Monday, January 25, 2010

Halad 2010

Right after the marathon success, I got myself readied for a more meaningful endeavor which I look forward every year. Its my personal albeit my family's HALAD to the Sto. Nino which we always do. This year as much as last year, we were holed up again in Crown Regency Hotel to be close to the festivities. Although my wife couldn't come with me this time due to her pregnancy, I wasn't about to give up attending masses as well as taking documentary photos on the side. I also joined the Sinulog photo contest as a mere bonus. This is also the time to test the new camera, the full frame Nikon D700 with its new lens the Nikkor 24-70/2.8.

A contingent participant holding an image of the Sto. Nino.

Devotees lighting candles as a sign of offering and penitence.

After three days of photojournalism shoot, waking up on successive 3AM wake up calls and covering as much ground and water festivities their was, I was tired, but everything was every time's worth it. Not even the rain had stopped me from covering mass after mass of the event. The rains like not the other years didn't stop this time. It poured continuously for days leaving most photographers on the side. I had fun shooting though while covering the events. The new camera didn't let up. Later on did I realize that it was waterproof. But again, being cautious, I covered it with a plastic cover meant for cameras I bought hurriedly in Gizmo.

A devotee looks up upon the larger image of the Sto. Nino in the altar while holding his own.

Walk with Mary Mass. Devotees waving their hands as a sign of devotion while performing the moving song Bato Balani sa Gugma.

A cross draped on white linen with the basilica altar on the background.

With regards to the lens and new camera performance, it blows me away that I didn't want to use again my old camera! The images is just as sharp as any images I have seen before. I could shoot in the dark too without blurring almost all my images. Wohoo! But again, the images I took really is nothing compared to the immersion you get yourself in celebrating the events. It has moved me into tears before and it always does.

Thousand of devotees attend a Friday mass amidst the rain soaked grounds of the basilica.

The image of the Sto Nino as it is being carried outside the grounds of St. Joseph Parish before the start of the fluvial procession.

There are many things you learn, and appreciate covering events like this. I am thankful my family has always been thankful for a decade of love, peace and prosperity the Sto Nino has showered us. I might be a photographer in the streets during the festivities, admiring beautiful images but deep down, in my own perspective, you can only admire the essence of the Sinulog if you are also a devotee.

Thousands of balloons are released together with the devotees wishes during the 330AM Mananita Mass

An image of the Sto Nino among the multitude of hands waving.

The church choir as it performs during one of the early dawn mass.

Some of the photos I took during the three days is here. 12GB of photos were recorded.These are some of them.

Bato Balani sa Gugma, a moving ritual song that moves devotees into tears. It is the clearest sign of the Cebuano's devotion for the venerated image.

A portrait of a candle vendor outside the grounds of the basilica.

The Sto Nino as it is carried towards the outside of St. Joseph Parish.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From Dream to Reality. I Did It!

A year ago while watching a short marathon coverage in one of the cable channels, the commentator while covering the event said that less than 1% of the world population has ran the marathon. The phrase struck me, not only because it is a tough figure to comprehend but it gave me a sense of realization that if its that difficult then it must be a challenge. Its was just what I need at that time coming off from my own little achievements in the field of photography. So, 11 months ago I gave myself a self imposed deadline to run the marathon within 2 years. I was not kidding myself but it was just a dream then.

I am not blessed with the physical attributes of an athlete. I took up football when I was in high school, took some time playing the hoops but it was all that was to it. Nothing special to be proud about. Team sports was something I am really not comfortable of. I am someone who can work alone, or live alone, thinks a lot and it seems running was naturally fit for me. When I run I am in a peaceful place.

A lot of people thought I was crazy to run that far. That the marathon is just reserved for THE athlete. That in my own capacity I would fail along the way due to the lack of drive or perhaps on the enormity of the thing. Some believe, many didn't. Of the few people then who truly believed in me was my wife Jenni. She knew me by heart and she knew that when I put my mind into something, I am invincible. She saw it a countless times already.

Catching up on water at km30

And so I jog, I ran 3x a week. You could say that I am passionate about running as much as I am with photography. I have come to love it. Steadily progressing from a lousy runner which my wife harshly compliments me from time to time to a steady form. Never did I realize that in my quest for glory I would inspire many of my staff to take the sport too. I inspired my brother too who runs with me on a frequent basis. So from a lone ranger that used to love running down the mountain trails in Consolacion and Liloan, I had accidentally spread the running virus to 25 more people in the company. So we all ran. Ran local races here and there. Ran the Milo marathon 21K in July. When the CERC announced on holding the first ever Cebu Marathon, many of them have had the smartest goals of running the 21K, while a few like me had a lofty goal of going for the full 42K.

