Never Too Old for BMX

 

The first quarter of this year was when I made my slow return to riding my BMX bike again. Our new place is less than five kilometers from a park where local BMX riders hang around. While my riding sessions haven’t been as regular as more than 20 years ago, I once again become aware and interested in the country’s and international BMX scene. And I can see that BMX sport continues to evolve. BMX riders are now more daring and the new tricks they can do are just unreal. My favorite flatland isn’t the flatland that I used to know. Good signs that behind the seemingly common fixies, MTB’s and Triathlon bikes, BMX too has become just as popular.

To prove that local BMX is gaining grounds, riders in the Philippines have been celebrating BMX day. It isn’t clear though when it first started. Even Google doesn’t offer a definite answer if, when and where the first BMX day originated. But July 23 seems to be the D-Day. So on Saturday riders of BMX bikes in the country gathered together in their respective rendezvous. Fans and pros alike pedaled around in numbers in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to celebrate. Knowing the potential of this sport, I would have loved to be part of this celebration.

Back in my younger years, we never had an annual BMX day event. In my days, every weekend is our BMX day and, for the lack of Facebook and social media, I only know that our team was the only BMX freestyler (hint on the term) team in Bacolod City. I even would bet that in the city’s BMX community anyone would recognize the name Linear Radicals. We were a familiar sight in the Bacolod City Lagoon—bikes were allowed inside back then. People stop and stare when we start jamming around. We would make heads turn when we do impromptu tricks in the crowded streets during the MassKara festival. There was even a time when we packed our bikes in a small pickup truck and headed somewhere far north to be part of a town’s fiesta. There was another team who did the racing event but ours took over the stunt show. Modesty aside, for once, we were famous in our own rights.

Not me, not my pic. (Image from the web.)

Fast forward to 2016, the BMX scene changed a lot. Think of heavy black rotary phone versus sleek smartphones. Change was rad. I remember the first time we saw on Betamax the first time an American perfected the tailwhip air on a vert ramp but locals nowadays can pop one from a bunnyhop. It is just unbelievable to see that the BMX flatland tricks my generation once do are now considered basics. The scuff tricks are now used to progress to far more technical rolling tricks. Even young riders nowadays would transition from one trick to another through a short squeakerson, front yard, backyard, or funky chicken. And did I mention they do all these brakeless?

My own old  bike turned brakeless.

While the BMX flatland tricks have become more complicated, the BMX parts and its setup is the opposite. It is now common to see totally brakeless bikes which means brake levers, calipers and detanglers are starting to be obsolete. BMX flatland riders also now prefer chainwheels with only 25 teeth and they have also set the seat lower than before. With lesser and smaller yet better parts, what’s left is the basic bike that is less cumbersome thus making it an effective street or BMX flatland bike. Despite its simplicity, prices do not come cheap. Popular price range is 10,000-20,000 pesos.

The BMX sport will surely get better and bigger. In the Philippines alone, popular riders like Paulo Gepulango (proudly from Bacolod) and Renz Viaje, who in the recent years joined an It’s Showtime contest, continue to inspire new generations of BMX flatland riders. There’s also this promising BMX team in Bohol who made me realize that there’s more to this place than just its Chocolate Hills and tarsiers—I would definitely try to find where they hang out if I get the chance to travel down south.

Philippine BMX flatland videos always zap me back in time when all we care about is BMX (yup, I’ve skipped classes for it).  Every time I see one makes a part of me a very young boy eager to get on a bike to see if I can pop a wheelie for starters but another part an old man conceding that what these young lads do aren’t for me anymore.  By the way, those guys I hang out with in Tanauan are half my age so I guess I could claim to be their father of BMX. Regardless, I think nobody is too old for BMX so I will remain to be a big fan of this sport and would like to continue seeing more of it. To old-schoolers and young BMX riders alike, more power.

 

This was also posted on Flatmode Philippines (Official). Paulo Gepulango is this FB page’s admin.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Almost on tip-top shape.)

 

 

Old School Flatland, Anyone?

I have found my second lagoon. In my younger years I hang out a  lot with my friends in Bacolod Lagoon to kill time with our bikes and to test ourselves if we can mimic what we saw on BMX Trix 101. I can’t recall if it’s on Betamax or VHS format, definitely not on disc, but it’s the only video source we have back then–YouTube wasn’t around yet. I continued with freestyle until before I got married in 1996.

