Our long ride that last Thursday of July tested me and whether my trainings for the past weeks worked. Our route was Bitukang Manok or the Old Zigzag Road in Quezon National Forest Park. Sa Pagbilao pa lang ay pagod na ako. Akala ko ay hindi ko kakayanin ang ilang ahon. Nakailang pahinga tayo kasi sobrang nakapapagod talaga. Iba pa rin talaga kung sanay ka sa long ride. After that agonizing climb at the base of Bitukang Manok, pedaling was very stiff, we made it to the top. We were already tired so both of us got left behind by our two companions. We rested for a bit because the actual zigzag road is next for climbing but you told me that it’s much better than climbing the base. Mas madali, yan ang sinabi mo. There were two curves to climb before the beautiful view of the park but this time, it’s less stiff when you pedal so it’s not much of a struggle. Nauna kang pumadyak papunta sa unang liko at ako naman, itinulak ko na lang kasi natakot ako kasi puro bangin ang gilid ng kalsada. While we were at the first curve, you encouraged me to try because the climb is not that hard as before so going to the second curve, I did. There, we rested again, and you decided that you don’t want to proceed anymore even though we were being called by our biker friends to go to them. I was having a hard time in deciding whether I would go or stay with you. But ultimately, I did go because it was my first time going there and I want to have a good picture of the place as a remembrance of that ride. With much persuasion, sumunod ka naman sa amin sa taas.
When we went down, we decided to continue our ride instead of heading home. It was already ten in the morning and the sun was already blanketing us with its warmth. We decided to go to Polo and have a dip at Kwebang Lampas. We were both exhausted already so we were left behind again. Gutom ka na din noon kasi hindi ka pa nag – aalmusal at kulang pa yung kinain mo sa baba ng Bitukang Manok. We then decided to eat at the carinderia at the side of the highway. After you’re done eating, you suddenly returned to your old jovial self. Pero hindi din dun natapos yung mga pagtigil – tigil natin.
I struggled on the way back because of how tired, parched, and starved I was. It was three in the afternoon when we went back from Polo. The sun was still shining its scorching rays on us. We also don’t have any water left in our water bottles. So to not suffer from heat stroke, we often stopped at the shaded portions of the highway where the trees blew cold breezes and gave cool shades of green. Sabi nga ni JM, ginagaya na daw kita kasi kapag tinatamad ka nang pumadyak at titigil ka, ganun din ang ginagawa ko. Nagpapasalamat nga ako kasi hindi ako nag-isa nung ride na iyon. You were there to help and guide me. And you did. We got home safe and that concluded my very first long ride. It was eye – opening for me. It was fun as it was tiring but at the end of the day, it was worth it. Nakailang second, third, at fourth wind ba ako nung araw na iyon para lang makasurvive? Hindi ko rin nabilang.
After spending so much time with you, I realized that I did envy you. I really envied your warm personality. Madali kang pakisamahan. Magaling kang makisama. Masaya kang kasama at kausap. Inaamin ko na gusto ko lang sumama sa mga group rides kapag kasama ka kasi maa-out of place lang ako dahil hindi naman ako close sa iba. I only wanted to ride when you’re there. Those qualities you have are the qualities I don’t have within me, and I kept looking for people who’ll help me fill that hole in my soul. Yung tuturuan akong maging pleasing sa ibang tao o maging likeable man lang. You’re that person, and I wanted to be you. You have your faults but all your positive traits made up for it. Masyado kang mabait para hindi ka magustuhan ng ibang tao. I kept observing you baka kasi ma-adopt ko yung mga qualities mo. You know what they say about introvert people, they are very observant, and they’re the best in the art of reading people.
You’re not perfect just like everyone else is, and that’s what I like about you. You’re flawed, yet you’re never bothered by it. Remember that time when I was addicted to Pokemon Go? You made fun of me because of that. You always asked me if I caught this kind of Pokemon or how far I had walked on just to catch something. You’re always making a joke out of it whenever we’d meet. Even after JM’s birthday celebration when I insisted on us to walk home just for me to hatch an egg, you teased me about it. You’re like that, always teasing people about what they like doing. Hindi naman negative yun pero kung sa ibang tao siguro, maaasar na ako. Remember when I had my first bike accident in Lucban on your birthday, and you kept making a joke about me diving on the concrete just to catch some Pokemon? I messaged you about it. Feeling close ako nung time na iyon. How your birthday was a curse to me because of that accident. Then, you replied with some kind of concern in your tone. But that did not stop you from making fun of me. You make fun of other people’s misfortunes.
Pansin ko rin na maasarin kang tao at kapag asar ka na, hindi mo na pinapansin yung nang-aasar sa’yo. I know this because there were times when I joked about you then all of a sudden, you’re giving me the silent treatment. Pero hindi naman nagtatagal ang pagiging asar mo. It passes quickly. Alam kong asar na asar ka na din talaga sa akin. Ako pa? Ang lakas ko kayang mang – asar sa’yo. Namumuro na nga yata ako. Ilang silent treatments na ba ang binigay mo sa akin. I know you already lost count. After all the things I did to you, you’re still so nice to me. Kapag pagod na ako sa mga ride, alam kong pansin mo na madali na akong mairita. Ilang beses na ba kitang napagtaasan ng boses dahil doon? O kapag, tinotopak ako, mahilig akong mangreal talk. Ilang beses na ba kitang nadiretso sa mga bagay – bagay? Or when I’m drunk, I curse like a Somali Pirate. Ilang beses na ba kitang namura? I had always treated you worse than how you treated me yet you still chose to be my friend. I’ve even looked down on your effort to diet. Ilang beses ko bang pinansin yang tiyan mo?
