Sunday, August 28, 2005

those we honor

Lately I've been curious about the four people who the runbutan teams are named after. While doing a little searching, I found the following images on the Manilatown website:

Wahat Tampao. He was the secretary-treasurer of the International Hotel Tenants Association. As you can tell, he was an energetic man with a passion for his activism.

Tung Yee. On the Manilatown website, Bill Sorro wrote this about him:

Mr. Tung Yee
Whose smile breathed new life into the old I-Hotel
New meaning, essence of home
Old man, Proud Chinaman
Tung Yee who stood tall in the face of greed and corruption
The little ones of Portsmouth Square sing in your honor.
Their voices undulating like the xiao carried on the Chinatown winds,
following as the Gaurat, a song of praise in your name
Tung Yee, Proud man, Proud Chinaman

Although I didn't manage to download an image of Vicky Manalo, I did find her picture here . Of course, she's the one in the middle. Currently, she lives in Southern California.

Still no sign of Bullet X Marisigan...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

headline news

Check out the article about the I-Hotel grand opening. Enjoy!

p.s. If you're thinking what I'm thinking, yes, I noticed the absence too. This is what happens when people are too afraid to be Filipino specific. Although I understand the politics, I do not forgive the silence.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Manilatown comes home

Today I went to the grand opening of the new International Hotel Senior Housing. It's been a few years since I have visited the corner of Kearny and Jackson. The last time I was there was a few years ago when friends from UCSB were in town and we all decided to have dinner in Chinatown. At the time, we wanted to visit the site because the new I-Hotel was under construction and it was refreshing to see that what was left of Manilatown was more than just a hole in the ground.

Since it had been a while I wasn't quite sure how to get to the site from the Montgomery Street station. After receiving what I knew were bad directions to Chinatown, I decided to take a leap of fate and told myself to just walk in whatever direction I thought felt right. Within a few moments I reached Kearny Street and went from there. It didn't take too long to find the Hotel. The KRON news van and the congregation of beautiful brown people were enough to let me know that I made it to my destination.

The new International Hotel Senior Housing.

I was amazed at the amount of people that were there. The grand opening went from 1-5pm. The major festivities started at 1pm (the ribbon cutting, speeches by alleged dignitaries, etc.). Since I got there at about 3pm, I figured the crowd would have died down. I was wrong. The crowd was in full swing. People were pouring in to celebrate a magnificent victory in the longstanding struggle for affordable housing. There were so many generations of people there to be part of this historical event.

As I was walking up the sidewalk into the hotel, I was ambushed by a strange inexplicable energy. It was like something that had been dead for a long time had suddenly emerged and was screaming out loud. When I entered the main area, the first thing I saw was the legacy wall. Right then, it hit me. For the past six months, I've been trying to figure out the various reasons for running this marathon. All this time I thought it was because I was trying to prove something to myself. Now I know that there is so much more to the 26.2 miles in Maui that have absolutely nothing to do with running. I was here, standing at the crossroad between a silenced past and a present that was trying to be heard. At that moment, I realized that I am now a part of that present that is trying to be heard - as a runner, a scholar, an educator, an auntie, a daughter....

The legacy wall. The bricks you see are the remains of the original I-Hotel. The glass in front of the bricks features a list of donors. Bridging the past and the present, this part of the building also features an art exhibit of the I-Hotel struggle.

As I was looking at the photos of the old-timers who were forcibly evicted from the original I-Hotel, I saw reflections of my own father who would have been 78 years old. I don't think my father knew about the I-Hotel, and unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to see what kind of woman his youngest daughter turned out to be. Like my father and these old timers in the photos, I hope that past generations are looking at us from above with some sense of pride. I hope they know that we have not forgotten them and we are trying to break the silences of their pains, struggles, hopes and dreams.

