PUTTING a newspaper to bed is no easy task. It becomes extra tough when you’re publishing the No. 1 newspaper in the country.
So it comes as no surprise that Philippine Daily Inquirer employees seek various avenues to relax after work. When they put on their training, running, fencing or golfing shoes, they are united by a single goal: release stress from a toxic day.
While some people look at their chosen sport as an alternate lifestyle where they can recreate their former persona, others view sports as an opportunity to exercise and bond with officemates.
Not one to miss a chance to promote health and wellness among its employees, the Inquirer has provided several outlets for people to work up a sweat.
Among the longest-running organizations at the Inquirer is the Running Club. Come rain or high water, on flat, hilly or rough terrain, Inquirer runners have covered hundreds of kilometers.
Runners need only sturdy legs and a steely resolve to eat up the miles, as news editor Artemio “Jun” Engracia Jr. has proven since he started running in 1980. As a sportswriter covering running events, he recalled being amused each time a runner crosses the finish line wearing a grin even if it took the runner five hours to cover 42.2 kilometers. He decided to try the sport himself.
In 1981, Engracia completed his first marathon in six hours. Two years later, he was a finisher in the New York City Marathon, one of six major marathons in the world. But a car accident in 1984 that injured his knees temporarily sidelined him.
He was back at the NYC Marathon in 2006, this time as a spectator. But a familiar itch started gnawing at him, prompting him to hit the road again after 23 years. He has since added the Chicago, Tokyo and Berlin marathons to his list of “must” events.
Upon the prodding of friends Leica Carpo and Sen. Pia Cayetano, he also joined triathlons in 2010. Later, with the help of coach Jojo Macalintal, he started training for, and joined, Ironman 70.3 in Camarines Sur. He logged 7 hours, 50 minutes and 46 seconds in the 1.9K swim—90K bike and 21.1K run event.
Engracia considers the rigorous training for triathlons as important as the mental preparation and credits age for his mental toughness. “As you grow older, you get tougher mentally. You get to endure pain and stress more easily,” he said.
At 60, he was back-to-back champion in the 55-and-above age group in the Unilab Tri United Run. The races were shorter—1.5K swim-40K bike-10K run in 2012, and 2K swim-60K bike-15K run in 2013. But both events were tough, he said.
Recently, he topped the 60-64 age group in the Safeguard 5i50 triathlon in Panglao, Bohol. He clocked 4 hours, 10 minutes and 47 seconds.
“I’m not afraid that I won’t finish [even in half-triathlons]. Because if I let the fear take over, I will never finish a race,” said the news editor who regularly trains every day, except on Mondays when he plays golf.
Engracia’s next goals are to finish a full triathlon as well as the Boston and London marathons.
Just as determined to keep running is Cio Francisco, a prepress specialist of the Inquirer’s digital prepress unit (DPU), who started hitting the road when he was 48.
He started in 2007 in 5K categories, and upped that to 10K in two months. Reveling in the euphoria of conquering the finish line, he ran his first full marathon at age 52. Without any serious training, he finished the feat in 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Running keeps him physically fit, Francisco said. “Hangga’t hindi bumibigay ang tuhod ko, gusto ko pa rin tumakbo (as long as my knees don’t give way, I’ll keep running),” he added.
Now that he’s 57, Francisco said running has become part of his lifestyle. While he proudly showed his race bib for a 25K run, he said his tales of triumph despite his age are the biggest source of joy for him.
Runners Toto Lati of Editorial, Jim Lorenzo of Information Technology, and Romina Austria of Sports section seem to have taken to heart the words of author Haruki Murakami in the book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” The trio live by his dictum, “Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: That’s the essence of running and a metaphor for life.”
In their first stint in the 21K category in 2013, both still cannot believe they survived. “Tatlong sementeryo dinaanan ng ruta ng 21k sa BGC, pipili na lang kami kung saan kami hihimlay,” Lati said.
When they reach a 21K finish line, they could hardly walk anymore. Every time, they swore it would be their final 21K. Yet, they kept doing it. This year, they finished three half marathons.
“Hindi na namin maramdaman ang mga binti namin. Nakatulala na lang talaga kami,” Lorenzo said.
The running buddies said they always exceed their limits whenever they run. At first, you might think that you can’t. But once you’ve tried it, your bodies will cooperate as if it’s the most normal thing to do.
“Running is an inexpensive sport and I love how I get a full-body exercise without spending a lot,” said Austria, whose personal-best is 1 hour and 10 minutes in 10K.
Austria, who used to play badminton, topped the three-leg Run United Media Challenge at SM Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City late last year. She was also the only Inquirer runner who achieved a podium finish in the event which also had a 21K category.
Austria and other media winners and participants were feted during Unilab’s awarding ceremony held at E’s bar of Edsa Shangri-La Manila.
