Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bike To Work (Conquer Your Fear)

I have been doing a bike to work kind of strategy lately with my Dahon D7 Curve Folding Bike. The very first time I thought of doing this struck fear in my consciousness. I was reluctant. I thought of a lot of negative things of getting to work on a bicycle. To get to work from where I live, I have to survive what is reputedly considered as one, if not, the most dangerous road in Metro Manila - Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. I thought that it is definitely a bad move to ride a bicycle to work specially if you need to cycle on this road.

But by turning vegan in November 2016 radically transformed my way of thinking about fear. To conquer fear, we should avoid ingesting it! Being vegan has deterred me from ingesting the fear felt by animals who were lined up in slaughterhouses to be killed. Imagine the fear of this cow who is next in line. If we eat the animals who have trembled in fear before being killed - that fear would logically be part of our body or consciousness. It is that kind of fear that prevents us from doing what we really want to do and enjoy the kind of life we want.

With fear reduced, I was able to conquer the most of it. Fear has been transformed not as a deterrent but a stepping stone to take that leap of faith. If others can do it, why can't I? Instead of focusing on the negative or what can get wrong, I began to think of how to survive this reputedly dangerous road on a bicycle. I devised a strategy to (1) cycle only on the safest part of Commonwealth Avenue. After observing other cyclists plying this road, I have realized that there are areas that are relatively  "bike friendly" or are wide enough to cycle safely. Part of my tactic is to ensure that (2) I am wearing the proper gear (particularly a helmet) and that (3)  my bicycle is in great condition (focusing on the brakes and the wheels). During my ride, (4) I obey all traffic rules and regulations and (5) I am always conscious about my surroundings focusing on my safety and others on the road.  But the best move that I always employ is to (6) pray and ask for guidance. With all these, I am able to conquer fear and shift to a "bike to work" kind of life.

Street Life (Buddy)

I have been riding a bicycle to work with the Dahon D7 Curve Folding Bike. I really find this bike very appropriate for my work commute along the reputedly dangerous Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. I was first reluctant in using this bicycle considering its very small wheels. What I used before in my attempt for a "bike to work" kind of existence is my hybrid bicycle which is definitely faster. However, after trying the D7 Curve I discovered that its being small adds to that much needed maneuverability when trying to squeeze into small spaces between vehicles, pedestrians or commuters. It is lightweight making it easier to carry on the steps of the overpass to the other side of the highway.

I am beginning to enjoy going to work on a bicycle. It is dangerous given the lack of bicycle lanes on major parts of Commonwealth Avenue. With risks lurking on every pedal, I became more aware of my surroundings. Perhaps with this added sense of awareness, I was able to see "street life" on a different angle. Riding a bicycle to work or to any other destination made me more connected to the "real world". Seeing life while on a bicycle is entirely different when you see it inside a closed vehicle. I will try to capture street life as I see it. There is really much to see about life on the streets. When on a vehicle, street life seems to pass without me almost noticing it. Ironically, when I am on a bicycle, I see vestiges of street life that is often seen everyday while actually appreciating it. I see diversity in life as common as commuters desperately waiting for a ride or vendors simply selling vegetables on the street. To see life as it unfolds, the street is a good place to start with.

Given the D7 Curve's ability to maneuver, I was able to go to those "in-between spaces" and "inner streets" where I saw life and the struggle for daily existence. Life is indeed beyond what we always expected. It is not fair. It does not wait. Rich or poor, both only have a one chance at life! We may see life or (lived it) at different perspectives but there is one common denominator - we really do not know how it will unfold.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Garden Spa (Calumpit, Bulacan)

Lawiswis Kawayan
Brgy. Buguion
Calumpit, Bulacan

How to Get Here:

From NLEX exit at Tabang
Head towards Calumpit
Turn Right at Brgy. San Marcos Entrance
Upon reaching a church, go left all the way
To Brgy. Buguion (the resort will be on your left)

What is great about traveling to a place you have not seen before is seeing it in your very own perspective. It is only during that time (when you have actually been there) where you can make an accurate judgment on whether the place is worth visiting again. But, when visiting a new place and suddenly you discover that it is not what you actually expected, the better move is not to regret but simply to find things you might enjoy.

