BIKING JONI EXPLORES MINDANAO ALONE
SAMAR ISLAND GUIDE: EXPLORER JONI A. BONIFACIO TEL: 055-2512301
CELL:09192943865 / 09053233572
April 8 - 14, 2003
Joni’s solo biking conquest on Philippine islands…
...making history on wheels and determination
By CHITO D. DELA TORRE
ONLY ONE young Samareño till now can claim the credit of having toured solo the Visayas and Mindanao area, and part of Luzon, for all that it takes touring with the use of a mountain bicycle without relying on outside financial support. Twenty-four year old Joni Abesamis Bonifacio pedaled for 253 hours in span of six years to complete nearly 3,000 kilometers of all kinds of roads found only in the Philippines. A good -looking bachelor who spent his boyhood, in his native town Catbalogan, capital of samar, the country’s third largest island finished in March 2001 his Bachelor of Science in Biology at the Cebu Doctors College in Cebu City, Philippines history’s “Queen City of the South.” His thoughtful mom. Albina, a store business proprietor who also sells daily and weekly newspapers in Catbalogan’s commercial hub, has been his sole financier for his biking ventures that may yet prove to be an inexpensive local tourism promotion strategy at rediscovering the archipelago’s beautiful islands, exotic flora and fauna and awe-inspiring natural and historical landmarks.
Joni is presently re-drafting his three pictorial books on his cycling adventure. The book drafts contain color photographs, either taken by him or by others who exhibit excitement each time they notice the lone biker as a total stranger in their locality. They depict the places he has been to and events of cultural interests that he has seen, with some documenting how Mother Nature makes life refreshing and worth nurturing.
“I plainly believe in the government’s tourism objectives and I want to prove to my fellow Samareños that their country teens with endless sights and objects of admiration,” Joni has repeatedly been into local television programs (Waray-Waray La and Issues Today, both shown as community programs of Decobeam Cable TV Services in Catbalogan, owned by spouses Eligio and Amalia Cumpio and co-managed by electrical engineer Ray P. Gaspay, a feature him and his TREXPLORE: The Adventure Club, a young organization which he founded years back and still heads as president.
Verily, he has included his personal experiences and insights from cycling tours in his lectures and briefings to various audiences whose gathering require his presence. His last audience composed of young and adult scouts from Western Samar province’s 25 town and the constituent city of Calbayog in the north who gathered at the rustic village of Rawis (in the legendary town of Basey, about 110 kilometers south of Catbalogan or 25 km from Tacloban City via the world famous San Juanico Bridge) which played host to the 7th Provincial Scouts Jamborette under the auspices of the Department of Education (DepEd) Samar schools division. He tells his audiences to also tour the Philippines. The same advise Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon in Wow Philippines appealed to domestic and foreign tourist.
“Beside being profitable, tour-biking can help introduce to one’s own community useful knowledge and practices observed in arm toured, including strong moral and cultural values that can even improve our appreciation of affective local governance, “he says with confidence.
Conqueror on Bi Wheels
Joni’s last 22 days solo biking schedule credited him with a total biking time of 130 hours speeding off from Catbalogan to the Visayas Island, Mindanao and back to his endeared home town where fans, especially admiring lasses are constantly in wait for his new stories and plans of adventure. He sweated out a total road length of 1,420 km, pedaling up a tough cycling average of 11 kilometers per hour or 187 meters per minutes. Of course, he could go as fast as 60 kph, but often he had to slow down to get a better view of the surrounding been to 50 famous landmarks in Visayas and Mindanao, including picturesque mountains, verdant hills grotesque verdures, inviting beaches, waterfalls, shrines, and others items and points of tourists admiration and interest which make up the Philippines enviable preponderance.
To him, it has been a historic “solo conquest” of places that are always alien to one’s rural boyhood.
Like a Scout
Joni’s biking sprce was hindered five times only by a flat tire. That never was a problem. Though, He always sets out prepared for a long journey, ensuring the durability and sustenance of his 15-kilogram mountains bike as could brace up his own body weight of 120 pounds (54.3 kgs.) at a height of 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters). A scouting leader and advocate himself, his traveling motto is: “Laging Handa”. (Bw always prepared). From September 25 to October 24, last year, he had with him a 9-kilo back-up luggage plus portable equipment or gear and repair devices.
