Posts Tagged ‘Ateneo’


When I was young, Dad introduced me to the concept of the bucket list.  This was shortly after one of our first SCUBA dives together, exploring a submerged mountain, watching a cuttlefish changing color in front of us like a rotund neon starship.  I remember the salt taste in my mouth, the ache in my nose from the awkwardly-fitted children’s dive mask as I told Dad that this was the closest we’d ever get to being astronauts.

I didn’t see the look on his face, absorbed as I was by the waves lapping against our banca.  I talked about how it was zero gravity, strange alien creatures, life support equipment.  Adventure.


SEAL Team Sicks


I would later find out that Dad was checking “astronaut” off his bucket list, that list of things one must do before one dies.  This year, he checked off “Fly a Spitfire,” and that’s our previous story.





When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was to be a pilot.  My first movie was either Star Wars or Top Gun, which explains a lot.  Mom complained on a trip to Disneyland that the only toys I ever asked for were airplanes.  The first item on my bucket list was there from the start.

I became more sensible, of course.  I grew up.  Learned to be responsible.  The school newspaper.  The honors section.  Dad and I built model airplanes.  I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  Not a legend, like my mentor, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (Mr Pagsi to his students).  Just a teacher.  A good one, someday.  Maybe.

I was as surprised as anyone when I lifted off the runway in 2006, in a genuine, bona fide airplane (I had learned to pronounce “Cessna” correctly at the age of three).  I laughed out loud and swatted at the empty air beside me where my instructor should have been.  Solo flight.

It took me two circuits to realize why the plane was pulling to the left.


Carlo in 1049 Sep 16, 2006


There is a very specific feeling, somewhere between disbelief, joy, and satisfaction, when you do something that was on your list.  This is one pleasure that young people don’t realize they have –- to feel something new for the first time.  The first time you influence someone’s life in a big way.  The first heady rush of sexual attraction, at once so natural and unfamiliar.  And of course, the first time you cross something off your bucket list.  You need to savor that feeling, memorize it.  Because here’s a secret:  you will sometimes feel this feeling at the most unexpected times.




I thought I would be as old as Mr Pagsi by the time anyone thought to call me legendary.  When Celadon awarded me their Legendary Teacher award at the age of 27, I felt it again.  I didn’t particularly feel that I deserved it.  But I felt that rush of joy.  Another item off my list.  One that I had stopped taking seriously some time before.




Sometimes, life tells you in subtle ways that you are doing something you were meant to do.  Sometimes, you won’t realize that something was on your bucket list until life gives it to you.

I teach the Ateneo de Manila University’s Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Traditions class, which helps incoming freshmen adjust to college life.  Sort of like a cut-rate guidance counsellor.  I was expecting a bit of good fun, a little extra cash, a chance to brag about my being a fourth-generation Atenean.

What I got instead was a young woman who burst into tears during what should have been a routine consultation.  Her Dad had a stroke.  A student begged for advice on what to tell her cousins, whose mother was dying of cancer.  In my first year of teaching, in a very conservative Catholic high school, someone snuck a message into an essay.  Sir Rivera, I’m gay.  What do I do?  A young woman, eyes no longer quite so young, talked about her baby boy.

There’s something of a formula for these situations.  You listen without judging. You use all your art to convince them that they’re not evil or worthless.  You name-drop a guidance counsellor.  Then you say farewell, and give them a hug if you’re young and foolish enough, and that’s where the formula breaks down, because nothing in a teacher’s preparations prepares you for the feeling that comes next.  I wanted to tell these kids-not-kids that they would be alright.  I wanted to do more for them.  I felt an urge to prove to them that the world is a good place.  I felt…





Sometimes, life gives you something that you never realized you were meant to do.  Sometimes something you’d cast aside as a silly dream.  Sometimes something you’d never really considered.  So that’s why it’s important to check things off your bucket list.  Not just for the experience itself.  But so that you learn to recognize that feeling, to understand that at this moment, life is giving you something Important.

My suspension of disbelief has been broken since about 2006.  Nothing seems impossible anymore.  My cup runneth over.

And for the record, “astronaut” is still on my list.



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Posted from Manila

January 7, 2015


Thank you to Johans Lucena for Carlo’s photo at Reach for the Sky 2





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Ten Seven Seventy-Eight


I met Rick online.  We are friends on Facebook.  We love similar music.  We are both pilots.  We are both Dads.  We both lived apart from our sons.  We both went to the Ateneo University.  There are minor issues:  He is a Harley biker, and I never learned to ride even a bicycle.  We each live on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.  We have never met in person.  Minor issues.

