About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

12 December, 2011

Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree mission was a resounding success last Friday.

After work, I shot home, picked up my wife and we got Jude from day care. It was already cold and our favourite radio station is on 24-hour Christmas music so everything was ripe for our Christmas tree adventure. To top it off , we made a quick stop to Starbuck's for a couple of Peppermint Mochas.

With the exception of, I think, 1999 and 2003, I've always bought my tree from The Metropolitan Plant Exchange. It's close and they always have a good selection and there's always other neat holiday things on display uncluding poinsettias, inflatable yard displays, craved yard displays, an assortment of indoor and outdoor lights, you name it. When we pulled up, Jude said, "Oh my God" and screamed with elation when he saw the thirty foot tall inflatable Santa that stood at the shop's entrance. When he saw that he yelled, "A giant Santa Claus!"

On a budget, we went straight for the less expensive trees that would fit in our flat: 5-6 foot tall Douglas Firs. We examined the selection and found one that just right in terms of height and width. If you've ever gone to buy your own tree, you'll know that they slant when on the racks so you've got to lift it up and give it a spin to make sure it's nice all the way around. This one wasn't bad. Actually, it was good but my wife and I wanted to see if there was another one that might be a little fuller without overtaking our living room. That wasn't a good idea. As soon as I put down the tree we were examining and walked to another aisle with Guada, Jude started to cry. It wasn't a 'spoilt kid, give me what I want' cry. Rather, it was a 'Hey man, that tree is mine. I chose it so why are you putting it away?' You see, as soon as I'd picked it up, Jude was into it. He'd claimed the tree - he calls it his "My green. Like big one." - and anything else just wasn't going to be good enough. This, too, was his first time picking the tree; full of awareness of the season and what we were doing. His other Christmases here in New Jersey, he was less than one (2008) and he wasn't really aware of everythign yet (2009). 2010, we went to The Philippines and didn't do up a tree here.

Our tree

Just watching him, Guada and I melted. I picked him up and, with my other hand, held the top of the tree and spun it for him. I asked him if he liked it. He nodded, wiped his nose and was relieved that we were getting it. It's his, you see, and he chose it. It's special and, maybe, will be something he'll remember when he's older.

I ran into the store to check out some poinsettias when Guada and Jude had the tree tied onto the car. My wife told me that Jude was giddy watching the man from the store step onto the tires to lay the tree on top of the roof and tie it with his rope. Of the rope, Jude found a connection with the guy. At day care, they'd had a Wild West party and Jude was given a mini lasso as part of their festivities. Perefect! Oh yeah, and as we pulled out of the parking lot, Jude said goodbye to the giant Santa.

When we got home, wow! I ad to mount the tree in its stand, water it and then we put the lights and decorations on. If he was giddy with the tree being put on the car, he crazy loopy with the Winnie The Pooj decorations, his special Tow Mater ornament, the red Christmas ball,everything. The following morning, the first thing he said after waking was to put on the tree. Later that night, after 5:30pm anticipated mass, we attended the church's tree lighting. Again, Jude loved it but he was also defensive of his tree. He liked the one at church but said his is better.

Jude hanging an ornament

Guada and Jude with our tree

I've always loved Christmas but I'll admit as I've gotten older the season holds less of the carefree, childlike (not childish) joy it used to bring me. I guess that's normal as one gets older with other things to worry about than just what to get for whom and what ask for. However, through Jude, I'm enjoying Christmas with renewed childlike vigour and with an entirely different perspective - as a father who has traditions to pass on. This Christmas, starting with our tree, is going to be different. How, I am not entirely sure but I know it's going to stand out and mean a little more than some of the recent ones we've celebrated. What I do know is that it's all because of Jude.

09 December, 2011

Christmas Season

It's the holiday season. Everywhere I go, whether it's the supermarket or the mall or the gas station or the nearby Target, Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa (although there's less obvious representation of Kwanzaa than the other two) is in your face. And, I love it! This is my favourite time of the year. I'm one of those nerds who can get in a mood in the sweltering humid summer months, think about the cool late autumn and early winter days, their sights and sounds and pop Christmas music - whether a CD or through my iPod - into my car and sing along with them. Sure, the Christmas season does have its stressors - getting things decorated nicely, buying all the presents, enduring all those unresolved issues from childhood, trying to avoid the annual holiday weight gain - but, overall, it's the best time of the year. Everyone is nice to one another, they're polite, generous, you name it. I wouldn't want Christmas to be all year long becaue that would diminish its meaning and I'm not going to be corny and say everyone should have Christmas spirit all the time but this is really a special time of year.

This was further brought home to me when we took our son to The Radio City Christmas Spectacular a couple of weeks ago. He's three and a half so he's more aware and articulate than ever and he's really becoming his own person. When we walked into the Music Hall he looked up, amidst the crowd of people - we'd literally just stepped into the main lobby - and said, "This is amazing!" Granted, The Radio City Music Hall is an amazing place. With its grand stairway, which one can imagine has seen its share of entertainment legends walk down it, brings one back to The Golden Era. The Hall's fantastically high ceiling is another impressive and intimdating sight; the kind of ceiling you don't see anymore. And, of course, there are the brightly coloured Christmas decorations. I like to think, though, that it wasn't just the spectacle that is The Music Hall that awed my son. I like to think it's the amazingness (is that a word?) that is Christmas. I'll admit that we did play up the show and we've been talking about Christmas and showing him ornaments, movies and other Christmas-themed things but if Christmas weren't brilliant by itself already I doubt I would feel the way I do and I don't think Jude would respond the way he does.

As far as the show went, he loved it. The next morning I asked if he'd dreamt about Santa and the kings and camels and the baby Jesus from the Nativity part of the show. He nodded that he did and then he asked about the "superhero green ones," referring to a new addition to the program. Obviously, he remembered the show - his memory and recollection of things from day-to-day and even of things from, say, a year ago has really skyrocketed - which brought warmth to my heart because, in addition to A Chorus Line, The Christmas Spectacular is one of my favourite shows I've ever seen. During the show, when The Rockettes were kicking up their heels, he turned to me and said, "I love Santa." It was so cute and touching and a memory I will not soon forget. He was sitting on my my lap,with his lighted spinning Wooden Soldier flashlight toy in hand, pressed against my chest.

The other day, though, was something else. After the sun set and dusk had turned into night, we hopped into my wife's car and drove through our town and the neighbouring towns to enjoy the different Christmas lights and other decorations people have put up. My wife and I would point them out. At first, Jude was smiling. Before leaving our house, he'd looked out the window and excitedly pointed out our neighbours' brightly lit tree outside their house.His smiling turned into nodding. Then he said, "Mommy, Daddy. What are we doing?" I couldn't help from laughing because, generally, I am the same way. I have a hard time just hanging out or just driving around. I need to have a purpose; getting somewhere for something then back home. So, when Jude said that, while I was a little disappointed that he didn't get excited about the lights the way my wife and I do, inside I had to say "That's my boy." Eventually, Jude fell asleep on the drive.

Today, we plan on getting Jude early from day care and getting our Christmas tree. We've talked about it all week so hopefully he'll be into it, enjoying the background Christmas music, the smell of fir trees and stadning toe-to-toe with lawn Santas, Snowmen and manger sets. I'll let you know how it goes in a future post. For now, enjoy all of your holiday festivities and decorating. And, even though there's still two weeks to go, Merry Christmas everyone.

23 November, 2011

Encouraging, I Suppose

Every now and then, usually after I post a new entry in this blog, I check my stats to see how many hits I've been getting, where they're coming from and so on. It's what we - bloggers and writers - do. I suppose there's a certain amount of vanity to it but there's also a sense of wanting to know who gives a you-know-what about what I have to say because it can have a bearing on who's going to go out and buy my novel when it comes out (which should be sooner than later). There's a certain validation too when I see my stats growing - as humble as they are - and to see that I have readers from places I'd never even thought I would to have them.

I suppose with the internet I shouldn't be completely surprised. After all, one can simply do a keyword search and come up with millions of links relating to that keyword. In fairness, I'm sure many of the hits I've gotten must be incidental ones; someone checking out my websites and this blog to see if it's what he or she is looking for and leaving when they discover it's not. However, as happens to me when I do a search, others may have stumbled upon my sites, gotten intrigued by them and stayed. Perhaps they even check them semi-regularly or bookmarked them.

It's just fascinating to me - and I'm grateful for it - that I've had hits from all over the world. I personally know three people in Germany and I have regular hits from there. I even have hits from India, Russia, Malaysia, Poland and Hungary. I don't know anyone in these countries so the hits from these places are from people who just like what I write. I'm getting regular multiples visits from some of these countries, which means they're regular readers.

I write about all of this because it tickles me. It shouldn't. After all, getting my work read is what this is all about but it's a hoot that strangers in places I've never even been to - not even made a transit stop in an aeroplane - have read my work. And for that I say thank you. Tomorrow's Thanksgiving and, in addition to my family, friends and the cool things that have happened this year (like winning a State Championship, getting my sixth degree black belt, coming tenth a the US National Taekwondo Championships, my novel getting closer to being published, my wife's parents' 50th wedding anniversary), I'm thankful for my readership. It's small, to be certain, but I have one. And for a writer, any readership is better than no readership.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

22 November, 2011

Innocence Lost

I watch my son and he amazes me. I watch him play with his toys and see him make his superheroes fight and fly. I see him make his cars, bobble head Superman and my Chapstick have conversations about being best friends and having to fight the "bad guys." I watch him mimic my Taekwondo moves and his mother's dance moves and when we ask him if he wants to learn either, he simply says, "No. I want to fly." Then he proceeds to run, jump and land on one knee the way Robert Downey Iron Man does in the movies.

