Confessions of a Reluctant Atenean

Confessions of a Reluctant Atenean

By Leslie G. Lee

When I started my senior year in high school, I smugly thought I had my life all mapped out. I was now at the top of the so-called food chain; I had been promoted to editor-in-chief of our school paper from my previous post as features editor; and, like my older sister before me, I planned to study in De La Salle University, majoring in LIA-COM, a fusion of Liberal Arts and Business degrees.

But as usual, life threw me in for a spin when it was time for the college entrance exams.

I was not expecting to be accepted by the Ateneo. Never. At all. My mind was so set on DLSU that it didn’t occur to me that I actually had a fighting chance for a spot in that prestigious university. When I got my admission letters from the two universities, my parents and I had a huge row. I was adamant about La Salle: almost all my friends would be going there, it was only an hour away from home, I’d be receiving a partial scholarship for English, I’d be graduating with a double degree of sorts, et cetera ad infinitum. But my parents were equally firm about the Ateneo—especially my dad, the entrepreneur who wasn’t able to obtain a college degree and wanted his second daughter, his second child, to attend a university that offered a “higher” quality of education.

It took about a month and plenty of parental bribes before I finally caved in and was reluctantly chaperoned and dragged off to pay my confirmation fee at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Now I wonder why I had been so against the idea in the first place.

It’s been more than a decade since I became an Atenean alumni, and it never fails to amaze and astound me each time I remember how much I’d thrived—not just survived—in those four years.

In Ateneo, I was plucked out of my Chinese comfort zone, learned to interact and adapt to true-blue Pinoys, and was exposed to other Filipino traditions. I learned how to drop my Chinese accent, talk Tagalog properly, and speak better English. I was introduced to fascinating topics such as the Holocaust, subjects like Philosophy and Film Theory, and the “science” of deciphering the Bible. I grew to appreciate fabulous short stories such as “The Lottery” and “Beheading of the Heads” and film classics such as Rear Window and Il Postino. And I don’t know if this will seem superficial and shallow to others, but I appreciate the image and reputation that the Ateneo has established, as they have given me access to respectable companies here and abroad.

To continue my litany of praises (and bragging rights) for being an Atenean would take far too much time and space, so let me just say that I will forever be grateful for being “coerced” to study in Ateneo. I love and am proud of being a product of the Ateneo.

Because, you see, I don’t think of education or studying as merely something you do by the book—it’s a way of life. With the right kind of education, you’re taught to deal with people from all walks of life. You study subjects and explore topics that trigger your brain synapses. You discover how you are as a person, your working style and ethics (based on group projects), and how to navigate your way once you’ve left the confines of school and entered the real world.

Good education prepares you for these things, and being a good—if not excellent—student brings you good karma, so to speak. Isn’t it any wonder that almost all companies require a copy of one’s TOR (Transcript of Records) for each application?

Featured Photo Courtesy of ABS-CBN News

My Boxing Life

My Boxing Life

By Tet Defensor

There is something about the sound of boxing gloves hitting the punching bag in steady rhythm; even more exciting is throwing a strong jab or hook that lands right smack on your coach’s training mitts. Tiring? Not at all! Despite the strenuous physical movements, a boxer magically feels stronger after every hit. The adrenaline rush is endless; there is no stopping the fist from hitting the target. A boxer only feels tired when everything stops.

Boxing is the perfect sport for working mothers. The movements are strong and heavy. And five minutes into the sport, you are sweating like crazy. It is also the best way to unleash pent up frustrations.

I started boxing when I was working for a public relations agency. Those of you with agency experience know that there is truly no end to the task at hand. I think the whole idea of multi-tasking came to be because that was the only way to survive in such a competitive work zone.

Without my regular boxing routine, I probably would have hated all my colleagues. But since I was able to release my stress, every day was a renewed opportunity. I may leave the office angry, but once I start punching away, all feelings of anger and frustration are thrown out the window. Of course, I feel tired after a two-hour workout, but I also feel refreshed and energized. The next day, I am eager to go to work and finish my tasks.

I’ve been boxing twice a week for more than five years now. It has become so much a part of me that I am beginning to enjoy the boxing fights of Pacman Manny Pacquio. I’ve been so religious with my routine that my coach even asked me if I wanted to take part in a friendly match. As much as I was thrilled with the idea, I decided to pass. Nope, I am not interested in boxing in public. Training with a coach regularly is one thing, but getting hit in public is another. Besides I don’t think my father’s heart will be able to take the sight of me being hit by a stranger.

Like any fitness routine, I started boxing because I wanted to lose weight. Surprisingly, I began enjoying the sport. I even managed to maintain a healthy physique. I think I have reached a plateau, however, and have started alternating my jabs and hook  with running and brisk walking. More than losing weight, I wish to live longer and enjoy a good quality of life in my old age.

Of course, there are days when I am too lazy to get out of bed, much less wear my trainers.  On such days, I imagine the energizing feeling I get after a workout and that springs me out of immobility.

Although I am basically a cheerful person, I attribute my bright and positive outlook to my active routine. We all know that exercise releases seratonin, triggering off feelings of happiness. On occasions when I detect signs of some kind of hormonal imbalance, I cling to the possibility of bliss, and run off to the boxing gym.

Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

More than Just Coffee

More than Just Coffee

By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca

I am not much of a coffee drinker. And I don’t particularly like spending a lot on signature drinks. Lately though, I’ve been finding myself hanging out with online media friends at various coffee shops after we’ve attended events.

It’s nice when we get to use the gift certificates we’re given during press cons or by clients but, most of the time, we do have to shell out for the stuff we order. Good thing the stores offer non-coffee drinks so I can still buy other kinds of beverages. However, practical person that I am, I still try to limit my spending and just let the others get the regular coffee and pastry fixes they always can’t seem to be without.

Analyzing the situation, I realized that I’m there mainly for the company. I enjoy being with my friends because we always have a great time exchanging stories. We seem not to run out of topics to talk about and I find my mind stimulated by all the interactions which, at times, even give me ideas about new stuff to write about.

True friends are hard to find these days. So I’m taking these pockets of opportunity to bond with them when I do have time to hang out even for just an hour or two once in a while. After all, I don’t know how much longer our schedules would jive and if we’ll still be having coffee together a few weeks or months from now.

I like how we continuously meet individuals whom we could be great friends with in time. It’s amazing how our hearts have the capability to let more people in who will eventually touch our lives in the most meaningful of ways.

So I don’t mind spending for my not-so-cheap, non-coffee drinks every now and then. Ultimately, the friendships, the stories, the laughter, and the good times are worth far more than that.

Photo by Christiana Rivers on Unsplash

Work Trips, Discovery Trips

Work Trips, Discovery Trips

By Paula Bianca Abiog

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and I only realized I loved it when I was already working. I wasn’t able to travel much when I was a kid, since I didn’t have the means and my family wasn’t big on trips. Fortunately I found work in an industry that allows me to travel. Initially, I only went on work trips, but soon I was also planning my trips for leisure.

Since I started working, I’ve traveled to lots of places around the country, from Batanes up north to Zamboanga down south. What I love about traveling is that it gives you the chance to discover new places, try different kinds of food, face your fears, and learn more about yourself. Some of my most memorable trips are the ones that taught me a lot about myself. Just a few months after I graduated college, I was Boracay-bound—alone. It was a work trip for my first job. On my first night in Boracay, I cried in my hotel room. It was my first time to go anywhere alone, and immediately I felt very lonely. But the experience forced me to make new friends and be responsible for myself—I had to budget my money for food, and arrange my own boat transfers. By the end of that five-day work trip, the tears have dried up and loneliness was forgotten.

Soon after that trip to Boracay, I went on assignment to Zamboanga City. I knew I was still in the Philippines, but being there felt so different. I was in a predominantly Muslim city, and it was there where I learned to appreciate and respect the differences in our religions. Not to mention they had fantastic food over there, influenced by Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine.

