I had never done any sports except in school, at PE, where I had the consistent distinction of being the last pick because the fate of the sides invariably depended on me. I was simply terrified of balls, big or small, hard or soft and, therefore, if I kept “my eyes on the ball,” as precisely exhorted by teammates, I did so for the opposite purpose—to dodge it, not catch or hit it.
I suppose it was that very fear that sent a deadly number of balls toward me; and when a ball came fast and furious, as you’d imagine one when delivered with premeditation, I could not even look at it, because my eyes closed automatically. So, to be really safe, I offer all manner of excuses to be excluded, and none worked better than that “I’m observing,” the refined idiom of the day for one’s monthly; in fact I managed to get off on it more than once a month. Everyone, after all, was only too relieved to be rid of me as a teammate.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against sports; I just happen to have a more sensitive survival instinct than others. If I needed to do anything for fun or health in lieu of sports I’d much rather walk, and with long legs and high-arched feet, I should be a natural. I also have had good training. In all my four years of high school, I walked five blocks between home and St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City.
In fact I did it twice going and twice coming back daily, because I ate lunch at home. Mom’s cooking was just so good walking the distance was well worth it even in the noonday sun and without an umbrella. A neighbor and close friend, Cynthia Sun, walked and sometimes lunched with me.
However, I had not had any comparable practice until much later in life. The first decent test since was a two-kilometer walk, probably longer, from my apartment along Xavier Street in San Juan, to Edsa, which I negotiated at least twice a day during the four days of the People Power protest vigil against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986.
The purposeful walk that it was, it got my adrenaline going and, consequently, my older legs too; the sense of fellowship among the other like-minded walkers and the cause we had all walked for made the whole exercise fulfilling.
Indeed, I have realized that the circumstances that surround a walk – the people, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the point of it all—do affect its very quality.
Living in Valle Verde in the 1990s, my husband and I often walked around the village after dinner to help our digestion as well as to give ourselves a chance at some private talk and laughs. It’s a nice neighborhood to walk in, well-lit, hilly in some parts and fairly rich in greenery.
But I had not become a true pedestrian until we transferred to Makati. Alone or with my husband, I walk to just about everywhere. Our Innova sits in our garage longer than it runs on the road.
My Legazpi expedition
Especially around where we live, Legazpi Village, one can keep one’s dignity and poise as a pedestrian. For one thing the risks of being run over are minimized. In fact, pedestrians are pampered. From home, at about the midpoint of the business district, I can reach either end via an elevated and roofed walk that leads through the malls and has an escalator at every strategic point. I have never myself found the need for a coffee or soft-drink break, but there are vending machines for the purpose.
There are also phone booths and ATM machines. For crossing the main avenue, Ayala, there are pedestrian underpasses.
On the pedestrian-bridge sections that connect three malls in succession—from Greenbelt, a mere block from us, to Landmark to Glorietta—I sense that a certain walking pace is observed, so that if you happen to run into a friend there’s only time to wave or smile in greeting and none for even the briefest conversation or beso-beso; if you insist you’re bound to miss a step and obstruct the flow of walkers and thus risk being glared upon.
I still do the treadmill twice a week, but the regimen is in real danger of becoming redundant, not to say ridiculous: I need yet to be driven to the club gym—and for what?—only to walk on my treadmill.
Now that we are kept indoors by the televised impeachment trial, walking for exercise inside our little condominium home for the time being gives me a sense of Edsa—the adrenaline rush, the patriotic purpose.