Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

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The way this blog has evolved the past year, it’s quite obvious it has become a blog dedicated to Running. But don’t worry it will go back into the normal topics which are pretty much everything goes. For now let’s go back to running and talk about this one particular runner who traveled halfway across the world to share Hope in Leyte.

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Meet Michael Quinlan.
(c) M. Quinlan

His name is Michael Quinlan. He is an American from New Jersey.  He’s not your ordinary fun runner; he is a Boston Marathon veteran and a qualifier for this year’s edition. In layman’s term, this guy runs fast, as in really fast. Last February he got in touch with me through Facebook that he will be coming to Tacloban to volunteer and continue his Boston Marathon training to town. He wanted to meet the TOES and run with us.  I told him it was an absolute honor to have him!

He arrived in Tacloban for a two week mission for the Volunteer for the Visayas, a non-profit organization. Like many of the foreigners who are in Tacloban, Michael wanted see the devastation firsthand and share to the community whatever help he can give. I can only he imagine how much Michael has to give up; financially, emotionally and professionally, just to be in Tacloban and help.

For the TOES, it was an honor to have him around and running with us. Our group is still in its infancy stage and we haven’t developed yet some elite and fast runners when Yolanda came. But out of nowhere, suddenly we got ourselves a Boston Marathon qualifier. We adapted Michael as one of our own, an honorary member and a personally, a good friend.

I am away from Tacloban this whole month, fortunately I had a 1-week seminar in Manila and I have to fly from Tacloban airport so it was my perfect opportunity to finally meet him. The TOES had a semi group LSD run last Sunday. I had my 18k but Michael was not able to join because he already dialed in 130 kilometers in his first six days in Tacloban. So we have him for a breakfast at Jollibee near Bethany Hospital.

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Michael Quinlan is undeniably an American with fantastic Eastern accent. He’s good looking and quite younger and fitter for his age (the gift of running!). He also blends so easily with the group, man he’s a real conversationist!  I love the way he talks and listen to our best English we could master. We learned a lot from him in just one breakfast setting: from running, training regimen, career, corporate finance, life, culture and the message of Hope. We can’t help but admire the guy because of his humility. He won the 18k race that day before and he wasn’t really absorbed with it. It was luck. He ran an additional 10k after the awarding.

And we talked about Boston. This year’s Boston Marathon means a great deal to him and also to us Leyte runners. It will be a year after the bomb attack. It’s also another year to rebuild our lives after Haiyan. So much have happened in 2013, all those heartbreak and tears and disappointments and angers we have seen on the news TV. Perhaps, it’s  really the sad news that connected us. We’re glad that we meet someone who was there in Boston, and Michael for sure was eager to meet someone who survived Haiyan. That’s what he was here for at the first place – to meet us, run with us and touch each others’ lives. It was a beautiful experience as if we are destined to meet and share our lives.

To Michael Quinlan, by the time you read this you’re probably back at home and safe. We just wanted say that we are very very thankful for visiting Tacloban, our home turf, our city of Hope. You’re selfless efforts of reaching to us and the community will go a long way into our being not just as a runner but also a citizen of this connected world. Until we meet again. You’re a hero to us.

And oh, by the way, thank you very much for giving me your official Boston Marathon 2013 Supernova singlet. Man, I feel like a Boston qualifier already!

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Waiting For Summer

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Drawing, Photography
Tags: , ,

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Save me from this cold nightmares and disappointments because I know you can. Just thinking of you is Hope enough for me, better and warmer days will come.

It’s been a long long time, perhaps we should finally meet… beloved summer.

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The marathon is over. Now what?
Photo from: http://running.competitor.com/

The Cebu City Marathon 2014 held last weekend was a very successful event from a personal and social aspect of my life. I am very happy that I’m finally a  part of that select group of crazy people called ‘marathoners’. I am happy that I’m a little bit instrumental in bringing my fellow runners in Tacloban and Leyte to the event, trust me you have the donors and organizers to thank for. And I’m extremely happy to the people I have met there over the three-day Cebu Marathon weekend; from the donors, the elites, the lovely media people and most especially the  the Leyte runners, whom just a few weeks earlier lost their desire to run during the aftermath of Yolanda. Man, I fought so hard for those guys. Kumapal talaga mukha ko for them,  just to get the much needed support from the Cebu running community. It was all worth it. We ran with pride.