Recently, we were at The Disney Store in Manhattan where we picked up some Christmas presents, taking advantage of the sales and to have a family day out. I watched my son run around and look with desire at every Cars 2 toy and every Captain America doll and all the stuffed plush dolls of his favourite Disney characters - Mickey, Special Agent Oso, Buzz, Woody, Handy Manny, you name it.

Naturally, with lots going on and money being tight (when isn't it?), he ran around and looked at the toys with joy and wanted everything without concerning himself with how much things cost and what it means to wait, be patient and earn something. I wished then, as I always do, that I could get him whatever he wants whenever he wants it but I know that's not a possibility and that would, if I could do that, only spoil him. However, watching him was such a joy but it also broke my heart.

At his age - three and a half- of course he doesn't understand things about money and such. Of course that made me feel sad that I couldn't just get him everything. What really made me melt and broke my heart, though, was knowing that one day, when he's older, he will lose innocence and that the proverbial and not so proverbial, real life will catch up with him; that he will (have to) worry about money, patience, taking care of things and not just playing and laughing and having fun.

It's a shame that the purity and joy of the innocence we possessed as kids has to diminish, vanish even, as we get older. It disappears, too, not just with age but with experience and time. I look back at my Taekwondo life. As much as I love it still, and relish in the fact the I am not a novice anymore and can say that I am somewhat of an expert, there are times I miss when I didn't know so much and wasn't the teacher or highest ranking student in the class. I also miss the sights, sounds and smells of my early days living in America and the excitement and uncertainty that came with not knowing the place. Now, on some level, it all feels so 'old hat.' Just today, I was having a chat with one of my closest friends and we were talking about how long we've been doing what we do - teach - and how we're wiser and getting into the ranks of the older, longer serving staff members at our school.

I don't know about anyone else but, at 42, I feel that the last 26 years - the time I've lived in the United States - has flown by way too fast. At times it feels like I just landed at JFK and now I'm here, typing at my dining table in my Millburn rental. There are things I remember having done but I recall them happening at different times from when they actually happened. That's how fast and jumbled the years have snuck up on me. Sometimes I feel the time has been wasted. If not wasted, definitely lost. And with the lost time has come lost innocence and growing cynicism.

Thinking about my son and his joy at the Disney Store, I just hope and pray that we - my wife and I - can prepare him for the reality of what is to come and that, when he's 42, he can recall every moment of his life with a smile and that he never feels that his life has been wasted.

24 October, 2011

Author Pic Contest

Hi guys. Again, I've been away from blogging for too long. This time it's only been about three weeks but, really, if I'm going to call myself a writer I really do need to write. Life really gets in the way doesn't it? What I really long for is for writing to become my life. It is in my head and in my heart but there are things like bills, insurance payments, car payments, rent, etc that have to be paid so I have a teaching job and coaching jobs and other jobs to get those things covered and to sustain my writing needs.

But where's the writing? I'm supposed to be going through a final pass of my mansucript for my publisher but with everything going on, including raising my 3 year old and spening time with my wife, the time is gone from one day to the next. I'm starting to feel that I need to take a day off and shoot into NYC or somewhere that I can find a spot and write all day long.

As for the mention of a publisher, don't get too excited. As I may have mentioned in a previous blog, I've decided to self-publish. Maybe I'm selling out or maybe I'm just getting tired or impatient but after getting praise followed by the word "but" I don't have the energy to write a bunch of queries and wait and wait and wait. Actually, I'm still waiting to hear from an agent I pitched last January. She  asked for my entire manuscript. When I followed up with her, she said she hand't gotten to it yet but told me to be patient. Knowing my luck, as soon as I've finished payments and the production team and I have gone over all the proofs and my book is set to go to press, she'll probably email me with an offer from someone. Now, wouldn't that be something? I do believe in my work; not just because I've spent ten plus years working on it and because it's mine but because there is a story there that people will enjoy, relate to, get support from and even learn from. I also make myself feel better self-pubbing with the knowledge that Walt Whitman and other fantastic authors self-pubbed their first works too. So, if it was good enough for them to start out, it's good enough for me.

Well, since self-publishing is the equivalent of independent filmmaking in the book world, I've decided to give the world a say in the publishing of my novel. In my website, filamkickingscribe.com, I've posted a contest where you can help choose what photo I'll use for the author pic of my novel. You can win one, or even two, free copies of Back Kicks And Broken Promises. They'll be signed too! Click on this link to the Back Kicks And Broken Promises page of  my site and follow the instructions.

Read the excerpt too and get excited for my book's launch. ;-)

06 October, 2011

Balancing Act

So far, I'm managing but I feel that something inside is going to break. Then, something happens and things seem so easy and doable.

What am I talking about? Life, baby. Life.

Since the middle of August things have really taken off and by that mean it seems I don't stop moving and I'm jumping from one thing to another and back again. Yes, I do manage to have down for myself and for time with my wife and son but I always feel like I should be doing something - one of the things I'm working on.

What am I working on?

Well, I'm a teacher and there are lesson plans to write, classes to teach, assignments to grade, reports to write and meetings to attend. I'm also a volleyball coach and we're - the team and I - are deep into our season. So, there are practices to plan for and run, matches to coach, reports to file, local newspaper articles to write (at least I'm writing), college coaches to contact for my potential college-level student-athletes and meetings to attend. Then there's Taekwondo. I teach two nights a week and I may be competing in November so I've got my own training to do. I'm registered, too, for a 5 miler race in Central  Park on the last Saturday of this month. Have I been running to train? In my mind, yes. In reality, no. Haha.

Writing. There's that too. I'm trying to work on my next novel - Sage of Heaven. It's a YA, fantasy about a Chinese-American boy who's a descendant of The Monkey King. Have I written anything lately? Nothing concrete but a lot of thinking about my story; what The Gotham Writer's Workshop calls 'soft writing.' I'm also doing, yet again, revisions on Back Kicks And Broken Promises for my publisher. Yes, it's getting published but, I'll admit it, I've given in and am self-pubbing. I'm getting some praise for Back Kicks but no agents are biting so I'm self-publishing with Abbott, the print-on-demand division of Writer's Digest. Honestly, I'm tired (and maybe too lazy) to keep sending out queries and I just want to put Back Kicks to bed so I can fully focus on Sage.

Then there are my own workouts. I've lost more weight and am getting back to better health and fitness but I need to do more. At least I'm losing and not gaining.

And, then, of course there's home - the daily chores that have to get done and having family time.

I still haven't found a way to completely juggle everything and be efficient in how I juggle it all and in getting things done. I just plod along and hope for the best I guess. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Anyway, thanks for reading and letting me vent. At least, by venting through my blog, I'm writing. Haha!

Steve Jobs

RIP Steve. I never met you but I feel I knew you. As an avid Apple user since the early 1980s and an Apple junkie, not just because of the sexiness of the newer Apple products but because of their simplicity and efficiency, I will miss you and your innovation. You, literally, changed the world. How many people can say that? Your ingenuity touched us technologically, intellectually, socially, stylistically and emotionally. Thank you for all you did and gave us, the consumer, to make our lives simpler and more enjoyable. You were a man ages ahead of your time and an inspiration to many. From my first Apple II to my Apple IIe to the first suitcase-sized "laptop" IIc to my MacBook to my iPod to my iPhone and, soon, to my iPad, I will always be an Apple man. Thank you and God speed. RIP Steve.

Filipino-American Heritage Month

Well, it's October (has been for a week now) and that means, among other celebrations, it's Filipino-American Heritage Month. As a Fil-Am, I am proud to celebrate it and share our culture with others. One way I do that is to post a display outside my classroom at work. I've put up a Filipino flag, recipes and printouts on the history of The Philippines, its relationship and history with America, some contributions The Philippines has made to popular culture and other topics. I didn't post a display last year because we were in a contract negotiations impasse and our union said we, the teachers, were not to display anything on any of our bulletin boards.

It's funny, though, how my students have reacted to the bulletin board. With the exception of 2010, I've put one up every year. My eighth graders saw the last one I put in wen they were in sixth grade. Maybe I'm expecting too much but with globalisation and the growth of mixed-race students in our district - many of whom are Asian and, particularly, Filipino - I'm surprised to still get questions from students if I, as a Filipino, am Asian and why I'm not Hispanic. What's most interesting is that some of the students asking me are Asian-Americans too.

In the twenty-six years I've lived in the United States, I've grown to genuinely love the country and to call it home but I still feel that its very ethnocentric. Social studies classes do little to teach American history is it pertains to the world, especially to The Philippines. I'll be honest. That statement is emotionally based and I haven't looked at a Social Studies curriculum recently but from the ignorance I hear I have to think that I may be on to something.

How many generally educated Americans know that The Philippines was a US territory like Puerto Rico is? How many of them know that the largest rescue mission in American military history took place in The Philippines? The United States is a country born from immigrants. How many people know that Filipinos were the first Asians to come here, long before the Chinese of the Gold Rush era. They were on various Spanish galleons that ended up in California and on Napoleon's French armada that landed in Louisiana.