We had shared a lot of memories together. The good, the bad, and the crazy stupid ones. Sa one year na nagkakilala tayo at naging magkaibigan, hindi ko na rin mabilang yung mga sandaling nakasama kita kasama ang mga kaibigan natin. Akalain mo na hindi awkward ang pagkakaibigan natin despite the age gap between the two of us. You’re even younger than JM and I’m five years older than him. Sabi nga nila, hindi naman sa edad ang pagkakaibigan, sa pagkakapareho yan ng hilig at kung sino ang kayang sumakay sa mga trip mo sa buhay. I guess us both being bikers is our common denominator. At karamihan ng mga memories natin na magkasama ay dahil sa pagbabike.
Remember that September night when you asked me to tag along with you and JM to your Padre Garcia ride. You were going there with JM and a bunch of other bikers because it was the town’s fiesta. Sabi mo pa nga na hindi na problema ang pagkain kasi marami namang kakainan. Nagdalawang – isip ako noon kasi wala akong pera tapos wala ako sa kondisyon. But you told me it was going to be an easy ride because there were no steep slopes in the route that we would take. Dahil gusto ko rin namang makalabas the Quezon, pumayag na ako. Ang agap ko nga noon sa hintayan. Nung sinabi mong half past four, nandoon na ako bandang four pa lang ng umaga. And you’re not the one I saw there, it was JM. We went to your house to fetch you because you were still sleeping that time. See? Your Achilles heel is waking up early in the morning. Long story short, we made it there safe and sound kahit hinabol pa ako ng aso nung nasa San Juan na tayo. Akala ko sa kainan lang ako mapapalaban sa Padre Garcia. Yun pala meron pa. Thanks to you I had tasted the best halo – halo at sa Padre Garcia ko lang pala matitikman yun.
Remember that time you wanted to go to Lipa City in Batangas and to this day I still didn’t know why you wanted to. It was a gloomy day in October and there was a typhoon headed to our province that day. The weather did not stop us. It actually motivated us. That was the time when my bottom bracket almost gave out as we were climbing Padre Garcia. We rode with the gloomy sky above us and the sun peeking from the dark storm clouds to shine its bright light to us from time to time. It was a chilly morning as the cold harsh winds of the incoming typhoon blew against us making it harder to pedal our bikes forward. But our plight that morning only motivated us and we arrived at Lipa by noon. Nagpunta pa nga tayo sa SM Lipa noon kahit mga mukha na tayong gusgusin. But the most epic moment of that ride was when we went home. That’s when the storm really hit us. We were already in Lucena, Talim specifically, when the sky cried its cold tears upon us. Di ba iniwala mo pa kami noon? Mali yung dinaanan natin nung pauwi na tayo. You lead us through a shortcut in Landing but you took a wrong turn so we ended up getting lost. We went back drenched with rainwater and mud all from the muddy rough roads of our previous whereabouts. Ang mahalaga pa rin ay nakauwi tayong ligtas kahit na nagkandaligaw ligaw na tayo noong gabing iyon.
And then we had our Tagaytay City group ride on January of the following year. That was actually planned by the two JMs and you. I wasn’t even planning on joining that ride because I could already imagine the struggle I would face just hearing the name “Tagaytay.” Iniisip ko pa lang, napapagod na agad ako. Yet no matter how much I struggled just to complete the journey that day, I can only remember how good the experience was. It was filled with unforgettable memories that remind me of how great of a ride that was. We played Monopoly before our group ride that night so we didn’t get any sleep or rest. Sleep deprived, we rode through the darkness along the Old Manila South Road with only the flickering street lights, and our head and tail lights telling us where to go. That epic breakfast we had in that Lomi House in Tanauan, Batangas. Standing in the overpass overlooking the Expressway trying to withstand the strong winds that tried to topple me and my bikes as I was admiring the lush greens of the view. Riding down the Talisay road as the sun starts to rise on the East and witnessing the community waking up from its peaceful slumber. Looking up at the curves of Sungay from its base with the expression of horror painted on my face. Our group enjoying our merienda at the side of a cliff laughing at our misfortune, and the decision of doing the Sungay route. The sight of us pushing our bikes just to move forward at difficult steep slopes. The view from La Leuna de Taal that really showed me how it was worth it pedaling those slopes. That moment when we were still climbing using our bikes while you and the others were already in the jeepney riding your way to the top. I could add more but I know you remember these on your own different light.
Siyempre, hindi lang naman tayo puro biking. We also established our friendship outside of our common denominator. The Milo Marathon we conquered with the two JMs was really fun, too. It was only my second time doing the 5k run. The first time was the year before with my high school friends. Joining the run started off as a joke when we saw its billboard at Tong Ho on one of our rides but became serious as we talked about it more.
Then, we had those lazy afternoons when we went to different ukay – ukay shops. Those are one of the most memorable ones, too. You’ve shared to me your weird fashion sense and I made sure you know my opinions of it. Ilang beses nga ba tayong nag-ukay-ukay bago tayo sumimba? Maraming beses na din. Then one time, I saw a jacket from H&M that I want to purchase but that time I don’t have enough money with me so you joked to me that you would buy it if I don’t hurry up. Then when I did return for the jacket I couldn’t find it and you joked that you already bought it. Sumama ang loob ko noon kasi gustong – gusto ko yung jacket na yun. Kasyang – kasya lang kasi sa akin at maganda pa ang quality kaya gusto ko talagang bilhin yun. Nanghinayang ako dun. Then you said to me that you’re just joking about the jacket but I didn’t know if I could really believe you.
To be continued.