More Than A Game

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is officially over. For the past two weeks it provided the world something to watch. It was an entertainment to some, a distraction to others, and an inspiration to many of us.

There were notable moments in that Olympics. One instance of spirit of sportsmanship for me was when Russian Anton Gafarov crashed hard during the cross-country skiing competition, but he still tried to finish the race with a broken ski. He was really struggling, until someone came to his rescue and replaced his broken ski. It was not his Russian team but the skiing coach of the Canadian team.

Or who can forget the crushing upset of the US by the Canadian in the finals of women’s ice hockey? The American team was leading all the way, but Canada made 2 goals in the last 3 minutes of the game to equalize, and eventually winning it in overtime.

Or maybe you were just watching what Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir outfit would be. Besides their colorful reporting and commentaries on the sideline, they really were a fashion statement.

Being originally from the Philippines, one of the indelible moment for me, was just seeing a fellow Filipino compete in figure skating. Michael Christian Martinez, was the first Filipino figure skater, and even the first one from a southeast Asian country to compete in this specific Olympic event.  Coming from a country that never sees snow, just like the Jamaican bobsled team, he inspired us.


Filipino figure skater

Last Friday, as I was making my way to the Endoscopy suite of the hospital to do my bronchoscopy procedures, I passed through the Radiation Oncology department. In its waiting room was a television that was showing the live action of the semifinals of US vs Canada men’s ice hockey game.

Of course we all know now, that Canada won that match. For the Americans, better luck next time. It was said that President Obama lost a wager of cases of beer to the Canadian Prime Minister. There was even a funny news item that the unofficial bet on this game, was that the loser got to keep Justin Bieber. Darn!

Anyway, as I passed through that waiting room, I stopped for a moment to watch the game. It was already 4th quarter with only a few minutes left, and Canada was leading 1-0. I watched with hopeful anticipation that something exciting would happen. But no more goals were scored, and Canada won.

As I was intently watching the game, even for a brief period of time, I happened to look around and observe the people sitting in that patient waiting room. One, was a frail woman on a wheelchair. Another one, a cachectic-looking man hooked to a small tank of oxygen on his lap. And then another one, a middle-aged woman with a brightly colored bandana covering her bald head.

None of these people were paying attention to the televised hockey game. They were oblivious to the exciting action on ice unfolding in front of them. They don’t seem to care about the battle going on.

Why? Because they have their own battle that they were fighting. A fight that was more than a game. The stakes were more than medals made of cold metals. Where losers don’t get another chance.

I hope they win.

(*photo from yahoo news)

Tables Are Turning

We have a new past time. Nope, it’s not cow tipping. It’s more fun than that. It’s ping-pong!

Few months ago, I bought a ping-pong table. After 2 years of having our basement in disarray and left undone (after it was flooded – see previous post), we finally had it fixed and finished. Now, our newly done basement is an official table tennis tourney room.

I learned to play table tennis with my friends, when I was growing up in Manila. Back in those days, our table sometimes was a make-shift one, like a sheet of plywood placed on top of a desk or a dinner table. Though at times we played on a standard tournament table – especially when there was a sports fest in our church.

Our ping-pong paddles were cheap or something that we improvised too. We cut out pieces of wooden board into paddles. Though I already knew in my youth, about Butterfly brand paddles, and have even held one. And boy, it felt so good to play with that kind of paddle. Obviously it was not mine, I just borrowed it.

My parents allowed me to hang out with my friends to play table tennis even for long periods of time. They didn’t mind at all. They just don’t want me to hang out with the other “table” game – billiards. There was nothing wrong with playing billiards, but it was the association and the company they keep. Where I came from, the billiards were usually in the beerhouses and pubs.

I never became a good ping-pong player, but enough to enjoy the game. Though some of my friends became adept at it, that they compete in local or interdistrict tournaments and sports fest. I usually accompany them for moral support.


This is how we play ping-pong. Not!

After many years, now I can afford to have my own ping-pong table, so I indulged a bit. I got us a good quality, tournament-grade table. It really have an even bounce, unlike the sheet of plywood where I used to play before. I even got us deluxe Butterfly paddles! However, even with the top grade equipment, I am still not a good player. It just show that it is not on the equipment, but on the skill of the player.

I may not be an expert but I taught my son and my daughter the basics of table tennis. We also looked at some tutorial videos in the internet, as well as videos of world-class players in action, which were mesmerizing to watch, to say the least. I was pleased on how quickly my children learned, especially my son. It was amazing how my 10-year old son got quite skillful in such a short period of time. Maybe credit the teacher (ahem!).

