Sunday, February 26, 2017

CFCA Households Serenade the Elderly

A concept is defined by Oxford Dictionary as, “an abstract idea.”
Aminya Baptist Aged Care residents

An idea can’t be held in one’s hand but it is a powerful tool that can inspire great attributes.

On a fine Spring day in October of 2016, serenaders coming from the Tagudar Unit of the Couples for Christ Australia (CFCA) led by the Soon household, lined up against the great hall of an aged care facility in quiescent Baulkham Hills. Strings and keyboards were tuned beforehand, music notes rustled, nervous CFCA singers hiding behind more
nervous children lined up front. Our gathering audience for today-- eager and excited elderly long term residents of Aminya Baptist Aged Care and staff. As far as sister Carina could tell, who is one of our Household members and at the same time a staff at Aminya, they haven't had visitors as of late to provide entertainment.

Children of Tagudar Unit perform When You Believe
So this was a rare opportunity for us, we reckon, as I stood with my tenor ukulele to the right of the audience. Beside me were veteran service musicians of the unit led by Anna alternating with Boboy on keyboards, Allan and Richard on acoustic guitars. Weeks of Saturday night practice led to this day as the idea pushed to me by my better half has come to fruition. 
Ladies sing The Carpenter's Close to You.
(L-R: Evelyn, Mimi, tita Nimfa, Anna)

Anna’s first note of the afternoon reverberated throughout the room and the singsong voices of children and adults alike filtered through the immaculate hallways of the facility. More patients and staff made their way to the hall as news spread like electricity. Attentive and teary-eyed, the lovely residents recalled songs from decades when the fire of youth amongst them was at its brightest.
Amie, Nadi, Connie, Clavel

Our opening song was one inspired Disney classic When You Believe from the movie “Prince of Egypt” sung gleefully by the children. This was followed by the ladies' rendition of Que Sera Sera and Karen Carpenter’s classic Close To You whilst the men belted out a Cat Stevens ballad, Father and Son. Paper Roses, originally by Anita Bryant, was clearly an audience favourite as residents mouthed words recalled from the 60s. 

While the men belt out a Cat Stevens hit, Father and Son.
(L-R: Tito Ruffy, Ronnie, Nick, Raul, Marnie,
Richard and Boboy)
The Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, was a rousing number. Based on English Anglican Clergyman John Newton’s conversion, the 17th century masterpiece was opened up by my daughter Yari’s timbered melody on her violin with the first few lines sung by 11-year old Nathan, whose angelic voice captivated audience, staff and serenaders alike.
Yari performs the opening of Amazing Grace and Silent Night

Our community singing of Peter Allen’s nostalgic hit of the 80s, I Still Call Australia Home, did not require prompting for clearly its lyrics were embedded in the hearts of our audience. 

Anna on keyboards
It was a moving ending to what was to become a regular apostolic service of this unit. Galvanized by the reception of the audience, we did not end there as the lively Christmas Caroling that followed a month and a half in December was equally received as well. What could be more merrier than singing well loved carols like Feliz Navidad, Silent Night, O Holy Night, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Joy to the World, Little Drummer Boy, When a Child is Born, to name a few. The classic Australian Jingle Bells was entertaining as its lyrics. 

Love and service is at the core of Christ’s teaching. There is nothing more heartwarming and uplifting than giving your time and resources to your fellow men. Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 25:40 are evident, "as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me." In the end, a concept will remain a concept unless acted upon. With the support of the Rodriguez and Balais Households, the Soon Household of CFCA's Tagudar Unit couldn't have done a more memorable performance. 

Surely this was not our last. See you again soon!

(More photos below)

Residents enjoying an entertaining afternoon.