I love that October - it could've been any month - has been officially recognised as Filipino-American Heritage Month but more has to be done to recognise us.  I'm speaking for Filipinos, naturally, as a Filipino but every recognition has to be reinforced through media and education. September 15-October 15 is Latino-American Month, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, etc. If we're going to recognise these things, and other months recognising other worthy causes, we need to educate people on what and why we're celebrating.

11 September, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Beating Up Our Homes But Not Our Spirits

The hurricane that hit land a couple of weeks ago did a doozy on us but we got through it. Really, it didn't seem any worse than some of the Typhoons I'd experience growing up in Hong Kong - even those at signal 10 - but we did live in a high rise and weren't in any danger of flooding, for instance.

Here in Millburn, however, we were hit pretty badly. We didn't have power for five days, I had a wading pool in the basement and no hot water. I did but up as many supplies as I could during the days leading up to the storm and, luckily, Jude's day care was open and fully functioning and Guada and I had work. At least, for a few hours a day, we were able to enjoy some comforts that we'd taken for granted.

I must say that I feel we've grown from the experience and I feel all sorts of rugged from not having power and hot water and having to take cold showers (how sad is that, that I feel rugged because of this? Haha!) Naturally, I'm grateful that everything's back to normal and I'm thankful that no one here got hurt. I'm also grateful for good neighbours.

The woman next door is not just my neighbour. We've become friends over the last couple of years and she's been very kind to let us use her shower since she didn't lose hot water. Guada took advantage of it and even gave Jude a bath in our neighbour's tub. She also got a generator mid-week from our other neighbours across the street. The husband there is a landscaper and owns a landscaping supply shop in the town over from where we live. I guess it's through the store but he supplies generators for clients to rent. One of his clients must've not needed it after a few days and he brought the generator over and we were able to use it. Naturally, as fate would have it, our power came back on the following day.

The neighbour who supplied us with the generator is the same neighbor whose wife and kids cleared the snow off our driveway and sidewalks when were away in The Philippines last December. I am very grateful for them.

On an interesting note, after we got our power back and the basement was cleared of all the flooding, I reignited the water heater's pilot light and tried to get the hot water going. While the pilot would light, once I raised the thermostat any amount, the flame would engulf itself. I contacted my landlady about it and I bought a bucket and a kettle (which we'd needed anyway) so We could boil some water, mix it with the cold water from the tap and take Filipino-style tabo baths. The morning after I bought the bucket and kettle, for some strange reason, I relit the water heater pilot, adjusted the temperature and, voila, the fire stayed and hot water poured out of the the faucets.

With this kind of luck, Guada says I should buy a $600 snow-blower and snow boots so that the snow will NOT hit us this winter. Haha!

To everyone who got hit by Irene, I hope and pray that you didn't suffer too much damage, that you didn't lose much of your material possessions and, most of all, that all of your family and friends are okay. To those of you who got hit really badly and did lose a loved one, I offer my condolences and my prayers for material, financial, mental and emotional healing.

"All Muslims Should Be Killed"

It's been ten years since the devastating events of September 11, 2001 and I have to say the fears the attacks left us with are still here.

Before I continue, though, I would like to offer my prayers and thoughts to all of the families that suffered that day and to the people who lost friends and loved ones. For me, I was luckily spared. In the ten years that have passed, I haven't learnt of anyone I knew personally who died at The World Trade Centre or at the other attacks. The closest I came to losing someone was an ex-girlfriend who was schedule to have a meeting in one of the towers at 9 am that day. Her meeting got cancelled so she was home.

As I mentioned, though, the fears of those attacks still haunt us. A couple of weeks ago, as I was cleaning up in my bathroom, the house swayed and the shelf and the bottles on it swayed. It turned out that New Jersey was feeling the effects of a 5.9 earthquake from Virginia. After tweeting and exchanging Twitter messages with a couple of contacts, I jumped to the TV and turned on to CNN. In one of their reports, there was footage of a press conference. As soon as the shaking started, the journalists and camera crews, stampeded for the exits.

I couldn't help from feeling, as I watched the report, that the immediate rush out of the building was due to fear of the building they were in having just been hit with another aeroplane. In today's world, after 9/11, it's a legitimate concern. Nonetheless, as I watched, I was saddened to the point of pooling tears that the world has come to this and that people - the terrorists - would do the things they do. I'm not naive to terrorism. I recall the Iran hostage crisis of 1980 and the terrorist takeover of the Achille Lauro cruise ship quite well. I didn't get why people did that and I still don't. It makes me wonder and worry of the nature of mankind - or is it the conditioning of man? - that makes us say things like "Let's agree to disagree" yet if we can't see eye-to-eye we'll still gouge the other person's eyes out to, fearfully, make him or her agree.

To try and think positively about the world we live in, I think the events of 9/11 have made me more open-minded, forgiving and even tolerant; and I like to think I'm one of the more tolerant ones out there. Sometimes, I fear, however, that perhaps I've become more open-minded, forgiving and tolerant to a fault and as a way of compensating for those who aren't.

Two years after 9/11, there were bombings in the London Underground. Someone I know said, of the bombings, "All Muslims should be killed." This person and I were never friends in the true sense of the word but we were more than just colleagues, co-workers and acquaintances. I don't talk to this person anymore. Reacting and not responding, initially, I wanted to beat him to a pulp. I didn't. What he'd said was really stupid, ignorant and I have some very close friends who are Muslims so, for their sake, I simply wanted to kick this guy's you know what. I just walked away. Then, I wanted to come back and say, "Then, shouldn't all white guys be killed since it was a white guy who bombed the Federal Building in Texas in the late 1990s?" I didn't do that either. I did , however, walk away with the strong feeling that it is people who do things - good and bad - and NOT ideology. Ideologies are guides, in my opinion, that are meant o be interpreted for the greater good of ALL mankind. Any time an ideology is interpreted in such a way that there is destruction and death then that ideology has been misinterpreted.

People hurt people. Not religions, not races, not genders. People.

People can change, too, and make this world a better place to live in. That change, however, can't be forced. It has to come from within the person. I can't change you. You can't change me. We can influence each other's thought processes and belief systems but we can't change unless we make the conscious decision and effort to change.

As the great Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see."

Mr. Mom

It's been a long time since I last posted and I say that honestly, having let time slip by without even realising it. So, I'm back and I promise to be more diligent about keeping my posts ongoing and regular.

So, what's happened since 'Christmas in July?'

For one, I had my first experience playing single dad last month when my wife flew to The Philippines to attend her parents' Golden Anniversary celebrations. Jude and I would have gone too but it just wasn't financial feasible for all of us to make it. Regardless of our absence, from the stories Guada told and the pictures and videos she's shown us, they all had a great time and really cherished the meaning of fifty years together.

As for Jude and I, it was also a celebration of sorts. Naturally, we both missed Guada (and she missed us, too), but we she and I got to experience some quality alone time. She broke down in tears when we met her at JFK upon her return and she said the early days apart were the hardest but there was also an escape from the daily grind to catch up with who she is and to reconnect with Guada as an individual human being.

Jude and I, I suppose, did the same thing and we had some serious father-son bonding moments. A day at the pool at the gym, an afternoon of football (soccer) in the park, seeing The Smurfs movie together, watching the pilot movie of the old Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (which Jude loves and still asks to watch now and again...thank God for DVR!) and just simply getting an appreciation for each other.

Funnily - and I'm not saying I'm a candidate for Parent of the Year or an advocate for single parenthood - but with Guada away, Jude and I were able to establish a schedule that worked like a Swiss timepiece. Naturally, it's easier to have someone else around - my wife - to share the load and hand Jude off to when I need 'my' time. However, with just the two of us, we managed a routine that was easy to follow, saw lots of laughs, was very productive and oozed with quality and closeness like I've never known before.

In fairness, we were without Guada for only ten days but it was a good test and experience and, to be completely honest, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Would I hope she travels more often and for longer durations? No. I'd miss her, Jude would miss her and that isn't any way, in my opinion, to be a family. People, though, do need their own time and to have their own way of doing things and to be reminded and even remind others that, no matter what our state in life is and the kinds of relationships we are involved in (husband-wife, parent-child, etc), we are all still individuals and it is a specific combination of individuals that makes a given collective.

22 July, 2011

Christmas in July

What is it about the summer months that makes me think of and long for the cooler days of autumn and winter (I said cooler and not cold)? Sure, it's hot and humid in June, July and August but I think my feelings for the cooler months has to do with more than wanting relief from the scorching temperatures like our current heat wave.

Every year, around this time, I get a yearning for putting on sweatshirts, smelling freshly fallen leaves (although I don't look forward to raking them into lawn bags and blowing out from under the back stairs of my home and from between bushes that line the driveway) and hearing the sounds of jingle bells and holiday songs. Is it because there's a certain monotony to the summer? Is it because I just love the holiday season? I really can't tell you. I've been like this since I was a kid.

I suspect that, while I'm not unhappy in the summer, I've had some of my happiest times during the cooler months - "Legendary Weekends" with Ian, being fit and training for The Disney World Marathon, taking writing classes in NYC and watching the days get shorter and the night get cooler, making fires from kindling picked from fallen branches in my yard, watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and getting revved up for Christmas - and perhaps my yearning for the holiday time of year has to do with holding on to the past and trying to relive some former joy or some long forgotten glory. I don't know.

