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Bulanhagui's blog from Philippine nationals

Former member of Team USA writes about visiting--and competing--in Southeast Asia

Melissa Bulanhagui did some shopping while she was in Manila.
Melissa Bulanhagui did some shopping while she was in Manila. (courtesy of Melissa Bulanhagui)

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By Melissa Bulanhagui, special to icenetwork.com
(11/28/2011) - Melissa Bulanhagui, a former member of Team USA who is now skating for the Philippines, wrote about her experience of going back to her parents' birthplace and skating at that country's national championships.

Day One

I finally arrived in the Philippines late night Wednesday night after endless hours of traveling, during which time I caught up on all my TV shows, movies and sleep. You should have seen all the luggage that I had to bring for my mom; it was her entire life in a suitcase. For this nationals, I am staying with the Abe family, who are my cousins that I haven't seen since I was 5! It was so exciting for me to meet them again. They live right outside Manila, where I will be competing.

The next morning was my first practice. After I got my legs functioning again, everything went smoothly, and I could skate again. The rink is beautiful. It's right in the middle of a mall, also known as my second home.

After practice, I got right down to shopping, with my cousin, Girlie. Thanks to her, I think I will be coming home with good souvenirs. Finding the Guess store around the corner made me feel even more at home.

My second practice was cancelled for a public session. Nothing to cry about -- I just had the chance to go back to the house and go back to bed before my next early morning practice.

Day Two

I had a solid morning practice in preparation for the short program. After practice, Patricia Buensuceso, a junior ladies competitor, and I had good bonding time in and out of stores, exchanging good finds and buying even more souvies. With her good taste, we have become new best friends.

Soon after, we had the draw, and we both drew second. To finish the day, the previous champions, Zhaira Costiniano and Maverick Eguia, performed their show programs, and then we all had a press conference at the IMAX theater. Celebrity status much?

Everything was going well; I even got through my stage fright with a microphone in front of me. Then came the dreaded moment when they opened questions to the audience, and my father got hold of the microphone. My father, "Big Al", stepped up to the plate and did what fathers do best: embarrass their children. He even stated that his name was Ron Ludington. Since the question was directed at me, I had to call him out and point out the one and only Ron Ludington. I feel bad for my dad, though, because he won't be hearing the end of this from me and Luddy.

Short Program Day

6:00 a.m. practice? Suddenly, I felt like I was in middle school again, trying to find hours to skate. In other words, I have not seen that hour in a long time. I forgot that time of day even existed. I had the alarm clock set to 4:30. As soon after I hit the snooze button, my nemesis, the rooster, would not let me catch another wink of sleep. He hasn't let me sleep after 5:00 all week.

From what I remember, I had a good warmup, but I may have been still dreaming.

I watched Patricia skate her short beautifully, and she is now sitting in third. I, on the other hand, skated well, minus two jumping passes that I'm not too thrilled about ... but on to the next one!

Afterward, I met even more family for the first time. They have also been sure to brush up my Tagalog, which is the dialect here. As of now, I'm sitting in first and ready for the long!

Free Skate Day

Another 4:45 a.m. wake-up call from Mr. Rooster! I was on the ice again at 6:00 a.m. I had my game face on and was ready to get to business for the long program. I drew to skate last and close the event. This gave me a lot of time to listen to my favorite girls, Miranda Lambert and Beyoncè. As I'm in the zone, ready to step on the ice, Big Al came over to hand over Luddy a cup of coffee. He thought he would need it to stay awake for my free skate.

The long went pretty well. I think even without the coffee Luddy would have made it through without falling asleep. I skated pretty well; hopefully, I didn't put anyone to sleep.

After the event, it felt like I was intermediate again, because they had closed judging. Therefore, you could find me posted up next to the results bulletin. My heart sank like the Titanic when I found my name on top of the list, and I found out I was coming home as the 2011 Philippine ladies champion. All the girls put out a great competition, and I'm honored to own this title.

Now it is my favorite part: after the event. I got to meet even more aunts, uncles and cousins that I didn't even know I had. It was like ancestry.com came to life. I also got to take my sweet victory lap, literally -- I walked around the mall scavenging my favorite sweets with which to reward myself.

Looking back on this whole competition, it was nothing like anything I have ever done. It was so nice to see so much family, and to compete here in front of my country and in front of my whole family. I would also like to thank the Philippine Skating Union, which ran such a great event, and the Abe family for their hospitality.

Mahal ko kayong lahat. (That means "I love you all" in Tagalog.)

Until next time,

Melissa

Follow Melissa on Twitter at twitter.com/melbulanhagui.