We both miss our Dads, who happened to pass within a year of each other.

Rick’s father flew F-86 Sabres for the Philippine Air Force.  A jet fighter pilot.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  His Dad also penned beautiful poetry. 

My son Carlo teaches drama, lit and poetry at the Ateneo.  Carlo assures me that poet-pilots perch on the peak of a special pinnacle.

I’m a sucker for father-and-son pilot stories.  This is one of the best.

–  Tonet





Ten Seven Seventy Eight

By Rick Saguin




I still think about you every day.  Five years ago, I woke up in a cold sweat because I could not remember how you looked like.  That’s when I decided that I needed a tattoo of your face on my left arm.  Every morning, when I shave and look at the mirror, you are with me.  When I ride the bus to work.  When I shoot the breeze with my friends about flying.  When I ride my Harley.

These past few days, however, I have been out of sorts.  Confused.  Befuddled. You see, I am now 52, you left us when you were 42.  I wonder how our conversations would go now that I am a decade older than you were.  If we met on the street, would I treat you like an elder, or as a younger person?  Would I seek your advice, or dispense mine?

There are so many things that I want to tell you.  My life has exploded many times, the last major one was my divorce.  Do you remember when you took me flying on the Islander?  It was just a few months before your accident.  You told me to fly straight and level.  No sudden turns.  Control the power, trim the tabs, easy on the yoke.  And then your shoulders dropped to relax.  You took your headset off and told me to follow the Isabela River.  You smiled and I returned it – the altimeter read 200′ AGL*.  Your eyes wandered off to look at the horizon. If only life was like flying.

In 1984, after 10 hours of flight instruction, I soloed at the Port St. Lucie airport. It was a beautiful afternoon as Florida summers go.  A thunderstorm had just passed and the air was smooth and calm.  I circled Tita Marilu’s house on Elyse Circle to give a nod of gratitude — and you were with me.  And then I lined up the Cessna 152 on runway 09’s center line, you were with me as I touched down like a leaf.  You would have approved of my landing.  You were with me when Richard was born.  You were with me when I got married.  You were with me when I was honored at Microsoft for a business award that I have now forgotten.

Life continues on with equal parts of joys and stresses.  Joy is all about the children.  You should see your grandchildren — they are all well-adjusted, happy kids who would make you proud and you would have infused your humor into their lives.

My panacea for stress and pain remains the same as you taught me:  when in a bind, escape for a couple of hours to watch some film or listen to music and the solution to a problem will present itself.  When the chips are down in my life, I get lost in "Apollo 13" because Jim Lovell reminds me so much of you.  You trusted me by telling me to fly the left seat of the Islander when I was 16.  I don’t think anybody has trusted me like you did, since.

I am an atheist, as you have challenged me to think freely.  So I am not expecting that you and I will ever meet again.  But in this life, you will always be my magnetic North, my omnidirectional beacon.  I try to live my life as you lived – humbly and contentedly.  In the off chance that we may meet again, I hope to hear your story, why you hit that mountain – wasn’t full flaps and full power not enough as you tried to negotiate that mountain peak?  You almost made it.  I have remained in contact with some your friends – especially the pall bearers at your funeral.  Johnny Andrews gave you a heartfelt eulogy.  Tito Louie Lopez flew me to San Francisco on the 747 as a jump seat passenger.  Tito Nap and Bimbo have passed on.  Bimbo crashed flying a DC-9 and Tito Nap died with a broken heart from losing a son.  Skipper now flies for Etihad.  And now, "Maps" Mapeso is a friend on Facebook.  I will tell you about Facebook some other time.

Sometimes, I think that life can be a fucked up mess.  On the other hand, I think that I am holding up pretty well given the circumstances.  The family is doing great and we all have our health.

On my right arm is a tattoo of a wing with the initials RCR.  Rene, Carmen and Richard.  The three people in my life who will never throw me under the bus. The three people who remain my inspiration.

There are days when all I want to do is buy a Maule, fly charter for a living, raise a bunch of Labrador Retrievers, teach flying, teach writing, write for a living and just be true to my core.  It remains to be seen if I can make those things happen.  This is all for now.

I still think about you every day.

Your son.



(*Above Ground Level.)


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Plays and Phantoms

Neil Armstrong died two days ago.  All over the web, people asked, “Who was he?” 

