Shall We Walk? by Pura Santillan-Castrence

This essay was written during the Japanese Occupation but it is as relevant today as it was then.

I wrote an article some years ago on the benefits of walking. My automobiled friends praised the article politely enough, they liked it (at least they said so); the points were well taken; people should really walk more; it took someone like me to show in such graphic terms what could have been clear to everyone before… then they went on their morning-till-night automobile rides, increasing the size of their paunches and the number of their chins and illnesses…

I must state, however, that I didn’t start to sell the idea that walking is the panacea of all earthy ills, not that one should walk from here to Tarlac if there is not truck available, not that rain or shine, in sickness or in health one should walk or else. But I did set out to claim that if milady has to give up once in a while her tricyle or carromata ride, she wil;l be one none the worse for the little exercise she gives her limbs.

Walking keeps the form fit. It obviates bay windows, inelegant in men, unsightly in women. Walking puts into play painlessly and unconsciously, important body muscles. The leg muscles,obviously, are the ones mostly affected. But when the legs move they pull at the abdominal muscles, giving them the needed exercise which prevents their getting flabby and the abdomen’s becoming big and pendulous. The static muscles of the back, especially those around the spine, are put into movement, too, and this is essential in the maintenance of good posture. The arms also swing into motion as a natural accompaniment of walking.

There are all manners of walking. The ambling walking of the absorbed lovers, while satisfactory from the point of views of giving opportunity for sentimental discourse, is not so from the point of view of exercise. From the latter viewpoint, a brisk morning walk is the thing. You need not even plan it as a formal program. It is a relatively simple thing to walk to the office, or if that is too much because where you work is quite distant from your home, walk part of the way. Either choice you take, however, makes it worthwhile by deriving from it the exercise you need. Wallk vigorously and enthusiastically. You can almost actually feel the blood circulating in your body with a briskness equal to the vim and zest you put into your walking.

Some enthusiasts have it that a good habitual walker is also a good habitual thinker. Perhaps the situation is a bit far-fecthed considered as direct cause and effect. Clean thinking may come as a result of good blood-circulation an general body health, to which may have contributed the exercise derived from walking improves the eyesight. Although when the walks are done out in the country, where a person has to look far into the distance most of the time, at hill-peaks and tree-tops or upon green grass across the brooks, the farsight focusing affords rest and is good for the eyes.

Walk and be healthy. Walk and save money. Why be a slave of His Excellency, the cochero, when it is only a matter of a ten or a fifteen minute walk? Walk, instead, and see the city sights at close range. Many things of varied interest will attract you. Show-windows will engross you if you are an addicted window-shopper. Perhaps you intend to buy a pair of shoes next pay-day. Or a ves, do, or a barong tagalog for a friend or hubby, a bag for little Wifie. Window-shopping now will help you later.

If you don’t care particularly to shop merely with your eyes, if window-shopping only gives you pain and longings you never hope to see fulfilled, there are other things besides windows to make a walk interesting. People, for instance. What o mothey crowned of interesting human beings a short walk can afford you. You see all types, dressy fops with their uselessness written all over their persons, worried looking fathers of families, frowsy dames with eyes that tell stories of hopes and frustration, eager youths and pretty girls flirting with each other openly or subtly, but always charmingly, because they are young. You see an old woman with her bundle of knickknacks, and you wonder how many grtanchildren will shout for joy on her arrival. There is a vicious-looking beggar whom you evade, because he appears more as your-life-or your –money type than a bonafide pauper who needs your help. A loud-mouthed woman, with the market brand stramped on her face and bearing, is haggling over the price of a ride with an equally tough cochero. Words are exchange, voices become excited and shrill, but you are already out of hearing distance. All your interest is now taken up by an old couple, worn-out and thin to emaciating, but still with the light of love and adventure in their eyes. You see the man gallantly giving his arms to his wife as they staggeringly cross the street. You wipe the mist in your eyes, and it is good that you do so in time or you would not see two little children, their attention centered upon some candy displayed on a counter near the sidewalk, coming plump into your path. You step aside, watch the eager hungriness of their look.

Maybe such city sights fatigue you as they do some people who prefer using a walk for meditation purposes; then take to the wide open spaces. Don’t protest too soon…. You need not leave the city nor your job; you can simply take a little time to get out of the streetcar lines and busy-streets, and seek the fields or the less trodden path of so called civilized life. Walk and think, allowing Nature to soothe your bruised spirit. Let the swaying grass teach you the beautiful lesson of resilience, of bending to the inevitable, the wind of circumtance. Let the flower teach you the essential perpetuity of life, and the bird, the joy of existence. The tree, symbol of dignity and serenity, indifference and aloofness, is to make you see, with a sense of balance,trivialities for what they are; the little lakes, sometimes mere puddles, full of tadpoles and fishes and insects, to show you that life sprouts anywhere, that your own, for all its seeming importance to you, cannot mean so very much in the big scheme of living.

Perhaps you have a problem. Some would-be advisers walk it. Walk it and see it from different angles. Walk it and see it for the first time against the background of the whole universe. And while walking, says an expert on the subject, “think tall, pull your chin up and throw your chest forward no matter how heavy a burden you carry on your shoulder.”

With your sense of proportion restored by quiet deliberation and by the palpable sympathy of Nature all around you, you strike at one solution, then another. Your judgment, made clear by the classmates brought about by your walk and your surroundings, becomes sound and wise. You reach a decision, and it is generally good.

Walk and know yourself. You will be surprised to find out what an enjoyable companion you can be to yourself. Don’t be like the man who gets so bored being left alone with his thoughts that he has to have a book with him all the time he is not with people. Books have their place, too and an important place it is, but so have walking and getting acquainted with yourself. Just thresh out the little doubts you have regarding this and that, mull over remarks made by your friends or office mates, study the personalities you have come across during the day. It’s fascinating pastime. And all this while you are taking your constitutional walk.

Shall we walk this once then, Milady?

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