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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Got home yesterday with this waiting for me: The first day of the Padyak Pinoy tour saw favored bets take the backseat, with some Feliciano being handed the yellow jersey for today's scheduled Quezon City-Cabanatuan massed start. It may sound like a news item, but it is actually how my cousin related to me Thursday's individual time trial.
He wanted to let the news out immediately, I supposed, that he was able to tell it directly. Together with our neighbor, the cousin followed it up with how good the bikes were, especially Vellum bikes, some anecdotes, and more anecdotes.
Later I went online and saw the results of the initial stage, through a post by Manila Standard Today sportswriter Peter Atencio at the Philippine Cycling Network. Neither Victor Espiritu nor defending champion Santy Barnachea would be wearing the yellow jersey at the second stage of the tour.
Clocking in 3'55”, Vellum's Frederick Feliciano, a perennial fixture on the Philippine national cycling team and runner-up to last year's bike tour, took first place. But of course hardly anyone remembers the runner-up.
Anyway, I should have taken a leave from work and watched the time trial. I didn't and only the list of Thursday's results is what I can write here. But I wouldn't write it here. Tomorrow it would not be important and interesting. My cousin's anecdotes still would, I supposed, because they sounded like the real dope.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
One thing I used to look for in a neighborhood was a basketball court. It's only now that I stay on the lookout for a group of cyclists, and although I'm looking for it now there is very little that I can say about it because outside of the bay area in Manila cycling remains unpopular in the Philippines.
What makes a sporting event popular? Maybe not if you open it on a weekday. As is the case of this year's Padyak Pinoy tour. Today, Thursday, at the bay area in Manila, the tour is scheduled to hit the road. The route seems impressive and very much makes my feet itch. When the peloton kicks off only the mediamen and the tour organizer probably will know what has happened in the following stages, except of course to the participants and those in the circle. It's that something that stays with the person.
I hardly know why the sport is unpopular, and let us not try to examine it and spoil the magic of the tour. Yes, the Tour is magical if you ask me. I only follow it in the newspapers, but the hard work and endurance of Arnel Quirimit and Jun Ricafort at the past Padyak Pinoy tours and its predecessors, the Tour Pilipinas and the Marlboro Tour, are incredible. It's hard to explain, but it was something edifying.
Monday, May 7, 2007
The house was low and small and welcoming in nine full-grown men, together with their bikes, was more than being hospitable. We reached the house late in the morning, were greeted in pidgin English by an old woman, and I had a feeling I could be in her house without having to keep a watch of myself. The old woman, called Mama Jing, small and brown-faced and very good-humored, seated us at the backyard. Later she offered us slippers and I thanked her and called her Mama Jing.
We huddled around the table at the center of the yard and in turns ladled arrozcaldo into a china bowl. I sat on a pile of firewood and started to eat. Mama Jing came back from the house with tin plates, put them on the table, and the host family joined us in breakfast. The arrozcaldo had native chicken, we were told. It was good chicken, and I ate the chicken part last and made sure the bones would stay in the bowl and away from the chickens loitering in the yard.
After breakfast we helped prepare lunch. Others cut the vegetables and they helped grill the tilapia and the pork chops. The makeshift cottage, where the grill was, brimmed with smoke and the trees rustling. I looked out into the woods and could see a cool glare. It smelled nice there in the backyard, and I felt refreshed out of cycling our way to Cavite like I had just took in a bottlefull of ice water.
Then Mama Jing's sister, a younger woman with light skin, loud and confident voice, called out and informed us that the Ray “Boom-Boom” Bautista fight against Rocky Medina was about to start. It was sort of a big event, with the 20-year-old Boom-Boom being poised as the next Manny Pacquiao. The host family told us to leave the lunch preparations to them. Nobody brushed off the invitation and we, nine of us, huddled around the TV set and watched Boom-Boom.
It was Boom-Boom that we watched. After he won by a unanimous decision, a couple of Mexican fighters got into the ring and we watched two of our companions play chess and it was generally silent and soporific there in the living room. We started back outside the house on the sixth round of the boxing match between the two young Mexicans and we had lunch. It was still outside and movements seemed to come only from the wind and the leaves and the yard animals and us.
After lunch the Dela Hoya-Mayweather fight brought back the happy loafing inside the house. It wasn't an exciting matchup if you asked me. Mayweather was just too good for Dela Hoya. But it was between a great fighter at the end of his boxing career and a black American billed as the best pound-for-pound fighter today. It was youth versus greatness, the overbearing young Mayweather against the composed and determined Dela Hoya. The older man lost by a split decision and there was no happy ending.
Then it was time to go home. It was hot that early afternoon, as in the past afternoons of the summer of this year. We geared up, checked our bikes, refilled our bottles, and said goodbyes. We started outside and in the street in front of the house it was bright and really hot and I came to a realization why the others were applying sunblock on their skins and took to wearing bonnets down to their faces.
Anyway, the heat was nothing. Or so it seemed. We said goodbye again and started the push back home. From Cavite we retraced the road back to Makati. Our first stop was under the bridge at the Zapote road. It was dark there and rather refreshing. I ate peanuts and squirted water into the roof of my mouth and it felt hot and acrid.
By the time we reached Manila I could not drink the water, but had to. The first thing I did when I reached home was to drink some more. I drank until I felt heavy and cool and when I felt it I was awfully tired and I looked back at the morning and the early afternoon and thought to myself that I wanted to do it all over again.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Antipolo is some 25 kilometers from Manila. It sits on top of a hill and the roads that lead to the city are uphill and heavily wooded. The Tikling route is about two kilometers shorter than the Sumulong, but has steeper rises and sharper curves. If you take to Antipolo on a good car you are likely to take the Tikling route. That Tuesday, May 1, sort of an end to a long weekend, nine of us made a push to Antipolo on our bikes via the Sumulong. It was longer, but on a rise it was a good thing.
As in all the bike trips I had so far, which unfortunately is confined to the Manila area until that Tuesday, I had this expectation that it ought to make me feel light and nice. But the ride must have pushed me too hard, that one day later my legs are sore stiff and my long weekend from work isn't over yet. But I don't want to talk about it. I feel like I have just come out of a fraternity's initiation rites, and probably I can now really say that I'm a member of some exclusive thing you don't talk about outside the circle.
Not that it was really that hard. A tall, brown-faced man of about forty, called Rene, of medium build and had protruding lips, who would go down the rise and fetch whoever lagged behind, and then go back up again with them, seemed to have not a hard time with the Antipolo climb. As did the other. Of the nine, three of us had it for the first time. And it was the three of us who would unmount our bikes and walk uphill. It was pathetic.
But we didn't let Rene had the satisfaction of seeing us walk uphill. Don't get me wrong, he was a good man, with an easy humor and he would talk to every one like they were longtime friends. He had a red racer, with a drivetrain composed of motley brands and a manual gear shift. It was not the best racer, and you can just imagine how decent he was at climbing the Antipolo.
We reached the Antipolo church late in the morning and the courtyard was white in the sun and the parishioners all in the shade cast by the church. It was a white stone building, with many entrances and was surrounded by little buildings that housed some church administrative office or the other. We took turns going inside the church, on account of the bikes, signed a cross with fingers soaked in holy water, then waited outside for the start of a new mass. It had been agreed to have our jerseys blessed by the priest. Cyclists might be the most religious hobbyists you'd see.
We sat on the stone steps that led to a closed door. The church kept the sun from us, and there was a breeze. Across the courtyard there was a powwow at the main street in front of the church. It was the start of the city's fiesta. There were marching bands and rockets and these while the priest was saying something. From outside I heard him acknowledged the fireworks and the bands.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Manny Pacquiao knocked out Mexican challenger Jorge Solis in the eighth round of their boxing match Sunday. On the ring he was simply incredible. Billed as “Blaze of Glory,” the fight reminded me of the fact that I had cleaned out of my memory the last time Pacquiao lost. Pacquiao is on an impressive winning streak, and for sure the world already knows who he is. While it seemed that there was nothing more that could be added to his boxing skills, Pacquiao came out with what I supposed to be the champion's heart.
