Time for my annual look back on how the year has gone by, this time for 2017.
As always, every year has their ups and downs, and it is all for the better, for learning, and for growth. Certainly, 2017 is no different from the years past, but it is extra special due to the events I will highlight in this post.
As the year is ending, the way 2017 has been, I am certainly looking forward to 2018.
So before then, let us highlight what I consider are the best moments of 2017 for me.
Since 2016, I have been toying with the idea of taking USMLE and possibly training in Neurology back in the States, now in 2017, I have cemented that idea and now I am nearing my exam date which is in March or June 2018.
This is a big leap of faith for me as I am already licensed here in the Philippines, but I also long to go back home in the States and outside my comfort zone of home and family to fully grow as an individual and to become the physician I have always dreamed of and that can inspire others to be a physician as well. More importantly, heal as many people as I can as a physician.
This decision came at a price as I didn’t renew my contract from my Alma mater as their university physician; I also resigned from my various teaching jobs; finally, I also lessened my clinic hours so I can have more time to rest and study. It means of course, I won’t be earning as much as I used to, but that is alright, as I need more time to study and relax, as by the time I do pass the USMLE and I start training, and eventually become a consultant, money won’t be so much of a factor. Plus, money isn’t everything. It is reaching the dreams that really count for me.
And I will relentlessly chase after my dreams…
“Do You Remember Love?”
Macross/Robotech still ranks as my number 1 anime series; I still follow the new Macross series to this day. It taught me the beauty of music, love, and the fact that anime need not always have action (which this series does have, by the way), but also story and characters play a big role. I was just 6 years old when I first watched Macross/Robotech and was making the mechs out of Lego or paper…
Years gone by and the original Macross series/Robotech series action figures of the F-14 inspired planes turning into robots were fast becoming rarer and more expensive.
Then I found that Toynami were making 1/100 scale models, and since I wasn’t a kid anymore per se, I didn’t care if they were not die cast metal, since I just display my figures by then.
Sadly, being in the Philippines, they were tough to come by, and I was still in high school by that time, so I didn’t have a credit card to order in Amazon or Ebay to be shipped here.
I did get one locally, the VF-1J of Max Jenius/Max Sterling… but after that model, the local shop never ordered the rest in the series.
I gave up on the hope of collecting them all… maybe someday, I said to myself, when I return to the States or something.
Then another local shop this year had the VF-1A of Max Jenius/Max Sterling, VF-1J of Miriya, VF-1J of Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter, and the VF-1S of Roy Fokker, as a complete 4 set, and I didn’t care for the price they were asking, I bought them all.
Shortly after, I had this renewed hope of getting more of the figures from Toynami especially the special edition of Hikaru’s VF-1S from the movie “Macross: Do You Remember Love?”… that particular edition I recall seeing back in 2004 or 2005 in Manila, but I never bought it and regretted it since then as I never got to find it, until I saw it in Ebay and by this time, I have my own credit card, and had that model shipped here.
I also ordered super weapon sets and another special edition model, the VF-1D which was the trainer mech that Hikaru/Rick used in the early episodes of the original series.
Now I am 3 models away from completing the original series mechs, and will move to Macross Frontier and of course Macross Delta.
Travel Bug Bit Me
I went to Singapore around March with my sister, and 2 of our friends/mentors. I was the first time I air traveled in more than 10 years. I didn’t travel a lot as I never really liked to travel; each time my sisters or any of my family member would travel out side the country for vacation or even go back to the States just to see how things are back home, I’d skip as much as possible and just stay at home.
But last March was different.
And with that, I suddenly had an urge to see the world more. It also helps that I am into photography, so seeing more things outside the country I am in gives me the opportunity to be more creative and see the beauty of the world.
This is also the point that me being a Formula One fan decided to watch my first ever race here.
My sister said while we were in Singapore “Why not watch the race? You deserve it…”
Thus, I decided to come back here, alone, later in September, to watch my first ever race.
And with that… I started to want to travel more. Anywhere.
Dreams Do Come True
I finally decided to watch my first ever Formula One race in person after being a fan for 21 years. And what’s more, I got to air travel on my own for the first time.
