4 Weeks After the Big One: Tohoku Earthquake March 11, 2011 (Part Two: The Long Walk Home and Morning After)

(note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not represent the rest of the foreigners he was with or met after the tragedy.)

We decided to leave the office and the only option we had was to walk home. After a light meal of crackers and a large cup of ramen, I looked for the fastest route from the office to my apartment with the use of GPS on my phone. Some of my Japanese officemates were a bit surprised that we decided to walk since it was already dark and that the situation was not normal. I had to explain to my boss that we were getting anxious with the frequent aftershocks and we would rather stay in the comfort of our home. After finalizing the route and making sure I had enough battery for the trip, I explained to my fellow Filipino workers that 17kms was no joke. As a runner and have trained for 2 half marathons in my 1.5years of joining running events, 15-17km of train runs was nothing. I can easily cover that distance in less than 2hrs. But after being here in Japan for almost 5 months now, and has been out of shape, I have doubt whether my legs will be fine the next day after this long walk.

(sample map I had that night)

We left the office together with two other Japanese co-workers and went on our separate routes after 3 intersections. One of them will be walking about 30km plus going to Chiba and the other for about 25km to Saitama. We took the shortest route, passing by famous landmarks around Tokyo. There were a lot of people in the streets walking since the subways and other railways have stopped. Traffic was evident everywhere because major elevated hi-ways were closed for security reasons. There were policemen deployed everywhere showing directions to people who’re lost. Coffee shops and hotel lobbies became places of rest for most people who would rather stay put where they can watch the news. I even heard that Apple stores in Tokyo accepted people to use their wifi for free since the cellular networks were not working well. Apple has a partnership with Softbank telecoms because of their iphone, but even rival network users like NTT Docomo and Au were allowed to use their free wifi. A few kilometers from the office, we passed by Tokyo Tower. The proud and former tallest man-made structure that can be seen at the Tokyo skyline had no indications that it was damaged. The lights were still on as if like a beacon of hope for some of us that night.

(Tokyo Tower March 11, 2011)

Almost all pay phones had long lines since calls from mobile phones would not connect. I was lucky that the 3G network for data was still working for my GPS. We passed by the Imperial Palace which was dark and the scene outside the walls is still the same. Traffic jam, people walking(happily
chatting with each other but with the sense of urgency), and the occasional sound of the siren of police cars, ambulances or fire trucks. After almost 2 hours of walking and covered about 7-8kms, we reached a very familiar street, Akihabara!!! We saw a kebab shop and took a quick bite for the road. I don’t know if I am just hungry but that was one of the best tasting kebab I had in years.


When we had our fill, we continued our journey. By that time we were about midway to our apartment. I sensed my companions getting tired so I decided to check if the subways were working. We reached Ueno station hoping to get the Hibiya line subway. There were alot of stranded people in the subway. People were sitting on the floor waiting patiently for the trains to go running again. We had no choice but to continue walking. My GPS was starting to give false data because of the buildings around us but we were pretty sure we were still on-track. We reached Uguisudani and said goodbye to the main roads and went through the small alleys.

The next hour was halfway making guesses of where to go because of the interference on my phone. There were only 6 of us along the dark street. The houses around us were quiet. It was either the people who live there had not yet come home or they were sleeping soundly intently watching the news. A few more minutes we reached a main road and were glad to see cars and lots of pedestrians. I was running out of battery then so we stopped at a 7-11 store to buy water and use their comfort room. I talked to the cashier if it is possible to charge my phone for a few minutes. Sadly they can’t do that and I was offered to buy some external battery. I didn’t buy them cause it was too expensive. We walked on and asked my other companion to set up his GPS and I turned off my phone as soon as I saw a sign saying Arakawa.

We reached Arakawa river in a few minutes and I was quite sure we are almost home. My estimate was about 2-2 and a half kilometers to go. The street was beginning to look familiar because this has been one of my routes during my runs. I happily informed them that we were near and that only a bit more we would be home. And true enough, in less than an hour, we reached our street. The local bars were still open and there were still plenty of customers.