If you just want to simply relax in a garden and swim without the crowd, Lawiswis Kawayan (Garden Spa and Resort) is a good place to be. It has a well maintained garden with signs reminding us of our blessings, a swimming pool perfect for the family and fairly decent rooms. However, if you are salivating for those very relaxing spa treatments, it is a better move to simply travel to Nurture Spa in Tagaytay. Your gastronomic cravings can also be satisfied in some other resorts within the area.

For more than thirty (30) minutes, I was able to sleep at the day bed under a shade with the chirping of birds. I took every opportunity to relax my body and mind. After a grueling week at work, I try to find time playing chess and riding my bicycle. I am presently into that "bike to work" kind of existence. One less car on the road is still one less car on the road! In my own simple way, I am able to help in lessening the notorious traffic problem in Metro Manila. Aside from the traffic, a divergence of thoughts occupied my mind while I closed my eyes listening to nature. I think this what you should expect from this resort, the opportunity to simply close your eyes and listen to what nature wants to convey.

Whenever I get the chance, I travel to a destination that I have never been before. It may be a site popularly known worldwide or a simple resort in an almost unknown locality. What is more important is being able to see and personally experience what the place has to offer (and what you should not expect). The discovery can sometimes be full of regrets. However, seeing the place in a different light beyond what previous photos purportedly tried to convey is truly enlightening. Despite such, this what makes traveling fun - the opportunity to see reality beyond the photos posted on social media.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Glamping (San Rafael, Bulacan)

Glamping - luxurious or glamorous camping
San Rafael River Adventure
Barangay Talacsan
San Rafael, Bulacan

San Rafael River Adventure literally sits at the bank of Angat River - Metro Manila's main water source! I think this is what visitors should keep in mind while visiting this park or resort. Just imagine if Angat River turns into what Pasig River is as we know it today - the water crises will definitely be catastrophic. In visiting this resort, it is therefore very important not to throw plastic in the river. There is always a way for all of us to enjoy the beauty of nature without destroying it.

One of the many things you can do at the San Rafael River and Adventure is play chess
While I was in my tent enjoying what is called as "glamping with a twist", I looked at the Angat River with amazement. It is clean! I cannot help thinking that Pasig River was once like this before - clean! But due to our neglect and "why would I care attitude", the used to be pristine Pasig River has been transformed into what it is now today -  a deplorable waterway for Metro Manila's trash.  I continue to gaze at the mighty Angat River and how it is able to nourish the residents of Metro Manila. I cannot help thinking what the future holds for this river amidst the threat of development and overpopulation.

While on a kayak my mind continued to wander about a lot of things. But one thing that occupied my mind is how we can protect the Angat River while enjoying its beauty? This river is one great gift from nature. In fact, all rivers are gifts that we should all be grateful. We have the obligation to protect and nurture our rivers. Posterity should also be given the chance to see and enjoy (not only the Angat River) but all our rivers!

In this adventure and river park there are a variety of ways to enjoy - (1) glamping; (2) stay in a glass house; (3) swim in a floating pool; (4) swim in an infinity pool with jacuzzi; (4) bonfire; (5) kayak; (6) banana boat; (7) jetskie; (8) ride an all terrain vehicle (ATV); (9) horse back riding; and (10) play chess. You can also try a river cruise and get closer to nature. The one thing that you should not do when visiting this park is throw plastic or any non-biodegradable trash into the river.

If you desire a little more privacy, it is a better move to opt for the "glamping with a twist". The tent  is perched on a raft on the river which can either be near the floating pool or where the river activities are located. There is an electric fan and an outlet to charge your gadgets. However, the relatively safer "glamping without the twist" is a good move for those with children and senior citizens since the tents are located beside the pathway near the infinity pool and comfort rooms.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Is Getting a GoPro (Hero 6 Black) a Good Move?

