I run…therefore I am

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The Angono Experience: A Lenten Reflection on Life and Running

loyola retreat house.

While many Filipinos chose to hie off into beaches and hotels during the humid days of Holy Week, I joined a select group which goes up the hills of Angono to refresh, reflect and contemplate on the passion and death of Christ.  And I’ve been with them for the last 22 years, save for the 2 years when we settled in Antipolo.  This is where I met my training and running buddy Dave in 2000.

We’ve always had Fr. Rey Loredo, SJ as our retreat master until 1995 (when he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease) and Kuya Vir Ignacio took the lead of our 3-day sojourn.  Our practices are based on St. Ignatius 19thAnnotation, compressed for 3 days of sessions, reflections, and mostly solitary prayers.  During its early years, we kept the silence and solitude seriously – keeping things to ourselves and not disturbing the peace of our co-retreatant with even a smile or a nod.

quiet corners at every turn...

Many of us originated from Christian Communities Program (CCP), a Catholic organization in the campuses of the University of the East (I being from Sta. Mesa).  Persistent issues on family, relationships and prayer life never fail to disturb and elicit discussions and emotions during the open sessions.  So if one can’t face or open up to these everyday issues and stand naked and humble among the throng, he/she most likely won’t make a comeback.  It’s not for everyone but for some who persisted, it became a yearly habit.

the corridors of life

One of the many rituals we observe in Angono is to join the church services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday at the town parish.  It’s a complete opposite of our silent, spacious, surrounded-by-nature environs up on the hills.  Last Thursday, Dave and I considered running to the church, a good 4 kms or so but the sweat and fatigue might throw us off our ‘silent’ state.  Besides, we’d already done the Masinag-Valley Golf run that morning with Ian and Paul.

tayo na sa Antipolo...

With Angono, being a traditional and artistic hub of the country, I expected nothing less of its artistic flourishes in full display.  And it was there during the Thursday mass with still a hint of solemnity even with the whole community in full force as the drama of the Washing of the Feet was staged to violin strums and the heavenly voices of the local choir, in Latin at that.

St. Clement church, holy thursday

After the mass, the ciborium symbolically containing the body of Christ is slowly paraded out of the altar as women and men spread their respective linen over the banig (mat) on the church aisle where the congregation passes.  Everyone genuflects as the noise of the bamboo clatters fills the air.

latag banig

Friday would be more dramatic with the 7 Last Words and the giant replica of the cross erected in the middle as the sounds of thunder signal Jesus’ final moments on the cross.  Soon enough, festooned carriages bearing the images of saints take through the town’s narrow streets.  That’s when we make our quick escape and repair ourselves to our quieter quarters on the hills.

Virgen Dolorosa

Another regular feature among retreatants is doing the new (!) 14 Stations of the Cross (now made more significant with the inclusion of the Resurrection and the Last Supper, among others).  We usually reflect on our family, with mothers (or fathers) being the crucified Christ and us as Pilate or the Roman soldiers.  This year, I’ve included running and my current state in my contemplations and the familiarity and parallelism seem boundless, even with the 7 last words.  Here goes:

“It is Finished” ~ How far have I gone?  Did I make the cut?  Did I learn anything from this run?  Finished with what?  When do I start again?

“I Thirst” ~ Thirsty for what?  A physical or spiritual thirst?  How long will I be thirsty?  Will running satiate my thirst for life?

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”  ~ It’s up to you Lord – whether I finish or I DNF, whether I live to cross the finish line, whether I improve as a runner or a person or whether this inflates my ego and bragging rights. 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ~ Where is my frigging support?  Can You give me that second wind?  Where are You when I needed You most?  Is this part of Your plan?  When will the pain and cramping disappear?

“The Agony in the Garden” ~ Why did you put me in this race?  Will I ever survive this one?  Will you be with me when the ‘beast’ shows up?  Will I be able to deal with that ‘beast’?  Would you ever abandon me even if all my friends would?  Will I have the strength, perseverance and will power to finish this race?

