Zipping/spinning past 70

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

Yes, I did – really! – and I have documentation to prove it. I ziplined into my 71st year on a bright sunny morning in Dakak Resort in Dapitan, over lush vegetation and looking out to the shimmering waters of the bay. My friend Chris chose the prone or Superman position while I did the sitting position which, the staff said, allows for better photos. I taped my phone to my hand so I wouldn’t drop it in my excitement.

We were harnessed, strapped in and helmeted, the clamps and ropes checked by three different people. The gate was opened, I sat on the ledge – and launched. It was not an immediate drop; actually it was a slow start, then I picked up speed as the angle of the zipline dipped.

It was exhilarating… until I found myself spinning around instead of heading straight down. Around and around I spun – clockwise for several turns, then counterclockwise, and then clockwise again – all the while descending at what I felt was not that fast a speed. My friend Chris the Superman had sped past me many many turns ago, so fast he never managed to take a photo of me!

All in all it took me well over a minute to get to the end platform (my phone video showed 1.08 minutes). The staff tried very hard not to laugh, but I think it was the first time they had seen anything like that. They explained that it was the wind and my weight – or lack of it – that caused the spinning. But it certainly was fun – and good for a lot of laughs from everyone who saw my dizzying video.

Crazy was the adjective most people used when they heard about my intention to go on the zipline. Perhaps it is a general fear of heights (which I don’t have) or the thought of literally hanging by a wire a good distance above ground, with no net to catch you and Murphy’s Law possibly coming into play when you’re halfway down the line (will the rope break? will the clamps hold? will the screws come loose? will I hit a tall tree?).

I wouldn’t characterize myself as the adventurous type, especially in my old age. Or perhaps it is precisely advanced age that has made me reckless, one friend ventured. But going on a zipline has been something I have always thought would be quite fun, kind of flying without wings, seeing the treetops up close and not from the window of an airplane.

So I have a standing date with my daredevil friend Kat – she bungee jumped (something I will not do) and cliff dived (which I have done, but from a rather low cliff) and rides her BMW big bike all across Mindanao and even up to Northern Luzon – to do the ziplines in Bohol (over the Loboc River) and in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato to see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. Crazy or not, we’re zipping!

The Big Red

There’s common ground between 90 and 23, and it’s colored red. It’s called The Big Red Cornell Christmas, and on a balmy December evening over 60 Cornell alumni and their guests gathered on two yachts – more signed up than could fit in one yacht – for a little sunset spin around Manila Bay for the end-of-year activity of the Cornell Club of the Philippines. Full disclosure: I attended not as an alumna but as a CSOA – curious sister of alumnus, my brother Sherwin having done his MBA there way back in 1970.

Cornell University was founded in 1865 by entrepreneur Ezra Cornell and is described as the first “truly American university” because of its “egalitarian and practical vision of higher education” and its dedication to “outreach and public service.” It is also supposedly where chicken nuggets were invented.

Many of the alumni came in the official red Cornell shirt. The most senior in attendance was 90-year-old agriculturist Orlando Sacay (more on him later) and the youngest was 23-year-old Katie Go (2022 graduate of information science whose YouTube channel has over eight million views). In between them were folks of every decade, including Speaker Martin Romualdez, the evening’s host, who just recently acquired dual citizenship – Filipino and senior. His sons are now at Cornell, and it seems to be quite common for family members across generations to find their way to Ithaca. The Labadans are three-generation Cornellians. Anna Carlos Petersen counts four generations of her family – about 17 of them so far – to be alumni. She is so tied to Cornell that she and her husband (who is not an alumnus) now have a house in Ithaca, and she plays “mother hen” to the young Filipino students on campus.

It was a revelation to me that snowy, freezing Ithaca in upstate New York houses one of the world’s foremost advanced agriculture programs. Proof of this are two of our National Scientists I had the privilege of meeting that night – Dr. Emil Javier, former president of the University of the Philippines (which, tragically, lost the UAAP basketball championship that night) and former secretary of Science and Technology, and Ruben Villareal, former horticulture professor at UP Los Baños and a multi-awarded authority on vegetable breeding and the promotion of modernization of agriculture. They both came down from Los Baños for the event.

Also Orlando Sacay, agriculturist who had served three Philippine presidents – Macapagal, Marcos and Estrada – and was instrumental in the Masagana 99 rice program of the Marcos Sr. administration. As well current Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, a scientist in heart and mind who is valiantly dealing with the convoluted bureaucracy and entrenched vested interests in efforts to put science and practical management into our agriculture sector towards the goal of food security and self-sufficiency.

Would that more future Cornellians would follow their footsteps and hopefully salvage if not save our country’s agriculture.

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