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Monday, November 9, 2009

the hack i love

This is frustrating! I use a first generation 2G, 8Gb iPhone. Jailbroken of course. For the longest time, I was using 2.2.1. So last Friday, I brought it to a hack in greenhills to have the firmware updated to 3.0.1, the latest I could possibly get for my hardware.

I know the guy, he revived my iPhone from oblivion sometime ago. The preferred hack of the Philippine Macintosh Users Group(PhilMUG)... It said so in a sign outside his shop. So he took my phone, plugged it into his laptop and proceeded with the update. He told me that he could save only my contacts. I was fine with it knowing that I could just always sync it with my iTunes. I waited an hour as he worked on the firmware update plus the installation of sone basic apps from Cydia. It went well, all my contacts restored and I paid him. It wasn't exactly cheap.

I got home, woke up my iTunes and started sync. It did contacts and calendars. But lo and behold, it did not like to sync apps and music! What the hell?! I repeated the process four, five more times. Still it won't go!

The search results Google gave were promising. So I tried following one tip after another but each one did not work. The forums of mac/iPhone/jailbreak savvy people did not help. It was so frustrating! With much fear of bricking my old iPhone, I did not attempt to do the update via Pawnge myself. There's no other recourse for now except to take it back to that hack!

So to him I went. He plugs in and connects to iTunes store, asks me to login to my iTunes store account. He downloads a free app and syncs nothing else but contacts, calendars and the sole newly purchased free app. And you know what? It went through! Then I checked on the other
apps I wanted and the playlist I wanted and hit the sync button. And they went through as well!
I love this guy! What I did not find looking for in the different mac forums for one whole day, this hack did in a few minutes. It was neat!

Now, I'm going back to the forums, specifically PhilMUG and put in a nice word about this great guy, Jake! Or maybe contribute what I now know and get credit for it... Cool!

1 sentence leads to another

How does one get back into training? I mean serious physical training. I started running before I turned twenty to counter effects of being overweight. The experience I had then drove me to love running. I was obssesed. I delved into books about running and human performance. Running ruled my life. All I thought about is the next step I'll take on the road or path.

Being a college dropout then, running gave me direction. The closest course to running I could take was to major in physical education. And that's what I worked on. Parallel to spending hours wearing out one running shoe after another, I attended classes at a local state university. Education was not a glamorous course but I was fine and comfortable taking it because of my major.

So running made me do that. It changed the course of my life. I was studying seriously and liking it. Teachers who taught the major courses became my mentors. I'd like to think of myself as the best student they ever had. Well they made me feel that.

I was never a competitive athlete. But during that time in college, I tried my hand on it. Not only in distance running but in other events as well. There were minuscule successes and there were more failures. And they reinforced what I had already known: I was a serious athlete... A serious recreational athlete.

Then came swimming. I took an aquatics course in the big city one summer and trained under an Olympian. That one month stint introduced me to my second obsession: swimming. I ran everyday and I tried to swim everyday. Studied the mechanics of effective propulsion in water. Just as in running, I loved to swim long distances. I'd do countless laps at the pool or swim in open water. I did not count laps or distances, instead I counted hours.

Now this shows that I wanted time alone. Although I enjoyed training with others, what I really wanted was to train alone. No pressures - training alone. I enjoyed doing these endurance activities alone. They were my private time. There were good days and there were bad. The bad days surely outnumbered the good ones. But the good ones were so good they cancelled out the bad ones.

I had stints engaging in martial arts: judo and arnis where I earned an instructor's certificate. These countered the lonesomeness of endurance activities.

The day after graduation, I found myself at the office of the university president turning in my letter of application to teach. After a phone call to the chair of the department. I was hired. That six wonderful years of teaching both service and specialized courses. And they made me track coach which afforded me much satisfaction. I was single, loved my work and was getting paid for it.

And since I started receiving a salary, my next project was to get myself a road bike. I always wanted one. So I got parts piece by piece and watched the shiniest, lightest road bike I could afford being assembled right before my eyes. I was high and rode my bike proudly wherever I went, even to parties.

A typical day(weekends were another story) back then looked like this: I'd run or pedal ten kilometers or so to the beach where we held our swimming classes. I'd teach swimming two or three hours and took thirty-minute to one hour swims in open water. I'd go home to shower and change then pedaled to the university to teach track, gymnastics, arnis or whatever load that
is thrown at me. Then I'd hop over to the track to coach the team. And usually, ran with the team during their distance sessions or road work. Some days I am able to lift weights with the team. Then as evening apporoached, 'twas back to the dojo for judo training.

It was super! I was super! Then bang! You get married and lose everything. You lose the fitness, you lose the muscle tone... Everything! And you balloon sixty pounds! That was twenty years ago and that's another story that would entail several separate entries for this blog.

So I ask the question that started this: How does one get back into training? I mean serious physical training.