“Jesus takes up the Cross” ~ This is heavy (and the 102 kms is just too far) but this is my cross and I obediently (and reluctantly) accept it.  Will I be able to carry it (or crush under its weight), bring it all the way to the finish line and be crucified on it?

“Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross” ~ Why’d You let me hit my wall?  Will you let me overcome it?  Will I be able to pick myself up and continue this race?  Why is this Cross too heavy for me?

“Jesus rises from Death” ~ Thank You for being with me all this time and giving me that push when I was about to give up everything.  Now I know why You’ve let me run, agonize and finish a good race.

“Jesus dies on the Cross” ~ Just what is the meaning of all of this?  Did you take me this far just to leave me to die?  Is death the final destination?  Where do I go from here?

Indeed, Running is made up of the 14 stations of Life…and we experience it every time we hit the road.  Happy Easter!  Special thanks to Ludy Tebelin, Aaron Anievas, Julito Jojo Pauly & Vener Roldan for some of the amazing pictures…


The Secret Training Ground

Finally my longest run after a long time. Last Saturday, Dave & I returned to our little secret training area in the hills of Monterrey in San Mateo where the road angles up to 70 degrees. I will documenting this one on a later blog entry.

Meeting area at Jolibee Philcoa...4:30 am

What I’d d like to share is the Team Boring secret training ground somewhere in the hilly province of Bulacan. It’s a private property with hectares upon hectares of mildly forested and cogon areas spread among hills and valleys. The last time I was here was the latter month of 2010 when the trails were slippery and puddles were everywhere. This time around everything was bone dry but thankfully still cool as we made our start at 6 am.

ang lihim na lugar (the secret place)

bored and ready to go...

Under the lead of coach Pojie, the Boring runners along with Susan Jael & Jess Agoo (brought all the way from the South by Toel) struggled through a grassy and rocky landscape with views of the surrounding mountains and chirping birds. The pace was relaxed but as in many LSDs and test runs, one group leads the pack, another follows suit and the sweeper group complete the runners.

the sun rises...

Following the sweeper group: Only Ronnies bored...(so after the initial uphill, she returns to the car to rest & sleep)

as we enter the gates of Mordor...

off and running...

So it was Pojie being chased by Maya Pelayo followed by the South group with me and finally Paulo, Teresa (ang Mananakbong Kawal) with Cindy, Doc Art and Bong. Every 4 kilometers or so, we would take pit stops to regroup and refresh while sharing bars and drinks. A wrong turn had us using the old route backwards until we finally came to our little version of ‘killer hill’ – a steep ascent and descent which one can complete with the right momentum, timing and guts of steel. We descent upon the longer and steeper portion then went up the shorter arm with minor difficulty.


get set...


Then after waiting for everyone to arrive, someone (Bong) just made a turn around and ran back the ‘killer’ route gaining speed then just harnessing whatever power one has to reach the top point. I barely make it to the final few meters while Teresa did another round in preparation for TNF 100kms he will be joining in CamSur soon. From thereon in, we went back to the old course we just went through with less uphills and more steep downhills. We needed it cause by this time the sun is well way up in the sky.

another day, another (boring) run

My kilometer reading was at 14.13 and my time was at 1:51 averaging a pace of 7:55 (including water breaks). It’s my longest run on a Palm Sunday as it welcomed my return to trail running. The group after huddling, rejuvenating and sharing stories would proceed to Mang Jimmy’s (in the Balara area) for some delectable carinderia delights while bonding with old running buddies and hooking up with new ones.


Water Works

the sports center formerly known as Rodriguez

Finally found the nerve to enter our public Olympic-sized pool at the Marikina Sports Center after a lot of procrastinating.  After a long while, my first foray into swimming weeks before BDM 102 was not really a pleasant experience – the condominium pool was shallow, short and quite cold during that season.  It was a brief diversion (and cross-training) from running after that hip injury…or so I thought.