I went up my apartment thinking that my house was probably trashed by the quake. When I opened the door, I saw the pot that was hanging on the wall already on the floor. Tupperware of used oil for deep frying was scattered. I dressed up, charged my phone and started cleaning. When I was done, I took a quick shower and laid on my bed. I was still trembling and every aftershock would make me run for the door. A big aftershock made me dress up for going out and fixed a small luggage of clothes, travel documents and food. I stayed downstairs and watched the building and posts sway every aftershock. People in the bars would go out whenever it was a strong one. It was already around 4am when we decided to stay at one apartment only and in case of another emergency we can easily call each other. I fell asleep around 6am that morning, with my bag beside me and the rest snoring loudly in the other room. (to be continued)


4 Weeks After the Big One: Tohoku Earthquake March 11, 2011 (Part One: What the?!?)

(note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not represent the rest of the foreigners he was with or met after the tragedy)

March 11, 2011. Everthing was pretty much normal. I woke up late, dressed up for that day since it was a special occasion for me and Ice, ran to the train station and followed up on a delivery that I thought would be an epic fail because of the date formats in Japan and other countries. (instead of having it delivered on 11/03/11(Japan format of March 11, 2011) I thought it would be delivered on November 3, 2011. I spent the whole morning wondering if it would push through. Work was pretty much the same; support our office abroad and did my own designs. By that time, I have already forgotten about the strong quake we felt on March 9, 2011 near the 11th’s epicenter.

I was not too busy that day; chatting with Ice through skype when we felt the weak vibration. My boss and I were even smiling as if saying to just shrug it off. After 10secs or so, I began to feel nervous because the weak swaying did not stop and it seemed to be getting stronger. I informed Ice that an earthquake was happening that instant but still weak and long. The next few seconds made my knees weak. The office floor was violently shaking, CPUs toppling and the rumbling noise can be heard. By that time, I heard from the Japanese around me that something bad is happening. Japanese people are very used with the feeling of having earthquakes because of their geographic location. But remaining calm under these circumstances Is something very new to me. I was asked to hide under my table because the earthquake has not stopped. The rosary in one hand, my cellphone in the other, I was praying that everything would be ok and was already thinking that my family and friends would be really worried. It took about more than 2 minutes when it stopped. I’m not sure if that time frame includes the next 2 large aftershocks. People were calm in the office, and the earthquake drills we had proved to be effective. I wasn’t aware that I was trembling not until a Japanese friend told me on our way to the fire exit. My hands were shaking so hard that I can’t even dial on my phone. We spent a few minutes outside the building, chatting and nervously laughing when we noticed the dark smoke coming from Odaiba. There were still small aftershocks happening at that time but we are asked to return to the office since things seemed ok already. I have not sat for 10 minutes at my desk when another big aftershock happened. I was ready to duck under my table again but good thing it was a short one.

The next hours in the office were used to gather information where the epicenter hit; footages of the tsunami were already seen in tv thru the cellphones of my bosses. Tsunami warnings of about 10m height were issued at the north-eastern coast. I had no idea where Sendai or Miyagi-ken is but the thought of having a tsunami was scary.

By 7pm, we had not left the office since the railway systems stopped for safety purposes. We were given a packet of long flat brownies(about the size of a family size chocolate bar) and a 250ml bottle of water. After those were distributed, we went out to look for food. Surprisingly, there were alot of people in-queue at restaurants, 7-11 stores and groceries. People were starting to buy supplies and it was running out. But what struck me the most was that there were no signs of panic. People were polite and stayed in line. There was no rushing and no panic buying (buying more than what they cannot consume) then. It took us about 30 minutes to buy some crackers, a cup ramen and some water.
We were already geting anxious in the office because of the constant aftershocks we were feeling so we decided to go home and leave the office around 9pm. (to be continued..)

To see the number of earthquakes that happened since March 11, 2011 in Japan, please see this earthquake map.

I’m Back Nihon… Did you miss me?

It has been four months now since I arrived in Tokyo from Manila. As it is my second time to travel here, I really was not expecting much.

(autumn 2010)

Three years ago, I was sent here by my company to undergo training in our main office. Our office then was in Shin-Yokohama. My apartment in Yokohama is about 15 mins walk to the office or a 4-minute ride to work by train. Things were different then. I can go sightseeing and buy stuff without worrying about cash. We even had a Japanese co-employee who treated us to different sight-seing places on weekends. We would seldom go to Tokyo because it was far but we had lots of fun in those times.