I just got a GoPro Hero 6 Black! Before I made this purchase, I checked several videos comparing the GoPro Hero 6 and the GoPro Hero5.  I have also read several articles comparing the two gadgets. After getting as much information as I can, I came into a conclusion that buying the Hero 6 is a better move despite the fact that it is priced higher compared to the Hero 5.  I say this with caution though. But what is clear is that the Hero 6 is the upgraded version of the Hero 5. Considering that the price difference between the two devices is not that much, I opted for the Hero 6.

The GoPro Hero 5 and the GoPro Hero 6 looks exactly the same. However, since the latter is the latest version, it is equipped with a faster processor, faster WIFI, zoom and image stabilization capability. It is primarily this feature of the Hero 6 to shoot smoother videos that made me decide to buy it instead of the Hero 5. It is my expectation that the Hero 6 despite its much higher price tag but with improved features would create better videos and photos compared to its predecessor. It is said that you always get what you paid for.

When I joined the recently concluded Gran Fondo 50 in Subic, I really felt that I could have made a better move if I was able to capture the action on video. Though I was able to take photos of the event, I knew that photographs have very significant limitations. Videos on the other hand could have provided a much detailed account of the action.  I also could have shared my experience in a more realistic manner if I have a GoPro at that time. Though I have a cellphone, I was not able to use it to take videos. (If taking videos with a cellphone is dangerous while a driving a car, just imagine how more dangerous it could be when riding a bicycle). With the voice command feature of the GoPro, it will be safer and easier to take videos while riding a bike. We all know that the GoPro can be mounted on the helmet, on the handlebar of the bicycle or strapped to your body. The possibilities are endless.

But whether or not I made a good move in buying a GoPro (Hero 6 Black) is something that I can only answer after a few months of using the device. I need to personally experience the features of this GoPro in order that I can credibly say that I made a good move.

When I was in a store in a mall in Quezon City that sells these gadgets, I again experience the same thing when I purchased my Tronsmart Encore S2 Headphone. I really wanted to compare the Hero 6 and the Hero 5. But, I was told that it is their store's policy not to open the box of the gadget until the customer has already paid for it. Well, I do understand this policy. I know that once the box is opened it becomes more difficult for the store to sell the gadget. In this case, I think it is a better move for the store to have same sample gadgets where the customer can freely hold and make some comparisons. I mean reading about the reviews and seeing it in YouTube is entirely different when you actually see, hold and examine the gadget.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Museum Cum Ethnology Center (Marikina Heights, Marikina City)

Book Museum and Ethnology Center
127 Dao Street, Marikina Heights, Marikina City
(02) 5704449

One of the smallest book in the world can be found in Marikina! And in this age of eBooks, it is no longer a ludicrous probability that real books will all end up in a museum. It is sad that the probability of real books (where you can actually touch and feel the pages) being replaced by the more convenient eBook is becoming more of a reality. In fact, it is now becoming more difficult to find real chess books. If you are asked, what do you think is better - an eBook or a real book? Perhaps, it is just a matter of preference. One hard argument for preferring the latter is you can put thousands of eBooks in a single gadget like a cellphone which in turn you can simply put in your pocket. The font and its size can be adjusted depending on your comfort. If you desire to search for the meaning of a particular word, all you have to do is press that word when reading an eBook.

A visit to the Book Museum Cum Ethnology Center can somehow give you other insights on the raging "eBook vs. real book debate". I recognize that an eBook has its advantages. However, a real book has a certain value that cannot be matched by an eBook. A real book is tangible property that can be displayed on a shelf for everyone to see and admire! A real book is art itself - just like a sculpture that can trigger a multitude of emotions. Once I saw what is considered as one of the smallest book in the world in this museum, I immediately knew I was not just seeing a book but a work of art in itself and a historical evidence!  The moment I saw the "first edition books" displayed in this museum, I actually saw how life was during that time. A real book is like a painting whose value can be dictated by provenance itself.