I bring this up in my blog because I wonder if anyone else gets a feeling for the fall, winter and the holidays during the summer like this. If you do,write a comment or go to website (filamkickingscribe.com) and shoot me a message.

I hope everyone's getting through our heat wave. Getting into my car after watching "Friends With Benefits" with my wife, my car's thermostat read 103 degrees Fahrenheit/37 degrees Celsius. My wife called the heat "oppressive," which is the best way to describe it. Anyway, while it may be 103 outside, I hope the talk of fall and winter has provided some kind of psychological relief.

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to hearing from you.

16 July, 2011


My son started going without diapers this week.

And I'll admit that that the first time he peed and pooed in our toilet made my eyes well up with tears. He did both sitting down, which I'm told is normal for peeing and something he will eventually outgrow, but it was so cool and touching to see my little boy growing up.  For those of you who are parents and have gone through this or are going through this, you'll get it when I say that hearing his poo plop into the bowl elicited warm feelings of pride and even triumph. And, when he got off the toilet, to see a solid poo at the bottom of the bowl made me feel "WOW!"

This may be too much information for some of you but, like I said, those of who you've gone through this or are going through this with your own kids you'll relate. Funnier still, everyone we ran into on the first day of underwear use, my son would tell everyone, "I have underwear" and proceed to stick his rear end out. With one of my wife's clients, who ran across us at the local - and our favourite - Italian restaurant and pizzeria -  he went so far as to pull his shorts down to reveal the cutest "The Incredibles" briefs.

I can't recall when I went through all of this potty training. I don't know if I should be able to. Was I too young? Will Jude remember all of this? Actually, I hope he does and he takes those fun memories of learning and accomplishing, the sense of pride and the laughs we shared as I tries to clean himself with him as he remembers his parents, after we're long gone, and when he is in this stage with his own children.

Parenting sure has its challenges but it also has its great rewards. When I became a parent and held my son in one hand, yes, I made promises to him and I envisioned his achievements and his successes and the pride I'd feel for him. I just imagined those things to be in academia and/or in entertainment and/or in the arts and/or in sports and the list could go on. I never considered I'd feel those things with the everyday and mundane things of his life.

Maybe that's what being a parent is. Maybe that's what unconditional love is. I don't know. I just know I'm proud. God! What am I going to do when ties his own shoes or combs his own hair?

08 July, 2011

US Taekwondo National Championships

Hi everyone. It's been a week or so since I last posted anything. I'm working on my reflections on my Taekwondo year so far about how I've gotten back into it heavily and how so many things have happened and how they happened. When it's done, I may try to sell it to, say, Taekwondo Times Magazine or I may just post it here. While I'm working on it, though, I thought I'd share this link for you. It's a brief report, in the online edition of The News-Record of South Orange and Maplewood on how I did at the national championships.


Enjoy and 'see' you soon.


27 June, 2011

Support Crew

We - my wife, son and I - leave for San Jose in two days for the US Taekwondo National Championships. I willbe competing in the 1st Male Masters Division, for black belt men aged between 41-50. I don't know how good a chance I have of advancing to the next round or even placing for a medal on the winners' podium but I do feel better prepared this time around than I did at the US Team Trials in May.

For one thing, I've seen the process and felt the environment. One time on this advanced level doesn't make me a pro or anything close but I do feel that I understand the set up better and I know what to expect. I also have a better idea of what the judges are looking for. That, along with the training I got at the recent poomsae (forms) seminar I attended, have allowed me to train and prepare better. I feel that my forms are more current and I know better how each element should look in sport poomsae. I've also gotten into better shape. I've lost a few pounds but,  while I still want to lose a load more and get into my pre-married shape, more that that my body seems to have undergone a shape shift of some kind. I look and feel leaner, clothes and my dobok (uniforms) fit better and my flexibility has improved.

That's my physical training. In addition to that, there is my team and, first and foremost, are my wife and son. My wife watched the entire poomsae seminar from outside and took pictures and filmed videos of the instructor. As a result of that, she's been my eyes and, essentially, my coach. She's very kind and flattering, too. She's been saying that my forms now "look like those of the Olympians." There isn't Olympic Forms competition (yet) but I know what she means. I don't know if she truly believes what she's saying but is's nice to hear. She's, also, been trying to get me to get all negative thoughts out of my mind. As an athlete and martial artist, I know that to rid myself of doubt is crucial. And, for the most part, I've done so. It's just that I have a more realistic approach. My chances, while legitimate, are slim that I would make any kind of noise at The National Championship. Whatever the outcome of the tournament, she's been a great source of encouragement and she has a  gifted technical eye (coming from years of professional ballet and analysing technique and performance).

My son is the other part of the 'first and foremost' part of my team. He's gotten to a point of his development where he understands what Taekwondo is (something special that his dad and mum do) so his awareness has driven me to do my best for him to see, learn from and, even, emulate.

The other crucial parts of my team are my Taekwondo students. They've also been very encouraging. I teach  them, as it is, so I might as well perform for them too. Naturally, there are various friends in different circles who have asked about my preparation, wished me luck and said I'm going to do well.

Lastly, there are the masters and other athletes I've met through the training sessions I participated in with the New Jersey USA Taekwondo team, especially GrandmasterYoo, Master Kwon and the kids I've helped train for their poomsae contests.

I thank  all of my support crew. Without each and everyone of them, my foray back into fulltime Taekwondo teaching and training wouldn't have been a successful one. Regardless of the outcomes next Saturday, I'll be able to say I competed at Nationals. It's going to be a fun and exciting experience. Hopefully, I can turn all of that fun and excitement into gold.

17 June, 2011

Promotion to Sixth Dan

Hi. How time flies. It's been a while since I posted anything - although it feels like I just posted the blog about my son - and I will post something new soon. I promise. In the meantime, here's a link to my latest Taekwondo adventure. I'll write more about it soon, as well as things like the coming summer holiday season, the end of the school year, etc, but for now enjoy this piece.


03 June, 2011

The Next Generation

There are many things in life that I want and hope for. To get my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, published is one of them. To get back into shape and live a healthier and fitter life is another one. For Arsenal to win the Premier League and, even, the Champions' League is up on my list, too. But, really high up there is for my son to show some interest in martial arts. Maybe he'll never get as into it as I am. Maybe he'll never get his yellow belt, let alone a black one. If he tries martial arts though - the syle doesn't matter even though I am a longtime and committed Taekwondoist - that'll be good enough.

Well, things looked up in that regard the other night. Two nights ago, as a matter of fact. And it touched me so deeply that, literally, I almost lost it like a babbling infant. However, in warrior and true Bas fashion, I kept my emotions in check. Here's what happened:

As you may know, if you've been following my blog, I've been teaching Taekwondo again since January. I also competed in and won my poomsae (forms) division at the NJ State Taekwondo Championships and I competed in the 2011 USA Poomsae Team Trials. I'm also slated to participate in an all day (8am-8pm) Poomsae Seminar and test for my 6th dan, right after the seminar, next weekend. Lastly, for this year anyway, I'm going to compete at the US National Championships in July. After all of this, it'll be back to a quiet Taekwondo life of teaching and training without any of the big events.

Well, after winning States and qualifying for Team Trials and Nationals, my wife and I talked and we decided I had to pursue them. "Once in a lifetime opportunities" we said. I also decided that I would aggressively participate in these events for our son. Yes, I want my 6th dan and I'd love to have made the US Team that's going to Russia in July for The World Poomsae Championships and I'd love to be able to say I'm a national champion. I'm not going to lie and pretend none of that matters to me. However, what's really pushing me on is Jude. I want him to be exposed to all of this and to know about the culure of martial arts. Martial arts, after all, are what made - and continues to make - me who I am today. It would also be good for him to see his dad working hard and striving to achieve something; examples he can take with him in whatever he does. It'll also be cool for him to say that his dad competed at such a high level and, God willing, if I do well or win, be able to say something like, "My dad is a national champion." Haha.

So, throughout all of this, Jude has seen me teach and train. He's also seen his mother train, get her yellow belt and compete and win. Naturally, running a dojang (training hall), I've had to order equipment and uniforms. I should say, also, that last Halloween we got Jude his own dobok (uniform) that he could wear for trick or treating but with the hope that one day he will actually wear it for class. Well, the uniform was too big (it still is) so he ended up being Buzz Lightyear instead. And that was okay because he LOVES Toy Story and Buzz.

Jude in his joombi position

Okay, so here's the main event. Last Wednesday, one of my orders arrived with a uniform in it. I tried it on and took it off. Jude said, "Too big, daddy?" I told him it was fine and fit right. He then said he wanted his "Small Taekwondo." Guada and I melted. We brought him upstairs, Guada bathed him and we suited him up, belt and all. Then, we went back downstairs and he did some kicks and punches on a sheet of kicking film (before they actually made kicking film we just used to hit old x-rays). Some months ago, I'd already taught him charyut (attention), kungyet (bow) and joombi (ready). He did all of this on his own, in between kicks and punches, and at the end we shook hands just as if we were in a dojang and class was ending.

