MANILA,  May 1, 2004
By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter - THE actor Fernando Poe Jr. is perhaps the most athletic of all presidential candidates in the May 10 election.

Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta said that Poe used to have a regular workout in a gym, but the campaign had prevented him from continuing this. He also used to play basketball, and had even formed his own basketball team.

Poe admitted that he had not exercised regularly since the campaign started, but added that he is physically fit enough to withstand the rigors of the campaign.

His favorite sport is mountain climbing, an energy-sapping activity. He carved out 1,000 steps in a mountainside in Benguet to give him added stamina. He said that one of his dreams in the sport is to be able to scale Mount Everest and be the first Filipino to ever do so.

He is a known beer drinker but he does not sport any “beer belly,” probably because of his sports activities. During the campaign, he missed a rally once because of colds and fever.

“Maging ang Panday, nagkakasakit din,” said his personal campaign manager, Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd, referring to the heroic character Poe had played in the movies.

Some reporters also noted that Poe seemed to lose his voice the day after delivering a long speech. A “long speech” of Poe lasts 12 to 14 minutes. An observer said this could indicate Poe has a throat problem, or he is not used to making long speeches.

“Even his dialogues in the movies are mostly one-liners,” the observer said.

In many rallies, Poe would bring in his movie foil, the actor Eddie Garcia. With Garcia, Poe’s presence on stage would last about 12 minutes, without straining his vocal cord.

He said that he is an early riser and that all he needs is a four-hour sleep.

“Last night, I overslept. I slept for five hours,” he said during a campaign break in Negros Oriental.

Sen. Loren Legarda, his running mate, looks diminutive and fragile, but she has shown that she has the strength and stamina to wage a nationwide campaign five days a week, and then hold private meetings the rest of the week. This is surprising because she eats sparingly. In one campaign, she had barely started eating a late lunch when she was told that she had to go immediately to the rally site as it was her turn to speak. She stopped eating and went to the rally site. This reporter did not know if she had a quick bite after the rally.

It is noteworthy that Legarda starts the day looking refreshed even after hectic activities that last up to the early morning hours. Perhaps, the extent of Legarda’s physical health was shown during a campaign in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. There was a sudden downpour while she was onstage, but she bravely stayed on without any umbrella or hat. Many predicted that she would get sick with the sudden change in weather but she surprised them by staying healthy for the rest of the campaign.

--Efren L. Danao

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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