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Yoga

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices originating in Northern India for over 5000 years. Many religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, incorporate yoga into their practice as a spiritual discipline. Since it’s inception, yoga has evolved and changed over the years into a variety of different practices that have been modernized for members of society. While there are a variety of institutions specializing in yoga, regular gyms such as Anytime Fitness provide beginner yoga classes for members that are less intimidating than attending a yoga school. For my ethnographic fieldwork, I will be observing a beginners “Warrior Yoga” class at Anytime Fitness.

 

 

Fieldnotes

Prior to fully observing the yoga class, I had a brief idea of what would take place during the class as I have occasionally glanced through the windows while classes would take place. My key informant has been consistently attending yoga sessions at Anytime Fitness and claimed that the classes helped his flexibility and recovery as an athlete. When I questioned him about what I should expect from the class, he responded by saying “just stretching”. The class is scheduled every Monday and Wednesday at 8pm. My Key Informant suggested we attend the Monday session as it was easier than the Wednesday class.

 

We arrived a bit early and the yoga room was empty. The doors into the yoga room were made of glass with large windows on both sides of the doors allowing gym goers to peer inside. The room had tan wooden floors and mirrors that lined the entire front and part of the left side of the room. The right-side wallpaper was green that had 3 doors where the yoga matts are kept. The back of the room had 3 large windows overlooking the restaurants in Eastwood City. I should also mention that there was a large photo of a woman in her bikini at the back of the room. My key informant grabbed two mats and placed them towards the front of the room. He then started to remove his shoes and socks and placed them in the back of the room. I sat in the back of the room next to bikini woman for about 45 minutes observing, allocating the remaining 15 minutes to participate.

 

At around 8:05pm, people began arriving and setting up their mats. There were 15 people overall, including the yoga instructor. The yoga instructor was a short, middle-aged, Filipino man wearing a plain black t-shirt, black gym shorts, and black sandals. Majority were middle-aged women except for 2 men. One of the men wore a turban and appeared to be of Indian descent. He had a strong build and arrived with 3 other Indian women. While they were setting up, I overheard their discussion with the instructor about their yoga practice in India. The rest appeared to be Filipino except for 2 Korean women who set up their mats in the last row towards the back. They would occasionally communicate to each other in Korean.

 

When the class began, and everybody was sitting with their legs crossed on their mats, the instructor turned off the lights and started playing soft music. The music gave off a calming feeling, imitating sounds from nature such as wind gently blowing and a stream of water. He then sat in the front, facing the class, asking everyone to close their eyes and place their hands in prayer position in front of their chest. He instructed people to settle in, inhaling through their nose and exhaling through their nose, while keeping their mouths closed. He had a soft and soothing voice, telling the class to “set our intentions”, and then gave a short prayer.

 

After the prayer, the instructor turned on the lights, and guided the class into the first pose which was “child’s pose”. This pose required them to place their knees on the mat hip-distance apart, toes touching, with their forehead sitting on their mats as their arms are stretched foreword reaching the top of their mats. They stayed in this position for 5 breaths. The breaths for this yoga class were long and deep and the goal is for each breath to be in sync with the movement of each pose. For instance, when the instruction went from standing to chaturanga1 to upward-facing dog2 then to downward-facing dog3, required an exhale through chaturanga pose, an inhale through upward dog, and finally, an exhale into downward dog.

 

It was easy to distinguish those who practice yoga consistently to those who didn’t. The one’s who seemed to attend consistently didn’t stumble at any of the instructions and were familiar with the pattern of poses which means they would complete the poses slightly faster and more smoothly. They were clearly comfortable with the instructor. During some poses, the instructor would physically force their body into a deeper stretch if he felt like they were capable. They also didn’t look at the instructor as much as those who seemed newer to the class.

 

The people who appeared to have less experience in this class often looked to their neighbours after an instruction was given to see if they were doing it correctly. Their movements appeared to be more robotic and awkward compared to the more experienced and my presence in the room seemed to make them a bit self-conscious as they would occasionally glance towards my direction. For certain poses that required more flexibility and strength, the instructor gave variations for those who couldn’t complete the pose.

 

After about 45 minutes of observation I joined in during the final 15 minutes of the class. I walked over to the mat that was placed in the front next to my key informant and proceeded to follow the instructions given. The pose that the class was doing was downward dog. This pose stretches your hamstrings while also working your shoulders. During the final 15 minutes, most of the poses were done on the floor that required a lot of binding and twisting motions. For the final 5 minutes, the instructor ended with savasana also known as corpse pose. In savasana, the practitioner is laying flat on the mat, palms facing the ceiling and feet falling sideways. The instructor turns off the lights and tells the class to close their eyes like he did in the beginning of the session. While my eyes were shut, I focus on his instructions. He said things like “set your intentions”, “clear your mind of all your worries”, and “let go of negativity”. He then tells us to lay still and sink deeper into the pose. While lying there with my eyes shut without moving, there was a sense of detachment I felt. After about 3 minutes with our eyes closed, he instructed us to slowly move our head left to right and wiggle our fingers and toes, slowly bringing sensation to our hands and feet. He then turned the lights back on and sat cross-legged in the front of the class facing us. He concluded the session with a short prayer, expressing “namaste”, and bowing, which the class also did in return.

 

Why people practice yoga

Clearly, those taking this yoga class in particular, are economically privileged as being able to allocate money for a gym membership requires one to be financially well-off. People who can fund this hobby usually do not need to worry about things such as food and shelter. Instead people who belong to the middle and upper classes are found to have high stress levels due to concerns with self-image (4). Insecurity about oneself indicates low self-esteem which is constant negative thoughts towards yourself. Practicing yoga has been a way for some to relieve stress. Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce anxiety, depression, and insomnia (2).

 

For others, such as my key informant, they use yoga as a tool to heal their bodies from wear and tear endured from playing sports or doing other physically vigorous activities. My key informant is a professional basketball player, meaning a large portion of his hours during the week are spent overworking his muscles with 3 hour practices, sprints, plyometrics, and weight training. When he tore his acl a few years ago, he realized that recovery is a vital aspect of physical performance that he stresses more so now than he did when he was younger. He says his legs (strength and power) aren’t the same as they used to be despite consistently training them so it’s important for athletes to increase their flexibility and mobility to prevent injuries. According to a 10-week study done on college-level male athletes, yoga has been reported to enhance muscle torque, increase handgrip strength, decrease body mass index, decrease low back pain, delay the onset of muscle soreness following strenuous activity, increase flexibility, and improve cardiovascular performance (3).

 

Keynotes

1Chaturanga: also known as Low Plank, pose where one’s straight body is parallel to the ground and supported by the toes and palms, with elbows at a right angle.

2Upward-facing dog: pose where palms are pressed on the floor supporting the body as the legs and feet are extended towards the back of the room. The head should also be facing towards the ceiling

3Downward-facing dog: pose where feet are hip-distance apart with hands placed on mat shoulder-width apart. The head should be upside down looking through your own legs towards the back of the room. Legs should be straight and hips should extend upwards.

 

Guide Questions

What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?

Without participation, I wouldn’t be able to have first-hand experience on the benefits that people claim. The particular movements and the difficulty of certain poses can only be experienced if one participates instead of just observing. Furthermore, the mental detachment experienced during savasana can only be explained if one takes part in the pose instead of watching a group of people lying flat in a dark room.

What did having a key informant add to your understanding?

Having a key informant was important in briefing me on what I should expect during the class and the difficulty of the poses. He also gave insight on his experience with yoga, the benefits attained from consistent practice, and how it effects his career as well as the preventative measures that could aid elite athletes.

What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?

Participant observation allows me to collect non-verbal data or data that would not affected by a participant’s own bias. Different perceptions could also effect the data collected and sometimes observing allows me to see things that may go unnoticed. For instance, observing the amount of practitioners who would often glance at other people to see if they were doing the pose correctly would not have been accounted for in an interview due to them being focused on the actual activity.

For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?

An instance when a questionnaire or interview would be better than participant observation is when one wants to collect data that reflect the opinions from a variety of groups. When one needs to collect a large amount of data, questionnaires have the ability to do so in a short amount of time. Also, it is easier to compare data with questionnaires and interviews as they are usually the same set of questions.

What insights did you gain about Philippine society and culture from the event that you observed and participated in?

Yoga is an activity that transcends culture. It’s a practice that people do all over the world due to its spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits. The expectation of society is a universal burden. In every society, there are always expectations that people “need” to follow to be accepted and liked. When some of these societal rules take a toll on a person’s well-being it can lead to stress which then could lead into anxiety and depression. Activities that release stress and tension are telling of society and our expectations of people and ourselves. During the final savasana, the yoga instructor told us to “release our expectations of others” and “allow ourselves to be accepted”. It reflects how negative we tend to be towards ourselves, and how practicing self-care and acceptance can rid us of majority of our problems.

 

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Ref

1)http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall05/levy/terms.html

2)http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/11/yoga.aspx

3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4256993/

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Pretty Tipsy: A Look into Bartending

Published by Kimmy Esguerra and Alexa Prats

Going into Yes Please was already an experience in itself. Seated cozily on the second floor of the Bonifacio strip, some people might even end up missing the location entirely. The only way up to the bar was a black, steel staircase that had graffiti of phrases on each other step. Phrases like “Another round?” or “Are you ready for it?” in yellow letters that hypes guests up both excitingly and dauntingly. Up the steps, you’ll be greeted by a bouncer who towers over the entrance of the bar. With a seemingly deceptive, ordinary, black, glass-paned door framed by some posters, a vinyl-record pattern background, and “JUST SAY YES” grafitti on top in bold yellow lettering, guests waiting out in the chilly, evening air were in for a treat. The club, itself, was a marvel. Eighties-esque antique lamps and neon, bold, lights loiter the entire venue. The most lit points being the bar and the DJ area. Strategically placed, the bar was the centerpiece that greeted the guests that come in. To the left, a beautiful vantage point of Bonifacio Global City in it’s glory, and to their right the square bar with a seating area. Scattered, were vintage low couches and tables, which contrasted the sets of high, sleek tables, with matching high seats. Lights dimmed and music pulsing in the back, the club seemed alive. The chill-ambience club was just the right temperature for it’s patrons, not too hot, but leaning toward slightly chilly. The smell of citrus seemed to permeate the atmosphere, even stronger the closer one gets to the bar. Once there, customers are greeted by three bartenders and respective waiters. The waiters will deliver the menus, a snack–peanuts marinated in garlic and seaweed during our visit–and ice-cold water will be handed out. Once guests decide their drinks, the bartenders get to work, magically concocting each drink with their soul and utter precision. Then, tastefully, they design each drink, stalling enough for their paired food to arrive to go along with their drinks. Yes Please truly was an amazing escapade.