Posing for the camera,km30

The marathon is the Mount Everest of running not because of a single day of running such great distance but because it requires so much sacrifice and determination months before the event. Like the rest in our team, I sacrifice. To woke up at 3am on Sundays just to run those long runs for several months which seems to bore me from time to time and would have zapped out the energy and drive of those who were not committed. The injuries I had incurred was another thing which had almost left my quest in shambles. I am not a full time practitioner so it takes pure time management to get those runs in place while having those quality time with the family and committing the deliverable on the business. I never wilted. I persevere and it paid off.

Decending one of the overpass with my brother Harold, km36

Three days ago, the epochal date of destiny came, the Cebu Marathon 1-10-10. The dream would have come to either a triumphant finish or to dismal failure. I did some carbo-loading days before. We (my family and brother) had to book a hotel in the city to be closer to the race start. The day started not well. Off all the times I had suffered insomnia before our long runs, this one wins them all. Maybe from the excitement, I was only able to sleep for 30 minutes tops! Thoughts were now running whether I still have that energy to finish. I was panicking inside already.

Mission Accomplished. Finish Time: 5:32:10, Chip Time: 5:31:53

We woke up at 1AM and went down to McDonalds to eat a light breakfast of hamburger and fries. We were on the race site in IT Park at 2:45AM, about close an hour to race time. We rested while one by one the participants of the 42K, 513 in all came. By 3:30AM the calls for assembly began. By 4AM after the fireworks, the race was off. We planned to maintain the pace between 7:00-7:30 mins/km. and our goal was just to finish the race. We did the courtesy of letting others speed off ahead of us. I was feeling weak in the first few kilometers maybe due to the lack of sleep but regained fitness level somewhere between the 8-9Km. The run was uneventful until we hit the South Reclamation Project (SRP). Normally this coastal road is closed to runners. This time we owned half of the road. It was really beautiful to run this part. We went up to the junction near the new Talisay City Hall which seemed an eternity. This was about the km17 of the race. So ftar so good. By the time we hit SRP again, the sun was already rising and it was hot, really hot. It may be good to run in the SRP at dawn but its going to roast you slowly when you get caught in there when the sun is up. With virtually little shades to cover you, we were slowly being roasted like the famous Cebu Lechon!

Taking few breaking walks on water stations which were plentiful and among steep inclines on bridges, we were able to get out of the SRP by 7AM which was extremely hot already. It was km26. The time was around 3 hours. I quietly thought we could shave of more time if we continue to run at our current pace. At this point the water stations had plus 100 drinks, bananas and chocolates. Yepee! Drinking was never a problem, it was the heat! I was beginning to tire a bit already from heat fatigue. As we hit the slightly incline road going to fuente, we tried another strategy to conserve our energy. We used the run and walk strategy. We walk for a minute on slight inclines and ran for about 5-6 minutes.

By chance when we passed Crown Regency Hotel near Fuente, I saw my wife and my daughter on their way to eat at McDonalds. I was almost move into tears seeing them and at the same time provided me just what I need: A morale booster. My daughter even quipped "Daddy why are you walking, you are supposed to Run!" I kissed my daughter and my wife and bade them goodbye. "I can do this", "Kaya ko to" I kept repeating the mantra. And so run I did until we reach Mabolo junction. We stop whenever one of my companions stop because of cramps. I said to them " No one would be left behind!" This time it was km33. It was really a struggle for the last 5Kms. The pain although bearable, was all over my body. I was cramping all over like they (muscles) was one in chorus, a symphony of total agony. I continued to walk in steep hills which to my count was three for the last 5K and run in descents and flats.

42k Finishers Team YYKredit From left: Ryan Gamana, Rajahni Ladaga, Larry Aying, Me, Joemarie Manalo and my brother, Harold Perral

Our group never left each other. I said to them lets finish this together. And so when we hit the last hill at UP and passed the km41 mark, we waited for the others. As soon as we were complete, we ran our proudest towards the end. All in line formation, we saw the finish line. This is it. We made it! A big crowd and our 21k companions cheered the loudest for us. Our time together was 5:31:52. I did it! My dream has become a reality! When I received my medal, I took hold of it, kissed it and said to myself, I'm gonna cherish this for a long time.

