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The Infinity That Was…

September 30, 2014 - 5:56 PM

Someone asked me (via text) few minutes ago, “Don’t you sometimes find yourself in that mood? In that infinite feeling?”

We were talking about Sam, Charlie and Patrick at the tunnel on Sam’s pickup truck with David Bowie’s song on the radio. Of course, what Charlie felt that night about infinity shouldn’t be the source of comparison to everyone’s feeling of infinity. Yes? Yes.

And I answered, “I do. When I’m happy.”

And then it got me thinking.

“When was the last time I was THAT happy?”

September 14, 2014

There I was, with my chin resting on my arms, the camera dangling on my neck, while the people around me were either screaming her name or busy taking photos, trying their hardest to get a good shot of her.

It was the very first time I saw The Alyssa Valdez in flesh. She was there, standing few feet away from me, tossing and spiking the ball with Amy. And when I say few, I mean less than ten feet away from me.  So close that I can even see the beads of sweat trickling from her face. That close, yes.

After I took a few blurry pictures of her (What? My hands were shaky, okay?), I just spent my time staring at her, followed her every moves, and the people around me were professing their love for her, while she was there, doing her thing with a timid smile carved on her lips, and her eyes focused on the ball. Okay, I admit. I did my “professing their love” part, too. Hehe

Anyway, I was wondering what she was thinking that moment.

I was wondering how she was feeling while under the brightest spotlight that day inside the University of San Carlos gym.

I was wondering if, somehow, there was a lucky face from the crowd, gawking at her, that made an impression on her.

There was a moment when she “misreceived” her ball, and it went flying towards the crowd, towards the East side, our side, and Alyssa’s eyes followed the ball. Maybe, somehow, for a second, her eyes lingered on somebody from the group nearest to her, because everybody was screaming and swooning, and the clicking of the cameras just went on for like eternity.

It didn’t stop.

The screaming.

The swooning.

The I love you’s.


The clicking of the cameras.

And then she mouthed, “Sorry,” to no one in particular with a very reserved smile on her lips, about the ball, and the crowd from the East side just went wilder, almost raising the roof of the gym. It was crazy!

For a moment not longer than five seconds, Alyssa’s eyes moved, maybe scanning the faces of the people gaping at her? And for a nanosecond, her eyes lingered to where I was standing, and it was enough to just shut off everything that’s going on around me.

It was enough for me to be at the moment. Know what I mean?

It hushed the noise.

The screaming and the I love you’s and the “ALYSSA!” and the clicking of the cameras were like echoes from a distant world.

It slowmo-ed the moment.

Like how it took the Mikasa ball to succumb to gravity and reach Marge’s hands (because she was standing beside Alyssa, warming up with Maddie).

It made my heart skipped a beat.

And that’s saying something, considering that my heart would palpitate every now and then, sending a tingling feeling from my toes up to my head. In short, it rarely skips a beat.

I looked behind me, and saw @forthephenom laughing at me. I smiled at her and stared at Alyssa again, because I thought that was the best thing to do next to none.

It made me want to cry. There was that lump in my throat and my eyes went misty. No joke!

And I’m not a crybaby.

It made me realize why we are revolving around the sun.

I suddenly realized the purpose of my existence.

Like how Jacob felt when he laid eyes on Renesmee for the very first time.

I’m kidding on the last three sentences.

Seriously, it made me realize why stars are supposed to hang above us, and show us how beautiful and how enthralling they could be, while we’re supposed to just look at them, and appreciate their existence without deliberately letting them know of our own existence, because things  are supposed to work that way. Well, most of the time, I guess.

And then there’s Maricor standing beside me who was seriously beside herself (She was particularly ogling and swooning at Ms. Tina Salak. Haha), overwhelmed by the fact that the people we see on TV, talked about on Twitter, and included in our prayers, were standing in front of us.

In flesh, looking a bit cautious but still enjoying (I hope) the scrutiny and excitement of the Cebuano crowd.

They. Are. Freakin’. Real.

Which my sister, Rikka, pointed out, and said something like, “They don’t look fancy or anything, which is a good thing. Because that means they’re real.” And she smiled, looking at Den, and kept on saying how pretty Den is.

This echoes Charlie’s realization about Brad, the quarterback. “…but I guess when you see in the hallway or in the field or something, it’s nice to know that they are a real person.”