Of course, everything is attributed to behind-the-scenes work. Coming in an hour before their opening time, we arrived early enough to see the staff cleaning and the bartenders preparing the needed elements for their drinks, but late enough that the DJ had already arrived and had started a set. We met our point person, Kimmy’s uncle, Chef Mikko Reyes, part-owner of the club, prior to getting into the club. He informed us that we’d be meeting their head bartender, Mark Herrera, who’s been working under him for three years, has been a pro-bartender for seven years, and was the 2015 Philippine World Class Bartender. Needless to say, we were worried about our acute lack of knowledge of drinks that would surely be dwarfed by his. We were led to him immediately after entering the club, and were pleased to find out he was very amiable. We introduced ourselves and made small talk then got right down to business.

First, we were given the menu, to try and get a feel for the drinks the bar offered. We were slightly disoriented at the pace and were mildly panicking, trying to pick a suitable beginners drink, when the Mark stepped in. He asked us, individually, for our preferences, and we were going to customize a drink from that starting point. He started first with Alexa’s preference, who stated she was into sweet drinks that had alcohol that mixed well with the flavors, rather than overpower them. Mark then asked more questions, things regarding allergies, preferences, and mood. He then proposed a passion fruit-laced drink with rum and bourbon mixed with egg-white and garnished with a dehydrated lemon slice–a sweet, refreshing, fruity drink, as he dubbed it. Although we were skeptical at its complexity, we got to work after he had shown us how to make the drink. While mixing and measuring ingredients, with the thorough guidance of Mark, everything got technical and very scary for us, since we were afraid we’d make detrimental mistakes. We compiled 30mL of white rum, 15mL of bourbon, a squeeze of lemon, a dash of egg white, and finished the mixture with half a cap of syrup. When shaking the drink, Mark had shown us, firsthand, how to properly shake it. He had even commented the levels of shaking we did–Dry shake, which was shaking without ice, and the regular shake, which had ice. Shaking seemed to require strong arm strength, which both of us clearly lacked, so we let Mark aid us into finishing up. The glass he picked was a nice, dainty, concave martini glass, which was chilled to the touch, perfect for the drink we made. Next was the fun part, decorating the drink. We placed a dehydrated lemon, delicately, on top of the foamy, white liquid, and squeezed passion fruit essence in crescent squirts beside it. Then, emulating latte art, we got a thin rod and drew a line between the dark orange-pink dots we made, and voîla, the Alexa™ was made.

Shortly after, Mark moved on to asking Kimmy for her preferences for her drink. She’d already informed him of her allergy and low tolerance to alcohol, so he suggested to go for a milder base. Kimmy opted for something with chocolate because for some reason, the two had been craving for a Mudslide–which was a chocolate, alcoholic drink based on vodka. Mark took a while, trying to see with his co-bartenders if they had some particular ingredients, when he gave the okay. Thus, for the Kimmy, we started by blending a few spoons of Nutella, milk and some strawberry essence. In the Boston shaker, we added a jigger of lemon juice, vodka and hazelnut liqueur. The blended milk-chocolate mixture was then added to the Boston shaker with the alcohol. Again, Mark had to aid us with shaking the cocktails. Lastly, we took care of the presentation by putting whipped cream which Mark torched into a lovely meringue and topped it with a fresh strawberry.

Once we finished making both the drinks, the time to taste them came. Everyone seemed to stop what they were doing for that moment to look. The waiters, the other bartenders, even the manager stopped to check our progress out. Deciding not to waste anymore time, we each took a respective sip of our cocktails. The Alexa was glorious and tasted amazing. Not too bad for amateurs, honestly. The rum and bourbon had complemented the taste of the passion fruit so well, it almost only tasted like juice. With the aid of the egg white as a thickening agent and a hint of lemon, there was a zestiness and creaminess that kept you wanting more. The Alexa was truly the way Mark dubbed it. The Kimmy, on the other hand, was an adventure. Some sips gave you a sour taste due to the intermingling of the strawberry essence and pure vodka, while others gave a mellowed out sweetness thanks to the nutella, milk, and hazelnut liqueur. It was definitely something different, since we didn’t expect lemons, chocolate, and strawberries to taste so good together. The texture of this cocktail was also quite distinct since the acidity from the lemon juice had been incorporated with the milk and coagulated. As opposed to Alexa’s sweet drink, the Kimmy was classified as a sour.
Bartending, according to Mark, when he was helping us measure the ingredients for the Kimmy, used to be underappreciated. Vaguely, we remembered our point person, Chef Reyes, mention to us that the bartending scene only started booming around two years ago in the Makati and Fort area because most of the first cocktail bars were based in Makati. Mark then gestured to the shakers we were going to use, “Wala pa nga yatang ganyan noon eh!” then he chuckled. Afterwards, we asked Chef Reyes what the usual crowd was in the bars and why would they come, or keep returning. Being the proud co-owner of the bar, he gestured to us and commented on how sometimes, it would be people our age, sometimes not. The crowd usually varies per bar, if the bar were a more serious, lounge-type one that boasted sophistication, it would usually attract people on the more mature spectrum. Vibrant, more concentrated on the music rather than the specialization of cocktails, on the other hand, would cater to younger ones. “But here in Yes Please–” he begins, “It really varies. People usually come back here for the vibe and the taste of our drinks,” he finishes with a smile. Based on the insights we got, we believe the reason why people go to bars is for the experience.
After finishing our drinks, we thanked Mark for his time. “Make the Alexa and Kimmy actual drinks please! They’re seriously so good.” we gushed, and Mark says, “It’s [your] customized drink. If anyone else wants to ask for it, they can. But it’s made especially for you.”

This activity made us realize that actual participation gives you a new perspective on things. It’s different because you get to experience and feel the culture of cocktail making. You encounter the taste, smell, touch and sight of everything. It felt a little overwhelming because, for a couple of cocktail-making newbies, we somehow had a lot on our plate being placed in a bar where people could see us making drinks for the first time. To add to that, most of the things around us were made of glass. One wrong move and you’ve got glass shards all over the place potentially falling into customers’ already-made drinks. Either way, it really is a holistic experience for each person to enjoy. Being able to make cocktails for a few hours really opens one’s eyes to the art of it all. As mere customers and consumers, one does not really appreciate the techniques and the heart they put into making the drinks but through this undertaking, you discover that each action affects the taste and texture of the cocktail being made. If we would have just been observing, we wouldn’t understand and appreciate the cocktail making process as much as we did. As people who weren’t that into drinking cocktails and the whole bar scene in general, to actually become participants in the whole process and having our key informant tell us stories about working in bars and having entered in various competitions made us want to try experimenting on cocktails and going to bars for the conversation and fellowship with friends even more.

Aside from insuring that we had all the critical aspects and procedures covered while crafting our drinks, having a key informant gave added enjoyment to our endeavors by telling stories about how the Philippine bar scene came to be. It somehow even gave us a taste of what it would be like if we were to continue and pursue bartending as a profession. Having a key informant that’s been working in the bar and restaurant scene for more than a decade and is part-owner of a lot of successful establishments, we were given a backstage pass to see how Yes Please worked from the inside. We were also given the briefing that we needed such as the names and uses of all the tools in the bar and also the different techniques, other than the ones that Mark also taught us. If it were not for our key informant, we would be just making random drinks without having an end goal and we would not be able to “put our soul into it” and learn the fundamentals of cocktail making.

The difference participant observation has as compared to a survey or interview in this activity is that we found out the ins and outs to cocktail making and also were able to make our drinks exactly how we were directed to. We were able to follow careful instruction alongside a demonstration of the task itself by Mark who was beside us; guiding us the entire time. If this were merely a survey, we wouldn’t know the needed techniques and obviously, the outcome of our drinks would have been different. We wouldn’t have made our own beverages and would not have experienced the craft that comes with it. Cocktail making is also somehow very technical and reading answers off a survey sheet on how to do it would definitely not cut it. It wasn’t just the participation that gave good results but also the fact that we were making drinks side by side with professional bartenders who were instructing us every step of the way.

Surveys, however, would be a great research tool to use if we were to find out how frequent customers visit bars such as Yes Please. We would also be able to find out the reasons why these patrons visit many different bars across the Philippines. Do they go just to meet new friends? Do they like engaging in conversations with the bartenders or other customers like themselves? Through the use of surveys, we may also let customers tick off their preferences in the kinds of cocktails that they order. Aside from just selecting their answers from a bunch of pre-selected ones, surveys allow consumers to rank what exactly they look for in a cocktail. Is the flavor of the cocktail the most important factor when they order or is it the base alcohol used? Interviews, on the other hand, may give us an in-depth idea of why consumers prefer their chosen beverages. We may also use interviews to inquire why bartenders have stayed long and continued being in the Philippine bar scene. Basically, if we were to use surveys and interviews, the outcomes of this activity would be focused on the perceptions and interests of both the consumers and the producers alike — the type that requires deep explanation and not much of our actions to affect their responses.

As people who don’t really drink much, taking on this task of operating in a bar for a few hours opened our eyes to the deeper importance of cocktail making and consuming alcohol in general. People don’t just go out to bars to get drunk but they go out for the full experience. Hearing all the lively music, engaging in deeper conversations with your peers and sometimes even the bartenders, and experiencing the craft that has been put into the production of your drink. As what Mark told us while we were in Yes Please, many Filipinos are not that educated in terms of knowing what to drink. He told us that we are slowly making progress in our preference to alcohol. Soon enough, it won’t just be people buying beer out of a can or whiskey in a glass but people will learn how to cater to their wants and be able to tell bartenders exactly what they want to experience in their drink. We are positive that the Philippine bar scene will bloom even more within the next coming years because since there are a lot of cocktail bars open around Metro Manila, people are presented with more chances to indulge themselves in all that these bars have to offer. With broader horizons in terms of drinking preferences, people will have more diverse choices aside from the drinks that you can just buy from a store. Consumers will become more aware, more informed, and educated drinkers because they will have acquired the taste for something more. People will soon crave for more than the ordinary and will be able to find their own tastes. From the conversations we had from our point person, Chef Mikko Reyes, and Mark, we were able to see how the cocktail making in the Philippines developed from once a small things with relatively only a few bars, into the big booming business that it is now for many Filipinos from different walks of life.

We would definitely recommend that people try making their own cocktails as well because it truly is something else. There’s a liberating feeling that comes with it because you’re able to create a work of art (or drink of art, if you will) solely based on what you like, not like just buying your particular preference of alcohol in a bar and have someone pour it out in front of you because commercial alcohol is already a pre-mixed solution that fits to your tastes. Customising a drink takes so much factors into account — your preferences, your mood, and the like. Plus points, also, because you made it in an actual bar!!! Really, it was a once in a lifetime experience for us to be doing that since we never really considered having careers in the field of bar and restaurant management. Despite not looking to work any jobs in that direction, we find ourselves fascinated with the knowledge, experience, and precision that comes with people of that area.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Ride Revolution: No Thirdwheels

Ride Revolution: No Thirdwheels

Aison, Fellone, Reyes (SA 21 – F)

Staying fit and living a healthy lifestyle are very important aspects in one’s life. Throughout the years, people have found many different ways and alternatives to keep healthy. Aside from hitting the gym, nowadays people go to saunas, yoga, zumba, and many more. Our group decided to join Ride Revolution (or “Ride Rev” to regular riders), an alternative that uses a combination of stationary bikes, music, and lights to create a different work-out experience. Our group wanted to learn more about the new workout craze, understand what makes it so popular, and see if there’s more to it than just getting fit. 