Seeing him kick and punch, bow and stand ready, I couldn't help from feel my heart melting. Every father wants his son or daughter to like the things he likes and pursue them. I think it's safe to say that. I'm not any different. However, it was extra rewarding because, like I said, I've gotten back into fulltime Taekwondo aggressively for him and to see him respond to it like this makes everything worth it. I hope he continues to show interest and age three is a good age to start. I just have to be careful to let him do it as he wants to and not push it and to allow him to do other things.

Jude at attention

If he never gets his black belt, that's okay and perhaps martial arts isn't his thing. Seeing him the other night, though, and with the continued exposure he's going to get, I beg (and hope) to differ. We could be seeing the beginning of a Bas Taekwondo dynasty. Haha.

22 May, 2011

US Poomsae Team Trials, Part 3

Well, it's over and it didn't turn out how I thought or hoped it would. As I've said in previous posts, naturallly, I'd hoped I would win and be on the way to Russia for The World Championships in July. Really, though, I knew that wasn't likely going to happen. This was team trials after all and all of the competition is tough.

It was great to watch and see all of the current US team members perform. The current A Team guy in division went before me and I was second. He was so much better to watch in person than in a YouTube video but, in my humble opinion, I think the guy who came in third (there are two thirds so I mean the guy who came in first third and not second third) should've won the whole thing. He, I think, is already on the US B Team. Anyway, it was a fantastic learning experience and something I'll never forget being a part of. Who knows? I could be back next year. In the meantime, there is the World Master/Instructor Training Course and Special Black Belt Promotion coming up in June, given by the Kukkiwon and USA Taekwondo, and US Nationals in July.

I'm going to have a lot to work to do for Nationals if I'm going to do better than I did today. Like I said in my previous post, I've been struggling with Pyong Won but I didn't think as much as the judges thought. I had a lot more power and nicer kicks than four or five of the other contestants but they scored higher than I did. I had all of the proper elements at the proper times in the form but I guess I wasn't precise in anything (foot placement, elbow placement, hand placement, etc) because I got 0.43 for my Accuracy score. 0.43! I guess with top level competition a codification of the forms had to be done but they've become so mechanical that the art side of martial arts is being neglected. Yes, this is sport poomsae and it's called that. Yes, I do tend to do all of my forms with a non-sport precision but I've been woorking on the sport stuff and have a lot more work to do but 0.43! Like I said, I had all of the proper elements at the proper places. I guess my hand may have been at eyebrow height when it should've been at eyelid height and my low knifehand block was too high above my knee. I don't know. Yes, I'll admit it, there's a little bit of sour grapes here but 0.43! I expected to lose and not do well and it's not my ego that's brusied. It's my pride.  Well, like I said, I've got a lot to do for Nationals.

For everyone - my wife and son, my friends, my colleagues, my students at school and my students in the dojang - who has supported me in this endeavour I thank you. I apologise for not doing you honour by performing better. I will seek to do better in July.

21 May, 2011

USA Poomsae Team Trials, part 2

Well, it's really happening. Well, not yet but the drive to the tryout is here.

I say "not yet" because today was spent at Niagara Falls, including a nervewracking misturn into Canada and the mental stress that came with not having out passports, not having my wife's Green Card and not having a copy our son's birth certificate. All of the immigration and customs people, both Canadian and American, were all very kind and helpful. I guess, from now on, whenever we travel we'll take all of our pertinent travel documents. In hindsight, my wife mentioned to bring them before we left New Jersey but I didn't grab them. I wish I had because then we could've had a fantastic Chinese lunch in Toronto cooked by all those fabulous chefs I'd tasted in Hong Kong growing up but who have migrated to Canada.

Anyway, back to the team trials. Our drive up Friday was loooooong. Estimated by Mapquest as a 6 hour and 37 minute trip, it ended up to be a 7 hours what with a lunch stop, a gas stop and bathroom stops. Instead of going to the hotel first, we went to the convention centre since I had to attend a meeting at 6pm for all team trials contestants. It turned out to be a short meeting going over the rules and procedures. Honestly, I was a little surprised - considering how organised everything else has been - that the meeting seemed not to have a clear agenda. Furthermore, some of the existing team members seemed to take over the meeting and, with no disrespect intended towards them, it felt very unwelcoming for newbies like me. The head ref who was at the meeting even said something like "You've all been here before so you know the rules." Well, not all of us have been here before. Instantly, I felt that my honest and fair chances to making the team flew out the window. I mean, I probably don't stand a chance anyway but I'd like to, at least, feel like I'm not in the middle of an 'old boys' club.

I did learn, though, that because of the number of contestants in my division - twelve - we will be starting in the semifinal round. Good: I can say I got to the semis at team trials. Haha. Bad: this means we start with the Pyong Won form. I've loved this form since I first learnt it in 1993 but I've been struggling with it. My last two practices - today included -  went well with my Pyong Won so things might be looking up. I did, though, want to start in the preliminary round to do Keumkang. Of late, my Keumkang has been feeling pretty good. I think I'd have qualified to the semis and it would have been a good way to help focus, loosen up and really get into the mindsight of the event.  Either way, it'll all play out tomorrow. Naturally, I'd love to win and get to compete at the World Championships but, being this is my first time going through all of this, I'll be (a) happpy with competing well,  (b) satisfied with getting into the final round and (c) overjoyed placing no worse than fourth if I don't win. Haha. Well, like I said, it'll all play out tomorrow. Good luck to everyone and good health too.

As for today, other than our exciting non-entry into Canada, we went to Niagara Fallls State Park and saw the "big water" as my son called it. We looked at it from the park, we went to the upper observation deck, we went to the lower deck and we climbed the stairs along the edge of the rock face that water falls on. In a word Niagara Falls is awesome. I've never felt more intimidated, small and humble in my life. (Well, other than the 1995 mass at the Meadowlands given by the late Pope John Paul II. We were in a long drought. When he prayed for relief during the General Intercessions, instantly, the clouds opened and we were hit with a deluge. Talk about humbling. Talk about faith.)

Jude loved The Falls too. He couldn't get enough and loved the sprary of mist hitting his face. When he's older, we'll come back and ride the boat. And, perhaps, take a trip to Canada for real for that Chinese meal.  This was my first time at The Falls, too. My wife had been there on the Canadian side when she was tourirng with the Philippine Ballet Theatre. So, not only did this really feel like a mini vacation, it was extra special because my wife was taking me somewhere in America that I hadn't visited and she had. This was fun.

Well, we're all pooped. We just ordered room service, which is a nice way to end the day. We're relaxing in our room, watching some fun movies and going to have a nice meal before tomorrow's excitement. Oh, and this is also Jude's first time staying in a hotel so this trip is full of firsts and fun.

As for the world coming to an end today, I think we missed the boat there. Although, Buffalo is a bit of a ghost town. Is it always like this? Is it always like this this time of the year? But, Buffalo, its quaintness and quiet is a topic for a future blog.

Enjoy your night everyone. Good rest and good luck to all team trials contestants.

19 May, 2011

USA Poomsae Team Trials, part I

The team trials for the USA Poomsaea (forms) team is this coming weekend and I'm competing in my division - 1st Male Masters, for black belts aged 41-50. A little unnervingly, I've been feeling very relaxed about the whole thing the last few weeks. Maybe it's because it's, basically, here. Who knows? I might be a mess the day of the event and not get any sleep the night before. To make things more interesting, I haven't trained as much the last two weeks either. First, there was my hamstring pull when I last trained with Master Levy. Then, time and other things (work, my wife's work, not being to to get or afford to get a babysitter at particular time) got in the way.

I don't know. Maybe I've really manage to harness a "who care, whatever happens happens" mentality that's going to serve me well. Or, I reallly feel like I don't have a shot of winning and making the US team that I've just decided to say "Oh well" and throw my hands up in the there. I'll admit that some of that has come to the fore. Training's been difficult. Discounting my hamstring pull, I've been learning and practising the forms I might have to do one way with Master Levy, another way with some of the masters at New Jersey-USA Taekwondo and, yet again with slight differencs, from the textbook and DVD that's come ouf of the World Taekwondo Federation and Kukkiwon. Add to all of this - and maybe it's a case of paralysis by analysis - my sidekick has gone the way of Elvis and left the building. I've never had a good forms sidekick but, now, it's seemed tohave vanished altogether. Plus, I've been thinking a lot more about my novel and the agents who have it, or parts of it, and haven't gotten back to me yet. Through all of this, however, I've managed to compartmentalise everything and maintaina very relaxed demeanour about the team trials.

That is, until last Tuesday at around 4pm. I'd come out of a doctor's appointment when I the alert that an email had come in on my iPhone. I checked the email and it was from USA Taekwondo. It was about team trials and had attachments and information about getting my credentials, the schedule of the events and it provided a list of the forms we are going to be asked to do on Sunday. If I get all the way to the final, I'm going to have to do Keumkang in the preliminary round, Pyong Won in the semifinal and Shipjin and Chonkwon in the final. I love Chonkwon and, having had to learn it (and Shipjin and Jitae) from scratch over the last couple of months I think I do it pretty well. Pyong Won, though, has a bunch of sidekicks and Shipjin has that difficult slow part where the block opens and is followed by a spearhand attack.Keumkang is the only one of those four I feel confident in. So, my calm demeanour has gone out the window along with my sidekick.