It was a an adventure! It was magical! Out of all the highlights this year, this has to be the best.
The 7 year old me always dreamt of watching a race in person, hoping it will be in Suzuka in Japan (Which I plan on watching on October 2018 instead), and to have that dream come true, was, honestly, I still can’t believe it. Sure, my favorite team, Ferrari, both crashed meters away from the start line, the first time ever that not a single Ferrari finished 1 lap in Formula One, would immediately spell disaster of a race weekend, but I still felt happy by the whole experience. I felt blessed. Meeting new friends who love the sport, in spite of race/ethnicity, political or spiritual differences, and the fact we support different teams/drivers, we all became friends. In fact one of the I befriended is a guy named Roberto, whom I got to catch with in Hong Kong where he was from later in November.
Here is a long post in Facebook I made when I arrived and just realized I am living out my dream:
This is going to be a long post… LOL
Twenty-one years in the making; the very first race I ever watched on television was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, where I saw a red car seemingly flying through Circuit de Catalunya on wet weather conditions. I then found out that that red car was the Ferrari F310 driven by the legendary Michael Schumacher. I became a fan of the team, the driver, and the sport ever since.
Other people would say my love for Formula One is an obsession, but I say it is PASSION. Unlike other sports, it was serendipity how I found out about Formula One; I didn’t have any external influences, thus I felt this was a sport that was mine. It was personal. Coupled the fact that I love cars prior and what kid never loved the red cars… the Ferrari.
Wanting to know more of the history of the sport, I delve deep into the lore dating back to the days of Juan Manuel Fangio; wanting to know the technology of the cars each year, that I can tell the era of the Formula One car and what makes them unique in that generation; trying my best not to miss a race each season since 1996, that I can always reference a race in my discussions with my other Formula One friends or forums.
So huge is my passion for the sport that I was that kid that would build Formula One cars out of Lego; I’d draw them on my notebooks; each time before going to bed, I’d imagine I was driving a Formula One car.
I was that kid that didn’t want to play arcade racing games like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer, rather I wanted to play racing games that deals more of the discipline and realism of the sport and cars. I was the one that learned how each component of the car needs to be tweaked in order to have the best balance just to shave of one thousandths of a second in Gran Turismo, F1 Career Challenge, rFactor, and other simulators (I am currently into Assetto Corsa and F1 2017).
And I was that kid that always dreamt of attending a race weekend in person.
Now that I am actually going to watch a Formula One race in person this weekend, I am looking forward to the actual spectacle of the sport, the rivalries in the race track, the finesse of each driver lap in and lap out for 61 laps, the camaraderie shared with strangers, throwing away political, racial, and spiritual differences, just to enjoy the sport we all love. And most of all, I am looking forward to fulfilling the dream of the 7-year-old me of watching a race in person.
The best part was all the messages, comments, and such, from all my friends, my relatives, and from my sisters’ close friends, saying how happy they are that I got to watch Formula One in person as they remember me always talking about it to them even if they are not interested in the sport.
The other dream was for me to travel alone, without the stress of taking care of anyone else’s paper works and stuff (yes, I may be the youngest in the family, but I am in charge of everyone else’s travel documents and the like… stressful). Having to travel alone for my first time, and without sounding too boastful, I got every done right perfectly… and the sense of growing up, being mature, was definitely there.
What I found surprising is that a lot of my friends were sending me messages asking me how it was traveling alone and if it was difficult. To me, I thought most people coming to a certain age will be comfortable traveling alone out of the country, I guess I was wrong, and I felt great doing something that most other people didn’t do yet. This also shows I am not that kind of person that will just do things or go anywhere as long as I have my family or friends with; I can do things on my own, too. And I can do them well.
With that, my love for travel has been cemented.
I thought my next stop will be in Japan in October 2018 for the race and exploration, but I will be traveling for the 3rd time in less than a year later in November… I will talk about that somewhere below.
Of course, it wasn’t only the race I came to Singapore for…
Since this was the first time I will travel out of the country alone, I made plans to visit certain places in Singapore, like Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park, and Sentosa.
