2012 recap (aka a list for the end of the world)

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

The world is supposedly ending in half an hour, so I might as well write my annual recap blog post early! Like every end-of-year post, I’m limiting my list to 20 bullets. Here, in a mad dash to midnight, was my 2012:

2012 was an awesome year, but I still have a lot of things left on my bucket list. Here’s hoping the Mayans were wrong!

My list for 2011 is here.




This is my lola. We called her Nanay*. She raised 10 wonderful, smart, successful children, including my amazing mother. Her 10 children came together and built a hotel in Davao on the spot where she raised them. They named the hotel and its restaurant after her and her husband.

Nanay made the best dinuguan and my uncle had a restaurant in Boni that made it its specialty.

I was named after her (my second name). She was always nice to me. She only frowned at me if I wore something revealing, or if I brought a boyfriend to meet her. She was probably right on all counts.

Nanay was 88 when I took this picture. She would have been 94 this month.

Nanay passed away last Wednesday, December 5, 2012.

*Lola is Filipino for grandmother. Nanay is Filipino for mother

Getting to Practictioner Level 1

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

(I should stop leaving blog posts on my iPad to die. This post has been around for a while.)

Around the time that I started getting serious about krav maga, the instructor asked me if I wanted to take the Practitioner Level 1 qualifying exam in November. Unlike traditional martial arts where everyone is expected to go up in belts (and your learning is limited otherwise), the krav maga exam was entirely optional. Since we covered a whole range of techniques in class, I could train for years without ever having to take it.

My reaction to the exam went something like this:

August: “Me? Take the exam?” *incredulous laughter*
September: “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try. I don’t care if I pass or fail.”
October: “Oh my God, I don’t know half of the techniques on the syllabus! I’m going to fail!”
November: “We’ve worked so hard; please don’t let any of us fail, please, please…”

The Makati batch of P1 students

We were the first batch from the Makati gym to take an exam (inadvertently making me the first girl to do it). Starting October, my fellow examinees and I started studying after class three times a week, even once on a weekend. The higher-level students stayed with us to correct our techniques and give us tips on how to pass (“Don’t talk! Don’t laugh! Don’t touch the pad! Exaggerate your movements!”). The best tip I got was to choose a partner for the exam and train with him or her exclusively. You need to know how your partner moves, and what his best attacking or defending side is. It was almost like a performance, and your success depended on how good your partner was.

Taken by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

A week before the exam, all examinees from both Makati and Ortigas gyms went out of town for the P Camp. Our instructor spent two days going through the syllabus with us and correcting our techniques. Even movements we’d done hundreds of times before (such as a straight punch) needed to be corrected! The exam was a purely technical one; no matter how strong you hit or how fast you moved, if you got even one detail of the technique wrong, you failed the technique.

In the camp, there was one technique I just COULDN’T get right. No matter how many times I repeated it or who tried to teach me, my body just wouldn’t cooperate. With just one week left until the exam, I decided to practice it every day without forgetting to practice the rest of the techniques on the syllabus. We were allowed a small number of mistakes, so even if I failed that one, I could still pass the exam.

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

November 10: Exam day rolled around. The atmosphere was thick with tension. Everyone in the room had been working so hard for this, and no one was smiling anymore. I won’t go into details of the exam, if only because there are a few surprises that are part of it. But I’m so glad the instructor and the higher-level students prepared us for that day. At that point, all we had to do was trust our bodies and focus our minds.

Two grueling hours later, we were done. We had no idea if we passed or failed. Then the instructor called us one by one to announce the results. Ladies first.

“No mistakes,” he said to me. “You passed.”

Photo by IKMF Philippines

Photo by IKMF Philippines

My wish came true — not only did I pass, but we ALL passed! We were now Practitioner Level 1 students, and would be receiving certificates and IKMF passports from Israel. Taking the P1 exam was the most exhausting, most rewarding thing I’d ever done, and I’m so glad I rose up to the challenge. Congratulations to all my fellow examinees! Great job, everyone!

