Training Wheels and the Filipino Spirit


When I first rode a bike, it was on training wheels. My parents thought it was the way to learn and it’s the safer choice. I do not blame them. Many parents think that way. It’s true that having those extra set of wheels will let you ride without having to balance. But that’s the fundamental problem of training wheels: it encourages kids to not learn how to balance. No one learns how to balance on training wheels. Learning to balance is a simple cycle: ride-fall-repeat. It’s almost like a .gif, but less funny and without a caption.

Of course, I love to point out problems without providing a solution. So I won’t really start giving tips on how to learn a bike. I’m just using that training wheel analogy to point out to how my training usually goes: ride-fall-repeat. I try a training program/method every now and then, find out it doesn’t work, and try another one again. Because internet is everywhere and everyone can share content, we are exposed to so much training literature.

Training literature over the internet is so dense it’s obese. And the problem with having an obese bunch of information is that many of what we see out there are useless to us Filipinos. Sure, there are proven training methods that work for professional athletes. But those don’t necessary apply to the Filipino athlete.

Yes there are human fundamentals that are universally true. But there are also differences in physiology and environment that cannot be neglected. Out of the lack of solid, Pinoy-focused training literature, our Filipino athletes guinea-pig on themselves. They become their own lab rats. They train and hurt to find out what works best for them and what doesn’t. This is okay as long as you’re just a weekend runner like me and we don’t have to chase after competitive goals (for people like me, conquering our own impossibilities is enough).

But what about our elite Filipino athletes who could have been wearing gold medals out there and getting crisp kisses on the cheeks from Caucasian girls? The guys they are running against have solid training, designed according to their very own body responses. Our own athletes don’t have a lab, training physiologists, and dieticians. So they run-fall-repeat. They do progress: but that progress is a painfully (literally) slow progress.

Every morning when I cycle to work at around 5.30am, I see two grade school-age girls running up Cansaga Bridge with some guy (whom I assume is their guardian). I look at the effortless way they run—effortless but fast—and I think they deserve so much better. If only they had a chance at running on a treadmill and getting 50 different cords attach to themselves so they can have the best training program made for them. But that’s the greatness of the Filipino spirit: we’ve been fighting rifles with bolos; and tanks with Rosaries and sampaguitas. And we always end up triumphing in seemingly endless battles.

Filipinos are hopeful by default. That’s why we have a very low suicide rate (20th lowest out of 110) and that’s why we have so many competitive runners even if they barely get any support. Children whose parents can barely send them to elementary school can aspire to be doctors. Our athletes who have to do 40-hour work weeks can aspire to greatness because they can. And they deliver so consistently they deserve to own FedEx.

What can we do to show our appreciation to our Cebuano athletes? I don’t know about our guy runners. But for the ladies, let’s continue installing the nail polish booths in every marathon.


On a completely irrelevant note, I have a few more photos to share about my trip in Bukidnon. I spent more than half my life in Cebu (I practically grew up here) but my family is from there. Our house there is 650 meters ASL but it’s on a huge plateau, the whole barrio is, so even if we’re at an elevation, it felt like we were living on flat land.

I’ve quit my job, spent about a month there, and abused the Bukidnon bandwidth with endless streaming of movies and TV Shows. But in between happy and lazy times, I got on a bike and in one of those rides, I went to this place called “Overview.”

It’s in Quezon, Bukidnon and that’s where buses going from Cagayan de Oro to Davao pass through. I don’t have much to say about the place, I prefer to let the JPEG do the talking. While I’m writing this piece, my head kept playing the song “Pambihirang Mundo” by Davao artist Popong Landero. Mindanao’s beauty is too underrated.









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