I admired every display in this Book Museum Cum Ethnology Center. The collection showcased not only books but other artifacts from a diverse Philippine culture. The marble sculpture of a foot that greets you in this two storey with other adjacent structures being built during our visit is a symbol of the owner's rare achievement of traveling to almost all countries in the world.

Aside from the smallest book, what should not be missed here is the unique Maranao Chess Set (male and female) described as "a form of recreation for those belonging in the upper class". I wonder why there is a different set of chessboard for male and female? Anyway, this shows that different regions in the country has its own way of depicting chess pieces like in Maranao and in Ifugao.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Better Move: Create Bicycle Lanes

I was on my way to Quezon City Hall. While walking at the underground walkway, I passed upon a huge poster made of tarpaulin material part of which is definitely good news to a lot of cyclists or those who are planning to shift to a "bike to work scheme". Quezon City is seriously contemplating the creation of (more) bicycle lanes! The very huge number of vehicles in Quezon City and in other cities in Metro Manila causes unbearable traffic gridlocks. It makes commuting by car very impractical! Whenever highways and roads are transformed into gigantic parking lots, I often regret why I did not just simply rode a bicycle to my destination. Riding a bike is healthier, cheaper and simpler. I do not need to worry about getting a parking space!

The main reason why most people are reluctant to get on a bike to work even in perfect weather condition is the lack of bicycle lanes. In cases where there are bike lanes, they are not "inter-connected" or frustratingly ends when needed the most. Bike lanes are sometimes occupied by vehicles and commuters and in worse cases inhabited by informal settlers. (Yes, inhabited literally. Just get out and bike and you will definitely confirm this as a fact.) These realities discourages biking as a mode of getting from point A to B. The absence of bike lanes miserably increases the risks of riding a bicycle in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.

The great news however is that there are efforts by the authorities to build these much needed yet long delayed bicycle lanes. I know that there had been talks, discussions and planning on what is the best move in order that these bike lanes can be built in a manner that is most advantageous to the cyclist but with the least inconvenience to the general public. I am aware that there are existing bicycle lanes in some cities in Metro Manila such as in Marikina, Pasig and Quezon City. Just like anyone who wants to use these bike lanes, I really appreciate what has been done. I wish however that these bicycle lanes are "interconnected" and rules and regulations on their use is strictly implemented.

A "bike to work strategy" often takes me to my destination a lot faster. I am able to exercise at the same time! I do not need to worry about parking! It also feels great to have that thought of not contributing to pollution. A bicycle is much simpler to maintain and I don't need to shell out anything for registration and insurance fees. No need for gasoline! If there is very heavy traffic on one side of the road, I can just carry my bike and walk on the other side. Of course, there are some inconvenience and risks on riding a bicycle to work. But, after trying the idea (bike to work) the advantages far outweighs the inconvenience and perceived dangers. I try to be very careful on the road and more aware of my surroundings. I always pray for safety!

Indeed, it is a better move to create bicycle lanes to encourage biking as an alternative mode of transportation. We all know that there had been several schemes that were experimented on to solve the notorious traffic problem in Metro Manila. After years of trying those schemes, the only conclusion that was derived from such experiments is that it did not work. Other alternative modes have to be found. Perhaps, it is time that we look at the simple bicycle as a solution to the traffic mess!

The moment that "inter-connected" bicycle lanes are created, I am sure that more people will be encouraged to shift to a healthier and less expensive way of getting to work. One less car on the road is always a car less on the road - a big small step towards decreasing the volume of vehicles! Again, just imagine if half of the cars on the road were bicycles, there would be a huge space for other vehicles to maneuver. It is very lamentable to see our major roads (EDSA and Commonwealth Avenue) transformed into one huge parking lot.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Just Get Out and Bike (And Have Fun)

I turned vegan in November of 2016. From that time on I really felt the connection of eating meat and ingesting the animal's fear and stress in the process. After I did away with my meat eating habits, I felt a lot better, lighter and I feel I can do anything. Age suddenly became a number. In December 2017, I considered myself as a more serious bicycle enthusiasts. Everything began to fall in the right place at the right time. I mean, becoming vegan has made me more connected to what I buy and what I should do in life. I considered that biking is one great way to channel my new found energy into an endeavor that is both healthy and environment friendly.

