Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Canadian Diva"

Celine Dion is one my favorite singers during the early 90s alongside Michael Bolton. She made her mark during a significant transition from new wave to a whole new genre' of music, particularly focusing on boy bands and other vocal groups.

She is well known for her "five-octave" vocal range, without a hint of effort. She is capable of smooth transitions from low notes to extremely high ones, reflecting both her natural prowess and her professional experiences.

Celine was even compared to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, the former being one of her musical influences. Known as the Queen of Pop during her time, this Canadian Diva will forever be one of my most admired singers of all time.

I even included one of her popular songs in my Ipod and constantly listen to it when I run, hope you enjoy it as well: - "That's the Way It Is"

***all rights go to Ms. Celine Dion and the recording company :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Free weights or Machines?

Proponents of free weights would say that if you want to build muscle and lose fat, free weights is king. But if you would want the "streamlined" and refined-look, then machines would be best. There are other factors to consider, however. It's not just a matter of equipment, but it's also the poundage, the volume and rest periods that should be taken into consideration.

If you use a machine with sufficiently heavy load, say; 70-85% of 1 RM and do 3 sets of  12 with 1-2 minutes rest in between sets - then wouldn't it achieve the same result of hypertrophy comparable to that when using free weights?

I guess the real benefit of free weights, is the fact that it is unassisted and therefore it will challenge your balance, coordination and core more than machines that are considered: "self-spotting". Free weights also require more refined movements that would enable recruitment of stabilizers, synergists and antagonistic muscles to support and lift the desired weight.

The neural connections between the muscles, the brain and the perceived stimulus is also challenged. It's for this reason (and is common knowledge) that newbies who are merely starting to lift weights for 1-2 months, notice some improvements in terms of strength and to a certain extent - muscular size. This would usually plateau after the said time frame, thus the need for some variations in programming for continuous gains.

Since both machines and free weights are staple equipments in any gym, why not get the best of both worlds? You could either use free weights first, hitting the major muscles- then machines to exhaust those muscles or to focus on the smaller ones. The number of sets, repetitions and rest periods would depend on your goals, i.e muscular size, endurance, strength or muscle tone.

The most important thing to understand is the proper form, execution and breathing. Free weights? or machines? Use both in whatever order or use just one - it totally depends on your goals, how your body responds to it and how you feel at that time.

Keep the faith :)

"The Mentor Behind the Educator"

There have been a lot of cliche's about being a mother and what a mother means to each and everyone of us, but if we sum up all those personal opinions, it all boils down to altruism and pure love. My mother of course, is no exception.

She married at the very young age of 18 at the height of her dreams of having a career, but because she couldn't have her own way - she married my dad through the influence of my grandmother - who's quite a very strict Spaniard and approves of my dad very much.

My sister was born after just a few years and I followed 11 years after. When she was pregnant with me, my father fell seriously ill and was bedridden for three years. It was my mom who single-handedly took care of my father, the household chores, my sister as well as her personal needs and work. It was one of the toughest times my mother had to endure, but she did it nonetheless.

Despite all her sacrifices as a wife and as a mother, she was as steadfast and resilient all throughout. She never let any difficulty get the best of her and instead always wielded all of her will to overcome all kinds of challenges and obstacles. Of course she does have her weak moments just like any human, but she makes it a point not to show this to anyone, not even to us.

By nature, my mother is an achiever whether in school or any kind of work that she was involved with. It's not so much being a perfectionist, but being second-best is and will never be part of her vocabulary. When she starts something, she will definitely do it the best way she can the first time and will finish it no matter what. She is a person who will never compromise her beliefs, outspoken and quite well-versed in terms of legalities and makes her a formidable foe for those who would even attempt to step on her toes.

My mother was considered the driving force behind our family, she gave importance to values, respect, proper decorum and etiquette as well as responsibility, professionalism and high work ethic standards. She was a friend you could talk to about anything under the sun and she can be a friend to our friends as well. She's a counselor, someone to lean on, someone you could tell jokes to even if it's corny and a person who would always want the best for her children, even if it means sacrificing her own dreams and aspirations.