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According to clickthecity.com, Ride Revolution was discovered by Viv Tordecillas. When she was staying in Washington DC, she was able to integrate indoor cycling as part of her lifestyle. The cycling enthusiast, along with her husband, wanted to bring cycling to the Philippines. With the help of some friends and partners, they were able to put up Ride Revolution’s first branch in Makati. Not too long after putting up their first, they were able to put up another branch in Shangri-la Mall in Ortigas.

Unlike other gyms, Ride Revolution gives importance not only to the physical exercise of their customers, but to the whole well-being of each individual. The company has some core values that it wishes to instill in its members. Some of which are integrity, empowerment, community, safety and dedication. These values are what the company thinks will help people change for the better not only physically but in other aspects of their lives as well.

Now some people may wonder, what makes Ride Revolution different from cycling machines found in the gym? Ride Revolution does not use ordinary stationary bikes that can be seen in gyms. Each bike is equipped with its own data console which tracks the cyclist’s power, calories burned, RPM, distance, and heart rate. The customer may then track their progress as updates are sent to them whenever they log in to their website.

The “Calm” Before the Storm

We mostly knew of Ride Rev from celebrities online and from our peers who would post on social media. However, we didn’t really know what we would be getting ourselves into. We decided to go to Ride Rev with our blockmates, Jeslie Arollado and Carina Tan, as our key informants. Our informants had already gone to 5 Ride Revolution classes prior to the one we all went to last week. Days before our desired class schedule, our informants already gave us instructions on how to enroll and book our rides. They told us about the sulit first-timer package wherein we could book 3 rides for the price of 1. The day before our class, our informants also told us to not wear white (unless we wanted to stand out!) since the neon lights will only make the white-colored cloths/fabrics visible in the room. This was just the beginning of all the help our informants would be providing us with. 

While walking to the Shangri-La branch, we started to feel a mix of emotions. Our group was feeling very excited. We did’t want to spoil ourselves with what we would be experiencing in a few minutes however, we couldn’t help but ask Jeslie and Carina more about Ride Rev. They told us that the class would be really exhausting but fun. They even mentioned that they usually see their former batchmates from high school there. They were also talking about one instructor who they found really cute and even promised to take our photos in the famous “instagram worthy” spots in the studio. These were the spots we’d see pictures of online. In a sense, it was mandatory to have one’s picture taken in any of these spots to prove that he/she was actually at Ride Rev. 

Jumping in Head First

Upon entering the doors of Ride Revolution at Shangri-La, we were greeted by a friendly receptionist and some of the instructors. Jeslie and Carina told us to register first, fill up the form for first-timers, and tell the receptionist our shoe size. We followed their instructions and were handed our clean shoes. These shoes were special since they were magnetic, allowing them to be attached to the pedals of the bike. Then, our informants lead us upstairs to the locker area where we deposited all our stuff and changed into the required shoes. Without Jeslie and Carina, we wouldn’t be able to figure out how the digital combination lock of the lockers worked since it wasn’t like anything we’ve seen before. They also showed us where the shower areas were and where to put our used shoes and towels.

IMG_5152Here in the locker area, we were exposed to more of the “culture” at Ride Rev. We watched how riders would interact, talking excitedly with one another, asking about each others trips, etc. We were exposed to a variety of riders. The riders were from different age groups (high school to college students, working adults) and they seemed to be from the upper middle class to upper class. They had varied body types (fit, chubby, muscular, etc.), wore “fashionable” workout gear, and were mostly English-speaking. Aside from the riders, we noticed the space. Unlike a usual locker room, there were bean bags for riders to lay on. It was very open, not cramped. The space was made for people to stay and wind down.

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Unfortunately the group was unable to take a picture of the rules at the Shangri-La branch. This picture was taken from wheninmanila.com. It’s the same poster but from the Steps Studio

It was also here where we saw a poster of Ride Revolution’s 5 Rules. These rules are being implemented in order for riders to have the best experience. The first rule is to keep the phones in the lockers. This lessens distractions that may arise and enables people to put their 100% focus on the exercise. The second rule is to have good and proper hygiene inside the spinning studio. They encourage the people to sweat, however, odor may disrupt the focus of others. And unpleasant odor is bad in general, who would want it in the first place? The third rule is to keep a positive attitude. There is no room for people’s ego inside the studio, so whether you’re a first-timer or not, physically fit or not, everyone is equal in the room and that is what Ride Revolution wants people to remember. The fourth rule is to prevent conversations while the class is ongoing. This may disrupt the other riders who went there to make a difference within themselves. The last rule is to respect the ride. Everyone is expected to follow and participate while the class is ongoing. Doing something different or against the flow of the program may affect the whole class especially if seated in front. Ride revolution is both communal and personal. An imbalance between the two may hinder people from experiencing it to the fullest.

“Get ready 4:15!” All the riders hurried downstairs, outside the studio. The energy was a mix of excitement and intimidation. It was at this point where you could tell the regular riders from the first-timers. Regular riders were calm and smiling. “First-timers” (us included) were anxious. Our instructor, Cam greeted all of us and kicked the studio doors open. It was time for the class to begin. The lights were dimmed and the music was loud. Everyone grabbed a pair of dumbbells and rushed inside. Before the workout started, Cam asked if there were any first-timers. Out of 28 students, 6 of us were first-timers and this was announced to the entire class letting everyone know of our presence. With this, a number of instructors had willingly assisted us in setting up the bicycle to make sure that the dimensions of the equipment would be suitable for each one’s height. They were also in a hurry in assisting so as not to delay the schedule. While the first-timers were being assisted, most of the students had already set up their bikes and had started spinning. If it were an all-regulars class with no newbies, then there wouldn’t be any more instructors rushing around to help since the students would already know how to adjust their bikes on their own.

During the class, we as first-timers really had little to no influence on the scene since cycling is an individual workout. Each and every student was focused on doing their own thing. This was something Cam mentioned at the start of the class. “No one will be looking at you but yourself.” True enough, we could only really see ourselves in the floor-ceiling mirror in front of us. Although our speed and strength weren’t the same level as those of the pro-cyclists and regulars, our presence and what we were doing didn’t become hindrances to others’ time and workout. Talking with friends during class also isn’t allowed as posted in their rules since everyone must be listening to the instructor while minding their own business.

Despite this, Cam constantly recognized and gave shoutouts to us first-timers saying we were doing a great job. She even approached us first-timers if she felt we needed a little help. We never felt left out nor bullied the entire time. It also helped that the three of us booked bikes that are beside each other and are at the back row. So during the times when we were laughing at ourselves or secretly resting,  no one would be able to see us and that we wouldn’t be disturbing or distracting anyone.

As the class progressed, the lights and music would change, adjusting to the what we were doing. We did a combination of sprints and upper body conditioning. Cam would remind everyone to give their best and not to hold back. Towards the end of the class, Cam told us to be proud because we were coming out new people. She gave us time to close our eyes and just breathe, think about how we are allowing ourselves to change into better beings. This is where we got to see more of the spiritual aspect of Ride Revolution. We ended the session with some stretching and breathing.

IMG_5153We stayed outside the studio for a while, while others went back to the lockers. We noticed how some of the regular riders talked to Cam after. We overheard their conversations and they talked about their next “ride” together. It was evident that some riders knew the instructors well or have formed bonds with them. As we were talking, Cam even joined us for a bit and congratulated us on our first ride. We went back up eventually. Most of the riders had gone. We rested by the bean bags and looked inside the bathrooms. We were amazed at how clean and complete they were, showers fully-stocked with shampoo and soap and there were even hair dryers ready. We even took some time to take pictures at the “Instagram-worthy” spots that Jeslie and Carina mentioned.

An Enlightenment of Sorts

Overall, the experience was eye-opening and having our informants guide us throughout this activity made our experience a little easier and hassle-free. Through the stories they’ve shared and with the tips they have given us, the group was able to embrace this rather new and unique environment with not much apprehensions. The group would not have had a smooth process if it weren’t for the counsel and presence of Jeslie and Carina.

Furthermore, what we assumed was a simple workout turned out to be more than that. Our experience showed us that Ride Revolution is comprised of a community of people who all work towards the well-being of each and every person. It wasn’t just the physical aspect being trained, but the spiritual and social aspects as well. The class was tough, putting riders through an intense work out. Despite how draining the class was, it was balanced by the calming aura of the vicinity, the time after workouts to clear our minds, and the friendly disposition of each individual there.

After reviewing how our presence could influence the environment, we have come to realize the importance of respect and sensitivity especially when visiting a place for the first time and when participating in something that is quite new to us. We also realized how actively participating gave us a deeper understanding of the event. Had we just observed, we wouldn’t have learned the things we did. This participation gave us insights that we experienced first-hand. Compared to just interviewing someone and taking their insights, we were able to understand ourselves.

The very narcotic burnout experience of the workout together with the gush of vibrant and positive energy coming from our bodies and from the room cannot be fully captured nor described in any type of interview or questionnaire. Despite reading a few blogs and articles about Ride Rev beforehand and despite all the stories we heard from our informants, being able to experience the frenzy for ourselves is what really sealed the deal. Moreover, to be able to witness with our own eyes and ears how everyone connects to the workout and with their own selves is exceptional. It went beyond any review we have read or any story we have heard. It is really quite difficult to summarize and reduce the activity into mere words only.

Each and every individual who took that class has their own story to tell. We have different body types and different fitness levels. Thus, the effect of the workout on our body, wellness, and mind will definitely vary. To interview only a few people out of the hundreds who have experienced Ride Rev will not give you everything that the workout and the experience of being there has to offer. A number of small details would definitely be missed out. A questionnaire or interview would aid in our study than participant observation if the group would like to compare and contrast the different thoughts, opinions, and experiences from firsthand sources specifically, other participants or instructors without us having any knowledge about the main activity.

Ride Revolution and Philippine Culture

Our experience in Ride Revolution further enhanced our understanding about the Philippine culture and its society. First, we realized how Filipinos could bring and make use of their innate creativity and resourcefulness everywhere they go and in every aspect of their life. Stationary bicycles alone may seem dull and boring as you will find them in ordinary gyms or fitness areas. However, Filipinos didn’t stop and settle there. They innovated and even integrated fashion and music into this workout. Filipinos are known for keeping a happy disposition even in the midst of suffering or hardships. Similarly to Ride Revolution, the workout itself is exhausting but members have managed to put the fun and are able to make riders motivate themselves even more.