(a small park in Roppongi 2010)

Now I am back. I now live in Tokyo, my office has also moved to Tokyo, I had to be careful with what I spend my money on cause right now, I am here as an employee and not as a trainee anymore. It would take me weeks to decide if there is something I wanted to buy. I’ve done a few sightseeing at my own expense, opted to have home-cooked food for dinner and lunch to save a bit more. In Manila, I hardly cook on weeknights for my lunchbox the next day. Pressure at work was more intense since I am a senior now. And responsibility towards my fellow Filipino workers also added to my daily stress. I fight my way through the crowd of people going to their destinations every morning. The famous rush hour scene of Tokyo wherein you see station employees pushing people into the trains is almost an everyday experience. Long commutes to and from the work, cold nights and tired nights. I have missed my stop several times on my way home too.

(Another park near Harajuku, Winter 2010)

I run too. I still do. There were times in last autumn where I would run around 9-10pm in the streets. It is quite difficult to run during winter but as soon the temperature rises, I am ready to go.

(screenshot of my run map in Arakawa)

I have experienced one of the coldest winters in Tokyo. I am lucky to have Filipino companions here who knows “pakikisama”. I am not sure if the word camaraderie is sufficient enough to cover that word. I have good Japanese friends and bosses. I have also met a few new ones.

(Arakawa Riverbank)

This oppurtunity here is something not everybody had been given a chance to experience. I am making use of this deployment to a foreign country where people are honest, safe streets everywhere, hi-tech things, and independence as a chance for me to grow and have peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong. Of cource I miss my family and friends back home.

(Just outside my apartment)

It has been only 4 months and just the thought of me leaving this lovely place is breaking my heart. I still have 2 years and 8 months to go. And as they call this as the land of the rising sun, I face my future with the sun rising brightly ahead.

Japan Japan

It has been five months since I last updated my blog. Four months since I arrived in Tokyo and a week after the great Tohoku earthquake.
Within the weekend I’ll do my best in writing a new post about the experiences I had here and the recent (on-going aftershocks) earthquakes and life during a crisis outside your homeland and other concerns..

God bless you all and thanks to those who remembered and asked how I was the past days.

Tokyo tower the night of the earthquake…

Could it be My Last?(ADIDAS KOTR 2010)

It has almost been a year since I started joining races here in Metro Manila. And I would like to thank Meay for inviting me last year to join the KOTR 2009. Although we don’t get to run together anymore, this yearly event is something I will always remember wherever I may go.
Go? Yep… A few months back, I posted that something is coming up. Now that I have seen the details in-print, and have already decided about it, I guess I’m free to tell what it is about. Turtle Runner is going to Japan. For how long? Minimum of 3 years… Would I like an extension if given the chance? We’ll see.
There is the possibility I may not be able to run this race because the date of my departure has not been finalized yet (maybe by the end of October). Whether I’m here in Manila or in Tokyo, I promised myself that I will still be covering the 21km distance I signed up for.
So, I have been back in my training for almost 2 weeks now. Trying real hard to juggle with the schedules of sayounara’s with friends, work and training. I am not attempting to beat my 2:30:00 target in the Condura race early this year but what matters most is that I enjoy this run with my friends, get that finisher’s medal and and be injury-free before my departure.
So, could it be my last race? Definitely not. Although there are limited races in Japan, and the costs are really high, I will still continue to train for my 42km and hopefully I’ll be able to do it in the Tokyo Marathon event, 2012 or 2013? Besides, the Philippines will always be the place where my heart is. Who knows, I might come home for the Condura 2011?!
I will surely miss running in Metro Manila. Around Eastwood, going to the Marikina Sports center, UP academic oval and the Green Meadows and White Plains road. I will surely miss my running buddies at work and the people I met at Takbo.PH and that person who first introduced me to road races. So this 21km is for all of you. I won’t say goodbye to anyone here yet. Hopefully this departure gets postponed til January.. hehe
See you on the 24th, Kings/Queens Of The Road!!!

watch out for me

Runs last May and June

I wasn’t able to update my blog site the past weeks for the race events I joined last May and June. I have been very busy with my work and some personal stuff that kept me from running the past weeks. So, I’ll try my best to remember the Kerygma Run, Nature Valley Run and the OCAI run.