She was our greatest fan in every endeavor and achievement and she was our foremost sympathizer during times of misfortunes and failures. Someone who would take up all the sufferings and pain rather than allow her children to experience them first hand.

Even now that my sister and I are both married, my mom is still a mother to us. She never fails to give us advice about life lessons, frustrations and disappointments. Even if we are miles apart, our bond remains as steadfast as it was when we were younger.

Society usually frowns on the closeness of sons and mothers and labelled it as: "mama's boy". I will never comprehend society as a whole, but will never be ashamed of the immense love that I have for my mother. If not for mothers in general, there wouldn't be any future leaders, future professionals or even future generations.

I do not know when my mother and I would be reunited, but we do find the time to communicate and touch base, so to speak. It is during these special occasions and holidays that I get to miss her a lot and even the family that I was a part of. We grew up full of love, affection and attention from our mother and this is what makes our household, a home worth coming home to.

While growing up, I yearned to have the same qualities that she has and achieve as much as she did. It wasn't just brought about by her expectations for me to be as efficient and strong as she is, but because she just wanted me to be more: "life-resistant" or "life-ready" for that matter.

It's only now that I realize that I am her in my own unique way, as effortless, unnoticeable and unexpected as it could be and I wouldn't have it in any other way. The majority of the knowledge and experiences that I have imparted in my 8 years of teaching, practically came from her. So in a sense, it's as if it has always been her educating the many students that I have encountered, it was her giving advice to some of my friends that needed it the most and it was her who consoled those that needed a shoulder to cry on or cracked jokes to those that needed a good laugh.

The way she is to me, IS the way I am exactly to my students and my friends. It's a no-brainer that we're so much alike in many ways that I could ever imagine.

So, if people ask me who my mentor is or why I am the way I am - I always proudly tell them of my maternal affinity as well as proclivities. She will always be the mentor behind the educator and the reason for my existence.

"Yo soy hijo de mi madre!" ("I am my mother's son!")

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"More Than Just A Semi-class"

December 23 - I had the opportunity of having a conference class with two students that don't normally "team-up" in my schedule. I chose a random conversational topic and the rest was history. I particularly observed the similarity in English abilities, which made the class more spontaneous and smooth-flowing.

What was more interesting was that one student was quite laid-back and soft-spoken, while the other was very bubbly and upbeat.  These personality differences didn't affect the class at all, it even amplified and made it even more interesting.

The first few questions were answered by both according to their own beliefs and opinions and they were very interactive. It was quite easy for the both of them to throw questions at each other and showcase their communication skills as I listened intently to both speakers.

The last question was the most memorable: "My girlfriend left me. I feel depressed. What should I do?" Since both students were women, I guess "rewording" the question above was in order: "If your boyfriend left you and you feel depressed about it, what would you do?"

The bubbly student answered very casually: "This happened to me before and I knew how it felt like. Maybe because he was more immature than I am or because I was more immature than he is, I don't know. If this happens to me again, I'll just look for another guy."

The other student and I laughed throughout the remaining minutes of the class and "bubbly" student laughed as well, probably realizing how casual her opinion was. I was probably expecting: "Well, I would ask advice from my friend to help me with the recovery process,.." or something along those lines.

 As a result, both students became more comfortable with each other and admired each other's dedication to their chosen fields of endeavor. Even though their professions are very different from one another, one can only admire the level of work ethic, professionalism, commitment and talent these women have shown. They are perfect examples again of women setting the bar in a very traditional country, mostly dominated by men. 

On a personal note, being casually honest really has its benefits- it brings out spontaneity, unexpected laughter as well as another learning experience and this is just one of the perks of teaching English - priceless!


I have been quite fascinated with this song by Damien Rice. I just tried recording a practice session with my guitar and I guess it turned out okay. My voice isn't the way it sounded years ago, especially because of the numerous hours of teaching English online.

Anyway, I'm trying to revisit my old hobby - hopefully with enough practice, I would be able to do better.

This is by the way a Christmas gift to my Godmother and you know who you are :) I

hope you enjoy this humble recording - I'm not really a singer - I just love to sing, especially with my guitar :)

Happy Christmas to everyone! :D