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We went to Maarat (Timberland) last Sunday as I have some relatives whom I am introducing to trail riding. As we all know, Maarat is our Mt. Tam- the center of Philippine mountain biking. It was a few years ago when I last went there and though there have been a lot of changes even then, it was only on this trip that I came into realization that some of the trails we have ridden are rapidly disappearing- giving way to development. In the case of Maarat, it is still good to know that the property owner has embraced cycling and has still incorporated some trails within the development, but it is still far off from the way it was used to be and there is also no guarantee that it will remain as is- as the power of commerce will prevail once the development plan is given the go signal. We are uncertain until when the good things will last.
Starting with our way to Maarat (by the way, it was Maarat then prior to the development of Timberland and I think it is now popularly known simply as Timberland), as I now have the luxury of using Waze to navigate my way from Marcos Hi-way to Maarat, I was directed to pass through what seems to be the former AFP Trail. When I talk about this trail to the newbies, I was amazed nobody really know this place anymore as I guess this was developed (paved) much earlier on and was already out of the lists of the destinations for mountain biking a long time ago.
Going back to Maarat- here are some observations I had comparing it from yesteryear’s:
- The paved portion has now creeped all the way to the former junction to the Roxas-Antenna Area. Before the rough roads starts at the now gate of Timerland. Then it advanced to the Timberland Resort. One of these days, this main route called “Basic” will be fully paved.
- Most of the existing trails are newly built specific to riding. More of sections of trails rather than one continuous system. Its more of a bike park than a natural trail. Gone are the routes called Roxas, Yes-No, Ka Vergel and other places I have also forgotten now.
- From the backdoor (coming from Antipolo), the alternate road that goes to Roxas is already blocked and is no longer passable.
- During the earlier days- the destination on the Antipolo side is a store we call Mountain Dew which was eventually replaced by Giant after some boycott movement within the cycling community due to an alleged mobile phone theft by the store. Then there was Pestano and now there is Sandugo.
- The alternate wall- the road to the left prior to the steep ascent to the wall (shot-gun?- it was non existing on our heydays) is now also paved.
- And before there was Aling Tina’s store (if you don’t like Tropical Hut (which is the very first stop-over-jump-off) or Jolibee or later on- Chowking) and now some more decent cafes and a bike store- i.e. All Terra sprouted along the road prior to the wall. The left side, which was the former Divine Mercy Track where the cross country races are held are now dotted with houses. The “tambays” on these cafes on a busy weekend shows the growing social dimension (or status?) of cycling whether its good or bad.
- And of course- the SUVs and trucks lining up the road on a busy weekend- in contrast to our heydays- wherein even if we have cars, we didn’t even consider bringing cars on a bike ride. We rode from home to trail head, do our adventure, then ride back home again. Hope this is not a setback for bike-environmental advocates (the increased carbon footprint of riding a bike).
Most biking destination in the Philippines are private property. The public ones are usually not intended/designed for riding. In the US some mountain bike groups has even raised money to buy properties to ensure the trails will remain open but that is something impossible here. For private lands- we are at the mercy of the owners. For public- we need further advocacy to share the park, create bike specific trails and make it an official mountain biking destination.
Similar to any developments, the question of whether progress is better is always debatable. Looking at the bright side- this Maarat may have inspired newbies and started people into cycling. But for those who have ridden this in its earlier days, there is something missing riding it nowadays- the feeling of adventure and exploration. Of being close to nature. So the newbies who will eventually graduate riding Maarat- you better drive farther down the road to experience the exhilarating experience of real mountain biking.
As requested by members of our Outdoor Group- I held my first bike clinic this May. Here are pictures of the said event:
We started the day with a short ride that has some technical portions to assess each one’s skill.
The first exercise was how to change a flat tire.
A lecture on parts of the bike.
More technical stuff.
Bike tuning/ tune up.
Advance mechanical work.
Added bonus: Bike weigh-in.
We did another ride the next day as the second day focused more on bike handling skills.
Here are the participants of the bike clinic:
Lea and Andeng made it! Lea Latayan being the first woman to bike the entire Philippines! (see previous similar post). Congratulations!
For more information, visit the Tour Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/259558600881432/
This was my very first bike race, almost 20 years ago. The route was from Morong Rizal to Real Quezon. So next year, 2016 will be my 20th year since I have joined bike races. Well… a good way to formally declare my retirement from any form of race.
It was only 70 kilometers but it has 2 major climbs- the 14 km Bugarin and the 25 km Famy to Real mountains. It’s still fresh from my mind how we suffered that day. But not because of the difficulty of the route (but don’t take me wrong- it is indeed difficult) as nowadays, we can manage to do this route- but it was more of joining a race unprepared. And of thinking of a race as just a fun bike ride.
It was me, Rodel Palisoc, Harry (Hans Gee- former local Shimano distributor) and Chonny Chan. We just signed in without any serious preparation or training. When the race started, we tried to keep up upfront- a sign of being “amateurs” that we have depleted our life very early on the race. I remember I even slept due to exhaustion in the Famy to Real section (imagine sleeping in a race!). When we were nearing Real, a vehicle passed by the other direction- on the vehicle were the winners of the race egging us to continue and finish the race (not sure if they were really concerned or were they just heckling us). When we arrived at the finish line, people were busy dismantling the stage and other race fixtures. Worst- no more food for us. So I guess the races during that time were more liberal to even allow us to finish…and so were we- we even didn’t mind the embarrassment because if it happened today- I would have just quit.