I did have a blast even before the gunstart, so yeah it was a very unforgettable experience.

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My number one and only, international bragging rights.

Marathon Blues. But perhaps the hardest thing is getting back to the normal life. Suddenly the excitement, the anticipation and the rush coming from the biggest sporting event in the Visayas vanished.  Man, I’ve prepared for so long for that event. I got stressed out carrying the delegation out there.The boat trip back was particularly painful as I failed to say goodbyes and well wishes to my running buddies and to my new friends, and the relentless pounding of the waves didn’t help either. Damn I wish it did not rain.  I reported to the office the next day and found out the stuffs there became nightmarish and unforgiving. And then there’s this cold biting chill brought by Agaton.  I guess this is what they call the Marathon blues. Yeah, it sucks.

Grassroots hope. Out of these winter chill, comes a great tale of Hope I’m bringing to my place. It’s not  really about the tales of victory, it’s about the promise of a new Hope. The Tacloban runners will surely be talking about their conquers in the coming weeks. But me, I’m starting the herculean effort of bringing running here in my province of Southern Leyte. It’s my way of paying forward the generosity we got from Cebu. My short term plan is to organize a running club in my workplace which is a state university. So I’m really hoping I could convince the professors and the students alike to take on running. Those winning shots from CCM will be my bait to capture their attention hehe. My not so long term plan is to organize a running event in the university hopefully by the next intramural games.

Run, Tacloban, Run! So far I haven’t visited Tacloban for weeks now. I missed volunteering out there especially now that she’s there to volunteer too. I hope I could still meet her and say that we did it. She is my inspiration why I got into the Marathon dream bandwagon, so in the off chance she read this, I just want to let you know I did my best to make you proud. You know who you are. You, me, and the rest of our brothers around the world, we will rebuild our beloved city. Hey how about a cup of coffee? It’s cold outside.

Now let’s talk some serious running stuffs. We’re bringing back running to Tacloban, as early as possible, as soon as this rain stops and summer finally reigns supreme. Running cannot die out there, it simply cannot. After all all the efforts I and the  Cebu running community poured in, and after it’s runners did the unthinkable of running  (and finishing) an entire marathon with hardly any practice. The city will rise again, together with the runners. I’ll fight and do my best to bring back two of it’s treasured running events: The Tacloban City Marathon and the I Shall Return Ultramarathon. And of course I haven’t forgotten about Jake Bramida’s currently  on hiatus Kapamilya Run. Tacloban guys, TOES, and organizers you have my full support.

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The Marathon Dream started on this event, now it has to come back this year!

In times like this, the title couldn't be more meaningful.

In times like this, the title couldn’t be more meaningful.

BDM. After claiming the Marathon Dream, many runners would think what’s the next run? Me, I don’t really know where or when’s my next event. I’m resting for a while and focus on work. But it sure meant the creation of what used to be an improbable undertaking. After CCM, there’s another three letter event I’m eyeing on: BDM. Yes, the Bataan Death March. It’s a 102 kilometers of brutal running retracing the historic march of those brave soldiers in WWII. No marshalls, no water stations, nothing but running. I have some family issues to settle in those roads.  The more I run this year, the more I’m expanding my chances of survival from that suicidal running event. So yeah, for that to happen, I’m becoming an ultra runner this year! I’m not sure if I can do the BDM next year even if I train hard for it. I just cant afford to bring an entire support crew there. Perhap I’ll practice my socials skill too, who knows I might get a hitch for BDM.

CCM, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. See you again next year. Btw, I’ll be bringing more dreamers next time. It’s a promise. Keep dreaming, keep hoping.

Never Gone

Everyone here in Leyte has problems to solve. The biggest one is of course  figuring out ways to live and how to rebuild each of our broken lives. The world saw what happened to this island when super typhoon Yolanda wrecked havoc and leaving behind an unspeakable amount of devastation. But I got some problems too as a runner:

I think I lost my running haven in the storm.