Like most people, I always wonder why my life has taken on such a strange series of paths. I was never supposed to be a graduate student. In fact, I was supposed to be an engineer just like my father. But sometimes a daughter has to disappoint in order to stand on her own two feet. My life is not necessarily filled with wise choices. However, it is filled with choices that I do not regret. I can only hope that the man they call Fernando understands.

On the roof of the new I-Hotel. It has a lounge area for people to enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

In truth, I was not prepared for the amount of emotion that was running through me as I visited a site that has meant so much to so many generations. One thing that struck me was seeing a photograph of Wahat Tampao, a former resident and outspoken leader of the struggle. I clearly remember his face from Curtis Choy's film Fall of the I-Hotel, but as a college freshman, I had no idea who he was. Currently, the runbutans have four different teams, all named after an important person in Filipino American History. (Also, we're called the runbutans after the tropical fruit rambutan because early Filipino American sports leagues used to name themselves after tropical fruit from the homeland e.g. the mangoes.) The great thing is that the people we honor are not necessarily big-named heroes. Rather, they are the everyday people who make up the intricate details of the fabric of Filipino American history. The four teams are: Vicky Manalo, Wahat Tampao (the first team I ran with), Bullet X Marisigan (my current team) and Tung Yee.

Sadly, I don't know who everyone is. The people we honor are not in history books. They are everyday people who were brave enough to make an indent in history. Mostly, their legacies live in the hearts and minds of the people who were lucky enough to know them or hear about them. My teammate Tzel actually knew Bullet X, a fireball who was mostly known in activist circles in San Francisco. I wish I knew more about the woman whose legacy I honor each time my flat feet hits the pavement. All I do know is that she passed away a few years ago in a sudden car accident. Although I don't know much about Bullet X, I'm glad to know I run in honor of such a phenomenal woman.

If any of you know who these people are, please share their stories here. The most visible one is obviously Vicky Manalo because a park was recently named after her. For those of you who don't know about Vicky, she was a gold medal Olympic diver who had to use her mother's maiden name because she had to hide her Filipino-ness in order to compete. See? That silenced past and a present that is trying to be heard for future generations seems to be the re-occurring theme in Fil-Am history. This kind of pain is why I sit in front of the computer screen filled with tears. It's pride and rage meeting all at once.

Needless to say, the corner of Kearny and Jackson was filled with various degrees of emotion. Although no one has officially moved in yet, seeing the units and imagining the new I-Hotel community was so exciting. This grand opening is long overdue, and we should all be proud to be part of something so special.

There were a lot of senior citizens there experiencing the space, hoping that they would be lucky enough to have a mailbox in the main lobby. Some of the people looking at the units with me were already making plans for what the rooms would look like with their own belongings. Although I don't know specifics, I do know that assignments have not been granted yet. Amidst the chattering, I could hear hope and preparation for disappointment. The lottery list is long and although 104 units is a lot, it's not nearly enough to satisfy the demand for low income senior housing. This brought me back to reality. Although a wonderful victory, the struggle goes on.

A view of the city from one of the corner units.

I was able to take a self-guided tour of the building. The view from the rooftop is amazing. There's a comfy lounge area with benches and tables for residents to spend their days and nights over looking the city. As I was taking pictures of what residents of the new hotel would see everyday, I couldn't believe how much of Manilatown was obliterated. Can you believe that about ten blocks of what is now the financial district used to be a thriving Filipino community? It absolutely blows my mind.

The units are also very nice. There are 104 studio and one-bedroom units total. Each unit has its own bathroom, storage spaces and kitchen. I have to mention this because apparently, the original I-Hotel had communal bathrooms. To the handful of surviving residents who get to live in the new space, this should be a real treat:)

Of course, the location is fantastic. It's in the heart of Chinatown, a block away from the Financial District, and public transportation is nearby. That way, they have access to so much and it's easy for families to visit. I'm sure someone is city hall is bitching and moaning about all the high rent they cannot charge for such prime real estate. I'm also sure we all know what to say to those selfish jerks!

