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Swimming His Way To Good Health

Just as boxing champ Manny Pacquiao has Freddie Roach to be grateful for, top Filipino swimmers Eric Buhain and Ryan Papa have this man to be thankful for.

Remberto ‘Bert’ Lozada can be considered the living legend of RP swimming. In fact, it would be next to impossible to get into the topic of local swimming without mentioning his name. This man has successfully carved a niche for teaching kids and adults the scientific way of swimming through a learn-how-to-swim school which also serves as training ground for promising athletes. Bert has a long-standing love affair with swimming which traces its roots in the ’50s. However, it was only a few years ago when he discovered his sweet secret affair with diabetes. Though diabetes didn’t actually come as a surprise (his parents are both diabetic), he believes the disease was triggered and worsened by something seemingly trivial as menthol candy.

Candy, cigarettes are the culprits
Born with an innate love for sports, Bert is particularly inclined to football and swimming. His being athletic didn’t only make him physically fit and healthy but also required him to stay away from vices. As an active competitive swimmer in his younger years, he used to avoid cigarettes at all cost because of its detrimental effect on the lungs. “When I stopped swimming professionally, I started smoking but I hid cigarette packs and sucked a lot of hard menthol candies so my wife wouldn’t know,” he says.

Little did Bert know, the cigarettes and candies he rnindlessly popped everyday prompted an increase in blood sugar. His glucose was very high when he was rushed to the hospital. He then had his fasting plasma glucose checked together with other diabetes tests. Endocrinologist Dr. Augusto Litonjua, whose children became Bert’s students in swim school, personally confirmed his condition. He had to shed extra pounds and maintain normal blood sugar levels. Luckily, the weight loss part was a breeze since he knew how to keep himself fit through golf and walking. Even at the prime age of 65, Bert is far from being sedentary.

Bert doesn’t have much of a problem with diet either. Every other day, he monitors his blood sugar and this would be a deciding factor in his diet. The afternoon this writer met him at a coffee shop, he ordered a glass of halo-halo with ice-cream on top saying his glucose level was normal when he checked it earlier (I wonder what his endocrinologist would say about that). He also likes eating ampalaya (bitter gourd). This swimming guru has a unique way of telling if his blood sugar is higher than normal even before he reaches for his glucose meter. Every morning he reads the newspapers and on days his sugar is up, the letters appear blurry and jumbled.

The diabetic as a swimming advocate Bert rarely swims nowadays except for a few instances when he has to personally teach a problematic student. His competent swimming instructors at the family-owned Bert Lozada Swim School (BLSS) mostly do the job of teaching students, with ages anywhere between six months to 92 years old. Although he no longer wears trunks and goggles, he still makes use of the discipline ingrained in him as a professional swimmer. “Swimming entails discipline and so does living with diabetes because-you need to control and monitor. (your blood sugar),” he quips. ” I find the values I learned from swimming very applicable to my condition right now.” Bert credits his generally good health to his passion for staying fit.” Being physically active helped delay the onset of diabetes and currently prevents diabetes-related complications,” he added.

Through the BLSS, Bert is able to promote the value of sports, swimming in particular, to less fortunate kids and teens. The swim school regularly conducts free lessons in depressed areas in Pandacan and Marikina.
“Swimming is the ticket of poor children in entering the big schools as scholars,” he says: “This sport is for all because it is an individual event. It teaches you to really learn and strive to be good.” Take it from the man whose graceful and masterful strokes inspired a lot of people and whose zest for life is still evident despite living with diabetes.

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