BIKING JONI EXPLORES LUZON ALONE
SAMAR ISLAND GUIDE: EXPLORER JONI A. BONIFACIO TEL: 055-2512301
CELL:09192943865 / 09053233572
2ND LUZON BIKING TOUR DECEMBER 13, 2003 FEBRUARY 27, 2004
Biking Joni Explores Luzon Alone
Biking priest Robert Reyes pursued adversarial geopolitics via solo a biking tour along the country’s main roads. His pedaling had been drawing supporters to his cause since he started it, particularly in the post-Aquino Administration era. He was ably prepared and capable, right from the start, to set out on a campaign that dramatized the need for a radical reform in governance. A part from his own clerico-political vision, he had organizations who shared with his pursuits and were there ever ready to expand on what he blazed on the trail.
Unlike this figure, Joni Bonifacio for his preparations, only had one dream in his early college days in Cebu City: to tour the Philippines on a solo biking spree. His personal mission: to verify for himself the truth about claims that indeed this country is worth traveling around Cebu on his first bicycle, he next tried to tour around Bohol, then, after finishing a bachelor of science course, he went around Samar Island. By this time, he had learned that to preserve the beauty and richness of nature in Samar, he had gone on an Advocacy campaign on that score. That sent him to interior of caves never before trailed or further in those which had already been declared ad tourist spots, other than mere microcosm of national parks. In year 2002, after being exposed to foreigners as their tourist guide, and sometimes, interpreter, he was with French explorers that discovered two more caves up in the unknown wilds of Calbiga, via Maydolong town in the Pacific province of Eastern Samar. Two caves were recorded on the bevy’s logbook in Joni’s names. Early on, in Catbalogan, Samar, his birthplace that still pretends to go slow with the march of modernity, Joni organized the Trexplore (a trek and explore adventures club), practicing as an environmentalist group, that conducts lectures in schools and to groups of adventures (professionals and businessmen, among them) on the magnificence of Samar’s attractions and how to protect and preserve them for generations yet to come.
Joni Abesamis Bonifacio, still sigle and preoccupied with Nature’s mandate for his country than being attentive to maidens that come around him everywhere he goes, has since completed his Visayas tour while being mounded on his biwheeled recer, his 15-kilogram backpack and gadgets and light equipment for mountain climbing and caving doubling the weight of his bike which is just enough for his own weight at 175 pounds at a stature of 5’7” (in my own estimate). After completing his first photo show on this tour, he went on his second long trip, this time, to the south. The traveled around Mindanao with his bike, shelling out not more than P15,000, which included fees to enter beach resorts.
Many Catbaloganons and Samarnons, mostly the adventure-lovers and students, have since loved to hear about Joni’s treks outside Samar. He is their direct investigator of Nature. Every close friend misses now this guy who is a text away for over a month now.
Last December 13, he set out for his final tour of the Philippines, up north, to Luzon. At 6:53 p.m. of that day, my cellular phone opened to this message from him: “Just arrived Calbayog City, about 72 kilometers from Catbalogan, my town. I pedaled about 4 hours on my day 1. Tomorrow Day 2 Calbayog to Allen, about 72 km ride, then ferry to Matnog.”
Waray-Waray La, the television progam which I maintain, since year 2001 via Decobeam CATV in Catbalogan, has featured Joni’s latest reports on his Luzon campaign. Joni has been keeping this columnist updated through text messages. He has, first instance, kept ,e informed of how good the police officers are to him each time he spends a night in a police station and how new friends keep coming up. “Ok. I have my notes with me after my tour I will show it to you,” his second text message said.
