Libreto Liberated Thoughts Tue, 19 Apr 2016 07:33:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Extraordinary Tue, 19 Apr 2016 07:26:12 +0000 By K



I think it’s my fault because I love Extraordinary Men. I want them to be great and powerful in their own way, but I also want them flawed–not to save or change them, as women’s instincts so often dictate. It’s a fascinating scenario to support a determined man, whether in failure or in victory, and I revel in that. There is something disarming about a man who can take charge and see beyond life’s many possibilities. Power, after all, is a natural aphrodisiac. I cannot do ordinary, nor can I stomach the niceties of courtship. I am too strong-willed and too smart for my own good that I am never really happy.

I have always thought that I should have been born a man, except, at the end of the day, I am straight and I like a good… conversation with a man with a brilliant mind.

What is wrong in this model is that (most) Extraordinary Men won’t likely be good partners in life. They might be good to their friends and family. They may even be a force to be reckoned with by their foes. But they’ll be a spectacular failure when it comes to loving a woman. In some ways, I can’t blame them. Rather, I blame myself for my choices.

An Extraordinary Man is selfish in a lot of ways. I can practically hear the cries of indignation of men who think I say this because I’ve been spurned, or that I’m plain and unattractive; and the disagreement of smug women who say in not-so-many words that they’ve found an Extraordinary Man who loves them and who chooses to love them day after day. In their minds they call me demanding, arrogant, too full of myself, or simply too ugly to be given the right to want so much. In other words, it’s my fault that I’m alone.  

An Extraordinary Man knows that to be the way he is, he should put himself first. Love is safely limited to brotherhood or what is familial. Blood is thicker, friendships can take you places, but the love of a woman can easily turn sour, is counterproductive and serves no purpose. It is rare to find an Extraordinary Man who would find satisfaction in enriching a life with a significant other. Enrichment after all, can come in many forms, whether it’s luxurious travel, expensive wine, fast cars, a string of women, cigars, a bachelor’s pad. The list of the ridiculous, the inanimate and the intangible to make one happy is endless. It’s unfair to say that these are shallow. Hedonism is still a delicious sin to indulge in.

I find that there is something attractive about selfish people; you want to break their barriers, find the human within and nurse the hurt when you find out that’s what makes them who they are, and that they cannot change unless they selfishly want you in their lives also. I like people who take what they think is due them, because it’s one thing that I cannot do for myself.



Maybe the fault really is with me, because I would love to be loved extraordinarily. I want to be seen as an Extraordinary Woman To Be Loved. I need someone who can stimulate my mind, my heart, and my body. I need someone I can run away with, who is passionate and compassionate, and as dissatisfied with the humdrum of every day life.

I want an Extraordinary Man with an Extraordinary Heart.

I do not know if he exists or if I will simply pass away quietly from life at an old age, having traveled to many places, conquered metaphorical summits of my own, with a mild regret that I never shared my beautiful life with an Extraordinary Man with an Extraordinary Heart. I am terrified of that road leading to that scenario, but also equally terrified of living out my life with an Ordinary Man who I will detest eventually. Life is indeed too short to find The One, and I think that is one of the most detestable things about being walking bags of decaying flesh: we can die without winning love’s lottery. That we actually will never realize our full potential and that life is largely unfair and it’s not about to change. The best thing we can do is to make the most of it because the alternative is too boring. Like death.

I lost an Extraordinary Man recently (hence the need to let my bleeding heart translate into prose), and I’m afraid that as much as I know that it was not my fault, I will still punish myself day after day after day until I get tired and simply forget about it. I wish he knew the Extraordinary Things I have put myself through to know that he is loved and that he is Extraordinary. That I know that he is a great friend and a loving father. After all, I loved him for those very qualities. But like every boring story ever told in every love story that fell apart, I was taken for granted. I wish we both found out how we could have been Extraordinary together if we both didn’t have a foot out of the door of our whole relationship.

The best thing I can do, really, is nothing and just continue living my life doing my best, hoping for the best, and maybe someday, bump into You, whoever you may be, and my heart will finally be home and you will selfishly and fiercely want me to be in your life.

K is in the communications industry. She doesn’t want to use her real name.

Brussels, or No, the World Isn’t As F***ed Up As It Seems Wed, 23 Mar 2016 11:12:10 +0000 By Paul John Caña


Photo by Peter Michaud

Every time there’s news of a terror attack, our emotions make the same pit stops – shock, disbelief, rage, finger-pointing, grief, sympathy – on the way to its eventual destination: distinterest and apathy. After we vent our frustrations and fears on social media, taking care to use the appropriate hashtags, of course, we invariably go back to the general mundanity of everyday life.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and here’s why.

After the latest incident of high-profile terrorism, this time in Europe’s de facto capital, there were the usual expressions of sorrow and calls to action from many of the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Some squeezed into 140 characters or less the question that many of us tend to ask each time something like this happens: what is the world coming to?

The implication is that humanity is descending into madness and chaos. Anarchy reigns and no place in the world is safe, even rich, First World countries which are supposed to be above the troubles plaguing developing nations. The news paints a horrid portrait of a planet beset with unending violence and strife. It’s all we can do not to run to the nearest bunker, wrap ourselves in blankets, and wait out the impending apocalypse.

This is where I take exception. A plane crashing is a terrible thing, but we shouldn’t discount the thousands of other flights that take-off and land safely every day from the hundreds of airports around the world. So there’s no need to say that air travel isn’t safe. What happened in Brussels is appalling, but in much the same way, trumpeting the deterioration of world peace and order the moment we hear of another instance of suicide bombers blowing themselves up in the middle of a crowded train station in Europe reeks of fear-mongering and paranoia.

There’s that oft-quoted study by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker which he detailed in his book The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. According to him, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in all human history.

It sounds unbelievable, considering how much we’re bombarded with news that tell us about mass shootings, train derailments, plane crashes, and, yes, suicide bombers almost on a daily basis, but Pinker’s findings are backed up by solid research. In World War 2, for example, the human population lost about 300 for every 100,000 people each year. It dropped to the 20s during the Korean War, and further down to the teens during the Vietnam War. Today, he says we’re down to about one war-related death per 100,000.

“If you get your view of the world from the news, you’re always going to think that we’re living in violent times,” Pinker tells “Because if anything blows up, if there’s any shooting anywhere in the world, it instantly gets beamed across the globe. News is about stuff that happens. It’s not about stuff that doesn’t happen. And as long as violence hasn’t gone down to zero, there will always be enough incidents to fill the news.”

The lesson here, I believe, is that there’s so much more that’s happening around us beyond what we see, hear and read on the news. We need to cultivate an attitude of discernment before we rush into any conclusions about the world and our place in it. Developing a sharper, more informed thought process would help us transcend the immediate, often inaccurate opinions we form when faced with information we get from the news media.

Belgium thumbnail

Image from Twitter

All this isn’t to say that we should choose to be callous about the bad things that’s actually going on. Let’s not kid ourselves; the world can seem like a shitty place, and we don’t even have to turn on CNN or browse through BBC News’ website for proof. But see, that’s exactly what the cowards who carried out those attacks in Brussels (and Paris, Madrid, London, New York, etc) want us to think. It’s been said over and over again: we call them terrorists because sowing terror is what they do. They want us to live in fear because they can’t stand the thought of people being free, being happy, being able to live.

