Pedaling our way through the crisis

“KAPAG MAIKLI ANG KUMOT, MATUTONG MAMALUKTOT,” goes a Filipino proverb. “Sir, nagakikid met ti ulesen, kasla labacara pay ketdin,” (Sir, the mattress is now as short as a face towel) quipped Christian Aguinaldo, one of my students in Sociology. I was about to dismiss the remark as a joke but there was seriousness in the young man’s voice, so I decided to give it a serious thought. Before I could respond, however, another student commented, “Kapag namamaluktot na at maikli pa rin ang kumot, putulin na ang paa!”.

Soaring prices of oil and other basic commodities, unbearable costs of basic services, and people who blurt out #%^&!$* when they read screaming headlines of more doom for this already battered nation. All these point to one thing: we live in very difficult times, and, no matter how the president paints a rosy picture of the economy in her SONA, the crisis seems posed to stay for the long run.

Turbulence notwithstanding, my faith in the resilience of the Filipino remains unshaken. His indomitable spirit allowed him to endure (and thwart) the rule of colonial masters, the regimes of abusive presidents, and the most destructive of natural and man-made calamities. Matiisin at maparaan ang Pinoy. Today, in an attempt to cope with the crisis, substitutes for rice are being proposed, energy-efficient measures are being promoted, and the everyman is compelled to resort to means, big and small, to cope. Going back to the basics is no longer just an option, but a matter of survival.

On this note, allow me to give my own piece on belt-tightening, something very close to my heart: Bicycling.

It is true that bicycling events are held occasionally to heighten awareness on the environment, on peace, and other areas of concern. Leisurely bicycle tours and competitive races are also organized from time to time. So little has been done, however, to make bicycling an integral part of our everyday lives.

In MMSU Batac where I teach, I know less than five students who ride a bicycle to school. (I am a brother to every cyclist, and so I know them by name. Among them are future civil engineer Richard Jay Cac and the Garcia brothers Ace and Mark.) In contrast, hundreds of motor vehicles crowd the parking spaces at any given school day. Majority are resigned to riding tricycles to, fro, and around the campus, even as another twenty-five percent increase in trike fare awaits. In Laoag, the number of folks who use the bicycle in going to work or in accomplishing their day-to-day errands is insignificant as well. In the case of most towns, one would pay as much as P100.00 on special tricycle trips to reach their remote sitios.

This is sad because by bicycling, we can shoot a platoon of devils with one stone (I would have said shoot many birds with one stone, but I’m a bird lover). Aside from affordable mobility, bicycling also offers benefits to health—ours and the environment’s. The fun and excitement it gives are a bonus. Yes, we should try bicycling as a major means of transportation, not just for leisure, here in Ilocos.

It is happy to note that both the governor and the Catholic bishop are sports lovers. Bishop Sergio Utleg is known to ride his mountain bike whenever he has time, even taking long routes like Ilocos to Isabela. His Excellency looks as good with a helmet as with a miter, the bishop’s cap. It is safe to assume that Governor Michael Keon, a patron of many sports, is supportive of cycling as well. Can you imagine what vibrant a bicycling culture we can nurture if both the church and the provincial government proclaim the good news of pedaling?

Around the world, many proactive cities have advanced the cause of bicycling. Leading the way in this initiative are Amsterdam and Groningen in the Netherlands, where an extensive network of safe, fast and comfortable bicycle routes has been developed. In these cities, where over 50% of inhabitants travel on two wheels, the road safety of cyclists has been intensified, a theft-prevention program was set up, and the number of bicycle sheds was increased.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, 32% of workers bicycle to work. In Berlin, Germany, where less than half of residents own a car, it has become downright common to ride a bike every day. Berlin officials pledged to work toward bikes comprising 15% of the city’s traffic by the year 2010.

Here in the Philippines, the City of Marikina has taken the lead. In a novel approach to solving the transportation challenges posed by rising gas prices, Marikina initiated several infrastructural changes to encourage 20% of the city’s residents to ride bicycles to work every day. Marikina has a program against bicycle theft, with 150 bicycle-riding patrollers roaming around the city. To promote safety, its City Bikeways Office (Yes, a government office dedicated solely for bicycling!) initiated a Safe Cycling Education program. In line with this, around 100,000 guidebooks for bicycle upkeep and usage were distributed to households.

Marikina, which has a cycling track in its sports complex, purchased 500 training bikes for those wishing to learn to ride. The city government conducts Saturday Bicycle Clinics to promote a “Bike-to-School” program. A Bicycle Loan Project is also in place for residents who want to purchase a bicycle. The loan, payable in twelve months, is without interest. Recognized by many organizations as an outstanding local government program, Marikina’s Bicycle-Friendly City Project is not only funded by the city coffers, but also by a million-dollar grant from the World Bank Global Environment Facility. Inspired by Marikina, other LGUs, including the Province of Albay, are following the lead.

They have done it elsewhere, we can do it here. The first order of the day is to encourage people to push the pedal, and urge motorists to respect bicyclers’ rights. Infrastructure can come later.

I concede though that bicycling is not for everyone. The caveat: you should AVOID bicycling if…

1. You suffer from inferiority complex.
In downtown Paris, London, and Seoul, men and women in business suits have no qualms about riding a bicycle to their offices. In the Philippines, however, it is potentially intimidating to park a lowly bicycle side-by-side flashy motorcycles and cars. When you drive a bicycle to work, some people make you feel that you are in the lowest rung of the system of social stratification in the streets. A few remarks are encouraging: Wow, healthy lifestyle, kakainggit!. But many throw the hello-ok-ka-lang look. To many, bicycling to work seems acceptable if you are a carpenter or a farmer, but not if you are doing a white-collar job.
Last semester, however, going around the MMSU campus and occasionally traveling from Laoag to Batac (and vice versa) on bicycle gave me savings of P5, 000.00. My pride costs much less than that, and so I bike.

2. You are the glutha-type-of-person
If you are the typical xenocentric Filipino who thinks that beauty is directly proportional to skin lightness, please don’t bike. This sport is not for the insecure. Of course, you already know that our skin’s melanin content (the substance responsible for skin pigmentation) protects us against the damaging rays of the sun, perfectly fit for those who live along the equator.
3. You do not want to get tired.
Never mind that bicycling heightens your endurance and builds your muscles.
4. You abhor getting sweaty.
Never mind that sweating is a major player when it comes to removing excess heat, waste materials, and accumulated toxins out of our system.
5. You do NOT love life.
How many motorcycle accidents have we heard of lately? One motorcycle brand has gained the reputation as “Killer Wave” because of the numerous mishaps its riders have suffered. In contrast, bicycle accidents are very rare and are generally not fatal. This is because with a bisikleta, you feel more in control. You tend to be more disciplined.
More than just a physical exercise, bicycling is something very spiritual for me. The slow, steady cadence of a bike is like a two-wheeled, human-powered sojourn to utopia. When I am on my bike, I feel so at peace with myself and with the world. I also feel most free when I am pushing the pedal, in stark contrast to my enslavement in front of a computer when I am writing for hours.

True, the bicycle does have some limitations. For instance, when the rains fall, you get soaked. But even biking on a rainy (even stormy) day could be a fun experience. I have tried it several times, and with great pleasure. But, if you are not as adventurous, a raincoat would always do the trick. For every excuse you can think of why you should not bike, I can give you two reasons why you should. But, if you remain unconvinced about cycling, try something even better: walking.

Children and grandparents, students and workers, paupers and businessmen, nuns and politicians—all of them bicycling day after day… that is my dream.

Ariel Ureta, a comic, was penalized in the 70’s for his parody of a Martial Law slogan: Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan. Today, we look at Ureta as a prophet ahead of his milieu. Given the current crisis, it is time we take his joke seriously or the joke is on us. ###

Kablaaw: To the fifth year Mechanical Engineering students of MMSU: thank you for making the classroom experience a joy. Wishing you well on your continued search for meaning. // Happy birthday to my nephew Lord Jay and niece Sara Diane. May all of your dreams come true.


Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

109 thoughts on “Pedaling our way through the crisis”

  1. I strongly agree that bicycling as a mean of transportation is beneficial and is a major step in conquering the current crisis our country presently dealing with.
    Bicycling is beneficial to the extent not only for enjoyment and for physical fitness but also serves as the safest and most affordable in the world of transportation.
    It is a major step if only bicycling would be given importance through using it in going to work, school, and other places instead of using a gas-consuming vehicle wherein you can save a considerable amount of money from your budget on your fare and can also eliminate the rapid pollution of our environment.
    I am blessed because my cousin, Success Millare taught me how to ride a bike. And yes, bicycling is a treasure for me cherish because my bike would always be ready when i would go out…Bicycling is really amazing.,.and i am proud that i’ve found out that i also have a great contribution to mother Earth…and that is through BICYCLING…

  2. sir yumul…i think what you meant was “sir the blanket is now as short as a face towel” not the mattress .

    1. Right, thank you for going as far back. 🙂 Your digging on past articles ha… Good morning, tita.

    2. Right, thank you for going as far back. 🙂 Your digging on past articles ha… Good morning, tita.

  3. yes..i am bored.good will not see me awake at this time of the morning..while i was there i go to bed 8 p.m.and awake at 4 a.m.[i have hard time adjusting to time],make sure my dad was alright then i go for an hour walk come back get dressed for my daily church.

  4. yes.i go around the neighborhood to give me a chance to talk with people ,walk to church from ben-agan then walk back home.people nowadays does not or cannot walk anymore.they would rather ride.on my freshman eons back i walked from ben-agan to mmsu which was then the rural high school. i transferred to batac institute on my second year because i started to have” rayuma “we were agraep{planting rice}

    1. You’re right, even a lot of students are lazy to walk now, even with the high costs of fare. They take tricycle rides even within mmsu. Ako, I walk and cycle, and some would laugh at me. Borrowing your words, “I don’t give a hoot!” hehe

  5. Herdy, still owe you a picture of the bicycle parking lot here. I’ll drive by (not cycle as my daughter is with me, cycling is too heavy then) the train station sometime this week and you’ll have the picture next week. Spring is around the corner, so I am cycling as again (when I am free..)

  6. my words are exactly..i don’t give a s —-.but i am not suppose to say the s word..i have to be good specially it is lent season.

  7. those tricycles emit fumes and smog which are not good for your lungs.when i go to the market i come back home with hoarse voice everytime .whenever my husband calls me from here he always say “you have a cold”and i tell him about the smog..he does not want me going to the market but i like going and look at all the fresh produce .and i was having “cabin fever”.

  8. good morning..before everything i have to remind myself upon waking to thank GOD for this new day,and all the blessings in it .part of being humble is remembering the greatnessof GOD in our lives.

    1. You have to go out of the house to overcome cabin fever. If the treadmill is inside the house, no use.

  9. speaking of cabin fever..i just came back from gallivanting from the stores.i did not find anything for me but i got scrubs for my other sister in virginia since i am going there in a couple of weeks. i still have to get my sister and brother in law somethings…

  10. yes but at times i do not even buy for myself..” isay that will look good on my sister or my niece or nephew ” so i buy it .i have been always there for them.i help them send their kids to college.some of them kids got married without even have tried working they have kids,my brothers 2 daughters after they finished nursing .now a niece my other brother’s will be graduating from nursing school this summer and his other daughter finished nursing in ust and continued medicine and she will be taking her medical board this year and doing her residency in ust.i suggested anesthesiology .and they wonder where all my money goes? education and family values huh?

    1. Wow, the quintessential tita. There just has to be one aunt/uncle in the family who serves as lifesaver. In my family’s case, it’s Uncle Gerry who’s in Hawaii.

  11. funny though my 3 sisters .we all have the means to help our 2 brothers out but nobody is stepping to the plate.1 sister i am helping also because guess what she got married before finishing college.they do not extend their help beyond their families and all of them did not want me to marry a foreigner including my parents but my father gets along better with my husband than any of theirs.they are all either afraid of him or aloof my husband use to go with him to his rice field and help him and he is not hesitant to voice out his opinions with him .do not get me wrong i get along with all my siblings even if i “chew” them out once in awhile.being the middle child of 7 i turned out okay…he he

    1. There is always a purpose why family is family… though it make take time to grasp the reasons, and complete the puzzle.

  12. i know the reason in my case… is never is never having to say you are sorry.

  13. i just came back from the mall and guess what the manager at macy’s said you do not remember me do you? he must be in his30’s now and i said “i am sorry no” i was one of your young patients whom you always said”get your sh..t together and i did thanks to you. my parents even said you made a big impact on my life and we thank you. he handed me a gift certificate with much rejection i finally accepted made my day.not for the gift but for him doing ok…i know he can do it…

    1. That also happens with teachers. It is an ultimate high when a former student approaches to tell you that you helped make him a better person. Changing the world one person at a time.

  14. these sites are getting too filled up with my blubbering isn’t it ? i do not want to bore or overwhelm lots of people that is why maybe i will just e mail you instead .hope you open your emails?

  15. tita lita, you don’t bore me with all your comments to herdy. On the contrary, I love reading them. Please continue to do it here in his blog….

