Monday, May 26, 2014

Recap of THE AMAZING MENSA RACE: Exciting, Exasperating, Exhilarating

May 26, 2014

I had been a member of Mensa Philippines since 1993, I believe.  Curiosity compelled me to take one of their qualifying examinations in Philam Building on UN Avenue.  I was very glad when I received that letter announcing that I passed. This letter essentially told me that based on my test score, my IQ is among the upper 2% of the population, and I was qualified for Mensa membership. I do not recall the exact result anymore though.

Strangely, despite being so happy that I was now a member of Mensa, I never really talked to people about it.  Only my immediate family knew I was a member. It is simply one of those accomplishments that you cannot just tell someone without sounding like you are bragging, which is never my intention.  This blog article is in fact my first really public declaration that I am a member of Mensa.  

As a new member back then in the 1990s, I tried to join various activities despite my tight schedules in residency and later my early days in private practice.  I got to know a number of the senior members, and even had a table for Mensans at my wedding reception.  Since then though, I had not been an active member. I still dutifully paid the annual membership dues at first (paying for three years at a time), but later on, I even lapsed with that requirement.

Although I rarely joined Mensa activities in person in more recent years, I kept in touch online, via our Yahoogroup and now though our Facebook page.  Now if there was any activity that really piqued my interest it was this Amazing Mensa Race.  I only noted the Facebook ads earlier this month. that Mensa Philippines is organizing an Amazing-Race inspired race among its members. There was a lot of mystery about this race as details were only given out in small enticing installments.  

Fortunately, my cousin Harry (who passed the Mensa exam a year after me) also expressed his interest to join when I asked him to be my race partner.  So there when we decided to really join, we both registered on the online site, just less than a week before the race date.  I only paid the registration fee of P800 each in the last banking hour of the last banking day of the week, two days prior the race.  

Instructions were sent by email about the Android app we need to run the race called Cyburban.  I was able to download and try it out on my phone.  Harry though has an iPhone, so he could not download it.  I just had to bring my old Android phone for him to use.

The day before the race, my cousin and I decided to have a uniform race outfit, just for fun. But since I was very busy at work that day, so I had to depend on his sense of dressing style as he shopped for our both of us by himself.  I was actually more nervous about how I am going to look in our race attire than about the race itself.


Race day is May 25, 2014, a Sunday. The starting point was at the Funky Tree along 30th St. in Bonifacio Global City.  It is scheduled to run from 4-6 pm.  Assembly time is 3:30 pm.  Harry and I got there a bit early so we were able to get acquainted with the other racers, and take group pictures.  We were oriented by Christopher Tan and Dra. Zoe Arugay, who were the organizers of the race.

By 4 pm, the race had not yet begun because they were still waiting for the pocket wifi to arrive. When they arrived, the rain began to fall!  We ran across the street for cover.  Harry and I could not make our pocket wifi work with our phones.  So we just decided to tether my phone to his iPhone 3G internet for the rest of the race.

There were three areas in the race: East (Market Market), Central (High Street) and West. We decided to start in the West side.  We started to look for a certain signpost in a photo given to us.  Of course, in our excitement, we chose the wrong signpost first and wasted precious minutes going nowhere.  So we looked at the photo carefully and saw there are ramps near the signpost.  When we located that, the instructions made more sense.  We saw the Balls in the clue (inside a sporting goods display window, and counted 24), and knew we were on the right track. 

When Harry read the final clue about "a school being trapped", he immediately recognized this as a statue depicting a school of fish trapped in a net. So we decided to skip all the other clues (the "Ocean", the "Leaf" among others) and went directly to that statue. We found it along Rizal St. (the "hero" also mentioned in the clue). The name of the statue is "Pasasalamat" and was accepted as correct when we submitted the answer via Cyburban.

The next clue brought us to a work by artist Bea Alcala, with the instruction "bilangin mo" (count it). We saw it was the big letters BGC, with all those colored discs all over it.  We must have looked so stupid counting all the colored discs, coming up with a total of 408.  We submitted the answer, WRONG. We tried numbers left and right of 408, also to no avail.  So in a sudden spark of inspiration and exasperation, I keyed in the number "3" just counting the big letters BGC.  It was correct!!!  (Later I would find that the clue was referring to dots in the label of the artwork, so I was just lucky to get it correct anyway).

We hied off to the next station which was Central, the Fully Booked bookstore. This is the first time we saw other racers.  We were supposed to look for four specific books, then find a specific word to submit to Cyburban in each book.  There were strict instructions not to ask store staff for the book locations. At one point, we were approached by the security guard of the bookstore because we might have been a strange sight running around the story.

We got through three of the books just fine, except for this book entitled "Bali - A Paradise Created" by Adrian Vickers. We got the idea it was in the travel section, but could not find it! We looked through the international cooking and history sections for it, but nada.  We went back to the travel section again.  My cousin decided to call for a hint already at this point despite the penalty it would incur for us. Then just as we were talking to the hint guy, we suddenly saw that darned book on the shelf!  (I wonder if we still got deductions for it, hehe.)

There was also a Sudoku puzzle we had to solve, with three shapes and three colors instead of numbers.  I was able to solve the puzzle, but I did not understand how to answer the questions in the Cyburban about the numerical ratios.  We decided to put that off for a while and run off to the next station in Market Market.

The task in East was a Detour, either Horizontal or Vertical.  Horizontal means you have to dance an entire song on the Dance Beat machine in Timezone.  Vertical means you have to climb up a beginner's wall.  We decided to do the Dancing, despite the potential shame it would bring us, especially me.  When we got there though, a little girl was dancing again and again to more than one song, taking up a lot of time.  I suggested we just dance along to whoever is next since race time is almost up.  We threw all sense of shame into the air and danced with this group of teenagers, fully aware that organizers there were taking photos and (gasp!) a video of us! 

After that stunt, the race was done.  We did not get to do the bonus of singing videoke in a public area. We did not get to figure out those sudoku questions.  Too bad. We had to make our way to Terra 28th children's playground for the pre-finish line.  Since race time was over, we also did not get to do the last challenge which was Pinoy Henyo. When all the racers were there, we proceeded to Marmalade Kitchen in the Forum for the post -race party.


(photo by Jeff Sorreda)

Over dinner, people were discussing various aspects of the race. There was a challenge about doing "Random Acts of Kindness", which we did by providing directions to some strangers who needed directions to certain places in BGC. There was also this bonus question about "Why on earth is Nice near Athens and Paris near New York?".  As it turns out, we got so excited about finding the store window where the city names were beside each other, but we missed out on the correct answer, which as a word "WHY" painted on the street near that area.  

The winners were announced after dinner.  Harry and I did not make it into the top three.  I guess there were just too many points we missed out on due to lack of time. The young trio team of Keann Clemente, Jom Sadie and Evan Carlos won the race, and the solar-power banks given as prizes. Anyhow, we all definitely had a lot of fun running this race. Word is that there will be a bigger race in the future, probably involving bigger areas of the metropolis.  I think we will also join that one, God willing.  

Congratulations to the organizers and facilitators of this first Amazing Mensa Race.  It succeeded to draw me and my cousin out of years of Mensa inactivity (which was already as long as some of the very young racers we met even existed, haha!). Here is to a revival of public interest about Mensa Philippines!