Has it been that long ago?  Here’s a list of things that happened during one of my favorite years — 1986.  I can see you all asking, “Who are these people?”  Or, “Wasn’t that just this year?”

The US bombed Libya
Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika 
A nuclear reactor melted down 
Israel revealed to have nuclear weapons 
IBM unveiled the PC Convertible, the first laptop 
TOPGUN catapulted Tom Cruise into stardom
Whitney Houston topped the charts with “The Greatest Love of All”
Voyager circled the earth, non-stop
A housewife became President of our country
Hill Street Blues, A-Team, Dynasty, Falcon Crest ruled the airwaves
Halley’s comet zipped by the earth to presage a birth
Carlo was born

Yes.  Twenty-six years ago today.  Look at him now.  Pilot, English teacher, and still full of wonder about the world.  Happy Birthday, Carlo!

— Tonet

A month ago, I found myself giving an interesting lesson plan to my Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Traditions (InTACT) class.  I was supposed to discuss the phenomenally dry topic of the rights and responsibilities of a student. 

With a new Spider-man movie rampaging through theaters, the old quote about power and responsibility came up.  Every right comes with its own responsibility, says my lesson plan.  But what happens when you decide to take on responsibility just for the heck of it?

A few months ago, my Development of Drama professor, an affable genius of a man with nine Palanca awards under his belt, invited me to be a member of a panel that would judge the final project of his class that year.  Flattered, I played the Simon Cowell of the committee and was rewarded with both pizza and a chance to see how creative some of our students can be – including, incidentally, a lovely young woman who had been my student at Saint Paul College Pasig during my first year as a teacher.  My professor later invited me to act as a commentator for the graduation project of one of our theater arts majors.  My input was well received, I ended up writing a review for another play, one thing led to another, and now, less than a year later, I found myself at the PHILSTAGE Gawad Buhay awards. 
Manila City-20120701-00023        
PHILSTAGE is an alliance of the country’s leading theater companies, and the awards are basically the Philippine equivalent of the Tony awards.  I’m now on next year’s jury, a position I had never dreamed I would qualify for.

The story has a curious parallel with my involvement with the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  I started out as a gofer for my Dad, the Air Boss.  I kept accepting additional responsibilities until one day, I found myself directing aircraft movement myself, working alongside generals, air traffic controllers, aviators from around the world, and the cream of our armed forces.
To this day, I remain rather bewildered at how I ended up with that kind of responsibility and that caliber of colleague.  All I remember is habitually saying ‘Yes’ when someone needed me.

That’s what I told my students. Keep saying yes.  Keep volunteering. Keep accepting responsibility.  Because, to reverse the old Spider-Man quote, with great responsibility, comes great power.

The Gawad Buhay awards were a joy to watch – the thespians involved insisted on turning an otherwise mundane awards ceremony into a theatrical extravaganza, with play excerpts, sophisticated dance numbers, and touching tributes to mentors and friends. 
Manila City-20120701-00030       
Periodically, the music would swell ad mutate into the classic theme from The Phantom of the Opera, and a garishly caped masked figure would be spotted on the balconies, trolling the performers.  It made me think of my first experience with musical theater, when Dad took me and my younger brother to see Phantom live onstage for the first time during a trip to San Francisco.  I am fairly sure that that was where my affinity for theater started.  If not for that, I would likely not be teaching a poetry and drama class every year, let alone be on the PHILSTAGE panel.  I’m glad Dad took on the responsibility of sharing the awesomeness of theater with me.

It’s an honor to do the same for my students.


Posted from Manila, August 28, 2012


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Crosswinds for Today

Every time Dad visits a country, something unexpected happens.  So far, he’s encountered military coups in Manila, street warfare and airport closures in Bangkok, UN Peacekeeper roadblocks in Port-Au-Prince, and student unrest in Tehran.  He had stayed in both the Oberoi and the Taj hotels in Mumbai before they were attacked.

Last April, he was in Europe, having taken my brother David from Bangkok to Brussels, Bastogne and Berlin as a graduation gift.  Guess what?  Street protests in Bangkok and a volcano in Iceland erupted in the same week!  Dad was cool, though – he’s seen it all by now.





Six months after the big flood destroyed our house, we all visited Dad in Bangkok, to recuperate.  Before the malls closed, I bought a whopping number of books — four bags’ worth! — from Kinokuniya.  I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about any shopping.  This will help rebuild the family library, a thousand books reduced to pulp and memory by typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy.


