A Dirty Mind
A Dirty Mind
by JP Alipio
Where the finish line is just an afterthought and the destination is the road. These were the first things that came to mind when we thought of designing the course for the Globe Cordillera Challenge. The first thing you think about when going on a trip is “I want to be in _______ (fill with your favorite destination).” A specific place in mind, a location on the map, a spot, a dot -Yet mountain biking, unlike other forms of travel, allows you the luxury of being in the perfect place all the time where the route is the spot in your mind and not simply one single point on the map. The rocky roads, the wide vistas, the scent of the air after the rain, and even the mud as it flies off your tyres into your face. The destination is redefined as the journey itself. It is too simple to say that it is the road, the rocks, the mud, or even the beautiful expanse -for biking the destination is the experience -that feeling of a high you get as your tyre dips on a rut or your eyes fall on beauty around you as you whisk by, it is elemental and basic -in a sense it brings you down to the purest form of true travel -slow enough to experience the spaces in between. The Cordillera Challenge is all about harnessing that which is already there. Unlike road races, mountain biking events afford you this luxury- it is not the best road but the worst that we seek, not that which is clear that gets our hearts pumping but one that is littered with rocks and trees -it is nature in its raw form and we saw no need to build around it because it was perfect the way it was.
The Globe Cordillera Challenge is not a race -in fact it may be the only event of its kind in the country. Mountain Biking to save the Cordillera Mountains – a silly thought for many, how can mountain bikes, these constructs of aluminum and rubber help save the forests of one the most majestic mountain ranges in the Philippines? In fact a question that arose during the press briefing on the event was what the impacts of mountain biking were to the environment. A legitimate question to which there can be a myriad of answers from absolutely negligible to slightly damaging, if you look at the whole life cycle of a bicycle from production to disposal. Yet an event like this simply put is a positive for the environment -no question about it. The Cordillera Challenge is an event conceptualized to raise funds meant for the rebuilding of the Range’s green infrastructure with the Cordillera Conservation Trust, but it has evolved into something more than simply being about the funds that are raised or the forests that are built.
This year marks the fourth year for the Globe Cordillera Challenge, in all the project has had over 300 participants and raised enough money for 100000 seedlings and 21 Roots and Shoots Forest nurseries to help rebuild our green infrastructure. Truly impressive numbers but what we do not see here is the non-monetary value of this project. Many of the participants of the Cordillera Challenge are city dwellers, folks whose daily grind consists of sitting in front of pulsating monitors and the long commute home through crowded streets only to plop down on a couch inside an airconditioned room to sit in front of another pulsating monitor. For many of them there is a disconnection from the green. And even though the Cordillera mountains are filled with its hundreds of waterfalls, misty cloud forests, high peaks, and unique and colorful people -sights and sounds which may seem too good to pass up, it is still so far removed from the world in which they reside in.
As of 2008, ½ of the world’s population lived in towns and cities, grayscapes with only a vestige of green. Many of these people today suffer from Nature Defficiency Disorder – many of whom prefer to get their green fix through photos on facebook or on tv programs of the National Geographic and Discovery Channels. At the rate that we are going, experiences with nature are vanishing as fast as we are losing our forests. This begs to ask the question: what is the connection between these two.
Studies have shown that ecological consciousness is directly related to human experience of the wild, the outdoors, the green, and the dirty. The constant and continuous loss of green spaces from human experience not only detracts from the overall experience of life but affects our societal choices when it comes to protecting and enhancing our natural worlds. One of the primary reasons why indigenous cultures are often much more in tune with nature is because of the very fact that they rely on it for life, they live within it every day of their lives, it is their daily commute to walk through the forest or cross a stream, to swim in the rivers, their monitor is the sky and the keyboard is the earth that they run through their hands -the products of their machinations with the soil are not so far removed from nature itself for it to be strange. Thus they protect it and strive for its betterment as if it was a child or a mother of their own.
The Cordillera Challenge allows this reconnection with the earth, albeit only within a few hours it takes for you to finish the course -but it is at your own unhurried pace over unsurfaced roads where the earth shows true and the light breaks through the canopy of green, where you can look into the wide expanse of the mountains as the mist rises over the valleys, close your eyes and simply wait for that feeling. It allows for us to find ourselves, even far removed watching the line of red lights in traffic, in need of something that exists only in nature. It is far from being indigenous in the connection to the earth but it is a connection nonetheless -a modern way of reimagining our indigenous roots, allowing us to become stewards again for something we hold dear to our hearts.
Coming into the finish, their bikes and bodies covered in mud. And although it took many grueling kilometers to get there – for many of them their minds were still on the path in the forest, under the canopy of pine and flying through the mud coated rocks beneath their tyres. I looked at all the smiles of faces covered in mud and couldn’t help but smile myself as we had done what we had come here to achieve -create new dirty minds that had a love for nature and a respect for the mountains we called home.