Our day started nice and early! Cyril met a few kids from the basketball game the night before and told them we would shoot around with them first thing in the morning! When we arrived to the courts the next day we were surprised to see how many kids were there. It is evident that several of the kids here live and breath basketball 24/7. It's inspiring to see how passionate they are and it reminds me of when I was their age. I would be playing street hockey everyday from the time school ended until bedtime. During our shoot around Ross and I distributed more equipment while Cyril gave a brief lesson to a few girls who were keen to learn more about basketball.
After the shoot around we had a quick breakfast, where Cyril and Ross loaded up on pastries. In their defence, they were incredibly delicious. On this trip though we have had our vices. Mine is probably soda. Every shack we stop at I will buy a cola and finish it within a few seconds. Cyril's is definitely pastries and Ross has too many to list.
By 9:30am we were on our way! Today was exciting because our wolf pack of three was turning into six. Ross' uncle (John), brother (Sean) and brother's girlfriend (Sally) were all joining us for the last stretch. At first, we had a challenge finding them. The meeting spot that they gave us turned out to be in the middle of the jungle. Clearly this wasn't a good move to make the three stooges go into the jungle. We biked roughly 2.5 km into the jungle and we couldn't find them. The off roading was fun, but it wasn't good for the trailers we were carrying on the back of our bikes. Thus we decided to change the meeting area and thankfully we eventually found John, Sean and Sally!
The distance from Nabas to Boracay is only 20km, so we thought that today's bike ride was going to be fairly easy. Unfortunately, we underestimated the hills and the heat. A deadly combination. Each day that we have been biking it feels like it's been getting hotter and hotter. Due to the heat, Ross and I have some pretty epic tan lines. Someone should have told me not to wear my sunglasses for the entire trip.
Once we hit the hills Sally put all five of us guys to shame. She made climbing hills look so easy. Her hair and makeup looked perfect while I was almost passing out trying to catch her, Sean lost his tire and the rest of the guys were slowly making their way up.
After we passed the stretch of hills we made many stops to hand out equipment. This was the first opportunity for John, Sean and Sally to hand out equipment and play with the kids, so it was extra rewarding for them. It never gets tiresome to see the joy and excitement of the children when they receive a simple piece of sports equipment. Furthermore, it's been really awesome when we have had the chance to spend time with the kids and play with the sports equipment we gave them. We are all hopeful that the sports equipment will be shared and last for a while. Cyril and I had a small debate about whether we buy high quality equipment and hand out less or buy lower quality equipment and hand out more. I don't think there is a clear answer, but hopefully what we are doing will inspire lots of people that in the future we can afford to buy large quantities of high quality equipment for Wehaul2play trips.
By 3pm we reached our final destination. It pains me to say that Cyril technically won the final yellow jersey. In controversial fashion if I may say so. All of us were making a stop to drop of equipment and Cyril told us he was going to bike ahead to handout more equipment. 10 minutes later we reached Cyril and he's standing underneath the final sign with a smug look on his face. He claims he didn't know the sign was up ahead but we have already coined him the Lance Armstrong of Wehaul2play.
The final stretch! Boracay is our final destination! However, we will still have a couple more days of distributing equipment while we are in Boracay. Overall this experience has been incredible. I've learned so much and everyone we have met along our journey has been so tremendously kind to us. The beauty of the Philippines has left us in awe and to top it all off I couldn't have picked two better guys to do this trip with. We have had many laughs already and there's been a good balance of chirping and supporting each other.
Love ya Ross and C!
Day 3: Today we rode from Kalibo to Nabas.
There were a few decent hill climbs here.. Hayes remembers how much I love these from our last trip through Laos. It's Day 3 of riding so the bodies are a little sore but we try to keep it positive. After every turn on a hill I hear Rusty say "never trust the corners."
Meaning around the corner is most likely another hill.
Each district on Panay Island likes to officially welcome you into their zone by putting up a big "Welcome" sign. So what we did was we said the first person to reach a "welcome" sign has captures the "yellow jersey" (like in the Tour de France bike race) and is the unofficial mayor of that town.
So since I'm riding with a bunch of guys with no grit, I have a few yellow jerseys on the day.
However Rusty took down Nabas sneakily to end the day which is unfortunate because since we're staying in Nabas I've had to get him waters all evening.