Well, on the flip side, having received the email and all of its attachments with all of their info has revved me up and made this entire thing - this Taekwondo resurgence I'm having - feel very real. If this stars are aligned properly, who knows? I could end up in Russia at the World Championships at the end of July.

I'll keep you all posted.

03 May, 2011

It's Official...Wannabe, Also Ran or Has Been?

Two weeks ago, while I was off from work and on spring break, I received an email from USA Taekwondo. USA Taekwondo (USAT) is the national governing body of sport Taekwondo in this country. It's also the official US representative of the Kukkiwon and the World Taekwondo Federation, both in South Korea.

The email I received formally and officially - and whatever else you want to say - invited me to the US Senior National Championships in San Jose, CA this July. I already knew I'd qualified when I won my division at the NJ State Championships in March and being that a couple of months had gone by I wasn't expecting to receive any kind of formal notice. Furthermore, I had to ask the NJ State Association president to contact USAT to inform them I had won my division at States so I can compete in the US Forms Team Trials later this month. As a State Champion I've qualified for that as well and while I don't count my chances of making the team as being very high I do want to experience the trials and everything else I can for me and my family, especially my son.

So, when I opened the email and read it, I couldn't help from feeling "Hey cool. This is really cool" and "Wow! This is for real." It reminded me of movies like "Running" with Michael Douglass and "Best of the Best" when Master Phillip Rhee's character open his invitation letter and reads it, fist pumping with excitement.

Because of all of this, however, I've been wondering what am I. Let me say, first, that I know it doesn't matter. And it doesn't. Whatever happens, I'm still me and a martial artist. Whether I win or lose, perform well or make a fool of myself, I'll be be me and a fourth degree. But, still, I've been wondering. When it's all over, will I be a wannabe? Will I be an also ran? A has been? Or something else? Haha.  I guess I'm really wondering, what are the common definitions of these phrases. I have an idea but I'm wondering what everyone else thinks.

Regardless of what the commonly accepted definitions are, I got an official invitation from a national governing sports body and that's pretty damn cool.

Karma...or something like it

I've been super busy and with that has come a lot of stress. With the stress has come a lot of inwardly lousy days. In fact, I've used 'shitty' and 'crappy' to describe how things have been lately. And, I'm not boohooing because we all have periods like this. But, when we do, sometimes it's good to vent and sometimes little things happen that remind you that there is such a thing as karma; a reminder that when there's an uphill there's a downhill on the other side.

While the training itself has been going well, I've been stressing about all of my Taekwondo developments. The classes are going well but I wish we could get more students. My preparations from US Team Trials and Nationals are going well but they could be going better and there is also some large financial expenses that's going to come with them. Honestly, I don't know if I can pursue because of the costs.

And then there's my son. He and I were at the store today to buy a gift for a friend from day care. It's the friend's birthday party this coming weekend and Jude and I went to the store to get him something. Jude understood that we were going to get something for the friend and not him but when we got him Jude asked about the gift. When I put it away and reminded him that it's for his friend, he said it too but I could see there was a certain amount of confusion and sadness on his face. It broke my heart. I don't want my son to be a spoilt kid but, at the same time, I wish I could get him everything he needs and wants. To make it more heart-wrenching, the gift is a Thomas The Train Engine thing - Jude's favourite.

Add into the mix that a friend from work brought to my attention that someone was selling online wooden Thomas train set pieces for US$50. Jude has a started set, made also from wood, and I wanted to get that $50 set for him so he can build bigger train tracks and have more engines to play on it. Getting closer to the summer, I hesitated in buying the set because of money concerns. So, to see the look on my son's face, what I felt was more painful than any sidekick I've ever taken in my almost twenty-six years as a martial artist. It was even more painful than the one time I was knocked out in competition.

Well, here's the positive part. Shortly, after putting the gift and the other groceries away, I stepped outside to collect the mail. A neighbour came walking up carrying a large zip lock bag. She offered me the bag, saying that she was gathering things for a 'slightly used sale the local middle school is going to have and before she gave the stuff in the bag to the school she decided to see if Jude wanted them. You see, her son used to love them and seeing how much her own son enjoyed them she took a chance to see if Jude would. What was in the bag? Thomas The Train Engine pieces!  There weren't any track pieces for Jude to add to his own set but there were other engines, a crane piece with a magnet and some wooden trees and other decorative bits to put around the track.

This entire post might corny and, as a story, predictable but it's all true. And, while I'm still feeling tired and going through a down and overwhelmed period, my spirits were lifted having been reminded that good things do happen. It's just that sometimes they don't happen on our time but they do happen.

Well, thanks for listening everyone. I hope you have your own karmic positives and that you have lots and lots of them.

23 April, 2011


Yes, the title of this post refers to ex loves. Well, in this case, one particular ex and an experience I had with her recently. For those of you reading, who like scandal and all sorts of sordid intrigue, I'm sorry that this post isn't a confession of an illicit reunion with her that ended up sweating between sheets. Haha. It's much more G rated than that and an episode in how people can really move on and how a common bond, like Taekwondo, can bring people together.

I ran into this ex last week at the NJ USA Taekwondo Team practice. It's funny. I hadn't thought about her in a long time until about a month ago when I visited a former Taekwondo instructor of ours. When I was waiting for his class to end so we could have a chat, there was another woman in the waiting area. She turned out to be the mother of one of the teenage boys in class. I didn't recognize her, she didn't recognize me and I didn't recognize her son but he recognized me. It had been years, about nine, since I last saw him and he's no longer the cute curly haired kid of 7 or 8. Now, he's a handsome sturdy young man of 17. Well, as he and I talked and caught up, the mother joined us and we caught up and she was the one who mentioned my ex.

My ex and I didn't end on the best of terms (How many break ups do, right? Although, perhaps it's material for another post, but I have had the mutual break up without any residual guilt or longing with another ex.) so when I found out that she was still training a certain amount of anxiety crept in in how things might go if we did run into each other on the Taekwondo circuit. Well, States came and went and there was no contact. I went to the first NJ Team practice and there was no contact. I skipped the second practice but went to the third and there she was. I saw her before she saw me. It wasn't until I stepped out onto the training floor to stretch did our eyes meet. She tilted her head and smiled. I stopped stretching and walked over.

Here's the best part. We said hello and just started talking. There wasn't any awkward "Should we hug, kiss on the cheek, shake hands?" moment. We just asked how we were, caught up and started talking about our involvement with the NJ Taekwondo Team. I told her I was there as a competitor. She was there because her daughter, an adorable 8 year old black belt, was there because she's going to be competing at the Junior Nationals.

Midway through practice, and we'd already planned this, my wife and son arrived. They took pictures and I wanted my son to see what his dad is doing as he prepares for US Team Trials and Nationals. I introduced them to my ex and it was cool. Later, my ex and I talked about the training and some of our experiences with the other black belts in the room at various trainings and workshops. I even felt a little sense that we really had moved on because her daughter had expressed to her that she couldn't understand what some of the Korean masters were saying because of their accents and some of them don't have super strong English skills yet. Well, she said she'd told her daughter to go up to Master Bas since I speak English. My ex and I were talking like old friends. I don't think she felt any akwardness and I know I didn't.

At the end of the practice, there was no fanfare or big goodbye or grand "See you next time." She left with her daughter and I left with my family. And that was that. Chalk this up for what you will - two people, older and more mature, or the common ground of Taekwondo bringing us together in a better and different way, the power of children, I don't know. But, it was a really great experience. We were just two old friends catching up and getting along.

What about you? Do you have any positive running into your ex experiences? It can happen. It does happen.

14 April, 2011


I had a funny and cute, even heartwarming, experience this morning.

Before I tell you about it, I have to give you a little rundown of my daily morning routine. Here goes. I'm the first one to wake up in the morning, usually around 5am. Sometimes I'll get up earlier, around 3:30am or 4:00am, if I won't have time later in the day to write or if I'm particularly eager to get back to work on a project I put down the night before because I do have to sleep sometime.

So, I get up at 5ish and walk the dog, Bauer. After that, I make the coffee, pack Jude's lunch and make his breakfast. Most days, I make him a waffle. Guada and I usually have oatmeal and Jude eats some of that, too. He's a growing boy, after all, turning three in twelve days.

The other thing I have to preface this blog with is that Jude and Bauer have really become friends. The sit with each other on the sofa, Jude pets and hugs the dog and he feeds him his biscuits when we come back from our walks.

Well, today, as Guada and I were upstairs getting dressed for work Jude was downstairs watching his usual morning TV - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Hand Manny, Jake and The Neverland Pirates - and eating oatmeal. As I came down the stairs, making the turn into the living room, Bauer was in his bed, curled up and content. Jude was standing at the coffee table with his spoon in hand looking at me wistfully. Before I could say anything, he blurted out, "Bauer ate my waffle!" I turned from him to his plate and found that it was empty and repeated what he'd said. Jude said, "Yeah, Bauer ate my waffle." From there, I repirmanded the dog, asked Jude if he wanted me to make him a new one (he did and did) and proceeded to make my own breakfast.

It was a naughty thing the dog did and, honestly, from recent behaviour, quite uncharacteristic. It was, however, an overall cute experience. We only have one child but we've joked that Bauer is our first born and Jude's big brother. Seeing Jude, wistful and annoyed at Bauer, I could only imagine what it'll be like if or when we have another child and they do the things that siblings to do to one another and rat each other out to me or their mother.