Let government leaders figure out the appropriate, calibrated response, and we need to be vigilant about what steps they intend to take. But as regular citizens, there are things we can do to stand up to terrorists and let them know that the shroud of fear and evil they tried to cover the world with won’t work.

We will mourn the dead and care for the injured, but eventually, in time, we will get back up and move on. We will go to school or work. We will buy groceries and ride our bikes. We will spend time with family at home, have drinks with friends in bars, and kiss lovers on the lips in parks. We will watch a movie or a concert, read a book, have a coffee, and laugh at a joke we see on TV. We will never forget what happened, but we will live, and we will endure.

It might be simplistic and naïve, but to carry on with our lives, to continue existing in the face of threats real or imagined; that, I think, is the ultimate revenge.

The Aftermath – What It’s Like To Live With Depression Sun, 13 Mar 2016 16:05:29 +0000 This entry was originally published in the author’s blog Notes From The Shadows. We are reposting here with his permission

By  John Mari A. Marcelo


I wrote the following last night. Had an anxiety attack as I was writing it.


My honeymoon period with my anti-depressants is over. It’s been over for about a month now, if I’m not mistaken. I’m afraid. Everything’s real now. That constant rise of my emotional momentum has begun to normalize. Up and down. Rise and fall.

On those first months with Escitalopram, I felt so much lighter. My head was in the clouds. On a high. Happiness. Medicated happiness. I felt an optimism that I’ve never felt before. Positivity without the danger of slipping back into the darkness.

Months later and my relationship with the meds has become serious. It’s become an adjustment on my part. Not just to the highs, but even to the lows. Especially to the lows. Lows that are normal. Standard lows as opposed to my previous lows. As it’s supposed to be, I think. My brain prior to treatment was on the negative. Always on the lows. Never on the highs.

It’s frightening me because there are now random moments when I slip back. I’m taken back to who I was before. The relapses have been happening frequently. This is normal, I think. The ups and downs of my mood, the anxious moments after periods of ecstasy. Life isn’t all positivity, after all. The shadows are still there. It’s always gonna be there whether I like it or not. I just got to remind myself to use what weapons I have to combat them.

I do have to learn how to properly use the weapons (specifically my anti-anxiety medications) that I have. I’ve noticed that there are times when I don’t use them when I should. I wanted to see how the Escitalopram would help with the anxiety. It was a great help on the honeymoon period. Not so much these days when I feel everything again.

Now, last year, I did feel everything when I opened my heart up to someone. It crashed and burned, however, as I wasn’t in the right mind yet. Now that I’m in the “right” mind, I do feel everything and there’s a part of me that wants to close myself again. There’s a part of me that wants to shut off my humanity switch again, if that’s even possible at this point. You see, it was living my dream as a singer-songwriter – writing and creating music, playing my songs to faceless crowds – that made me human again. It made me live again. It was pure happiness that reawakened me from a long period of intense nothingness. I wasn’t still in my “right” mind then, as I found out much later, so when I sabotaged that dream, the darkness completely took over. I was powerless to fight back. I was ill-equipped to pull myself up from the hole that the depression dug for me.

Anyway, back to the anti-anxiety meds. I realized the other day that the reason why I don’t take the Xanax when I should is because of my masochism. The emotional and mental pain were all I knew. They are literally a part of who I am. And I may have fallen in love with it. Married it. Had babies with it. Held them close to my heart. Protected them like any loved one would. The sadness was where I felt more like myself. The sadness was where I was alive, even when I wasn’t. I became one with the darkness and I was alive.

I’ve opened my heart up to someone again. I don’t know if that’s the exact reason why I’ve been losing my shit again, but my heart beating for someone has always been one of my more intense stressors.



I didn’t get to finish it. Whatever I wanted to say, whatever I wanted to express, became too much for my fragile mind to handle. Messaged a few friends for drinks out.

Something odd happened while I was having an anxiety attack at Starbucks last night. There was a moment when I was on auto-pilot. I felt nothing. The humanity switch was off. I kinda liked it. It’s bad, I know, but it did seem better than feeling.

I ended up at PureGold buying beers for myself. Went home, had dinner, drank. One of the friends I messaged was coming over. But while he was still in transit, the humanity switch turned itself on and I lost my shit again. It was going to happen. The anxiety attack was the precursor to the mental and emotional breakdown. The alcohol made it worse. Much much worse.

I would’ve taken a Xanax while I was writing what I was supposed to post last night, but it…I don’t know. I needed to get my mind off of it and thought that drinking out with friends would help. Maybe it would have, but the sudden change in plans (drinking alone, til back up arrived, at home instead of out with friends) was perhaps the worst move ever.

The friends made it and I was okay for a bit. Got to talk about what was going on in my head. Had one of them keep my bullets because I realized that I could still fire them without a gun. And, and this is perhaps a testament to the love affair I have with the darkness, kept two bullets. In case. I was losing my shit again when they left.

When I became a little bit calmer, I messaged another friend who stays at her house in our village during the weekends if she’s around. Needed someone to take from me the two I kept. She didn’t make it, but my head was clearer again so I wouldn’t have used it.

Last night was another intense battle with my war with depression. Events like that need to happen. I know that now. The pain was just too much. The darkness that I still hold dear became too much. All the emotions that I never got to feel before, breakdowns that I should’ve let happen but just shoved inside cos I couldn’t see the point then, are all coming in now. Are all happening now.

The pain that I should have felt before, I need to feel now. Because that’s what being normal is, right? Feeling things. Even pain.



As with my intense battles recently, I get to learn a lot from them in the aftermath.

  • Abstain from alcohol when you’re in the middle of mental and emotional confusion – yeah, this is pretty much self-explanatory. The alcohol made it worse last night. I’m still not in the right mindset to imbibe on alcoholic beverages.
  • XANAX XANAX XANAX – I was prescribed it for a reason. Things would have ended up differently last night had I just taken it. The pain and the mental anguish would have still been felt, but my head would have been much quieter and calmer. I wouldn’t have sabotaged myself again. I would have strategized and dealt with the emotions instead of letting them take control.
  • Don’t focus on the intricacies too much, you lose sight of the big picture – I’ve always had this bad habit of keeping myself part of the specifics. Until I drown in them. My heart is open, that I have to point out. There’s a girl I really like and overanalyzing the feelings that I have for her are causing my recovery to go haywire. I wish I could just put an end to the feelings, but that’s counter-intuitive to where I am now. I have to feel. I have to embrace what I feel. I just need to take a step back so I can see the bigger picture and let it happen, not control what I feel, as I’ve always attempted to do in years past. Attempting to control feelings is pretty much futile.
  • I am an addict – I’ll be honest, “The Darkness” has been my catchall phrase for all my demons. My depression, my anxiety disorder, my baggage, my fears, all the anger I kept inside, etc. In my battle last night, I realized that I was like an addict going through withdrawals. I was lying in bed, my body shaking, mouth dry even if I was drinking alcohol. I am addicted to the darkness. I am addicted to the sadness. I am addicted to the madness. I am addicted to the misery and the anguish. How can I not be? The depression has been feeding me all those for over thirty years. It’s all I’ve known. It’s all I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t be happy. I couldn’t fall in love. I couldn’t feel good about anything.
  • The recovery process is working, but it takes time – I’m on the right track. There’s no doubt about that. All these breakdowns and anxiety attacks and intense depressive episodes are all part of the process. All the emotions that I shoved down inside me are all banding together now and coming out. This is normal. Necessary.