That's Al Gore's Assault on Reason, pulped. Only a handful of books survived that catastrophe.  The graphic novel V For Vendetta was on loan to one of my students.  A children’s book was printed on flexible, waterproof plastic.  A handful were on my desk at work, including a collection of Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction short stories that Dad sent in a care package once upon a fever.


After the flood.  Bookshelves float.  Books don't. Among the books destroyed was a Moby Books children’s version of Jack London’s Call of the Wild.  It was the first book of any real length that I ever read, and had a place of honor on my shelf.

Another victim, a slim volume on Saint Thomas Aquinas, came from Grandma’s house.  On its cracked and yellowing pages, half a century old, were musings and margin notes by the Grandfather I never met.  I was not able to read them closely, and now I never will.

Another book was a gift from my closest friend in high school, a teacher who inspired me to myself become a teacher.  It hid a heartwarming note written on a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s If.  It’s gone.

Another book was a love story, a birthday present from the first woman who ever told me that she loved me.  Now it’s just a memory.


My bedroom after the flood The books that I’ve owned did not merely tell me stories, but told my story as well.  Some, like Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and Hilton’s Lost Horizon, were valuable because of what I learned from them as a child.  Others, like The Little Prince and Julius Caesar, were taught in class with such passion that I can quote whole passages years after graduation.  And many were valuable not because they changed my life, but because the persons who gave them changed my life.



Other treasures were destroyed as well.  The photo albums, letters, birthday cards, trip souvenirs, childhood toys, and the dedications on the lost books are not replaceable by any most well-stocked mall.



Counting my blessings, however, reveals many bright spots.  My school medals survived intact, along with nearly all my favorite clothes, my pets, and most importantly, my family.

A hopeless clean up job


A month later, after we’d moved to a rented place and gotten the sick smell of the floodwater out of everything, I sat down and made a bullet list of all my possessions.  It’s rather liberating to have a list that short.

In the meantime, the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta was a huge success, David has graduated, friends who gave me the books are all on Facebook, and I have four bags’ worth of books to fit into my luggage now.  And I’m writing on Flying in Crosswinds again.


Anti-riot gear at Central World Mall in Bangkok, which later burned down Shortly after I bought my new books, the Bangkok malls closed due to the street protests, giving me the perfect excuse to shut myself up in Dad’s apartment, catch up on my sleep, learn to cook, write some blog articles, and finally get started on To Kill a Mockingbird.




This year will be a year of renewal.  It will see my return to the Ateneo (for a master’s degree and teaching), a reunion with my college friends, and a lot more flying.  It will be a year to learn new things and keep old promises.

Carlo, after the flood, lost nearly everything.



In the photo above, Carlo doesn’t look like he had just lost all his possessions.

Written April, 2010 in Bangkok

Posted from Bangkok, August 12, 2010



Our aerial pictures of the big flood that submerged Manila, here.








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What a difference a year makes.  It’s now a year and a week since my original “It’s DONE Baybee!” photo essay!  Here are a few glimpses of what’s transpired.


My literature block

In the three years since I took a leap of faith and switched to English Literature, this lovable bunch has gone from a bunch of enthusiastic strangers to something very much like family.  A year ago, I predicted that this would be a great year, and how satisfying it is to be right in ways that I couldn’t have imagined!


Creative Writing class with award winning author Suchen Lim

I’ve learned amazing things under professors like award-winning author Suchen Lim, my Singaporean creative writing teacher.  


With and and the amazing Sir Eduardo Calasanz

Professor Calasanz, seen here beside me and my best friend Anne, has helped me answer quite a few of life’s questions with humor, philosophy, and surprisingly fun six-hour exams…


Some people are just fun to look at

It wasn’t all work, though.  I’ve gotten to know a lot of very cool and colorful people!  



Classmates like Michelle and Gigo always knew how to insert a little fun and sweetness into the most mundane of days.

Ah, Michelle

Michelle deserves an especially large vote of gratitude, for showing me that love takes many forms, and that having someone to call sister can be one of the keenest pleasures a man can have.  Especially when it’s someone like her.


Agno river valley




The skies and mountains of my country continue to enthrall, and seeing more of them from the air has been one of the best things about the year.









Bridge at Carmen-Villasis, Pangasinan


It’s vistas like this that remind me how much I love the Philippines, warts and all. 

We live in a beautiful country, and one of the best things about this wonder is that it can be shared.





Happy endings



Thank you, Anne, for flying with me at last. 

Thank you too, for teaching me that happy endings are possible, and that it’s our friends who make life worthwhile.