Another insight we have gained is how strong the influence and marketing of famous celebrities have on businesses and brands. Isabelle Daza, Raymond Gutierrez, and Coleen Garcia are just a few of the big names that promote Ride Revolution in the Philippines. Even without being as fit or athletic as them, a huge audience would be inclined to at least try a Ride Rev class once just because these celebrities have enticed them to do so. With their prominent presence on social media, they are also able to reach a large ‘following’ or audience that would help in the marketing of the company. We realized that Filipinos really are solid fans of many famous personalities and are at times already blindly worshipping some of them. Also, most of Ride Revolution’s instructors are actually former UAAP athletes and courtside reporters. The number of fans of Philippine collegiate sports has expanded through the years and having well-known and qualified instructors to facilitate the classes adds to one of the many reasons why people would want to go to Ride Rev.

However, we also noticed that Ride Revolution’s connections, promoters, and fees have more appeal to Filipinos ranging from the upper middle class to upper class only. We believe that it reflects how the more elite Filipinos are willing to spend quite an amount for these types of workout classes even if there are ordinary ones that could give the same fitness result. Not the same experience, but probably the same physical result.

In addition, we realized how important relationships are to Filipinos. One will see families, barkadas, classmates, colleagues, spouses, and couples in Ride Revolution just enjoying their time together. But even if you go alone, the instructors and staff won’t hesitate to have a chat with you. But to be honest, the classes would be really more fun and enjoyable if you came with someone or with a group of friends. A lot of positive The community in Ride Rev reflects how Filipinos are naturally friendly and sociable towards other people even to those whom we do not know. We learned that the spirit of community and friendship never leaves the Filipino heart.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is something easy to say yet, most of the time, difficult to do. Most people find it hard because they are faced with a situation that they are most likely unfamiliar to. For us, Ride Rev is something not part of our daily routines and an activity none of us have tried. In this activity, we were able to learn and realize things that we tend to overlook. We were able to see the creativity of Filipinos, the evolution of technology and how it helps us in our daily lives, the importance of questionnaires/interviews and actual participation when it comes to research, the way people interact with each other during these kinds of events, but most especially, the value of trying out new things.

On a personal level, we were able to understand the physical, emotional, and spiritual change that Ride Rev tried to instill in its riders. On a social level, we were able to experience the community inside Ride Rev. Despite being first-timers, we didn’t feel out of place. We didn’t feel like thirdwheels, intruding on a couple’s date. Rather, we felt part of the community. It is because of this that we felt the need to give our all so as not to let anyone down. Despite our anxieties towards experiencing this exciting yet, intimidating event, we were able to gain deeper knowledge. Maybe these anxieties were a result of trying something new. Yes, it may have been fearsome and uncomfortable at first, but it helped us discover ourselves more and gives us the courage to face other situations outside our circle. This experience was truly different for all of us, an example of stepping out to new horizons.

References:

“About Us – Ride Revolution.” Ride Revolution, n.d,. https://www.riderevolution.ph/about. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

Acosta, Beatriz. “Rise and Ride: Ride Revolution Puts a Fun Spin on Fitness.” Clickthecity.com, 2 May 2016, https://www.clickthecity.com/health-beauty/a/29803/rise-and-ride-ride-revolution-puts-a-fun-spin-on-fitness. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Feeding Program in Roxas District

For the safety of the children we were asked not to post pictures of them in order to Protect their interests.

The world outside our doors is an ever stretching landscape of different people, culture and environments. This is a fact of life that we know full well. This can be witnessed as we gaze beyond ourselves while still being firmly planted within our comfort zone. We can see the diversity around us, appreciate it’s beauty and it’s integrity, but these facts only remain in our head. When condition and culture is set to cold hard facts understood from a distance, it’s hard to see these through the lens of humanity, it is hard to relate to the world outside our doors. Humanity pleads for connection. We are designed to relate to each other, to understand one another, to empathize with each other and to develop a relationship. This takes action. We need to reach out in order to start. And as the old adage goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We must go out of ourselves to begin this quest for connection. We must step into the world outside our doors.

Background of the Activity
Our group set out to understand children of the marginalized members of the urban poor community. This was met through joining a feeding program for the kids of Roxas District at the Kampupot Multipurpose Hall. We met the kids and witnessed how ecstatic they were to meet the team of the feeding program. Our group also aimed to get to know the culture of the volunteers of this feeding program. We saw how the members of the feeding program responded to the kids and related to them. We witnessed how a relationship was formed in this act of stepping into their world.

The community of urban poor at Roxas District can be found by the creek behind the barangay. Here we can find a lively community where children abound, playing in the street of this their multipurpose hall. We often find them here because this is the only space they have to run around for their houses line the creek and therefore have narrow walkways that don’t allow such activities. With many children going to the area of the multipurpose hall, this is an ideal location to conduct the program.

Higher Rock Christian Church is an evangelical church that, through its ministry group called Firstfruits led by Arnie Leonorio, which aims to teach children about Christ, the Gospel and the Bible through weekly meetings. They began by going to hospitals and talking to sick children, getting to know them more, encouraging them and teaching them about God. But in the recent years, they go to specific barangays of the urban poor to teach and minister to the children there. They began at Bayoran, the municipal hall of Barangay South Triangle, and have, since last year, moved to the Kampupot Multipurpose Hall of Barangay Roxas District. Their endeavors in Barangay Roxas District began as weekly Sunday School teaching. Now, the Firstfruits team also meets with the kids during Saturday mornings, providing breakfast for the children and refreshing on the lessons taught during the previous Sunday School session held.

The weekly feeding begins at the home of the volunteer cooks, where the food to be served is prepared at the morning of the feeding to ensure the freshness of the food. These volunteer cooks are not members of Firstfruits, but are varying Bible study groups of Higher Rock Christian Church who volunteer. Each week is a new group depending on the availability. These volunteer cooks then gather at the Higher Rock Center where they meet with the Firstfruits group and together go to Kampupot Multipurpose Hall.

Activity Proper
When we, along with the Firstfruits volunteers began to pull into the driveway of the multipurpose hall, we were eagerly greeted by the kids who kept waving at the cars that came their way. They have been coming to this program for a year now and have come to enjoy the company of the volunteers. The children were all invited to join the program, with even some members of the ministry coming to their homes and inviting the kids to the multipurpose hall. As they were greeted by their teachers and taught their lesson, our group assisted the volunteers who were preparing the food. Through these we experienced the care that goes into this activities. Each volunteer eagerly served the kids. This energy motivated us to do our best in serving the food and assisting the work being done. By helping them out, we also experienced the affection of the kids as they gratefully received the food we were serving them and as we addressed their needs. Although some tasks were specifically designated to those who are members of Firstfruits, like the teaching of the lessons, we were able to witness the relationship that these members have with the children. The ministry’s twice a week visit has blossomed into friendship. These members knew key things about each child and lovingly conversed to each one. They knew which kids needed more attention, who were the naughty ones and which kids were more receptive and responsive to the teachings. The kids knew the concern that each volunteer had for them and have noticeably grown to love them.

After the lesson was taught and the kids were fed, we helped out in packing up the area. As we partook in this, we experienced the camaraderie of not only each member of the Firstfruits and the volunteers, but also the kids, who have developed a heart for the program, out of their own volition, helped out in cleaning up.

Although the budding relationship between the Firstfruits and the children of the urban poor at Roxas District is palpable to anyone who would observe the program, actual involvement introduces a new dynamic to relating to them. This involvement is the step that begins an intimate connection. As we stepped into the world of both the volunteers and the children, we experienced what elements contributed to this relationship. We joined in the efforts of the volunteers that exemplified the love that each one felt for the kids. And as we served the children, we were recipients of the warmth, open arms and gratitude of the children as they came to us and eagerly participated in the program. All these were only made possible through the act of stepping out of our door and coming into their world. Through this participation, we got to know these volunteers and children better and are closer to forging a connection that transcends what mere observational facts can collect.

Our Key Informant: Ms. Je Amigo
During the activity, our key informant was Ms. Je Amigo. She is part of the Higher Rock Christian Church bible study group who regularly volunteers by cooking and serving the food to be given in Roxas District. The bible study groups in the church alternate on which will handle the cooking every saturday. The bible study group who volunteers on a given week will prepare food good enough for 50 kids. Usually, there are only around 30-40 kids but then the bible study group prepares more than needed because kids would ask for extra servings.

Ms. Je helped us a lot to our understanding of the activity. She was able to explain to us how they chose the community that we went to, as well as why they continue to push through with the program every Saturday. She also helped us further understand the community we visited as well as the stories of some of the kids, as she was able to get to know them during her visits.
We met up with Ms. Je in Higher Rock Christian Church in Quezon CIty at 7:30 in the morning. From there, we went to the community in Roxas District together. When we got to the community, there were already some kids at the Barangay Hall. However, we still had to pick up some of the kids from their houses. It was definitely a new sight to see when we went to the community to pick up the kids. The pathway was very narrow, it could only fit 1-2 people at a time. Aside from that, it was quite muddy and a bit smelly because of the surroundings. They were located right above a creek and in times of heavy rain, the creek overflows. As a result, the community has to evacuate their houses. After picking the kids up, we proceeded to the barangay hall where the feeding program was held.

As mentioned earlier, before the feeding takes place, the assigned teacher will review with the kids what they learned from the Bible Study of the previous week. After the review, the kids are taken to wash their hands in the sanitation area. After, one of the participants will be asked to lead the prayer and then the distribution of food will take place. The food is distributed by the other church volunteers. The food that was served when we assisted in the feeding program was arroz caldo. We packed them in plastic tupperwares and distributed them to the kids. After they got their food, we gave out water. And after everyone was finished with their meals, we gave them dessert.

Ms. Je helped us understand the different things we were able to observe during the activity. There were four main observations that we wanted to further understand. First, we observed that there was a wide variety of ages from participants. Upon asking Ms. Je why, she explained to us that when the program first started, there were only about 10 kids. But when they continued to hold the feeding program every saturday, the group of kids started to grow. When the community found out about the program, they were more willing to let their children join. So from a group of 10 kids, it is now a group of 32 kids, and it still continues to grow. The church continues to invite more families from the community to get their children to participate in the program. Second, we observed that there were some very young kids participating in the program. Ms. Je then explained to us that majority of the participants are actually family members. We met a family of 5 siblings who were at the program. The youngest of them was 3 years old and the eldest was 8 years old. It was sweet and touching to see the eldest sibling helping out the younger ones. Since there was quite a big age gap, we noticed that this age gap affected the participation of the kids. During the bible study review, the older kids were the only ones answering the questions of the teacher. The younger ones looked like they were very bored or did not understand what was going on. Third, we observed that there were a lot of kids that did not finish their food and others who asked for more servings. When asking Ms. Je about it, she suggested that we also talk to the participants to find out. Upon asking the kids, they said that they wanted their families to try the food as well. Although, there were also some kids who were also just too full to finish their food. There was also a kid who was pointed out by Ms Je as a new participant of the feeding program. She mentioned that they found him in a house that looked more depleted compared to the other kids’. They mentioned that he came from a family that was “mas nangangailangan”. That being said, he did ask for more servings but not so that he could bring it home for his family, but because he was really hungry. He was also relatively thinner than the other participants. Lastly, we noticed a culture of the community. There was a young girl wearing a bracelet that was very eye catching. This was called “Usog”. Ms. Je told us that it was culture in some communities where they would give these kinds of bracelets to their children. We were told that the bracelet was used to drive away spirits that would make the child sick. To prevent such occurrences, their parents would ask people to apply saliva on their child to drive away the spirit.