I should be able to survive all the battles. I have what I need. I just have to quit being so goddamned stubborn and use them. Have to quit my addiction.

All the battle scars make me stronger. All these battles with my darkness where I’m victorious means that I’m getting better. Of course, I can’t help but feel fear. Fear of losing a battle. Fear of the darkness winning. Because when that happens, I’ll be dead.

John Mari A. Marcelo is a music photographer and a writer. He is also a daily survivor of clinical depression and is an advocate for mental health.

“Sabi ko na e!” Confirmation bias and how it affects who we vote for in the elections Sun, 24 Jan 2016 12:11:25 +0000 By Paul John Caña

confirmation bias 1

Seek and you shall find


I used to know someone who was a big fan of a female politician. He always filled his Facebook feed with news of the government official’s exploits, mostly glowing accounts of her many accomplishments. This was in spite of the many criticisms hurled against her and allegations of corruption involving officials close to her. He wasn’t swayed though, and kept posting links to stories that detailed how much his idol was truly making a difference in people’s lives.

I have another friend who’s convinced that every guy he meets is gay. Actually, scratch that: he thinks every guy in the known universe is gay. When a reputable entertainment website runs a story about a male celebrity’s supposed dalliances with women, it’s ignored. But when one dubious gossip site insinuates that same celebrity is getting it on with his male gym buddy, he’ll share that piece of news with the unexpressed but obvious message of “I knew it!”


How many times has this happened to you? Image from

These two examples illustrate instances of what I’ve recently come to discover is a phenomenon called confirmation bias. The layman’s definition is the tendency to look for proof that confirms or justifies one’s own preconceived notions, while completely ignoring any evidence to the contrary. It’s basically favoring data that props up whatever we’ve already decided to be true, while simultaneously dismissing the opposite as false or unreliable.

Think of a TV show that you’re absolutely obsessed with, say, FRIENDS, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. Wouldn’t you be more likely to share an article that celebrates the show and discusses in detail what exactly makes it great, instead of a story that picks it apart and points out glaring errors or stupid mistakes? You feel better when a close friend agrees with you when you say you believe that another friend should break up with her boyfriend because he’s no good for her. Ask a friend about a particular car brand, and when he says he thinks it’s crap, you’ll tend to focus on its shortcomings when you do your own due diligence. And when you have a particularly awful experience with a hotel, don’t you feel like searching online for people who’ve posted similar opinions about it so you can say, “See! It’s not just me!”

Confirmation bias is human nature. We’re wired to seek validation for our beliefs. And with the coming national elections, it’s all the more pronounced, especially for people who’ve already made up their minds about certain candidates. You hate Binay? Then every story about his involvement in alleged corruption is just another reason why people shouldn’t vote for him. Absolutely despise Duterte? You’re probably not even thinking about what he has to say about the economy. It’s the same with the other presidential candidates: odds are a majority of Filipinos have, by now, developed an opinion about all of them.

People who already support a candidate will most likely keep building their image of him or her by picking and choosing from the kind of news that reaches them. At the same time, it’s unlikely any amount of good deed or some sort of redeeming quality will make people change their mind about someone they have already decided to dislike. It’s a bit like dismissing acclaim for Matt Damon in The Martian, when you’re so convinced Leonardo Dicaprio deserves the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant.



We tend to drift towards people who validate our beliefs. Image from

It affects our perception of media, too. How many times have we asked, or heard somebody ask, why does so-and-so newspaper always publishes negative stories about Candidate A? Why is TV Network X allotting more airtime for Candidate B in its newscasts? It’s likely we ignore the times when media do run stories contrary to our opinions of certain candidates. And even if we do take notice, what are the chances we’ll actually stop and consider the report, instead of making a snide, cynical comment? (Of course, whether or not the media outlets are completely impartial is up for debate, and is fodder for discussion for another time).

In other words, we scour the landscape thinking we’re looking for information, when what we’re really after is confirmation: of pre-existing beliefs, irrational biases, steadfast opinions.

Think about confirmation bias the next time you’re researching something: a brand of make-up, a new movie coming out, that restaurant that just opened, a potential date, or yes, even (or especially) presidential candidates. Have you already made up your mind and are just finding a reason to feel comfortable? Or do you genuinely want to find out more?

The trick is to be open to receive all kinds of data – the good and the bad, the anticipated and the unexpected, the useful and the egregious – and use that to make an informed decision. Confirmation bias may be human, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge its existence and choose to be more discerning. It takes a bit more work, but I think we owe it to ourselves, and in the end, we’ll be better human beings for it.


Malaysia’s First Astronaut: “Believe In Yourself And Everything Will Fall Into Place” Sun, 10 Jan 2016 12:22:34 +0000 A version of this story first came out in the October 2011 issue of Lifestyle Asia magazine

Astronaut, surgeon, and scientist, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is living proof that nothing is impossible to those who believe in the power of their dreams

By Paul John Caña

muszaphar - from spacefactsDE

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is the first astronaut from Malaysia. Image from

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor looked up at the stars when he was a young boy. Space was a frontier that thrilled him to no end, and popular science fiction movies and TV shows like Star Trek and Star Wars further fueled his fascination with the cosmos. “Ever since I was 10 years old I knew I wanted to be an astronaut,” he says. While countless other little boys and girls have a similar response to the question of what they want to be when they grow up, only a handful ever get to fulfill this ambition. Muszaphar is one of them. He is the first Malaysian and the second person from Southeast Asia to go into space.

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Muszaphar earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree from Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, India. He was pursuing a Master of Orthopedic Surgery degree in the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself. When Malaysia purchased 18 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 MKM fighter jets in 2003, part of the deal was for Russia to send one Malaysian citizen to the International Space Station onboard a Russian spaceflight mission. It was for this purpose that Malaysia initiated the Angkasawan (astronaut) Program.

Over 11,400 would-be astronauts submitted an application for the program. The number was whittled down after a series of grueling physical, psychological, and emotional tests. “They were looking for someone who didn’t have so much as a tooth cavity or any kind of scar. The training was exceptionally rigid. We would spin around in an aero chamber or go up to 27,000 feet to test how strong our lungs were. We stayed in minus 45-degree weather in Siberia, chopping wood for heat, and we camped out for three days in an island in the Black Sea in Ukraine. All of it was to see how far we could push ourselves and how much we could endure.”