By December 14, he was already at the Spice of Life beach in Allen. “Swimming time” at 1:58 p.m. said he. In the next weeks into January, 2004, he was in Luzon, home away from home. “Day 1 - 2n lap. In here Brgy. Dolores, Capas, Tarlac, my relative’s house. Sat. going to trek to Mt. Pinatubo. Happy New Year and God bless,” he texted in last Jan. 1 at 7:56 o’clock in the evening. On Jan. 4, at 6:21 p.m., he reported: “Just arrived home at Capas Tarlac. Finished Mt. Pinatubo. I trekked 30 km vice versa quite tired.” Ten days later, Jan. 14, at 1:08 p.m., this message came: “I’m here Km 85 in Bugias, Abatan, Benguet. Just finished eating my lunch here at Golden Pines Hotel and Restaurant. The view here is perfect. I’m on the way to Sagada,” and on Jan. 15 at 6”14 p.m., he said: “I’m here Sagada Mountain Province here in Gambuyan Inn. Tomorrow going to explore HANGING COFFINS and CAVES here in Sagada”, and 2 hours later, at 8:09 evening, came his report: “Baguio to Sagada is 147 Km via Halsema Hi-Way hardest road in the Phil. I pass highest point 7200 ft above sea level. It’s cold and cloudy. I make 3 days.: At 9:50 the following morning, Joni was already at Calvary Hill: “Just finished seeing now to Sagada Weaving, then Caves.” By Jan. 17, a Saturday, he was already in Banaue, and his text message at 5:21 p.m. said: Going to eat my dinner. Going to stay Banaue police station.” Two days later, at 7:07 p.m. came this message from him: “I’m staying tonight at San Mateo Police Station. Tomorrow I’m on the way to Tuguegarao City.” At 2:25 p.m. two Wednesday ago, he reported” I’m here Penablanca Callo Caves. Just finished caving. I’m with D.O.T. staff.” And at 9:46 p.m., he requested thus: “Just say Hi! Hello there in Samar. I’m just fine. I met new friends here Tuguegarao City. Tomorrow I will interview Radio program here. Going Aparri tomorrow.” Last Friday , at 5:05 p.m., he disclosed: “I’m here Punta Aparri tip Northern Luzon “WHERERIVERS MEET THE SEAS.”
Chito Dela Torre
That’s the screaming declaration of Joni Abesamis Bonifacio, the solo biking Samareño, to describe what he called as his “conquest of Luzon”, in his text message to this columnist which, under a Pajulintu ring tone, came at 11 a.m. of February 11.
“Victory!” This is the same word he used of his “conquest” last year of Mindanao.
Joni went around Luzon, beginning from Matnog, Sorsogon, the starting point of his self-avowed mission of completing a biking tour of the Philippines. He left his native town of Catbalogan last December 13, at exactly 1:25 o’clock in the afternoon. He sent in this message on that day: “Malakat na ako. Advance Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.” (More backgrounders are found in the January 30, 2004 release of QN in Leyte Samar Daily Express.)
On February 10, Joni’s text message came at 2:17:45 p.m., which, as recorded to my Panasonic VHS for this week’s edition of the television program Waray-Waray La in Catbalogan, states as follows” VICTORY! VICTORY! I CONQUERED LUZON ISLAND CATBALOGAN - MANILA - APPARI - LIMAY - BATAAN IN 39 DAYS, 2560 KM, 3 FLAT TIRES, 125 TOURIST SPOTS. I’M HERE FERRY BACK TO MANILA GUD P.M.”. The following afternoon, at 2:12 o’clock, he said he was already in Manila and was with a certain manager Montenara. His text message further said:
“I MET BIKE SHOP OWNER HERE CARTEMAR PASAY. THEY GIVE BIKE EQUIPMENTS. 5 PM. I HAVE COUNRTECY CAL SEC. BARBERS D.OT.”
We shall hear from Joni very soon about the details of his pedaling mission when he returns within the next few days to Catbalogan where he said there will be a motorcade.
Before he left Catbalogan last year, he confided to this column that he would be having a photo exhibit of his Luzon itinerary, with some especially selected pictures of his tour of the Visayas and Mindanao. This bachelor founding president of the Catbalogan-based Trexplore Adventures Club, a tour guiding group of spelunkers, roads bikers and hikers, mountain climbers, and environmentalists, is also engaged in mounted photo exhibits. The exhibits included proofs of devastation and conservation of Samar’s rich natural resources particularly in support to the multi-sectorally supported mammoth August information caravan to proclaim the Samar Island-wide opposition to unregulated and destructive mining operations a rally spearheaded by the Catbalogan-based (at the Barangay Mercedes compound of the Samar State Polytechnic College fisheries department - formerly the Regional School of Fisheries) Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP). His latest exhibits included photos of caves in the Sohoton Natural Park at Basey, Samar.