Mindanao Record Joni’s longest biking time (56 hours and 30 minutes) was registered in Mindanao where negotiated a grueling 636-km stretch. It seemed Joni averaged 11.26-kph or 187 km per minute in that country’s second largest island. “Of course, I could speed up like a wind, but some roads ascend up to 30 degrees while some portions of the national highway and provincial roads are difficult to go by on account of road craters, if not just potholes, and pools of often murky water, including slippery sections, all of which prompted slowing down,” he recalls.
All the way from September] 26 to October 23, he spent exactly P10,000. fourteen percent of this went to expense for maritime travel. The seven ferry trips that he took in crossing the seas over to from island to island entailed a fare rate for himself and another for his mountains bike, plus a terminal fee. Ferry boating took him a total of 27 hours. It cost P60 for the-the-terminal-fee at Calbayog City, and his first take-off point en route to Cebu City, which meant eleven hours a sea. The same amount was charged in Surigao City when sea travel was after Cebu City, his next ferry connections were those between Toledo City and San Carlos City on Oct. 1, on Oct P400 to get inside the following vicinities: La Bamba Resort (paying P 330 of the fee). Dakak Beach Resort (P200), Dela Mar Resort at Timoga Cold Spring (P35), Gardens of Malasag (P20), Ardent Hot Spring (P75), Katibasawan Falls (P10) and Santo Nino Cold Spring (15).
After getting his mom’s blessing and an afternoon snack at her Abesamis store on Sept. 26, Joni heeded for Calbayog, l caving behind 166 kin of the deteriorating Maharlika Highway which made him pedal for 13.5 hrs non-stop. A passenger bus completes this distance in an hour only. His next 21 days saw him and his bike in Cebu, Negros, Mindanao mainland, Camiguin Island, Siargao Island, and Leyte. In Cebu, he biked 50 km in 2.5 hrs. per his watch monitor. As a biking tourist. Joni had to have his personal partaking of the ambience of the places of interest in his itinerary. The spots included the Capitol building of Cebu, which is a landmarks, the Mount Kanlaon in Kanlaon City, Sonedeo Hanging Bridge and La Bamba Resort in kanbankalan. In Dumaguete City on Oct. 3, Joni spent long minutes of the day at the Dumaguete Cathedral the Dumaguete Boulevard and the Silliman University compound, and for viewing and examining the historical dumaguete Belfry, as well as watching the Bugasan Festival. By October 5, he visited Dapitan’s St. James Church, another of the Philippines” famous landmarks and then mused at the historical Mindanao Relief Map and the Rizal Shrine before swimming at the Dakaka beach. Two days later, he went to the Dela Mar Resort in the Iligan to bathe in the really cold springs. The following day, he swam at the Midway, a white beach in Initao.
On Oct. 9, he visited five tourist spots in Cagayan de Oro City, namely: the Xavier University Museum, Xavier University, the Gardens of Malasag (an eco-tourism village), Cagayan de Oro Gardens (a somewhat exhilarating cemetery), and the Macahambus Cave. His next stop was Camiguins where he toured 1 place of attraction for three days with his bike. On Oct. 11, he was at the Islet Beach Resort, Mantigue Island (for its beach) and the Ardent Hot Spring. Oct. 123, he watched the grandeur of the Katibawasan Falls, explored Mt. Hibok-hibok, and sauntered the Jasmin Beach, Cave Beach and White Island, and the Paras Beach Resort. “ Samar can make its own beaches as beautiful and clean as those that I visited,” Joni muses again. On his last day there, Joni had gone to the Walkway, which leads to the old volcano and the Via Crusis (a mountain panorama and a religious spot), then to the Sunken Cemetery, then next the old Church of Camiguin, the Santo Niño Cold Spring and the Molo Watch Tower.