After a battery of tests, Muszaphar and one other finalist made the cut. They went through 18 months of even more punishing training under Russia’s space program. In the end though, it was Muszaphar who was selected to fly the space mission Soyuz TMA-11. “I am not the strongest person. I am not the best. But I think it was because of my mental strength and confidence that they chose me over 11,000 other applicants. I’ve always been competitive. I was brought up with five brothers, I hate to lose. I think that has been my strength all the while. In order to succeed one must have a strong mental attitude.”



Shukor onboard the Soyuz TMA 11. Photo courtesy of Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor

The then-34 year-old surgeon was launched into space on October 10, 2007. He and his fellow astronauts drifted in space for two days before docking with the ISS. Muszaphar brought live cell cultures with him to study during the mission and conducted research on cells that cause blood, liver and bone cancer in the hopes of finding a cure. He also filmed himself doing experiments for schoolchildren. As the first Malaysian angkasawan, his primary motivation was to create more awareness on the importance of science and technology and inspire his countrymen and the rest of Southeast Asia. Muszaphar also made history as the first Muslim to go to space during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is because of his mission that the Islamic National Fatwa Council drew up the first comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space, which details issues such as how to pray in a low-gravity environment, how to locate Mecca from the ISS, how to determine prayer times, and those surrounding fasting.

Muszaphar returned to earth after 12 days orbiting space. “When I was up there, that’s when I realized how beautiful and magical the earth is. It really changed my perspective in life. I thought about global issues like world hunger, the destruction of the environment and how I could help in a concrete way.”

It’s been years since Muszaphar’s fateful voyage, but he’s been working nonstop since then to spread the message of hope, hard work and belief in the power of dreams not just to his countrymen in Malaysia but all over the world. He is still practicing medicine as an orthopedic surgeon and is also a lecturer at a university in his native Malaysia. Space is only the beginning he says, and in the next few years, he hopes to become a licensed pilot and spend time working with children in Africa. He also accepts speaking engagements, particularly to schoolchildren and young people.

In July 2011, he visited Manila on the invitation of Asia Society. “I am here to tell you that no dream is too big and that nothing is impossible,” he said to an auditorium filled with college students of the Far Eastern University. “No matter what other people say, believe in yourself and everything will fall into place.” It is good advice from someone who only used to look up at the stars and ended up flying out to space to reach them.

No More Hiding (A Coming Out Story) Sun, 03 Jan 2016 08:39:37 +0000 This entry was originally published in the author’s blog, Genesisms. We are reposting here with his permission. 

By Genesis Santos


On the sixth day of the last month of the year, I stepped out of the shadows. I am finally free.

I was in transit that day, my mom was aggravated I never told her where I was up to, that I never went to church, that it was too late to be hanging out on a Sunday because there’s work tomorrow.

She was blabbering, but all I wanted was to get rid of the blues. I needed some fresh air, away from the weight of the world, or simply away from my adult responsibilities. Technically, the air was not that fresh as I braved EDSA to meet my friends, watch ‘The Little Prince’ and chill.

She asked me if I’ve been having problems (at work, personal, spiritual). I am mentally fine, as far as I am concerned. Work is very dynamic yet challenging, and I love it; my personal life is better, and I apologized for not going to church. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride since December came to my life, and I can hardly bear it, I explained.

I dropped the call, my battery’s not enough to survive the long conversation with her, and I was exhausted.

She then texted, “Who are you with? Are you dating someone now? Do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?”

That was it, I told myself. This is not the perfect time to get rid of questions I, myself, wanted to answer since I was a kid. This was the sign I’ve been asking, the make-or-break opportunity that will determine the reactions of people who matter to me is here.

Think of the many times you’ve hidden, of the silences you threw at them when they’re all confused. Remember the first Barbie doll you touched and played with. Remember the first catwalk you did, with your towel as your skirt, and your sister’s school shoes as your stilettos.  

Think of your first childhood drawings of gowns, of Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi, and pictures of Aaron Carter posted on your wall. Recall the first time you told your friends that you can’t be with a woman, and asked for their acceptance. Think about the diverse people at your workplace, and how comfortable they are in their own skin.

Grab the opportunity.

So I did.


I told her, “Wala akong girlfriend. Hindi mangyayari ‘yon. Boyfriend, pwede pa, kaso wala” (I don’t have a girlfriend. It’s less likely to happen. Possibly a boyfriend, but none as of now.). I ticked Send.

She never responded over text. I was nervous, relieved, and happy all at the same time. Imagine the heavens opening up and there is a ray of light from up above. Think of all the happy songs you can think of, and play it in the background. That’s the feeling.

I opened the gates, entered the house, still shaking, and I wanted to keep the mood light so I did me. I’m home! I greeted. I saw my mom calm, ironing our clothes, with a sigh of relief on her face. We never spoke about it, but the ambiance that there’s no hiding emanated. I went to my room and stared for the next five minutes at the ceiling.

You don’t hide from family, as they are family.

Right now, a couple of weeks have passed, everyone knows who I am, and my closest friends are the best cheerleaders ever. I had the guts to tell the world how happy, free, ecstatic, and optimistic my world is. I am more comfortable in my own skin, I am more delighted, and my bond with my family is stronger than before. To be honest, I never needed to tell my family my sexual preference, but I realized the more I don’t address it, the more confused life gets, the more they get confused.

I felt that I owe them the reality they deserve, and it was worth the wait.

The best feeling in the world is to know yourself. It is, by far, the greatest chance to take. To understand yourself, accept who you are and who you are not, is the best risk that yields best results.

To happiness and greatness! Cheers!

Tradeoffs (Or, how to go to Europe on a normal person’s salary) Sat, 26 Dec 2015 03:38:32 +0000 By Paul John Caña


Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest

While stuck in Amsterdam after missing a connecting flight last month, I struck up a conversation with a British guy in the hotel’s restaurant. He was in his mid-20s and a businessman on his way to Stockholm. He asked what I did and I told him I write for a magazine in Manila.


“Must be a good gig,” he said. “Get to travel a lot?”


“I suppose, yeah,” I answered. “More than the usual, I guess.” I then proceeded to tell him about this most recent trip, which was actually a vacation, although I snuck in a work visit to Maranello in Italy, hometown of Ferrari, where I got to drive one of the cars out for a few hours in the hilly roads outside of town.


As soon as the words were out of my mouth I instantly regretted it. Not a lot of people can say “I drove a Ferrari in Maranello” without sounding like an obnoxious show-off. The guy must’ve thought it, too, because after that he hardly said anything else and excused himself soon after.


I thought about the conversation later that evening. Not a lot of people can truthfully say that sentence, period. Is it insufferable and conceited? Perhaps. But is it factual? It certainly is. That’s when I realized that, while I had to be careful about coming off as a stuck-up douche when I tell people about it in the future, it is a story I would get to tell and a wonderful experience I could relive over and over again for the rest of my life. So I shouldn’t regret saying it. The fact that it might sound irritatingly pompous doesn’t make it any less true.