(Someone asked me if I would be taking the Practitioner Level 2 exam next year. My response? Incredulous laughter.)

UPDATE 12/20: I got my certificate, passport, and patch! 🙂


Introducing Isagani Cruz at Read Lit District

Isagani R. Cruz

This morning, I had the opportunity to surprise my father by introducing his keynote at Read Lit District (3rd Philippine International Literary Festival) at Ayala Museum. The National Book Development Board asked me last week if I could do it, and told me not to tell him. I thought the surprise was blown when he saw me walk through the door, but he just thought I was there to watch his speech 😉

I only had five minutes to introduce him, so I decided to share how I related to him over the years. How I knew he was a writer, but didn’t understand he was famous until he wrote an angry article in the newspaper about me reading Sweet Valley High when I was in grade school. How I tried to distance myself from him so people wouldn’t treat me differently because I was his daughter. How I got a scholarship to De La Salle University on my own, even if I didn’t need one because he was a professor there. How I would ride home with him while he was the publisher of the De La Salle University Press or the Undersecretary of Education (though while he was the latter, we had a bodyguard in the passenger seat, which I thought was very cool).

And how it was only as I grew older that I understood the amount of influence my father had. I recounted my high school graduation, when my dad gave the parents’ address, and made me cry by apologizing for the world we graduates were about to enter. “We have made a mess of our world,” he said. And now I understand that everything he does (whether it was fighting for K to 12, or promoting Philippine literature around the world) was about fixing that mess, and making the world (and the Philippines in particular) a better place.

Father and daughter!

My introduction was over in five minutes, and I almost made my dad cry — mission accomplished!

I’ve never actually attended any of my dad’s conference lectures, and I saw him recover from an emotional father to a total pro in about 10 seconds. He blazed his way through two very amazing Powerpoint presentations (I got schooled on terrible Philippine English, and how amazing the K to 12 literature curriculum is). And of course, he ended right on time. I was really proud to be his daughter! Here are some of my favorite slides:

"Langue Pricks Public Cant: Fact and Friction" by Isagani Cruz "Langue Pricks Public Cant: Fact and Friction" by Isagani Cruz "Langue Pricks Public Cant: Fact and Friction" by Isagani Cruz "Langue Pricks Public Cant: Fact and Friction" by Isagani Cruz "Screwing Literature into the K to 12 Curriculum" by Isagani Cruz "Screwing Literature into the K to 12 Curriculum" by Isagani Cruz

Thanks for being awesome, Dad! We can cry now.

Krav maga

Krav maga makes me happy!

Next week marks the start of my fourth month taking krav maga. It’s an Israeli self-defense system meant to be extremely practical and easy to learn. When attacked, your goal is to defend yourself and destroy your opponent as fast as possible. Dirty groin kicks included!

I remember my first day of krav — I was so nervous walking to the gym that I wanted to back out. As luck would have it, I ran into my college buddy Jay, who’d also been taking krav for a few weeks. I felt much better seeing a friendly face.

It only took one class to get me hooked. Krav was fun, not just in the physical techniques but the logic behind them. Defense involves your body’s natural reactions, the psychology of an attacker, and sometimes outright common sense. Every technique is well-explained and practiced over and over, culminating in a final drill where you’re attacked in full speed and full force.

My first month was the most difficult. All my insecurities and fears came out! Years ago, I was told by doctors to stop taking any contact sports (because of two car accidents that injured my neck, and a few other reasons) — it’s why I moved from boxing and body combat to yoga. For years, I’d been very careful not to put my body in harm’s way. But I’d always been curious about krav, and I missed martial arts. During my first weeks of krav, I was so afraid of getting hurt. I didn’t want to hit hard. Every bruise I sustained was a big deal. It got to a point that the instructor came over and told me: “Your form is good. Now you need to work on your strength.”

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