Opening Remarks by Oscar M. Lopez, Chairman Emeritus, Lopez Group of Companies, at the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Wellness Fair
April 26, 2014
Rockwell Center, Makati City
Some 20 years or so ago today, specialists told me I needed to have a heart bypass surgery. We were then in the midst of rebuilding the Lopez Group after the Marcos dictatorship and perhaps, years of less than healthy habits and the pressures and anxieties of running businesses have taken their toll on me.
I didn’t take that diagnosis and recommended surgery lightly. I sought out second, third and more opinions. The thing with modern medicine is that doctors don’t always agree. Some agreed that the bypass surgery was needed. Others wanted to wait and see. One particular doctor I consulted in San Diego, California examined me and told me that with regular exercise and good diet, I probably don’t need that bypass surgery.
Indeed, the doctor found out that my body was rather resilient in dealing with the problem by naturally creating new channels for blood to flow that bypasses partially blocked sections of my circulatory system. Apparently, my persistence and determination to do what was necessary to avoid a heart bypass enabled my body to develop enough new capillaries to create what could be called a natural bypass to feed blood to my heart.
I guess I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t have a single-minded determination to religiously do my routine and change my diet preferences consisting mainly of fish, vegetables and fruits and a lot of vitamins. I spend at least half an hour daily on the treadmill… and never taking the elevator to get to my sixth floor office… I also gave up smoking, and one Holy Week, climbed Mount Santo Tomas in Baguio with my family. More outdoor exercises followed with scheduled runs with Lopez executives and staff at La Mesa Dam, at our Industrial Park in Batangas, in the Lopez Center in Antipolo and even in the Sierra Madre mountains while looking for some rare plants and flowers for Conservation International.
I also led a Lopez Group team that made an overnight climb to Mount Pulag… the highest mountain in Luzon. In addition to the physical exercise, the view from the top at sunrise is awe inspiring. I have also climbed up to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo, Mount Arayat in Pampanga, Mount Kanlaon in Negros and up Mount Apo in Davao, the country’s highest mountain.
Running out of local mountains to climb, I led my family and a few executives up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, the highest peak in Southeast Asia when I was turning 80. It was no walk in the park, I must tell you. The conditions which included rain and pretty slippery granite slopes near the top would have made young men turn back to safety. I am sure many of the younger people with me would have preferred to do that but had to go on because it would be pretty shameful if this 80 year old man makes it and not them.
There are some lessons I want to share with you all today. One is that it is never too late to start being physical. Two, you must have the determination to keep your body strong and your health in tip top condition. It is never fun to be sick or unhealthy whether you are young as most of you are or old as I am.
I wonder, if I challenged EJAP members to climb Mount Pulag for next year’s Wellness weekend, how many of you will be brave enough to take it and how many of you will survive.
Having once upon a time managed the Manila Chronicle, I am aware of the very unhealthy habits of journalists. I know you all justify your late nights and liters of alcoholic binges as part of the job of being journalists. I am not sure I agree that your bodies, specifically your lungs, livers and hearts should take a beating just because you have to report the news.
Just look at you folks now… the evidence of too much good food from too many lunch interviews… beer bellies from too much camaraderie after work are there to see. Reverse everything now… develop new healthy habits so that making it to 80 and beyond would be something you can take for granted.
This is why I am glad Rosan and Carla decided on a Health Wellness activity as the contribution of the Lopez Group to the wellbeing of the country’s economic journalists. The schedule of activities will introduce you to things you can pick up on your own to enhance your health. Remember that your body mass index is as important an indicator as the country’s gross domestic product… probably more so for the sake of your young children.
When you start to wonder if you can change bad habits, just think of me. I used to smoke, eat food that eventually blocked my arteries, stressed myself with business pressures until I came face to face with my own mortality and changed everything. Now I am 84, have run out of new mountains to climb… and I feel that getting to 90 is not an insurmountable problem anymore.
Enjoy yourselves today but promise me that you will all do what it takes to keep yourselves healthy.
Thank you and good day.