Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My bike got 60 km in 1 day

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.

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