Walking With Kim Seon Ho: Letter No. 3

Dear Seon Ho,

One of the recurring themes from your interviews is your love for walking. You said that when you take a walk, your “mind becomes clear” and that you do it when you need to think about something. You walk for hours, sometimes even until the wee hours of the morning while listening to music. 

I wonder how often you still get to do this, what with ICE and 2 Days 1 Night and all. I know that while practicing for ICE, you did spend evenings taking a stroll. It’s a nice idea to wander and wonder at the end of the day under the glow of a city’s neon lights. 

Like you, I love to walk. And this isn’t something I’m feigning to ingratiate myself with you. When I was still in the corporate world, I once decided to walk from my office in Ortigas Center to a Cubao in Quezon City, a distance of almost 6 kilometers. It’s probably equivalent to walking straight from Seoul Station to Wangsimni Station. My urban trek took me roughly two hours along a traffic-infested stretch of EDSA, Manila’s main thoroughfare.

You can only imagine how difficult it was. I bet in Seoul, it’s much easier to walk. Your sidewalks are made for walking. In Manila, pavements are shortcuts used by impatient motorcycle riders, and they’re typically occupied by cars and illegal vendors. While walking, the polluted city-infected air also left my face with a smudge, and I can only imagine with your wintry complexion, the effects will be harsher on your skin. Let’s not even talk about the people who pee in public places, including EDSA. It’s an experience I never repeated.  

You said that when you walk you get let go of the “heavy thoughts in your mind”. Sometimes, you’ll go out for a stroll without any thoughts but only to end with lots of them. I can relate, too. 

Often when I walk, I get so lost in my thoughts. It’s fascinating. Even though I’m busy with these ideas, dreams, imaginations, and anxieties, I never get lost. It’s like my mind has memorized the routes I take, and I don’t need to “think” about making my way to my destination. This gives me room to gather my thoughts, reflect on them, savor their importance, and regain a sense of ownership at the end of the day. And then, I can just let them go, too.

You said: “I will go out for a walk. Walking is the best. I walked until 2 AM last night too, listening to music as I walked. I got to collect my thoughts.”

It’s been a while since I last walked, with the pandemic and all. Back in my old job, I loved my walks from the office to the bus stop or train station. I just put on my headphones and play my favorite songs and it feels like I’m transported to a different place. Walking was, and still is, my ad hoc fetal position. It’s my safety, even though it’s not always safe to do it in our country. 

When I walk, I love watching people — commuters — pouring out of the steel and glass-clad skyscrapers, and crossing the narrow pedestrian lanes of ADB and Julia Vargas avenues, marching to the malls or FX terminals and bus stops and the MRT. It’s a daily migration of sorts, and I best observe it when I walk alone. I love walking to judge the healthy young adults illegally crossing Manila’s crazy streets when there’s a footbridge above them. I love walking and taking breaks in convenience stores, drinking a Gatorade, or looking at the array of cigarettes behind the cashier — memories of the smokes I quit many, many years back.

Walking allows me to breathe. 

You like walking alone, too. It’s your way of feeling the weather like the scorching hot sun and the blowing wind. You even said these moments are enough to change the air around you. Walking is freedom. Sometimes, I’d even alight from a jeep or bus a few blocks away from my stop. It’s not just because I try to be random with my routes just in case some petty thief is stalking me. I do it, too, just so I can walk a few more steps and just be with myself before I have to put up a face at work or the noise at home. It buys me the time I suppose. 

While walking with friends is nice, the silence of solitude is often better. I can take my feet anywhere the way you do until it hurts and numb and I can go home knowing I’ve covered a distance. 

I can imagine that after a long day at work, maybe after one of your shows, or during the little spare time you have, you’ll steal an hour or two to walk as well. With a mask on, you’d probably be unrecognizable. You said that yourself. You jokingly said it disappointed you no one noticed you. But I know you were probably happy it was that way. Perhaps, these are the minutes and spaces where you are Kim Seon Ho the person and not the thespian. What do you think about? What do you see? What do you mutter to yourself under the mask? 

You probably pace yourself. You take the longer route. Maybe these days, you think about your next role. Maybe you pause to reflect on your newfound fame. Maybe you recall where you were a few years back, walking the same path you’re now walking on. Maybe you think about the love you have encountered in your life, the hurts, and the victories, no matter how small. Maybe you pray, too, and enjoy the quietude: one of those few times in your life when the moment just becomes you. You’re the same but also different. 

Walking is cathartic. It’s one of the things, one of the few human movements we carry out each day, that we can control. We can walk as fast as we want, too, or as slow as it needs to be.

I like to take my time, too. I used to believe it was okay to walk slowly but never backward. But you said it’s good to be behind a few steps as well.

If the path leads in the wrong direction, then I can always go back a few steps behind. The experience of taking a few steps behind also adds up to the amount of experience in my life. In the past, I would always find myself suffering when there was a need to take a few steps behind, reevaluating my choice. I would think that I should try to find the answer as fast as I could. But now, I realize that it is something that everyone has to go through in their lives.

You’ve come to accept being a step behind. It makes me less lonely to know someone like you isn’t afraid to walk his own timeline. Maybe one day I’ll be less fearful of being late.

But in the meantime, I’ll have to keep on walking.

Sincerely,

M

My gratitude to The Talking Cup Board for all the translations of Kim Seon Ho’s magazine interviews. The following were used:

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