And there’s this kid standing on my left, tiptoeing, looking over at RAD across the other side of the court, doing selfies with the crowd from the West side, and she was groaning and screamed Alyssa’s name with all her might, asking for a selfie. Of course that didn’t happen.

And there was my other sister, Kim, who came in late, clapping her hands hard and cheered her heart out after every “kill” and point scored by RAD and the rest of the Lady Troopers, and blurted out, “I’m at the wrong side of the court!” loudly after realizing that almost everyone around her was wearing blue.

And our big sister, Yeen, who would say “I love you too,” whenever the girls sitting behind us would scream “I love you, Alyssa!” and laugh with them, like friends sharing a good laugh after a silly joke.

The feeling of just being there at that exact moment surrounded by the people I care about and the people whom I do not know but whose hearts beat harmoniously with mine.

The feeling of finally wearing my blue shirt loudly and being surrounded with people who also wear them proudly.

The “Ooooh’s” and the “Aaaah’s” and the cheers and the applause.

The “Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!” chants when the girls were down.

The feeling that, at that exact moment, I know I should be there.

That I belong there.

That was infinite.

And at the back of my head was Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit playing over and over again.

And I thought that was fitting, since the song always makes me feel alive.

I wished Blake, the organizer, played that one over the amplifier. That would’ve sort of cemented the moment on my archives of memories.  And that would’ve been epic. To me, at least. But I don’t think Blake, the organizer, likes Nirvana though. And I won’t diss about how poorly the people behind the event came up with the idea to confiscate the food and beverages at the entrance. So, shhh!

Maybe that’s the reason why I kinda felt like I just came from a rock concert that day, because everything makes sense when you listen to the music that’s supposed to give meaning to things when words are just too hard to string together, even when only you could hear and feel it. Know what I mean?

P. S. I had that so-near-yet-so-far-but-who-cares-well-I-don’t moments that day, and that made things even better. I was in that “in a good way” kind of high, I think. :)

Second Best No More

"Alyssa Valdez, always the second best."

This 6-word line kept ringing on my head every time there’s a squabble about who’s supposed to get the MVP award. Unfortunately, I forgot who said it during a game and between whose match, but surely it was a team with Alyssa on it, since they were talking about her. Well, not that they DON’T talk about her even when she or her team is not playing. She’s even talked about during NCAA volleyball tourneys. Sweet!

Of course, the “always the second best” came after they were dissecting her game, her attacks, her stats every game played. Her being “The Phenom” in general. 

They were talking about her being not named MVP during last season’s UAAPWV tourney. And that of being, again, not MVP during the SVLX, despite of her undeniable efforts to lead her team a step closer to where a tournament should always end - the Finals.

Well, they wouldn’t be named MVP, them ladies - those who elbowed past Alyssa - for nothing. Their stats and their being a team player will tell you why they are, unless it’s an award given according to the number of votes the public gave. And yes, their respective fanbases will provide you thousands of reasons why they are picked.

I remember telling a friend, a non-volleyball enthusiast (But I just started watching last season though? So will I pass as an enthusiast?), “Alyssa will have her time.” And she was like, “Who’s Alyssa again?” Jez, I wanted to strangle her that time. Haha

Anyway, so the waiting game started, for me, at least. Sorry, I’m a fan, don’t judge. Char.


Patiently waiting… (Dafuq with the ‘patiently.’ I ain’t even the patient one all my life.) 

And reading “Valdez doesn’t deserve to be MVP blah blah” comments from volleyball pages…

Okay, I’m claiming it. I was lurking. I believe it’s always best to know and educate yourself what thy enemy is thinking, talking… I’m currently thinking about chess, minus the talking part. (I also believe that a particular person who’ll read this, if she’ll get to read this will say, “You’re explaining!” and will laugh.) The word ‘enemy’ is an exaggeration, don’t you think? No? Yes? Whatever. Or maybe ‘foe’ is more fitting? What?