No, this isn’t a humble-brag entry. It’s not a way to casually hint about the Europe trip or the drive in the nice car. I’m writing this to explain to people how I’m able to say all those nice things truthfully. While it probably isn’t such a big deal for the handful of people on this side of the planet who treat Europe as if it was Baclaran or Baguio, for the vast majority of Filipinos, a trip anywhere outside the country, especially to all the big touristy places like Paris, Rome or London, is probably a dream as seemingly unreachable as buying their own home, driving their own car or finding their soul mate. People have told me how lucky I am that I get to go on these trips, and they ask me how I do it. Sometimes, yes, luck has a lot to do with it (i.e. official work trips), but as with most things in life, it’s not quite that simple. But it’s something I believe anybody earning a decent salary can do. 




Vernazza, one of the towns of Cinque Terre, Italy

First though, I need to debunk some people’s notion that I’m able to do all of these things because I’m rich. I’ve said before that I come from a very simple family. My parents are both retired and, save for the occasional Sunday lunches when I drive to our home in Cavite, I’ve been on my own and self-sufficient since I was 19, when I graduated college, moved out and got a job. So no, I’m not lucky enough to get travel allowance from the folks for those jaunts in Europe, or for anything else for that matter.


I also don’t fatten up my wallet with my working person’s salary, either. Again, I make a living writing for a magazine. In the Philippines, unless you’re a broadcast news anchor or a popular on-cam talent, being on the payroll of a media outift isn’t exactly the way to go if you’re looking for travel-the-world money. I earn just enough to get by and if anybody had the misfortune of getting a peek at my bank account, they would probably laugh in my face and tell me, “That’s it?!”


So how’d I do it? How can I afford a two-week trip to Europe on a normal-person’s wages? Here’s the answer:


It’s all about tradeoffs.


I’m 35 years old (36 tomorrow) and single. I live in a modest apartment in Quezon City, the same one I’ve lived in for the past six years, and I still drive the same beat-up old Lancer. I don’t have the financial responsibilities that many of my classmates (from all periods of my academic life) now have – home and car payments, and providing for miniature versions of themselves. Because of that, I have the luxury to choose what to spend my money on. And it just happens that I choose to save up for plane tickets and train rides and museum entrance fees.


The tradeoff there is obvious. People in my social network are posting pictures of their new cars, updates about the progress of the construction of their homes, their babies’ first smile captured on camera, their businesses, you get the idea. I don’t have all that. I don’t get to go home to a family of my own, kids running to embrace me and smother me with kisses; I constantly have to worry about my old car suddenly giving up on me while cruising EDSA; and I don’t have the privilege of ticking the “Yes” box when I’m filling out an official form with the question “Are you a homeowner?”


Sometimes the worry keeps me up at night. Every time I see one of those listicles with a title like, “10 Things You Should Already Have By The Time You’re 30,” or “15 Things You Need To Accomplish Before You’re 35,” I recoil. Always they have some entry about how you’re supposed to be financially secure (as in, what-if-you-lost-your-job-tomorrow secure) at a certain age. I admit doubts, and sometimes question my life decisions. Shouldn’t I have invested the extra money on property or stocks? Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to fly to Singapore to watch a concert by that artist that I like; I could’ve used the cash to add to a downpayment on a newer car. So-and-so was right; if I started saving when I was 20, I’d probably be able to afford that condo in BGC by now.


But is that what I really want?



The rooftops of Rome from the Musei Capitolini


True, I’m awestruck at the variety of things people in my circle (or social media newsfeed) are into. Designer cuisine, Duterte, the Porsche 911, Mariah Carey, Mario Kart, Slade House, Turkey, yoga, Palace Pool Club, Miss Universe, Game Of Thrones, surfing (actual and online), CoverGirl’s Star Wars collection, the conflict in Syria and the refugee crisis in Europe, facial hair, inspirational quotes, rainbow cakes, the LA Lakers, vinyl records, and on and on and on. I’m fortunate that I can see the world through the eyes of people from different corners of the globe and from virtually all social classes, age groups, genders, and religious and political beliefs. I think this makes for a much more interesting world view.


In the end though, I have to come back to my own decisions and live with them because I made them myself. The only person who has to deal with the consequences is me (for now, at least). Delayed gratification may be the definition of maturity, but exchanging one thing in favor of something more desirable is the essence of self-determination. That’s the tradeoff.


And it’s not just in material things. Tradeoffs can involve prioritizing one task at work over another; subscribing to one fitness and lifestyle routine over another; or choosing to spend time with one group of people over another in the belief they will add more value to your life through good experiences instead of taking away from it with meaningless drivel. We all forge our own paths and along the way, we make choices that we think will bring us closer to being happy. And isn’t that what we’re on this earth for? The pursuit of happiness?


In other words, the stuff we deem important ultimately defines where we’re headed.


So when people post pictures of their new gadgets or the latest designer handbag on Facebook, I can only trade them a story about the time I almost froze my fingers off as I tried to take a picture of Castle Hill from the Chain Bridge in Budapest. I can only salivate over that new pair of kicks because I can’t justify buying new shoes that cost more than two night’s stay in a nice hotel in Rome. And when a stranger starts talking about business opportunities in Scandinavia, I’ll try my very best not to sound like a complete douche when I tell him about that time I drove a Ferrari California T in the snowy hills outside Maranello. Because damn that was hella fun.


Why Are We Obsessed With Nostalgia? Wed, 09 Dec 2015 06:14:36 +0000 From our fashion and music to hobbies and even food, everything’s become a #TBT. Why do we keep looking back?

by Gaby Ignacionostalgia1

In the span of a single morning, I’ve found myself playing a Spotify #Throwback Thursday playlist (Nirvana! The Smashing Pumpkins! Alice in Chains!… Britney Spears?), scrolling through a Buzzfeed Rewind post (or five), debating whether to wear a plaid shirt with faded jeans or a plaid skirt with a schoolgirl sweater, and swiping on a raisin-hued lipstick matte enough to make Kylie Jenner proud. 

If it wasn’t already obvious, the 90s are back and they’re bigger than ever. We just can’t get enough, it seems, of that decade when every lid was smeared with a shimmery pastel shade, every lip painted a deep, dark brown, and every outfit included either floral prints (bright yellow sunflowers preferred), Westwood-inspired plaid, tie-dye, or acid-washed denim. It was the golden age of Nickelodeon cartoons, Clueless, bouncy butterfly clips, Sineskwela, platform flip-flops (!!!), endless boybands, and Tabing Ilog. It was a time when we had to patiently wait for our dial-up internet to connect before we could go on Yahoo! Messenger or mIRC, or pray our parents wouldn’t pick up the phone while we were illegally downloading music off Napster—God help you if you spent a mere six hours getting a bootleg copy of “The Crossroads,” only to find out that you mistakenly clicked on a link to a virus. 

We millennials just love our nostalgia, and this mania for all things 90s is far from the first manifestation of this deep, abiding affection for things that…don’t exist anymore. Thanks to our parents or older siblings, our teenage years were spent in the midst of a 70s, disco revival. This was followed by a brief flirtation with the neon and glam of the 80s—thankfully, that blew over quickly. Screwing up all chronological expectations, for some reason, our hipster brethren found it necessary to jump decades back to the heyday of mid-century modern design, the time of record players and quirky laundry detergent ads, so we went there, too. Today, the 90s are officially The Coolest and Best Decade Ever.