Learnings from Observations
Through the observing the feeding program, we were able to learn about the culture and situation of the participants coming from Roxas District as well as the church volunteers. As from the participants, we learned that those living in not so well off communities have a different culture from ours. We noticed that they were more selfless when it comes to blessings they receive. Rather than to keep it to themselves, they want to share their blessings with their families. This opened our eyes to be more caring of our family members, most especially our parents that provide for us. As we have already been used to the comfortable life provided for us, we fail to count and realize the blessings that we have, failing to thank our parents and everyone else that help us along the way. We realized that we are lucky to be in our place and we should not abuse it. As from the volunteers, we learned to always give with an open heart. It does not cost that much for the feeding program, but it’s much harder to participate in it. It takes time and effort, the kids weren’t really easy to deal with, but they continue to help them out of love. We learned that small efforts don’t necessarily go a long way, but they do contribute to the wellness and happiness of those around us.

Limitations of Participant Observation (compared to interviews and questionnaires)
The conducted activity used participant observation since the goal is to identify the situation of the people involved in the activity: the children, the minister, the volunteers, and their relationships. We used participant observation to help us get a feel of how things are organized and prioritized, how people interrelate, and what the cultural parameters were. Taking part in the feeding program helped us immerse ourselves in the culture of the participants, as well as the volunteers. Through our observations, we were able to learn more about their culture, particularly in their practices and beliefs.

We understand the limitations of the method that we used in gathering information. Participant observation allowed us to get a lot of qualitative information, but we failed to get the more quantitative information such as age and gender, that would help us get more grasp on the demographic of the children who participated in the feeding program. Giving out questionnaires and conducting interviews are used for social research that involves a ‘deeper’ understanding of a social phenomena, it requires more research thus it needs more quantitative data. Conducting Interviews is a qualitative method and is similar to participant observation. Both are meant to explore the views, beliefs and/or motivations of individuals. However, it touches on specific matters. Interviews are most appropriate when little is already known about the study phenomenon or where detailed insights are required from the individual participants. Thus, they are particularly appropriate for extra sensitive topics, where participants may not want to talk about some issues in a group environment. On the other hand, questionnaires are used to obtain quantitative data of the social research. It allows the researcher to gather a significant amount of data and concretely measure the different variables of the situation. They are used to measure people’s attitudes, values, experiences, and past behaviour.

After the feeding program, we realized that conducting interviews or giving out questionnaires would help us in our research. However, our research is not so focused on the quantitative data, but the qualitative. Thus, we closely observed what was happening in the activity. Luckily, we had our key informant Ms. Je who helped us understand the things we had a hard time grasping. She helped us process all our findings after the activity, but as aforementioned it would have helped us come up with better conclusions if we were able to conduct interviews or give out questionnaires alongside our observations. Below are some situations wherein we should have conducted interviews and or given out questionnaires.

If our research were to focus on studying the specific people of the activity: the children, who are the participants of the activity sponsored by the Church, questions such as their knowledge of the children about God and/or Catechism, coming from public schools or they aren’t sent to school due to focusing on other matters, or even focusing on their health and lifestyle or living situations such as ‘what meals do they eat at their homes?’ to answer the reason why they are being fed by Higher Rock Christian Church’s Bible Study Group. Aside from this, we could also ask them about their age and gender for us to get a better grasp and understanding of the participants. For the teacher-volunteers, we could have asked questons that focuses on their social class and the reason why they choose to interact with children who are from a lower bracket of society.

If our research were to focus on the environment of the activity, we would ask the Volunteers, who closely work with the children, about the differences between the environmental situation of the volunteers and the children. We would really look into the terms of how they feel and act in the different environments. We would also ask the children certain questions that would help us have a grasp and measure their safety and security in their homes. We would also ask them if they feel comfortable in their living conditions (i.e. regular sleeping hours, playing outside the house, crossing the street), becaused based on our observations, their community lacks safe areas where they can play as well as live. As mentioned earlier, the walkways of their community were very narrow and right across the creek. During times of typhoon, the families living in the community have no choice but to evacuate their homes. There are also a lack of safe places for the children to play in, as aside from the narrow walkways, there are roads where in a lot of cars pass by during the day.

Thus, we acknowledge the limitations of the method we used in the research; participant observation. Our chosen method provided us with generalizations and instances on the situation of the activity. However, if we were to use interviews and questionnaires alongside our observations, we would be able to come up with more grounded findings with the help of the quantitative data possibly gathered from the two methods.

Insights about Philippine Society and Culture
When we were distributing food to the kids, a seven-year-old boy asked, “Ate, pahingi ng dalawang Dewberry. Ibibigay ko ang isa kay nanay.” As stated earlier, these kids who participate in the program bring home some of the food given to them. The other volunteers also mentioned that they regularly notice some children, in an attempt to extend their food, just eat rice and sauce, so that they can bring home the meal. Through this we consistently see the heart of each Filipino to provide and care for their family. We witnessed this in even the youngest participant of the feeding program. It is evident that family, in our society, regardless of age and socioeconomic class, is a priority. Love not only takes an active role as Filipinos aim to do whatever they can in their power to make their family, and the people around them happier.

This familial love even extends to fellow countrymen as we witnessed the Firstfruits ministry and the other volunteers of Higher Rock Christian Church extend a hand to the children in the Roxas District community. We witnessed a marked love and devotion that each volunteer had to the program. We experienced the love that led them to get to know the kids, address their needs and let them know more about the Bible. The Firstfruits ministry has forged a family in this barangay. And just like familial bonds, these volunteers are devoted to these kids, assuring them of a constant support system. The volunteers also find ways to be of more help to these children. They are planning to expand the curriculum that they teach the children and they create more activities and opportunities for these children. Through this activity we see a familial bond that goes beyond blood ties. We see how love and devotion for family and the community is seen in each Filipino.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THE DJ AT TACO JOE’S

Canlas, Xeina 162261
Cruz, Gabriella 162267
SA21 – P
Skilty Labastilla

We entered Taco Joe’s, a well-known bar and restaurant in Katipunan, to observe the environment and to watch our informant (Diego) spin. We decided to arrive an hour before Diego was going to spin so we could observe what the bar or restaurant looked before, during, and after his gig. The most noticeable traits of the bar or restaurant is that it’s quite small, compared to the other restaurants in the same building, and that it has more of a Mexican styled theme. The counter where they made the drinks took up a little less than a 1/4th of the entire restaurant. There are 12 tables with two chairs on either side of the table. For bigger groups, they allow them to put the tables together to form one large table. There is a small bathroom of to the side and near it is an ‘employees only’ door, which is where they most likely cook the food that they offer. We counted 4 floor workers that make drinks, wait on tables, and alternate between going in and out of the kitchen. The smoking area is located right outside of the door, it’s filthy. Filled with cigarette butts and ashes, they also keep their empty bottles of beer outside. Unlike the outside of the restaurant, the inside was very clean. Not an ounce of trash, cigarette ash, or dust. The tables were glossed and smooth to the touch. The ‘DJ corner’ as our informant called it, was quite small and at the very back of the bar and restaurant. It was directly next to the table we decided would be the best place to occupy, because you’re able to oversee the entire bar and restaurant. Taco Joe’s was not obnoxiously noisy like we thought it would be, it had more of a quiet murmur of music and soft voices. Majority of the music that was played was the hits of the early 2000’s like R.Kelly, Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Eminem etc. That all changed when our informant, Diego, started to spin. The music got louder, everyone started screaming, singing, and dancing on tables. The entire bar and restaurant smelled faintly of fried meat, nothing too intense but it was definitely noticeable. However, it didn’t smell foul it smelled similarly to a stake on the stove.
While waiting for Diego, we ordered some food and drinks. We ordered the ‘Carnitas Fries’ and the ‘Smoked Pulled Pork’ street tacos. There were options whether you wanted a ‘solo’ meal or a ‘to share’ meal. The difference between most of the meal options is 75 pesos. For drinks, we ordered the recommended drink on the menu; the Red, Blue, or Green Margaritas. We got 4 of the Margaritas and decided to get the ‘to share’ option for both meals. Even though we got the ‘to share’ option, the food still seemed small. We were able to finish both meals in (give or take) 10 minutes. The food was good, but nothing stood out as amazing. We both shared that we thought ‘Taco Bell’ was still infinitely better. We both only sipped from the Margaritas so we would have a general idea of what they tasted like. They were very sweet and the salt on the rim of the glass balanced out the flavors very well.

When we first entered Taco Joe’s we were very intimidated. From what we’ve heard, Taco Joe’s seemed to be the kind of place where mostly seniors would hang out and drink. We also aren’t the type of people that like to go out and drink, so the prospect of having to go out to a new place and be surrounded by people doing things outside of our comfort zone was scary. It was also very awkward, because while everyone was going wild while Diego spinned, we sat back and observed what was happening; we definitely looked out of place. Those feelings, however, didn’t last long because we decided it would be best if we try, as much as possible, to immerse ourselves in what was happening and enjoy the situation like everyone else. After our phase of intimidation and awkwardness, we ended up enjoying the activity. Albeit, we felt as though we weren’t able to enjoy it as much as everyone else because we still had to keep some level of composure to keep up with the fieldwork. We were also surprised, because we assumed that Taco Joe’s would mostly be filled with Ateneans- we found out that there were quite a few University of Diliman and Miriam students there as well just drinking and enjoying the music.

At first, we felt that people assumed we were quit strange because we were at the very back of the restaurant just looking around, making observations, and not touching the Margaritas we ordered. After that, we felt like people responded positively to us -once we stopped being so stiff- because we ended up meeting some people outside our age group and outside of our college. Once Diego started spinning, everyone went wild. People started to dance on chairs, tables, the quiet murmur of the bar or restaurant became full brown screaming and singing, and everyone started chugging down alcohol as fast as possible. Diego allowed us to pick some of the songs he would remix on the spot, and allowed us to ‘scratch’ the music every once and a-while, but it never lasted too long. For the most part, the songs we picked for him to remix seemed to be positively received by the crowd because it was met with a lot of dancing and singing.

