I can clearly remember the times when I enganged myself in a copycat version of Bruckheimer’s Amazing Race. The first was when we were in Botany class where we were like kids-gone-wild racing to identify scientific names of campus plants (how nerdy!). I thought being part of the race itself was hard, so in the next two versions of ‘Amazing Races’ (the BioRace in UST and the Retreat Race in Caleruega) I was involved in, I chose to be one of the organizers. To my disappointment, I found out that being in charge of a scheme to cause commotion and panic to teams of bestfriends, lovers, and strangers was more complicated than I ever thought. Whether an organizer or a team member, a race is a matter of strategy.

The first question I asked when I saw Amazing Race on TV is, “Are those backpacks full of real stuff?” Well, I can’t imagine myself running around the streets of Tokyo carrying a ton of clothes and flying to a US state carrying even a heavier load. More pressing questions came – How many cameras do they use? How do they manage to edit such a lengthy race? Where did they get all the resources? I found the answer in one name – JERRY BRUCKHEIMER. He really changed the face of reality TV. After several runs and reruns of the international version of the popular race, AMAZING RACE ASIA finally arrived.

In the Asian version, I always knew that Filipinos would rule. After all, living a day in Metro Manila is like a simulation of Amazing Race – even worse. We find ourselves lost in the unnamed streets, run after transport vehicles, and get late due to heavy traffic. Okay, so we didn’t make it to the first installment of AR Asia with boldstars representing our country. Good thing I didn’t waste my time tuning in to Ernie and Jeena plus Aubrey and Jaq, who were all eliminated even before they have gone halfway through Asia. But on the second season of the race’s Asian version, Pinoys rule!

Marc and Rovilson, the consistent number 1 team of the AR Asia 2, make me proud. They are very fluent in speaking in English and even sound better than the show’s host. They always finish every task ahead of the rest because of teamwork. In terms of friendship, they really set a good example – “I’ve learned to accept him as a friend, even with his faults” (Marc on Rovilson when interviewed for their team profile). In every task, you seldom see them panic. They never blame each other. Instead, they always end up laughing at their mistakes. Yes, they are serious about winning the US$ 100,000.00 prize money, but they see to it that they have fun. They never run out of jokes and they see to it that they enjoy every thing they do. No matter how hard the other teams try, they cannot beat the Pinoy boys’ strategy. Their way to win is a mixture of physical advantage, linguistic ability and social maturity. (Well, they are really sports-minded, have a lot of travel experience, and are good local TV hosts)

The race isn’t over (as of this moment I am writing this blog) but this one is for Team Philippines – win or lose – you’re amazing!

Books with Pinoy Touch

A lunchbreak stroll at WalterMart gave me the opportunity of coming across a store selling second-hand books. While looking for a good title, a small black paperback caught my attention. It was Joseph Gangemi’s INAMORATA. It is a story set in the 1920’s and the characters were historical and familiar (which included the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). This mystery become more interesting as the story goes on. Martin Finch, an ivy-league school graduate, leads to quest in finding the ultimate proof of the existence of the spiritual world. His group found Mina Crawley; the rest of the book carries on with several ‘spirit quests’ that were a little frightening. Interestingly, the butler of Mina’s house was a Filipino, and whenever he speaks, Tagalog words would come out of his mouth. I am not sure if Gangemi has a Filipino blood running through his veins but from the looks of it, he knows my language. Although I am happy for a fact that the author used Tagalog, but again, the Filipino was portrayed as a ‘butler,’ (more like a domestic helper). Good thing it wasn’t a “the butler did it” story. Inamorata is the Italian word meaning ‘a woman whom one is in love with.’ From the title itself, one can guess that there is a love angle. I finished the book in one reading because of my interest in these mystery-type stories. It is a good book.

If one wants to visit the 1980’s during the time of the Marcos era in the Philippines, the critically-acclaimed DOGEATERS by Jessica Hagedorn is one of the best books to read. This novel-turned-play is a classic bestseller that directly narrates what is happening during the Martial Law regime. The true culture of the Filipinos were shown in vivid form. Although I was bombarded with so many characters (I blame myself for the lack of focus. haha!) the book filled with a mixture of prose, narrations and songs made me think and imagine how colorful Filipino life is (although set in the 80’s, tradition never changed that much). Social stratification in the Philippines is recounted side by side with Filipino religiousness. The story was mainly narrated by Rio Gonzaga, a ‘balikbayan’ from California. Other characters included those who reminded me of the Marcos era – the officers, the society people, and the shoe icon herself, former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It was entitled ‘Dogeaters’ because Filipinos eat dogs (well, I haven’t tasted one, but I am aware that it is really served). Any Pinoy reading this Hagedorn’s masterpiece will surely feel ‘at home.’

Blue Iris

At last, one heavy year ends!

The year 2007 has been 525,600 minutes (yes, the song from RENT) of primetime soap opera, a little comedy, some suspense, and more drama. Recalling what happened to me would be an information-overload so while writing down the notable moments of the year that had passed, I am guided by my small diary planner.

During the past year, I spent most of my time at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex counting house dust mites. Our thesis group reaped the fruits of our labour as we finished our research paper and was even accepted for an oral presentation for a national convention of scientists. Academic life for me has been stressful because of Biochemistry, Embryology, and Cell and Molecular Biology. I took the National Medical Admission Test twice, and application to the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery added some more pressure. I gave up serving as a leader for the UST Biology Society and ended up having a career in hosting (1 acquaintance party, 1 quiz bee, 1 seminar, and 1 organization launching). I have been promoted as Copy Editor of our college-based publication (now I have my own column) and I became part of the college glee club (did I say we’re officially the third best chorale in UST?)

Off-campus, my schedule was fully-booked. I met new friends; I was able to read seven books (5 of which were bestsellers); I was able to see the wonderful sites of Bohol, swim in the serene beaches of Boracay, and experience the cold climate of Baguio; I enjoyed our class retreat in Caleruega; I was able to watch several movies; I attended some parties; and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to gain some weight. I felt burdened throughout the year, but because of the things that balanced my life – the travels, the diversions, and the people – I survived. I learned that life is unfair and it is up to us to look at the other side of the cruel truth. Toward the end of the year, I fell several times. I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand up, but hey, now I’m welcoming a new year like everybody else! One time, I felt empty. I lost a special part of me along the way. I stopped. It took me several cups of coffee before I came to my senses and gradually move on.

Looking back left a smile on my face. Yes, year 2007 has been heavy, but its weight made the past 365 days full of meaning. The year I left my teenage years truly became a leap to maturity. Before, I used to carry only the memories I would love to keep, but now, I have lessons to treasure. I am not that old, but I am getting old. I am 20 and I am about to finish undergraduate studies. I am hopeful that year 2008 will be a smooth ride.

The “Colour of the Year” is Blue Iris, a shade of somewhat blue mixed with purple. No one might even care what the ‘Colour of the Year” is (except for fashion gurus and my mom) but today, I realized its value. It heightened my expectations. When I ‘Googled’ the colour, I saw a calm and enlightening shade. The effect of the colour is quite relaxing and cool. Because of this, I am looking forward for a year that is filled with happiness, peace of mind, prosperity and success. Don’t let me down Blue Iris.