But I’m determined not to buy the notion that Running is also dead along with the thousands who perished in Tacloban City. For me, it just went into exodus somewhere or just taking a break after a successful year. It has to come back. And Last Sunday, in God’s will, it came back with an awesome show of force.

Two weeks ago was an accident when a few of us, the remaining runners in Tacloban, decided to run again exactly a month after Yolanda. But  that was different; this time it was a deliberate and planned running event. It was bigger, meaner and more powerful run. We call it “Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for Hope.” It’s the first official post-Yolanda running event in Tacloban.

I helped organized the event. My friend and fellow Tenderfoot Organization of Enthusiastic Striders (TOES) member Jake Bramida is the organizer because it was his crazy idea of hosting an unprecedented running event only weeks after Yolanda. As a resident organizer, Jake lost a couple of races to the storm. I just handled the publicity because I’m the one with electricity and an internet connection. It was not an easy undertaking especially in the preparations because: a. we have no money b. I’m 130 kilometers away from Tacloban c. Jake and I have day jobs to fulfill d. everything’s a mess in Tacloban City and e. we only got a week to prepare. It was nothing but an abnormal undertaking in an abnormal time of our lives. WE know we got our faces up against the wall. But we took on the challenge and proceed with reckless abandon. It was tough.

Thankfully donations poured in even though we never ask for it. Sun.Star provided the much-needed publicity, ate Rose Buenconsejo of Aktib.ph & Runroo.com poured in money for the tarpaulin and race bibs and my former boss in Crown Regency gave us some money for the other expenses. LNU helped in housing the Cebu runners for free!

The event is absolutely free. There’s just no point of collecting money from the runners who themselves are victims of the storm. Life is pretty tough financially out there already for the survivors. And these people deserve to run regardless of their affiliation, political colors (Aquino o Romualdez?) and financial capacity. We want to let them run for free because they love running even though it would mean there will be no singlets, no medals, no official time, no hydration station, not even marshals to escort us.  There are two categories  in this event: a 5k and a 10k. But later we decided to extend the 10k to 18k because we have to consider that most runners are on training for CCM and we can’t break their training schedule. Besides, we wanted to make sure that the Cebu runners get to see the devastated areas. They need to see it and let them know this is where their donations and generosity goes. This is why we run today fellas.

The Unity Run’s starting and finish line is in Tacloban City Hall. It’s the only place where we could host the event because there are lights and electricity out there. The rest of the city is still in the dark since Yolanda. We have to borrow the sound system and transportation equipments from Leyte Normal University (good thing its current president Dr. Jude Duarte is my former boss and I volunteered to clean up that campus). The publicity was done mostly through word of mouth and a few help from my connections in social media. The Sun.Star Cebu who ran a series columns about our first run two weeks ago. and it really helped The radio stations also aired the event like wild fire (we have running buddies there). It’s really a good thing to have friends; you just don’t know when you are going to need them.

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Coming into the event, I only wanted to see my friends from TOES again. Kahit sikwenta lang ang dumating magpapainom ako! But by some stroke of luck and good faith a unexpectedly big crowd showed up. The TOES group is there of course noisy as ever and proudly wearing our uniform. I can sense their hunger to run again. There are also runners from the Bureau of Fire Protection, the PNP and other running groups in Leyte. Then there are kids and students. And most importantly the Cebu runners showed up!

The A Runners Circle – Cebu (ARC)  running club team was led by sir Jidan Jakosalem who I bumped last weekend at his store in Cebu. He was very instrumental in forming the event because I was after his relief assistance. I told him that if you can bring even a quarter of what donation you can give we will make the event happen for free. The other Cebu group was Toledo Adik sa Dagan (TAD) runners headed by doctor Willie Estepa. They joined the crowd around the halfway mark at the airport because of their tight travel schedule. Just to seeing those great runners from Cebu is a huge morale booster to the running community of Tacloban.