Diego informed us that we wouldn’t be allowed to remix a full song on our own, due to the fact that neither of us have touched any kind of DJ equipment before and neither of us knew how it worked. He did, however, say that we could make choose some of the songs we could remix and he’d let us ‘scratch’ for a couple of seconds just so we knew what it was like. He also informed us that Taco Joe’s gets quite wild, he did mention that people would scream and dance on chairs but we assumed he was exaggerating. He also taught us the parts of his spinning equipment, while we were eating- around an hour before he was booked to spin. He also told us what parts do what to songs. It all seemed very complicated, but he assured us that it wasn’t too hard to understand. He also mentioned that he took classes at ‘DJ Academy’ which is, essentially, a school for DJ education and they feature world-class DJ instructors. He also said that he bought his all his equipment there, and that they offer ‘Basic’ ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’ DJ education.
We definitely found that our presence made a difference, usually DIego doesn’t take song requests or allow people to touch any of his equipment, but since he allowed us to do it (for the sake of our fieldwork) a great deal of people kept trying to request songs and ask if the could ‘scratch’. At one point, a very tall (and seemingly inebriated) boy asked Diego if he could mix a song and dedicate it to his girlfriend, Diego said “i don’t allow people to touch my equipment, it’s 13,000 pesos if it breaks there’s no guarantee you’ll pay me back”. The boy got angry, started calling him out, and mentioned that were were touching his equipment. We had to calmly explain to him that this was meant to be fieldwork for one of our classes and that we made this arrangement with Diego 2 days ago, we also had to mention to neither of us remixed an entire song. After that he calmed down and left, but still, people kept trying to come up and request songs and touch his equipment, because he allowed us to do so.

Spinning or “DJ-ing” seems to be a common activity in Philippines culture (at least now it is). Some clubs, like ‘Black Market’, advertise themselves as clubs that anyone and everyone can spin in, as a result you get a different mix of music every night (which is why it’s so appealing). It isn’t just EDM music, you get to lister to Rap, Jazz, Hip-Hop, RnB etc. Music in the Philippines is incredibly important, we sing songs in about our faith, we have folk music, we use it to portray feelings that we can’t express in words. In fact, the Philippines was one of the first Asian countries to involve itself in Hip-Hop. DJ-ing now is just the new way people express themselves through music. Spinning songs also help you connect with the crowd more, you also learn a lot more because the crowd is very vocal about whether they like your ‘style’ or not. The people who DJ, especially those who DJ live, are incredibly creative and require great musicality. They need to think, on the spot, about what would sound good with this song? how should they remix it? Should they make it more trap or more RnB? They’re very quick on their feet and they have a good ear for what sounds good.

It was very insightful to learn that being “behind the set” or being “behind the desk”, also known as the DJ’s corner, is different from being part of the crowd. Observing the crowd and the whole scene on the other hand was quite awkward and weird because of course, while everyone was dancing to the music and enjoying their time, we were just sitting down and casually looking at everyone around us. It was intimidating to see that everyone was already enjoying themselves while we just got to the place, but once the alcoholic drinks were consumed, that initial feeling of intimidation did not quite last. Participating in the event was different in the sense that you get to enjoy with the people around you, and not just watch people having fun. It is awkward, and we found it quite difficult to enjoy the event without participating by consuming the alcoholic drinks that we ordered.

Participating in the event by talking with other people made us explicitly immerse ourselves in the event. We believe that we had the full experience because we did not just make new friends, we also enjoyed the music and had Diego “teach” us how to play. Though through making song requests and having Diego let us “scratch” the music was not much since it only lasted for a few minutes, it really made us feel that we influenced the mood of everyone around us, as they were singing and dancing to the music that we requested and played.

Observing on the other hand was one awkward experience because it made us feel like outsiders. It happened in the beginning when we just sat down on the tables contemplating on what to order. We looked around discreetly and laughed to ourselves. It is as if if you do not participate or know anyone else in the venue, you will be “othered”. Othering here in a sense that no one will really talk to you and people act as if they want to avoid you.

Having a key informant added considerable value-adding information to our understanding in a sense that we got to understand why people behave the way they do. People will only dance and sing to the songs that they are familiar with, which is why you will have to know songs that are popular and currently “in”,

Our key informant, Diego, really helped us settle into the event and be comfortable because he was already known and “in the scene”. Since he already knew what typically happens in gigs like this, he was encouraging us to dance and sing along. He also asked us for song requests, and seeing that people typically liked songs that they were familiar with, we requested for songs that were globally popular. Diego also gave us the insight that music helps people let go of their inhibitions and be somewhat less uptight. As observers-turned-participants, we acted in a way that were more “loose” than normal. Typically, we would be more reserved, but the longer we stayed there, the more we caught up to the crowd’s level of screaming above the music to communicate and dancing every now and again.

Being a participant gave us insights that we would not normally get from interviews or questionnaires. For example, as a participant, we learned that people would not normally request songs from the DJ, or speak to him at all. We also learned as participant that it is quite bothersome to have to talk to other people while DJing or spinning music. Apart from that, being a participant also gave us information about what kind of music people liked. Everyone enjoyed a diverse range of music, but overall, people tended to enjoy music that were currently popular or in the Global Top 50. They also enjoyed throwback songs or songs that were popular in the past, classified as “classic”, because they know almost every lyric and beat of the song. It is part of those range of songs that you will “never go wrong with”, according to Diego, because people have loved them before and they still do now. Artists that have been popular for a long time and are still relevant today like Béyonce, Rihanna, Bieber, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Fergie, Kesha, David Guetta and more would have songs from as far as 2000 be played and people would still enjoy it.

Questionnaires or surveys would be particularly useful when referring to the menu and quality of service. In our opinion, we believed the ‘to share’ meals to be quite small, but maybe to the majority of the customers at Taco Joe’s, it could be just right. Due to it being getting crowded, we weren’t able to observe the service quality of the waiting staff- especially when the bar and restaurant started to get rowdier and rowdier. A questionnaire or survey would give us insights outside of our own opinion. A participant observation on the other hand would only let us process and analyze information based on what we can with our five senses, which is clearly not enough. Since every experience is subjective, interviews and questionnaires would be more helpful to give us varied and diverse answers.

We can conclude that Philippine society and culture when it comes to DJing is quite a common thing that urbanized Filipinos enjoy. Music cannot be taken away from bars and clubs as that is what makes the experience better. According to Karlo, one of the people the we met in Taco Joe’s, the music of the DJ is what controls the “vibe” or the overall mood of the place. If the music is bad, people tend to leave because no one enjoys and the vibe or feel of the place danpens their mood even further. If the music is good however, people tend to say a bit longer than expected. He said in Filipino: “Napapasarap ang inom pag masarap ang music”, which meant that drinking becomes better when the music is great. True enough, we ended up staying much longer than we intended because Diego played music that was relatable and familiar to everyone. We believe that the fact that we asked him to play songs that we knew and liked, it had us stay because we were the ones who chose it. Seeing everyone enjoy music that we hand-picked ourselves too made us feel like we were the reasons why their night of drinking and dancing just got better. It felt as if people were enjoying their time and we caused that joy and happiness, even for just one song or a measly three to five minutes.

Noticeably, Filipinos in gigs, like the one we went to, are naturally sociable and friendly. This notion was enforced when we were on the way out of the building and saw a girl sprawled over the stairs while two of her friends were trying to haul her up. One of the guys behind us that was also on the way out who saw the scene unfold shouted (in a non-aggressive and very kind way) that they should make her sit down in Krispy Tomato, a restaurant at the bottom of the building that was literally 5 feet away, and let her drink water to sober up. It was an honest attempt to try and be helpful towards someone that clearly had too much to drink, and it was an admirable and hospitable thing to do. Even amidst the intoxicating drinks and darkness, someone was there to willingly help without question. It shows that Filipinos are truly hospitable and the culture of being “family to all”, even towards strangers, was still evident and alive.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

YOGA

Yoga is a practice that has withstood the test of time. Despite having been an ancient practice or tradition, yoga remains to be a popular practice across different cultures today. It has evolved and integrated itself to the daily lives of modern-day individuals in different lifestyles. On online platforms such as youtube or the internet, we can see tutorials on different yoga moves or practices that you can easily execute. In the corporate setting, yoga is used as team building activities for people who work together and want to develop rapport with one another. Yoga is also sometimes used as a module for physical and mental therapy. So here we see that, even through different fields, yoga has its own forms.

 

The History of Yoga and Our Motivation to Know More

The practice of yoga began in ancient India dating between 5,000 to 10,000 years before. Its earliest traces were said to be written down into palm leaves, but these were lost and had deteriorated with time, and so only teachings passed on by oral transmission had survived the years to the modern era. It was first mentioned in the Rig Veda, sacred texts that contained songs, mantra, and rituals used by priests called Brahmans. The idea of ritual sacrifice from these texts was then made into teachings that communicated self-knowledge, action, and wisdom to abandon the ego. Classical yoga focused on the “eight limbed path” that was assumed to hold the path to attain enlightenment or “Samadhi” which was orchestrated by a man named Patanjali, who then went on to be considered the father of modern yoga due to his influences to the the yoga styles seen during the mentioned period. Post-Classic yoga, unlike the pre-classic era, embraced the physical form and was practiced to rejuvenate the body and to lengthen a person’s lifespan. This era led to the creation of Tantra Yoga that focused on the detoxification of both mind and body to separate these from the physical world, going into the a more spiritual and body practices which led to Hatha Yoga popular in the west. Yoga adapted to westernization and modernity during the early 1900s where Hatha Yoga was first introduced in Chicago and other yogis followed suit by opening schools and starting communities that increased its popularity and continued to gain more followers that followed its practices.

The goal of yoga is for liberation, or moksha, of people who practice it. It hopes to bring about inner peace, deepening of one’s consciousness, comprehension of both permanent and impermanent realities, and generation of different forms or bodies in a supernatural level. Though these principles were created during the 5th century, their ideologies still remain and have influenced modern doctrines still being carried out by yogis today.

 

But all this history begs the question: “What then keeps Yoga alive?” What is it about yoga that has made it easier for modern society to accept and adapt? And with the modernization of Yoga, what is its implications on the social culture and also on the traditions it has kept?

This is the mindset that our group had coming into this study. We wanted to know how Yoga came into the modernization culture and how it continues to stay. In the world where almost anything can be capitalized, be given economic value, or be seen as a status symbol, we wanted to see how the traditionality of yoga is still a part of it.

In this paper, we will be talking about our own personal experiences coming into the yoga sessions. We will talk about how we came into the session and what we wanted out of it. This is also a personal reflection and an objective take on what happened during the experience and how our previous misconceptions changed and what it says about the society we come from.

 

The Flexibility of Yoga

I’ve been doing yoga for almost 3 years now as a hobby. I do it once or thrice a week or when I have the time. Yoga was an outlet to relieve my stress and remain an active lifestyle. Every session for me was an hour of quiet, peace and self-reflection.

This is why, it was easy to overlook the meaning behind everything we do in Yoga. Every move, term, pattern and details is rich with culture and tradition that has been practiced for many years. For me it was easy to get caught up in the simplicity of the activity that it didn’t matter anymore what name of the move was.

Coming into the session, this time for a different purpose, definitely made the experience more different. It made me see things in a different light. And with this, I was able to notice two details that I wanted to reflect on.

