Monday, October 27, 2014

Recovery Training...(a virus-busting workout)

I have finally found another gym where I could train like a "mutant", I mean in a very intense way that I have done so for several years now. The first thing I noticed when I walked into Generation X Fitness Gym are the "Mutant" supplement posters which definitely caught my attention.

The area is not that spacious, but it has the basic weight-training and cardio equipment that most local gyms have. It has been about a little over 2 months since I decided to take a break from running and go back to my first passion: weight-training. 

I'm quite satisfied with the progressive gains I'm experiencing as well as the fulfilling "serotonin-feel-good" feeling afterward. Recently however, I almost came down with the flu but still continued with the usual intense workouts that I normally do, despite the general body malaise, occasional dizziness and cold sweat that I experience afterwards.

I strongly don't recommend weight training when sick (colds and slight fever), but it works like magic for me, because it shortens my sick days. The sweating somehow prevents the fever from worsening, but then again - that's just me. 

I also met new gym buddies as well as a trainer who shares the same passion as I do. For more than 3 weeks now, I have been training intensely with this guy and we're loving every minute of our gut-wrenching, iron-clanging and face-contorting workouts, leaving us practically breathless and sweaty - but definitely a good quality workout.

From left to right: JM, Jason (trainer), :) and Warren
taken right after our grueling chest workout

It really helps me a lot to sustain my energy levels, especially because I teach English for 7 hours a day, 6 days a week or the usual house chores that my wife and I do or requests from my mom, sis and friends. The daily demands of life can take its toll on the mind and the body - but my workouts keeps me going, the energizer bunny but in "mutant" kinda way.

Lately however, due to my demanding work schedule and that of my buddies, I had no choice but to work out like a lone wolf - finishing my exercise in just a little over an hour or so and then I head back home, take my whey protein, take a shower, eat lunch and I'm in front of my PC talking to my first student in no time.

Exercise will be forever a part of my lifestyle, considering my perpetual immuno-compromised state due to allergies. Recovery training has a totally different definition for me, because it does shorten my sick days and again, I don't recommend it to anyone.

If you think you're sick and cannot even lift a 4lb dumbbell, I really would recommend to get lots of rest, take lots of water and occasional cold baths to bring the fever down and if it still persists, go see a doctor.

Working out with body malaise is not for the faint-hearted,...literally.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"The Blink of an Eye"

Seasons end, time flies, children grow up, leaves change color and fall, tides change, the sun sets, people grow old, the world turns - everything happens in a blur as if we all are looking through the lens of a high-speed camera with its shutter clicking away with intervals of microseconds.

It is therefore so easy to take for granted the simple things, because they pass so quickly and we are so absorbed with our daily tasks and concerns that are equally fleeting. Looking back, there were regretful things that I've done or I have not done, that I should have, but hey - it's done and over.

It's not too late as they say, and I'd like to believe that second chances are for those who open their minds to possibilities, which I have.

I suppose looking at the details of things in general is a clear advantage on my part, because I do get to notice and appreciate the little things that do matter, but I never really used it in a way to look at life through a microscope, so to speak.

One particular experience is meeting a wonderful person whom I never thought in my wildest dreams to have almost a complete alignment of my experiences, unique outlook in life, a medical background (to say the least) and simple dreams and aspirations, despite ironically having a complicated life.

It is for this reason why I cherish this bond fiercely, because "seldom" and "rare" are words all too familiar for me. She is definitely a rare find and I will be forever grateful to have met her and will always be loyal to our special bond. I don't waste any time to make her feel how important she is to me, as close to my heart like family.

My current life law: "Never pass up on the opportunity of breathing in life's surprises, whether big or small"

So, look at the sky, find clouds with unique shapes. Appreciate the sweat in your brow, when the sun is shining bright. Listen to the birds and see the leaves change color and fall. Stop, look and listen and notice every little thing that you take for granted - waste no time, not even a few seconds because everything happens in a blink of an eye.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Superhero Persona

Why are people seemingly hooked to superhero characters? Is it just because of their perfect looks? their special powers and abilities? or is it because that many can identify with these characters? Whatever the reason may be, superheroes have been the epitome of the indomitable will of the human spirit regardless of their internal struggles and challenges that they incessantly face.

