In Guimaras, no oil spills — only bike wheels!

Two weeks ago, during Easter Sunday, I arose at 5:40 in the morning, showered, slipped on a pair of tight-fit shorts, gobbled up two eggs and five bread slices in 4 minutes, applied Coppertone on my face, looked in the mirror, smiled, carried my black Cratoni helmet and blue Fox gloves, then drove off from the town of Oton.

At 7 a.m., I arrived in Iloilo City.

My first cousin Din-Din Zaldarriaga, several years my senior and whom I considered my older brother growing up, welcomed me with a smile that spanned ear-to-ear.

“Ready na?” he asked.

“Hu-o, a!” I replied.

We hiked a hundred steps and arrived to meet 14 men so colorful they donned jerseys, helmets and shoes with colors that spelled ROY G BIV.

Sixteen men? In colorful costume? At 7 a.m.?

On Easter Sunday?

Were we clowns readied to perform at SM City Iloilo’s program? Were we to enter in an egg-hunting contest? To appear in ABS-CBN and wake all the Ilonggos up by screaming, “HAPPY EASTER DIRA SA INYO TANAN!!!?”

No! Better…

Mountain-biking.

For two years, my cousin Din-Din and I had planned this day. Avid bikers, he roamed the flat streets of Iloilo while I scaled the mountain trails of Cebu. For two years, we waited… until our schedules fit. And what better day than Easter.

Our destination?

Guimaras Island. Wow!

You know Guimaras. Last August, CNN and BBC focused on this island when an oil tanker carrying two million liters of fuel sank. (On the positive side, Guimaras is world-famous for it’s mangoes—reportedly served at two homes you know: Buckingham Palace and the White House.)

We were 16 bikers who boarded the “pump-boat” off the port of Iloilo. How fast was the trip? Very, very fast. In all, 10 minutes. We loaded our MTBs (mountain-bikes), paid P350 to “pakyaw” the boat, then swam off.

As soon as we docked, the wheels turned. Beside me during the trek was my La Salle classmate, Bernie Tongson. We reminisced our Bacolod elementary days while climbing the highway. After 45 minutes, we landed at the center of Jordan (provincial capital of Guimaras), parked our bikes, unfastened our helmets, and strode inside a store ready for the next mission: breakfast.

We were hungry. Salivating. Thirsty. And Judavel’s Eatery is famous among bikers. My cousin Din-Din and I each ordered soup, caldereta (kambing), fish that resembled our kitong, bowls of rice, and a bottle of Lift and Coke. In all, after Din-Din and I had stuffed our stomachs, we spent—would you believe—only P149.

After breakfast, we circled another route with terrains that spelled “up” and “down.” Did I see oil spills? No. It was at the other side of the island. Instead, what I saw was the breathtaking view of Iloilo that glistened off Guimaras.

If there was any negative, it was this: we didn’t ride off-road (and Guimaras has dozens of trails). It was a day to be with family and we all vowed to be home by 11. So on asphalt we rode.

By “we,” I mean Din-Din, Bernie and their friends that included a 69-year-old (yes, 69!) who pedaled smooth and strong. Amazing. Also with us were my three other cousins—Michael, Jason, and Andre—plus one of my favorite uncles (my mom’s older brother), Ondoy Zaldarriaga, all of 59 summers old.

“Next year, please don’t call me ‘senior citizen,’” my uncle tells the group. “I’d rather be called “Señor, citizen!”

We laugh.

You see, this word isn’t spelled in six letters. It’s spelled FUN. It’s a time to bond with cousins, to reminisce with an old classmate, to feel young with your uncle who’s 59 and a lolo who’s 69. It’s fresh air. It’s the colors of the rainbow on your jersey. It’s the view of Iloilo from across the sea. It’s sweat dripping off your chest and your heart pounding 189 beats per 60 seconds—to be rewarded by a bowlful of caldereta. Best of all, on Easter Sunday, it’s not egg-hunting.

It’s biking.

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