Christmas 2017

I did not grow up observing Christmas. Suffice to say that due to complicated religious reasons, I was raised a different way, and only ended up actually celebrating the season in the mid 90’s. Before then, it always felt weird saying “Merry Christmas” back, and by the time we began celebrating it — in largely awkward, off ways — I was too old for godparents, and only saw angpao when I was extremely lucky.

Up to this day Christmas feels a bit underwhelming for me. 13th month pay aside, I usually find myself annoyed by the traffic and the crowds, and terrified of the temporary escalation of the crime rate. Plus there’s the pressure of trying to think of gifts for family and friends while at the same time dreading the nth uninspired gift I’d receive in return (this year wasn’t so bad though).

But after an eventful Christmas Eve — from family in Tarlac from my wife’s side to a potluck dinner at my aunt’s on my mom’s side — I decided that it would be nice to at least take advantage of the holiday itself and spend some quality time with my wife and daughter.

So we braved Amy’s low grade fever, and with a stock of paracetamol and Cool Fever, we headed to U.P. Diliman.

Our first stop was for lunch at a place called Soru Izakaya along Maginhawa, which was one of the few open that time. A bit pricey, but the servings were large enough and the food was pretty good — enough to warrant a mutual agreement between myself and the missus for a return trip in the future.

Hiroshima MakiHiroshima Maki

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We spent the rest of the day at the Sunken Garden in U.P., put down a mat, and just watched Amy behave like she wasn’t sick at all, eating ice cream and laughing and giggling and running around the place. I took the most photos here, grateful for the foresight to bring my DSLR and a trusty 50mm.

Looking back, I remembered the dates I had with my wife-then-girlfriend here, both of us largely subsisting on allowances, trying to keep our grades up, dreaming of the future. In spite of all that came in between then and today, I’m glad I ended up where I did. Such a profound blessing, family. And it is all made possible by grace, which called for Christ to be born only to die to pay for the sins of humanity.

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Sola Gratia. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, folks.

Cookie and Amy - Xmas 2017

Innocence

Paolo

Sometimes you come across a moment, and you just can’t help but take a picture. Here’s my 2-year old nephew, Paolo, entranced by a model train setup inside Petite France in Seoul, South Korea. He’s usually all over the place, running around, like many children his age. And yet he spent a few minutes here, quiet and still, just watching the train go around the set.

Having a 2-year old myself (who is just a month younger), I’ve come to appreciate these moments when I can see children exercising their innocence. They’re all growing up in a hard world, and I’m grateful (and envious to some degree, too) to witness them seemingly set apart from all that, and for a few minutes, existing in a time and place where all is good and well and magical.

Folayang Falls in ONE: Legends of the World

I’m writing this down before I touch or even look at my images from tonight, while the events from a few hours ago are still fresh in my mind. It’s a first — I usually stagger off to bed or slog off to work after these events, but tonight, I think I can spare some time.

So Eduard Folayang is no longer ONE Championship’s Lightweight champion. That distinction — along with being top dog of the Featherweight division as well — now belongs to Australian-Vietnamese fighter Martin Nguyen. Anticipating what used to be Folayang’s unorthodox style that involved a lot of spinning backfists and kicks, Nguyen landed a quick and solid right counter after one of Folayang’s signature moves, and just like that, the Filipino champ was down, and stayed down. He was able to walk out back to dugout, head hung low, but he did not make it to the post-fight press conference; I hope he is doing well.

A perfect right hand counter from challenger Martin Nguyen sent Pinoy lightweight champ Eduard Folayang down.

From a Filipino fan’s perspective, I’m not happy right now. Before the KO, Folayang was doing pretty well and was pretty assertive in the cage, landing some good shots in the process. He and Nguyen were powerful strikers and I had some confidence — at least as a casual observer/fan — that the Igorot fighter had an edge. That Nguyen was also moving up a weight class helped. Except a stunning counter, developed after countless hours of training, and in Nguyen’s words, after taking “countless spinning backfists and spinning back kicks in the face” was the proverbial final nail in the coffin of the two Team Lakay members who fought in the main event tonight. Earlier, fellow teammate Danny Kingad blew his chance at the flyweight title after submitting to a rear-naked choke from reigning champ and BJJ phenom Adriano Moraes.

Fortunately, the other Team Lakay members in the card fared better. Kevin Belingon, once a contender for the bantamweight title, featured in the most exciting fight tonight after he displayed explosive power and technique to earn a unanimous victory over Korean Kevin Chung. Gina Iniong ground-and-pounded her way to a TKO win, and is now tentatively going to be Mei Yamaguchi’s next opponent two weeks from now. Yamaguchi was supposed to rematch Angela Lee in another attempt to wrest the atomweight title from the latter, but Lee recently figured in a serious car accident and will likely be out of commission for a long while before she can be fit to compete again. Finally, Joshua Pacio is climbing back up the ladder, tooth-and-nail, ending his bout with fellow Pinoy Roy Doliguez with a spinning backfist that sent the latter to the canvas.

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All in all, I think like in the past, it’ll be a learning experience for Team Lakay. They could argue before that their signature all-rounder, unorthodox style worked, but Nguyen will just be the first of many that will effectively take Team Lakay’s fighting style to task. ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said that Folayang will need a couple of fights more — after he heals up — before proving himself worthy to regain the title shot again. And that’s all well and good, I think. Folayang and the rest of Team Lakay have much more room to grow, and I for one, am excited to see what they’ll being to the table when they evolve once again.