We didn’t have a race gun to start our race, so we just used our watches and counted down loudly for everyone to hear that we were starting. We let the ARC team to do the honor of bringing the Tindog Tacloban banner (it’s borrowed) to lead the 18k pack. The 5k followed right after. Again the Unity Run is not a race, it’s a running event that promotes solidarity and support to the community. Nobody is getting a PR that day haha. We start together, we run together, we walk together and we cross that finish line together.

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The running experience was simply priceless. It was a solemn run as we ran in silence amid the breathtaking yet heartbreaking backdrop of the devastation. We ran together as one in the dark daybreak at Real Street. We walked and waived to the evacuees staying at the Tacloban Astrodome. We passed the Rotonda near the Coca-cola when the sun rose up. The clouds covered the sky with gloom and dread as we passed by the barangays of San Jose. We took a short rest when reached the Tacloban airport. Everyone noticed with a smile the huge concert facility installed at the parking area. Willie Revillame is in town.

We ran, still together, towards the City Hall for the second half of the run. Some were tired, but the pack is nowhere near from giving up. Everyone wanted to finish. From the Astrodome, we did not take the Real St. highway we passed by but rather took on the narrow road of Magallanes towards the City Hall. The community there was flatten beyond recognition. Everybody went into complete silence that I can actually hear their breathing. It was a show of respect to the community as we fight to hold on from breaking into tears. We passed by a boy waiving at us as he helped his father create a giant palor with colors resembling the Philippine flag. It was an image of Hope, in its purest and most innocent form!

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Photo courtesy: GMA News

We all reached the finish line. And the sky fell down crying. It was amazing how God has given us a clear weather all thoughout  for us to prepare and run together in the devastated streets of Tacloban. Yes, only then after we finished that it rained, perhaps as a symbol of cleaning ourselves from these dark chapters of our lives. God works in mysterious ways…

The event was a success the moment I saw the eyes of the participants all wearing those bright shades of satisfaction and fulfillment. I’m so proud of these guys, these are not your ordinary runners these are Yolanda survivors and against all odds they showed up to run and let the world know how strong the Filipino spirit is! I wanted to hug every single one of them and congratulate their achievement. It was an honor to be with them. I could only hope that Unity Run that I help create brought some sense of normalcy to the survivors. That run certainly gave more Hope to the runners than us bringing Hope to the community. Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for HOPE is my Christmas gift to the all of them.

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I counted the amount of donations in kind the event was able to gather. Cash donations amounted to P5,030.00. We received 200 pieces of badly needed mosquito nets coming from the ARC team, 5 sacks full of barely used clothing, cartoons of canned goods, bags of medicines, bags of rice and a whole lot more! To be honest I did not expect any donations at all (I was only after the nets from the ARC team). As I browsed through the registration master list I learned that each runner brought something no matter how little for our cause. Some filled up:  1 can goods, 1 kilo rice, P20, 2 pieces clothing, 1 pair new slippers, 1 jacket. It’s inspiring to know of their generosity despite the fact that they themselves could have used it for themselves.

Together with the runners from Cebu  we dropped the two van loads of donations in kind to our chosen beneficiary (Brgy. 90, San Jose, Tacloban City) right after the run.  The place used to be a coastal suburbia, now it’s a tent city. I’m very glad we were able to raise and give something from our event, even though we got no budget at all. Not bad.

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Runners from ARC drops the event proceeds to the Brgy 90, San Jose Tacloban

Once again, we gave out blank race bibs to the runners for them to put their message of hope to Tacloban (it’s free). It’s our specialty and too bad only prepared a hundred bibs so we were not able to provide for all. Runners put on their heartfelt message of hope, unity and faith like “More Power Tacloban” from a BFP cadet. “United We Stand” from sir Jidan. “Thank You World for Helping Us,” say a TOES buddy. Doc Willie of TAD wrote “To Leyte runners, we are one with you in spirit. Tindog Tacloban! – Cebu running community.”

