Pedaling Culture until the Future Exploring the fervor that seeps through the hearts of Ilonggos
Shergen Q. Villanueva
When the sky still glowed with nightlights, and the sun had yet to swiftly ascend in pale gold, she was already up as she prepared her gears for that breakthrough moment she had been waiting for. She then wiped the pandemic-induced dust off her bicycle, put on her new helmet, and held firmly on the handlebar grip. After checking the brakes and other essential parts, she finally opened the gate of their house, and just then, the early breeze greeted her like an old friend. As she got out of the village, she looked at the path surrounded by street and vehicle lights, appearing in a bokeh effect to her morning vision.
She muttered a prayer under her breath, all while gripping tighter on the handle. Since the prevalent spread of the coronavirus disease, she only saw the wonders of Iloilo through her screen, through the Facebook stories that her friends shared. But now, she will be living that fantasy, that whimsical nature of changing landscapes through each pedal. As she continued cycling, the scent of life and the harmony of the city brushed her senses. “It’s been so long,” she said, “I missed this.”
As she reached Esplanade at the side of the Diversion Road, other bikers were waiting for her, with their prismatic shades sitting on their heads. “How could I blend in?” she thought, her introverted self slowly kicking in. She was just invited by her old classmate, so this is the first time she is meeting another circle of friends. However, after several rides, there became no gap anymore, and friendship blossomed.
“As we ride together through the ups and downs, the sympathy for our fellow riders grows deeper. We would know what each other needed without saying it at this point because our trust for each other is sufficient, just what we needed,” shared Vhee Militar, a senior high school student of the University, on her experience of meeting new friends through cycling.
“Biking made us realize that every challenge, however harsh, will always be more colorful when you are with your friends. Just like when we ride, the beautiful scene at the end will be more beautiful if you are watching it with the special people in your life.”
THE FIRST PEDAL
Bicycles were first introduced in Germany when Karl von Drais, a baron also known as the Father of Bicycle, made a controllable two-wheeled contraption with no pedals in 1817. He named it Laufmaschine, German for “running machine” and it was also famously called the “swiftwalker.” Later on, around the 1860s, Pierre Lallement, Pierre Michaux, and Ernest Michaux presented a preliminary model with pedals fastened to the frontal wheel. This was then the first one to be called a bicycle.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, before the Americans came, bicycles already played a role in the lives of Filipinos. By 1920, an ordinance was passed by the Philippine Commission on the use of bicycles as a vehicle. Moreover, it stated that lights must be used when dark and bells when crossing intersections. It was also around this year that bicycles boomed in Iloilo City as bike stores started opening. In the 1933 Augustinian Mirror, the advertisement of the Iloilo Bicycle Store at Iznart Street owned by K. Yoshida was displayed. Back then, the University was still called Colegio de San Agustin.
IN ALL ASPECTS
Before the heightened predicament of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, cycling already made its way as the people’s remedy in all aspects of life.
“I started cycling before the pandemic, but I was not committed to it. I only used it for my transportation to school, to save money from the fare, and because it is eco-friendly,” shared Irwin Acir Samulde IV, a senior high school student from the University.
However, as the pandemic rose to its peak, cycling leaped in the same direction as well. People have reconnected to the beauty of cycling and its value was exalted even from those who have not shown any liking to it at first.
“[Cycling] is the most affordable means of transportation. Bikes are way too cheaper compared to motorcycles, need less maintenance, and need no fuel thus [fewer] expenses and more savings. Biking is also good for our health. It keeps us fit and healthy. And with regards to transportation during this time of the pandemic, cycling is the best way to travel because there is less to no risk of getting infected by the virus compared to riding public transportation,” said John Baldwin Tingson, a teacher from SPED Integrated School for Exceptional Children (SPEDISEC) who cycles to work.
Since public transportations had been limited and all the other restrictions had not been lifted, people started relying on cycling and its provision of easier commutes and unmatched leisure. Tingson added that through cycling, he can save 1,200 pesos a month compared to public transportation.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) Be Active Campaign emphasized that physical activity should be regular to circumvent the risk of underlying diseases that potentially increase the susceptibility of COVID-19 such as stroke, diabetes, and heart failure. Since social distancing was imposed, people of all ages have spent most of their time sitting in one position and area all day long. Therefore, many Ilonggos also began the cycling craze for health purposes.
Moreover, the business in cycling improved more in the pandemic. Many bike repair stops have been established within the usual routes of bikers. The industry also spiked since other people also aimed for more enhanced and aesthetically pleasing bikes.
“[On] March, COVID set the City on ECQ. The demand for bicycles spiked and from then on, the pursuit to meet the bicycle needs of every Ilonggo [became] my goal. With perseverance, hard work, and determination, I have shown results [all while] experiencing the worst and best possible in business. Due to restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the demand to provide the needs of Ilonggos in terms of biking as a means of transportation was too high. Iloilo Bike Shop strived and looked forward to providing different brands of bicycles in Iloilo,” shared Bryz Cuenca, owner of the Iloilo Bike Shop which offers retail and wholesale bicycles, parts, accessories, repair, maintenance, scooters, and lifestyle equipment services.
This enthusiasm that became so embedded in Ilonggos cannot just be a phase of fashion and route challenges but a lifestyle that is practically designed to advance every area of living.
WHY ILOILO CITY?
Since 2014, Iloilo City has already held Bike Festivals where everyone gathered to celebrate and be unified in the passion of cycling. As the fascination and support of the local government became evident, the metropolis was dubbed as the “Most Bike-Friendly City” in the Philippines in the 2018 PhilBike Expo by the PhilBike Awards. Wilfredo Sy Jr., one of the leaders of the local biking community, represented the City and received the award.
“As I see it, the people are the true champions of the [bike-friendly campaign] here in the city. We have very passionate bikers and bike groups, who see cycling not just as a sport, not just a hobby, but as a lifestyle and a mode of daily transport,” stated Sy.
The City is appraised due to its 11-kilometer protected bike lanes, especially the painted ones on the Diversion Road that is also surrounded by plant boxes and the famous “cherry blossom” of Iloilo. This is part of the 2014 project that was fronted by former Senate President Franklin Drilon with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“[Because there are] lots of tourist attractions, restaurants, bike stops, wide roads, support of the local government for [the] cycling community, and of course bikers supporting one another,” said Tingson on why Iloilo City is perfect for bikers.
The biking community is expected to progressively grow over time, especially due to the tourism spots of the City. As of September 2020, under the Federation of Iloilo Cycling Organization, there are already 60 groups. Moreover, two ordinances have been passed in honor of the importance of biking namely Ordinance 2014-193 which requires government and non-government buildings with existing parking spaces to provide a safe bicycle parking zone, and Ordinance 2016-299 which designates the West Diversion Road with bike lane protection.
Surely, the two-wheeled culture that became frenzied in Iloilo City will not just be a passing fad or a sideline, but a major contributor of redeeming people back to an energetic physical lifestyle and clarity of mind. As we lunge forward and combat every roadblock in our way, this not-so-new custom of the Ilonggos will bring us to a unified pedaling towards the future.
Published: April 25, 2022