There was one funny exchange though... So usually there is a welcome sign for entering the district and another welcome sign up ahead for entering the town.
So after Ross took the Nabas District, Isaac just bolts! Looking for Nabas Town.
Ross is still celebrating behind us but i decide to go get Isaac. I gun it for him. I reach Isaac and stay very close behind him and use Isaac as to block the wind. I am expending far less energy cycling right behind him since Isaac is absorbing all of the wind. In the cycling world they call this "drafting."
The best part is Isaac had no idea I was drafting behind him for like a kilometer, so I'm riding right behind him as quiet as possible ready to make my move... You should have seen the anguish in his face when he finally took a look back and realized I was there... Unfortunately there was no welcome sign to Nabas town but I am now in Isaacs head. He knows he can't break away from me. I will always catch up. Haha!
Fortunately wehaul2play is not just about bike racing, it is about assisting and promoting physical activity to impoverished areas. so when I wasn't taking down yellow jerseys I really tried to make some observations as to how these communities are functioning. I asked myself a few questions during today's journey:
What are the kids doing before we hand them equipment?
Keep in mind right now is the summer holidays for the kids in the Philippines so most of the schools are empty. Most of the kids we see are between the ages of 8-14 years old.
I was very encouraged to see that most kids are with other kids socializing or playing. I rarely saw kids by themselves. Now the kids are very resourceful when it comes to play. There was a group of boys playing on concrete circular construction structures just jumping up having a good time and playing a little hide and seek.
I would see some kids working cutting fruit or hauling branches or doing some sort of labor for their families. The kids are very cohesive and affectionate. They are usually laughing with their arms around each other and hanging all over one another. Doesn't matter if it was boys girls or a mixture. Some groups were family members and some were friends but they mostly acted similarly. It was very difficult to tell if they were related or not just by their actions unless you asked them.
What do the children do after they receive the equipment?
I saw a wide range of responses here. Some children are very shy and think there is some sort of catch or that they have to buy it so they can be quite hesitant. In this case the 3 of us will play with the equipment showing them how it's used and then we will just leave it there and ride off. I usually look back and see if they've used it after, and once we've left they start playing with the gear. Some kids are very keen on showing us their athletic skills. We were playing volleyball with a group of 12 year olds and we were very impressed with their passing form.
All of the kids are very gracious, they have all said "thank you" when they are receiving the equipment. Even the ones we leave it for will yell "thank you" as we ride off.
Some kids/parents ask for more gear but we explain that the equipment is to be shared and they usually don't resist that notion.
Is there a difference between how the boys and the girls view sport?
Girls and boys both play. Which is great. And they play with each other which is also encouraging. However there still is a bit of the gender roles notion, that boys should play basketball and that girls should play volleyball. This is also reinforced by the adults creating boys basketball leagues and girls volleyball leagues. But recreationally I see the girls shoot around with the basketballs for fun so it is clear they don't "just" love volleyball. I was handing out some equipment and I asked a girl, what would you like? And she said "basketball..." And then she caught herself and said "I mean volleyball..". So I told her, "hey it is okay to like basketball, girls can play basketball too! Boys can play volleyball as well... I'm happy to see both genders playing but there is still some gender role stereotyping taking place here. Hopefully we'll see a girls basketball game on the courts in the near future.
What type of infrastructure do I see in the communities?
The nicest buildings I see here are the churches. They are large and quite extravagant compared to the houses and other buildings. There is a huge emphasis on sport here. Most open spaces have a make shift volleyball court. There are basketball courts and hoops everywhere. Some have wooden backboards, some have concrete ones. On the end of most of these basketball courts is a stage usually. I found this quite interesting because these communities don't have a lot in terms of material structures but they make sure their basketball courts are painted and colorful similar to the churches I saw.
I thought to myself why is such an importance on the court? My question was answered this evening in Nabas. Around 4pm we saw around 20 kids shooting around on a court... They asked me to dunk but well, ya those days are long gone for me.
Around 8pm I return and there are 2 teenage boys teams playing, with PA system announcers, chalk board as the score board and referees calling the game. But I look around and just about EVERYONE is there...
