Monday, 17 May 2010

Venus-Crescent Moon celestial event

Last night's alignment of the planet venus and the crescent moon was dubbed a rare occurence by astronomers worldwide. Well, I can't believe that I missed this sublime event and to think that six months ago, we planned the meteor shower gazing. I should have asked Z during lunch what to expect this week instead of talking about the election results.
I guess Emma hosting the barbeque was serendipitous (left photo was taken from her backyward) because she changed the date from Friday to Sunday.
Astronomy Magazine had the date posted in their website with the following description "The 7% illuminated waxing crescent Moon will occult the magnitude +4.0 and 85% illuminated waning gibbous planet Venus for Asian observers during the afternoon and evening of 2010 MAY 16...Southeast Asia and Indonesia will be especially favored with an evening event...."
Here's another posting from a stargazer in India: "After sunset at 7pm one should look towards west direction to find Bright thin Crescent Moon. Just above it one can find Bright Non-twinkling object which is Planet Venus. Occultation of Venus on 16th May: On 16th May beginning 3.30pm. to 5.30 p.m. depending on location, people in India can notice called Lunar Occultation of Planet Venus in the skies. In which view of Planet Venus is obscured by Moon during its course of journey around earth"
Neverthelss, I am glad that Jenny pulled me out and pointed to the sky last night. The first thing that came to my mind though was the configuration resembled the Islamic flag's crescent moon and star. The origin of the flag dates back to the year 1453 when Ottoman Empire founder, Osman I, dreamt of a crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. "Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty."
Well I hope that this is also a good omen for us in the Phlippines. The election results are now being disputed by losing candidates. Since Venus is the planet of 'love', maybe this is a sign for all of us to accept the results and move on?

Survived the Great Wall marathon

Woohoo! I finished 21-km of the Great Wall. It was definitely a challenging course and I should have worn my trail shoes instead.
average height is 738 meters

all eleven of us before the race
Eleven of us from the Philippines had flown to Beijing to join about 2,000 runners from all over the world to run the Great Wall Marathon on May 15 - Dennis and Jenifer Quepe, Australian expats Chad and Natasha Davis, Iloilo-based Arthur and Angela Chu, Bads Tan, Charita Agana, Candy Lee, Nino Fajardo, Marge Buot, Guam-based Ronaldo Navalta and myself. We were the first batch of Filipinos to do the run since 2006.

We were up and about at 2:30 am on the day of the race (a Saturday) and in the bus at 3:30 to take us to Huangyaguan in Tianjin province, about two hours away from Beijing. Huangyaguan Wall is not as popular as Badaling, the portion closest to Beijing, but it is the best restored section and the most scenic. Huangyaguan (Yellow Cliff Pass) lies on a steep mountain ridge and got its name from the surrounding yellowish hills and rocks. Its average altitude is over 700 m and it stretches 42 km long with 66 watchtowers. The wall was built during the Nothern Qi Dynasty (550-557 AD) and repaired with bricks during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

It was cold at 9 degrees Centigrade when we arrived at 6ish—and foggy! We could only see a faint outline of the wall against the mountains. We walked down to Bagua Castle to the square to assemble. There were booths set up to collect bags and personal belongings; and onstage, perky aerobics instructors warmed up the crowd. Around 7am, Chinese officials in suits gave opening remarks (in Chinese - duh) and immediately after that was the gun start and we were off!

Qi Jiguang at the entrance 
The course was divided into two sections—9 km along the wall and 12 km through the villages. The first part was a gradual uphill climb from Bagua Castle, to the main road, crossing Juhe River and the mountains. I wasn’t used to the altitude and started peeling away from the group. Approaching the entrance of the wall was an imposing 8.5-m statue of Qi Jiguang (1528-1588), a Chinese military general and national hero during the Ming dynasty. There was a slight gridlock at the entrance as runners waited in line to climb up the steps. There should have been a sign up that says “Warning: Expect treacherous climb or endless steps.”

This is the famous Taipingzhai section. The path felt like a roller coaster with the steps getting steeper and steeper as it wound up through the mountains. At this point I was climbing up the steps, whose height varied from the normal step up to thigh height and the width varied from wide to narrow. There was a portion of the wall where the path changed from bricks to narrow gravel lanes, the gridlock was because we had to slow down and hang on to ropes. That or fall down the crag. In hindsight, I should have brought my trail shoes instead of runners—it could have helped make up for the fact that I wasn’t prepared for such a grueling course.

narrow portion of the Taipingzhai section 
After climbing up and down for one hour and six minutes, I had covered only 6.46 km and reached the highest point at 502 m. I wondered about the Chinese of yore where watchmen were supposed to have memorized the steps to go from one watch tower to another in the dark.

rocky terrain in the village
The next part of the course was through the picturesque villages.
The path changed from asphalt on the main road and then gravel and dust. Again it was an up and down path, making me long for my trail shoes. The farmers would stop and watch and the villagers would cheer on.