Hanging on his head has been the nation’s old unsettled quiz on where exactly was the First mass held. Wanting to find an answer for himself, he pedaled to Butuan City on October 15, visiting the Butuan Regional Museum and the Balangai Shrine Museum. The next days, he was in Magallanes, sizing up the Bitaug Tree, the country’s oldest tree, and the historical Magallanes Marker. “I didn’t find the answer,” he admits, hoping however that all Historians will come together towards settling the historical rebus. On Oct. 16 Joni biked to Lake Mainit in Agusan del Norte, and on Oct. 18 at Surigao City, he visited the city’s local version of the Luneta Park and then the City Hall Landmark. By the day’s end, he was already surfing in the Cloud 9 Surfing Resort beach in Siargao Is., where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had reported enjoyed surling and scuba diving early last year (2002). On Oct. 19, as Waray-Waray braced for the Leyte Landing commemoration in Palo town back home, Joni swam in the coastal waters of the Pacifico Surf Beach, which Siargao also boasts. Two days after, he was out for the historical attraction in Lipata. He mused at the expanse of the Battle of Surigao Strait. Before moving down to the Mabua Beach Resort and the Punta Baluarte Beach, both in Surigao. On the last leg of his tour, he was homeward bound. It was already October 24 and yet felling great standing on the soil of Leyte one again. There he revisited the St. Niño Shrine, Bayluan Tower, and the Leyte a Provincial Capitol, all situated in Tacloban City, before heading back for Catbalogan via the San Juanico Bridge. Finally home, still with his bike between his things as he stopped at the foreground of the Samar Provincial Capitol, Joni turned his head towards Samar Island’s only obelisk and screamed: “Victory! I have Conquered Mindanao!” Plaza promenading fans nearby who knew about his biking objective through Decobeam’s local channel 7 gave him a congratulatory applause for his successful conquest on bike.
Some Mindanaoanons unfamiliar to solo biking could only raise their eyebrows or turn their head towards Joni each time he passed by them while he was in his biking apparel and with his equipment still intact. It was particularly so when time was up for a night rest. Joni smilingly elucidate: “ I had to explain about my objective, and the answer would always lead them to a series of more questions, about Samar, what kind of people Waray - warays are, what are our ecotourism specifics and priorities, elcetera. But there were questions that yielded new friends to my own benefit, and me as their new friend in turn.”
Police stations, which welcomed him with warm hospitality as he requested for a night’s rest for his fatigued muscles, were immediately accommodating after asking questions. At a time when terrorism walked in the streets of the world, asking one unfamiliar face about personal circumstances was a necessity. Even in Mindanao, not everyone could with certitude identify if an individual was an Abu Sayyaf member or not. Since Joni was a stranger to them although looking more like a Hollywood actor, the police officers had to ask, just the same. His polite and honest replies always earned all of them for him as his new friends, and him for them as their new friend. The remarkable police stations were those in Canlaon City in Negros Oriental, Kabankalan in Negros Occidental, Dipolog City, Oroguita City, Baliwoan in Misamis Oriental, Gingoog City, Surigao City, and Del Carmen in Siargao Island. Not only did the police provided him a comfortable night rest, they also guarded him.
A similar hospitality was demonstrated in Liloan. “The nice treatment alone can make you visit them again in the near future, “Joni observes, clearly satisfied.
Apart from police headquarters, houses of friends were particularly snug and cordial, with added amenities, so to speak. For his first overnight stay in Cebu City, Joni re-treaded his way to the boarding houses of a certain Tony, where he spent his college days. His other sleeping and sprucing up hours were spent in the homes of friends, some of whom are acquaintances in previous mountaineering treks and spelunking activities over which he himself is becoming an emerging authority. These included Riza Mercado in Dumaguete, Dodong Reales in Iligan, Butch Picar in Cagayan de Oro, Cris Rodriguez in the old volcano site in Camiguin, Carlo Mission in Butuan, Marion Magno in Cabadbaran of Agusan del Norte, Dennis Sarabosing in Surigao City and Luchie Ragasa in Tacloban City.
Next Target: Luzon
Joni is convinces he could win newer friends and learn more about the Philippines during his Future Island hopping and province after - province sojourning.
When would that be and where? “In Luzon, God willing maybe by October or December this year,” he hopes “It was, indeed fun to explore and tour our own country the Philippines. The scenic beauty and the hospitality of the local folks within the famous spots I have been visited, I really find it so exciting and unforgettable experience ever in my whole life. Joni stressed in closing this 24-years-old bachelor hinted that he intends, too to explore the famous and well known peaks and caves in the country, as mountain climbing and spelunking is one of his recreation obsessions.