I know you're itching to hurl your two cents worth at me. But i alone could really answer that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

last days in jolo 2

This is the 2nd installment of the last days in Jolo blog. As I have said, I write this as I remember. I'm sure there are details that I missed. Feel free to comment on facts that may not be straight especially in this installment. Remember, these events were percieved by an 11-year old :D

We moved to Lola Matitang's place just across in Martirez corner ( ? ) Streets. Her residence was on the 2nd floor of the building where Lawa's Cafe was located behind a gasoline station, if I remember right. The families who lived in the family compound that is now gone – the Tay's, Canlas', De Las Peñas', and others – crashed in with Lola Matitang for 2 nights. Electric power was out and the only means of finding out what was happening outside was through word of mouth.

This time, a big part of the town was ablaze. The sound of gunfire still permeated the air. When we received word that the fire was getting nearer, we had to move to another location again. With things in hand, we transferred to a hardware(Seng Hing?) owned by a relative. Inside were a lot of civilians just as ourselves. Hiding, taking cover, for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Meals were straight out of canned goods. We shared some of our provisions at the same time rationed them for we did not know how long it would all last.

By nightfall, the store was pitch black. You could hear babies crying as the gunfire sounded nearer and nearer. One or two or three stray bullets penetrated the door to the store. Some of us felt a splatter of sticky liquid in our skins. Surely someone got hit and it was his/her blood in my skin. People inside started screaming only to stop when we realized that the liquid had a strong but different smell. The stray bullets hit one or two paint cans, nothing more. And everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

The adults discussed what their next move should be to stay safe. There were 2 popular choices; flee to the mountains or march perilously to the pier/wharf in a chance to get a vessel away from Jolo. They created a streamer that had a large “CIVILIANS” painted on it. It was set. We were to go to the waterfront. We were a delegation of civilians attempting to reach the seaport. Most walked, others, like us squeezed into vehicles. We did not count how many of us were packed like sardines in our old Volkswagen Combi. But the whole family including our hotel guests were there. It still baffles me how we all fit into that small van and with our things in tow.

The short drive to the pier was arduous. More so to the droves who were walking. On one side of the street were the rebels. On the other, the military forces. And the civilians clung to each other as they made their way in between the opposing forces. I do not know how many casualties the civilians suffered. Those of us who made it through are the lucky ones. There was talk that the MNLF guns ceased firing while the droves passed. While the barrels of the guns on the other side turned hotter as the targets increased in number. Stories floated that the government forces suffered a lot of losses in the initial encounter so they were bent on retaliating no matter who got hit.

In the pier were navy gunships engaged in the battle. With their big guns firing, we had to alight from the van and make our way on foot with our heads low. I remember holding Mama's hand as we crawled over bloodied bodies. Mama did not even notice them I learned later. We were intent on crossing without getting hit. We were herded to a place in the wharf with thousands of other people. We took our place among them and tried to settle. At least there, we were away from the gunfire which started to wane as dusk came. Papa then was able to drive the van closer to where we were. The soldiers went around inspecting the the things of the throngs. When they reached us and the van and demanded that we open all the bundles in it. The bundled blanket which contained my parents' clothes and some other stuff was opened first. And there laid a crucifix. The very same crucifix that was in my parents' room for as far back as I can remember. The same crucifix we faced every night while praying the Rosary. When the soldiers saw that, they moved on to the next family.

My memory now fails me how long we stayed in that wharf. It could have been 1 or 2 nights. What I remember hauntingly, was the fear I had looking up that dark and cloudy night sky which was lit up by the savage flames that kept raging the town. The clouds looked like dragons or devils blowing their fiery breaths towards the earth. I never admitted it. But that image sometimes brought me bad dreams.

Then we heard angry voices. Soldiers shouting expletives. Apparently, they found a person with a side arm. And a souvenir grenade among the bags. I think the armed civilian was a bodyguard of Judge Eisma. He was brought to the edge of the wharf and ordered to jump or was pushed into the water. The next thing we heard were several shots coming from Armalite rifles. I am not sure what had happened. Did the soldiers just execute the judge's bodyguard? But that did not lessen the ire of the men in uniform. One officer shouted, “Pare-pareho kayong lahat!” and ordered that the 50-caliber machine gun mounted on the ship be trained on us. Everybody ducked. The catholics among us started, “Our Father, who art in heaven...”. The volume got louder and louder. I bet you even the non-catholics learned how to pray the Rosary right at that moment. And this somehow calmed the soldiers down.

I mentioned that we had 5 hotel guests with us. There was a couple, a male doctor and 2 naval officers. I remember that the navy officers threw away their uniforms and identification cards to be incognito. We never left them. Where we went, they went. A pregnant woman was brought up the navy boat. Then there were calls for a doctor among the crowd. Our doctor guest presented himself and was whisked aboard. We heard later that he successfully delivered the baby.

Somehow, the civilians were allowed to board the navy ship. It was crowded but we were relieved. There was a genuine chance to escape the war. But they made us transfer to another boat which was docked parallel to the one we were in. We had to jump or straddle over the deck of one ship to the other. There we settled. And after a few hours, the ship moved away from the port. It would bring us to Zamboanga City as refugees. Where life would start from scratch.

That was the last time I saw Jolo, Sulu. With a new lease on life, we never looked back.

Thanks for taking time to read.

last days in jolo

There's a lively discussion in Facebook and blogs right now about the old Jolo, Sulu. My brother, Noel and some of his Elementary and High School Classmates and friends from Notre Dame of Jolo (circa 60's & 70's) are seriously at it. It's a mix journey through history of places, people, things, tastes and activities. Though I spent less time in Jolo than my kuya did, I have some vivid recollections of the old town as well. Especially the last few days of our stay there in 1974 when the then ideological MNLF “invaded” the town and surrounded 4th Brigade.

This is a first installment. No thought has been put in to consider style, tone or choice of words.

The events that started in 07 February 1974 have changed all of our lives. It was such a catastrophe. The whole Jolo population was displaced, went wandering, and altered the courses of their lives. It was such that it became my topic twice over when High School English teachers in Claret and Ateneo de Zamboanga required us to write the ever platitudinous theme “My most unforgettable experience”. I remember keeping those poorly written and poorly graded “Theme Writing” notebooks. But I've lost them through the years. I am sorry if there are omissions and inaccuracies in my story. I will just tell it like i remember it. Anyway, here are some of my recollections...

A week before that fateful day in February 1974, classes in Notre Dame of Jolo Elementary School were called off due to persistent rumors that the MNLF would seize the town proper. I was 11 and in 6th Grade My classmates and I were looking forward to Graduation Day. We remembered receiving plenty of gifts when we finished Kindergarten under Sister Ursula. Surely, finishing Grade Six would be no different. But no classes, no final periodical tests and no graduation. I wonder now how many of our classmates really deserved to be promoted to high school. I never really understood why and what it meant, but the buzz word then was “mass promotion”.

The eve of the “attack” was just like any other night in Jolo. The sounds of 105, 155, mortar, 30 or 50 caliber machine gun, Armalite or Ghalil fire lull us to sleep almost every night. But the next morning, I could sense something different. People were frantic, in a rush, Mama told me to pack and pack light. We had breakfast with 5 guests in the underground dining room of the new De Las Peñas Lodge, an 8-month old hotel/lodging house with the mezzanine as our residence.

Then it was confirmed. The MNLF led by Hajji Ban(a distant relative through intermarriages) was inside Jolo proper. Has surrounded 4th Brigade near the airport. Near the De Las Peñas Lodge. The military has started to launch M79's in an attempt to raze the houses around the airport and thus flush out the rebels. As the fires begun, Papa went to the nearby fire department. A fireman was there and they drove the fire truck to where the fire was raging. They managed to douse some of the fire as the truck dried out.

Meanwhile back home, Mama, Auntie Neneng and the rest packed the lodge's stocks of food into sacks. Some clothes and other belongings went inside blankets tied at the ends. Buckets were filled with water to be used against the impending fire. Papa brought me up to the 2nd floor to help in shattering of jalousies windows so we could splash water from buckets onto the nearing fire. Then from no where, a spray of bullets zinged over our heads and 50 caliber slugs bounced on the floor. An army helicopter was hovering, targeting any indication of movement in the buildings below. Papa picked up a slug and showed it to Mama, it was still hot.

My Father was like a man possessed intent on saving the property. Understandably so. All their lifetime savings went into the construction and completion of the hotel. Plus they took out a character loan from either the Notre Dame Credit and Cooperative Union or the Oblates(I'm not so sure now). It's called a character loan since the provision for a collateral was not included. So there he was, doing everything to prevent it from being engulfed by the fire.

All of us moved to the tennis courts nearby. Me lugging a few clothes inside my brown school bag. The sacks and bundled-up blankets were there too. Hundreds of other people were also in the tennis courts. They were the first ones to lose their houses. We were in the open, oblivious to the machine gun fire around. The hotel looked majestic in front of us. Its apple green walls contrasting with the black smoke behind it. Tears were uncontrollable. Everybody I knew was crying; aunts and uncles, cousins, even our hotel guests. Slowly, the asbestos walls begun popping and tongues of flames can be seen through the holes. I felt so helpless.

Then we got the surprise of our lives. Enrique Carpizo De Las Peñas, barefoot and carrying 2 buckets of water was suddenly seen on the roof. He emptied the buckets onto one area of the roof. Then tried to head below to get more water. I was screaming my lungs out. Please Papa, come down now! What could you do with 2 buckets of water against an angry hell? With blistered feet, Papa appeared beside us. Tears running down his cheeks. Arms around each other, we watched in silence as the flames totally swallowed their lifetime dream.

Thanks for reading. Will post more to continue soon.