I finished the 21 km before the 8-hour cut-off at 3:39. I didn't expect to break any record since I had been forewarned that given the conditions of the route, I would finish 50% longer than my normal time. The website wasn't lying as it described the marathon as "a tough, beautiful and definitely extraordinary experience. The 5164 steps of the Great Wall will put your physique to the test, and the breathtaking surroundings of Tianjin Province will compete with your tired muscles for attention". True, I was armed with my blackberry and camera shooting away.
very very steep descent

all taped up running with Tze Yann Tan from Singapore

I must congratulate the organizers for a well run event - well-placed visible distance markers for the different races (black for 42 km, red for 21 and green for 10); water stations every 5 km including up the mountain top; sports drinks, bananas and sponges every 10 km; gigantic baguette sandwiches with bananas, dessert and drinks at the end of the race. And, to top it all off, a free 20-minute massage before boarding the bus back to the hotel. Another warning - there are no portalets in China. I may just go back to do the full marathon or maybe opt for an equally challenging course, Athens in 2011?

great viw of Bnlagang Mountain, the race area covers 18 watch towers
Here's the route using my garmin forerunner 310xt:

Monday, 10 May 2010

Voted in the first Philippine automated polls

Thank God I went early today to my precinct to exercise my right to vote. I guess everyone was eager too because at 8:00am this morning, the place was already packed! There were long lines and people were going around a bit looking confused.
This is the first ever automated national elections in the Philippines which has been riddled with controversy from its inception until the last few days with computer glitches and last minute replacement of more than 76,000 faulty compact flash cards.
I waited in line for 1.5-hours to get my ballot which took me only 4-minutes to fill out and cast my vote.
In my cluster, there were three Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and one person manning the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine. The delay was caused by (1) the BEI who had to go through the master list manually to look for the voter's name, precinct and sequence number before handing out the ballot and (2) majority of the voters took longer than the estimated 8-min time frame to fill out the ballot. In some precincts, the delay was due to the malfunction of the PCOS and ballot feeding jams.
Despite the initial setbacks and the summer heat, I'm glad that about 75% of the 50 million registered voters participated in this year's election and the whole process was peaceful except for the usual hotspot areas.
Right now the results are trickling in with Aquino leading the presidential race with 5.8M vote (vs Estrada's 3.7M) and Binay leading the vice president with 5.8M votes (vs Roxas' 5.3M). I'm surprised that Erap Estrada, the ousted President in 2001 and convicted in 2007 is still popular.
By tomorrow, hopefully we will know who will seat in Malacanan. Noynoy Aquino insinuated earlier that he would call for People Power 3 if he does not win the elections or if the winners are not proclaimed.
Hope not! Apolinario Mabini said "Thou shalt not recognize in thy country the authority of any person who has not been elected by thee and thy countrymen; for authority emanates from God, and as God speaks in the conscience of every man, the person designated and proclaimed by the conscience of a whole people is the only one who can use true authority."

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voters Ed: Salingpusa artists interpret Mabini's Decalogue

Kudos to Gigo Alampay of the Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (Canvas) for mounting Dekalogo before elections to remind us of our national hero Apolinario Mabini's ten precepts which reads more like commandments called The True Decalogue .

The exhibit features ten Salingpusa artists to represent one commandment - Elmer Borlogan, Manny Garibay, Anthony Palomo, Karen Flores, Jose Santos III, Cris Villanueva, Jim Orencio, Tammy Tan, Neil Manalo, and Ferdie Montemayor.

The choice of Salingpusa is quite apt, the origin of the group quoting from Ronald Hilario: "Easel painting, in the form of large-scale canvases and the social-realist mode of commentary made a comeback in the early 90's with the popularity of Grupong Salingpusa. A collective of young and student artists, the group's initial objective was to break into the field of art discourse which was dominated by a constellation of individual senior artists. They succeeded in getting the art world's attention by introducing the novel method of interactive mural painting. Salingpusa members are known to create large murals in minutes a kind of performance in its own right. Their works are characterized by the representation of negative social emotions such as dread, isolation and disconnectedness in highly surreal urban environments."

Here's Mabini's 10 commandments for Filipinos which was originally written in Spanish and written to accompany his greatest work, the first Philippine Republic Constitution.

by Apolinario Mabini

by Neil Manalo. First. Thou shalt love God and thy honor above all things: God as the fountain of all truth, of all justice and of all activity; and thy honor, the only power which will oblige thee to be faithful, just and industrious.

