Thursday, April 15, 2010

Between heaven and earth

My zodiac-obsessed pals are quick to remind me that Aquarius is an air sign and that we Aquarians, though water bearers, are more attuned to the space between the life we live and our observing mind, and less to our waves of emotion. But who gives a hoot? I certainly didn't until a recent trip to Boracay found me in my element.

I do love the beach, but I must say that wading in salt water has lost some of its magic for me. My sister Monique probably shares the same opinion; not once did she get her hair wet in Boracay. But while she may not have planned to take a dip, she did suggest that we go parasailing with my youngest nephew, Gabby.

At close to 2K, gliding through the air wearing a parachute while being towed by a motor boat may be a steep price to pay for 15 minutes of wind through your hair. Ah, but for those in our forties as my sister and I are, all thrills are justifiably cheap. Besides, when else would we muster the courage to try them again?

And so we took flight. Released like a kite to the sky, I noticed instantly how the sounds of the world receded to a silence that was broken only by our collective gasps, and how the stillness allowed us to better absorb the overwhelming view. From our vantage point, one could survey most everything and analyze how each pinpoint of the grand picture related to the next. Admittedly, looking directly below us was unpleasant, almost nauseating. But gazing into the far distance toward the island and noting how one could be part of the world yet remain separate, was for me a powerful moment.

The ancient symbol for Aquarius provides a clue as to why the sign refers to air and not to water--it is of Ouranos, the sky god who controlled the air, winds, and rain-bearing clouds, pouring urns of water from the heavens toward the earth below. The image represents one who views things from afar and takes charge from a distance. As such, Aquarians are seen to be detached and cool, remote and forever the aloof icon. They are said to talk their way through their feelings rather than bearing their full emotional weight.

I guess I will be the first to agree that there is some truth to how astrology describes me. But while I do not see myself converting into a disciple of Linda Goodman, at least I know I would rather develop wings than fins.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My three most important decisions in 2009

Not earth-shaking, these were. But life-defining, nonetheless.

Early in 2009, I gifted myself with a Nike+ system and began a crusade to run for my life. I used to jog quite regularly after college, but boredom crept into my routine, and as a result, hypertension was not far behind. Relaxation exercises and a stricter diet have since helped, but a guy like me who immerses himself in stressful situations and eats voraciously to calm his nerves will have to rely on other things to keep high blood pressure at bay.

I was not sure I could sustain the habit, and a foot injury plus an extended vacation broke my stride, but I managed to pull through thanks to Nike+. This year, I got to sneak in close to 400 kms (die hards know this is no great feat--but it is like 90 times the height of Mt. Everest), and discovered I could run 10K under an hour.

In October, I took the Nike 10K challenge being mounted globally, and astonishingly landed fourth in the Philippines--though I realize other faster runners, and there are way too many of them, don't own a Nike+. And while I have broken my October record twice, I guess my point is, in 2009, I decided to live longer. This morning, my blood pressure was a 103/61.

In early July, and with some prodding from my nephew who had just graduated from West Point, I decided to take some time off to visit my family in the U.S. It was exactly the respite I needed from the battles and mindless warfare at work; after all, no better comfort zone is there than home and family. Also, I was determined to fill my empty cup with whatever creative juices I could suck out from my adventure.

And so I crammed my itinerary in San Francisco, New York and Florida with visits to museums and national parks, trips to the theater and to concert halls, while planning as many food excursions in between. But more rewarding than the thrills these exploits brought was experiencing them in the company of those who matter most.

I am lucky that I get to see my two sisters in Manila quite regularly as we work in the same office, but there is only so much I can do to keep the links fresh with my sister, brother, and their kids in the U.S. Ironically, the overseas trip made me aware once more of a rootedness I take for granted here at home. Thanks to technology, I can somehow stay connected though miles away; but because I can't be physically wherever my family is, I vow to make myself emotionally available and felt from now on.

In 2009, I decided to keep my family closer.

Immediately after the trip, I began working on Bukas Palad's 14th studio album. A quiet but ambitious project, the CD was to contain 10 original chants covering a spectrum of musical genres. I was tasked to write two tracks and to arrange and produce five. It was tough accepting the assignment knowing how my schedule would be for the rest of the year, but it was more difficult to say no.

Writing music and arranging it doesn't always come easy, but I had the support of friends who reawakened my passion for this ministry. That and a lot of prayer kept me hard at work. Thus, the next six months saw me writing and rewriting scores, experimenting with new sounds, collaborating with musical geniuses, and maneuvering between musical styles alien to me. TO LOVE & SERVE: BUKAS PALAD CHANTS was launched last December 11.

Many people go through life unable to express who they are and what they stand for. I am blessed with a love for music that allows me to write the Lord's melodies so that I and others may sing of God's love. And I am blessed to have found a community of friends who, in the last 23 years, have believed in each other and in our combined gift. I will use my music to seek the Lord, and I will let no one deny me my right to sing.

In 2009, I decided to improve my craft, so to God I may draw nearer.