It’s been 20 years since “As if!” was a relevant catchphrase, about as much time since Bath and Body Works’ Cucumber Melon literally perfumed the air (I was a Moonlight Path girl, myself), and way too long since The Spice Girls dropped an album. So, why on earth are we clinging to even the most obscure of pop culture nuggets of our youth?

It seems pretty straightforward, really, and somewhat of a cliché: it was a much simpler, happier time. Granted, our only responsibilities then were homework, keeping up with the ever-changing pairings on Dawson’s Creek, TGIF, or G-mik, and knowing all the lyrics to “Get Down (You’re The One for Me),” but we still had it pretty easy, compared to the Mandarin-learning, ballet-practicing two-year-olds our friends are starting to spawn. I guess you could say we were that lucky generation that not only had access to this wondrous thing called the Internet, slow as it was, but still knew what channel surfing really felt like and how the great outdoors actually looked. 

Eventually, we grew up, and just as Friendster gave way to MySpace and then Facebook, our lives got more complicated. Like our broadband connections, the pace of life got faster and, sure, now we have constant social media alerts on our phones (synced accounts and all), but there are days when we yearn for a time when all we had to do to know what our friends were up to was to look out the window and see them playing patintero and negotiating who really got that tower of Pogs to fall over.

Truthfully, there’s nothing wrong with looking so far back into our collective memory that there are Pinterest tutorials on how to make Nickelodeon-inspired slime, or eBay auctions for untouched Bonne Bell Lip Lites (they really were delicious, and totally on-trend now). We just have to keep in mind that although those glittery, shimmery, bedazzled times were our days of unchallenged, carefree glory, we’re living in the present, and if there’s anything we should be bringing back, it’s how we all experienced, reveled in, and truly lived the moments we were in. FRIENDS, after all, may have its reruns, but real life doesn’t. 


About the author:

Gaby Ignacio is a 27-year-old writer and editor. She finds it very difficult to describe herself in one sentence. Disneyland is her happy place.

This post was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan Philippines magazine.

cosmo nov 2015 cover



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Shades of Gray: Two Reviews of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Tue, 20 Oct 2015 03:36:37 +0000 Libreto co-founders PJ and Reg review Wilde’s classic on a man whose time will never come

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Dour in Gray – How Boring Kills

By Reg Tolentino

What if you could do anything, without paying the consequence?

Think about it.

Skip work for the day with your boss’ approval. Get paid, and you’re still up for that promotion.

Gain entry to any club, drinks on the house, take anyone home, fuck all night – no morning hangover, STDs, or unwanted pregnancies.

Thrill-seeker? Run off a building, land onto the LRT, backflip off the overpass, right into a gaping crowd of bloggers. Flash them your abs. Instant Instagram celebrity.

Most would say, “Yes please!” and that’s exactly Wilde’s protagonist, Dorian Gray, does. He quickly learns however, that when nothing we do has a consequence, nothing we do is of consequence.

From the start, Gray is portrayed as a man who wants nothing, and is denied nothing. He is leagues distant from blue-collar drones. In contrast to the “sullen murmor of bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass…” in the “dim roar of London,” Dorian starts at an “upright easel…(the) portrait of a young man of extraordinary beauty.” The painter, Basil Hallward, captures perfection so well that Dorian instantly grows envious at the frozen image of a man he will never again be…so he utters a hopeful wish: that his portrait bear the soulcurse of time, and that he, the living Dorian, become the perfect man of that moment (and later, a man living for the perfect moment).

As with all Faustian pacts, the devil was nearby. Lord Henry Wotton, hedonist extraordinaire/advice guru/life coach, whispers suggestions to the unmarred Dorian, and from there, the young man discovers that denying death’s embrace means forfeiting life’s meaning. God may have started the painting, but Satan certainly finished it, flinging himself from one pleasure to the next, til nothing but boredom ensued. Boredom kills.

I have three takeaways from this book.


A Pulp! Edition of Wilde’s book

1. “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly.”

Mr. Gray’s unconventional desires have his neurotransmitters stuck in a feedback loop…without the limiters. Obesity keeps us from eating too much. Drinking too often shrinks bank accounts as well as testicles. Premature aging has us scurrying into the sun (or slathering suncreen), limiting our time on the beach. Whether natural or societal, these undesirables keep us from abusing ourselves. Take that away, and we’re looking for a higher high that never ends.

Taken another way, cost determines value. Dorian was born with wealth, but “the best things in life are free,” simply means that we acquire those things with objects apart from money. In the gym, challenging iron (and gravity) forges stronger bodies. At the studio, grinding away in practice sharpens one’s craft. Facing the terror of rejection at that first “Will you go out with me?” The time invested wooing a beloved, the meals skipped to pay for a ring laid delicately at their feet, and the strength of youth spent to secure your offspring’s future (and a happily together after), Dorian will never know true love – that genuine caring for another whose well-being so deeply affects yours – simply because perfect immortals need no such bonds.

And speaking of relationships, Dorian seems to have misunderstood…

2. “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”

And more importantly…learn to tell them the hell apart. Dorian brushed aside his portrait’s painter’s ideals, reveling in the seductive whispers of a demon’s tongue. True friends appreciate (i.e. Increase in value) each other, for the traits they desire being appreciated for. It’s important to choose who we associate with, because like or not, they influence how we paint ourselves. In the social media age, we have options to view, friend, limit, unfriend, and block others from our lives. Sometimes, people go through this whole process without ever having met them.

And on that thought…

3. We’re All A Little Gray

Who wouldn’t want to be desired? Dorian Gray’s wish – to forever be seen in others’ eyes as perfect – is now possible with technology. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – all broadcast the best of us to the world. Each edited moment, flawless, each insightful quip, well-researched, and every iconic location geo-tagged. And when everyone’s life is a highlight reel – with everyone in an arm’s race of perfect poses – “epic” becomes normal. And no one remembers normal.

Somewhere, locked in a room we haven’t used since we were young, covered in a velvet drape, sits our true selves, changing, for no one else to see. And that – is the tragedy of 21st century Dorian Grays – consigning themselves to a lonely, not death, but un-lived existence. These days, “Pictures are worth a thousand words…most of them, lies.” And people choose the beautiful lie, over a less-than-perfect truth.


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Wilde At Heart

Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece still resonates over a century since it was first published and should be required reading for denialists and the disillusioned

By Paul John Caña

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book,” goes the oft-quoted passage in Oscar Wilde’s preface for The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Books are well-written or badly written. That is all.” In the grand scheme of things, could there be any doubt on which column Wilde’s own book falls?

Well-known for his witty aphorisms and clever rejoinders, the Irish author’s most famous work is his only full-length novel. The Picture Of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 and, even now, it’s still highly regarded as a classic and often appears in must-read-before-you-die lists.

A surprising thing I found about the book is how easy it is to read. For a 19th century Irish writer, Wilde’s writing style is incredibly accessible. It can get a bit flowery, and a few references are slightly arcane, but there is an immediate sense that this was a writer who not only had supreme command of the language, but who used it so fluidly and naturally that it didn’t seem alien to a Filipino boy reading it in the 21st century.