I stayed at the event for about an hour and a half. I went alone and there was only so much I could take. My head was spinning and I really couldn't wait to sort out my thoughts about the day. Also, I had plans with near and dear friends in Berkeley. All in all, it was a beautiful day that marked an awe-inspiring rebirth of something great.

Nikko the hockey player. Brendan the charmer.

The two beautiful children above are my nephews. I don't have kids and don't plan on having them anytime soon. Right now, renting my nephews is just fine because at the end of the day, I get to keep my sanity:) Nikko is an amazing hockey player who will be one of the first (and few) islanders to grace the sport with his coconutty presence. I predict that he is going to one day make islanders all over the world walk a little taller and hold their heads up a little higher (he already makes me do this). Brendan is cute, charming, incredibly funny and full of personality (just like his godmother). Although he hasn't figured out what his aspirations are just yet (except to be the greatest yu-gi-oh player ever lived), he at least knows where his talents lie. The world awaits him and I get front row tickets.

There are now millions of reasons why I run. For me, looking at the faces of these two amazing kids echoes the motto of the Manilatown Running Collective: "For our bayani (heroes), for our community, and for Manilatown and the I-Hotel, we runbutan."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Conquering the big 26.2 miles

As I write this, I am sitting up in bed, feet elevated and in complete pain. All this time I thought I had the whole blister thing figured out… nope. My left foot has a blister half the size of my cell phone and my right foot has a blister that is as big as a silver dollar. The right side started to bleed tonight and I had to “perform surgery” and cut some of the skin open in order for the blister to breathe. I know… too much information. However, I’m sitting here in agony and just need to let it out, okay? I hate blisters and am dreading the actual marathon in Maui because the idea of spending half my time in Hawai`i bedridden waiting for blisters to heal just isn’t appealing to me. I’m at a total loss because I have NO IDEA what to do to make them stop. Ugh! Calgon, take me away.

Blisters aside, I’m coming off a pretty decent weekend. Saturday was our trial marathon. I completed the 26.2 mile course in exactly eight hours. Don’t ask me how. I just did it. Unfortunately, I lost my teammate Tzel at mile 17 because her knee gave out. I ran the rest of the way with Coach Alex. I have to thank these two because without their company, the eight hour run would have been totally agonizing.

I want to say that at some point I wanted to give up, to throw in the towel. But to do so would be a big fat lie. I came that morning, thinking I would finish and I did. Slowly, but surely, I crossed the 26.2 mile mark. I wanted to cry at the end of it all, but the tears weren’t there. I wanted to be happy and ecstatic, but those feelings weren’t there either. In truth, the only thing going through my mind was, “This is the last marathon I am ever going to run!” Diana videotaped me saying that and the coaches said, “We have it on film so that after your third or fourth marathon, we have something to look back on.” Fat chance. If there’s one thing I know about me, it’s that when I declare something, I pretty much hold on to it. So again, I declare that this is the last marathon I ever plan on running. From here on out, I will do half marathons at best. The blisters are just a little too much for me. I am happy that my only injury is the blistering. Right now, everything except the sore feet is in perfect health. Even my knees are good.

Before each run we send out dedications. Who are the people and what are the things we are running for on that day? I usually send out a quiet dedication to help me think about who and what I’m running for. Last Saturday was the first time I shared my dedication. I dedicated that run to my brother, who was preparing for surgery. For those of you who have read my donation letter, you know that he’s having a tough time with knee injuries. This past Monday he had surgery on his left knee. His recovery seems to be okay right now. When I sent out my dedication, Coach Rex said, “I’m sure your brother will join our team next year.” When all is well, I think Gerry running a marathon is totally doable. It’s just a matter of him believing he can do it. Maybe this is why I wasn’t so emotional when I finished the run. Instead of it being about me, I felt like I had to complete the run to ensure that my brother’s surgery would be fine. For some reason, when you run for someone or something other than yourself, you take it as if failure is not a choice. You just do it. Maybe I finished hoping it would tell me that Maui would be fine and that every other chaotic thing in my life would be okay. Maybe it was that one thing I had to complete to remind me that we all have obstacles in our lives, but when push comes to shove, we can break through those challenges.

Okay… enough cheese.

On a lighter note, the International Hotel will have its grand opening THIS FRIDAY. The info is posted below. I hope to see some of you there for this historical occasion!

August 26
International Hotel Manilatown Center
Grand Opening Celebration
3rd floor community space
848 Kearny Street @ Jackson
San Francisco CA

For more information or call
415-777-1130. A project of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

getting ready for 26 miles

Hello all!

This weekend I didn't do the 8 mile short because I was at a wedding. (A lovely one at that.) Therefore, I made up the mileage today by running a little over 7 miles at Coyote Hills. It was a terrible run. I thought I figured out the blister thing, but I didn't. I have a small one on the right foot - even though I taped up and everything! Today I learned a number of lessons...

Lesson One: The importance of socks.
I finally figured out my brand of socks. They're called Balga and for some reason, they wick away moisture the best for me. Thus, causing less blisters. Yea. Now I know that any run over 3 miles I have to use my balga socks.

Lesson Two: Be patient with your body.
The team and I are gearing up for the practice marathon on Saturday. Today's run went horrible because I ran it later than I wanted to (I scheduled this for Sunday, but wasn't healthy enough (or just too lazy) to do it.). An hour and fifteen minutes into the run, I had to stop and take a short break and started walking for about two five minute rounds. Then, I started running again. After about a mile, I stopped and walked the rest of the way to my car because I could feel the blister forming and decided that running 26 miles with a healing blister was not a good idea.

Lesson Three: A run is only as successful as your mind lets it.
I don't know what's going on in my head right now. However, I feel like I could have had a better run if I was more focused. Problem is, I don't know what's clouding my energy right now. ugh...

Lesson Four: I can't run a marathon alone.
Marathon training is so much better with other people. I think today's run went sour because (like most of my maintanence runs) I ran a long distance alone. Running long distances is so much better with company. The runbutans have taught me that marathons really are a team sport.

Lesson Five: Maybe it's fear.
I never thought I'd make it this far. Although I'd hate to sound ultra cliche-ish, maybe coming to the end is freaking me out and I can't help but think about what this process symbolically means in my life. If I don't finish the marathon, will that foreshadow my failures in life? Today when I ran, I was trying to get in extra mileage (the normal route I take is about six miles), so I took an additional route that I've never taken before. I didn't know where I was going or where it was going to lead me, but I just kept running. Something inside me clicked and I decided I didn't want to run anymore. I didn't want to know where this path was leading (also, I had to watch for time). So I turned around and later nursed my injuries. It's not that I failed at this run, I just realized that although my reasons for doing this marathon are all noble, I haven't figured out what the deep-seeded reason for completing this marathon is for me. Not knowing is freaking me out. Then again, maybe it's fear.

On a lighter and much happier note, the donations have been pouring in and I have raised over $2000 so far. YEA!!! Keep those checks coming and don't forget to tell your friends and neighbors about this great cause! Special thanks to my mom for mailing out all those envelopes for me (even though she didn't want to do it) and my Auntie Lily for reminding people to turn in their checks. They have been my donation cheerleaders. Yea for moms and aunties:)

Send out prayers that I survive the run on Saturday:)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Hello all!

I just wanted to say thank you for your kind generosity. So far you have all helped me collect over $1000 for the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. Yea! Again, I'm so excited because marathon day is coming closer and closer and the checks have been pouring in. Thank you so much for recognizing what a great cause this is and for supporting my journey towards completing my first (and only) marathon.

Right now I'm feeling healthy and happy. I'm trying to get back on my training schedule and it's going well. The blisters are healing and I've figured out how to run without them returning (well, let's keep our fingers crossed). Although there are some injuries, the team is in high spirits as we head into the last leg of training.