Amie, Connie Mimi and Carina
Nathan, Ximon and Fel
Richard, Boboy, Anna, Nick and Tito Ruffy
The most eager participant, 3-yo Luke.
Tita Nimfa confers with a resident.
Mimi introduces herself to a resident.
One of our residents reading our Christmas card.
Nick and his infectious enthusiasm.
CFCA Tagudar Unit
Carolers in Aminya, Dec 2016.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cycling: Bandits join Ride4Bai

Rain pelted down on my face like arrows on target seeming to come from everywhere-- chilly drops sleek as ice slapping you from the left, right, front and back. Pedaling at a little over 30 kph on a slippery cycleway with a band of veteran riders and the creeping, agonizing acidic pain down my quads, I had the notion of stopping. But the thought of way worse conditions back home made me change my mind as I decided to dig deep and ride on.

With the Bandits Cycling Team on a borrowed jersey from JO. Photo credits: Woody.
L-R: The author, Boboy, JO, Woody, Ronald, Art, Rainier and doc Allan.
ROOTY HILL, NSW. The first ever Filipino group ride in Sydney's West was a tremendous success. Ride4Bai, a fundraising drive created to help victims of the Philippines' recent calamities in the Visayas region, gathered over a hundred riders from different cycling teams even as far as the Central Coast, raised over $4,000. 

The fundraising ride started at Rooty Hill Train Station and proceeded along the M7's Cycleway to Norwest and back. It was a huge 30-km celebratory effort for these guys, who not only raised awareness on the country's plight but also it was a first (hopefully of many) in terms of team fun rides for riders who regularly ply the Cycleway. Photo opportunities were aplenty with friendships ignited and acquaintances rekindled. Back at the station, the riders were treated to a sumptuous breakfast, which included among many, a steaming pan-de-sal! A raffle draw concluded the event which saw gift items and prizes donated from the different cycling stores around the area. 

I was lucky to ride with a group of veteran century riders, the Bandits Cycling Team. These guys have embraced this newbie rider like an old brother. Being a runner all these years, I have just learned my way into road cycling having been coaxed into by my mentor and good friend, doc Allan (I did push him, as well, to go for his first half marathon). The Bandits ride as a team regularly every Wednesday nights at 6.15 and Saturday mornings at 7 on the M7 so the camaraderie is as strong as carbon fiber. Everybody is welcome to ride in.

The 8-km ride back home was a challenge. Rain began to fall and pelted us like rocks from the sky. The rest of the guys literally flew even on wet pavement. I started to complain to high heavens but thought better of it. In current conditions, I was already lucky more so because Woody, one of the veteran riders, rode with me out back. Drenched and shivering we were when we got home but nonetheless we did something right that day and the heavens opened up to say thanks. 

The Philippines still need our help.

Ride on, Bandits!

Veteran Bandits: Boboy, doc Allan, Woody, JO and Art.
The Bandits in a light moment. Who's got whiter legs?

Registering as one.
Ride4Bai riders. Photo from the event's FB page.
JO queues up for his breakfast of champions.
One more photo before the deluge that followed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


57 minutes at the 10k mark
In runner's lingo, a PB refers to "Personal Best" whether in a speedy 5k or in the grueling distance of the marathon. It is widely used in Commonwealth countries like the UK and Australia. In the US and elsewhere, it is referred to as a PR or "Personal Record".

The Iron-couple
And so on a clear Sunday morning a few weeks back with erstwhile running partner Erwin, we ran Race 4 of the monthly Sydney Marathon Clinic Half Marathon distance-- and scored a 2:06 PB. 

Mind you, it is not even the average time for our age group but nevertheless a PB is a PB when just a few months back we scored our best in Race 2 with a 2:14. I say, not bad at all!

For average Juan's like me, a sub-2 is an ambitious target. With a 5:42 pace it is most doable in the 10k, but double the distance and the tank gets dry faster than you can say PB. It is already an overwhelming achievement when just over 2 years ago, my first half marathon was an almost turtlish 3 hours!

Official time: 2:06
Still, I think we are on track. We ended the year with a bang and started one with a whoop!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sydney Marathon Clinic Road Race Series 2012, Race 2, 21k

Perfect weather for a half marathon in Fairfield.
As a hundred pairs of shuffling feet settled calmly before the starting line, three runners shifted nervously as they made their way into the back of the pack. What does an aspiring triathlete, a road cyclist and an average runner have in common? A love affair 21 km long.