Days after reaching the 102 km mark during the Bataan Death March 2011, thoughts of conquering the BDM 160 km started hovering.  Looming questions included:

  1. Who will pace and support me from Team Boring (of which I’m a newly inducted member) now that 50% of the members will be on the road in January 28-29, 2012?
  2. From my BDM 102 experience, I know that it was time to form and develop my own support group, but who to choose?  I’m considering some gym friends who are also into running so we shall see.
  3. If plans push thru, my brother and his family from New Zealand might be here in January 2012 so I’m looking at my 2 nephews and my brother to support me for the first 70 kms.   The more experienced runners could help me during the crucial final 50 kms.
  4. I’ve started listing my requirements for my pacers – they shouldn’t bolt out the last minute, be reliable, friendly and patient.  They should also be able to push the right buttons for me to continue the race and make me stop when the necessity arises.

A few sleepless nights later, I decided I was gonna take on the BDM 160 km next year.  That’s when the analyzing ended and the planning commenced.

recovery runs happen here...good for the knees

A little Facebook research revealed that many of the BDM 160 strong finishers were also doing a lot of biking and swimming.  In short, most are qualified triathletes.  I never had delusions of being an Ironman (even the half edition) but if this is the road to a 160 km finish, then I’ll take it.

first love never dies...

Before I got into running last November 2008, I borrowed my bro-in-law’s dejected mountain bake, refurbished it and started doing the rounds around our village.  Before I could really enjoy the cycling experience and started joining a biking group, the running fever took over and there was no looking back.  So when cross-training beckoned last month, I knew I could easily slide on those bike saddle with ease.  But the recent spate of biking accidents (one friend had his eye operated on), I had second thoughts.  Besides, equipping my self with the proper gadgets, gears and a decent racer would entail more expenses.

playground for everyone...

So I took next best thing – swimming, which like running entailed minimal requirement – in this case, something I’ve had since the 90s – my speedo tightie shorts (yup, I still managed to squeeze into them somehow).  Mariquenos are a fortunate lot for just across their tartan oval track and field is their Olympic swimming pool.  For P40 (P60 for night swimming up to 9 pm), one can dip in its fairly maintained over-chlorinated waters along with the rest of the sauntering masses.

this used to be my playground...

Fresh from high school, it was here in the pool of the then Rodriguez Sports Center where I had a few formal lessons one summer.  Along with driving, I knew it was one skill I had to master.  We used to travel by ship going to my mom’s province in Iloilo so the fear of getting caught in a sinking Titanic was most imminent, thus most of the swimming I learned zeroed in on free-style (to swim away from some great white) and threading (if I ever caught in deep sea waters).  Never graduated to breast strokes and butterflies but one triumph that comes to mind was finally crossing the 50-meter length of the pool.  This was in 1982.

Marikina Sports Center: the old mural retains its 70s feel

Now some of the pool tiles are chipped or completely gone but its practicality and vicinity from my clinic is enough to keep me coming back regularly.  That’s what I’m hoping for…


Just finished my first pool session and feeling exhilarated and confident with my new swimming regimen 3x a week (fingers crossed).  But the big plus was seeing Ronnel, a former personal trainer from my gym.  Been seeing him in the many road races along with his runner friends comprising Team Uno.  They will be back in the waters tomorrow morning and I’m looking forward to joining their training sessions.


In case you’re wondering, the longest run I’ve done since BDM 102 never exceeded 10 kms.  The reason being my partner David had gone on hiatus after some injury.  So if you noticed, I need a push or two from a running (or swimming) companion to make me hit the road (or plunge in a pool).  Now, I think, I’ve found my swimming mojo among the Team Uno guys.  I’m just hoping this won’t be a passing fancy.  We shall see…

this is just a 5-minute walk from my dental space...

P.S.  Joined the team uno guys this morning – I did 1.1 kms.  Hmmm…interrresting, sans goggles.