First, the yoga I was experiencing was “in English.” I noticed how the yogi (or yoga instructor) would say the Sanskrit terms and would then follow it up with an English translation. It wasn’t something repulsive or appalling. In fact, it’s as if it were necessary for us to hear the English translation for us to really connect with the experience. This got me thinking how it would really be like had we actually experienced it in its raw form; free from the translation and the speakers playing “serene” music. This would have been the original yoga experience we were looking for. That would have been more real.  

Last detail, I noticed that the environment that we were practicing in despite aiming to be natural seemed out of place and out of context. In my past experiences, I did yoga in my room and sometimes even in the gym. When I went to the studio for the session, I realised that the environment itself, has a great impact how I viewed the experience. I thought that for something that’s supposed to be ancient and has been thriving for more than a thousand years, the traditionality of where it must be practiced should have been preserved. So experiencing yoga with the idea that the plants around the room are made of plastic and that the studio we were doing it in was beside a telecom company definitely affected how I engaged in the experience.

However, after the experience, I realised that those two minor discrepancies did not devalue yoga in any way. In fact, it even added to the timelessness of it. I realised that all details that differ from the original is what keeps its personal touch alive. It was readily accepted by many people mainly because it was molded into something that is easy to accept. Hearing the Sanskrit version of the terms and then hearing its meaning with a language I can understand helped me connect with the experience and made me feel at peace. Even the environment is influenced by the general mood of everyone in the room that’s why it didn’t matter that you were in a studio in the middle of the busy streets of Manila. At the end of the day, it’s not the context that it came from that truly made it timeless, rather it’s how it contextualizes itself into different cultures. And realising this, it makes the simplicity of it more complex and the traditionality of it more modern.

 

Beginning with the Child pose

In my observation, yoga was a fairly quiet activity that truly required active participation to understand and appreciate it in its entirety. Observation merely gave me a gist of what yoga was, with its tranquil ambiance, the soothing sounds of running water and wind blowing, the breathing of participants filling the room. But despite this, one could not feel its true purpose just by watching others perform it.

Having a key informant helped me have a marginal understanding of what i was getting into. It gave me a means to prepare myself before engaging in the activity and what I should expect from it. Since the key informant was more familiar with yoga than me, she was able to tell me the different types of yoga that she had partaken in the past. Though her knowledge on this is also limited, it was able to give me a better grasp of the various classes that the White Space, the establishment that she and I had gone to, offered. The key informant also provided me with stories of her own experiences as she learned to do yoga, how she started, why she pursued it, why she preferred doing pilates with her friends, which all contributed to my want to actually continue doing yoga after doing this project.

Participant observation is a subjective form of data gathering that is not universal to all that are involved. A questionnaire or an interview may be able to give a person a brief insight on a certain activity or culture, but that person will not be able to fully understand what it means or feels like to have been part of that experience. They are merely looking in from a window but not living under the same roof. It is detached in a way due to its observant nature, it does not allow you to use your senses to experience these events. Compared to when I was actually doing yoga, observing and interviewing was relatively dull. I couldn’t fully comprehend how stretching and moving one’s body in weird positions could be deemed relaxing, but according to my key informant, there was more to yoga than just awkward limb movement and i was only able to understand what she meant by this by trying it out myself. It was difficult, contorting my body in such a way that was unnatural to me yet seemed so effortless to the others in the same class, but for some reason or another, I found myself enjoying it. I thought that an hour of yoga would be boring and contrived, and that I would never want to repeat the activity again after this assignment, but I found myself more relaxed and at peace than I had felt in the past few months. Those emotions and peace I felt was something that could not be encapsulated by a mere interview or piece of paper, it was something that really had to be experienced for yourself. Try as the interviewee might, they can’t fully put an experience as such into words that could make someone else wholly understand.

As a first timer of yoga, I did not really expect much. I went into the whole activity with an open mind and an open heart. The only beginner class that day that I went was in the morning, and so I woke up, rushed to White Space, and barely made it in time for the beginning of the class. The first thing I noticed when I entered the class was the silence. No one was speaking to each other, unlike the usual college classroom setting filled with noise and chatter, people were mainly focused on getting their mats ready as the yoga instructor was adjusting the playlist in front. We began with light stretching and continued to do poses such as downward dog or child poses, and in some occasions I found myself twisted like a pretzel in one pose and suddenly balancing on one foot with my hands together in the next. The instructor, or yogi, would help me when she noticed that I was having difficulty. My beginner status was evident since the start as she went up to me to help me with a pose and immediately asked if it was my first time. Despite this, I never felt like a hindrance or inconvenience to the others in class. We were all learning together, and as most lessons go, it was a process that required patience and understanding.

One class was one hour, and I thought that this would be painstakingly long, but I was proven otherwise. I barely noticed the time pass as the sounds of water filled my ears and I didn’t have to focus on anything besides my balance and my breathing. I was almost saddened to have finished the lesson, it afforded me the escape from the anxieties of the schoolwork I had to do and just allowed me to concentrate on myself even for just an hour. At the end of class, the yogi massaged a mint smelling oil unto our foreheads which relaxed me further. I felt new, as if I was reborn, and could take on any challenge coming my way. I felt like I could do anything that day. This was the great thing about trying something new, it gives rise to possibilities and new experiences that I would otherwise have never even thought about pursuing. I look forward to coming back for my next lesson and possibly continuing it as a hobby or stress reliever from school.

     Yoga to me was just one of the many activities that were turned into status symbols by popular culture. Sure there were the claims about feelings of spirituality, health benefits, productivity improvement, and so on, but it didn’t appeal to me. A questionnaire would not have been different at all from getting opinions and ideas on Yoga from movie and TV characters, from Facebook videos, from ads, from wellness experts on TV, and the like. I would’ve likely gotten the exact same response over and over again. Actually being able to sit in and participate in Yoga allowed me to validate some of these ideas, as well as understand how these people come to these conclusions. Personally, it seemed effective for me only 50% of the time as I had/have difficulty with flexibility and balance, but it allowed me to appreciate that not everybody can do Yoga “willy-nilly”, and as with other things that benefit someone or make someone happy, one truly has to work on it in order to achieve the desired effect, the same way that training helps one get better at sports or studying helps one get more knowledge and better grades. This allowed me to appreciate that there is a reason why Yoga became like a status symbol, because it is not easy. One has to have dedication, persistence, and a lot of patience before perfecting even a basic form, but once this is done, it will take consistency in repeating it over a long period of time, before one can experience the benefits. A true “Yogi” would’ve spent months or years perfecting certain poses and patterns of poses, and thus truly earn this title and the status that comes with it, as well as the aforementioned benefits.

 

       Yoga was not really as popular in the Philippines in the past, but perhaps growing awareness about what it can benefit, coupled with increased exposure in pop culture, led to a good number of Yoga studios opening up and Yoga instructors offering their services in the country. The earliest recorded (contemporary) Yoga classes in the Philippines were held in 1967. The Ananda Marga Organization (identified as a religious organization) began offering Yoga classes as a primarily spiritual practice. Its major growth and expansion happened during the 2000s and onwards, as it was given more local media exposure and promoted as a new age recreational activity. Earlier Yoga studios opened up in Pasay, Buendia, and Manila, areas that were mostly middle-class and above. More and more of them have recently set up shop in notably more upscale areas such as Makati, Greenhills, Alabang, parts of Quezon City (including White Space Katipunan), Ortigas CBD, some “upscale” malls, and even in Boracay. Although Yoga is supposed to be an inclusive activity with religious roots and spiritual goals, in the Philippines, it is marketed as a status symbol, like a new car or new gadget. Yoga studios seem to have been purposely placed in upscale areas such as malls or business districts or areas with a high concentration of supposedly more educated people (i.e. like near private schools as is the case with Greenhills and Katipunan). Studios usually attract class A and B people, especially young professionals and students of both sexes. Featuring Yoga is a staple in lifestyle magazines and TV shows, while Yoga studio admission fees are somewhat expensive (although it can be argued that the training that the instructors receive is rigorous and expensive as well). Clothing specifically for Yoga is seen as trendy and is priced accordingly, even elevating brands such as Lululemon and Under Armour that produce Yoga clothes to premium, upmarket status. Ironically, Yoga is supposed to teach things like moderation, contentment, discipline, gratefulness, and the like, but so many Filipinos are priced out of this. As a spiritual activity, Yoga has the potential to teach Filipinos values like these as well as the importance and fruits of perseverance, dedication, and patience; values which are carried over to other activities like working or caring for one’s family. Fortunately, the increasing popularity of Yoga can slowly lead to its democratization as well, as some cities and institutions are beginning to offer community Yoga classes or free weekly lessons so that anybody, who is willing to work hard and stay dedicated, can have the opportunity to receive the fruits of Yoga.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/

http://www.academia.edu/1662639/Yoga_in_the_Philippines

 

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 
Image

Corner Street Gold: Behind the Counters of Your Local 7-Eleven

Corner Street Gold: Behind the Counters of Your Local 7-Eleven

Nowadays, We seem to be living in a world that is totally fast-paced. From the way we travel to the way we communicate, everything can be done at the touch of a button. The mere idea of long having to wait in long lines, going through slow process and going out of our way to acquire things makes you wanna shake your head and call it a day. Luckily for us, through advancements in the modern world, everything is transformed to be at its most convenient. Finding out certain information about things, for example, would have taken forever to find back then as you would have to look through every letter in the encyclopedia to find it when today all you have got to do is type the keywords on google and press search. Things have truly evolved to fit the fast-paced lifestyle of the modern world –  and the same can be said in the food industry. The need for a quick and easy one-stop place that provided food, drinks or any possible thing that you might need at any given moment rose and thus, the convenience store is born.

Today, there are countless restaurants and fast food chains established to supply and serve ready cooked food for the convenience of busy hungry people. But because of the variety of choices and the fact that it almost always has products that address our basic needs  – Convenience stores take the cake. It is amusing to think convenience stores take the products from the most massive supermarkets to the tiniest sari-sari stores and narrows them down and picks the most essential ones to sell at your convenience at every corner street. If you are always in a hurry, run out of time, forget things you need, suddenly need something or suddenly crave for something, a convenience store is perfect for you! What more can you ask for than a room full of everything you will need in your daily life like food, sanitary napkins, notepads, envelopes, cuticle removers, makeup, and many more, available all day long.

For our group research, we decided to go to a convenience store owned by one of the parents of a fellow group member to experience firsthand the way of being a 7-eleven crew member. We had to go there in a white polo shirt and pants to match the uniform of the trainees. To start off, we observed the visual aspects of the store. Upon entering the store along with the branch owner at around 2 in the afternoon, we observed that the 7-eleven Salamanca branch was generally clean. The eating area and the placement of the products both inside the storage room and on display were very tidy and organized. Upon closer inspection however, We observed that some trays and utensils were wet as they were not dried immediately after being washed. Some of the products and shelves were dusty and other goods have not been restocked for customers to select and consume which left black spaces among the shelves. Fortunately, the employees were quick to resupply shelves with lacking displayed products. We were also able to observe that there were a lot of both local and foreign customers constantly coming in and out of the store. Since there is an eating area within the store, some people chose to stay and eat their sisig, giniling, and tuna meals. We also noticed that the music that was being played in the background were either Original Pinoy Music (OPM) or Christmas songs. To turn the observations we had as mere customers to actual employees, the owner of the store called us in and gave us a brief introduction before proceeding to elaborate on the store rules. He then assigned us our tasks and instructed us on what to do with the help of a veteran employee. After a lengthy briefing period, the owner gave us the go signal to start working.