Kerygma run: I ran the 5km event with my ex-officemate and friend/gym trainer from Fitness First. I left my place around 4:30am and met with my friend at MOA around 5am. When we were walking towards the site, it was only then that I remembered that I forgot to bring my race bib. Luckily, the people at the information booth were kind enough to replace my “lost” race number. We waited until the ceremonies began. There was a pre-run worship headed by Bro Bo’s Ministry and some pre-run warm-up exercises and stretching. We checked in the starting line and waited for the gun start. I told my friends that I would go ahead of them because I was in a hurry to finish the run because I need to be with my brother. I didn’t put much effort for this run because I have a 10km run the next day. It was weird though that my legs felt heavy and after the 3rd kilometer, I started having stomach cramps which made me stop for a while. I continued on, not thinking anymore of what my race time will be. I just wanted to finish it and meet my family. I crossed the finish line and the man claiming the race stubs for the 3km run took my stub. (what were we both thinking, hahaha) I finished the race around 27mins according to my ipod. After claiming my bag, rested for a bit and changed, I went straight to Makati to meet with my brother and officially said goodbye to him. I hope he will be able to finish what I had started and stopped more than 11 years ago.

The next day, Nature Valley: I tried my best to sleep early that Saturday night after the Kerygma run to be prepared for the 10 km run in The Fort the next day. I woke up earlier than planned, ate breakfast and started preparing for my run. By 4:45am, I was already at The Fort. I met my other ex-officemate and her boyfriend and we waited together for the gun start. Right then, I was thinking that I hope I joined the 21-km event instead. (more punishment for myself, hahaha) At gun start, it took me about more than a minute to step on the carpet lining of the start line. The road was too congested with runners. I told my friends that I’ll go ahead because I wanted to break my 10km PR. It was too hot and humid at that time. I had to pour water on my head at every water station after the 5thkm. I even almost destroyed my earphones for running which was supposedly water-proof because of too much pouring of water. (i got ripped off by sennheiser, hahaha) I took a short walk break after my 7thkm because my left knee was aching. On km9, I was running my usual pace when suddenly the lady right in front of me abruptly stopped and tied her shoe laces. I almost bumped into her and cautioned her from stopping without any sign to other runners behind her. I was already feeling weak because of the heat and I was glad to see the last left turn of the race. I finished with 59:04 for my finish time and 57:53 for my chip time. I guess breaking the 54minute mark would still take me a long time to achieve. I waited for my friends near ROX and went straight to Rockwell for our post-run breakfast at Grams.

OCAI RUN: I was not able to run for 2 weeks or more before this event. I was having sleeping problems and would often wake up around 3-4 am and can’t get back to sleep again. At the end of the day, I was too tired to go to either to UP or Marikina to run even just for 3-5km. On the day before the race, I had to go to work to finish some projects and had dinner with my office mates before playing billiards and bowling with them. I had about 3hours of sleep. On race day, my friend (who got lost while looking for the race area in Ortigas) and I started the race 10minutes behind the gun start. We ran together until the corner of Julia Vargas and Meralco Ave. I wanted to go ahead and catch up with my 2 other friends who started the race on time. The route was new to me and it is a good thing there were marshals every corner of the street. I like the steepness of the road at St.Martin going to ULTRA. I was still running my usual pace until I got back at Julia Vargas. This time, I had to slow down because of the pain on my left knee. I can see my 2 friends about 300meters ahead of me but i can’t reach them because of the pain on my knee when running downhill. I caught up with them a few meters after Rodriguez Rd. From there, we talked and walked until the U-turn at Tiendesitas near Ortigas Ave. After a bit of heart to heart talk with them, I decided to go ahead so I can take their photos at the finish line. From Tiendesitas to Meralco Ave, I overtook some more runners and relaxed when I was already in Garnet Rd and ADB ave. I realized that it has been too long since I last went to Ortigas and for me it felt like a trip back at memory lane. I finished with 1hr, 17mins and 31 seconds. My time from my ipod was 1hr and 7mins and 15 seconds. I guess it was not a bad race time with a long walk break with my friends for about a kilometer. We lined up for our loot bags and chatted for a bit before heading to Eastwood for a great breakfast at Heaven and Eggs. I spent the rest of the day with my friends over 2 movies, a big lunch and coffee late in the evening.

Surprise Surprise!!!

Something big is coming up real soon. I can’t say much about it yet but it’s going to change a lot of things in my life. I am having mixed emotions about it right now, but things happen for a reason. I’ll post more about it when it becomes official..