Things to Mind
I was just keeping it to myself but I have been following closely Mano Chito’s articles detailing Joni’s exotic adventures that I suppose could climax in the conquer of Mt. Everest and then make it to the Guinness Book of World Records. Unknown to this writer, he was updating me with things I’ve been wishing to know about Joni, the guy (not a girl as his name may suggest) who had been one of my favorite students (through he probably took me as his worst teacher).
That was in Samar College years ago, during the early ‘90s. Joni was a high school student then, already gifted with height and looks that could pass for a showbiz kid: tall, handsome, gentleman in countenance, with good attitude, and possessing intelligence that was rather kept to himself.
I don’t know, and may Joni forgive me for this, but my impression of him then was that, he was inclined to a dubious sexuality. It was quite hard to figure out that a handsome guy as he was would show no interest in girls. Among his colleagues of school boys, though, he was kind of bully, a fearsome figure that commmanded respect and following. He wasn’t one who would throw love-struck glances to youngsters his gender.
“Joni is just being too young,” I said to myself. I was not of course mentally catapulting him to a playboy figure, but I was just comparing him to those guys his age yet were already showcasing manly advances.
I never met with Joni since his graduation I think. He may have forgotten me already given his numerous and increasing acquaintances. But he remains in my memory as a silent, unassuming fellow, endowed not just with looks but with excellent charisma, particularly in his dealings with his mentors. And how could I forget him when he, almost always, was the first one to enter the classroom every time they had a class with me? And what more, he would always sit in front, not in the least afraid of getting showered with my saliva in the course of my discussions. With these he endeared himself to me, which is reason enough for him to linger in my mind. He made it to my poor memory, in short.
When my idol columnist Mano Chito Dela Torre started writing about Joni’s escapades, I started to realized that Joni’s love was after all reserved for adventure. That he fell for it must have been triggered by something I don’t know, but I’m sure though that he is into a worthy cause. He is now a rightful symbol of endurance, if courage, of determination for his fellow Samareños to imitate, equal, or surpass.
Mano Chito’s act of documenting Joni’s extraordinary journeys is indeed commendable. The young man is making history, a name for himself and his country, and Mano Chito does well in keeping us posted with Joni’s popularity and impressive records. Imagine that, this young man of late has conquered his country with his bike! This is an exceptional achievement that should never go unnoticed. It is so thrilling for readers to miss.
To Mano Chito, thanks a lot. To Joni, congratulations. Keep up the good work. We’re proud of you!
Sunday 20, June 2004
Joni’s Solo Biking Conquest of Luzon
Some of his countrymen have been asking about “Joni Pedal”. Now, the country’s solo biking eco-tourism advocate that the bachelor Joni Bonifacio is has more stories to tell and more pictures to show. These all wrap a total of 51 days of biking to Luzon’s 148 tourist spots, 35 cities, and 17 islands, a feat which no single Filipino previously claimed. The young Catbaloganon has released exclusively to this writer the complete information about his latest adventure, just as he did when he first completed his earlier tours of the Visayas and then Mindanao.
He has come back home with two large black-covered albums of photographs, postcards and “certificates of appearance” that, other than attesting to the fact that he had bee to his “conquest objective”, also reveal how indeed the Philippines becomes more beautiful, scenic and attractive as one discovers its natural treasures up there in this country’s biggest of 7,100 islands. He used up 26 rolls of 36-shot films, which could be developed only a week ago.
Soon, Joni will appear again on local channel 7 of Decobeam CATV Services in Catbalogan, Samar, to discuss at length his memorable experiences and how successful his biking adventure had been. Joni had appeared in this channel via, first, the Waray-Waray La weekly television program hosted by this writer for its producer, the 42-member, Tacloban City-based Service Cooperative of Media Practitioners (SCMP), then, the Issues Today Wednesday programs produce by Decobeam and managed by Engr. Ray P. Gaspay, vice-chairman of the Catbalogan Cable TV Media Advocates Nucleus (CCATMAN) and also hosted by this writer. In his previous TV appearances, Joni also showed albums of pictures, mostly about things and places that had not been published before.
Setting out for his last tour of the Philippines on December 13, 2003, Joni wound it up on February 27 with a total record of 318 biking hours, all in a lone and unescorted flight on all kinds of roads that linked the Bicolanos to their counterparts in the northernmost tip of Luzon. Per his verifiable record, he had traveled a total distance of 3,557 kilometers. His tour of the Philippines with the use only of a mountain bike.
As when he set out for his “conquest of Mindanao”, Joni first secured his mom’s bless, said “goodbye for now” to the Provincial Capitol of the Province of Samar, waved at the Town Hall of Catbalogan, dropped by at the St. Bartholomew Church for a brief prayer, waved to Catbalogan and spend off for Calbayog City, then took a ferry boat in Northern Samar that took him to Bicol.
Days after he left, then weeks later, his friends and fans back home got connected to him only thru his cellular phone. With his celfone, abbreviated messages enabled Catbalogan to keep track of him, and even how he spent his Pasko and Año Nuevo. On his return to his hometown, there was not enough time for him to narrate his Luzon adventure. There had been a flashflood of urgent demands for his personal presence, particularly to environmentalists, domestic tourists, and international researchers. He could not turn them down. Even this last Wednesday, he was barely able to hand over to me portions of what he scribbled on his daily diary on his Luzon trip, as he was finalizing a new schedule for a cave exploration on request by some individuals who have developed interest in spelunking. A few days back, he had been to Northern Samar Really busy.
It had not been an expensive feat after all, Joni found out. For the whole project, he spent only P35,600, of which P7,091 went to food, P2,650 to bike repairs, P500 to hotel expenses, and P3,200 to celfone loads, among other expenses.
As he concluded each day’s exciting trip, he often had to spend the evening in a police station. His trips registered 50 overnights, 17 of which were in police stations and Joni found our how friendly and courteous the police officers are in Luzon!, “they’re worth revising,” he generously remarked. He spent 2 overnights in fire stations, 1 in a military camp, 2 in a municipal hall, 3 in a convent house, 3 in houses of punong barangay houses, 7 in houses of friends, 1 in a boarding house, 4 in hotels, 3 in a ferry boat, and 1 in a resort.
It wasn’t all biking, however. Being a cave explore and a mountain climber himself - perhaps, already an authority at a certain level for that matter - Joni had taken time to go on caving the Callao Caves and climb Mt. Pinatubo. He also bought some souvenir items from souvenir shops. On invitation, he had even attend a marriage ceremony and other social affairs which made him a special guest. A very friendly and accommodating mayor and his staff also had posed for a souvenir shot with him. To cross the seas and waters on his adventure map, Joni took 5 ferry trips, 1 fast craft, and 4 boat rides.
“Prepare your pocket money always” is Joni’s advice, especially to those who go out for a climb to the mountains or to enter caves, as well as for a visit to a resort or a museum. For his part, he shelled out P1,200 for climbing Mt. Pinatubo.
Biking Luzon gave him 3 flat tires and entailed availment of services of 2 laundry shops.
Joni weights 65 kilos. Add that weight to the loads he had with him on his 9-kilo bike 7-3/4 kilograms clothing’s and 22 kilograms of equipment. As for the equipment, well, how would you imagine a caver and a mountain climber going to his objectives? A boy scout alone does his motto: “Always be prepared.”
Now, take note of this Joni Bonifacio got a time space in “Magandang Umaga Bayan” of channel 2. he was so told upon arriving Catbalogan, back to his loving mom. On February 27 the television host asked the audience, he recalled being told, “Sino ang Pilipino na nakaikot ng buong Pilipinas na gamit lang ay ang kaniyang mountain bike?” Then, an answer from a telephone caller “Joni Bonifacio.” “Tama”, said the host. He was told by a local listener, it was commented in the same TV program that Joni is another Jose Pedal (not Pidal), perhaps for his pedaling to tour the whole Philippines, but with a quick correction: “JONI PEDAL pala!” That question developed after a cut-out article by this writer was provided by Joni himself to a newfound friend in Manila, Jerry Estevan, who turned out to be the assistant manager of Montenara Outdoor Equipment. Jerry then brought Joni to Channel 2, after a brief stop at the Montenara store. At Channel 2 (ABS-CBN), Jerry introduced Joni to his own media behind the TV program Sports Unlimited. Those new kakilala at Channel 2 seemed to have gotten interest in Joni as they asked him about his Luzon biking and then his previous solo biking tours. Jerry left with them the article. A few days later, that TV program quiz came up. When told about it back home, Joni just smiled.
1ST LUZON BIKING TOUR JUNE 2-11, 2001