And for me, I wrote something a bit personal and completely irrelevant message, to my crush. LOL. “@intsikchic: Dalagan ta dri TAC!!!” Hai nako bistohan na, I’m dead meat LOL. She’s a standout youth from Tacloban who finished her full marry at CCM last January before studying abroad for her masters degree. Hey even a fanboy can hope, too.

Tindog Tacloban! Wait, this image below looks weird.. That’s us! My event on the front page!!! Mapapansin kaya… hahaha

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Sunday, Dec. 8th – A month after super typhoon Yolanda struck Tacloban City and Leyte.

I was back in Tacloban City for another round of volunteer mission at Leyte Normal University. This time I brought a bigger group of volunteers including the badly needed chainsaw team. And this time I brought my running gears. I decided I have to run because I miss running out there (and I’m way way behind my marathon training program).

I informed a couple of Tacloban runners that I’ll be there to volunteer over the weekend and maybe take a run in between. But when I arrived at the agreed time and place set by fellow TOES member Miss Pie, I was surprise to see a few other runners waiting. Soon others came one at a time until it was already a pack of hungry wolves. That was totally unexpected to be with a group for the run. And that’s only the beginning of a completely unforgettable running experience in my whole life.

By the time I arrived I noticed that some runners brought on pieces of tarpaulin the size of short bond papers. It was meant to be our race bibs, it was blank so they started writing messages of hope and gratitude and sentiments to the national government. Some are of the inscribe words are “Wag mawawalan ng Pag-asa“, “Thank You World“, “Thank You Paul  Walker“, “DTI what happened to the Price Freeze” and me, I wrote “Anderson 360 for President (Thank U CNN)“. I believe we owe a lot from Anderson Cooper for making the world cry  and bravely said the shit, when shit did happen. It’s my little way of thaking the white guy.

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It was meant to be just a comeback run for us since most of  the Tacloban runners who showed up are only having their first run since Yolanda. But it suddenly transformed into a fun run the moment we agreed to steal that “Tindog Tacloban” tarpaulin near the City Hall. We made it as our banner for that hope rally. I believe it was a spontaneous turn of events that led to us running not only for ourselves and our goals but also for the city and its people. We wanted to show them Hope through running. We wanted the Taclobanons to see us running back again to tell them “We are stronger than Yolanda“. That is the goal of our instant fun run. No registration fees, no singlets, no water stations, no marshals. Only Hope.

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And the race for Hope started! We waved our (stolen) banner proudly in front of the group with two runners holding it. We took turns holding  the banner through the whole 10 kilometer course. Our meeting place was at the front of DYVL (where two brave journalists died) so we picked to start at the Romualdez Street, then to Imelda Street, Real Street and all the way to Coca-cola to make up the first half of the route. These are the major streets of downtown Tacloban City, where the most number of people can see us. The second half of the race started from Coke, to hardest hit barangays of  San Jose and all the way to the Tacloban airport, our finish line.

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The runners near the Coca-cola plant. Halfway there!

Out there on the road we are bunch of badass people taking over the city. Shouting our chants “Tindog Tacloban!” in unison the people can’t help but notice and be amazed, and inspired. People were clapping at us, waving at us saying back “Tindog Tacloban”, taking pictures of us, and all of them smiling with their teeth bearing that other four letter word: HOPE. It was such an amazing experience, like something taken out of those sports movies. Magical.

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It was a great feeling for us to finally be able to run after a month of hardships and heartbreaks. Tacloban runners could hardly run before that day because they were shocked and freaked out of dead bodies lying in the streets. Most of them lost their houses and members of the family. I think some showed up wearing borrowed shoes and running gears. And it broke my heart later on when I learned that a close running buddy of mine was not able to run because he lost his running shoes and all his belonging in the flood. Nightmares, regrets, desperation, and helplessness; these are the harsh realities these runners have to go through (and overcame) coming into the event. I hope running in the streets in that fateful day brought back a sense of normalcy to them. These are good people trying their best to be strong for each other.

That fateful Sunday was the 1st month anniversary since Yolanda devastated our city. It was the day we decided to move on and run once again. Tindog Tacloban!

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Photography by: Mr. Bobbie Alota of DILG Region 8, a friend, a runner.