BAGUIO CITY — A 63-year-old lawyer, who is also a journalist, said being strictly vegetarian has helped him maintain good health despite his busy schedule and heavy workload.
Antonio Pekas, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Zigzag weekly newspaper that circulates in the Cordillera region, said being a vegetarian for 42 years now has saved his life, especially with the stress brought about by his work as a practicing lawyer, aside from managing and editing the local newspaper.
Quoting his doctor, he said that “just like all the media’s lifestyle, we just sit down, face the computer, we don’t perspire and get all the stress related to the profession.”
The good thing, he said, is that eating mostly vegetables and shunning meat helps him avoid aging too fast and becoming sickly.
“We have to work on a balance. That is why I am trying to unload my practice as a lawyer. It’s too much. I am not young anymore. It does not mean that (if) you are a vegetarian, you are immune from heart attack,” Pekas said.
Without any meat in his diet to cause possible ailments, he said his only problem is gaining weight. He admits to eating a lot when he takes a lot of coffee, which keeps him awake when he has a deadline to beat.
Looking back, he said that from his adolescent years until his college days, one good change happened.
“I used to be sickly but when I became a vegetarian, my body conquered my being sickly. I still get colds and flu, but nothing serious,” he said, recalling that as a boy, he grew up with a congenital weakness in his respiratory system that was cured when he became a vegetarian.
Pekas remembered that in 1976 when he was studying at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, he was always drunk and his grades were compromised.
“I wanted to change my lifestyle and found yoga. One of the things they impose if you want to progress in the practice of meditation, which is for enlightenment supposed to be, (is) you have to be a vegetarian,” he said.
He began to avoid eating meat until he realized it was the answer to his academic problems. “But that was what I was looking for. Vices like alcohol are prohibited. So that started it all and I never looked back until now. It’s a blessing in disguise. I never compromised my vegetarianism,” he said.
Pekas noted that despite being a native of Cordillera, where meat is served in practically every occasion, he is neither attracted to its aroma or is he tempted to have a bite.
“No more. As to what I will eat when I get invited, which is quite often, there are people who take the trouble to prepare food for me but I am not choosy. I take whatever is available that does not have any meat,” he said. “I don’t take any form of meat, no seafood, no chicken and I am fine until now.”
Asked whether someone or something could still convince him to again include meat in his diet, he said, “No thank you. That’s what saved me. I’m good even if my only contribution to society is to prove that somebody did not die being a vegetarian and can live normally.”
Pekas observed that vegetarians like him seem to be 10 years younger than meat eaters.
He said he gets his vitamins and minerals from sources other than meat, such as nuts and beans for protein, and fresh and processed seaweeds for the body’s iodine requirement.
The lawyer said yoga and meditation, which requires perfect health, makes him healthy except for his issues on mild hypertension brought about by his body weight, which can be addressed by engaging in physical activity.
“Because of the calling of the profession, I get stressed. I gained weight because of too much coffee, which is against the unique principles of moderation,” he said.
He spoke of young journalists who have had a heart attack due to their unhealthy lifestyle and the stressful nature of their job that oftentimes requires long hours of work.
Probably due to age and lack of physical activity, the lawyer-journalist said he had Bell’s palsy thrice, which his doctor said could not have been cured if he was not a vegetarian.
His advice to the public: “Be a vegetarian, especially for people with conditions. Who knows, vegetarianism might be the answer.”
He also advised children and sickly people to eat more vegetables.