The 5-foot-8 Austria’s first race was an 11-km trail run in Sacobia in Clark, Pampanga, in May 2009. She got hooked and started joining 5K races before eventually settling for 10K events. Sometimes, she would venture into 16K races to test her limits.
Another favorite sport among Inquirer employees is badminton which holds an annual tournament.
When she’s not busy writing about the yummiest desserts in town, Lifestyle reporter Vangie Baga-Reyes turns to badminton for her healthy dose of exercise and fun. It was in 2010 when her love affair with badminton began. Everybody in the Editorial was invited to learn badminton through a coach. Reyes joined and soon after, she was hooked.
Reyes even played with the Corporate team headed by Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, who was a former Philippine team member. Soon after, she was competing in interpublication tournaments.
This year, Reyes suffered a meniscus tear. It is a common knee injury where the meniscus, which acts as a cushion to the knee, is torn. She underwent surgery and rehabilitation for two months. Those nonplaying months saw her watching with envy while her husband Marc of Sports and their two daughters play.
When she was given the green light to play again, she participated in the annual Inquirer tournament. Her squad, the Blue Team, bagged the championship. Other members were Boy Abing, Kenneth del Rosario, Carlo Mercado, Noemi Melican, Cio Francisco, Novie Barayuga, Benjie Labay, Mar Aclan, Raffy Esturas, Marvel Baez, Rolly Delluta, Sam Calleja and Krystal Caroche.
“Hangga’t puwede pumalo, mag-smash o mag-jump smash, go lang ako!” said Reyes, who recently came out with the second edition of her book Inquirer Lifestyle’s “Best Desserts.”
Did you know that award-winning Business reporter Daxim Lucas used to be a member of the Philippine Fencing Team? He won gold medals in several occasions and even represented the country twice in the Southeast Asian Games.
It was during the early 1990s when Lucas was still in high school at Ateneo de Zamboanga when he tried fencing. When he came to Manila, he chose fencing as his Physical Education class in Ateneo de Manila. His coach then, Gerardo Jimenez, told him there were slots available for the Philippine team.
In 1992, Lucas and the PH team bagged gold in the Southeast Asian Fencing international meet held in Manila. He said “the event (the épée) was notoriously elusive for PH because other countries were good at it.” He was also a part of the PH contingent that participated in the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore and in 1995 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
His golden moment came in 1996 when he struck gold in the Philippine Open. After that win, Lucas retired from active competition and turned to coaching.
This year, Lucas tried his luck anew in the Asian Masters Competition here. But in the midst of a lunge, he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He took a 10-minute injury timeout and resumed competition. He settled for bronze. Lucas now has his sights set in the Asian Masters Competition to be held in Australia next year.
It is on the greens and fairways where Inquirer editors seek solace before they head off for battle in the newsroom. During the 28th edition of the Triple V-Media Golf Classic on Sept. 5, Sports editor Teddyvic Melendres led a sweep of Class B with a 68, with chief of Page One Operations and last year’s overall Media champion Nilo Paurom (78) beating Sports columnist Ernie Gonzales (78) by countback. In Class C, Business News editor Corrie Narisma (79) placed second while News desk editor Noel Velasco was third with an 84.
The annual interoffice bowling tournament is another much sought-after event for Inquirer employees. The competition is often laced with friendly banter and of course, teamwork and sportsmanship.
In this year’s edition, DPU emerged as champions with a total of 13,995 points, besting Finance (13,351) and Human Resources and Administration (13,111).
Abelardo Ulanday, publisher of Inquirer.net, is the top bowler for the men’s side with 169.42 points, while Adela Mendoza of Classifieds topped the women’s category with 143.78.
The Inquirer hoop addicts also get to test each other’s mettle in a yearly contest. This year, DPU-Sports team was crowned kings after they defeated Delivery Access Group (DAG), 74-55, in the finals.
Led by Printown’s Reggie Molleda who was named Most Valuable Player, DPU-Sports team consists of Sports reporters Cedelf Tupas and June Navarro, DPU’s Jerry Ruiz, Genie Lagman, Zaldy Alejandrino, Rolly Delluta, Ely Fugaban and Cio Francisco, Inquirer Libre’s Ritchie Sabado, Printown’s Jomar Bernabe and company driver Sonny Cruz.
In the morning, music is heard blasting from the second floor of the PDI building. A peek into the multipurpose room would reveal the Zumba girls sweating it out.
They started Zumba classes in 2012 with fitness coach John Cuay. Soon after, they added pilates and kickboxing on the menu for more variety.
The Zumba girls are Art’s Steph Bravo and Belen Belesario, Editorial’s Stephanie Asuncion and Pennie dela Cruz, Research’s Almi Ilagan and Ana Roa, Purchasing’s Emily Millare and vice president and IGC strategic planning officer Imee Alcantara.