If you have been following my blog over the past few years, you would already then be familiar with my obsession with following through on my scheduled update (lol). For those whom I keep in constant suspense, my apologies.
Now for my little confession: while writing my last post, I had been keeping up appearances that I was still in Minnesota and getting ready to stay home for a few weeks. Not true. In reality, I was writing from the airport getting ready for a surprise trip to California! I had been home literally two and a half days before getting back on a plane for work. And what did Devin say when asked if it was alright with him?
“I don’t want you to go so soon, but…. I need my TOMiGAi!”
Lol. The power of TOMiGAi supersedes marriages?
After arriving back in California from the Philippines, my dad promptly got on a plane as well to attend the show in Portland, OR. Seeing that there was no one in the warehouse to supervise production and there was not enough stock to ship out, I had secretly booked a trip to California while I was still in the Philippines.
As luck would have it, Papa decided to book a flight one day before I had booked mine to arrive in California, so I would have to maintain the guise that I was still in Minnesota lounging around and unwinding after the long trip when in reality I was running the Koi Food production at the warehouse and rushing to finish everything over the weekend.
Shawn and my brother Tom decided to get in on the joke as well and conjured up a prank to play on my dad. Shawn sent a text message to my dad on the day that he was scheduled to arrive that read:
“Michael, I love you man, but I need food! I have a customer to whom I’m shipping to at 2 am this morning and he really needs for all his product to be on that pallet.”
Needless to say, my dad went into a panic mode. He was still in Oregon when he got this message and there was little to nothing he could do because the items on his order was, to his knowledge, still waiting to be processed. A storm of calls and text messages began to pour out from my dad’s phone to my brother and our warehouse staff trying to make the arrangements to fulfill the Purchase Order. Unfortunately, because it was a Sunday, there really was not much that he could do. To add fuel to the fire, my brother decided to act nonchalant and too preoccupied to be bothered with rushing the order.
The trick was all going according to plan. While my parents were expecting my brother to pick them up at the airport, I was going to be doing this instead. They were arriving late at night, and my uncle had invited my siblings and I to have dinner with him and his family. I finished up work at the warehouse as quick as I could and rushed over to join them at the Korean Barbeque restaurant (Yum!). Over dinner, we were all enjoying the little prank that we had planned and couldn’t wait for the plan to come to its completion; but while we were all laughing and talking about the prank, I forgot to mention one little detail to my uncle before we all separated: my dad had no idea that I was in California and he shouldn’t tell them anything at all.
Well, you could guess what happened next: my dad tried calling my brother to let him know that he had arrived early and when he couldn’t reach him he tried calling the people that he knew to be with my brother: my uncle.
“Kenneth, I can’t reach Tom. Can you please tell him that I’m at the airport already?”
“Oh, Mikki’s on the way to pick you up now.”
“Mikki? Did you say Mikki? As in M-I-K-K-I?”
“Yes. Mikki. As in M-I-K-K-I. Didn’t you know?”
And there goes my big surprise. Luckily he didn’t tell my dad everything as my dad was still clueless about the fact that not only was Shawn pulling a prank on him, but that his order was signed, sealed and delivered already. And what was his reaction when I finally broke the news to him?
I wanna keep the blog child-friendly! 😉
Now that my super long mini-story has come to it’s conclusion, on to the main event: kOis & pOnds 6th Grow Out Contest. To be honest, writing this blog post has taken longer than I thought it would. Every show in the Philippines is such a personal and special experience for me and I really want to give the event, as well asthe people who helped make it possible, justice.
It’s hard to believe that our company has held this Grow Out Contest six times already, but I honestly do truly enjoy running and managing a Koi show. I believe I may be suffering from a slight (?) case of madness, but the time constraint demands as well as the intense attention to detail that a Koi Show requires just fills my obsessive compulsive tendencies and truly fuels my excitement.
Before I continue, I would like to thank Pearlie’s Garden and Restaurant as well as Tito Ading, Tita Tals and their entire family for their support and faith in Kois & Ponds. Every Koi Show that we have ever held has been hosted at Pearlie’s Garden and Restaurant (owned by Tito Ading’s Mother, Tita Pearl) and they always gone above and beyond to make sure that our event always turns out successful. Thank you Tita Pearl, Tito Alex, Tita Marge and Marjorie for the support, not only during the Koi shows but also on a daily basis. Thank you also to Tito Ading and Tita Tals who we all consider to be our family (my dad’s “brother from another mother” and my mom’s “sister from another mister”). You are the truest friends that anyone can ask for and I, personally, have great admiration for you both. It is with great honor, love and respect that I call you both my ninong/ninang.
A Grow Out Contest is quite different from a regular Koi show in that all the Koi that are taken to show were purchased from a selected batch of Koi of relatively same size and quality from only a few breeders and all the Koi are sold at the same price. This creates a roughly even “starting point” for the hobbyists to work from so that their skill and ability to choose, raise and care of Koi is the main measure of the competition.
Kois & Ponds in the Philippines has, since 2001, held a Grow Out Contest at Pearlie’s Garden and Restaurant. Back then Koi shows were not popular in the Philippines and the Grow out Contest was the first Koi show of any kind to be held in the Philippines ever. The use of computers to run a show was something that presented more of a problem than a solution since programming options and information on how to actually write the programming solutions was much more limited, so all the entries were verified and classified manually. Because it is a Grow out contest, it is of significant importance that all the Koi that are brought in should first be verified to be a part of the selections eligible for the grow out contest. A grow out contest is also traditionally held as a one-day event mostly because the Koi are usually placed individually in bags rather than in tanks, so it is important that all the Koi are benched in the quickest possible way. So, you can imagine how difficult it must have been back then to manually bench all the Koi that were coming in to compete for a one day event. After holding the Grow out Contest initially in 2001 and then again in 2002, Kois & Ponds decided to take a break from mounting this type of Koi show until 2011 where the company decided to re-launch the contest so that it would be held in conjunction with the 2011 Philippine Koi Show.
As each year rolls through, we have been blessed with a significant growth in the number of Koi that are entered to our show-whether it be for the Kois & Ponds Cup, the Philippine Koi show or the Grow Out Contests. This year, the total number of Koi entered at the Grow Out Contest was 238 Koi-all of which we had a 10 hour window to receive, bench and bag the Koi. In order to make this possible, we had decided to skip sizing the Koi, classifying them instead by Division (which grade of Koi they were originally purchased from) and variety.
This year’s contest featured three Divisions: Grow Out, High Grade and Azukari Division. The Grow Out Koi were standard sized tosai while the High Grade Koi were purchased nearly as Jumbo Tosai. Upon purchasing their fish, the hobbyist was given two options: would they like to take it home and care for it themselves, or were they interested in entering it in the Azukari Division in addition to the current Division that their Koi was already eligible for? The Azukari Division presents the hobbyist with the opportunity to leave the purchased Koi under the care of Kois & Ponds until the day of the show. The purpose of this exercise was to equalize nearly all variables that contribute to making a Koi more beautiful and focusing entirely on the hobbyist’s ability to select Koi. This division allowed purchased Koi to play in two categories, heightening their chances at a trophy. An added bonus is that on the show day, all the hobbyist would have to do was to show up at the show and enjoy seeing their fish already benched and ready to be judged without worrying about having to bag and transport the Koi themselves.
Many hobbyists took advantage of the benefits of the Azukari Division and more than 100 fish were entered into the program. So it fell to us to properly identify and bag all the Koi and assign to them a location ID so that they may be easily found during judging and, most importantly, when the fish are all released to their respective owners.
My dad had invited Kenji Tani, Mistunori Isa and Mark Gardner to judge the Koi Show this year. They all arrived at Kois & Ponds in Quezon City on Friday and it didn’t take long for a party to start around them. The afternoon quickly turned into night and soon the judges together with my dad and a number of other hobbyists piled into vehicles to head out for a judge’s welcoming party, Philippine Style (It’s more fun in the Philippines! Lol). I was busy verifying that all the Koi cards to be used in identifying fish the next day were correct so I decided to stay behind and work, but as midnight neared and my work thinned, I found myself longing more and more to be a part of the celebration.
I followed to Eastwood Mall, where they had decided to host the welcome dinner and I found that I had arrived just as the party was really starting. The bar they were at featured a floor to ceiling glass outer wall that gave passersby a glimpse into the entertainment within. I easily spotted my dad who was seated immediately following the door and as I came in I realized that the entire group of people who lined the glass wall were from the Koi Show. The table was filled with food and spirits of different varieties and the entire bar was on their feet dancing and singing to the music of the live band playing onstage.
The band played well into the night and it wasn’t until about quarter to two that everyone decided that it was time to head home. I had arrived back at Kois & Ponds at two am and without a minute to spare: my staff were already up and getting ready to set up the venue and bench all the Azukari fish. There was a party being held at the restaurant that night, which meant that we wouldn’t get the opportunity to set up the area for our needs. Right when I arrived, we began plotting out the show layout as well as setting up the receiving tent for the hobbyists Koi that were expected to arrive later on in the morning.
I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the unsung heroes of the Koi show: the staff at Kois & Ponds. Year after year they work tirelessly and without complain, not only during the Koi shows, but all throughout the year. Most of them have been with us for over a decade and they are like family (if they aren’t already!) to us now as well. Thank you so much to Tita Amor, Me-ann, Marissa, Rene, Nonoy and Anne for the constant support and unwavering faith that you have in Kois & Ponds as well as in my family. They were all up with me every night getting ready for the show, woke up at 2 am on the day of the show to help me prep, and continued on with the sleepless nights long after the event to make sure all the Koi were properly returned to their owners all without complain. I can’t begin to express my deepest gratitude to all of you. Maraming maraming salamat sa patuloy niyong tiwala sa amin. I would also like to thank the support staff that come in to help us for every event and then some: Det-det, Julius, Tita Ellen, Tito Lambert, Rachel, Chris, Edward, Ana and June. All of the staff at Kois & Ponds were up with me all through the night, some for more than a week, to make sure that any hiccup that might happen would be kept to a minimum and for that I am truly grateful.
At around 7:30 am, hobbyists began arriving with their Koi to the show site where strict bio-security protocols were in place for each hobbyists’ Koi.
We finished benching right on schedule and this could not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the hobbyists who selflessly gave not only donations but also time and effort to volunteer at the show. Mike Go and Briexell Martinez who have consistently worked hard at every Koi Show event at Kois & Ponds since 2011; Daniel Villoria who handcrafted and donated the stands that were used to hold the award plaques in place, Armiel De Torres who provided us with transportation and a driver for us and the judges, Paul Tan who has since 2011 always sponsored one of the judges’ hotel room and to the many hobbyists who assisted us in benching the fish and the judges while they were judging: Gboi Razo, Richard Tan, Ken and June from Cagayan De Oro, Sherlock Chan and Giles Bayate . (Please, Please forgive me if there is anyone I might have forgotten to mention.)
It took us 8 hours but by noon, all 238 Koi were bagged, benched and ready to be judged.
A little trivia about September in the Philippines: it’s typhoon season. We were hoping for favorable weather, especially since the day prior was quite warm and sunny, but it seemed we had no such luck. At three o’clock, while judging was still commencing, the storm began to pour down on us. Hard. The show area was only partly covered, so there was some areas that were still susceptible to the downpour. On top of that, half the area was covered with a thin tarpaulin secured with rope that was more useful in sheltering from the sun rather than the rain-much less a storm.
In true Koi-Kichi spirit, all the hobbyists entered into the show remained at the show site and watched eagerly as Isa, Tani and Mark judged the show each followed by their own umbrella person to shield them from the rain. At one point the rain got so strong and if it wasn’t for the quick thinking and ingenuity of one Richard Tan, the storm could have gotten the best of us.
Pearlie’s restaurant is really only a partially covered area, so we had our staff install a thin tarpauline material over the remaining open areas. Unfortunately, these were mostly designed to combat the heat rather than the rain and when the storm came through, it made judging a little more challenging than what it should have been. As the rain continued to pour, a pool of water began to form on top of the makeshift shelter and threatened to explode rain water all over the judges, koi and hobbyists alike. Richard immediately searched for a long pole and found it in the form of a bamboo and propped it up directly beneath the gathered water underneath the tarps to direct the water towards the sides and into the sewage. At that moment, Mr. Richard Tan became the day’s hero.