We had visitors that we invited to play ping-pong with us. Don’t underestimate anybody’s skill, as you can never tell if he/she is a mediocre player or would blow you away.

The first visitor we had was our kids’ music teacher, who was an accomplished pianist and had a master’s degree in music from Juilliard. What does a musician know about ping-pong? Wrong! She schooled us with all kind of spins and drives and we ourselves were spinning. We later learned that she was a varsity player in college.

The next visitor we had was a friend who was a minister by profession. Yes, he can give rousing sermons, can sing, and can play the piano too. But does a pastor know ping-pong? Again, we were wrong!

He watched me and my son play for a while, and was hesitant to join. He finally gave in after much prodding from me. The moment he held the paddle – using the Chinese-hold (also known as pen-hold),  we knew right away that he was good. We were again schooled! He told us later, that he grew up in Singapore and learned the Chinese way of the game. (Chinese dominate the sport nowadays.)

More recently, my son has been consistently beating me in ping-pong. The student is getting better than the teacher. In fact, I have not won for some time now. I charge it to his youth and quick reflexes. But I know, it is a pattern that I should get used to: what I can do, he can do better. And I am fine with that.

The tables are turning indeed. And I don’t mean the ping-pong table.

I can challenge him to play 1-on-1 basketball instead. Because I know I can still beat him in basketball. But I also know, it will not be for long.

Olympic Dreaming

Watching the Olympics has given us some moments of awe and inspiration. I myself was roused. And it’s not after watching the beach volleyball.

Seeing Oscar Pistorius from South Africa, also known as Blade Runner, compete in the 400 meters run and making it into the semi-finals with an impressive time of 46.54 seconds was really moving. It was not because his time was an olympic or world record, for it was not the fastest. In fact it was not even good enough to qualify him to the finals of that event. But it was the fact that he was even there to compete with the best of the best runners in the world. And he has no feet. So what’s your excuse?

Then there is Usain Bolt. Of course he is a freak of nature, and is now an Olympic legend. But his speed just astound us, making us believe that Flash really does exist.

I am also thrilled to watch the Olympics basketball, especially the USA team which is composed of very talented NBA superstars. I know even their opponents are starstruck. One Tunisian basketball player even asked Kobe to autograph his shoes after USA emphatically beat their team.

With all the buzz and excitement of the Olympics, this encouraged me more in pushing myself in my own sort of training. Just like an Olympian. I can dream, can’t I?

I am on my 5th week of training for my half-marathon this coming fall. I run 3 miles twice during weekdays, and do a “long” run on the weekend. The long run starts at 3 miles, and I increase it by 1 mile every week until I achieve 12 miles. The other days of the week, are rest days or cross training days. Cross training could be biking or weight training in the gym.

my water bottle and the long road ahead

Last weekend, there was a youth rally in our church and I was asked to be the medical personnel of the event, just in case someone will need medical care. During the evening activities, the young people played pick-up basketball. Since I got bored with just watching, I joined the basketball game. I thought to myself  that I can consider it cross training for my run.

So there I was, running, jumping, shoving, grabbing and shooting the ball with highschool and college kids that are less than half my age. But I tried my best to keep up with them. I was too vain to admit that I am old, and too proud to be regarded as the weak link in the team. So I really competed hard. I even hit the floor twice. But I got up quickly, for I know I was supposed to be the one attending for the injured not the one to be attended to.

After almost 30 minutes of fast and furious pace of basketball, I was glad that I helped my team win. Well, I am more relieved that it was over, for I don’t know if I can keep up any longer with those young legs.

Somehow though I gained the respect of my younger playmates, as one teammate told me that he was impressed that aside from able to shoot, I still can play decent defense on a much younger opponent and can jump high for the rebounds. Well, he does not know that I have Jaworski blood coursing through my veins. Robert Jaworski, my idol, who was a legend in the Philippines’ basketball played professionally until he was 50 years old.

The next morning, I was supposed to do my long run, and according to my training schedule, it was to be 7 miles. But when I got out of bed, my whole body ached that it was a struggle for me to walk, let alone run 7 miles. That was when reality hit: I felt old. I am old. I rested instead.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Isang Lata, Dalawang Patpat, at Tingga

Pasko na naman! O kay tulin ng araw.

