On the last day of 2011

Before my family and I got started on a day of cooking and eating to welcome the New Year (yes, this post is nine days overdue), my husband and I decided to walk around Quezon Memorial Circle on the morning of December 31. It’s a national park located along the Elliptical Road in Quezon City, where the 66-meter tall Quezon Memorial Shrine stands. Inside the shrine is a small museum and mausoleum with the remains of the Philippines’ second president, Manuel Quezon.

I think I was in elementary school when I first set foot in the shrine for an educational outing. Most people though go to the circle for the park grounds. It comes alive in the mornings when joggers run around the perimeter (there’s even a running clinic every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 am, Saturdays at 7 am, and Sunday at 5:30 am). On weekends, families bring their kids to the playground, fly some kites, ride a paddle boat or an aqua bike in the teeny man-made pond, and during the holidays, go the the carnival for some merry-go-round and Ferris wheel action. There’s also vegetable market, a zip line, a sad-looking soccer pitch (it looked like it needed some major work) and even a fish spa (dip feet in a water tank filled with fish and let the fish do the work.)

Should those activities make you hungry, you can also grab some grub afterward. People have breakfast in one of the many modest stalls and restaurants selling mostly Filipino food–breakfast favorites of various silog (fried rice with egg and meat of choice), lugaw or congee, champorado (chocolate rice porridge), all varieties of kakanin (rice cakes), barbecued meats, and so much more. Since it was December, there were the Filipino Christmas staples of bibingka (a type of rice cake made with coconut milk) and puto bumbong (a distinctly purple rice cake  traditionally cooked in bamboo). I prefer the salty, sweet taste and the fluffy cake texture of the bibingka, but bought some puto bumbong as well before heading home for my brother who recently discovered he loved it. There’s also the beloved ‘dirty’ ice cream. If you’re not familiar with Filipino food, it’s the cheaper and street food version of ice cream. ‘Dirty’ because it’s peddled on the street and street food typically doesn’t really score high in proper sanitation.  Never got sick from it when I was a kid though.

slouching somewhere

Quezon Memorial Shrine. Look up and you’ll see the statues of three angels holding sampaguita wreaths on top of the three vertical pylons

Pick a balloon–Dora, Spongebob, or an Angry Bird

Mang Sorbetero or the dirty ice cream man. Local flavors include cheese, mango, ube and langka (jackfruit)

Bibingka being cooked with charcoal underneath and that tray of charcoal goes on top.

The Quezon Memorial Circle is the nearest open space from our house (closer than UP Diliman), but unfortunately P and I rarely go there. I suggested that we should spend more mornings there this year–to run, to eat, to just take a break from the usual mall-movie-restaurant weekend outings.

An impending new year always brings thoughts of what you want to start doing. A few changes you know would be good for you. To go outdoors more. Write more. Get distracted less. Keep running. Keep hoping. Save more. Bring an extra bag every time I go out. Cut down on plastic bags. Cut down on water bottles. Cut down on the Internet. Read more books. Be braver.

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“Someone who is busier than you is running right now” (and where to run in Bangkok)

Ouch.

I stumbled upon this old Nike ad in this engaging runner’s blog a few days ago. Well, it was one effective and guilt-inducing ad copy that immediately made me lace up and go for a run. My two-week (I’m in denial and I’m sticking to my story that it was just two weeks) hiatus from running came about during and after the trip to Bangkok.

I know I wrote it here somewhere that I plan to look for places to run and actually go running whenever I travel. Well, I did pack my running shoes, but I also ended up bringing a bunch of assignments with me on the trip. (Never a good idea. But you know what Nike will say…) The one morning I didn’t have an article to finish, I woke up early, put on my running gear, and headed out my cousin’s apartment all set to run. The neighborhood was pretty nice, with its wide, quiet roads and it appeared perfect for running. But then there were stray dogs roaming around, and pretty soon a lot of speeding cars were on the road, and there were no sidewalks, and…well, there’s always something. Excuses tend to snowball that way. And before I knew it, I was making my way back to the apartment.

Back to the apartment. Didn't get to run.

The day before we flew back to Manila, I did find a place where I could have gone for a run in the heart of Bangkok. Lumphini Park. It’s located in this very busy intersection, where crossing the street initially appeared to be a mystery. (We were not alone, when we got back to the Lumphini MRT Subway station, we overheard a fellow traveler asking a security guard where the park was. The guard didn’t understand English so I stepped in and told her it was just across the street. “But where do you cross?” she asked puzzled at the seeming absence of a pedestrian lane. But you can cross by waiting for the light to change on the major intersections and waiting for cars to let you pass in the other smaller roads.)

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