  16. while i was there in batac,i always go to plaza maestro chow king i grab some of my nieces and nephews and we go eat.i order halo halo and botchie all the time.the kids always say ” tita madi ka kadi mauma iti halo halo ken botchie”? they just look at me how i savor my 2 orders of halo halo…wow i miss it..while we were eating there once there are this kids with home made musical things and the manager did not let them i left my food and chased them to the other store and gave them money..

    1. haha, hinabol talaga. I prefer pic-a-bun over the all-too-commercial Chowking. Have you been there as well?

  17. my husband is in the martial arts.he had been doing judo and jujitsu since he was very young.he even went to japan and studied there.he wanted to go to the olympics when he was younger..did not make it though.he is a 7th degree black belt. so he put up a school named it black dragonjudo school.but he was working for the state and it was too much so he closed it.big bucks invested in it with all the mats and equipment etc. we used to go out of state all the time for “hall of fames”where he had received honors.

  18. does pic-a-bun have halo halo and botchie? is this the one near tops bakery where i do my groceries?my other sisters do not know their ways there. i know the pasikut sikut in batac market even.

    1. I m not sure about buchi, but I like their halo-halo more than Chowking. Their pansit is also excellent, like La Moda’s in Laoag. I think it was the counterpart of Hotstuff in Laoag, until the latter went down (it still exists though in a sad state) when jollibee, mcdo and chowking came in.

  19. yes i go to la moda quite often. everytime i go to the money changer i go there and manels then to the market for fruits.

  20. tita lita, oh my, you know fr. ericson, too? Anyway, he is a very popular padi now. I knew him since he was an altar boy in St. James. We both are from Pasuquin.

    Herdy, yeah, where is pic-a-bun? Never heard about that. Like tita lita, I love the chowking halo-halo. My mother too, the funny thing is, after she finished the halo-halo, she can’t wait to go out of the restaurant anymore because she is then feeling soooo cold. Oh and I also love La Moda. They have best pancit up north. And La Preciousa is also a very good restaurant.

    1. pik-a-bun is in Batac, near the mini-park. Hotstuff has the best palabok and spaghetti. Their clubhouse is good, too. La Preciosa is within our neighorhood. Chowking halo2 is too sweet and fancy for me. I prefer the “dirty” halo-halo with kamotig, melon, saba, ginadgad a niyog, and the colorful sago.

  21. there is a place here in manchester where we go is a cantonese, szechuan restaurant.they cook their pancit in a type of sauce not stir fried..forget the szechuan part though.. i do not eat spicy hot husband and son loves ’em.the hotter the better!!

  22. donna..what a small world..i know him because he gave my mom communion every first fridays until her passing and then he rebaptized my dad because they are not catholics .yes he is a very popular padi now .

  23. in that mini park a little bit south just across from “the big house” marcos residence my aunt use to have the first and only caltex at that uncle iniong rubio was the driver of apo marcos when he started to run for aunt use to grow very healthy marunggays by the river.inday a visayan gay guy was the katulong of marcos then and he use to come help himself with marunggay all the time .when he became senator and he is in town we knew he was there by inday coming to get the marunggay leaves.

  24. Herdy – oh yes, forgot about manels and mephisto. Nandiyan pa ba? Your halo-halo is the halo-halo sa kanto. Korekness..sarap nga niyan..but they don’t sell na yata. No adda ak dita iti december ket awan met ngamin ag halo-halon..nalamiis sa unay. nThe next time we go to La Preciousa, umay kanto ngarud katoken dita balay yo, sir.

    tita lita – ericson is really a “nasingpet nga ubing”. And chinese food is great.

    Wen, the sapghetti and palabok of hutstuff was really great. Partneran mo katay toasted bread..hmmm..solve na solve.

    1. manels is still here. am not sure about mephisto though… Hotstuff is still here, though business seems slow… Hotstuff’s ownner also owns Cookie House that’s why parang pareho lang lasa ng mga luto nila.

  25. donna..i know fr. ericson is “nasingpet nga ubing”.i can only say he is one busy wanted priest.goes around batac giving communion to the dad will really miss him he has gotten comfortable with him and i am not sure how receptive he will be with the new that age they are not receptive to changes…he will probably be a good professor like our herdy.

  26. maybe next time i come home i will make some home made halo halo from scratch.that will be lots of fun..making your own concoctions..everyone is invited to my halo halo party.