For those of you that were able to attend the I-Hotel events, thank you. Unfortunately, I missed all of them, but will go to the one at the end of the month. Hopefully, I'll see some of you there:)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Reminder: Donations are due September 1st!

Hello All!

August is here and we're getting closer and closer to September 18th, the actual marathon day. Six months ago I would have never imagined myself making it this far in the training. It has been a long and tough road with the most challenging part of the journey ahead. Thank you all for your e-mails, letters and responses to my blog. Your support has been so encouraging - especially during moments when I’m in severe pain or when I have to sit out on a run because of an injury.

They say that timing is everything and I am so excited that I chose this particular time to run this marathon for the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. This month is filled with events commemorating the International Hotel eviction as well as celebrating the official grand opening of the International Hotel Manilatown Center. The information is posted below. If you happen to be in the bay area, I urge you to go and witness decades of hard work and struggle to keep the legacy of the International Hotel alive.

As a friendly reminder, I am one month away from my fundraising deadline. So far I have raised a little over $500. Granted, it is a little farther away from the $3000 goal. However, I’m confident that with your help, this goal will be met. Please contact me if you would like to donate. Every little bit helps. Please remember that your donations are completely tax deductible and they are going towards a wonderful cause. ALL DONATIONS ARE DUE SEPTEMBER 1st. If you are having trouble turning in donations by this date, please contact me. Again, thank you so much for your time. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at:

For our bayani, for our community, and for Manilatown and the I-Hotel, we runbutan.

Joanne L. Rondilla

Come join us for the RISE of Manilatown and the commemoration of the 1977 eviction of the I-Hotel!

Sponsors/Support: International Hotel Senior Housing Inc. | Chinatown Community Development Center
| Kearny Street Housing Corp. | Chinese Progressive Association | Kearny Street Workshop

August 4
I-Hotel Eviction Commemoration
Candlelight Vigil
6 pm-9pm
Jackson Street @ Kearny
San Francisco CA

August 6
Premiere of Rise of the I-Hotel
1 pm-5 pm
Koret Auditorium
Main Library
Larkin & Grove Streets
San Francisco CA

August 26
International Hotel Manilatown Center
Grand Opening Celebration
3rd floor community space
848 Kearny Street @ Jackson
San Francisco CA

For more information or call
415-777-1130. A project of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.

getting back on my own two feet

This weekend I missed the 23 mile run because I was in LA for a friend's wedding. In truth, this was a blessing in disguise. If I ran the 23 miles and couldn't make it to the end, I would have been devastated. Instead, I ran as many miles as I could to make up for what I missed. Although I intended to run a full 23 miles during the week, I only made 17 miles because, as stated before, I developed a massive blister (again) on my left foot.

Here are some notes about blisters in case any of you decide to run high mileage. If you have a large blister, I recommend that you shower and stuff before you decide to nurse it. When you nurse your blister, try to do this toward the evening so you don't have to walk around on a raw foot. I'm not sure if my tactics are recommended, I just find that this is what works for me. I find that big blisters (I'm talking quarter size and larger) have to be popped, drained and then cut open. It's not a pretty sight at all, but this promotes the best healing. Let it air out at night and put some neosporin on it to help it heal and keep the bacteria out (also, keep the area clean!). If you're a diabetic like me, caring for blisters is totally important. During the day, if you have to walk around, protect the blister with medicated blister pads. This ensures some cushioning and makes walking a little more bearable. Also, it seals off all the dirt that can infect your blister. You might also have to use moleskin around (NOT directly on the blister - OUCH!) the area for extra cushion. At night, clean and let the blister breathe. In a few days, your foot will be functional again.

I've been told various things about blister prevention. I hear taping your foot with moleskin will prevent the blisters (along with proper shoes, socks and body glide where the mole skin isn't present). Also, I read somewhere having an adequate amount of sodium in the body helps. And that's my lecture on blisters.

The running has been so-so. I'm trying to get excited again, but the blisters have been frustrating. I need to regroup and refocus. Hopefully, I'll be out of this slump soon.