The crowd is cheering, supporting and applauding a good play. And these kids were playing hard! If they are open they attack, if a teammate is open they pass the ball. It was quite frantic as both teams are pressing but it was a fast paced entertaining game. One team used a 2-2-1 full court trapping zone and the other team was running a form of a run and jump defense. Anyways back to the court. I realized that the basketball court is the town meeting place. Everyone comes together here. Everyone has a roll as a participant, an official, or a spectator. There were kids there as young as 3 years old and there were grandparents there as well all together at one place mixing and mingling. One funny moment was when a 3 year old ran onto the court in the middle of the game while one team was shooting free throws! She ran right up to one of the referees who I'm assuming the referee was her father haha.
The people here place a high priority on sport for the same exact reasons why we do or should do back home. It teaches their young life skills, keeps kids off the street, gives them something to celebrate and it reinforces their community.
Thank you all for helping support sport and the impact it has on a community.
For Ross and Isaac
After our first day of biking in the Phillipines we were very excited about what lay ahead of us in the coming days. After a nice little 9 hour sleep in the small town of Altavas, that included a 2 hour long torrential down-pour and a group of roosters that made noise from about 430am on, we were somewhat refreshed and ready to hit the road....
So far on this trip we have adopted this mentality known as "DWI", which stands for "deal with it". Any time there is a negative situation that is thrown our way I can hear Cyril mutter "DWI boys" .. He explained to me this notion of "DWI" simply by saying that the Navy Seals are continuously thrown into scenarios that are unexpected, but they always find a way to get their job done (they deal with it). Any problem we have is responded with "DWI boys". Ross: "It's too hot", C: DWI boys". Ross: "My butt hurts", C: "DWI boys". Isaac: "Why can't the Canucks win?", C: "DWI boys". I feel as though Cyril actually thinks he is a Navy Seal in his life some times!
After a delicious Filipino breakfast, we were on the road by 10am. Early on in the day we made a few drops to some children, before we noticed a lone girl named Caroline playing basketball by herself with an old beat-up ball. We quickly replaced that ball will a new one and were surprised by a local Filipino lady named Emma. She introduced herself and we chatted for awhile before she invited us for some juice and to meet her family. To our surprise her sister had just arrived home from Canada, more specifically a town just south of Calgary. After a few quick introductions, she was quick to point out that the Calgary Flames had recently beat mine and Isaac's favourite team the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs. Not only do we have to hear from Cyril about how awful the Canucks are, but now we have a Filipino family giving us a hard time as well! After giving away some sports equipment to the family and hanging out for a bit we were on the road again. Thanks to the family for their gracious support!
One thing we have noticed thus far is how friendly and polite the kids in the Phillipines have been. Often times they are very stand-offish, but once they realize these 3 strange foreigners are there for good reasons they are so thankful and happy to receive the gear. They truly are the nicest kids in the world. Later in the day we had the opportunity to give some balls/equipment to a group of 8 young kids and were able to play basketball, badminton and volleyball for a solid hour with them. This was definitely the highlight of the day. Overall we dropped about 70+ pieces of equipment off today that made many kids smile ear to ear. It definitely makes every ounce of sweat and discomfort worth it!
After a 42km day we arrived in the City of Kalibo and were pleasantly surprised to find the sports equipment that we had ordered in from Roxas City had arrived at the bus station for pick up.. We are stocked up and ready to go over the next 3 days for the home stretch, thanks for all the support out there!
Day 2: Our First Roadblock
Our first day of our trip was a smashing success! We were pleasantly surprised how smooth things were going. Unfortunately, our luck ran out on our second day. We hit our first roadblock. While checking our bikes and making small tunes ups in the morning we discovered that one of the bike pedals on our bikes was broken! The tread inside the pedal was completely stripped and the bike pedal would not stay in. At this time, we weren't too worried about it as we didn't think it was too difficult to fix. The staff at our hotel were incredibly friendly and gave us directions to the nearest bike shops. Once we arrived at a bike shop we were told that we needed a new part to fix our bike pedal. Unfortunately, none of the bike shops were able to accommodate us with the part we needed. Roughly 3 hours had passed and we still had a broken bike. We were unsure of what to do and we wanted to hit the road as soon as possible. Thus our final decision was to purchase a new bike from one of the bike shops. We decided to donate our wounded bike as it was still useable. Especially, if the pedal gets replaced. We gave the bike to a kind 17 year old kid who helped us through the entire process of trying to fix the broken bike. Needless to say, he was incredibly happy. Overall it was a crazy morning, but we were finally on our way by noon.
