September 30th, 2023 | By Roger Rigor
Those days in San Juan, among kabarkadas (friends) in the neighborhood, we shared three or four bicycles. Not all of us could bike around altogether. Sometimes, those pedaling allowed others to angkas (ride together)---riding at the back, in the front, or sitting sideways on the frame! If strong enough, there would be two to angkas…making a bigger group, wildly riding around newly cemented roads. Yeah, having a bike then was a privilege. For those without, it was common to sheepishly borrow a parked bike. Even to just round the block.
Bikes influenced our growing up:
The newspaper guy dropping off the daily Manila Times, the day’s delivery stacked securely on his bike’s front handlebars, him leaning sideways to navigate his way through;
The pandesal ("salt bread" roll - a Filipino staple) and baked good peddlers kring-kringing about with two huge tin containers cleverly secured to their rears;
The guy who would call out, “ha-saaa!!”---literally, “to sharpen”---kitchen knives. His sharpening wheel was situated on the front frame, creatively powered by repositioning the bike’s chains. So, the guy would be pedaling just the same while sharpening the knives with the bike kept in place by a stabilizer from the rear…
The omnipresent tricycle---the public commuter with a side cab, colorful as the iconic jeepneys’ gaudy banners and designs.
Through the years and finally settling in Seattle, I’ve come to rekindle my closeness with the bicycle. Though now, with a much sportier one---that which I used to dream about when watching the then popular Tour of Luzon bike races. So, every now and then, I’d be riding around Seattle imagining myself as Jose Sumalde of yore…
Mind you - emulating those local heroes on two wheels is the child in me revisited (!)
However, instead of biking simply to feel good, I revisit those wheels now with a renewed sense of purpose… having found myself driving, seeking momentum and build-up towards a cause that is simply greater than me. It is to serve those in our country who are in need.
Currently, there is no denying the impact of climate change among our most vulnerable people. We just rode from Seattle to Portland (200 plus miles) to establish awareness and to raise funds for our people. Ride for the Philippines was launched by the Foundation for Philippine Progress to attract as many riders as possible, and literally ride as a force to lift together the challenges of our people, especially the farmers and the fishermen, whose lives are at constant risk from unrelenting weather-related calamity after calamity.
Photos by Denniz Futalan/Pexel
Ronald Antonio, one of our lead fundraising organizers of this year’s Ride for the Philippines and the foundation’s supporting Marketing Director, in a call to action writes:
“I have been volunteering for [Foundation for Philippine Progress] with Kuya Roger since [its] official founding in 2018, but have been helping with relief efforts (alongside my two children) since 2013, in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).
This July 15th, in the wake of the ten year anniversary of that storm, Kuya Roger and I will “Ride for the Philippines” by biking 206 miles from Seattle to Portland to raise more awareness about the FPP’s work, and hopefully generate 10-20k of material support for the most impacted areas in the Philippines. Your donation will go towards providing health care, fishing boats, food security, and many future relief missions that our trusted partners undertake. The Philippines continues to be among the top countries most vulnerable to climate change.
But in the face of suffering, we have witnessed the resiliency of those who continue to survive and shape their communities. Despite their limited resources, we are inspired by pastors, farmers, volunteers, and even children who give their time and labor to rebuild through the devastation. We hope you will help us reach our combined goal.”
Photos courtesy of Ronald Antonio and Ride for Philippines participants
On a personal note, the challenges posed by this 206-mile ride on two wheels were more pronounced than they’ve ever been. First, this must have been the hottest two-day ride. I cramped before we arrived midway towards Centralia. This was where I realized I must be pushing myself beyond what my body can really take. By the time I had to stop again for another excruciating cramp on both my legs, I thought it was time to quit!
As I sat grimacing and easing half of my lower body, it struck me that this is not a ride where I could just say, “No more!" This is a ride where I felt I had to answer literally to a whole nation, being that I was under the banner of “riding FOR the Philippines”. What made it even more profound was the fact that I could say, “I quit!” – it’s done, and I could saunter back to the comfort of home... However, folks vulnerable to the forces of a changed environment in the Philippines DO NOT have that option of quitting.
To Remain True in Supporting our People, The Only Choice is to Tread on.
I decided to tread on. Cramps and all…
I ended up riding last towards the finish line but, as I shared with my young co-rider who stayed with me, “The sweetest victory is felt by the one who rides in last…” Though our Ride for the Philippines event completed in July, I know those wheels are still turning and the drive to push us forward towards progress lives on. So...
Join us. Begin a tradition of purpose: Help extend a Full Life for Every Filipino.
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