The open road beckons to bikers even during the pandemic

September 25, 2020 | Source:

Overcoming the pandemic on bikes, these Filipino women defy monsters on the road

By: Cody Cepeda - / 10:36 PM August 31, 2020

Clockwise, from top left: Diana Teofilo, Jaramia “Geri” Amarnani, Yvonne and Divine Campos.

“Bago ako sumakay, nagdadasal ako.” (Before I ride, I pray).

This is the ritual of Diana Teofilo, a home-based English teacher and biker from Cainta, Rizal, each time she has to hit the road on her bicycle.

It doesn’t matter if she’s biking to work or to the grocery store, or if she’s going on a long ride or just a quick jaunt around the city. She always prays for her safety — and for other bikers like her to get to their destinations unscathed.

“No matter how safe you try to be, there are still external factors that can happen. I hope for all of us bikers to be okay, that we get to work and go home safely,” Diana said speaking in a mix of English and Filipino.

Image from Diana Teofilo

Diana started biking to work just last January. It would usually take her two to four hours commuting from work in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, to home to Cainta. Every day, she said, she would find herself in a rush and her temper hanging by a thread. The daily commute had made her quick-tempered and easily stressed.

“It was my husband who influenced me. He’s a BMX biker so he said let’s buy a bike so you’ll get exercised, too,” Diana said. “Since I started to work, because you’re tired instead of exercising, you just sleep it through,” she said.

More and more Filipinos have turned to riding bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation after President Rodrigo Duterte placed Luzon and other areas on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ECQ halted the operation of mass transportation, which left the riding public little choice to get to where they’re going—workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight and some private sector workers get shuttles or use their own vehicles.

Under modified ECQ, motorcycles, bicycles and electric scooters had already been allowed on the roads which prompted many, out of necessity, to take on the two-wheeled machine in getting around. In an Inquirer report last May 17, bike dealers and distributors reported a surge in sales during the lockdown.

Pre-pandemic, Yvonne, a credit and collection staffer, would usually take the UV Express on her commute to work from Cainta to Mandaluyong.

But when she and her colleagues were required to report for work more than three months ago, she had no choice but to turn to biking.


Image from Yvonne

She had her fears as expected. Yvonne said she last rode a bike when she was still in her youth. She said she was concerned she might have already forgotten how to ride one or might have difficulty in balancing herself. She also wasn’t used to biking on the main roads.

“I was thinking, could I handle it? My friends even told me, ‘Can you do it? Because you might collapse on the road later on and I said, I don’t really have a choice,” Yvonne said in Filipino.

Divine Campos, a mother of two girls, was also compelled to switch to biking amid the pandemic. As a school nurse connected to public schools in San Mateo, Rizal, Divine began to worry about how she would get to her work should she be required to report physically after the ECQ.