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Sometimes when we touch |

Health And Family

Sometimes when we touch

KINDERGARTEN DAD - Tony Montemayor -

Whenever Manny Pacquiao enters the ring for a fight, he is often accompanied by the growling beat of the Rocky III theme song, Eye of the Tiger. Last November 13, however, I was half expecting his camp to suddenly cut short his usual boxing anthem and play instead Pacquiao’s teary duet with Dan Hill of the latter’s 1977 sentimental hit ballad, Sometimes When We Touch. Aside from fantasizing about daring Simon Cowell to tell Manny to his face that he was pitchy (which he actually wasn’t), I really do think that the song, maligned by some for its “total sissy-ness,” is a real boxer’s tune. I understand that even the late great heavyweight legend Joe Frazier also recorded his own rendition decades ago. I mean is there anything else in this world more painfully honest than a wicked left hook from Smokin’ Joe or the Pacman? I can almost hear Manny humming as he charges into his opponents, “At times I’d like to break you.” Right jab, left straight. “And drive you to your knees.” Uppercut, hook. Indeed, our Pambansang Kamao’s touch has proven too much for many of his foes that they’re left with nothing else to do but sadly croon, “And sometimes when we touch/The honesty’s too much/And I have to close my eyes and hide/I wanna hold you til I die/Til we both break down and cry/I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.”

Like millions of other Filipinos, the result of the slugfest last week left me hanging. The Tagalog word bitin is perhaps a more eloquent description. I was in a car shop the following day and all the workers could talk about was the bout. Actually, since the day of the fight was also my mother’s death anniversary, I visited the memorial park just before the start of the brawl. Both my late parents were avid boxing fans and I couldn’t help but smile when I discovered several cemetery workers listening to the fight’s radio coverage just a few mounds away. The volume of their very large radio was set at maximum and so it was as if my parents had a ringside seat (or grave). My mom and dad were both loving parents. But if there was one thing they were not, it was that they were not very comfortable with displaying physical affection. As a family, we were not big on physical contact. If I may rephrase Dan Hill’s lyrics, it was only sometimes that we touched. It was not because they were cold. I guess it was just because they were raised that way. One of the touching stories about my dad was how he was brought to near tears after his friend Karol Cardinal Wojtyla helped him put on his coat and kissed him goodbye. My father became emotional not just because the man who would later on become Pope was like a saint but also because the only other man who had kissed my dad before was his grandfather.   Fortunately, I married into a family where hugs and kisses are the norm. And so after I met my wife, I also started buzzing my parents on the cheek whenever I saw them. Although I felt their awkwardness at first, their quiet smiles told me how deeply they appreciated the gesture. It certainly didn’t feel bitin.

There is a reason why babies stop crying when their dad picks them up and holds them. Or why the pain of a little child’s wound magically seems to vanish with a mother’s kiss. Scientifically, researchers tell us that it’s because of oxytocin, “… a hormone released in the body and brain in response to affectionate touches, hugs, and breastfeeding.” Oxytocin, which has also been called the “love hormone,” apparently gives us that warm, soothing, and loving feeling inside whenever we get close to someone we truly care for. Whatever it is, experts tell us that the human touch is good for our physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being regardless of age. It promotes calmness, lowers blood pressure, improves blood and glucose levels, strengthens the immune system, and provides a lot of other benefits. Newborns, in particular, are said to “… gain weight faster and have superior mental and motor skill development.” In addition, physical contact is a critical part of the establishment of the bond between infant and parent. But while the benefits of the human touch are widely accepted with babies and toddlers, it seems that as we get older, societal inhibitions sometimes get in the way. One study estimates that “… by the time children reach their teen years, they receive only half as much touching as they did in the early part of their lives.” Much more so when they become adults. Of course, we should always be wary of the wackos and perverts out there. Parents should also be sensitive to the apparent embarrassment of teenagers and young adults to public displays of affection. Nevertheless, I think that within the confines of family and home at least, the physical display of affection is a practice that we should nurture till we’re old and gray. Just find what feels most appropriate for your kids and the situation. It could be a hug, a kiss, a handshake, a playful tap, chest-bumping your son, brushing your daughter’s hair, or a dozen other gestures. After all, as Manny Pacquiao has successfully proven in the ring, there are many ways to really touch someone!

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