Team YYKredit at the finish line

There are many people to say thank you. I say thank you to John Pages and the rest of the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) for a splendid job in organizing the race. It was far the best run I had. Spotless I would say. I thank my companions for staying with the passion for running. I thank the company for supporting our months of training with supplies including shoes and running tees. I thank God for the guidance and strength whenever I doubted myself and for making me heal in time to run my dream. Most of all I thank my wife Jenni and my Pia for ever been a steady support for me. They had too had sacrifice months of their time for my time on running. They already knew from day 1 that I will fulfill my promise. This one is for them!

Looking back, I think if someone ask me whats the greatest lesson this endeavor did for me is to say what Mahatma Ghandi once said that "Strength comes not from physical capacity but from indomitable will". Its not just a race, its a state of mind that says nothing is impossible.

Keep on Running!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Im Ready

Got my race pack today. Eleven months after my self imposed deadline to run a marathon within 2 years, No. 280 is ready. Pain is inevitable, suffering is an option, Japanese author and marathoner Haruki Murakami once said. I'll take that word from mile 1 to mile 26.

It is perhaps the most demanding of all the physical activities that I have done in my life not withstanding the pain and injuries that I have to live through. Yet every time I run, I am in a peaceful place. A place that deep down I feel great for being alive and to enjoy what life has given me.

SO within 2 days, I shall run my first marathon. I am ready. I shall not fail.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Countdown to Agony

I'm re-posting the blog my brother Harold made on our effort to run the marathon barely a week from now. May God be his Glory and our Guide!!

"More than 6 months ago me, my brother and a coterie of running buddies were left to rue on that epochal date. The date: January 10, 2010. This is day of the marathon, a full 42.3k running event. If you are a running enthusiast, it is the holy grail of running, where you test yourself, stamina and will if you got what it takes to cross the line or if you did the right amount of training for the past 4-5 months which includes waking up on an ungodly hour, around 3am, just to run. This is an event separating the chaff from the grain, the grain being the well prepared, and the chaff to those making a huge mistake of not respecting the distance. Able to finish or not, the grimacing pain will paint a whole new picture on your face, the one that is either dying or just had his wisdom tooth pulled out with no anesthesia.

It is as epochal as the Battle of Normandy, the pivotal war on Gettysburg, the bombing of Hiroshima or the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese, something to that effect. Or to tone it down a bit, it is like your wedding day. Or maybe something else but something that feels and looks daunting. It looms like that prodigious reptile from the movie Godzilla, scary and ready to gobble up a puny creature. It just looms large.

Well, it is definitely not for the faint-hearted--- metaphor aside, it is not for someone who is heart-deficient either---- aside from waking up early on weekends, you risk getting run over by passing cars, if you’re the vain-type then the heat will scorch you up, then there's uneasy feeling of sapping energy and body pain like you are being mug twice over. If you are not ready for it and don't feel committed to it then by all means throw in the towel because surely you will gassed-out on Km25.

The key is commitment. You increase your stamina on a gradual phase for a period of 4-5 months or upwards for those who are not physically sound. It feels like going to school again with the lecturing and studying, then commencing with the final exam. Like in schooling, if you don't study you are likely to fail with all likelihood except if you are under a fuzzy teacher who's got a fuzzy memory. The point is, like that medieval movie I watched eons ago, where the sword teacher emphatically told someone " if you can't raise that sword, then grow strong", referring to someone who doesn't know how to handle a sword much more raise it because it was heavy and he was frail.

To do a rephrasing of that line it would go like this: "If you don't have a runner's stamina for a marathon, then build freaking stamina".

That's what I and my running buddies have been exactly doing for the past 5 months, building freaking stamina. Whether I am feeling lethargic, groggy and totally not for it, I was building freaking stamina. Whether there is some semblance of recurring pain on the knees or in the heel or in the hip, it doesn't excuse you from pounding the ground. You constantly pound the mitts like a pugilist do.

Now, the epochal date looms near, and it is like it is calling me ready to frighten the body out of me. But, I have prepared for it, hell I have sold my soul for it to make it more emphatic. They say it is tough and painful, well, I can always retort the old adage: Tell that to the Marines!

You regret only the things you didn’t do, and for all it’s worth this experience will be etched on stone."

Harold Perral

Shoot and Run

Rumblings of a Cebuano on a pair of running shoes and a Nikon on one hand.

About Me

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Photography is my hobby, a long distance runner and an avid blogger, I consider traveling a dream and my family as my number one inspiration.