There are already a handful of Filipinos (male) who have biked the entire Philippines. When I say entire country, there is no set rule yet of what constitute biking “the entire country”- as long as one rides the major islands of the archipelago from end to end, covering majority of Luzon, Visayas and some portions of Mindanao (due to security reasons) – it is already considered biking the entire Philippines. But no Filipina (female) I know as of this writing who have done this feat. Though there are already some women foreigners who have ridden a couple of islands, none yet fall to what we consider as the entire Philippines as defined above. A fellow MMS members of ours- Lea Latayan is currently attempting to be the first Filipina (and maybe the first woman of any race) to ride the entire Philippines. She is expected to finish the feat by end April to early May of 2015 [As of May, Yes she did it- see later blog entry].
She is doing this without any sponsors or external support except her riding buddy Andeng. For security reasons- no real time updates of the ride are available until she finishes it. They are recording the trip to their Facebook page- “Tour de Filipinas 2015” – https://www.facebook.com/groups/259558600881432/
I had the opportunity to ride with them on one of the legs of her ride- from Angono Rizal to Pagsanjan Laguna.
Good Luck Lea!
I have mentioned it many times in this blog that most of the best bike adventure touring destinations in the country are those up north- in the cordilleras, the high mountains of the Philippines. There are networks of trails and old rough roads that interconnects the villages but these are rapidly becoming extinct as most of these places, even those I never thought would be developed in my life time are now paved (i.e. Pacdal Road). This is the same case as in this planned Sagada to Tagudin ride as almost 95+% of the route are now paved. Though there are still alternate routes that can be used, if you still want to experience the ruggedness of unpaved roads; but by the next 5-10 years- all of these may already disappear.
Our plan was to ride from Sagada to Tagudin Ilocos Sur. We rode from Manila the day before, at around 10 in the evening and arrived at Banaue early the next day. We skipped riding from Banaue to conserve our energy for the climbs ahead (our actual itinerary) but some of the team members didn’t waste the opportunity of the long exhilarating downhill descent from the boundary of Ifugao and Bontoc to Bontoc town proper. We arrived at Bontoc just in time for lunch. We searched for a decent place to eat and after lunch, all of us decided to ride our bike for the climb from Bontoc to Sagada; sort of a warm up for the real long ride the next day.
The 14+ km uphill to Sagada has proven enough challenge for the day. We spent the entire day enjoying our nth time in Sagada while some newbies went to the usual tourist must do list.
While in Sagada we did some research if it would be better to ride via Besao than Bauko-Tadian via Halsema (Besao also ends up in Tadian) and we found out that the road via Besao is still rough, which is actually more exiting but we decided not to explore it this time as it may delay us and that we should just stick to the original plan of Bauko-Tadian via Halsema.
So early the next day, from Sagada, we descended down to the junction and back to Halsema towards the junction that leads to Bauko-Tadian-Cervates. We found out that it was still a long climb to Tadian as we were told it was supposed to be flats. We had our lunch at Tadian and after lunch, it was another long exhilarating descent to the town of Cervantes Ilocos Sur. We arrived at Cervantes mid noon and looked for our place to stay. There were a few resorts in Cervantes but we have chosen the more homely Evergreen Resort. The owners prepared our Tinola dinner as we celebrated our fist day at Cervantes with some food and drinks.
The next day, it was a tense day for all due to the dreaded Besang Pass, a climb atop the mountain pass that is around 17 km steep uphill. When we actually started, the kilometer markers indicated 34 KM to the next center so it was a bit of a confusion on how long the climb will be.
A 34 kilometer climb is really dreadful so we were all in that tense mood. At the onset, the steep climb blown our team, spreading it over a few kilometers along the road. Upon reaching Besang Pass (which we found out as only 17 KMs), it was a big sigh of relief. We had our lunch at the historical marker of the Battle of Besang Pass. Then it started to rain while the descent was really steep so it was a bit scary of us who are not really “downhillers.” Imagine a steep and wet slope! One members of the team slid due to the wet condition of the road- a proof that its no joke to descend in this grade and condition. Again we were split and spread a few kilometers along the road from the daredevils and mortals.
Upon reaching the flats, the arrangement again changed between those who can pedal fast on flats and those who can do it much faster. We reached Tagudin late in the afternoon fully drenched. Instead of staying at Tagudin, as per original plan, we decided to go towards the tourist town of San Juan La Union, one of the surfing capital of the Philippines so that there will be more option for accommodations and it will be a better ending for the great adventure trip as San Juan is more tourist friendly with available night life activities than the quieter Tagudin. There we celebrated another successful ride by having a party that coincides with Kaluna’s (San Juan resort) anniversary party.
Great views, wonderful friendship and tremendous ride!
For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765
In this years edition of the Tour of the Fireflies- I would say I was a bit disappointed- compared to the last 10+ editions I have joined- this seems to be the most chaotic and unorganized one. There may be reason behind-
maybe because of the exponential increase in participants as it grows every year- the more difficult to maintain the group and the more difficult to close down traffic for a longer time. We were actually thrown into the midst of
crowded lanes, filled with jeepneys and cars- most of whom were already irritated by the traffic the tour had caused. In my case, I had my daughter with me and it was a bit cause for concern compared if its only me riding. So I guess it would also be the same for others who brought their children with them. It could have been a nightmare to both the parent/guardians and the child themselves. There was also less waiting points for regroups so there were lots of splintered groups who were left to tend for themselves. Overall- the noble cause is still prime and any minor troubles are easily forgiven but I hope the organizers learned from this year’s event to make it more friendly next year.
By the way, I don’t have the route GPS stats this ride- my phone fell from my pocket and it got broke which also made me broke. Lesson learned- that is why I have a bike mount and case- to secure the phone.