[by Anthony Palomo] Second. Thou shalt worship God in the form which thy conscience may deem most righteous and worthy: for in thy conscience, which condemns thy evil deeds and praises thy good ones, speaks thy God.

[by Tammy Tan] Third. Thou shalt cultivate the special gifts which God has granted thee, working and studying according to thy ability, never leaving the path of righteousness and justice, in order to attain thy own perfection, by means whereof thou shalt contribute to the progress of humanity; thus; thou shalt fulfill the mission to which God has appointed thee in this life and by so doing, thou shalt be honored, and being honored, thou shalt glorify thy God.

by Manny Garibay. Fourth. Thou shalt love thy country after God and thy honor and more than thyself: for she is the only Paradise which God has given thee in this life, the only patrimony of thy race, the only inheritance of thy ancestors and the only hope of thy posterity; because of her, thou hast life, love and interests, happiness, honor and God.

by Ferdie Montemayor. Fifth. Thou shalt strive for the happiness of thy country before thy own, making of her the kingdom of reason, of justice and of labor: for if she be happy, thou, together with thy family, shalt likewise be happy.

[by Cris Villanueva, Jr.] Sixth. Thou shalt strive for the independence of thy country: for only thou canst have any real interest in her advancement and exaltation, because her independence constitutes thy own liberty; her advancement, thy perfection; and her exaltation, thy own glory and immortality.

Eclipse by Karen Flores. Seventh. Thou shalt not recognize in thy country the authority of any person who has not been elected by thee and thy countrymen; for authority emanates from God, and as God speaks in the conscience of every man, the person designated and proclaimed by the conscience of a whole people is the only one who can use true authority.

Sulong sa isip at gawa by Jim Orencio. Eighth. Thou shalt strive for a Republic and never for a monarchy in thy country: for the latter exalts one or several families and founds a dynasty; the former makes a people noble and worthy through reason, great through liberty, and prosperous and brilliant through labor.

No Tresspassing by John Santos. Ninth. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: for God has imposed upon him, as well as upon thee, the obligation to help thee and not to do unto thee what he would not have thee do unto him; but if thy neighbor, failing in this sacred duty, attempt against thy life, thy liberty and thy interests, then thou shalt destroy and annihilate him for the supreme law of self-preservation prevails.

Kapit Bisig by Emong Borlongan. Tenth. Thou shalt consider thy countryman more than thy neighbor; thou shalt see him thy friend, thy brother or at least thy comrade, with whom thou art bound by one fate, by the same joys and sorrows and by common aspirations and interests.

Therefore, as long as national frontiers subsist, raised and maintained by the selfishness of race and of family, with thy countryman alone shalt thou unite in a perfect solidarity of purpose and interest, in order to have force, not only to resist the common enemy but also to attain all the aims of human life.

The adjacent exhibit Everyday Filipino Heroes present works of emerging and senior artists "send a collective message about the role of the electorate in free elections, one that is critical and discerning and therefore heroic, never needing to be taken by saviors and messiahs of change." Both exhibits are ongoing at the Vargas Museum in University of the Philippines, Diliman campus until May 31, 2010.

What makes this event unique are the collaterals meant to engage the public. The campus oval is lined with banners representing each Everyday Hero artist while ten 'vote wisely' posters representing the ten dekalogo and artists available online for free. For more info, call Vargas Museum at 928-19-27 or Canvas' Gigo Alampay at (0917) 890-6160.

Tears for Fears: one giant karaoke in the Big Dome!

That's how it was last Saturday despite the Noynoy rally and traffic, everyone trekked to watch Tears for Fears at the Araneta Coliseum.
This is the first time my pop rock group of my teenage years (1980s) was here L-I-V-E in Manila. Lead singer Roland Orzabal said that they've been all over the world including Siberia and "it has taken so long to get to Manila."
I'm sure they were blown away by the audience participation. Everyone was singing and dancing. Its like one big giant karaoeke without the words flashing on the screen. The Ninf called it a "big high school reunion."
I love that the kids were there too and enjoyed. Lit's 15-year old son said it was better than what he expected including Emma's 8-year old son who said he had fun.
My tweet playlist, yup, I was tweeting : Curt Smith opened with Head over heels, Everybody wants to rule the world, Mad world, some new songs like Floating down the river, Orzabal's slow version of MJ's Billy Jean, audience got riled with Break it down.. and ended with my two fav songs it's a world gone crazy Woman in Chains and Shout!
At 10:30 before the encore, Korina was booed not once but twice when she was shown onscreen. I guess no one wanted to be reminded of the upcoming circus, I mean elections. As of today, the Commission on Elections recalled 76,000 compact flashcards nationwide. With five days to go before elections,all this computer glitch news is causing a lot of jitters... say that you'll never never never need it, one headline why believe it? everybody wants to rule the world.. all for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever...