Keeping the spirit of ‘Marianas Strong’ sturdy

Posted on May 01 2020

Catherine Perry has been practicing the art of taichi for eight years now. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS)

Second of three parts

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to self-isolate and maintain social distancing, here are three examples of people who are offering free classes that anyone can access using a computer, internet access, and willingness to learn.

Catherine Perry

Catherine Perry describes taiji quan or taichi as medicine for the mind, body, and spirit.

“It is an internal martial art from China that many people around the world practice it for its numerous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. …Taichi is sometimes referred to as ‘moving meditation’ because the movements are practiced in slow motion toward the goal of improving the body, mind, and spirit,” she said.

“The foundation of this art is based on proper posture, deep breathing, and physical and mental relaxation and anyone can improve those,” she added.

Perry got into taichi eight years ago and started to offer free taichi classes before the pandemic—after the government austerity was enacted. “One of my goals this year has been to share the benefits of taichi more with the community and I wanted to start an early morning class for working people. With the start of government austerity on Fridays, it was the perfect opportunity to introduce taichi to those interested… to encourage more people to invest time in their own health,” she said.

Perry finds that one of the nice things about taichi is that anyone of almost any physical ability can do it. The class starts at 6:30am because,” first, morning is traditionally the ideal time to practice taichi. …Second, it develops the habit of exercising early, which hopefully people will continue even when they return to normal work hours. Lastly, I am investing my time and energy to teach and a serious student will invest the same effort. …If anyone is interested in learning in person or joining the class when we start, they can message me on Facebook,” she added.

Isabelle Ohman’s passion for yoga is her lifestyle.

As a result of COVID-19 social distance protocols, Perry started inviting people to class with weekly online tips that she shares on her Facebook page on Fridays at about 6:30am.

“The purpose of the tips and weekly class is in the event we eventually launch is to provide tips that people can make a part of their daily lives. There is a wealth of information about taichi available online, but it is always better to learn in person from a teacher when possible,” she said.

James Montenegro

James Montenegro is a self-professed amateur home gardener and a teacher at Dandan Middle School. He specializes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) class under the Career and Technical Education Department for both 6th and 7th grades and he also teaches about plants and growing techniques.

He started to get serious with gardening as an outcome of Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 and after seeing how many students felt helpless at a time of food scarcity. “At home, I grow my own selection of herbs, including green onion, garlic, basil, mint, dill, and curry. I have a few banana trees, tres anos coconut trees, dragon fruit, and citrus. We raise chicken and ducks for eggs and chicks and I am currently planting eggplant, tomatoes, kale, hot peppers, sweet potato, and squash. The home aquaponics system is down but plans to rebuild it are in the works,” he said.

“I try to provide tips and some pointers to those that ask. Right now, it is mostly on Facebook or email and I have been out to visit people when they invite me. I am a part of a Facebook group called ‘Leaf A Legacy’ whose founder is Boni Pangelinan and she has a phenomenal garden that is both art and function. A good friend of mine and someone who I go to for technical advice is Victor Cabrera,” he added.

According to Montenegro, he also gets help and assistance from a variety of sources that includes Northern Marianas College-CREES, Division of Agriculture under the Specialty Crop Grant program, and a few local farmers.

“I enjoy working with plants and growing food and herbs. Health-wise, the food I grow (our students grow) uses no pesticides at all. We fight with bugs but our crops are free of all pesticides. …The garden provides another opportunity for kids to be outdoors in a purposeful activity.

“I also share how I have failed, hoping they can avoid those same pitfalls. With my students, I want them to walk away with the belief that they have some control over their own food production, if they put some work into it,” he added.

Isabella Ohman

As a teenager Isabella Ohman was interested in health and personal growth. In the fall of 2017, she took her first yoga teacher training in the foothills of the Himalayas. Since then she has continued to learn, grow, and travel around while sharing what she knows.

“…Yoga was a constructive way for me to de-stress from city and student life. After taking classes I felt like I had gotten a full body massage and I became so addicted to the feeling. …During that time, my ideas of yoga shifted. I had no idea that yoga was so much more than stretching and breathing,” she said.

“…Like many people I went through the rollercoaster of being the stiffest person in the class both physically and mentally. …Discovering how liberating it is to be free of tension is what makes me want to share. Yoga and meditation are wonderful tools for destressing. Stress is an epidemic unto itself and yoga serves to restore balance. Genuine yoga is non-judgmental as it is about experiencing the body and this is something I aspire to communicate during class,” she added.

Ohman started offering free yoga online in March and mainly through live videos. “These past months being a challenging time, I think everyone should have access to ways to take a guided deep breath. We can foster a sense of home and rest this way,” she said.

“I see myself doing yoga online as long as people would like it. I try to honor everyone’s requests for classes and hours. Free classes will always be a part of my practice,” she added.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.
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