But what’s truly remarkable is how The Picture Of Dorian Gray holds up and remains almost shockingly current, 125 years since it came out. The story of an innocent soul corrupted by narcissism and hedonism is a cautionary tale, yes, but it’s also an indictment against humanity’s obsession with physical beauty and anxiety over aging and decrepitude. The characters are Victorian-era Englishmen and women, yet they are easily transplantable through various cultures and time periods. All good books share this quality: relevance through the constant shifts in thought, temperament, situations.

To be truly great, however, a book must get its readers relating to, cheering for, or railing against certain characters. The writer’s ability to create fantastical universes and carefully ferry readers through all its twists and turns is a triumph in itself, but it is how he or she fashions the characters and gradually cause them to burrow deep into the reader’s psyche that lifts the masterful from the merely competent. In Dorian Gray, the players are as fascinating and complex as they are thoroughly believable and grounded in reality.

Lord Henry Wotton is a charming opportunist who pounces on Dorian’s purity and naivete early in the story. Basil Hallward is the epitome of the tortured artist, whose personal torment is caused by his infatuation with the subject of his masterpiece. And Dorian himself is perhaps one of the most conflicted, deeply divisive personalities in all of modern literature. We see his progression (regression?) from clueless male ingenue into a soulless, debased hedonist, and then witness his far-too-late attempt at remorse and redemption. All remain chillingly present in the streets of the modern age. 


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Does Dorian deserve our pity and sympathy? Or do we cheer and celebrate when we discover his fate? It is a nod to Wilde’s skills that I found myself struggling with how to process the novel’s breathtaking conclusion. I felt like a passenger on a train going at breakneck speed that suddenly comes to an abrupt stop. I was ripped from the comfort of the familiar and thrown out into the abyss of uncertainty.

Dorian, to me, is the personification of apathy and destructive egoism. I loathed him for his callousness and blatant disregard of other people’s feelings, and for his deviousness and unscrupulous tactics aimed at eliciting favors from the people around him. Self-preservation is a base human instinct, but when it degenerates into indifference and a complete lack of empathy, it is heartless and unforgivable.

And yet, I couldn’t help but examine the causes of Dorian’s descent into despair. Lord Henry Wotton undoubtedly planted the seeds that took root and shaped Dorian into becoming who he was, and that brings up the timeless debate: nature vs nurture? Can we truly blame Dorian for having been exposed at such an impressionable age to Lord Henry’s views on the incalculable impact of youth and physical beauty?

The circumstances that shape our character and world view are unique, yet the standards for basic human virtues and decency are universal. Influence is essential and inescapable, but it can only go so far. One can argue that, as with all of us, Dorian eventually had to make his own choices. Sadly, by the book’s end, we know where those choices led him.



Image “Doriangray” by Eugene Dété (engraver, d. 1922) after Paul Thiriat (fl. c. 1900–1918) – Mississippi State University, College of Architecture Art and Design. From Wikipedia

This article is the first of many “deja-views.” If there are any books/movies/TV shows you’d like the authors to review – let them know in the comments below! :)

3 Steps To Victory by Kris Uy Wed, 14 Oct 2015 06:46:58 +0000 In this post, Philippine National Taekwondo Team member, DLSU Varsity/Student Athlete, Entrepreneur, Life Coach, and Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful Kris Uy, writes on becoming a champion.

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“I can’t show you how to become a champion, but I can show you what I did to get to where I am” – Dr. Jason Han of [The Juice Compound].

I remember hearing that when I was 12 years old and this post is pretty much the same. My advice below isn’t the only path, but it’s what’s worked for me.

99 Problems-……. and Worrying Never Solved Any of Them

I’d really like to thank my dad for passing the book “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind,” to me when I was 15. That book has taught me so much in terms of becoming a champion and mastering my craft. One of the biggest lessons I learned from it was to not worry about things you do not control. That means the ref’s, your opponents, your brackets, your coaches, your teammates – everything that you do not directly control.

Note though, there is a difference between worrying, and studying relevant information.

Worrying is hoping and praying that you’re not against the top seeds in your first fight or heat

Studying relevant information is looking up your competitor list and studying their film.

Worrying is hoping and praying that your refs favor you.

Studying relevant information is knowing refs are being strict about rules that day.

Worrying is thinking about things that may or may not come to pass that you do not control, like what if the Eskimos in Antarctica forget to brush their teeth this morning?

Studying relevant information means taking facts and using them towards your strategy.

Don’t waste time with small thoughts like “I hope I get a good draw,” “I hope I get good refs,” or “I hope my opponents are not in good shape.” None of that is in your control and therefore you shouldn’t concern yourself with it. The standard I hold myself to is: “Even if all the refs are against me, my skill should be enough to trump all of it.” Just focus on what you can do – there are many factors under your control.

A few of these are:

What you eat, how often and how much you push yourself training, how often you rest, who you pick as a mentor, what you say to yourself, and the people you hang out with.

All of these are within your control, and all of these contribute to your victory…or demise. When people look at champions, they focus on their hustle (training routine). This is key. But other factors surrounding your grind determine how effective you are, especially when on the grindstone.

What you eat determines the quality of your training and if you’re able to properly recover during your rest. How much you push yourself in training determines the pace of your improvement. As Ray Lewis says in his motivational speeches: “Effort is between you and you, no one can judge effort.” Your mentors determine your direction, and how efficiently you grow.

“Be very careful what you say to yourself. You are listening.” Your body will do as your mind says. Close your eyes and say “I’m weak, I’m unskilled, I’m tired, I’m no good.” How do you feel, physically? If you tell yourself “I’m a winner, I am a champion, I always accomplish my goals” How does that feel? Or what about: “I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests within me (source: The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari).” How do you feel now? Your mindset affects your training.

You are ultimately the average of the 5 people you hang out with. If you’re hanging out with people who are just trying to “get by”, who have no goals or would rather scroll on Facebook than do what they’re supposed to be doing – how long till you are just trying to get by, with no goals, spending time scrolling through Facebook? As the saying goes “If you hang with 9 broke friends, guess who’s going to be the 10th?” Conversely, if you were stuck in a house with Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao, Dwayne Johnson and Breena Martinez *cough* personal fantasy *cough* –  and they ask you each time they train if you want to come along it, how long would you turn them down? I’d give you about a week and a half…tops.


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2. The Amount You Train is Your Money

Many people are taught to sacrifice everything for the fight, for the event, for the race.

I don’t do that. I sacrifice everything for the training.

I fully believe that if you can outdo someone’s training regimen, you’ll outdo them on the day it counts.

As the U.S. Navy SEALS say “People do not rise to the occasion, they fall back on their training, which is why we train so hard.” People don’t gain super powers on the day of the event. Hoping that your game just “comes out” during the tournament is silly. Counting on this means you’re under prepared, and you’re hoping things get easier.

Never wish for things to be easier, wish you were better.

I learned the habit of preparation watching my father play chess. In all those years – I’ve never seen him lose – right through multiple NCAA championships.

