Oscar Lopez climbs to wellness

CITY SENSE - CITY SENSE By Paulo Alcazaren () - April 14, 2007 - 12:00am
One of the things I hate most about my daily routine is waiting for elevators. There must be something really wrong with our National Building Code. I find that very few office buildings have elevator systems that can accommodate the throngs of people needing to get to work or to their appointments. I’ve recently taken to the stairs — and manage to beat the elevators from my fifth floor office to the ground. I may be on to something here — and may even lose weight, eventually.

It seems though that I was not the first to latch on to the idea of going back to the stairs as a faster and healthier way for vertical transportation. Only a few buildings away from mine at the Ortigas Center is the Benpres Building. It has one of the best amenities for the public — a "Stairway of Wellness."

The Lopez Group of Companies, under its energetic leader Oscar Lopez, has been an advocate of corporate wellness. They believe that the physical well being of their employees and staff are as important as fiscal health. Lopez himself has taken their Lopez Lifelong Wellness to the forefront of their corporate philosophy. Recently, he led a team from the Lopez Group to climb the 9,700-foot peak of Mount Pulag up north.

Lopez, who is in his early ‘70s, is a fitness buff, but still had to train for four years to get to the top of Mt. Pulag last month. He had to do a training climb first; managing to ascend the 7,500-foot Mount Santo Tomas in Batangas without much difficulty last summer.

On the Pulag trek he gathered together a team that included his sons Cary and Jay and daughters Rina and Angela along with members from various companies of the Lopez Group. He also roped in the First Philippine Mt. Everest Team with leader Art Valdez, Dr. Ted Esguerra, Pastor Emata, Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Doyonyon and Leo Oracion among others. Members of the UP Mountaineers were also in the group supported by local sherpas.

The group reached the top at daybreak on Feb. 17. The view from the top overlooking three provinces — Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, and Ifugao was breathtaking.

All the other Lopez employees and staff need not trek to the mountains to get their doze of oxygen and exercise — it’s much closer to their corporate homes than we realize.

Carrie Lopez, a company VP, broached the idea of turning the company building’s stairwells into an opportunity for health exercise. Climbing a few flights of stairs involves the cardiovascular as well as the musculoskeletal system. It burns calories and the activity clears the head as well. An hour of walking up the stairs for a 150-lb person results in 570 calories burned.  His dad, Oscar, loved the idea and directed the transformation of the Benpres stairs as a pilot project.

The stairs had the advantage of being well-designed. Benpres was originally the Manila Chronicle and laid out by the famous Filipino international-style architect Carlos Arguelles in the late ‘60s. Lopez improved the amenity by having it fully carpeted (in verdant green — for health). Even ladies in high heels will get a comfortable climb. The whole 10 flights were repainted in white and green. Potted plants further softened and "greened" people’s climbs. Electric fans were installed to help cool the landings. Finally, he had reproductions of historical pictures and illustrations hung on the walls — all culled from the Lopez Museum’s vast archives on the ground floor.

I tried the stairs recently and photographed it. The transition per floor is pleasant. The carpeting really does help cushion the feet and dampen the usual acoustic problem of most stairwells. Being a collector of ephemera — the images on the walls were on great interest to me. What a great way to share a resource. This type of stairway should be made mandatory for all office buildings!

Before I reached the sixth floor, I was overtaken by Oscar Lopez himself. He turned around for just enough time for me to take a snap. Straggling behind him was a number of his executives.

The stairway is part of the Environment, Safety and Health (ESH) Program of the Lopez Group of Companies. Other companies would do well to emulate this program and specifically take advantage of elements like staircases or the large grounds that many suburban office complexes stand in for exercise opportunities.

In the meanwhile, I continue to use the stairs — it’s faster. I hope to lose my spare tire in a few months. Maybe a climb up Mt. Santo Tomas (first) is not far away. Maybe I’ll reach the peak of my career sooner than I expect!
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Feedback is welcome. Please e-mail the writer at paulo.alcazaren@gmail.com.
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