can easily postpone it to another time. And when there are weekends when everyone else is busy and doesn't initiate a meet-up, that means I don't necessarily have to, right?

Simply put, I've come to realize that there are times when I do take people for granted. Whether consciously, unconsciously, or even subconsciously.

This is so hard to admit, but perhaps, to a certain extent, it's because of pride; me wanting to be the one invited, the one sought after.

Perhaps it's also me being selfish; just wanting to rest, just wanting alone time, just thinking about myself.

But sometimes, I will need to remind myself to get off my high (or shy?) horse.

Sometimes, I will need to purposely log out from social media and look forward to actual, meaningful conversations.

Sometimes, I will need to find — no, carve out — time in the already limited hours or minutes that I have in order to create moments that will add to my rich treasure trove of memories.

After all, it's these moments — the sound of laughter, the tight bear hugs, the conversations over coffee, the realizations and even the unbearable punchlines, the linking of arms and everything in between — that one will carry with them the rest of their lives. Not a like on your post, nor a retweet.

Now how does one relearn the fine art of being a person?

(Thanks to this amazing friend of mine for this timely reminder. You know who you are, and you are wonderful. I'm so proud of you!)
The last time I really invested in anything photography-related was several years ago. Admittedly, over the past few years, photography took a backseat (or to be more accurate, inhabited a corner spot in the trunk of my metaphorical car) to a lot of other pursuits such as triathlon, which really takes up a lot of my time and resources, and traveling.

However, I've always, always been a photoholic. I'm not a photographer by any means, because this was never my profession or calling, but I've always enjoyed taking pictures; at one point in my life, I was even a borderline obsessed photography hobbyist. Most of you who've known me, or even followed me on social media through the years, have been witnesses to my incessant snapping, whether it be of food, my training and races, my family and friends, my work, and even mundane things like what's on my desk in the office.

So in my recent trip to Hong Kong, I decided that it was time to add another piece of equipment to my rapidly plateauing camera gear line-up. I wanted something that was "mid-range" in the sense that it could function like a digital SLR, but had better features than a regular point-and-shoot. My reasons for this rationale were:
  1. I already had an SLR and several lenses;
  2. I already had a regular point-and-shoot (which I hardly ever used, because my iPhone pretty much became my everyday camera);
  3. I wanted something light enough to bring on trips and when I race (I'm the unofficial photographer of my team's races, so I needed something portable enough for on-the-go shots, but something that could capture motion and zoom in on subjects from afar);
  4. I wanted something that gave me creative freedom in terms of manual manipulation (ISO, aperture, white balance, etc.) as well as the "idiot proof-ness" of a digital camera.
After scouring Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui area and comparing prices in different shops, I came upon this particular camera; ironically, in the same shop where my DSLR came from five years ago.

Meet my "new" friend, the Canon Powershot SX160 IS. I say "new", because this isn't the latest model. In fact, it's at least two years old. But I still chose it because the shop owner sold it to me for a very good price, and after testing it against other models in the shop, it just felt right (you'll know something is yours after trying it out; same principle applies to other major purchases like road bikes or even instruments). 

Here are some initial snaps taken with it from my trip to Hong Kong last week:

It was pretty rainy all throughout our stay in Hong Kong (except for our first full day there, which was extremely sunny; the total opposite). We would wake up to overcast skies and end up buying raincoats and umbrellas, seeking shelter in malls and other establishments. I quite like the wide angle lens of this camera and how it captured the rainy, gloomy vibe of Tsim Sha Tsui.

Prior to this trip, my nephew had already flown out of the country twice (once to Hong Kong, once to Singapore), so this trip was his second one to Hong Kong. But this was my family's first time flying out with him, which made it extra special. This shot was taken from a food court in Harbour City, zoomed in from the other end of a long table. I was happy that my camera could: 1) zoom in that closely; and, 2) capture motion (toddlers will be toddlers!) in dim lighting. I just wasn't able to adjust the white balance since the food court had really warm lighting fixtures all around, making this shot look like it had an orange-y filter.

An attempt at showing depth of field, taken from Tom Lee, which is my youngest brother's version of Disneyland. Every musical instrument imaginable can be found there, and coming from Manila (which, according to my brother, has a lot of catching up to do in terms of sourcing and selling instruments), a place like Tom Lee is as intimidating as it is overwhelming. I'd have loved to see more depth of field, but with a supposed aperture beginning at f/3.5, I guess this is acceptable enough.

One of the first things I experiment with when it comes to trying out cameras is a panning shot, for several reasons: 1) to test the speed of the camera; 2) to test its burst/continuous mode; 3) to see how sharp the shot/s will turn out. This was a random photo taken in Carnavaron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, and I was happy that the camera was able to fire (pun intended) on all three counts.