Years later, I would soon find myself on my twenty-year old Haro bike, stepping on its pegs, figuring out if I can still do either the scuff or rolling tricks that I like to do. And I still can. I am now in the midst of the new generation riders—and I’m lost in their lingo and the names of the famous riders they know. These guys use bikes with small sprockets, low seats, and mostly brakeless. I have an old school setup. One remarked that my Spintech detangler is now only available on eBay. My freestyle bike is the heaviest. But yes, I am among the few here who can do flatland. The rest do street.

I am now on my third week of mingling with whoever is at the Tanuan plaza–yesterday we transferred to their other location as a political campaign was ongoing. I have a list of routines to recover but I was able to do a satisfactory frontyard yesterday and I got a short clip of myself doing a backwards forkwheelie. Need to avoid skinny jeans though.

***

To be with other BMX riders is already almost home but to speak with others in my own dialect makes it a lot better. I did not expect that here in Batangas I would meet others who are from either Ilo-ilo or Bacolod. The guy who can do time machine is from Ilo-ilo while the one from Bacolod (he’s here for a vacation) rides with one of the current popular riders, Paulo Gepulango, who happens to be a friend of a Facebook friend. My FB friend is the son of one of my best friends and BMX teammate. Then last week, I was in bike shop whose owner and their mechanic are from Negros Occidental, too. Small world?

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I need a bike rack so I can take Marcus and his wheelchair with me.)

The Last Isol?

Mission accomplished. One of the plans I had for this trip to Bacolod is to get myself, at least, into the Manokan Country. It has been years since I last set foot at this famous Bacolod landmark. So last night it happened, it was a matter of fate, it was a matter of will.

The idea was initially scrapped as my father tried to avoid being stuck in bad holiday traffic. He suggested that we eat at a chicken inasal place just close to the Shopping area. But the waiter has some bad news for him—they do not have isol anymore. It was no isol, no go so we were out of the place in no time. I was all smiles going back to our car.

Traffic to the downtown area wasn’t bad after all. Trip to the Manokan country was uneventful except for me making some effort to keep nanay’s old minivan from stalling. Yes, I was that eager to get my hands into Bacolod’s famous chicken barbecue against all odds.

It was not long before we found ourselves seated around a yellow linoleum covered-table where a pair of sinamak and patis (toyo for you Manileños) bottle waits. Nena Beth’s place was buzzing with activity. The servers are going back and forth,  entertaining customers from one table to another, carrying chicken parts on stick to the kitchen and coming back out with plates of nicely done barbecue along with orange-colored garlic rice among any other orders. The smoke leaking from the kitchen that carries the lingering aroma of chicken inasal complements the experience.

All good things do not last though.  Just like our isol on our plate. And to make it worse, the waitress advised us that they too have ran out of this delicious chicken ass. The other chicken parts were also good but the isol was our favorite—even Marcus liked it. The news made me realize that maybe that was the last good isol I could ever had.

There are news that the Manokan Country will soon be gone to give way to a new commercial buildings and the signs are all over. SM’s parking lot adjacent to the street of Manokan Country does not exist yet the last time I was there. SM is now like a giant slimy blob monster waiting to devour the Manokan Country. Let’s just all hope that the place would be relocated, somewhere easier to access, so that we continue to experience and taste Bacolod’s authentic chicken inasal.

Us and the last isol on stick.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (If only I could extend this vacation more.)

Cebu Pacific: Where Every Juan Flies…Frustrated

Cebu Pacific Fail, Cebu Pacific Overcrowding, Cebu Pacific overbooking

Image grabbed from abs-cbnnews.com.

Two days prior our vacation in Bacolod the national news about the situation at the airport got my full attention. Last December 25, the NAIA Terminal 3 was packed more than usual and some irate passengers were recorded hurling expletives at those manning Cebu Pacific’s check-in counters. The video footage shows absolute disorder and it appears that these people aren’t just the regular grinches but rather those with valid reasons to forget the Christmas spirit altogether. I would soon experience the same frustration.

Wanting to avoid falling victim to heavy traffic, Marcus and I left Batangas about six hours before our flight. Yes, six hours. We reached Park ‘N Fly earlier than expected despite a close call at SLEX Shell station when Marcus nearly choked himself out—no thanks to a Mentos mint that got me frantically recall how to execute a Heimlich maneuver—and slow traffic at Andrews Avenue due to an ongoing flyover project.  We got one problem down. Our shuttle bus dropped us off to the next.

NAIA terminal 3 was not as bad as reported but people being fixated to the check-in monitors like eager runners waiting for the starting gun to fire gave me some hint on what to expect.  Trying to remain optimistic, I observed and actually started to conclude that ours could be a better day. My assessment was wrong.

Our own Cebu Pacific experience happened after four hours of waiting patiently. Upon reaching Cebu Pacific’s check-in counter and a couple minutes of nervous finger tapping, I soon heard the attendant say the heartbreaking words: your flight is overbooked.

To compensate for the missed flight we were offered free overnight stay in a hotel and re-scheduled to fly the next day. Conceding to a day of vacation lost, I accepted our fate—especially upon seeing Marcus excited at the idea of being in hotel—and weaved our push cart in and out of the crowd to another check-in counter. This time we lined up to the hotel accommodation queue where we spent almost 45 minutes inching our way to the counter together with foreign tourists. Marcus and I were with disappointed Italian, American, and Korean passengers of Cebu Pacific.

After repeatedly answering Marcus’ questions about the hotel—“Is there a bath tub”, “What’s the size of the bed”, “Is there cable TV” among others—I found hope. The guy who said that our initial flight is overbooked got back to me and asked if I want to take the flight that will leave past 10 in the evening. I took the chance and got our boarding pass minutes later.

Two hours before our new flight we were already at the boarding gate 133 area. In between his Jetpack Joyride and Minecraft games, Marcus would take a glance at the digital clock and counted the minutes to go. Sadly, we were soon listening to the ’on-behalf-of-Cebu-Pacific-we-regret-to-inform-you’ spiel.  The advisory happened over and over. Flights to both Cebu and Bacolod got delayed several times that people around us started booing the equally helpless Cebu Pacific ground personnel. I didn’t participate—I was busy spoon-feeding Marcus the free Jollibee Chicken Joy meal and noodles that the airline provided.

The area was almost deserted when our plane finally arrived.  It was past one o’clock in the morning. The Krispy Kreme and Army Navy stores were already dark and when the time to board was announced the passengers lined up to the gate tired but happy to get out of the place. 16 hours after we left Batangas we arrived in Bacolod. (Come to think of it we could be ready for longer flights—like one going to the land of milk and honey.) I am now keeping my fingers crossed that we will have a better trip back to Manila tomorrow.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Sun is peeking out.)

The Towel

I was in Bacolod last weekend and after a good Sunday lunch I borrowed my mother’s minivan to drop my father off at Robinson’s mall—his favorite hangout—and then to proceed to a reunion with my old biking friends. As I was driving out of the gate, I saw my mother’s helper running towards the creeping beige Rusco van.

“Wait, wait, wait. Your mom wants you have this towel,” the helper said in vernacular as he reached the driver side. “Why?” I asked puzzled with the urgency. “Just take it, she insists.” So I absentmindedly took the towel and drove off to go about my tasks on that lazy high noon.

More than twelve kilometers later at an average speed of 60 kilometers per hour, I parked at Sta. Fe Resort and saw my face at the rearview mirror almost soaking with sweat. That was when I realized the purpose of the neatly folded towel which I have tossed at the backseat. Thanks, nanay. You still know best.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (I still can’t believe I just paid PhP 7K for this blog to continue being online for the next 3 years.)

Are You Ready for the Kasambahay Law?

Just called to check on my mother and one of the things I made sure I mention is the newly approved law — Republic Act No. 10361 or popularly known as the Kasambahay Law. Since we left home years ago to live our own lives, our parents, specifically our mother, got people to help around. Our house also became the home of anyone whom my mother thought needs shelter while at the same time could extend hands in doing the daily chores. Whether they’re related to us by consanguinity or just perfect strangers, my mother accommodated them. It’s the trait Ithink I would never have as I have trust issues with maids — thanks but no thanks to the different news about househelpers who sooner or later turned out to be more of a liability to their masters or employers.

Employers, yes that’s the more appropriate word now that the Kasambahay bill became a law on January 18, 2013. While that technically eliminates the seemingly discriminating (or oppressive) master-servant term, this law which is, to quote its title, an act instituting policies for the protection and welfare of domestic workers, obligates the employers to give their househelpers minimum wage and social benefits provided under existing laws such as Philhealth, Social Security System (SSS), and Pag-Ibig fund. Admittedly, the law that I once perceived as just and humane, is now something I should be worried of due to several reasons which the other ’employers’ around the nation also share based on what I have heard from TV Patrol.

Firstly, all the social benefits would have to be paid regularly by the employer. And the fact that the government institutions wherein payments are to be made aren’t located in one place is a problem by itself. I can’t imagine my mother, now in her 60s, going from one place to another, not to mention endure long lines, just to remit the social benefits of her househelpers.

Next item to consider is the stipulation that the househelpers should be given basic education. Even though my mother has been good enough to offer this to one of her helpers ahead of the Kasambahay Law, this still leaves the question: what if everyone goes out to study? Doesn’t this defeat the very purpose why one got help because there’s a need to have someone in the house do the chores during most times of the day?

But not all aspect of this law are questionable. Things such as the need to have decent sleeping quarters and providing basic necessities are no-brainers and I can assure that whoever stays in my parents house will have these.

The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Kasambahay Law is still not out so I guess I have to wait before I call my mother again to remind her that she follows it as the last thing I’d like to hear is that there’s a picket line outside our small house demanding for an increase in wage and benefits. Ti abi.

***

There was once a time when the maids demand just to have access to TV. Now, the WI-FI is starting to become a must have.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Wifey’s out. Just me and our master at home. Master, aka Marcus, still sleeping. I’m waiting for orders.)

Jogging in Bacolod

 

I have come to realize that I haven’t seen or lived at any place that seems better than Bacolod when it comes to jogging or biking. Let me prove that.

 

During my first years in Manila, I lived somewhere in Alabang. The village where I stayed has only four main roads. One will find jogging a bore a few minutes after he’s started. If he decides to go out, he’ll have to take a chance with crazy jeepney drivers along the service roads.

 

Taguig. This one isn’t any better than the first. The place is crowded and hilly; and the roads are quite narrow and competing with the zooming tricycles isn’t really a good idea. If one is persistent enough, he can jog around FTI but would have to deal with weird looks coming from workers of the nearby factories who will likely wonder if he’s some expat who just loves running inside the industrial zone.

 

Cavite and Batangas. Although these places are known for its wonderful resorts and beaches, the places I’ve been to aren’t jogger-friendly – unless a 5 km (or less) run is good enough for you. To break a sweat, the only way where one can jog or bike carefree here, and in the other places that I have mentioned, is either you run using the treadmill inside a gym or you live inside an exclusive village where there’s normally wide road and safe areas to take a healthy jog. Obviously, either one of the two options isn’t free. But not in Bacolod.

There are several reasons why Bacolod is such a conducive place.

  1. The place is relatively flat. In fact within the city proper, there are only few areas that would render a weekend jogger breathless; imagine how easier and enjoyable is it for regular bikers (sadly, BMX sighting has decreased significantly, or they must have gone underground).

  2. Traffic is fairly light compared to Metro Manila, even Cavite;

  3. and despite that, most vehicles are traveling at a safe pace. Though adrenalin-pumped rich kids and crazy jeepney drivers are always around – you just can’t escape them.

  4. Forget Starbucks or CBTL, but small coffee shops seem to be available everywhere you go.

  5. Bacold City’s lagoon area is still a good place to jog (we used to bike inside the area until the late ’90s but it was later prohibited) whether it’s early morning or late in the afternoon.

 

I’m not being biased but, the truth is, Bacolod is where all you need to have a good jog is a pair of running shoes, a shirt, and a short. Putting these on and waking up early though is mandatory. Hahaha.

 

***

 

However, here’s a caveat: I can’t help but notice the alarming number of places where people are burning garbage. Coming from our subdivision and until near the lagoon area, it seems that every kilometer or so, people are trying to personally incinerate their trashes. And this is very very bad especially for those who loves jogging around.

At first I thought that it was only confined to a few places where garbage collection isn’t regular that people had to burn it to avoid piling and accumulation – at least that’s what my nanay said and do so even until now. So does this mean that garbage collection around the city is also as irregular as the rest of the residential areas? If this is the case, the city mayor has to do something aggressive about it unless he has plans to make Bacolod “a city of smile and smog”. Hopefully not.

 

***

Well, this morning, after another long jog going east – to Sta. Fe, I decided to pay one of my best friends a visit. And how delighted I was when I saw this posted on their gate:

 

He also gave me several other fliers which I brought home along with me.

At least, I now know that an information campaign is being done by the good mayor – Bing Leonardia, and I hope that with this effort (and with the cooperation of his constituents) Bacolod will once again be awarded as one of the “Greenest City” like it was so many years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honk: 3/10 Honks!