A trip to Batanes, the northernmost province in the Philippines, helped clear my mind after a painful breakup. Hiking up the rolling hills of Marlboro Country, and watching the crashing waves where the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea meet helped me gain some perspective. I came back to Manila feeling refreshed and ready to move forward.

Caving in Sagada, Mountain Province and “swimming” in the deep waters of Coron in Palawan, on the other hand, forced me to face my fears. The Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection in Sagada took me four hours to finish, and it was a struggle to crawl, slide, and jump my way through the dark, slippery cave. In those four hours I felt like I was trapped the whole time, and I was constantly feeling panicky. Despite thinking that I won’t make it out of the cave alive, I felt delighted to have crossed the entire stretch of the cave connection.

In Coron, I realized I was terrified of not being able to touch the floor of the lake while keeping my head above water. I even had a full-fledged panic attack! The trip finally pushed me to take swimming lessons.

And my four-day vacation in Bangkok, my first trip in a different time zone, taught me how to properly plan for a trip—from booking plane tickets to arranging for accommodations and hotel transfers, and everything else in between. It also taught me to just wing it—while my travel buddy and I had a detailed itinerary prepared, you have to allow yourself some time to get lost and go with the flow.

Traveling for me is more than just an escape from my busy life in Manila. It gives me fresh ideas, forces me to think things through, and teaches me things I wouldn’t have picked up while sitting in my office cube. The reasons are more than enough to get me travel bugged.

Photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash

The Accidental “Athlete”

The Accidental “Athlete”

By Paula Bianca Abiog

I say “athlete” because I don’t think I am one in its strictest sense. I don’t follow a really strict training routine, or compete in tournaments. I’m not even excelling in a particular sport. But my friends say I’m an “athlete” because I’m into tennis and running. And I’ve tried (and loved) boxing. Now I’m learning to swim.

I never thought I’d end up an “athlete.” I wasn’t a very active kid. Sure, I was able to try volleyball, softball, and a host of other games and sports during my PE classes in grade school and high school. But outside of PE, I pretty much just sat in a corner and read books. I started tennis lessons when I was 13, and I loved it, even if I only got to play in the summer. My only other hobby that involved movement was dancing, and I didn’t even do that often enough.

Things changed, though, when I started working. The long hours spent researching, interviewing, transcribing, and writing articles, and fast food lunches and takeout coffees that had more sugar than actual caffeine, have taken their toll on my body. Ballooning to almost 170 lbs wasn’t pretty, and I had to do something about it. So I signed up at a gym.

At first, I hated it. I couldn’t lift weights properly. I was exhausted after five minutes on the treadmill. I got cramps when I first tried the cardio martial arts class. But as months passed, as I got stronger and my endurance improved, I began to love gym more. I looked forward to attending group classes, even on weekends. After about a year of going to the gym, I went on the tennis courts again. And shortly after that, a friend introduced me to boxing.

I was enjoying my newfound love for sports, that I didn’t even notice the pounds slowly melting away. I just started feeling more confident and more content in my own skin. What started as a way to shed the pounds has led me to discover how I loved being active. It also gave me enough encouragement to try running (which I originally didn’t like, as I didn’t see the point of running just for the sake of running, and not because I’m trying to escape from criminals or zombies), and then swimming.

Sure, I still don’t have that 24-inch waistline (given my body type, I’m not sure it’s possible at all) and there’s still (lots of) room for improvement with muscle tone. But I’m proud of the 30 lbs or so that I’ve lost so far. I’m even prouder of myself because I learned that I can last seven rounds in the boxing ring with my sparring coach, that I can finish a 10K run in less than 90 minutes, and that I can hit pretty decent forehands and backhands.

Being the accidental “athlete” has led me to a new passion; one that I never thought I’d be able to, or have the guts to do. For a very long time, I was branded the “chubby nerd” and “the inert one.” Discovering that I can do sports now, in my 20s, made me realize that you’re never too old to try something new, or discover an aspect of your personality that you never thought existed.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash