When I was in the Army I managed to do some fun things, like leap out of perfectly good airplanes. One of the rather interesting characters I met doing this was a Corporal in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. A rather tough, nuggetty character, he spoke in rapid fire Pom and had a vocabulary even many of us ex-Brits had difficulty following. One word he did use a fair bit and that I understood was “tabbing”.

Tabbing, to tab, to tab it, etc, means walking. Mind you it is at a decent pace that covers a kilometre every 12 minutes or so, or up to 5km an hour. You can go faster, but then you usually arrive in a condition less than fit to fight, and that is what tabbing is all about. Rapid movement forward to the battle by heavily leaden infantry troops.


The Parachute Regiment demonstrated this in 1982 when they tabbed across the Falklands and kicked the stuffing out of the Argentineans. The Royal Marines were doing something similar but called it “yomping”. Hmmmm, I’ll stick with tabbing. Anyway, tabbing is the single best way to get fit and discover the wonders of your neighbourhood.

Recently I accepted a position in Quezon City teaching English to Korean students. I spend three weekends out of four here and then get to fly home to Cebu, at least that’s the plan. So every morning I have been tabbing around the neighbourhood discovering all sorts of interesting things you just simply miss when in a car or jeepney.

For instance, I noted on my EZ-Map of Manila that several streets nearby were named “Sct Mendez” or “Sct Reyes” and so on. What did “Sct” stand for? Scout! They are all streets named after brave Philippine Scouts who died in battle. In fact the area is known as the “Scout” area when looking for houses to rent or buy in the newspaper. If I hadn’t been tabbing the streets I would not have been able to read the little plaques and signs that told me this.

My tactic is to divide my available time in half. I wake up at six am, have a stretch and a yawn and toddle off. I tab briskly in one direction for fifteen minutes, then I turn around and tab back. In thirty minutes I can cover a fair distance and I know I can make it back before breakfast. Sometimes I will meander, just following the streets and then the ten or twenty minutes still up my sleeve for cool down time may get used up if I am farther away at turn around time than I thought or the way back isn’t as direct etc. Usually though the theory holds and I get back in the same time it took me to go out.

So far I have tabbed the main streets and discovered the local swimming pool, tennis court and a really quaint little group of shops and carinderia stalls. Next week I will begin the exploration of some of the twistier minor streets too small to have names on my EZ-Map.

Tabbing is not a stroll. It is a purposeful, military like march that works the cardio-vascular system and gets the blood pumping as you cover ground. When I have every street within fifteen minutes covered, my next plan will be to tab out the jeepney routes that radiate from the next door jeepney terminus like the spokes of a wheel. I will go the full thirty minutes by tab, then hail the first jeepney coming back down the route and get home in a few minutes and five and a half peso’s!

I always carry some ID with me and a few peso in coin and small notes. I drink a lot of water when I get back, but I’m thinking of carrying a bottle also. Tabbing for half an hour consumes the same calories over the distance as if you had run the 2km or however long it was, it just takes longer than running. Tabbing, though is a lot safer on the joints and also if you are overweight and over 40, like me, safer than jogging into an early grave. Give it a try, and discover your neighbourhood!