What I found about Koi keeping is that it really isn’t just about the Koi; it’s about the friendship and the common ground that people from all over the world can share and enjoy together. That is why since 2011, Kois & Ponds has supported many dealers and Koi Clubs from all over the country in an effort to further the Koi Hobby. My dad would always say: “The competition of the Koi Hobby is not the next Koi Shop, but the next hobby that might take away hobbyists from enjoying Koi.” That being said, he has encouraged and supported many budding Koi professionals in the Philippines including, but not limited to, Koi Village, Chang Koi, Kois for Less, Kois Unlimited, Koi Depot, Hapi Koi, Rainbow Peak, Sam’s Lagoon, Absolutely Koi, Cebu Koi Club, Cagayan De Oro Koi Club, and the Iligan Koi Club. We, in turn, are very grateful to the many individuals that make up these companies and clubs for supporting, believing and trusting in Kois & Ponds.
I would also like to extend a big congratulations and thank you to all the hobbyists who joined and attended our Grow Out Event. It is because of your continued support that our Koi Show was a success and we could not be more grateful and we hope you had as much fun as we had at the show.
As is customary in every Shinkokai Koi Show, the Grand Champion (and in this case Reserve Champion) is judged first. For each division, the Grand Champion Koi are as follows:
Grow Out Division
High Grade Division
For a complete list of all the winners, please go to the Media Gallery.
As is customary, all the Grand Champion Koi got tossed up in the air:
Other Koi Awarded were placed on display right next to the Grand Champion Vats for everyone to see:
Our special guest for the weekend was Hon. Councillor Marvin Rillo from Quezon City, who presented the awards to the winners. It is through his support and help that Kois & Ponds is proud to make an announcement: the Koi Show is moving! As i earlier mentioned, we have been blessed in experiencing an exponential growth in the number of Koi that are entered into the Philippine Koi Show hosted by Kois & Ponds. That being said, we are fast out-growing the venue at Pearlie’s Garden and Restaurant. With a little sentiment and a lot of excitement, we announced that the Philippine Koi Show that is to be held in February of 2014 (on the weekend immediately following the All-Japan Koi Show), we will be holding the Koi show at the Quezon Memorial Circle directly across from Kois & Ponds. The Circle is an enormous public park that will further be able to promote the Koi Hobby in the Philippines.
On top of the growing number of fishes, we are also experiencing a growing number of guests from overseas! On our first year, we invited Devin Swanson (Koi Acres in Minnesota) to attend our Koi Show, the following year brought in Mark Gardner (Niigata-Nishikigoi.com, United Kingdom), and after that Shawn McHenry (Mystic Koi, California) joined in on fun in the Philippines. This year I am so excited to have received confirmation that yet another force to reckon with in Koi has decided to come and join us in the Philippines: Bill and Maureen McGurk from Purdin Koi Farm! Yay!!!!!!! 🙂
(Side Note: I’m waiting for you to say that you’re definitely coming over too, Mr. Steve Gibbins)
It has taken me nearly two weeks to finish writing this blog post, and I am overwhelmed with how much more gratitude there is that I cannot even begin to express. To all the Koi hobbyists in the Philippines, professional or otherwise, thank you so much for believing in Kois & Ponds. It is because of all of you that each member of my family has continued to push our limits in exploring how much further we can bring the Philippine Koi Hobby to the rest of the world. Maraming Maraming Salamat po!
Before I sign off, there is one last person that I cannot forget to thank: my father, Michael Hernandez.
Tomorrow is another exciting day: Harvest Weekend begins at Koi Acres! so right now, I should get dressed and ready to pick up Bill, Maureen, Shawn and my dad up from the airport. Shohei (Takatsu Koi farm) arrived in yesterday from Japan and will be helping us out this weekend as well. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for such a long time and I can’t believe it’s already here! To all the hobbyists who will be joining us: we’ve got a lot of exciting things in store for you! To those who couldn’t make it, I’ll be sure to update my blog to let you know of all the surprises that we have this weekend.
~Ja, mata ashita!