Biking Around, Staying Fit and Sane in Time of COVID-19


Scenic portion of Manila East Road, near Cardona-Morong boundary
Scenic portion of Manila East Road near Cardona-Morong boundary

Bicycles had taken the limelight ever since the Philippine government begun easing the COVID-19 lockdown. In Metro Manila where many citizens resumed work amidst the limited capacity of public transportation, bike-to-work has become a great alternative. Hence, biking groups and aficionados started promoting a stronger cycling culture, the most notable of which were the makeshift bike lanes they set up along major roads while calling out the authorities to provide a safer, dedicated ones. News involving bikes swarmed traditional and social media. Local bike shops, whether online or physical, did not just recoup their losses due to the lockdown but had their businesses boomed.


The hype has sealed the deal; I was considering getting one beforehand and finally, I got myself a bike. But that purchase wasn't just a jump to the bandwagon. In fact, it wasn't a new hobby. I've been motorcycling since I got my first job and, with myself, being enthused about motorcycles goes the same way about bicycles. I had my childhood BMX for years before it wore out and became irreparable when I reached high school. I first considered taking the pastime to a new level when I was hooked to running five years ago, the time when joining a triathlon or duathlon also crossed my mind. It's just back then, I became a father; I barely had time to rest, let alone the time to train for an upcoming race, and a decent racing bike would cost me an arm and a leg!


Staying active and fit have become difficult since the lockdown prohibited access to sports and fitness facilities and we're stuck within the confines of our homes where the kitchen and the fridge is at one's fingertips. I obtained a bigger, seemingly unstoppable love handles and protruding stomach since working from home in mid-March. Anxiety, like with many during this lockdown period, also has its episodes. I do home workouts everyday to get rid of the potbelly and release the much needed happy hormones, and cycling, whose benefits to the mind and body are already a well-known fact, supplements those endeavors of getting back in shape. Shortly after I bought my bike, my motorcycle broke down so while it was taking trips to the repair shop, running errands also became a healthy chore.


The months-long lockdown had me longing for travel. Before I got a mountain bike just a month ago, I was excited as a child, wallowing in the thought of using it to hit the road in the looming "new normal"—physical distancing and whatnot. I ultimately thought then of bike touring Infanta and Real, Quezon once the COVID-19 crisis becomes manageable.

Even when authorities begin lifting travel restrictions, allowing travels for leisure, issues concerning safety will persist until the vaccine gets discovered, which, as of writing, is not yet in sight. Without it, anyone is at higher risk of catching the virus in a transport terminal, on a long provincial bus ride, in the airports or in-flight, in the ports or while aboard a passenger vessel. So biking, which was allowed—and recommended for essential journeys—in the lesser strict quarantine measures, could be a non-contact way to navigate around. It would be hitting two birds with one stone: staying fit and easing the travel itch.

Purple dusk at Binangonan Fish Port
Purple dusk at Binangonan Fish Port

Since the government placed Rizal province under GCQ, apart from running errands, I ride daily for an hour, until sundown, around Binangonan downtown. On weekends, I go farther to the next towns, taking full rest stops at the town's centuries-old churches before pedaling back home. Church grounds, especially at before nightfall, are an ideal spot at this point. Religious gatherings are still prohibited, church doors are closed to people so there, one can observe the social distancing measure.

St. Joseph Church in Baras, Rizal
St. Joseph Church | Baras, Rizal

I went to the rustic Baras Church last Sunday, so far the longest I cycled at about 15 kilometers from home. The church was situated a couple of blocks from behind the town's old munisipyo so the church patio was quite far from the rumbling engines of vehicles passing the main road. No one's in sight except my friend Nico that I rode with, a guy in gym outfit walking his dog, and a church staff who occasionally goes in and out of the parish office. The place was serene. Chirping birds, the swishing leaves and the almost inaudible Angelus emanating from inside the barricaded church doors were all I can hear. It was a respite, both to the pumped-up limbs and the jaded soul.

Same goes with the previous week when I pedaled 10 kilometers en route the historic Morong Church, whose imposing frontispiece puts anyone in awe—Nico may attest to that, it was his first time to see the church. We reached the empty church grounds at dusk, the moment when crickets started chirping. It was a de-stressing silence, the much needed ambiance to declutter one's mind.


Biking around helped get rid of unhealthy habits and anxieties brought about by being stuck at home. I'm now looking forward to the moment this crisis goes under control. That moment when we can again go to the gym, play our favorite sports, and take that flight, cruise and long-haul road trips worry-free. Because traveling itself is a form of therapy.



DJ RIVERA

Filipino, dad, office guy, hobbyist. Writes computer programs on weekdays, works on just about anything on weekends. Click here to know more.

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