Thankfully I got to visit all; wasn’t able to see everything in Gardens by the Bay since I went their late as I fell asleep after the trip in the hotel room and woke up past 5PM.
Merlion park was a long walk as I didn’t know that they had a entrance/exit to the track next to Merlion park and I left my Formula One tickets in the hotel room. I could have just gone inside the track and gone out to Merlion with out having to go all the way around. But it was serendipity as I got to see more of the city.
Finally, I got to see Sentosa thanks to my good friend and mentor, Dr. Noe, who now lives and works as a physician in Singapore.
Formula One. Gardens by the Bay. Merlion Park. Sentosa. And I got hangout with Dr Noe.
Perfect trip. Perfect first trip out of the country alone. Just perfect.
“Get your motor runnin'”
I have been a racing fan since 1996 when I was first discovered Formula One and since then I love playing sim racing games; of course, as a gamer, my number one genre is still Role Playing Games followed by shooters a close second, but racing/drivings games is also a close third.
I played Gran Turismo a lot when I was still a console gamer, but after going PC full time, I played many more simulators.
This year, I returned to full time sim racing when I bought a racing wheel and pedal set.
This isn’t the very first racing wheel and pedal set I ever owned; I got my first set way back in 2007, but it was like a Chinese off brand that I can’t even remember. No forcefeedback, just buttons for the paddle shifts, plastic pedals… it just wasn’t good at all.
Earlier this year, I bought the Logitech G920 set, and shortly after, I got the H-Shifter for it. I started playing Assetto Corsa and got back into Formula One racing with Codemasters’ F1 2017; last time I played a Formula One game was also from Codemasters: F1 2009; I didn’t enjoy that iteration to say the least, and that was the oldest memory I have when I started to deviate away from racing/driving games.
But racing is still in my blood.
And seeing a lot of the tech YouTubers that have their own racing simulators and the fact I still follow Inside Sim Racing, The Sim Pit, etc, kept on reminding me to return to sim racing.
And I did.
I then stumbled into 3DRap.it from Italy, that makes 3D printed parts for modding either a Thrustmaster or a Logitech wheel and pedal set. I purchased a couple of mods for my H-Shifter but also noticed they were selling parts for a Formula inspired racing rim that can be attached to either the Thrustmaster or Logitech wheelbase.
I know the basics of soldering and such, but I just didn’t have the time to build the rim while I am trying to study and still going to my clinic duties. But I know I sill eventually get around to buying the parts and building it myself… I just needed time.
Thankfully, I discovered that they started selling a built version of the Formula inspired rim, named the SMRF1 from Speed Max Racing, also from Italy, thus, I ordered from them and I won’t lie, it was very pricey, but once it arrived, it was well worth the price!
I also ordered an extra 4.3″ display, and they thought of everything, as the bottom part of the display is concave and it contours on the wheelbase (I just had to purchase some Velcro and mounted it easily)
I always said that when one is gaming, one has to do everything he or she can in order to be immersed as much as possible. This is why I add mods to some of my games to enhance the experience; it may take time to do so instead of immediately playing, but once I do, the immersion adds to the overall pleasure of playing. With that said, I wanted to be immersed in sim racing, particularly, open-wheel racing like Formula One. And with the total price of my sim racing rig, it was all worth it for the immersion.
Meeting Tracer Tong
That was a Deus Ex reference in case you missed it.
So for the third time this year, I traveled out of the country, for the first time to Hong Kong, and for the second time this year, with my sister.
I’ll be honest, traveling alone was so much more fun and less stressful. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong, but traveling with others that rely on you more often than not can really leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The best part of the trip was me seeing Roberto again, whom I mentioned above that I first met during the Singapore Grand Prix. He showed us around a bit and took us to a great dinner. This cements the fact that Formula One for us fans is more than just a sport… it also brings fans together and they can be great friends in spite of all the differences.
My highlight of that trip, apart from seeing my sister present for the conference (oh yeah, that was the main reason we went to Hong Kong… there was a Cardiology conference where she was invited to present one of her cases), was getting to see my close friend Amanda again.
I first met Amanda back when she was still in high school and I was already in college, because her brother Pio is also one of my close friends.
We got to hang out like old times, this time outside of the Philippines; it was like nothing ever changed… and yet there was still the sense we are not the same people we were when we were younger. It is that strange balance and it was just great.
She is also quite the model as she was showing me around the city and that made me fall in love with photography all over again.
Here are some of my favorite shots of the trip and of Amanda:
Return to the Gym
This year, I also decided to head back to gym. Thankfully the owners and the trainer still remembers me, and strangely, after my years of absence from the gym, again, like with Amanda, as if nothing has changed. In fact, we seem to be talking normally just like I never disappeared from gym.
Two and half months in gym, I am starting to see a difference in my body and an obvious difference in strength. And what’s more? My right knee is feeling better than it ever did before! I am getting more and more confident to start running or even jumping. Hopefully in 2018, I can do all that.
I am joined by my best friend, my brother from another mother, my confidant, and fellow B.S. Biology graduate and fellow physician, Lee.
We both are pursuing USMLE, so we thought of just gym together as well.
Mind and Body.
Recently, we are joined by our other close friend from college, Von, and now we are a trio at gym… 2018 in gym will be awesome! Will still bulk up a bit more before I start cutting. Overall, I never felt better in my life physically in years.
The Holy Trinity of Lenses
I first got into photography in 2010. The weight of my first year in medicine was getting to me and I wanted a new hobby. Photography was my choice of a new hobby, thus I got my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000.
The very next year, I got my first flash, the Yong Nuo YN465, and more importantly, my first lens that is not the kit lens that came with the DSLR. I got the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Together, I made lots of great shots and memories with that lens.
First shot using my new prime lens was that of my cat back then.
I dreamt of having the so called “Holy Trinity of Lenses”/”Hebrew Trinity of Lenses” which usually consists of a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens. They call this the Holy Trinity as these are the 3 lenses that can be versatile enough to tackle any situation. Of course there are other lenses that are well suited for other tasks like sports and for bird watching and such, but the Holy Trinity is what most photographers and enthusiasts find enough for most situations. Thus I wanted to complete a Holy Trinity of Sigma lenses.
In 2012 Sigma then released the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lenses, which are of course a standard zoom lens and telephoto lens respectively. These were perfect to complete my Holy Trinity in spite of my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC being a prime lens and not a wide angle.
But being a medical student still and having my parents to rely on to give me money or get me the things I wanted, I didn’t really want to them bear the weight of spending for my hobbies again when they have done so too many times in the past and coupled the fact that medical school is very expensive, I just thought of getting the lenses, if they are still available, once I am a licensed physician.
Thus, one year after finally being licensed as a physician, I got to stumble upon the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lens and with just little thought, I bought it in November.
First shot of the new telephoto lens is that of my mother; others have been posted above during my Hong Kong trip.
Around a month later, I found the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS lens, thus completing my Holy Trinity of Lenses and I can’t be more happier.
First shot using the new standard zoom is of my best friend, Lee.
Nice to note that I then decided to order a Nikon D7200 (I know the D7500 just released, but I like the specs of the D7200 more) and hopefully it will arrive in the first week of the new year or so. I also bought the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip that will work perfectly with the Nikon D7200 as well as a Nikon SB-600 speedlite; both the Nikon MB-D15 and SB-600 were actually second hand products, but upon inspection by my obsessive compulsive-ness and my technical know-how, I was assured they are working well and are in fact original.
Can’t really fully test the battery grip without the new DSLR, but I was able to test the SB-600.
I am not a stranger to off shoe flash photography, so here is my first shot using the flash and showing my skills with off shoe flash photography.
Looking forward in 2018 where I will explore more locally and of course, my trip to Japan and maybe in South Korea, where I can see the world with my DSLR and create more memories…
I actually spent so much in 2017 for my hobbies, trips, and whatnot; I always like saving more than spending, but I thought making this year an exception. I needed to reward myself for all those years I didn’t think of anything else but my studies. I needed to see some dreams come true for my dreams to be made and see then into fruition.
I look forward to 2018 with everything I learned and loved from 2017 and make even more dreams come true.
Thank you, 2017.
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