Sakai Diary: A city for old men

Members of the Japanese elderly group Ohama Koen Walking no Kai gamely pose before journalists from Asean countries who are in Sakai for the Sakai Asean Week 2013.

SAKAI CITY, Japan – Osamu Okada treads the trail with a smile and a casual gait. Looking at him, it’s hard to believe that the retired salesman is already 80 years old—and that he’s climbing a mountain.

Granted, Sotetsu-yama is hardly a mountain by world standards; but here in Japan, it is categorized as such. At only 6.84 meters above sea level, it is officially recognized as Japan’s lowest mountain and an important landmark in this sprawling city in the heart of the Osaka prefecture. But despite its miniature size, Sotetsu-yama (Mount Sotetsu) still boasts of a rolling landscape, lush greenery, and ample shade.

Ahead and behind Okada are some 15 of Sakai city’s elderly residents, some walking in pairs, others in groups of three or four, all chatting and laughing as they gingerly navigate their way toward a certain meeting point.

It’s a slightly drizzly and bitterly cold Thursday morning, but for the members of the Ohama Koen Walking no Kai (Ohama Park Walking Group), it’s walk-to-the-mountain weather, creaking joints be damned.

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Sakai Diary: A Prelude

SakaiSomething big is going to happen in the next couple of days. After 34 years I will finally have my first overseas experience. Yay! Long overdue in this day and age of travel packages and piso fares.  But the most awesome part is, it’s going to be on someone else’s tab. So double yay!

The destination is Japan. I will be one of the three Filipino media representatives for this year’s Sakai Asean Week. We’ll be in the Land of the Rising Sun for six nights, seven days. I look at the itinerary, I see activities galore, and I’m stoked. And also nervous as hell.

I guess it’s only natural for a first time long-distance traveler to feel antsy at this stage. I think about the four- to five-hour flight, trapped inside a huge-ass metal tunnel hovering thousands of feet above ground with nothing but air between me and the ocean — it’s just too much for a paranoid freak like me!

I’d make a poor globe-trotting rock star.

But countless have done it and countless have survived and I’ll be okay.  I just need to relax, breathe easy, get out of my safe mental cocoon. After all, where’s that fucking sense of adventure that fueled me in my youth? Where indeed?

Anyway, I’ve been told PAL serves unlimited wine. Yay for that!

Holy Week reflections (sort of)


Done with my Holy Wednesday shift, which means it’s the end of the workweek for me and many others. Although I still have to clock in my nine hours on Good Friday (because we at the news business have no real breaks, yo), it will be from home, so no biggie. I picture myself on our balcony, the netbook in front of me, perhaps a tall glass of orange juice beside it, fucking around the Internet more than working. Unless something big happened, of course. God forbid the president chokes on a fish bone that day and be rushed to the ICU.

On Maundy Thursday, however, I chill. TV, books, bike rides. Except for quality time with my girls, all are existential pleasures. So the question: How to attain such near-bliss — if not total bliss — on a spiritual level? The Adam Yauch tribute in Rolling Stone, which I had the pleasure of reading yesterday over lunch, seems to hint it’s by taking the Buddhist path (many Kerouac books also say the same thing). Henry Miller in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare suggests it’s by abandoning the city (and all the things it stands for) to the simplicity and beauty of the countryside. I see their point, and I believe them; I just don’t have the balls for such life-altering adventures for now.

For the meantime, I listen to Lux’s “Northern Lights” and daydream about the ocean.

Sunset photo here.

Media stoops, out comes excrement

walapakiForgive me for puking. I just spent a week neck-deep in media excrement. So strong was the stench that even up to now, on a fine Saturday night away from the newsroom, with the TV and radio turned off and Firefox clear of any news site, I still get whiffs of its wet, cloying smell. Thanks a lot, social media.

Never before have I seen the media unload two big ones at such close proximity. On one fly-blown clump we have the Heart Evangelista-Chiz Escudero “love story” (I’m using quotation marks because unlike Inday next door, I believe there is a shadowy PR group behind all this, either working for or against Chiz). Reportedly, Heart’s parents disapprove of their May-December “affair,” accusing the senator of breaking their family and of being a drunk. They say Chiz should leave their daughter alone or face charges. To show that they’re serious, they held a press conference, generously granted interviews, issued at least one press release that I know of. And the media sucked it all up like it’s the only important thing happening out there.

Not entirely true, because as this was developing, another one of media’s liquid diarrhea — in the form of the Kris AquinoJames Yap war — splashed on our TV screens. Unlike the farce that was the Heart-Chiz love-conquers-all drama, this one leveled up by involving courts and big-name lawyers. The juicy bits: Kris seeks temporary protection order from court after incident where James, her ex-husband, allegedly tried to rape her in front of their five-year-old son Bimby. Court grants TPO, effectively banning James from getting near Kris, Bimby. James fights back by asking court to issue hold departure order to prevent Kris and Bimby from flying to France over the weekend. Court junks petition… but not before ordering both parties to shut up. Amid all this we are treated to Kris Aquino being portrayed in several news reports as a suffering princess, a modern-day damsel in distress trapped up there in the cold lonely tower, complete with exclusive one-on-one interviews and prime slots on evening news programs. Indeed, what should have been rightfully consigned to weekend afternoon showbiz talk shows has become of national significance. Coming at the heels of her brother’s big blunder in Malacanang in handling the Sabah issue, the timing of this controversy is just suspect. (For a brutally honest take on this, check out Spinbusters’ “Busted: Kris Wags the Dog, Saves the King.”) I wouldn’t put a trick like that past this administration, which has steadily built itself more on image than substance.

So there. Two big, malodorous dumps; one sick-to-his-stomach news junkie.