You come early, you get to help.
18 November 2012, Sydney Marathon Clinic (SMC) Race Series, Race 2, half marathon road running under race conditions.

The journey began a few months back as 3 blokes who happen to enjoy running decided to run the half distance, each one battling their own demons to prove a point.
Runners off to a very fast clip at 5-5:30 race pace.

Allan, a road cyclist all his life, decided it was time to try the grueling distance of the 21k; Erwin, a triathlete, needed the race volume to augment his training for the half ironman; and yours truly, a one-time ultrarunner decided it was time to renew his age-old 2:21 personal best in the 21k.
Eating hills for breakfast.
We arrived at Rosford Street Reserve earlier that morning still debating whether to join the 6:30 gun start for the 21k (for slow runners finishing 2:15 or more) or just join the regular run at 7:00. But looking at the array of starters for the 6:30 gun start (senior runners), we knew we had to check in with the regular run—if only to keep our sanity intact.

The SMC, being run by club members and volunteers, is a no nonsense type of race. What it lacks in festive running atmosphere it gives back by way of expert race organization, race timing, safety precautions and accurate distance markers measured by a Jones Counter.

Runner too fast, need autofocus!
It was a subdued countdown and immediately runners were off to a very fast start along the Reserve’s neat cycleway cutting through an immaculately trimmed landscape and overhanging trees. The pace was a sickening 5-5:30 min per km, a 10k race pace for me, well above planned pace. I had to restrain the other “musketeers” (more on that later), who had armed themselves with a small water bottle (Allan) and a sports drink (Erwin), to slow down. I armed myself with a digital point and shoot instead. Come to think of it, I was the only one running and taking photos at the same time!

Joan: 58' PB in the 10k.
The photographer in me was just at awe at all the sights and great scenery that runners had to run through-- the early morning light shining through patches of tall leaf-covered pines, the spring-blossomed flowers lining along footpaths, the sloping uphills reflected by the morning sun, and the lush greenery that was just waking up to the sights and sounds of Fairfield. Even the uniformly lined water cups, sports drinks and jelly beans seem to align perfectly in a race where the light footfalls of the road, the steady breathing of my lungs and the pounding of my heart was just music to my ears.

The bike enthusiast enjoying his first half marathon.
With the course looping around a 5k distance which was all uphill, the km walk breaks was a welcome relief. But having started (and maintained) an easy back-of-the-pack race pace while chatting aimlessly amongst ourselves, a race marshal dutifully called us “the three musketeers”. All for one, one for all!

Mucking around at the turnaround.
At each of the provided water stations, volunteers gave us encouraging words while prodding us on. At the end of the loop, we turned around and headed back clearly surprised by the absence of race marshals at this end of the loop. Back home, race marshals are a necessity to deter runners who might make shortcuts. Such is the honest display here of making your own race count.

We made good headway by utilizing a revised Galloway method—15 second walk break per kilometer at 6-minute pace. We were hitting 32 minutes per 5 km despite the harshness of the sun bearing down our caps and the sweat pouring down our backs.

But by the 18th km, my quads were beginning to tighten up. So did Erwin’s and Allan’s that we were increasing our km walk breaks from 10 seconds to 15-20 seconds. We managed to close in the gap, though, by increasing our running pace that by the km 21, we were just astounded as we crossed together the finish line at 2:14:50. We were running at an even pace between 6:15-6:17 per km.

The official time placed Erwin 23rd and me 24th out of 25 in our age group while Allan placed 24th out of 25 in his respective age group. Overall, our time ranked us 94th, 95th and 96th over 105 runners for the 21k (the last runners to come in was a 60-year old female at 2:46—10 minutes faster than my first half marathon over 2 years ago!). 

Sure we finished at the tail end of the pack but I gather our finishing time was not bad at all given that we were physically undertrained but immensely confident.
Finishing 2:14 in an 'all for one, one for all' fashion.

