Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

A Four Day Hike

Posted by butalidnl on 25 July 2011

My wife Maya participated in a national hiking event here in the Netherlands. She walked 40 kilometers for 4 days in a row (total of 160 km), in the Nijmegen 4 Day March  on 19-22 July. About 40,000 people participate in this event every year. It is organized by the Dutch National Hiking Federation. There are lots of hiking events organized throughout the year, but the Nijmegen 4 Day March is the most popular of these.
at Vierdaagse 2011
The 4-Day March is a huge event in Nijmegen. The hikers can hike 40 or 50 kilometers per day (or 30 km for those over 60 years old). It started as far back as 1909, and was originally a military event. On each of the 4 days, the hikers follow a different route, bringing them to many of the towns surrounding Nijmegen. This event brings many people together and promotes regional understanding. Those who don’t hike enjoy listening to various bands at podia set up across the city.

The Nijmegen Four Day March comes from a deep-ingrained Dutch culture of walking. There are all kinds of walking events all year round.  People walk or bike to work; I used to walk for 25 minutes (about 2 km) from the train station to my office (and back, of course). I believe that walking (and biking) are part of the reasons why the Netherlands is a country with a comparatively small number of obese people (among developed countries). Hiking is healthy.

Philippines
Hiking events in the Philippines usually involve hiking in nature areas with a guide. There are no massive hiking events that are packaged as such. However, there are various demonstrations and processions that we could actually call hikes.

Running seems to attract more and more people in Philippine cities these days. I think we should expand the ‘menu’ to also include hiking events in the cities. Hiking has a number of advantages. First, it is a good source of exercise, which is relatively cheap since all you really need is a good pair of shoes and functional legs. Second, hiking has the potential of including a lot more people than running, since many people are not able to run, but could walk.  And third, if the event is packaged well, it can lead to more social cohesion, especially if it is part of an annual event like a fiesta.

Just imagine if there is a Holy Week “Visita Iglesia Walk” that goes to seven churches. People should walk between them, riding is not allowed. Or that a 5 kilometer walk is part of the celebration of a town fiesta.  Who knows, it could help to make Filipinos healthier, while also promoting the local economy and even attract tourists.

But walking should also be integrated more into the daily life of Filipinos. We should stop the practice of taking a jeepney or tricycle for a distance of as little as 500 meters.  Schools should integrate short hikes as part of their Physical Education. And there should be more and bigger pedestrian shopping areas.  This will help to keep Filipinos healthy.

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