Why I Love Cebu

From left: Jesse Taborada, John Pages, Meyrick Jacalan, Dr. Ron Eullaran and Roel Militar

The year was 1986 when my family and I moved from Bacolod to Cebu City. Back then, like any 14-year-old who had developed deep friendships with classmates and neighbors, I resented the decision

“Can I just stay in Bacolod?” I recall asking my parents. The answer, of course, was obvious. From the City of Friendship we transferred to this Queen City of the South. Looking back 22 years ago to that time—with no offense meant to Bacolod—it would be hard for any city to surpass what Cebu offers. In schooling, in business opportunities, in R & R, in malls to visit and night spots to party in and, lest I forget, in this favorite topic of these back pages…. Sports.

Take mountain-biking. Here in Cebu, if one craves to climb steep hills, descend on trail roads, trek across muddy terrain or traverse shallow streams—it’s all, as the cliche goes, right at our own backyard.

Minus Lance, it’s still ‘Le Tour’

Football has the World Cup. Basketball owns the NBA Finals. The NFL has the Super Bowl. Boxing features Manny vs. Erik. The 100-meter dash will be held at next year’s Beijing Olympics. Golf: The Masters. Tennis? Last week’s Wimbledon. Every single sporting spectacle has that one solitary event when all the world’s 6.6 billion eyes are glued and when all the athletes’ muscles are flexed.

Cycling? It’s happening now. It’s 21 days. It’s 3,553.9 kms. It’s 189 men in helmets and skin-tight shorts. It started in London and will end in Paris. It is, in my mind, the most grueling activity ever invented by man.

Bike For A Cause

This is an excellent project happening this Sunday (July 15). What is Best Buddies? Here…

Best Buddies Philippines, International (www.bestbuddies.org) is a volunteer organization which provides opportunities for people (volunteer buddies) to connect with our less fortunate brothers with developmental disabilities (special buddies). Each special buddy is paired with a volunteer buddy for the year-round activities of Best Buddies. Each pair will be with each other in eating, playing team games, assisting each other in all the activities, and develop a special bond of friendship. In this process of friendship building, special buddies are given undivided attention and value, as well as opportunities for social interaction and the chance to live fuller and happier lives.

Categorized as Cycling


Bite Magazine turns over proceeds from a fund-raising event “A Night of Graffiti All Star BITEs” to its beneficiary BIKE4U Foundation. During the check turn-over, (from left): BIKE4U directors Tex Hernandez, Roy Zapata, Meyrick Jacalan and Boying Rodriguez (far right) and Bite magazine’s David Harris and Roy Lumagbas (3rd and 2nd from right). BIKE4U is a non-profit who organization who grants bicycles to indigent students. For donations, log on to www.bike4u.org or call 23285-18 0r 19.

Categorized as Cycling

If George W. Bush wears one, you should, too!

THEY’RE CALLED HELMETS. Their singular purpose is to protect your head. In case you meet an accident while riding a mountain-bike or sitting on your Yamaha two-wheeler, you’ll be saved from serious head injury. And so everybody should wear a helmet. It’s the law. It’s safe for riders. It’s a must. Unfortunately, especially on early mornings or late evenings when CITOM is not watching, many don’t snap one on. Unlike George W. Bush.

Categorized as Cycling

Jens Funk and “The Smiling Torture”

A German IT consultant assigned at the CITE in Talamban, Jens Funk, 40, has lived in Cebu for five years and written a book, “Cycling Philippines.”

Last January 20, Jens made a bet. Alongside 30 bikers, he vowed to pedal for 185 kms.—without ever walking. If he wins, he’ll ask donations to buy helmets and bike locks for the poor. If he loses, he’ll pull his wallet out and pay for it all. Either way, dozens of less-privileged Cebuanos win. In his piece at www.bugoybikers.com entitled “The Smiling Torture,” Jens narrates his unbelievable Tour de France-like experience…

“We started at 7 am. Around 30 bikers all in good mood…

I knew it would be a hard ride and was scared. The first 65 kms. was easy cycling at an average of 30 km/h. We chatted and the sun seemed to be our friend. We agreed to have a first “refill” stop in Lugo, where we took pictures before going downhill to Tabuelan. On this stretch some riders chased each other.

“From Tabuelan (Km 88) to Balamban (Km 135), we passed rough stretches, including a crash (nothing serious) and flat tires, arrived in Balamban at 1 pm, and lunched there. By now, one could realize that the riders were serious knowing what came next. After refilling our bottles, we left at 2 pm to cross the Trans-Central Highway.

“The next 10 kms were flat, but the “big” mountain ranges came closer. Till Km 145 we cycled as a group, chatting and laughing. But this ended the moment it turned steeper. We climbed the first mountain at 850m above sea level, then the group split up and everybody was left to his own fate.

“Climbing on a road bike means finding your rhythm and staying with it. The road got steeper and I realized that I was in my granny gear. It was 2:30 pm and the sun had become a burden. I checked my odometer and it dropped to 6 km/h.

“Suddenly, I saw two group members walking. This wasn’t motivating and when I passed, they asked, “Why don’t you walk?” But I was determined to win the bet. I was also challenged to beat the monster mountains—and got encouraged through text messages. But it came to a moment when I struggled. My legs hurt and I wasn’t in a rhythm. I stopped, drank a lot, relaxed, started again.

“In my mind I knew I wouldn’t lose as long as I didn’t walk. After 500m, I stopped again. It’s cruel when you make the corner then see the road climbing up again. I really felt… that’s it. I drank again and fought between “Come on! You can make it!” and “Why the hell are you doing this?”

“I tried again. Back on the bike. And then, like a miracle, my iPod played! (I prepared it earlier but forgot.) With George Thorogood’s “One burbon, one scotch, one beer,” I focused on the music and not the road. When the song finished, I realized I found it—my rhythm!

“I used the whole road so I could go up in a zigzag. At day’s end, I would cycle 10 kms more (zigzagging) but it was a way to beat the mountain. I looked in front of me and the guys were doing the same. The problem were the cars. As soon as one approached, it was impossible to use the whole road. I got cramps. Still, slowly, I got closer to the peak. The view over the valley was amazing. It recharged me.

“Finally I made it up to Kantipla. By now, I had confidence that I could make it. We regrouped, went downhill, then Ayala Heights stood after.

“Even the easy climb to Ayala Heights was torture. I cramped on that stretch but ignored it. At this time it drizzled—which helped. After another downhill the last climb awaited us. When I crawled around the last bend and saw the saddle of Tops less than 80m away, I felt an indescribable happiness. On Tops I got teary-eyed and shouted. I never had such a feeling before. In the last downhill to Willie’s, we were smiling. After we arrived, I had 185km on my odometer and could almost not get off my bike. After 10 hours of cycling, my back was sore and my legs hurt—but the feeling was overwhelming. I made it!”

Categorized as Cycling

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…


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.

Categorized as Cycling