Posting this photo also because I like how the camera captured the "wide angle-ness" of the scene (I don't mind distortions, personally), and I also like the colors of the dishes. My previous cameras would give me either dull, unflattering colors, or extremely warm ones that had to be toned down. In this photo are two kinds of noodle soup dishes (one with wonton, the other with beef strips) and a savory one reminiscent of Thailand's pad thai. We couldn't really identify the names of the dishes since there was no English menu and the restaurant's owners didn't speak a word of English, but all these dishes were insanely good. Hole-in-the-wall finds are my favorite places, and this random, unidentifiable (the signage was also not in English) one happened to be located right beside the store where I bought my camera from.

So far, I'm happy with the performance of this camera. I've yet to mess around with its other features (one of which being a fisheye effect, and since I like distortions, I'm definitely going to play with this feature), though, so I can't give this camera a comprehensive rating just yet.

I will, however, say that I'm not digging the fact that it only makes use of AA batteries. I'd prefer rechargeable Lithium-ion ones, which definitely last longer.

I'm also not too thrilled with the fact that I have to keep resetting the date and time of the camera settings, every time I turn it on. After much confusion and digging through photography forums, I found out that there's a separate battery within the camera just for its internal clock, which I have to replace. Once that's sorted out, I hope that I won't have to be bothered with further resets of the date and time.

I'm just happy that I have something to play with once again, and it's been years since I've been this excited about something related to cameras and photography. I feel like I'm back in the early days of owning my very first SLR more than a decade ago, when all I wanted to do back then was click, click, click.

More photos to come in succeeding entries; hopefully I'll be motivated to blog more regularly.

(Thank you to Chang of Echo Photo & Audio on Hankow Road for this great bargain and even for the freebies that came with my camera!)
Once upon a time, the Internet was a friendly place for bloggers. And I say "friendly", because everyone was invited — whether you had a LiveJournal, Xanga, Blogspot, and even Angelfire (admit it: in all likelihood, your header consisted of beveled and embossed words!) blog.

Because as long as you had your own home on the Internet, and used words and photos to tell a story, you were a blogger.

Back then, you wrote whatever came to mind and whatever was in your heart. Did you have a craptastic day? Go ahead and document every single moment, even through bullet points, leading up to what made your day so sucky (to use very late 90's to early 2000's terms). Did you want to spew poetry, in free verse, vague fashion? By all means!

Nowadays, people feel the need to curate their own social media accounts: from the uniformed look of their Instagram feeds, to their thoughts on Facebook (must be share-able and worthy of reactions!), to their Snapchat posts, and yes, even their blog entries. Because there are zillions and zillions of blogs out there, and as the trend of micro-blogging continues to grow, people just don't have the time nor the interest to go through paragraphs upon paragraphs of content, especially when there's nothing that interests them.

Photo from here.

Therein lies the dilemma of today's blogger — to ensure that his/her blog stays not only relevant, but interesting. How does one achieve this? By finding a niche on the Internet, the same way marketing and advertising create a need for consumers.

Are you a believer in homeschool education, and based in rural Philippines? Most likely you will create a following of parents or educators who'd love to learn about your DIY-esque methods using available resources. Or have you created the latest watercolor calligraphy trend? People would love to learn your method and try and modify it to suit their styles. Or are you an athlete with a health condition who constantly overcomes his/her challenges? It would be interesting for any reader to relate to your struggles and be inspired by your victories. Or do you always shop with a P500 budget, and create everyday chic looks that people can take inspiration from? It's almost 100% certain that people would visit your site every single day with almost Pinterest-esque frenzy to use your outfits as pegs.

Photo from here.

It seems as if people are not as relevant or interesting if they blog about a hodgepodge of topics. I'm not saying that their blogs are completely irrelevant, or that they won't get as many visits; they may very well be inherently interesting people to begin with, or have a unique way of writing that makes it compelling to follow their posts. But in all likelihood, those whose blogs are single-minded in their topics or posts will likely have a solid following because their followers purposefully read their posts to get something out of them.

I guess this is why, for people who've been bloggers since blogging's infancy (like me), keeping up with today's trends may be daunting, or even tiring. Now, everyone has to find a way to keep their followers hooked on their blog (unless, of course, they blog simply for themselves, which can actually be very freeing).

Photo from here.

I actually don't know where I'm going with all this — HAHAHA! — but I guess it's my way of rationalizing why I don't blog as often, or with as much passion these days. There are days when I look at my blog and seriously think about what I can write, and come up with nothing. So I click on the "X" button on my browser with a firm resolve to come up with a good topic another day, only for the cycle to repeat itself.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just create another blog, like my food blog, which will talk about specific topics, i.e. the struggles of being a triathlete with a day job, but it's also terrifying to start from scratch. So I keep coming back to this seven-year-old blog, finding ways to constantly refresh it.

Perhaps I'm saying, after all this rambling, is that I will try even harder to keep blogging — if not for my "readers" (it's odd thinking that I have any), but for my own writing sanity.

Because at the end of the day, unless you're actually paid to blog, one should first be happy and at peace with what he/she writes, before pleasing an audience.

And maybe this is the first thing I should work on.
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