Nina was assigned to man the cashier, greeting each customer that comes in with a specific line based on a template that changes as each promo period ends. For the time that we worked there, the greeting was “Justice League spinner! Good morning / afternoon / evening. Welcome to 7-eleven!” because their current promo is when you collect a number of stickers, you get a free Justice League spinner which has different designs that you can collect. The template for the greeting is so that each customer that comes in becomes aware of what promotion is currently available. She also fixed the shelves of cigarette boxes behind the counter, dried the trays used when food is served, heated the meals customers bought, placed them on a tray together with tissue and utensils and served them. Isid, on the other hand, carried boxes of various drinks in the storage room. He refilled the drinks in the chiller and organized them to make sure the brands of the products were facing outside. He also washed trays and utensils, and mopped the floor afterwards. Gabby helped restock supplies on the shelves, making sure there were no holes, and made sure the brands were not facing backwards. She and Isid checked the boxed meals to make sure the ones that expire earliest are at the outermost part of the shelf and the ones that expire the latest are at the innermost part so that the ones that will expire earlier will be consumed already. Nina and Gabby segregated the trash after everything was done. They had to put all plastics together, all cans together, all papers together and more. They had to check every box of meals that was thrown out because some spoons and forks get thrown away and that adds to the cost of the store. Since Makati does not allow plastic, this branch of 7-eleven uses metal utensils which many were reported missing.

At the beginning of our experience as 7-eleven trainees, we were a bit clumsy and dependent on the crew members because we were unsure of our actions. We were especially nervous because there were customers who were aware of what we were doing and observing every little bit of movement we do. It was kind of embarrassing too because we would be all over the place. We would end up bumping into customers and not knowing what to do when someone asks for help. At the same time, we felt excited and eager to work and help out. We felt relieved after quite a while since one of our realizations while participating was the false stigma of customers being rude and indifferent to employees. Most of the customers we encountered were very friendly and polite. We observed that the foreign customers were more friendly and responsive than the local ones. The staff, on the other hand, was very accommodating, respectful, and reliable despite the burden we were imposing on them. Even though they were told to treat us like trainees, some members of the staff still asked if we were okay with doing the dirty work and even offered to do it instead (but of course, we insisted on doing the job).

 

Fortunately, the store owner introduced to us to the store manager, Ate Vangie. She helped us by properly instructing us on what to do, she answered all of our questions and provided insights and realizations to our research as well. The first thing she told us was that we were quite lucky that we have decided to participate during the afternoon because when night comes (around 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening), it would be the busiest hours and we would have to accommodate the customers almost nonstop. She also said that we were unlucky at the same time because we would not be able to have the “full experience” that we could have had. She further explained some observations she had. She compared this branch to other 7-eleven stores in Makati and said that this store would have the most foreign customers. She mentioned that it was most probably because of the hotels surrounding the district wherein foreigners stay. This was also why, she added, their prices were a little pricier than other 7-elevens. Additionally, aside from keeping the store clean, she kept reminding her employees to always practice positive Filipino values like being hospitable, being welcoming and helpful to all customers no matter how they look or what class they are from; being respectful, greeting and saying farewell to customers with a smile; and to maintain a good image of something they value — and that something is themselves and the store itself. Our key informant definitely gave us information that we could not have gathered without working there for a long period of time.

One curious occurrence that we observed as we were working in the store were the variety of customers that would come in. Although there were also a number of filipino customers, majority of the customers coming in were foreigners who most likely stayed at the hotels nearby. During our two and a half hour shift, we recognized different languages being spoken by the customers which included French, Mandarin and Indian. The obvious difference in physical appearances also told us that they were not locals. Although there were also a number of filipino customers, majority of the customers coming in were foreigners who most likely stayed at the hotels nearby such as Trump Hotel, City Garden Grand Hotel and New World Makati Hotel. According to our key informant, foreign customers usually come in late in the evening around 11:00 in the evening to 2:00 in the morning the following day to buy primarily water, toiletries and alcohol. While many locals would come in at around 7:00 in the morning and 7:00 in the evening to buy cheap and ready-to-eat rice meals before heading off or coming back from work. Foreigners hardly ever stay inside the store to consume their food probably due to the fact that they have hotel rooms nearby, while locals usually stop to eat the products they purchase inside the store because they are just passing by the store on the way to somewhere else. It is evident that the store managers and staff do not forget to take note of this occurrence and use this information to their advantage as they devised certain marketing tactics around this fact. Our key respondent pointed out their selection of alcohol brands that don’t include just the usual local alcohol brands such as San Miguel, Red Horse and Tanduay but also includes popular foreign brands such as Heineken, Yanjing and Budweiser. Their selection of chips were also not limited to the local brands such as Chippy, Clover and Moby but also included foreign brands like Cheetos, Lay’s and Ruffles. Cigarette choices also ranged from the common Marlboro to brands such as Pall Mall, Winston, Camel and even korean brand cigarettes. One of the employees also mentioned that the products strategically placed so that the foreign brands are more seen while the local brands are more hidden.

A specific factor we learned from participant observation was the planogram of the store, which we would not have known if we did not work there. This is the layout of the entire store — it is the diagram of each shelf; what item is placed where from left to right and top to bottom, and the number of columns it fills up. The planogram of the store is confidential and it changes every few months, depending on the promotions and the new products. This planogram booklet comes from the main office of 7-eleven and should be followed because it has a specific strategy of product placement in the store. A questionnaire or interview will not really be able to give us the experience that we had — they may be able to explain and share their own stories but our experiences will not be the same. It is different when someone says “it is hassle”, “it is tiring” or “it is stressful” from when we actually feel the pain in our arm muscles as we carry heavy boxes full of bottled and canned drinks, or get cross-eyed with all the codes and placements of each product, or even get nauseous while segregating trash as street people watched us, waiting for a chance to grab something to bite. We got to see the store in a different perspective, the not-so-usual side, with no former experience and no bias.

 

However, using a questionnaire or an interview for academic purposes could have benefited us in this task because we would have been able to get more concrete and more substantial information from the primary sources themselves. A questionnaire would have also given us quicker and more precise answers since we could have tailored the questions to be asked in such a way that it would have given us the answer that we wanted and was looking for.  An interview would have garnered us detailed insights from multiple types of people such as employees, regular customers or even newcomers of the store which would then entail an all-around view and a richer understanding on the subject being studied. Only having have worked in the store for about two hours while doing only the more simple tasks, the observant information we could relay as participants was limited to what we were able to witness within that time frame and within the set of activities we were restricted to. The information that we would have gotten from the regular employees and visitors of the store themselves would have provided us with more detailed and more accurate answers since they partake in this activity on a regular basis and have the opportunity to observe the ongoings of the store longer.

 

Through active participation and asking questions, which were answered very well by our point persons, we realized that there was something more in a convenience store than what meets the eye. Relating to Philippine culture, we were given an insight that even though foreigners were frequent customers in the store, the employees never fail to exhibit Filipino culture and attitude towards them. One example would be the repetitive and constant playing of Original Pinoy Music in the background. Another one would be the Filipino attitude of the employees to the customers, whether or not they are foreign or local. This hospitality of the crew strongly support the argument that they constantly practice Filipino values. Hospitality is one of the major traits that can be seen in Filipino culture. This can be exemplified even in a more common scenario like when a person or even a group of individuals visit a person’s house, the host of the house would welcome them and even offer food and drinks no matter what time it is.

 

Hardwork and love for family is no doubt one of the most respectable and widespread culture in the Philippines. Kuya JC, one of the employees whom we interacted with, told one of us his life story. He has been serving in the same store ever since it first opened and has been supporting his family through his persistence. Sometimes, he narrated, when he wants to give his sibling a gift for his birthday, he would work extra shifts just to give his sibling a toy car or a comic book. This month of November until December, he shared, he would even volunteer to take the shifts of his fellow employees who cannot make it due to vacation just to fund his sibling’s school tuition. He also added that he would continue doing serve in this establishment since it is the most convenient and fun job for him (and also because the place is air conditioned).  

Philippine culture can also be found in the products itself. Aside from junk food (both local and imported), pastry, cup noodles, and hotdogs with buns, there are also rice meals. Rice can be considered part of our culture since it is one of the most harvested crops in our country and is considered as our staple food. Rice can be eaten by all social classes and that makes it very Filipino since no social borders can deny and erase the fact that no matter how many one’s cars are or how small his or her kulambo is, he or she will always rely on rice as primary nutrition. Aside from rice, there are Filipino dishes as well such as sisig, tocino, even pandesal with ham and egg, and many more. These examples emphasize the fact that Filipino culture in a mere convenience store can not only be seen in attitude, but in different types of food being sold as well.

The biggest appeal of stores like 7-elevens is no doubt convenience, and it became part of our culture since convenience stores are very common in the country and can be found in nearly every block in every city. However, convenience can also give us a bad image in our Philippine culture. In our culture, Filipinos tend to succumb to the social standards and expectations of other culture; especially the western one. We have become victims of colonial mentality. For example, ever since the Spanish occupation until the succeeding foreign and western invaders, we always adjust to their likings and culture. After the United States colonized our country, most Filipinos want to have white skin even though we were supposed to naturally have dark skin. Relating this to convenience, buying a whitening soap in a convenience store just because it is nearer than the supermarket is an example of positive convenience. However, the convenience to become white in order to gain social praise and recognition can be a little bent. We, Filipinos, do not just want convenience of basic needs but also convenience even in the standards and expectations of the society.

Convenience stores are not simply a place stored with various goods for widespread consumption; they are also a reflection of our Filipino culture — from its managers and employees, to their attitude toward various people coming in and going out of the store, even the products being sold to meet what we need and want. Participating in this activity had shed us some light and gave us an insight that we should truly treat each and every one of us as equals. These employees, when compared to those with white collared jobs, are obviously less financially capable and stable, but their hard work, persistence, and determination to supply the needs of their own family make them as respectable, or even more, as those who think should be at the tip of the hierarchy triangle.

So the next time you visit a convenience store, look around you — look at the people at the counter. You might notice that it is a transaction between a cashier and a customer, but if you look closely with an open mind and heart, you will see two people sharing the same value and culture. Search not only for the products you plan to purchase, but also for the Filipino culture in the establishment waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Search closely, and you might just find the gold in the corner of the street.


Authors:

Isid Alngog, Nina Alessi, Patricia Segovia

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Uncategorized