Anyway, forgive me for not remembering all the details, the timeline, in particular. I wasn’t even considering the idea of doing this right now back then, so…

Again. Anyway, so there were rumors circulating (thanks to the ever tentative volleyball page) that she - Alyssa - might be getting the award this time. And I was like, “Whaaaat!? Oh my… fina..” “You know, Ling, you should settle down, because it’s still not confirmed yet.” and “If it’s true then damn, I’ll be the happiest!” And I’m just one of the many. And many non-Alyssa believers were like, “Hell no!” And the undying and never-ending clash of the both sides started, especially when Mr/Ms Tentative decided to uproot the “This Way” sign and pointed it to another direction. I’m taking back my thank you this time. Yes.

Another name came up.

Another clash of the die-hards started.

More engaging.

More heated.

More “STFU fantards.” “No, you’re the fantard.” “Oh yeah?” Damn right yeah!” It started to become a battle of the dumb and the dumber. Which was which, I don’t know. I wouldn’t say either even if I do know. It’s not that hard to tell which is which, by the way. 

Days passed.

Weeks, even.

And still the rumor was hanging in the air like a sweet aroma of coffee during a lazy morning. Sorry. I love coffee and I’m lazy during early mornings, that’s why. :)

 And I was like, “Is it really her?” “No, chill, Ling. If it’s meant to be her then it’ll be her. If not, she’ll have her time.” and “I’ll only believe it if she’ll be walking towards the spot to get her trophy.” (“I hope it’s her, though.” *fingers crossed*)

And the long wait’s over. (Was it really that long a waiting?*squints eyes*)

It’s her.

Officially, finally. March 8, 2014.

Alyssa Valdez, the MVP!

Don’t expect me to describe how I felt that precious, sweetest moment as a fan, because I can’t. I just can’t. But generally, I was like, “Ha! There you go. Not the always-second-best anymore.” God must have loved Alyssa so much to have given her the skills and the talent and the heart to be where she is right now. And I’m not saying God doesn’t love the rest of the candidates, okay? Just in case. *wink*

I think I have tweeted that her being the MVP validates her greatness. I was wrong. That Game 2 of The Finals did. I know, I know, they lost. And yes, her service error gave La Salle their matchpoint. I’m talking about her post-game interview though. It was painful to know that she’s blaming herself for the loss. Still breaks my heart, I swear! (Don’t do that to yourself, please. Nobody blamed nobody.) But it definitely defined Alyssa Valdez as a person - a lady oozing with humility. And it’s flowing out from every pores of her body. (I’m particularly thinking about the abs.) 

They may have lost, but she and the rest of the Lady Eagles definitely won hearts again. It’s not as victorious to many, but it definitely was the sweetest to me, at least. Okay, bittersweet. Not bitter because of the defeat - they fought hard and gave their all, that mattered to me, okay? - but because I know, as a person, self-blaming ain’t sweet. 

Alyssa, we know there’s that one thing you and the rest of the Lady Eagles are aiming right now. And that the rest of the battle ain’t gon’ be a walk in the park, but, we’re just here. Whatever happens, no matter what. Keep the faith, ladies! SOAR! Heart strong!

P.S. I’d like to say that my heart wants to say “From the bottom-est pit of my fangirling heart, I love you, Phenom!” but my inner self is cringing and is shooting her brow upwards few inches away from the hairline because it’s too cheesy, and she hates kesoness. But what the hell, I typed it anyway. Haha



On Assignment in Kenya with @balazsgardi

To see more photos and videos from photojournalist Balazs Gardi’s work in Kenya and elsewhere, follow @balazsgardi on Instagram.

Photojournalist Balazs Gardi (@balazsgardi) has spent the past decade documenting the effects of the unfolding global water crisis. Balazs’s work has taken him to more than 20 countries across Africa and the Middle East. Most recently, he finds himself in Kenya: “With the changing climate, the people of Kenya’s already arid Turkana region suffer greatly from the consequences of prolonged droughts,” he explains.

It was Balazs’s grandmother that sparked his interest in photography. “She had it in her head that photography was a good path for a young man with no patience for authority or office work,” he says. “She was right, and I discovered that photography was a way to learn about people, their situations and problems, and about the world.”

As he learns and shares the stories of people affected by the water crisis, Balazs says Instagram “has become a vital tool to share work that matters to me and allows me to put the image in context and deliver it directly to my audience.”

Balazs hopes his photos and videos will stir people to action. “By passing on my experiences, I’d like not only to inform but also to spark meaningful public dialog. As time goes on I hope my audience takes action that either directly helps people in great need or changes their own behavior for the better.”

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