This is probably the very fabric of an alternate reality that a lot of people can relate to, I myself included. Even the creators of these characters, like the famous Stan Lee, admits that all the Marvel characters he created spawned from human emotions and possibly traumatic experiences. These characters therefore offer a form of "escape" from the real world and is sought after by kids who fantasize and wish that they are those very heroes they read in comic books.

I grew up with that kind of mindset and it was merely a stage in my life as it was for a lot of kids from my generation. I was lucky enough to have witnessed these characters come to life in the big screen starting with Christopher Reeve as the very first Superman I knew, then a host of other actors portrayed the iconic Kal-El from Krypton.

Christopher Reeve (RIP)
portrayed Superman 1978 - 1987
Henry Cavill
portrayed Superman 2013
currently filming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
for 2016 release

Superman has been the most revered and well-loved character both in the comic books and in the silver screen. It's no wonder why anyone can relate to him and why his famous "S" shield has been printed in shirts, school supplies, posters and the like.

Because of Superman's phenomenal success in the box office, comic book and merchandise sales, movie producers started to look into other potential characters that can likewise have a huge impact in the movie industry.

X-men, Wolverine, Hulk, Spiderman, Iron man, Thor, Avengers, to name a few made huge waves in the box office and I was again thrilled to see these characters on-screen that I grew up reading only in comic books.

We all have a child in us and it's just that a lot of us have chosen to forget it amidst all the hardships we encounter in our fast-paced lives. The superhero character may be an alternate persona for some or a character to identify with or just plain old fun that we sometimes have to experience every once in a while.

As for me, it was a form of escape from bullying during my childhood years and a persisting testament to my dedication to constantly maintain my health despite having an immuno-compromised system at my current age. It made me realize what I am capable of achieving and my ability of going above and beyond my limitations I never even thought possible. 

Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Glenda" a.k.a. "Rammasun" part II

I suppose I spoke too soon, saying that the pocket WIFI of my sister's was quite stable, because the connection became very erratic from 10pm onwards (July 18 - Friday). Whew!

So I didn't have a choice but to cancel my classes from 10 to 12. It was a good thing that my students at those times were very open-minded and understood the situation.

Saturday: July 19, 1:00 - 2:00 am

Still couldn't sleep despite the exhaustion, but somehow managed to get some shut-eye drifting from shallow to deep sleep and awake again. I woke up around 8 or 9am feeling somehow refreshed after a week of insomnia. I felt that it wasn't still enough of course.

My wife sent a text message saying that the electricity has been restored, so I woke up, had breakfast with my nephew and was out the door in a few minutes. (So thankful for my sister's "motherly" touch - she is really my mom's daughter, because she took care of me the way our mother usually did - whom I sorely miss - still in Canada)

It was also a good opportunity to visit the house that I grew up in (same age as I- 38yrs) and get to fool around with my nephew, never-ending stories with my big sis and a lot of laughs!

I arrived home and saw my wife doing the laundry, so I lent a helping hand and swept/mopped the floor of the house while waiting for the washing machine to end its "wash" cycle.

 Checked the internet connection and sent an inquiry regarding the integrity of the physical lines (cables) and the company sent a text message promptly the next day.

So far, so good! Then I heard another news of another typhoon headed our way - ohhh boy!! fingers crossed again

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Glenda" a.k.a "Rammasun"

Still couldn't sleep well and it seems that my insomnia is getting worse - but for some reason, I'm getting used to it.

Had erratic lesson schedules this week, because the storm knocked out the power transmission lines in the southern part of Manila and we will be having rotating blackouts until such time that repairs are completed, according to MERALCO (Manila Electric Company)

It was also unfortunate that a concrete electric post in my place was damaged because of the typhoon:


Some of my neighbors said that it will take about 3 days to restore the electricity in our village.

I'm now staying at my sister's and I brought my laptop with me. I was so excited to have a class yesterday at 15:00 and then the power went out again. I then used my sister's laptop as I wasn't able to bring my own laptop battery. 

I was only able to have one class and decided to go back home to get my other battery and was ready for my 1830 class. Upon logging in and exchanged correspondences with the Admin in charge, my battery went dead.

I just decided to cancel the rest of my classes since I didn't know when the power will be restored. Oh well, at least I tried - I just felt frustrated though.