My Specialized Diverge A1 (2017)
Aside from chess, biking is taking more of my time recently. These two activities make me feel that a day is not enough. I have to juggle my time taking care of my Chihuahuas and working in an office that demands a lot of my time. In order that I can squeeze biking into my already busy schedule, I knew that I have to wake up earlier than usual. What I consider as "earlier than usual" is at 4 in the morning. Thereafter, ride my bike at 5 am and get to work before 9. I have been considering this and I actually did woke up several times at 4 am but it was not that consistent. There were times that I have to sleep very late (sometimes later than 12 in the evening) because I just need to do a lot of things either personal or work related.

What is very uncanny is I find the time between 4 am to 7 am very fast! If I woke at 4 am and get a few minutes shut eye, time seems to immediately move without a moments notice leaving me without time to actually get out and bike. It is actually very difficult to move the way I want to be from 4 to 5 in the morning as my body wants to continue sleeping. In other words, it is really difficult to get out of bed and go at 4am. During this time frame there are practically a lot of things I need to do that all of the sudden, the clock strikes 7 and I have to get ready for work. Definitely, the work schedule of 8 to 5 (Monday to Friday) is a work routine that takes away the best time of your life. An 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 schedule hardly gives you enough time to do what you really want. It does not even give you the time to exercise.

Now, I have decided to do something different. I will do more of a "bike to work" kind of existence. I plan of taking my bicycle to work from my residence in Fairview, Quezon City all the way to the vicinity of UP Diliman. This means I have to navigate and survive Commonwealth Avenue which is considered as one of the most dangerous roads in the country. I will try to be very careful and aware of everything around me. Given the constructions taking place along this road (MRT Line 7) traffic is becoming snail paced which I think will be very advantageous to a lot of bikers riding to work on this area.

Just like all other bikers out there, I will not be reluctant in going to work on a bicycle if there are safe and integrated bike lanes. It is really the lack of bike lanes that prevent most people from taking their bicycles to work. There is really no issue on how using bicycles can be very beneficial to the environment and to our health. What should be done however is to further encourage their use by more people to ease, if not totally solve, the  notorious traffic problem we are currently experiencing right now.

I want to ride my bike not only because of its known advantages. I ride bicycles simply because it is a fun thing to do. Riding a bike provides a very uplifting feeling the moment you pedal to your destination. While there may be some scientific advantages in using those "recommended clothes, gears and other stuff", I really think that biking should be a "fun" experience for everyone. I mean, it is always best to have a "just get out and bike kind of attitude" without caring too much on whether your bike is of carbon or aluminum frame, or whether you are using a flat or clipless pedal, or what kind of clothes or shoes you are wearing. What is more important is your personal comfort and safety. Grant Petersen's book "Just Ride" is definitely an eye opener for every rider who wants to bike to work, commute  on a bicycle or join Fondo Events without being unduly influenced by anything unnecessary. However,  it is a better move to buy original or authentic bicycle components but not necessarily high-end bikes.

My personal preference are flat pedals either in my mountain, hybrid or road bike. The road bike that I use right now is the Specialized Diverge A1 with flat pedals. I thought of using clipless pedals but given its inconvenience and safety issues, I think it is a better move to stick to flat pedals instead.  I do not have anything against clipless pedals. I may use it in the future. However, I find it more fun and simpler to use flat pedals where I can just use practically any shoe that I find comfortable. I do not want to be restricted to a very specific type of shoe that is compatible with clipless pedals.

Biking is supposed to be fun and simple!