Nasasabik na ang lahat, lalo na ang mga bata na makatanggap ng kanilang pamasko. Kaya naman marami sa maiinit na bagay sa listahan ng mga Christmas shoppers, ay mga laruang pambata – tulad ng LEGO, Star Wars Lightsaber, Transformers, Xbox Kinect, Nintendo 3DS, Barbie at American Girl dolls. Ang problema lang sa mga laruang pambata ngayon, ay may kamahalan ang mga ito, at maaring maghalaga ng ilang linggo o ilang buwang suweldo. Kaya naman natutuliro ang mga magulang, at nagtatago na lang ang mga ninong at ninang.

Ngunit kung ako ang tatanungin, ang mga pinakamasayang alaala kong laro nuong ako’y batang musmos, ay hindi nangangailangan ng mamahaling laruan. Lata, o piraso ng patpat na kahoy, o kaya nama’y tingga lamang – ay walang humpay na saya na ang dulot nito.

Unang laro na hilig ko ay ang patintero. Kailangan lang namin noon ay basyong lata. Huh? Teka, teka…….. Marahil ang tanong mo ay baka naman tumbang preso ang ibig kong sabihin. Makinig ka muna sa akin…….

Ang kalye sa harap ng aming bahay ay espalto, kaya wala itong guhit. Wala rin naman kaming tisa (chalk) na pang-guhit. Kaya patak ng tubig ang aming ipinang-guguhit sa kalsada. Dito namin kinakailangan ang lata: pang-salok ng tubig sa tabing kanal upang gumawa ng mga linya. “Kadiri to death!” Pero sa mga walang muwang at sabik na maglaro ng patintero, walang anuman sa amin iyon.

Naging magaling at “hustler” din ako sa larong patintero. Natutunan ko lahat ng mga “strategy” (o s’tragedy?) sa pag-harang at pag-kulong sa mga kalaban kapag kami ang taya, at naging maliksi naman kapag kami na ang sumusulong. Paborito kong puwesto ay ang patotot dahil malayo ang tinatakbo nito. Kahit noong ako’y nag-aaral na ay nilalaro din namin ito sa aming eskwela. Katunayan pa nga ay naging palaro pa ito sa aming “sports fest” minsan. Pero hindi na tubig-kanal ang aming ginamit na pang-guhit!


Isa pang laro na gumagamit ng lata ay ang walang kamatayang tumbang preso. Dito ay kailangan din ng mga tsinelas na pambalibag sa lata upang patumbahin ito. Hindi ko masyadong gusto ang larong ito dahil madaling maburo ang taya na tulad ko. Talagang parang preso! Dapat ay medyo pitpit ‘yung lata, para hindi ito madaling tumumba, at kahit pa gumulong-gulong kapag binato ng tsinelas, ay tatayo pa rin ito. Hindi ko rin gustong kalaro ang mga batang babae na naka-bakya. Bakit kamo? Ikaw kaya ang tamaan ng pinukol na bakya?

Kung wala naman kaming lata, ay kukuha lang kami ng dalawang patpat na kahoy. Ang isa ay maiksi, at ang pangalawa ay mahaba-haba. Maraming oras na katuwaan na ang dulot nito sa pag-lalalaro ng shato. Dito ay pinapapilantik namin o kaya naman ay hinahagupit ang patpat, habang ang taya ay tinatangkang saluhin ito. Naging mahusay din naman ako sa paglalaro nito, at sa awa naman ng diyos ng shato, ay hindi rin naman ako nahambalos o nahagip sa mukha ng lumilipad na patpat. At kahit matalo man kami sa larong ito, ay nakakaaliw naman ang tumakbo tangan-tangan ang patpat, habang sumisigaw ng “shaaaaaaaaaaaaato!”

Ngunit isa sa pinakapaborito kong laro noong ako’y bata, ay sipa. Tingga (pwede ring tansan) lang ang kailangan, tapos lalagyan ng balat ng kendi o supot ng kornik, ay sangkatutak na ang ligaya, sa paglalaro ng sipa. Hindi tulad ng patintero, tumbang preso, o ng shato, ang sipa ay maaaring laruin na mag-isa kahit walang kasama. Siyempre, mas masaya pa rin kung may kalaro, huwag lang magkakapikunan.

Hindi naman sa pagmamayabang (pero ganun na rin ‘yun!) ay naging eksperto ako sa larong ito, at isa sa mga kinatatakutang kalaban sa sipa sa aming munting paaralan. One to hundred? Walang problema. Black-magic (ito ay pagsipa na pinapa-ekis ang paa)? Kayang-kaya, maging kanan o kaliwang paa pa. Dahil din sa paglalaro ng sipa, ay maraming rubber shoes ang aking nasira at pinudpod. Minsan nga, dahil sa bilis bumigay ng aking mga sapatos, ang sabi ng tatay ko, ang ipasusuot na raw niya sa akin ay bakal na sapatos. Ano ako, kabayo? Oo, kabayitong magaling sumipa!