My steed


I’m grateful too for my noble steed, the indomitable and crosswind-resistant RP-C 1513, who has proven to be a most faithful and reliable travel companion.






Thanks most of all to Dad, who is the best captain – and copilot – in the whole world.

Captains Rivera


It’s been a wonderful year.

I wonder what the next year has in store?










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Time Flies




Flying in Crosswinds turns one year old tomorrow.

Over 24,000 views, from over 2,000 unique IP addresses.   That boggled our minds.  Why would so many people come here?

Then we looked at our stats.  Of 52 articles this year, your all-time favorites are

There you go!  Flying, sex, fire and brimstone, and war stories.  The winning formula  😀





Time flies. 



Since I wrote the Angelina article last year, she has added another child.  She’s going to need a Pilatus PC-12 soon (I can’t see Lara Croft in anything less classier). 

Angelina stepping out



Capt Carlo, Pilot in CommandCarlo and I still tour around in our flying soda can, but mostly at the ‘Charlie’ training areas, doing steep turns, chandelles, lazy eights and spins.  That’s about all the aerobatics Cessna certified the 152 for.  I crave for my monthly 3.5 G fix in Meynard’s Decathlon.



My DadMy Dad told his last airplane tale 31 years ago.  Dads, and even memories of Dads, are a treasure box of stories, advice and experience.  Navigating the world without a Dad is hard work.  

In two more weeks I will have lived as long as my Dad did.  After that I will be older than he ever was.  That worries me, strangely.  The torn edge of an aeronautical chart.  I’ve come to the end of all his experiences. 

He died so young.




Carlo graduates!Yesterday Carlo graduated from university.  The fourth in a line of eldest sons who benefited from Jesuit education.  

I now get to save or spend $10,000 a year.  Would a Garmin 530 be excessive in a 152?  😛

Carlo and I are flying to Switzerland, as I write this.  The Himalayas are to port of our B777, and the Gobi desert is to starboard.  

Carlo was asleep, 27 rows back in Coach.  I woke him up to look out his window.  The highest mountains in the world.  I thought he would like that.  The incurable romantic.  Wonder who he got that from?

If you haven’t yet read Carlo’s Fate Is The Hunter, and In Life, Two Things Are Certain, you must spare the 5 minutes to do so now.  The best writing here in Crosswinds.





Carlo and TonetI suppose it’s time to reveal that Carlo is my eldest son.  I thought it would be obvious, but lots of readers prefer to think we are a couple.  Someone actually once asked me which one of us is gay.    

We thought it was a hoot.  We had to keep editing out the word “Dad” from his articles.  He couldn’t get used to calling me by name.





We move on to a second year of stories and pictures.  Thanks for visiting here, and thanks for your comments.  Sorry the site turned out to be straight (there goes the gay half of the readership!).  Hey, we’ll do an article on John Travolta!   So you can look forward to more flying, sex and war stories in Flying in Crosswinds.



Posted from Lausanne, Switzerland, March 30, 2008.









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It’s DONE, baybee!!!

How auspicious that the endless paperwork for my license should finish on the first year anniversary of my Father’s Day solo!  I finally got to fulfill my dream of taking Tonet flying, with me in the left seat!  (Pictures coming with his post – he’s the one with Picasa!)

 My new lucky number is 07P181.  I’m a Private Pilot!!! Wahooo!!!!

 It’s been an amazing week.  The first few days of school have been very relaxing, and it’s wonderful to see all my friends again.

My classmates :-)

In the meantime, while I struggle through the immense hardships of school, Tonet is off globetrotting to the US, where his Asian palate will no doubt bewail the massive infusions of hamburgers and barbecue sauce.  His travel from San Fransisco to Chicago has so far taken longer than his trans-Pacific flight from Hong Kong, no doubt the result of new airline regulations against inane business trips.  😀

He’d better come back soon.  I need to familiarize myself with more routes and 1513’s avionics!  I’ve got half a dozen prospective passengers lined up!

 Macky prepares for our flight

Here we see one of my buddies preparing for the flight. 😀

Senior year’s not just about theses and exams, you see.

In addition to my getting my pilot’s license, I’ve just been elected as the course representative for AB Literature.  In addition to administrative duties, this also makes me the block webmaster.

 Literature, computers and her: a fun combination :-)

As course rep, I’m all for computerization. 😉

I have my own place, a new pilot’s license, a riotously fun group of classmates, and a new copilot.  This is gonna be a great year!

You can be my wingman any time! :-)

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