My sister's pocket WIFI is stable enough and quite reliable, especially with its rechargeable battery and it doesn't use too much power as compared to the laptops - but I don't feel the same way with the current status of our electrical service here.

I'm able to write this blog as of the moment and everything seems fine,but I hope that it's the same later on when I have my classes - keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nautilus Vortex

I thought about drawing a nautilus shell particularly because of my affinity for living things which is also the very reason why I graduated with a Biology degree. The colors symbolize the many facets of life coupled with some dark shades - life's obstacles and hardships. Both integral in life, for there is no success without failure nor happiness without loneliness.

The spiral represents the endless cycle of life's ups and downs, opposing forces but always in harmony.

Life can have a lot of shades of gray a lot of times, but I take comfort with the knowledge that the colorful side of life can drown out the grays because life is always a never-ending spiral - nothing is ever permanent, not even the bad stuff.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fragile Turbulence

"The Day After Tomorrow" is one of those films that evoke a striking and relevant message about the unpredictable climate that we are experiencing now and what may come. I'm no climatologist, but the extreme storms that we are experiencing as well as the erratic climate patterns are obvious red flags that should be taken seriously.

The movie emphasizes on an extreme climate shift that puts North America and Northern Europe under heavy snow and below freezing temperatures resulting in a second "Ice Age".

If you have lived in a tropical country like me where summers are sweltering and the rainy season brings an average of 30 or more storms, you will know what it means to experience a very unstable and unpredictable climate system.

Storms now bring more rains and winds are more intense than ever that causes floods as if the Pacific Ocean just decided to drop by in the streets of Manila or neighboring provinces without even being invited. The extreme heat during the summer can somehow make you look like a melting snowman and you can literally cook raw eggs on the roof or in the middle of the streets.

We have had our share of storms and I'm sure other countries around the world have experienced the same. It seems that these extreme weather conditions worsen every decade and there's no telling when the next snowstorm or super typhoon will hit...and where.

There have been international climate conferences or summits and agreements have been drawn regarding carbon emissions reduction, but it all seemed too passive and ineffective. If we can't seem to find a more aggressive and relevant solution, we should at least consider practical survival strategies.

It may sound all too morbid for some, but we do have to prepare for a catastrophe when there is none. Realistically speaking, we cannot predict what tomorrow will bring particularly because weather prediction nowadays may no longer be called an exact science.

Some of the facts presented in the movie may not be entirely accurate as it was made for cinematic effect, but the truth of the matter lingers that the environment is fragile and the turbulence that we are experiencing one storm after another will only get worse. 

The question is not only a matter of how, but most importantly: WHEN

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking Through a Learner's Eyes

We all started out as learners and through the course of our journey, we still learn outside of the "walls" of the university through experiences - both the good and the bad.

Insightful learning is quite useful in a sense that it gives you a 360-degree unbiased view of all sides of a scenario, so in order to understand the uniqueness of every learner - a teacher needs to put himself or herself in the shoes of his/her student.

It has always been a constant learning opportunity on my part, because each learner ironically have unique needs but similar patterns of difficulties. It is through these patterns that an educator can create or search for materials/solutions to address these common obstacles that learners experience.

The other side of the coin is the uniqueness of each individual's needs, which means that there is some "customization" that will be done for the learner to respond to the lesson more effectively.

It's not always a bed of roses for both the learner and the teacher of course, because there will always be challenges and the journey towards fluency is long and inevitably arduous.

Finishing a course or a learning material gives the learner a sense of accomplishment and that in turn fuels his/her motivation to further progress to more difficult materials and learn more.

Others will probably be satisfied with their current level and focus more on their busy lives - an understandable fact of life, of course.

There are some however who will consistently study and learn because it gives them a sense of fulfillment and direction and willing to keep on learning despite the difficulties.

There is really no right or wrong with whatever choice a learner makes, because each one has to decide whatever he or she feels is fit for his/her particular circumstances.

I have had my share of being stuck in a rut, failing exams, doing tons of homework, projects and meeting deadlines and constantly forgetting important learning points and getting confused, having clear-cut goals from the start and discovering that those goals were not really what I had expected them to be in the end and simply not meeting them and a host of other difficulties that a learner could possibly face.

Learning a language is inarguably a different story of course. The phonetic and structure differences between the English language and a learner's mother tongue can be quite daunting that any learner can have a "question mark moment", leaving him or her with a high level of frustration akin to having a migraine.