Kaya huwag nang mamoblema kung walang pambili ng mga mamahaling laruan para sa inyong mga anak o inaanak, ngayong Pasko. Ang mahalaga ay ang malaman at maramdaman nila, na atin silang minamahal, hindi batay sa halaga ng ating bigay na regalo. At kung walang-wala naman talaga, wala kahit pang-Noche Buena – magbukas na lang ng sardinas, at ang lata ay gamitin sa pakikipaglaro sa inyong mga anak. Isali ang buong pamilya, pati ang mga gurang. Garantisado, matutuwa sila at hindi nila ito malilimutan.

(*image of patintero from here; image of sipa from here)

Baseball Lesson: Learning a Culture

Last week I bought baseball gloves and a ball so I can teach my son how to play baseball. Learning to play baseball is like a rite of passage for all American boys. After all, it is known as the American pastime.

Trying to be a good father, I will not deprive my boy of this opportunity, even if I’m far from qualified to teach the game. I just hope that I will not injure my kid and myself doing this.

I don’t like baseball. I don’t like playing it (not just that I don’t know how). And I don’t even like watching it (especially with all that chewing and spitting). Moreover, who plays baseball in the streets of Manila? But that besides the point. My son needs to learn it for the sake of our adopted culture.

As I was teaching my boy how to catch the ball with the gloves (as I myself was also learning), I was surprised that my daughter was interested too. So she borrowed my gloves, and she and her brother played and learned catch. I was more surprised on how quickly they picked-up the skills. As I sat watching my kids play baseball, I thought to myself that this will be my contribution in Americanizing (is that a word?) my children.

Tomorrow, I’ll teach them how to hit a can with slippers, and play tumbang preso.

Lahing Jaworski

my son, future Jaworski?

Ngayon at tag-init na dito sa Iowa, ay lagi akong tinatawag ng aking anak na mag-basketball. Ako ay nagpatirik ng basketball goal doon sa aming driveway. Naalala ko tuloy nuong ako’y bata pa……….

Bago pa ako pumasok sa eskwela ay natuto na akong magbasketball sa silong ng aming bahay. Kinabitan ng tatay ko ng basketball goal yung isang pader. Dito ako natutong mag-dribble, mag jump shot (kahit parating tumatama ang bola sa kisame), at mag lay-up. Naging mahusay maglaro. Parang Jaworski.

Nang ako’y lumaki-laki na ay sa kalsada na ako nag lalaro ng basketball. Naging kalaro ko ang aking mga kapitbahay at paminsan-minsang mga batang dayo. Kahit ang basketball goal namin ay binaluktot na bakal at pirapirasong tabla lang, ay talo-talo na kami dito. Kasama sa aming laro ang hindi maiiwasang “intermission” kapag  may dumadaang kotse o tricycle. Dito nagkapigtas-pigtas ang tsinelas kong Spartan (“Nasaan ang tibay mo?”). Iba ang basketball sa kalye -kasama ang gulangan, sahuran, balyahan at paminsan-minsang suntukan. Dito ako natutong lumaban. Parang Jaworski.

Sa eskwelahan naman ay panay din ang laro namin ng basketball. Nuong nasa elementary pa ako, ay katanghaliang tapat kung kami ay mag-laro. Ito ay dahil kapag hapon na ay hindi na kami makasingit sa mga estudyante ng highschool sa basketball court. Nang kami ay highschool na, kami naman ang sumu-swapang sa court. Kahit nakabalat na sapatos o kahit naka-combat boots pa, sige pa rin ang laro. Natigil lang ang aming paglalaro sa eskwela nang lagariin ng principal ang mga poste ng basketball goal, dahil sanhi daw lagi ng away ang basketball. Ngunit hindi pa rin naawat ang aming hilig sa basketball. “Never say die”, ika nga ni Jaworski.

Sa harap naman ng aming simbahan ay may masikip na half court. Tatlong dipa lang yata ang luwang nito, ngunit solb na kami sa paglalaro duon. Maraming hapon hangang gabi rin kaming naglalaro ng aking mga kaibigan doon. Nagkakalabawan. Nag-aasaran. Nagkakapikunan. Sa masikip na basketball court din na iyon, marami kaming pinagdaanan. Tuwa, galit, gasgas at pasa, pagod, inis ng pagkatalo, at saya ng panalo. Dito din lumakas ang samahan ng aming barkada. Natutong maglaro at makisama, bagama’t kami ay magkaka-iba. Natutong maging isa – parang basketball team. Team Jaworski.