Ending the Month of May with a Blast

Things became a bit crazy the past weeks. With all the workloads (means limited running at night), family stuff and the so-called quarter-life crisis bugging (is it a myth?) me, I wanted to end this month on a positive note.

Since my injury last March’s race, it took me about a month and a half before i wore my running shoes again. My first fun run after March was a run for my high school alma mater held at Quirino Grandstand. The Takbo para kay Inang Lupe event gave me the opportunity to run again and meet some of the people responsible for one of the best 4 years of my life again.

The next day, I ran bandit with my ex-officemates and long-time running mate since I started joining race events in Manila, in BHS for the Earth Run.

Since that day, I wanted to go back to my previous weeknight runs in UP and Marikina.
Running only 5-10km max, 3 times a week.

This coming weekend, I may not be able to break my PR but I’ll make sure that I’ll give my best at the Kerygma and Nature Valley events.
These 2 races are dedicated to my brother who has finally decided to enter the religious life this coming Saturday. Good luck to you bro. We will be praying for you always.

The Amazing Kidney Race (Race Day)

After almost a month after the race, it is only now that I found the time to update my blog page and share my experience during this race. I hope I can still recall what happened on that day.

Most of the runners I know were either at the event in BHS, CCP or in Bataan. My workmates and I chose this event in UP because it was nearer.

I woke up around 3am, prepared my breakfast and my things for the run. By 5am I was already leaving for UP. I was quite surprised when I got there. The tents of the sponsors and organizers have not yet been fixed. I had a feeling that this run will be really delayed at the rate the organizers were moving.. So my workmates and I relaxed for a bit, waiting for the gun start.

5:45am was the scheduled gun start of the 15km race, but we started around 6:30am. The sun was already up and we were pretty sure that this was going to be one hell of a run on that day. I prepared myself for the worst that this route will probably have water stations at least every 3-4km.

The first 2-3km was ok.. From the last water station I stopped(2nd in the race route) near Palma Hall to Katipunan and CP Garcia and back to UP again, was the most hellish experience I had in all my runs. There was no water, the sun was scorching us, my earbuds broke and my right knee was already hurting.. But I was still on schedule to reach the halfway point which was 45 minutes. I crossed the half-way mark at 42minutes and 25 seconds.

I was supposed to relax on the second loop. But I wanted to finish the race ASAP because of the heat. This aggravated my knee. I was also starting to have blisters on my right toe. I took a long break at the water station near Palma hall thinking that this might probably be my last water break for the race. When I exited Katipunan, I looked for a stall and bought some water. The heat was killing me. I didn’t mind the pain anymore, I was exhausted and aching all over but I wanted to end it soon, so I continued running. My knee would hurt on downhill slopes. I’d start running again when the road is flat or uphill. As I entered UP again, I knew that there was less than 2km left. I enjoyed the shade around the Academic Oval and walked for a few more minutes. I took my time walking because I was already sure of the finisher’s medal. I took my last drink near the tennis courts and ran to the finish line. I crossed the finish line with 1hr and 34 minutes in my ipod. I am still waiting for the official race results as of writing.. I hope they release it soon.

What I liked about this race?
It took me to my limit. I already finished a 21km with a lot of uphills but this 15km was painful and exhausting..
I really hope that the organizers will be able to improve on their next races. Although I had a bad experience because there was hardly water anywhere and the race started late, I might still join next year’s event.

I haven’t ran since this event. I’m still nursing my right knee. I can’t wait to get back on the road and run again…

Amazing Kidney Race

Looks amazing indeed!!!

After the Condura run, I promised myself that I will be joining my officemates in their runs. We were supposed to register in a bigger event on March 7 but we ran out of race kits last week.

A friend mentioned the Kidney race that will be held in UP Diliman also on the same date. This is a better venue for most of us living near the eastern and northern part of Metro Manila. I got the race details from GBM. (Check out his site for more details.)
This run, personally, is for a good cause because I had kidney problems when I was still a kid and here I am healthy(I hope) and able to run.
Personal target? I hope to get the really nice medal within the cut-off time. (halfway of 15km in 45 minutes or finish the race (15km) in 1:45 hours).

Kidney medal.. NICE!!!

So I’m back to my training.. Another race to look forward to..(next week? so soon..) Hopefully will make it with my officemate running with me on that day.. Goodluck to us and see if we can enjoy the race and get those nice “kidneys”.