Diaries From The Field: The secret of a long life


For the past months, I witnessed and participated in the celebration of long life of our elderly in my village. Truly, it is a joy to see our elders happy and smiling when their lives are celebrated not only by their families but also by the whole community. After all, one of their ingredients in having long life is family and a good community.

LONG LIFE. One of Humgduan’s remaining elders. Good environment, people and food are her secret to longer life. Photo by Jude Baggo

In my village, there are no roads or streets to connect different small sitios scattered in the mountains except for the main barangay road. Our village is also located in steep ranges. Walking is an integral part of our daily life. To reach rice fields and neighbors, one must walk. Aside from natural walking, our daily life is filled with physical activity. Our forefathers never lived in a sedentary lifestyle.

In order to cook rice, one must endure the process of drying, pounding and sorting rice. One must also gather and collect fire woods in the muyung or mountains. For bigger logs, one must chop these using axe. Household chores are also physical activities in my village. Fetching water and washing dishes are usually done outside the house.

Agricultural work is a never ending one. One must wake up early and go home late in order to finish some work in their farms, rice fields or gardens. For vegetable gardeners, they need to carry a lot of loads such as fertilizers, water supply and harvested produce from and to the road before it reaches the market. Also, during harvest, rice bundles are being transported from the rice fields to the alang or houses. For household chores, many of us still fetch water, wash their dishes outside the house.

Indigenous practices such as “dang-a, ubbu, batales, baddang” are also helpful in making my people physically active. Not only these, during occasions such as “honga (a celebration of life), birthdays, rituals, men are tasked to butcher pigs which can be an exhausting task.

According to our elders, they also attribute long life to their choice of food. In the past, they said that they mostly consume vegetables and meat which are usually from wild pig, chicken and if there are occasions. They have also the river to supply small crabs, uggaddiw, edible frogs and more. The mountains have much also to offer from wild berries, ferns, leaves, fruits to monitor lizards, and wild pigs. They only add salt and sugar to their food. They also consume brewed coffee from their backyard coffee. They have no vices except from chewing moma and the occasional drinking of baya (rice wine).

Another thing they shared is on how they handle stress and problems. According to them, the community is always involved in resolving issues, conflicts and problems between and among the people. This is how they handle stress.

Listening to these stories of simple living and being physically active, it reawakened my desire to become physically active again. I choose to walk. And in walking, the fresh air and green scenery refreshed my lungs. I felt lighter, focused and good mood. Aside from these, walking in our village also means being updated to political, economic and cultural life of my people. Walking also helped me to sleep better.

It is time to get physically active. According to the World Health Organization in 2010, it identified that insufficient physical activity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (6% of deaths globally). It further identified that physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause of approximately 21-25% of breast and colon cancer cases, 27% of diabetes cases, and approximately 30% of ischemic heart disease cases.

Other alarming common results and impacts of physical inactivity are the increased risk of being overweight and obese; hypertension/high blood pressure; anxiety; depression and Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The report further stated the decline of physical activities among teenagers in recent years due to modern technology and proliferation of personal entertainment gadgets and more time for leisure hours inside the house playing games.

This kind of sedentary lifestyle is affecting our youth and people.

Time is ticking. We need to start a better lifestyle and have a longer life. Live simply and be physically active. # nordis.net


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