During games, when I asked him what he was doing, he’d say stuff like: “Oh, I’m preparing to do this,” or “I’m going to take his queen in 6 turns.” From where I sat, he was still messing around with pawns!

I eventually learned that winning means setting yourself up for victory – creating situations where it’s inevitable.

Like Sun Tzu’s saying: “Prepare for the difficult while it is easy, prepare for the big while it is small,” or from a soldier’s training manual: “Sweat more, bleed less.”

One of the best analogies I’ve heard is from a coach. He said: “Training is like getting money for shoes, and the shoes are the championship. If you walk into Nike and you want shoes that cost $200, you better bring the $200, you can’t say ‘well I got $150, can I get em anyway?’ Nothing in life works like that, unless you play politics… but that’s a story for another day.”

I learned to always bring extra, because in California they don’t label the clothes with the sales tax.

Will Smith’s attitude on this is amazing. He says: “I think, in terms of talent, I’m pretty average. Where I excel in is a ridiculous, sickening work ethic, and an obsession to prepare.” I believe in making excuses to get ahead. Look at your circumstances and see how it will help you with your preparation. No racetrack? Find a hill nearby. Rained in? Great day to do an indoor workout. Injured and can’t use your arm? Train the other arm. Or legs. Always do legs.

And always, ALWAYS, look for excuses to train.

If you’re trying to be a champion, come event day, no one cares about the excuses, or the reasons, or the stories behind “I couldn’t.” Those don’t matter when they’re awarding the hardware. The only thing that matters is the count. So during training, if you find yourself wondering: “Is this enough?”

It’s not.

The question should be: “Is this too much?”

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3. Your Mental Preparation is what you bring to war.

This is where I see some of the biggest downfalls in sports. Many people spend so much time working out and training, yet they get in the ring and none of it shows. They play different. They seem off.  It’s like someone spun them around 10 times and hit them with a taser before they get in.

Often, this lack of performance is due to a lack of strategic mental preparation.

This is a huge topic to cover so I’m going to just put down the ones I see the most. 

(Note: To some people this may seem like a hodge-podge so feel free to scroll up and review, though I believe my mental preparation has been my single greatest strength in my sport.)

Physical preparation is akin to forging and practicing with your weapons inside base camp. You can hone, you can tweak, you can craft new things (Note: If you’re not diligent in the preparation of your weapons, you’re not going to have dependable weapons to go to war with, physical prep is important). Mental preparation however, determines how many of those weapons get utilized on the battlefield.

If you’re mentally prepared for your fight, that’s akin to having your armor on, deploying artillery correctly, positiong cavalry properly, knowing where your enemy is, and firing salvo after salvo til he’s done. It’s game day, and you’re going hunting. Not mentally preparing for your fight, is game day coming to you. It’s your opponent on the offensive. In essence, its like you coming back from the river after catching a fish for dinner – to find the enemy in your camp, tents ablaze, with your people screaming, running around in sheer terror and chaos. Pleasant. Why is this so? Because you didn’t have access to your weapons. Game day came to you.

So how do you prepare? First, you must realize that anything that happens in the world must happen twice, first within the mind, then in the physical world.

Things I see very commonly:

1. Extreme Nervousness – nervousness is normal. My father used to say: “It does not matter if there are butterflies in your stomach, so long as you make them fly in formation.” Recently, I learned that if you’re nervous, just tell yourself that that emotion is excitement and tell yourself “I’m excited.” To lower this nervousness, visualize. Imagine yourself on game day, from the time you wake up, through breakfast, the commute, the warm up in the holding area, then the ring. The more you replay this in your mind, the more you’ll be used to being in that environment, and it won’t shock you as much.

2. The Mood Swings (most commonly from: bad call by a ref and everything goes downhill, or one bad thing happens and the player doesn’t recover.) I thoroughly believe that to become victorious, you must have control over your emotions. You can’t let your emotions run you in an event, you must run your emotions. (That’s also why I love sports, because it teaches people to grow up). If this is a problem for you, realize that you control only yourself. You don’t control the ref, you don’t control their bad calls, hell, you don’t even control the score. Scores are only the by-product of you accomplishing a task a certain way. That is also out of your control, just focus on you and what you can do.

I use a technique called “the anchor.” I imagine myself in a very calm state, and relax my whole body, creating a circle between my middle finger and my thumb and I tell myself “When I make this gesture, I am relaxed, I am calm and I play at my best.” Later, after that anchor is in place, I can call upon a relaxed state with nothing more than an intake of breath and a thought. Then I stack it with another mental image. I imagine a really bad call, or a cramp – something super traumatic – and I make the same circle, but this time I say “I am a deep-rooted tree, centered, and free” (I’m Zen like that). For others, you can try using “I’m a rock jock. You can’t move me.” Feel and see yourself calming down and relaxing, and not letting what just transpired negatively affect your performance.

3. Not Playing Your Game: (ex. timing is off, techniques not used at their 100%, tentative) Unless this is tactical, the reason for this is because when you’re doing drills, you’re seeing your teammate, not the real match. When you’re doing application drills, you’re doing them with your teammate, and not as if you were in a tournament.

The correct way to practice application is to practice it for real. You need to “act” and “see” as if you were already there. The earlier you start doing this, the better. I’m not talking early as in “one month out.” I’m talking early as in 4-6 months out. The more real you make practice, the easier it translates into your event.

4. Cracking under pressure: (Blowing a lead, giving up after getting behind) This one has a lot of factors: I think the biggest and best thing to do to prep for this is to really imagine the worst case scenario in your mind in first person. Really see what it’s like to be behind by 11 points, or 5 points in soccer, or 20 points in basketball and see and feel how it feels. Then imagine yourself coming back. denying their attempts and slowly, strategically, surgically getting your points back and coming out with the win. If you have never imagined this scenario, it will be a shock the first time. However, if you’ve thought about it and how you’re going to do it a thousand times, thousand and first time, in real life, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Same applies if you’re in the lead. If you worry about it, imagine that situation, and instead of thinking about them making a comeback, think about you keeping them off you, playing your game, holding out till the win – with that lead intact.

The pathway to victory isn’t beautiful, its not paved with roses and gold. It’s paved the way everyone else has said it’s been paved, with blood sweat and tears. There are going to be times when you doubt, there are going to be times when you don’t want to go on anymore and there are going to be times when you don’t want to get up. But if you get through that, if you move forward, if you get up again, you will become stronger and you will begin to see that life is whatever you want it to be. If you’re willing to do the work, and pay the price, you can live as others only dream. If you choose to get up, and you choose to move forward, you will be a success.

I believe that focusing on the correct things and correct preparation are key to achieving victory in anything.

As someone once said “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” Another one of my favorites: “In a battle where both parties believe God is on their side, he’s usually on the side of the more prepared.”

Set yourself up, and prepare yourself for greatness.

So there it is, my three steps towards victory. Hope it helped you get closer to your personal success.

If you found it valuable please let me know by giving it a like and/or a share!

May Greatness be upon you!

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Note: This post was first published September 20, 2015, on the author’s blog. Read more of his works at: Follow him on Twitter: tangkad21, and IG: @kris_uy_