  27. Am glad to know that ericson will be missed by some when he leaves Batac. Do you already know who is the new priest?

    Herdy, marunggay!!! I miss that. Tay sabung na nga masalad. Tay bulong na nga maabraw ken tay bunga na na mapakbet…ha.ha.ha drool-mode :=)

    1. Yes, si xavier daw, young priest din. Tita lita, did you hear that fr. bong had a heart surgery? Kaya pumayat tuloy si ericson sa bigat ng trabaho sa parokya…

  28. so what does cookie house serve? speaking of cookies i think i will bake some chocolate chip cookies to bring to virginia..i do not make them because i do not eat them and besides i am a very messy baker.there will be flour all over my kitchen counters and floors.on my hair etc. then i have to clean them.

    1. Cookie houser serves most of the items in Hotstuff’s menu. Plus, breads and pastries, of course

    1. hahaha… maria… so you’re really good at singing ha, that’s why you had to evade the disintunado seatmate of yours at church..

  29. yes i met fr xavier balbuena ..from pinili but her mother is from batac.nice priest. i like his sermons..brief but right on the jugulars..poor fr ericson..he can handle it..i have faith in him.

  30. maybe fr bong was thinking too much that he will be alone carrying the load of the xavier being new.

  31. with her singing and mine will be double trouble.that is why i did not give up my day job because i will not survive with the money i will make even in the karaoke lip

    1. then be a hard rock star… you don’t need a good voice to be one. All you need to do is shout..

  32. tita lita – looking forward to your halo-halo..I’ll be back home in July 2010..hope to see you there.

    herdy – talaga? pumayat si ericson? Wawa naman. Di bale, tataba ulit while on study-leave.

    1. Ooopss. Wag na siyang tataba ulit, mukha siyang pulis na masiba pag tumaba. Di magandang tignan yung malaki ang tiyan niya.

    1. i’ll spend the holy week at home catching up on movies. Haven’t even seen Slumdog Millionaire yet.

  33. what is pulis na masiba? herdy your tagalogs are too complicated for me. some i never heard of before.

    1. Pulis na buwaya. Pulis nga gamrod. Gets po? Hindi bagay kay ericson malaki tiyan e. Dunno, siguro naaalala ko kasi nung teenager pa kami, na payatot siya.

  34. i know fr.bong.he is so soft spoken ,good priest. gives good long sermons .may he have a speedy recovery.

    1. Amen. He gave up his job as a pilot to be a priest. He was a dashing young priest when I served in church as an altar boy.

  35. donna..hope to meet you there and we will bug the hell out of herdy. i know we will have fun picking on you think he will be able to handle 2 librans? he he

  36. i will be in virginia bonding with my 2 sisters.i will probably be the kontra bida again but…i will keep you posted.

    1. hahaha, actually, me hawig po kayo ke Bella Flores. No offense meant, she is a very good person offscreen.

  37. tita lita, will really be a challenge for herdy to have us together.

    herdy – oo nga, di bagay kay ericson ang mataba. When I saw him here the last, mas lalo pa siyang tumaba. Sana nga, he will not gain more weight anymore.

  38. speaking of bicycling..i brought my exercise bike to the front porch and biked there because it was a bit warm .now i cannot do it because even though my porch is enclosed it is not heated and my husband said” that is good then you will pedal faster ” this is so funny yesterday i asked him to bring out the gloves we use for the dummy we have in the cellar( to take my frustrations and aggravations out}.this is a man dummy with sandfillings he uses as his practice for judo and kicking.he laughed and said want to take up boxing now? i answered no just for today.” .now i have to bring the bike back in .

  39. no i donot …you know i wanted to tell you i saw that “adan village “now adams that you were talking i like to go there..itis not popul ated or as crowded as anywhere nowadays…i can stay there in solitude …my husbandsays “yeah right hon we were gonna buy a house in the boonies 30 years ago remember and you said you will not survive? “

    1. Adaptation and survival is an innate gifts of man. I might eventually be able go to Adams this April. Am crossing my fingers.

  40. speaking of chinese food ..i just made my own version of the sweet and sour pork which my husband likes better and also my own version of chicken wings.i just chanced it and perfected it through experimenting..

  41. sarap mag bisikleta sa MMSU grounds. an daming motor sa COE…
    plano ko sanang bumili ng BMX para makatipid sa pamasahe at paglalakad..
    pwede ring maki-angkas ang isa sa likuran…
    less din ang aksidente…….

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