I was always that kid that sat by the steps of the swimming pool in my Lolo Tingting’s house while all my other cousins and playmates swam like fish in the water. I could float and cross from one end to the next in moves that mimicked swimming but I could never do the freestyle with any semblance of grace, much less the other fancier strokes.
And so on and off in the past, the idea of learning to swim crossed my mind. But I would always put it off, feeling especially that swimming was something you learned before you turned 13, resigned to the fact that I will go through my entire life not being able to do even just a decent freestyle.
But then again I am married to a man who does not stop learning new things and I’ve seen how he would pick up one sport to the next, not in a maskipaps kind of way but really patiently going through the basics, with an expert/coach by his side. He would even go as far as reading up on it. No shortcuts. My husband is one of those who enjoy the journey as much as the destination. He always tells me that there is nothing I cannot not learn if I really set my heart to it and that the most important step is to actually begin. I cannot just write it on my list of things to do before I turn 85, I have to find time to do it. And so I try to remember that each time I feel drawn to something new.
There was a fashion show in Cebu in the early 2000s and an intermission number was a flamenco dancer with a beautiful, big red flower on her hair. I watched her from the sidelines and it was magical — at that very moment I almost wanted to be her up on that stage, dance like her, with the same red flower on my hair. The moment I landed in Manila, I found myself a flamenco teacher, Tita Cecile de Joya, started joining her class the very first schedule I got, and I had a love affair with that dance genre for many happy years, loving the sound my flamenco shoes made against the wooden planks of the dance floor, until I moved on to Latin dance, which I still do to this day. For that, I also got myself a dance coach, Bong, whom I call an Egyptian because in his class I am his slave. But it is my happy place, a retreat for those times when life becomes too busy, weary. Dance class is where I get a fresh boost of endorphins and when I step out of the studio doors after, my energy well spent and toxins released, I feel I can take on the world again.
There was a Red Charity Gala a few weeks back, and Richard and I ran into Liz Uy, who was looking sleek and lovely as she always does. But Liz was also at her most svelte since I met her and she said it was because of swimming lessons she had been taking. What really got me was when she said she could eat as much rice as she wanted still! Rice! I love you always and I want you in my life forever. I do not want to deprive myself of the happiness that is you.
So, that same night, during the dinner, I found myself a swim coach, and the very next day I started my first swimming lesson. The following day I took another one, waking up very early for that because I had a very full schedule. On the third day, I got a very bad case of colds and I had to stop and recuperate. But I have since resumed, and challenging as it sometimes seems, I will keep on. I need to develop strength and endurance and I need to find my rhythm still. I’ve swallowed more than my fair share of chlorine-spiked water but that is part of it all — I have to take the good with the bad. I love how it is something that makes me spend time with my Juliana, I love even how Moritz and Natasha jump in to join in the fun. Over and above that, I feel empowered and alive, because I am taking charge. I finally am a step ahead of my fear of drowning, of sinking, of not knowing. Instead of just dreaming of taking this on, or anything else for that matter, I am crossing it off my list today. Now. Without thinking too much of how far I can take it, how I will fare, whether or not I will enjoy it as much as I thought I would. What is important is that I just do it, that I keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, opening myself up to what lies ahead.
Next up: singing. I’ve always dreamed of climbing up a piano, in a sleek gown with nothing more than eyeliner and perfectly red lips. For that I need a voice. I have to have some semblance of a singing voice, one that actually sounds decent enough for the ones within hearing distance to not cringe. And I just need one song — even just one song that I can sing from start to finish with no glaring glitches. Maybe I will start with The Nearness of You. Or if I am feeling brave, Inseparable. Wish me luck.
But for now, I have my freestyle to work on.
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