Good race nevertheless. We achieved what we came for—Allan, his first half; Erwin, a long run; and as for me, a gauge of my current fitness level. That sub-2-hour half marathon will have to be taken at a stepwise approach. I have ran the half previously in 2:55, 2:31, 2:30, 2:24 and 2:21. Since finishing 2:14, it would be prudent to aim 2:05-2:10 by January or February.
Getting ready for the next race!
Not in a hurry but can't wait!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shoe review: 50 km with the Adipure 360

The title is misleading. I haven’t run the entire distance recently— although the last time I did was on the mountainous trails of Dahilayan. Rather, it took me a little over 2 weeks of a decent run on the Adidas Adipure 360.

A nasty fall, some cuts, abrasions, one big laceration and 50 kilometers later, the Adipure now stands as my to-go shoe in long distance running.

The Adipure 360 is traditionally marketed by the three stripes as an all-around gym shoe. But its minimalism and flexibility make it a very adequate running shoe. 

Merrell True Gloves, VFF Bikila, Adipure 360
The Adipure is a lightweight training shoe (comparable to the Nike Frees) with its breathable upper mesh and neon green non-marking out sole made up of synthetic textile. The shoe tongue is attached to the sides much like the Free. 

175 gm, 200 gm and 220 gm, respectively.
Its toebox is wide enough to allow toes to splay while the arches provide just the right amount of support for medium pillars as mine. With regards to cushioning, there is enough ground feel  and sensory feedback on trail rocks and pebbles—quite tricky with the Bikilas or True Gloves.
Keeping the doctor away at 175 gm.
The 10 mm measured heel-to-toe drop is not as revolutionary as the zero drops of more minimalist shoes but it is versatile enough to be worn casual with faded jeans while strolling around the Opera House.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Good: Lightweight, flexible, minimal cushion, casual design, attached shoe tongue, 10 mm heel-to-toe drop, wide enough toebox.

Needs improvement: Too much cushion around the Achilles area.

Overall: This is a decent all-around training shoe.

I’d definitely recommend this for runs over 10k. For those who aren’t ready yet for a more minimal shoe, this is for you.

See you on the road!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Vivid Sydney

Well into its fourth year, Sydney's iconic Opera House is transformed once again into a digital projection of lights and sounds celebrating a festival of ideas and creativity which began last May 25, culminating on the Queen's birthday on 11 June.

Well worth the visit.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Running on the M7

The Westlink M7 is an urban toll motorway that runs through the major cities of Blacktown, Eastern Creek and Prestons here in Sydney's West. It is a 40-km stretch from the suburb of Baulkham Hills to Prestons itself. The vehicular speed limit is 100 kph and 110 in some parts. If not overtaking, one should stay on the left outermost lane.

But what excites me about the M7 is the uninterrupted pedestrian and bike lane that runs with the motorway. 40 km of pure runners' and cyclists' delight. 

Together with a friend of mine last Saturday, we ran 10 miles in the chilly autumn air of the M7. I have to say that the "cycleway" (its common name) is a great place to run a long slow distance, or LSD. The route is mostly flat with some elevations.

Groups of cyclists in their road bikes speed through us with a precedent "On your right!" and "Good day, mates!"  with a few runners in between. What a spectacular route that was, the enveloping warm sunshine a much needed comfort to the chilly 9-degree air. The well maintained asphalt provided a soft and easy grip on my trainers.

The cycleway is such a great place to train that a marathon, which traces its history in the 80s, is now accepting registrations online for the July 2012 Westlink M7 Cities Marathon utilizing the same route we ran.

This is the ideal marathon challenge for me. It's a small race with a scenic route. However, temperatures around this time of the year hover around 10 degrees Celsius with the average finishing times from last year's race at a speedy 3:57!

It's funny that assuming I train religiously for the 4:30 finish, I would still be below average.

Anyway, with the recent spate of a still healing Achilles Tendonitis, I am bypassing the race this year. 

Looking ahead, this race is a better alternative.

But for now, long run weekends will have to do.