Photo courtesy of Jun Ramirez

Amo Ini ang Tatay Ko…

By Kathy Villalon

Parents expect children to do what they are told. Teaching by example, however, is the best way to make the young ones follow. Much more so if one wants to instill to them the values of healthy living at an early age. Take the Ramirez family, for instance.

Marianito Ramirez Sr. is an active biker and runner. What makes these facts stand out is that he is still going strong at this lifestyle, even at the age of 73. He got into cycling as a child, and eventually joined cycling competitions when he grew up.

A young Marianito, Sr. on the right. Photo courtesy of Jun Ramirez.

In the 1970s, Marianito worked as an upholsterer at the family-owned Conpinco Industries; it was not long before he was inducted into the company’s official cycling team. That was not the end of his semi-professional cycling life, however: he also participated in the Tour de Quinon, where he covered 140 kilometers while traversing Iloilo City, Janiuay, Lambunao, Passi, Calinog and back again.

He is into running, too, though his love for this sport came later. “Makadalagan ako asta 21 kilometro. Nakaintra ako sa dalagko nga marathon parehos sang Milo Marathon kag Dinagyang Marathon sing makatatlo ka beses [I could run up to 21 kilometers. I joined the prestigious marathon events like Milo Marathon and Dinagyang Marathon three times],” he said.

Marianito planted the seed by example. It was only a matter of time when his children would embrace the same lifestyle.

A Family Affair

jun and marianito ramirez - project iloilo
Jun and Marianito Ramirez. Photo courtesy of Jun Ramirez.

“Our father is not the type who would force his lifestyle on us by telling us to do this and that. We just learned from his example. Makita ko siya adlaw-adlaw nga active [I would see him being active every day],” said Marianito’s son, Jun Ramirez.

“Jun” is named after his father. “I was made a ‘junior’ because after sang eldest (Chris), sunod-sunod ang three girls nga nabata. Bale pang-lima na ako [I was ‘junior’ because after our eldest, Chris, three daughters came after. I was the fifth child],” he said.

While Jun, 42, works as a University Extension Associate at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, he’s known in several local circles as a biker, runner, swimmer and mountaineer.

From an early age, Jun had always known of his father’s physical exploits; he narrated how Marianito would bike from his workplace in Iloilo City to go to Antique, where his wife and first three children lived back then. “I wasn’t born yet at that time,” he said.

Marianito, on the other hand, recalled, “Batsihon pa sadto ang mga dalanon. Gakayab-ukan ako. Pero naanad naman ako, ah [The roads were quite bumpy back then. I was exposed to dust. But I got used to it]”.

When asked why he didn’t commute instead, he simply answered, ‘Exercise.’

Marianito, as was mostly customary in the old-style of parenting back then, also observed a ritual: “Sang gamay kami, naga-angkas kami sa iya nga bisikleta. May mga times nga ginadala niya kami sa Villa Beach para mag-ayo ang amon ubo [When we were little, we often ride with him on his bike. He would ride us to Villa beach whenever we have cough],” Jun narrated.

Jun’s brothers, Chris and Roy, were into basketball and baseball and joined sports fests as they grew older. Jun admitted that he was less active when compared to his brothers. But eventually, he took up hiking. Then running. And then swimming. Nowadays, all siblings are active in cycling.

“I run in order to build my endurance for hiking. Then, when I volunteered as a teacher in Tawi-Tawi where water and white sand beaches abound, that’s where I practiced swimming. Our school was near the pier, so every weekend the students and I would jump on the water,” he narrated.

He also started joining triathlons five years ago, though they were mainly relegated to “the local races in Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros,” as he put it.

However, Jun’s most arduous test of physicality would be preparing for the “Panay Trilogy”. It’s one of his proudest moments as a team leader of the Iloilo Mountaineering Club (IMC), where he also served as president for four years.

“I was one of the team leaders during the exploration/trailblazing of the Panay Trilogy,” Jun said. The mission they set for this was to climb three mountains—Mt. Madia-as in Culasi, Antique; Mt. Nangtud, which is situated at the boundary of Barbaza, Antique and Jamindan, Capiz; and Mt. Baloy in Valderrama, Antique—without having to descend from each in order to climb the next one.

“It took five expeditions from 2015 to 2017 to complete the trail. It was during my time as president of the IMC when the connection was completed. After we established the trail, other members of IMC made the first-ever thru hike which took them 16 days. I was one of the members of the planning and monitoring team,” Jun added.

Unlike Jun, however, Marianito is not into mountaineering. He is already contented with his daily jogs and weekly, long bike rides from Iloilo to Leon. Every Sunday morning, he would leave as early as 4 a.m. with his bike. These rides not only give him the exercise that he needs but the pleasure of seeing the beauty of nature at the countryside.

Magbugtaw kami, wala na siya kay aga pa siya gahalin [When we wake up, he’s already gone because he leaves early],” Jun said.

That may be the case, but for the rest of their activities, it is unimaginable for them to not do it together as a family.

Doing Things Together

Marianito said that with cycling, he is able to bond with his family and this makes him happy. In fact, even Chris’s son, CJ, is also into cycling, so it only follows that he will be mentored by his grandfather.

Sang nag-bike kami sa Guimaras, natingala ang mga migo sang kabataan ko kon ngaa nagaupod ako sa ila mag-bike [When we biked in Guimaras, my children’s friends were amazed that I joined],” he said.

Ti, kay ang mga ka-edad ko, indi makasarang sa akon, gani sa mga bata ako nagaupod [My fellow seniors can’t keep up with me so I go with the young ones],” he said, laughing.

jun and marianito ramirez in leganes - project iloilo
Photo courtesy of Jun Ramirez

There’s no competition among the family whenever they join running and cycling events together. “Dad would initially get ahead because he’s at the front, but I eventually catch up and overtake him,” said Jun, to which his father replied, “He’s faster because he’s younger.” Marianito might be a healthy 73-year old, but he still acknowledges that he is a 73-year old.

Marianito admitted to feeling the ravages of old age. “Nagapalanakit na ang akon kalawasan. Pero bisan amo sina, ginapilit ko mag-bike kag jogging bangud dira nagakadula ang palanakit sang akon lawas [I feel body pains already. Despite that, I still bike and jog because I get relief from these activities],” Marianito said.

“At my age, I just maximize my physical capacity. Ang migo ko nga doctor gahambal nga indi ko pagpiliton [A friend who is a doctor said that I should not push myself too hard],” he added.

Jun concurred, “You have to listen to your body, to how your body responds. If you force it, the more you are prone to injury.”

A Healthy Body, A Healthy Resolve

Marianito is not only older but also wiser. He has learned from his struggles and triumphs, and the lessons are imparted to his children, who are also doing the same to his grandchildren.

“He inculcated in us the importance of discipline and hard work in achieving one’s goals,” Jun said.

Many have said of the Ramirezes’ penchant for perfection. That is a quality that Jun did not deny. “We tend to be controlling. If we want something, we want it to be perfect. If indi masunod, maugtas na [If not followed, we lose our temper],” he said, as both father and son chuckled. Even through their laughter, the similarity is unmistakable.

“Like father, like son” seems to be an understatement for them.

Kathy Villalon learned all the areas of magazine and newspaper publishing through her parents’ example. She currently maintains two blogs, Iloilo Lifestyle and Iloilo Updates, and works for a test preparation company.