“When was the last time you saw fireflies in the city?
Fireflies have fled the city due to dirty air. As factories and motor vehicles continue to poison the air we breathe, urban dwellers – cyclists, pedestrians, commuters, even those who ride cars – are affected just as much.
Why resign ourselves to this situation? Join our fight for clean air and bring back the fireflies!”
This has been the advocacy of the Firefly Brigade, a non-stock, non-profit and SEC-registered volunteer action group which spearheads the yearly Tour of the Fireflies event. Now on its 11th year, I have been happy to be part of the 5,000+ bikers who joined to promote the fight for clean air last Sunday.
With the event title, “Bike To Work, Bike To School, Bike To Play. Bike Today!”, the Tour of the Fireflies 2009 had its bike ride route covering four cities – Pasig, QC, Mandaluyong and Makati via Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare: EDSA.
The ride was exciting and fun but difficult all at the same time. Exciting because one has never been able to just bike along EDSA (just as we were not usually allowed to run at the Skyway, right?). Fun because you get to ride your bike, no discrimination here - any bike will do, in a leisurely pace together with your friends, families and new friends that you may get to meet along the way. Difficult because the heat of the sun makes it so together with the angry motorists along the heavy areas in EDSA which the bikers at some point has to contend with. But generally, it was one hell of a ride enjoyed with friends and fellow-clean air advocates as well.
It was my second year to join the ToF with my friend Pol and some of the Pinoy MTBikers and Team Paco Bikers. At a few minutes past five a.m. yesterday, I rode my bike to the Shell station in Tejeron, Sta. Ana and met with the Paco contingent. Pol also met me there coming from his house in Pasig. We biked all the way from our own homes to Tiendesitas, the start and finish point of the ride. Oh and Bobby, my running buddy, met us at Tiendesitas to experience his first ToF.
I rode mostly with Bobby and Pol – with Pol being the good friend that he is, (sipsip ako!) and being the more experienced biker, took hold of our camera and have been our photog for our much-wanted ”documentation”. We were able to see a lot of familar faces in the running community including Jeremy of Pinoy Ultra-Runners, Maui and Coach Ige Lopez and other biker friends during the ride. And what’s worth mentioning is the number of kids (yep! little kids as young as three years old) who joined the ride with their parents. Imagine the energy and tolerance these kids have completing the whole 42-kms distance of the route under the extreme heat of the sun and the challenges of the unfavorable road conditions (as Jeremy quips, we never realized how bad the roads of EDSA were until yesterday!). At the post-ride programme at Tiendesitas, there were bands who provided the entertainment, noted-composer and artist Noel Cabangon was there too. Awarding of the winners for best in costume, youngest and oldest participants and the group with the most number of members were done there too. We were also able to see and chat with Banggi, a fellow Happy Feet member. The event was capped with a raffle of various exciting prizes.
I came home, dead tired, dirty and stinky because of the prolonged exposure to the sun and dust and smoke from the vehicles but I was happy, I was ok. Yep, I did miss the Greenfield City Run. But I don’t regret it now because I enjoyed the ride and completed it without any problems. Most of all, I was able to accomplish something worth of noting - I was able to bike along EDSA (and contributed to pissing off the motorists especially the bus and jeepney drivers. Yehey! Akala nyo ha, naasar ko din kayo, hehe!) which is a one-of-a-kind “sticky” experience (read: nakapanglalagkit!) and I was also able to contribute in my own little way to the fight for clean air and to the celebration of Earth Day.
There were a lot of areas that may need to be improved in the organization of such an event of a great scale (my gosh, 5,000+ participant bikers!) but what the heck! I went there to ride, have fun and help spread the word that we all want to have clean air, if not in our lifetime but in our kids’ at least.
Hopefully, I’ll see you in next year’s tour!