This feeling of exasperation is all too familiar to me when I was a learner myself and it is this similarity that I can relate to quite well.  I use this as a tool to elucidate the "whys" and "hows" of language-learning obstacles.

While a dose of radical creativity can somehow provide the necessary solution for some learners, but elucidating some unique difficulties can be quite elusive. I am sure though that my persistent tenacity to find answers will result in a "light bulb moment" sooner than expected.

I have discovered though that learners and teachers have "both" sides in them. A learner can be a teacher as he or she "teaches" himself/herself, helps other learners or engages in a cultural or academic exchange with a teacher.

A teacher in return never stops learning either through his or her own volition, life experiences or from his/her students and colleagues. It's not just part of our profession, but already routinary or instinctive on our part.

As a teacher goes through different obstacles and consequent discoveries, he or she matures through the insightful experience and becomes more adept and intuitive. Similarly, students may experience the same insightful learning through their unique difficulties and become more adept and intuitive in the long run.

Experimenting with different learning strategies (which means focusing on what is effective and scrapping those that aren't) should be the focus of every learner. It's the very essence of "customization", which is why teachers have different approaches to different learning difficulties of students. Teachers also experiment with different teaching strategies and employ those that are effective.

I stumbled upon this random picture on the net and it pretty much sums up what learning is all about - it doesn't really matter if you are learning a new language or learning how to play a musical instrument, because it can be applied to virtually anything that you are new at:

Reflective or insightful learning is the only way to know what works and what doesn't. If it doesn't, then I guess it's time to change your learning strategies - it should really be this dynamic. Teachers do the same thing when learning and teaching - we never just go for one solution or teaching strategy, because there is no such thing as "absolute" when it comes to teaching or learning for that matter.

“If you are not progressing along the true way, a slight twist in the mind can become a major twist. This must be pondered well.” 
― Miyamoto MusashiThe Complete Book of Five Rings

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cold Heat

Another abstract I painted and the inspiration for this was the emblem of my university where I graduated from:

because I have always been fascinated by its design, but instead of just focusing on the sun itself, I added my own twist:

"Cold Heat"
The image represents the duality of life where everything goes in pairs, black/white, good/bad, happiness/sadness, day/night, life/death, cold/hot, love/indifference, noise/tranquility, etc.

The stoic face represents "indifference" to the ever-changing and fleeting  seasons of life. All the "noise" that one experiences may be "drowned out" by total numbness to preserve one's inner peace. 

Human emotions are as extreme as cold and heat and finding a sense of balance through the stoic face can be quite challenging- but it is always possible :)

Blue Flame

It's been a long time coming and I should have written about my artwork. Finally I have gotten the chance to doing so. I started out with charcoal pencils and wanted very much to draw superhero characters, but drawing faces were quite challenging for me.

I started trying out oil pastels, awkward at first, but I became more comfortable with it.... eventually. One of my earlier works, I thought of drawing this osprey (below) that I have seen from a book of birds. The blending of the colors weren't that refined and the details of the wings were not that well-drawn. 

At that time I thought it was perfect, but just like with everything else in life, you grow and notice the "fine details" then learn to improve on those. 

An even earlier work of mine when I tried a "mixed media" of pastels, ink and colored pens. I saw this from the magazine of my mother and I wanted to challenge myself at that time: 

The trees looked like "green clouds" and the branches stood out like crooked fingers with a pale blue background - a crude attempt for a sky. The play of light and shade weren't that distinct - well, I suppose I learned anew.

I started drawing abstracts after a decade, because I thought it was high time to draw something original and I suppose a decade from now, I would notice some imperfections in it and would again learn to further refine my skills.
"Blue Flame"
I entitled this: "Blue Flame" and while I was on my way home from work, this picture popped up in my head for some reason. So, I immediately drew it upon reaching my house before I even had forgotten it. It represents a calm kind of heat, a warmth that every one of us have, but sometimes forget due to our busy lives and is usually drowned out by our personal issues or even people who does not value our worth.

Painting abstracts can be quite tough, because without the proper motivation like a random emotion or striking experience that can evoke an idea, abstracts would turn out to be a disaster. 

I suppose it's time for me to revisit my old hobby, since I haven't painted any abstracts for many years now - it will definitely be a breath of fresh air :)