It was the stuff only seen in movies, unless one has the eye for it. And even that I didn't think I have an eye for it, I saw it because Pacquiao showed it very simply. He got a cut from an accidental head butt during the sixth round. But he knew what the cut could do. He steeped up his attack before the bleeding could do its damage. And before the end of the eighth round Solis got what those before him had received.
Not all wins might be great, but Pacquiao's was, to a considerable extent. Now he is stepping into politics. And he is banking on his boxing victories to carry him to the Philippine Congress. Probably it is true that fighters don't just die.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
While the title of this post can probably lead me here into letting out an inferior emotion, I don't mind saying it. You see, I have a problem sleeping. The nearest to medication I tried was beer. It works sometimes. But I have had nights drunk but take to thinking in bed all the same, until I get a headache and blame it on the sun just rising and I can then really go to sleep. With cycling it is different. I ride in the morning on weekdays, before I go to work, and on weekends I ride in the morning but it can last up to noon and really leave me all exhausted and all right well into the night. I don't know how to explain it, but try staying out of your house for most part of the day then you'll see.
This is about last week's bike push to Manila and it took me only now to put some sense to it, if any. It was the Holy Week but, as was the usual, we rode to the bay area in Manila. Nothing much there, that day being Easter and most folk just coming back from the provinces and all. I wasn't merely with the local cycling club that day, but also with the relations of one of its members. They were some sort of headed not by the club member, who took to riding his bike in full cycling regalia, but by a rich relative who took a redeye flight back to Manila for the Lent.
After a few rides around the bay area, on a rather slow and tiresome pace, about four of us found out that each of us needed to buy some bike parts and then decided to make a push to Quiapo in Manila that morning. Around 10 a.m. we were on our way to Quiapo. We took Roxas Boulevard and then turned right to T.M Kalaw. It was what I have long been afraid of, riding in the highways of Manila. That day being a holiday didn't help very much, there were still many jeepneys, buses and cars that made the road difficult. But somehow I was able to hang on.
The hard part was the bridge over the Pasig River. It led to downtown Manila and probably it was not only me who got it hard. One cyclist, a tall and wide-set man of about 30, rounded a bus outside the curb, rode with no hands afterwards and stretched his leg and arm muscles. I supposed he thought the bridge was hard for a bike, and showing off that he was relaxed proved that I was right. Under the bridge was the Pasig River, and at the end were the strings of stores selling practically anything that a person wants. And I mean that exactly. There is nothing you want that you can't find at Quiapo.
By that time the sun was high and folk were really pouring in around the busy Quiapo district. I replaced the sprocket on my bike with an eight-speed Shimano, and also got a new handlebar. My neighbor got a new pair of tires. The whole thing took around two hours probably and I witnessed that part of manila coming alive. By the time we were ready to go back to Makati it was like an ordinary lousy weekday there in Quiapo, not like a Sunday I supposed.
On our way back to Makati the sun was high over us and the streets were white in the sun. We met cyclists on their way home probably, and generally the day was soporific. I chewed gum, in place of having a smoke. I tried to stay alert, I knew I was getting tired but I didn't want to get in the way of the other bikers. We reached Makati all right, dispersed, and my neighbor fitted the new set of tires on his bike. There was something wrong with the tires. It was larger than what he wanted. He felt crossed. It would fit on his racer, for sure, but it was two sizes larger and would mitigate the benefits of his bike's lightweight build.
He told me that he would go back and get a replacement. That time I felt tired again. I knew I had to come with him, I didn't know why. He didn't ask that I come with him, and he said that he would go back to Quiapo by himself. But I could just not leave him on his own. We mounted our bikes again. I left my bag in the house and rode as light as it could. We retraced our road, he and I, and when we got back home it was early in the afternoon. I washed, had my lunch, and took a nap. Afterward the rest of the day seemed to be nothing, or probably just an extension of the day before. I never had a sleep as good as what I had that night.