For some, becoming a senior signals hanging up their gloves. Not for a number I know; they play not only the extra round but also play into overtime, in fact play for the rest of their lives.
Those who learned a sport early seem so predisposed more than the others. Being genetically sport-impaired, I’m in total awe of them.
Still in possession of my wits, however, I am not about to start at any sport at my age, when any extra movement has become reckless. But I’m not exactly idle, either. I can still walk unaided with a minimal amount of pa-gewang-gewang, the very graphic Tagalog description of walking with an unreliable rudder. I can still do 45 minutes of treadmilling, 30 minutes of it on Speed 4.
I’m surprised how many sport-active seniors there still are, and I’ve picked three such ladies and a couple to add their senior voices here.
First, there’s newspaper columnist and civic leader Maribel Ongpin, who splits her heart for playing time between tennis and golf.
Then old classmate Dina Obieta-Silva, who, against her children’s wishes, still drives herself to the golf course—and most everywhere else.
And there’s Marivic Rufino, another newspaper columnist, painter and Red Cross volunteer, who still casts an amazing silhouette in her equestrian outfit.
Finally, there’s the Marge and Gower Champion of our day, who have made ballroom dancing their sport—Mandy and husband Ruben Torres, retired banker, retired farmer, semiretired golfer but, lately, mountain climber.
It was always a joy to watch them at parties in our youth.
Maria Isabel Ongpin
My children tell me I have reached a certain age and beyond. Yet I do what I have always done—work for something meaningful to me and hopefully for others, read, take an overview of what my children and grandchildren are up to, be with friends, travel, and stick with my sports.
This last activity seems to cause some interest, as in “You still play tennis?” and “Do you really walk all 18 holes of golf in one go?” The answer is yes, and I am surprised that you are surprised.
I have been playing tennis since my college days, and golf since my husband and I took it up after the birth of our second child.
I am not into competition, except maybe with my age group. But I am doing it regularly because it is so much a part of my life; it comes naturally.
No matter how busy I am, I always allot time for two sets of singles or a round of golf. In the dark days of my life these sports got me through; I was even hitting the balls through tears.
I have never actually been the A-1 athlete, just the one who stayed the course and is still standing. And, by the way, I am not a phenomenon. There are many others like me quietly taking to the tennis courts and golf fairways at this time of their lives.
Of course, someday, for some reason or other, we will have to stop. When that day comes, we can say we had a good run and feel quite fulfilled.
I play tennis when I find the time, usually on weekends. I just show up at the courts and play with the trainers. It is a workout, and I love to do my own tennis stunts to give the trainer his workout.
A game of tennis is exhilarating and stimulating; it gives one a sense of wellbeing, physically and mentally.
Golf is more formal in the sense that one usually plays with others and thus needs to plan for it. It also takes longer and, as the golf course has to be shared, company is almost mandatory. I play Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 a.m., and only the most obligatory events will make me give up a golf game.
The wonderful thing about a golf game is remembering it afterwards, especially the shot that made a difference—crossed a hazard, went the distance, found the hole.
I do have three holes-in-one to my name, totally unexpected events explained more by luck than skill. The first was in the late ’80s, at the Del Monte golf course, with the late Sen. Ting Paterno as the witness. The second was at Manila Golf Club, with Letty Laurel, my regular golf pal, as witness; and the third within a month of the second at the Mimosa Golf Club in Clark. When that happens, pandemonium breaks out.
The last two of my holes-in-one happened to me in 2013, late in the day of my golf career.
So, I am hoping for the next happening, another hole-in-one.
Golf has been my second love, since 1970, when my husband, Dado, a golf addict, encouraged me to learn the game. He also supplied me with golf reading.
As I got better at it, I learned to love it. I also loved the feeling of being outdoors, especially in Valley Golf, which to me is one of the most beautiful courses in the country.
Baby Buenaventura, a BFF from my younger years, and I would play three times a week. It was fun golf more than a serious game—more for exercise and chica-chica.
We talked about family and exchanged recipes. We made it a point to play early, so when kids and husbands arrived, we were home as “good” housewives.
Saturdays the kids would swim, and we usually joined them after golf. Later on, we noticed, they preferred to be by themselves, so away we went to play—36 holes!
Now, in my senior years, my regular golf mate is Sonia Ongkiko, a widow like me. We still manage to play three times a week.
We’re into serious golf now, joining monthly tournaments. We also get to play with younger ladies, from age 37, and that helps us improve our game.
I’m no fashion plate. I wear shorts and short-sleeve T-shirts. But I’m never without sunscreen makeup foundation. Some ladies resort to wearing face masks to protect themselves more from the sun, but I can’t get myself to do that. I’m sure I’d feel and look funny.
I still love walking the fairways where Dado and I spent a lot of time together. Valley Golf is full of memories of him. It almost feels like my second home.
Sundays my grandchildren, themselves learning the game, join me on the course. Seeing them in their golf outfits, showing even the mildest interest in the game, is a special thrill. How I wish Dado could see them!
I intend to play as long as the good Lord allows these legs to walk the course, and these arms to swing and hit. Golf has kept me fit mentally, physically and spiritually at 75.
I’ve always loved horses.
I started riding as a toddler in Baguio, where our family spent summers and the New Year.
I was born there in the summer month of April. We lived on Navy Road overlooking Leonard Wood Road and the Baguio Zoo (now the botanical garden); the polo field on the hill was behind us, and we rode there.
As a child, I had a favorite horse, Rose, from Wright Park. She would come to our garden with the other horses reserved for my brothers and cousins. I liked riding, but my parents were strict about spending money for such things.
To earn money for the rides, I polished shoes for Daddy and my maternal Lolo Antonio, and the silver cutlery.
Years later, I took equestrian lessons. Again I “worked” to afford riding lessons.
I was drawn to riding for the solitude it offered—to be alone with my horse and my thoughts, surrounded by nature, feeling as close to heaven as I could get. The freedom of the open field, the wind on my face, the sky and the clouds above, and the sunsets yonder were total bliss. My horses are like family to me; I tend to them myself, even through their retirement.
I made it a habit to pray to my guardian angel every time I rode, which may have spared me from bad falls. For physical protection, I wore a good helmet and a support belt to keep my spine straight.
Riding made me forget my worries and also think better. I indulged in some daydreaming, too. But cantering and galloping require total concentration and focus. Mostly, though, I rode for pleasure. It is, to me, still the best stress-buster.
I used to ride four times a week. Now, I’m too busy I can only manage weekends. I do Stott Pilates twice a week for stretching my body, spine and muscles.
Ruben and I started dancing together before we got married. It was “love at first dance,” so to speak. Everybody said we were a pleasure to watch. Whenever I’d get a compliment, I’d make a joke of it and tell them, “Dancing is my major, accounting is only my minor.”
Indeed, we’re blessed that we both love dancing. In our younger years, we used to hire a dance instructor to come to our house and teach the whole family. Somehow we were all quick learners. Although we hardly have time to go dancing now, we still like the old Bykes and Savannah Moon, where many of my close friends used to go without their husbands.
We’d go at it for a couple of hours, after which we’d usually be too tired to go anywhere else, and head straight for home.
We’ve been married 52 years, and have seven children and 14 grandchildren, and our favorite activity as a whole family is traveling together. But because of the size of our family, we can do this only once in a blue moon.
These days, dancing happens just as rarely but, when it does, the moment we hear the music, it’s just like the old days. Like biking, you just never forget the moves, I guess.
In my mid-70s, I’ve become more laid back and content with my once-a-week game of mahjong, said to be good for the memory. Ruben, on the other hand, seems to be becoming more adventurous, on his own. He has lessened his golf to give way to mountain climbing, an activity I’m happy to stay away from.