For actor and regular cyclist Nonie Buencamino, sweating out the sadness is one way of getting through difficult times

By Karen S. Crisostomo | Photos courtesy of Aneka Crisostomo

In July 2015, Nonie Buencamino faced life’s most difficult experience: the death of his youngest child Julia. It shook him and his family to the core. “You read about stuff like that but never imagine it would ever happen to your own family,” he says.

In November, my On this Day app on Facebook notified me of a bike ride his family and I had done together with our families four years ago. The memories were too beautiful not to share as they captured happy moments with Julia. With some trepidation, fearing I might intrude on his journey of mourning, I tagged him. He responded: “There’s my baby!”  His comment was an indication that he was coping positively with his grief.

Last December, I was finally able to go on a bike ride with Nonie again. He shared how the spiritual dimension of exercising can elevate one’s mood, increase resilience and even banish the blues.

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Happy bunch at UP Diliman in November 2011 

ms_blog_healthybody_3 At the Ateneo Campus with Nonie, Jose, and Julia

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 Jose Buencamino, Aneka, Juancho, and Mihali Crisostomo, and Julia Buencamino

What’s a typical day for you like?

If I don’t have work, I’m up at 5am. While everyone in the house is still asleep, I exercise. It can be running, swimming, or biking. I also attend daily ,ass. I walk to Greenhills Shopping Center or to Xavier where I love to run but I do so only two to three times a week because of my knees. On other days, I bike or swim. It’s while I am walking, during my pre-exercise, that I pray the rosary. While running or biking, I do mental prayer to keep my thoughts from straying.

How did you first get into cycling?

As a youngster, biking around the old neighborhood in Kamias, Quezon City. Remember? That’s how we met! Then when I was newly married, I wanted my kids to learn how to bike. We lived in Pasay, so I would take Delphine, my eldest, to CCP to go leisure biking. I got a bike for Shamaine, too. Then we moved to Los Baños. I got bikes for my other children and enjoyed the place as we rode around the UPLB community on our free days. Then, people got busier at some point as my family grew.

Around four years ago, I decided to start biking again. The first time I went up to Antipolo was with you guys. I felt like I was dying! (laughs) After that, I’d go up by myself, hoping that the frequency would make it easier. Then, I gave my bike to the husband of our cook, so I stopped biking again.

ms_blog_healthybody_5Nonie’s first time up Antipolo in November 2011

ms_blog_healthybody_6Rosar Crisostomo waits for a determined Nonie during his first time in Antipolo

What made you pick it up again?

Two or three years ago, I bought a new bike. A year after that, I bought another bike to encourage any of my kids to bike with me, especially Julia. I wanted her to start exercising. I also bike more around Christmas time because of the traffic. For practical reasons, it’s faster to go from one place to the next. I’m also more conscious about being fit especially during the season when there will surely be a lot of eating. Ayoko to reach that point na lolobo ako!

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Nonie going down Sumulong Avenue, Antipolo with the author in December 2015

What would you advise people ywho are busy like you about health and cycling?

Cycling is good for older people. It is less strenuous on the knees, less impact. There is strain but it is not painful. A mountain bike is good if you are heavy. Find a place to bike without much pollution. Generally, if a person is physically fit, he has a longer attention span, better concentration and focus. Physical fitness brings about mental fitness, stronger muscles, and lungs. Exercising means one is breathing deeply, bringing more oxygen to the brain. I’m not a scientist but I do know that exercise makes me intellectually and emotionally fit.

It has been said that cycling can relieve anxiety. According to experts, exercise works well as a form of pyschotherapy and helps in the treatment of depression. Your thoughts?

I agree. Exercise requires focus. It serves as a diversion, well for me at least, in my grief over Julia’s death, especially because of the manner of how she died. I cannot be sedentary. I cannot handle just sitting… staring blankly. I need to move, be active. Exercise calms me. I find that I push myself to do more. I am more goal-oriented. I feel like I have a purpose during my exercise time. I feel good about myself. I’m more relaxed. So, even if I am sad and grieving, at least I achieved something.

ms_blog_healthybody_8Nonie with his son, Jose

ms_blog_healthybody_9Nonie with good friends and bike buddies, Rosar and Karen Crisostomo

Nonie adds the importance of encouraging others to talk openly about mental health problems. He is proud that Julia was able to help some of her friends through their own dark times simply by listening to them. In her own way, she made a difference and that is what matters.

As he takes care of his physical well-being by exercising, he remains hopeful and continues to find clear signs of God’s presence and love through his family members, close friends, and community. Like Nonie, let’s all start the new year striving for a healthy mind in a healthy body.