Best of all, on a Thursday (my longest and busiest day of the week), I couldn't ask for a better start to the day. I love my family.

12 April, 2011

Networking and Reminiscing and Traditions

If you've been following this blog, you know I'm a Tae Kwon Do master, that I'm back to teaching Tae Kwon Do and that I recently won the NJ State Forms Competition in the 1st Masters Division. I bring this up because, after almost twenty-six years involved in the martial arts, I feel like I'm becoming a real contributing member of the Tae Kwon Do community.

You see, in my younger days when I was competing and teaching with my own school, it was all about getting ahead and making a name for myself. It wasn't ALL about me - I was truly spreading the joy and benefits I've received through Tae Kwon Do practice - but I had a younger man's mind with a younger man's goals and dreams. Thing is, while I'd competed against and narrowly lost to some big names (David Martin of Eagle Tae Kwon Do in Hunterdon and Billy Petrone from Connecticut, who was a member of the US National Team, each by one point and against Billy it was in suddent death overtime), I never got known and I never shook hands with the brass, so to speak.

Well, since starting teaching classes this year and winning States, suddenly I'm making connections with big wigs and laughing and talking about going out for drinks on a Friday night after training. At the risk of name dropping, while preparing for States and after winning it, I've become cordial and friendly with Master Sungkeun Yoo. Who's Master Yoo? He's the current president of the NJ State Tae Kwon Do Association. We've corresponded via email on official matters, for sur, but at the first NJ Team practice we stretched side-by-side and talked about, of all things, women and Filipino food. We're even Facebook friends and we don't just talk Tae Kwon Do.

More recently, Master Mark Williams, who's a legend in American Tae Kwon Do, stopped by the Bodies In Motion studion and dropped off information on the tournament he's hostsing in May. Yesterday, as I was changing out of my dobok and back into my civvies, he stopped by again. For those of you who don't know Master Williams, the equivalent of his stopping would be, if you were a writer say, if Stephen King walked into your workspace and wanted to shoot the breeze and welcome you to the writing community. Or, if you're a dancer, it would be like Nureyev coming into your studio and saying hi. What was more humbling is that, remember, there's a rank system in Tae Kwon Do and Master Williams is two dans my senior. For him to come to me is like, as the saying goes, the mountain coming to Mohammed.

Aside from chance encounters at the local Pathmark Supermarket, I've only met Master Williams on the tournament circuit. At one event, we were in the ring together, ready for a sparring match, but the senior masters told him to go to his own weight division. I was glad because I wonder - doubt - if I'd have won if he had been my opponent. I ended up getting to the heavyweight final and placing second.

During his visit, he welcomed me in true martial arts spirit to the community as a martial arts master. He offered his assistance, too. This was so brilliant to me because many masters I know wouldn't have done that. Instead, they'd have been less than friendly and argue that I was fishing in their stream. I hate to say this but, from a business perspective of running your own school, I have known some masters to act this way. However, in my opinion, this is the wrong way to look at things. After all, we're all martial artists, Tae Kwon Doists and masters. It's all about sharing our art and acting appropriately. From a business standpoint, Master Williams put it nicely when recounting an incident he'd had with another school owner who'd been at his location for many years - "If they (the students) haven't come to you by now, they're not going to."

Anyway, I digress. Master Williams' visit was especially heartwarming because he and I come from the same tree. His master, the late Master Ki Chung Kim, was one of the pioneers of Tae Kwon Do in America. He was an "old school" master who studied Tae Kwon Do as it was practised when there were still individual kwans. My original master, Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, is one of those older schoolers as well and, if not peers, an older brother to Master Kim. Grandmaster Lee's background is in Mood Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do. Recounting our own training and experience, Master Williams and I talked of what our masters had taught us and how things are different today.

So, since entering and winning States, I'm starting to make the inroads I'd always wanted to in the Tae Kwon Do community. However, while I'm enjoying that, my Tae Kwon Do involvement now isn't about the  connections and name-dropping. It's about being a master and living up to what the colour of my belt and the number of stripes on it mean. It's funny, too, and testimony that sometimes when you want something too much it won't happen. Now that I'm not focused on trying to gain entry into the inner circles of Tae Kwon Do doors are being opened and opportunities are popping up.

I'm enjoying this ride with every turn it takes. I just hope it doesn't end anytime soon and that  my students are benifitting from it as much as I am.

04 April, 2011

Strange Dreams

I guess it's because there's a lot on my mind with writing, teaching, preparing for the US Tae Kwon Do Nationals, teaching Tae Kwon Do and other things but I've been having some really strange dreams lately. Sunday morning, I woke up with very vivid images of my Mother, although she looked differently than she actually does, happy and accepting of my Father and the affair he was having. This is all in my dream. For the record, my Father has never had nor is he now having any illicit extramarital relationships. The woman my Father was having the affair with looked a lot like Jill Clayburgh, the actress. When I asked my Mother about it, all she'd say was "It's okay. It'll be over soon. It's okay." Strange.

Last night, it continues. I woke up this morning having dreamt of riding a horse in vast plains of short cropped grass rolling over miles and miles of hilly terrain. I have never been on a horse and in my dream I was me as I am today in this modern 21st century world we live in. I wasn't a copy of some medieval serf or soldier riding on horseback. Just plain old me.

I don't know. I told a friend at work about this and she said, usually, when someone remembers clearly what they dreamt about it means that he or she had a really good rest. That would make sense. I'm doing a lot more and working out a lot more preparing for Nationals in July and I can use all the good rest I can get. Just wish I could dream of something more fun and enjoyable, perhaps (and you can take that however you want to).

Have you had any strange dreams lately? Do you have any idea what they might mean or where they came from?

Preparing for US Nationals

I was at the Apex Tigers Tae Kwon Do dojang yesterday as part of the New Jersey Tae Kwon Do team that is going to the US Nationals in June and July in San Jose, CA. While I was there, I met some of New Jersey's best and most talented masters - the State team's coaches - and I trained with one as I worked on my latest form and as we helped some Junior Nationals black belts work on their form, Koryo. I also discovered how much I've been out of the Tae Kwon Do loop.

The last ten years or so, I've always been involved in Tae Kwon Do and martial arts somehow. I'd read and keep up with the general and popular news. I'd chat with fellow black belts. I'd even train at one school or another, some owned by former instructors, and work up a good sweat. However, I haven't been  in the thick of things since the 1990s - and the early 1990s at that.

The last instructor I was training with seriously - Master Levy Diogene - was current in how things are done in Korea and the information that is passed down from the Kukkiwon (the headquarters of Tae Kwon Do in Seoul, South Korea) and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (the world governing body of sport Tae Kwon Do). He taught me the new way to get into the ready, or joombi, stance. He taught me the updates on how to chamber kicks when doing some of the black belt forms. They were new to me then, since I had learnt my forms originally from Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, then Grandmaster Ik-Hwan Kim, and they were a little more traditional, more 'old school' (although Grandmaster Kim was already showing me some of the newer short front stance, known as the walking stance).

Yesterday, I saw and was taught even newer ways to do some of the techniques in some of the black belt forms. Now, instead of keeping a hand out as you kick, you bring it in. Instead of putting your closed fist under the other arm's elbow, while doing chops to the face, you bring the hand down by your belt. The changes are subtle ones and they'll be relatively easy to learn and it'll be relatively easy to fix my poomse (forms). What's going to be hard are the nuances. It used to be such that you tucked your arms here and there as you performed the technique and got into the finished position. Now, there are very specific nuances that help you get there. It's nicer, to be honest, the way the forms look now because it makes the poomse whole - complete - and it's just simply nice to look at. And, they are nice to look at but the master I was watching, Master Sang Hee Kim, made them look effortless and beautiful. As I watched him, I could only wonder if I could get to that level. Was I ever at that level - even before I stopped training and put on all the weight I have to lose, even before I became stiff and lost a lot of the flexibility I acquired that allowed me to break a board that was held directly above my head with a front rising kick?

Master Kim was very helpful and pleasant as he helped me with my Sipjin form, the fifth degree black belt form I may need to do at Nationals. I taught the form to myself from videos and texts figuring, as an experienced master and martial artist, I could learn the whole as a whole. I have but it's the details that make the form.

I said what's going to be hard is to relearn, or even learn for the first time, the nuances of the poomse I know. That's true. What's going to be really difficult is to learn them in the next twelve weeks before Nationals.

30 March, 2011


Finally, for the first time since the summer before I got married, I visisted my sister and her family last weekend. It was my niece's confirmation and I was asked to be her godfather so I had to go.

In addition to the importance of the weekend - my niece becoming a full member of the Catholic Church and a 'soldier of God' - the thing that was foremost in my mind was how my son was going to relate to his cousins and how they were going to relate to him. Well, for all my worrying (for lack of a better word), they got along brilliantly. First of all, my sister and her husband have raised fantastic children. They're polite, thoughtful, energetic, intelligent, creative and just plain fun and nice. Jude, too, is at an age when he's more comfortable with himself and more confident that he doesn't shy away as much as he used to.