About a kilometre into our bike ride we made our first stop to handout some sports equipment to a few kids. Giving out the first piece of equipment and seeing the joy and smile on the faces of the children made us forget all about our chaotic morning. It was exceptionally heartwarming to see how grateful the children were when they received an item of sports equipment.
During our bike ride it became quite evident how popular basketball is out here as we passed countless basketball courts. Therefore, we
made a concerted effort to stop whenever we passed a basketball court with children there. Especially if they didn't have a ball. Something that we also noticed, which was a little surprising was how many makeshift volleyball courts there were. Once again we made sure to stop whenever we passed a volleyball court with children.
Every stop we made was rewarding, however, one of our most memorable stops was when we passed a house that was having a birthday party. There was a little girl who was having her 10th birthday. We decided we would give her a few badminton rackets and a skipping rope. We also serenaded her by singing happy birthday. Everyone at the party were so friendly and grateful to have us there. They provided us with delicious juice and tried to convince us to eat some cake, but we were full as we just ate lunch.
By around 5pm we reached our destination of the day Altavas. Altavas is small town roughly 40km away from Roxas City, which is where we started. Before we went to find accommodation for the night we passed another basketball court where there was a men's basketball game happening. We stopped to watch as there were many spectators there. It was fascinating to see how into the game the spectators were. After the game we shot around with some of the local kids. It was an enjoyable experience to say the least.
In the end, a bumpy start to our day turned into a fun, adventurous and successful day. Every encounter we had was enjoyable and the overwhelming theme here so far is how kind and friendly everyone has been to us!
Practicing their bumping skills
A group shot after we gave these kids a basketball. The boys want to be like Lebron James.
Wow what a day and a half here... People often ask me ask me "how are things going?" And I often respond with "busy, but good...". That is exactly how I would describe today. We faced a lot of adversity earlier in the week dealing with dismantling and assembling our bikes and trailers. Some how on Thursday it went very smoothly.
We had a red eye flight Friday night/Saturday morning to Manila so we were able to go down to Yongkang Lu for dinner with some colleagues and friends before our flight.
As you can see in the photo above, the boys are ready...
After 2 flights we arrive in Roxas City, Panay Island, Philippines around noon. Pronounced "Roha" City. A little Spanish flare.
Mission 1: get our butts to our to hotel with our bikes and trailer... I saw a gentleman wearing a visor in the parking lot and I knew since he has such trendsetting style that he would be willing to help us out. He was a bit hesitant at first but then I ripped my visor and we shared a special moment. I think he realized we are the only people in Asia still wearing visors.
There is a serious sense of excitement and energy in this country in anticipation for the Pacqiao vs Mayweather boxing match. There are signs and posters everywhere showing their support for their golden son.
Mission 2: Build our bikes and trailers. Big shout out to Paul Hayes for showing me how to do this on our last tour. 3 bikes and 2 trailers were put together in about an hour and a half. We got a sense for the heat out here though. It is about 38 degrees out here and working out in that was a bit challenging but we battled.
Mission 3: Get Equipment
So the challenge here is buying enough equipment to fill our trailers + getting equipment shipped to future locations on our journey for when we run out. This is especially challenging when we one of our cyclists is a Philippino living legend...
As soon as we walked inside of the mall this crowd mobbed him asking for autographs, and photos while chanting "Rusty, Rusty!" I'm pretty sure I saw a 17 year old girl faint when she grazed his hand it was nuts...
By the time it came to buying equipment not 1 store had enough pieces to sell to us and ship to us. So we bought from 2 different stores.
Ivy my love... Thank you and your staff for your kindness and advice for the shipping. The service at Robinsons was great!
We ended the evening listening to music and eating food accompanied by our my main man San Miguel...
Today was busy but successful. Just the way we like it! I love the energy in this town. From the choir singing to everyone as we get off the plane to the pride this country has shown for their golden son Manny Pacqiao. We have met so many helpful people and it is only day 1. Big day tomorrow. Looking forward to getting up early to hand out equipment and explore this country.
Thank you all for your support.
For Isaac and Ross