Hindi lang basketball ang aking natutunan sa larong ito. Kahit ngayon, na ako’y nasa bayan na ni Michael Jordan at Lebron James, ipinagmamalaki kong ako’y lahing Jaworski.

Son Eats Dad, Checkmate

I like playing chess. My father gave me a chess set very early in my childhood, and I learned how to play chess long before I learned how to ride a bike. I even had a chess book that I read when I was in grade school, to  improve my game.

Less than a year ago, I taught my son (he was six at that time) how to play chess. I was happy he grasped the concept of chess very well. Since then he will often challenge me  to a game of chess. But his novice mind is out of match to his strategy-experienced dad.

We have a chess game application programmed in our computer, and my son will frequently play this. He becomes frustrated stating he cannot beat it. He even requested me to buy him a chess book so he can learn to beat our computer. I smiled at his naivety, as I try to explain to him that it is impossible for humans to defeat the computer in a game of chess.

The other day while I was reading a book, my son again challenged me to a game of chess. I continued reading in between my chess moves. Then I realized I made a simple blunder (for lack of concentration), that my son took advantage of. He ate my bishop and all I got in return is a pawn. I put down my book, and concentrated on the game trying to salvage my situation. But my son kept on attacking and improving on his advantage. Few moves later I was checkmate.

It is either I am a very good teacher or the student is getting better than the teacher. Is this the beginning of a new era? I hope I can also equip my son with enough wares to do well in another chess game, we called life. But then again, he already have mustered enough strategy to beat his dad. I believe he is on his way in conquering life.

I will not be surprise if one of these days he will tell me that he finally defeated the computer in chess.

Lessons From A Kite

Last weekend, my daughter attended a workshop in our church on how to make and fly a kite. And yesterday, she and her brother flew the kite that she made in our backyard. Me? I learned to fly a kite not in a workshop, but in the streets of Manila. Technically, since our street was so narrow and with all the wires of Meralco hanging low, so I learned to fly a kite not in the street, but in our rooftop. Not only did I learn flying kites, but I learned from kite flying too.

1. A kite will only fly well if it is balanced. If anything in your kite is off centered, it will fly in circles or will not fly at all. If you don’t balance things in your life, you will go in circles or will go nowhere at all.

2. A kite will soar higher if it is flying against the wind. Adversity, which is a fact of life, can make us strong and can bring out the best in us. Challenges make us soar (not sore or sour!).

3. The only way to fly a kite is to hold on to the string and keep it taut. Releasing the string, or if the string breaks, will make the kite fall to the ground. Rules and laws, don’t weigh us down. They keep us in flight, and keep order in our flight.

Go out and fly a kite today!

Jack en Poy

I remember as a child we used ‘jack en poy’ to resolve many of our conflicts. To determine “kung sinong taya”. To decide who’s going first in the swing. To settle who’s going to get the last piece of the bukopie left. The winner gets all, and that’s the end of the story.

I employed ‘jack en poy’ long after my childhood. I remember when we were 4th year Medical students and when we were on call as medical clerks, if my partner and I were both very tired after long hours of duty, but there were still tasks to do, we would take our chances on settling it by ‘jack en poy’ . I end up doing the task most of time as I recall, I just don’t do well in ‘jack en poy’.

Funny, that up to this day I sometimes use this to resolve conflicts in my home. Me and my wife used to do ‘jack en poy’ to determine who will get up in the middle of the night to change our baby’s diapers. Now, I let my son and daughter do the ‘jack en poy’ (they call it “rock, paper, scissor” here) to decide who will go first in playing Wii, if they cannot settle it among themselves.

If only life conflicts can all be fixed by ‘jack en poy’. If only we can settle our differences with a flick of the hand, it will be much simpler, not to mention much less expensive. We will do away with the counseling, mediators, lawyers and courts. 

Perhaps I can try to challenge my neighbor to do ‘jack en poy’.


Fill in the blank: “Jack en poy, hale hale hoy; sinong matalo siyang _____”.

A. Kenkoy

B. Baboy

C. Unggoy

D. Bad boy

(Pirmahan ang inyong sagot, lakipan ng dalawang tansan, isama ang inyong suking tindahan, at ihulog sa………..basurahan.)