Simply one of the best days of my life: The Globe Cordillera Challenge

The Cordillera Challenge is a punishing ride, but it is the only way to get into the areas of beauty on your own power and at a human pace

The Cordillera Challenge is a punishing ride, but it is the only way to get into the areas of beauty on your own power and at a human pace

Simply, one of the best days of my life

The Globe Cordillera Challenge 5:


THE recently concluded Globe Cordillera Challenge 5 has become the stuff of legends as the toughest and most grueling adventure that the Philippine mountain biking world has known.

Globe Cordillera Challenge or GCC5, is the fifth mountain bike challenge organized by Globe Telecom in collaboration with Cordillera Conservation Trust led by its executive director JP Alipio. The aim is to establish nurseries through the Roots and Shoots Nursery Seedling Program that will reforest the balding Cordillera mountains.

The success of Globe Telecom’s previous Cordillera challenge has attracted the fifth Cordillera challenge a total of 800 riders all over the Philippines including an international audience from Singapore and Britain.

The epic mountain biking adventure required the riders or dubbed as “Forest Builders” to cycle through the highlands in a combination of spiraling uphills and wicked downhills to the finishing line at Kapangan, Benguet town. Indeed the trail was a power sapper and lung buster that made bikers even literally carry their bikes uphill.

Riders were also greeted with several kilometers of “two-laned and paved bike paths” apparently designed as a complete road. Whether the budget got short or the taxpayers were shortchanged, thanks to the official who made us ride our bikes like trying to negotiate a bus on a plank.

You barrel down on descents and the uphills were punishing. The terrain leaves one begging the question…is this really a mountain biking or a mountain climbing?

I have joined the previous year’s Globe Arakan Challenge in Davao City (also organized by Globe Telecom) backed by training that required me to bike mountains in Bukidnon province but the Cordillera Challenge was by far the hardest. Admittedly, Cordillera earned my respect. But perhaps the Anitos took mercy on the Forest Builders and blessed them with a stunning weather and a scenery that only inspired them to cycle through the spectacular view of the tree-lined (sometimes balding) neighbouring mountains.

Amusingly, there was this “jukebox rider” who made us wonder where was all this music coming from? This jukebox rider whizzed by us with speakers on his back blaring with the music of Air Supply. Then there was this rider seemingly laden for a North Pole expedition while others barely a bottle and an energy bar.

What made it more of a great mountain bike adventure were the welcoming smiles of locals and the hearty support from fellow bikers. I personally witnessed how a vegetable farmer volunteered to an exhausted biker saying, “Ako na tutulak sa bike mo” until the biker has fully recovered to take over his saddle.

We start at dawn

We start at dawn

Another Manila rider surnamed Galicano, narrated to me that while uphill a local took pity on their exhausted group and cooked a vegetable broth, camote and several kilos of rice. Recalling that meal, he said, “Pare, kahit sayote lang yun, panalo!” They devoured the hot meal as if they haven’t eaten for days. The group then ‘passed the hat’ to pay for the meal. To their amazement the local politely and relentlessly declined.

Even I can testify to the local’s kindness. During the race, I reached this remote basketball court where a teenager mechanic was fixing the bike of a Bacolod rider. Thinking that he was hired by Globe Telecom to fix bikes for free, I told him “pare ako rin, paayos ko brakes ko.” But when I saw the rider hand him a P100 bill and realizing that I left my wallet at the hotel, I told him in whispers “pare ok na brakes ko” while pretending to adjust it (still to no avail the brakes remained stuck). Instead, the mechanic grabbed my bike and pulled out a screw driver to adjust the brakes. This time I confessed to him, “Pare, ok lang, naiwan ko kasi wallet ko sa hotel.” Instead, he gestured a salute and said “ok lang sir, ayusin natin bike mo.” Not only did he fix the brakes but as well as tightened the wheel hub locks. I then thanked him profusely and told him, “God bless you pare” and he gestured a second salute as if bidding me ‘Godspeed’ as I sped off.

After I successfully scaled the ridge and during the wicked descent, my tire tubes exploded because of the heat generated by my V-brakes (yes, not disc brakes), I lost control of my front wheel and overturned. Luckily, a marshall was nearby and he rushed to my rescue and replaced my tire tubes while I was grimacing in pain because of a muscle tear on the chest.

Welcome, to the great unknown, into our mountains deep

Welcome, to the great unknown, into our mountains deep

Equally touching were the thoughtfulness of Globe Telecom’s Rhea whom I missed her call that she “brought me breakfast” at the starting line and to Golds who was worried sick why I haven’t yet called as to my whereabouts because my phone landed into a canal after I was thrown off from my bike. To Jenny who stood at the race course just to hand me a burger. To PTV4’s Snow and cameraman Paul who cheered me on. My siblings who upgraded my bike. My wife Grace and my kids weren’t at the sidelines but their prayers were with me all throughout the course.

Indeed, kindness can be found even in the most unlikely places where Angels would not even dare to tread. The experience left me dumbstruck, I can only say “It was quite simply one of the best days of my life.