As soon as we arrived at my sister's house, and my wife and I were able to pry Jude out of his carseat and away from his portable DVD player and a third showing of Toy Story 2, Jude and his cousins discovered each other as they bonded over the abundance of toys in the play area in the far end of the kitchen. They played with cars, stuffed animals, airplanes and space shuttle replicas. Later, we all ventured outside, where there is a swing set and slide. They climbed, slid, played 'steer the boat' and tossed and kicke a rubberr ball around in the back yard. In an previous blog in my other site (filamkickingscribe.com), I talked about how, in Manila, Jude got lost at my sister-in-law's house on Christmas Day in the play room with his cousins from Alabang. Always aware of where he was, what he was doing and who he was with, after arriving at noon we didn't really see himuntil around 7pm when he was, finally, hungry and thirsty. Well, it was much the same in Boston.

Something that was really exciting was how Jude remembers all of his cousins names and how, as we were pulling off the Mass Pike into I-84 into Connecticut, he kept saying, "I want to go Zoe." Zoe is the youngest of the three cousins he met this past weekend. His comment reminded me that I have to be vigilant in showing him pictures of his Boston family - and all of his family - and make sure he recognizes them and knows everyone's name.

What's more, Jude's cousins got to love him and they miss him, too. I was asleep when they were shuffled off to school but my sister informed my wife and I that there were tears and expressions of "I'm going to miss him" from he daughters. I'm glad about all of this. As I've gotten older, my sense of family and how important connections are have become more important to me. For those of you reading who know me, it's no secret that my immediate family isn't the closest, most intimate and sharing unit. I regret that but that's something I can make sure doesn't happen to Jude. He doesn't have any brothers or sisters - yet (don't read anything into this) - so getting to know his cousins is key.

When I moved to America I got to meet and know some of mine. We became close and, as often happens, we got into our own lives in high school and college and making our own families that we losts touch. The last few years, we've gotten back in touch through various family get togethers and social media like Facebook. We're reconnecting. I hope Jude never has to reconnect. I hope he forms those close, deep family ties that  never become fake or sever regardless of the time and distance he and his cousins may be separated by.

This Boston weekend and the last two trips to Manila are forming those ties for my son; ties and contacts that will go on and grow into real, meaningful relationships.

21 March, 2011

State Champion

Wow. Well, the New Jersey State Tae Kwon Do Championships are over and I've come out on top. I took first place in my division - the Men's Black Belt 41-50 year old Forms Division. I did the Pyong Won form and scored 7.8, 7.1 and 7.7. That's not a bad score. All week before the event, I watched YouTube videos of performers at the recent World Championships, as part of my preparation, and they were scoring in the 7.0s and low 8.0s so I guess I didn't do too badly. Although, please don't take me to mean I'm world class or anything. Forms have always been my favourite part of Tae Kwon Do and I've won some forms titles before but I consider myself - now and when I was younger - to be far from world class.

The really neat thing about all of this is that I wasn't really nervous up until I arrived at the venue and changed into my uniform. But then, once I started to walk out onto the competition area where the six rings were and watched the other divisions as I stretched out, the nerves seemed to dissipate. While I could see that I have become that older, more out of shape than in shape, Tae Kwon Do competitor I could also see that, even with the younger elite black belt fighters around me, I felt that I had something they didn't. And I don't think it matttered that they were competing in sparring and I was doing forms. As they stretched and did warm up kicks on the handheld targets, kihapping in that showy way us Tae Kwon Doists do - that kind of kihap that tries to convince the spectators and judges that we're the superior fighter in the ring - I could see and sense their confidence but also, perhaps, their own nervousness; a nervousness that believes they'll win but also knows they might not. It's a kind of conscious caring. They were displaying the same kind of feelings I used to get in my younger competitive days. In a way, too, it was fun for me. This was my first tournament since 1994. No one knew me. But it's not like I hadn't been there before. I felt like that old gunslinger who's returned to his hometown, greyer and more wrinkled, to find that, while the people may have grown up and changed, the place hasn't. It's still home.

For me, I wanted to do well. It wouldn't have mattered where I placed. And, my doing well would've been for me and not for the judges nor the points. I'd gotten wind of the States only ten or so days ago and entered on a whim just to get back into the swing of things. The training I did in a week wasn't much but it was the best I could've done in the time I'd had. I'd done the best of my best and that's what martial arts is all about - doing your best, knowing your limits, enjoying things in spite and because of them. For the first time, I felt like a master; subconsciously caring about the competition but knowing that no matter how things would've turned I'd still be a fourth dan, a master and a martial artist.

I won my division not because of an outstanding performance but because I was the only one who entered. Perhaps my title of 'State Champion' is a paper one. Perhaps it's not. After all, I knew there was a chance my division would have few competitors. Not many people my rank and my age compete, after all. That was another reason that enticed me to enter. The odds of me placing were in my favour. However, whether it was just me or me and a hundred others, I'd shown up on the day ready to do my best. And, again, comparing my scores to those of some of the performances in those YouTube videos, I may have done all right if there had been other entrants. It's not my fault that nobody else entered. I did, performed and took first. My point isn't to defend my win. Either way, and I got confirmation of this from the State TKD Association president, I am 2011 State Champion. My point is to go out and do what your heart tells you. Mine said to compete and get back into something I love.

And, for whatever it's worth, it paid off. It's paid off not only with the win but a chance to go to the national tournament and compete for a national title, which I will take much more seriously. In fact, the State president e-mailed and said he'll be e-mailing all the champions for team practice. I assume that means New Jersey team practice. How cool is that? Way back, I believe if you won, it was between you and your master to prepare for nationals and team trials. Now, I guess - I think - there's communal training under a state head instructor. For me, at my age, who would've thought? I'm just thrilled to have this chance.

As for the competition itself, my ring was right in front of where my wife and son were sitting. As I got into my ready position, I looked up and saw them and I said, in my head, "This is for you, son." Maybe that's corny. Maybe, though, it's just a sign of moving on. I have this chance to become a national champion but that's a long shot if there ever was one. What's for certain, though, is I have this chance to show my son to follow his dreams, to be patient and, for whatever he does, to be passionate. It's not enough to love what you do but to do what you love. For me, Tae Kwon Do is both.

Before I go, though, I must publicly thank my wife. She's been a constant support in everything I do. I have to thank our friend Ani, too. She was there, taking pictures for us, but she's also a black belt and, on some level I'm the reason she took up martial arts in the first place. Her getting into martial arts, before coming back to fully teaching my own classes and, now, competing again, have kept me in touch with them. I also have to thank my friend Drew, an instructor at my original master's dojang. He's younger than I am and in, some ways, he's become my younger brother in Tae Kwon Do. He came too and stood right outside the ring as I performed.

16 March, 2011

BambooMartial Arts

Hi. This is just a quick note. The website for my Tae Kwon Do school, Bamboo Martial Arts School

Haha. I guess it's Tae Kwon Do week or something.

Tae Kwon Do and Me - Perfect Together

The title of this post is a paraphrase of the New Jersey promo ads that I used to see on TV and hear on the radio when I moved to America in 1985. I think it's fitting for describing my relationship with Tae Kwon Do since I started studying the Korean martial art a few months after landing at JFK and moving into our first New Jersey home in Montclair.

Tae Kwon Do seems to be taking the front seat in my life these days. I’m teaching two classes a week and I’ve been training more than usual. Up until a month or so ago, I was training here and there. I'd tried going to regular classes at a couple of schools but the irregularity of classes at one and the long drive to another belayed those intentions. For all intents and purposes, I'd retired. I still thought about them, wrote about them and advised others on them but my involvement in martial arts rarely involved me donning a dobok (uniform) and working up a sweat. Now that I'm teaching again, that special something of the martial arts has taken hold of me again and I hope it never lets go. Rather, I hope I don't let it go. That special thing is what I like to call "The It" - the thing that lets you perform when you're exhausted and have nothing left yet you're still able to kick with precision without effort. It's the thing that makes you do whatever it is you need to do without being aware you're doing it but you know you did it. I haven't been training regularly the last few years and maybe its because I've been a student for so long (almost 26 years) but in the short time I've been teaching, again with flags hanging on the walls and my own students in front of me, I feel the effects of The It. Other than my body's current inability to do some of the things I used to do - although with every training session I feel less restricted and returning to my old self - I feel like I never left. It's funny how that happens when you've done something for so long and when you love something so much. In some ways, I feel like I've come back home, as if I'm the best version of me I can be again.
I decided to enter the New Jersey State Tae Kwon Do Championships and come out of competition retirement, so to speak. I don’t foresee myself competing like I used to in the 1990s but a tournament here and there and, probably mostly in the Forms divisions and not the Sparring ones, will be fun. Besides, I only found out The States are this coming Sunday last Friday so it’s really going to be a hoot. My forms are good enough to enter but I don’t know about winning. I’m doing it for fun, really, and to get back into the Tae Kwon Do community and to get Bamboo Martial Arts back into public view. I’m hoping, too, to run into and say hi to a few old friends from the circuit. I know the tournament formats have changed and I've been in contact with the New Jersey State Tae Kwon Do Association president who's been generous enough to talk and email with me and to provide me with the newest rules changes. I don’t want to look like a clown not knowing what he’s supposed to be doing. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous though because I haven’t competed in more than ten years.  Actually, it's almost twenty! It'll be fun, though, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll post again when the event's over to let you know what happened.
But, for now, let me end by saying it's great to be back. Who says you can't go back where you came from? I've always said martial arts is responsible for making me who I am today. Well, I'm glad I'm back to it and I'm glad I'm still evolving.