Thursday, May 08, 2008
Days 42-46: Catarman-Palapag-Oras-Llorente-Tacloban
I have been biking around Northern Samar, Eastern Samar and part of Western Samar these last five days. Samar is one of the most backward areas of the country and most of the towns do not have access to the internet, so I was unable to update my blog. So here's what happened the last few days.
May 4 (Day 42 Catarman-Palapag)
I was still groggy when I concelebrated and preached at the 5:00 morning mass. I was not able to sleep the night before - perhaps due to the caffeine in my blood stream (I drank too much Coke) and/or the noise coming from the homecoming party nearby. I felt I was in no condition to bike. So, instead of leaving for Gamay after the mass, I decided to sleep and rest the whole morning. I left at 1 pm accompanied by 5 Catarman bikers who biked with me as far as Laoang. I was met by Bryan Gorgonia - a biker who joined up in Allen and who lives in Palapag. We had to take 2 pumpboat rides before we reached Palapag at 5 pm after biking for 62 km. Since Gamay was still 40 km away, I decided to sleep at the parish rectory in Palapag.
May 5 (Day 43 Palapag-Oras)
At 5 pm, I continued my journey but I was not alone. Bryan had decided to bike with me around Samar and up to Tacloban. The road from Palapag to Gamay reminded me of the Cordilleras. But we only suffered the bad roads and steep climbs for four hours. We reached Lapinig by 10:15 am and chartered a pumpboat that took us to Arteche. We were welcomed by Thelma - the vice mayor who is a distant relative - and had lunch with the mayor whose wife is also distant relative. We were accompanied by an ambulance and 2 police motorcycle escorts up to Oras. We reached Oras at 3 pm and met the parish priest (Msgr. Japson) and then proceeded to the residence of Judge Gorgonio Alvarez - another distant relative. After taking a shower and some snacks, I walked around the town to see for myself my grandfather's birthplace. My relative, Fr. Joberto Picardal, arrived before seven and we had supper and some drinks with the judge before going to bed.
May 6 (Day 44 Rest Day)
No biking today. I slept until 7 am. At 9 am, Fr. Joberto brought me to the town's radio station where I gave an interview. We then proceeded to the parish church to celebrate the Eucharist at 10 am. The church was packed with members of the Picardal clan. They had scheduled a clan reunion in time for my rest day in Oras. After the mass we had a festive meal at the parish hall. Unfortunately, the seminarian who took the pictures accidentally erased all the pictures that had been taken of the affair.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed.
May 7 (Day 45 Oras-Llorente)
Bryan and I left Oras accompanied by two bikers - both named Roger. The other Roger (Percol) is actually a major in the Philippine Army who is the executive commanding officer of the Army battalion near Oras. I was worried we might be ambushed by the NPA but he told me that the road between Oras and Boronggan was secure. We were joined by 4 other bikers when we reached Taft. We had breakfast with the mayor whose wife is also a Picardal. We continued biking accompanied by the mayor's wife with the mayor's car as support vehicle. When we reached San Julian 10 bikers from Borongan joined us. We arrived at Borongan at 10:45 and proceeded to the radio station DYES where I was interviewed. Then we had lunch at my relative's house. After lunch, the Oras and Taft bikers turned back while the Borongan bikers continued biking with us up to the boundary of the next town.
We reached Llorente at 4 pm after biking for 130 km and were met by 6 motorcycle escorts and a convoy of pedicab drivers who accompanied us as we biked around the town. When we reached the parish church, we were welcomed by my relative - Fr. Joberto Picardal - the parish priest of Oras and his parochial vicar - Fr. Jerome. We had the concelebrated mass at 5:30 pm followed by dinner at the parish hall.
May 8 (Day 46 Llorente-Tacloban)
We left at 5 am this morning accompanied by 6 motorcycle escorts. Bryan did a wonderful work of setting the pace as I drafted behind him. We were averaging 25 km per hour on level roads. After 3 hours of biking, the bishop's car passed by and stopped. Then Bishop Crispin Varquez came down and greeted us. He told me that the diocese supports the Bike for Life and Peace. Since he still had a fiesta mass to celebrate, he excused himself and drove on. At noon time, as we were nearing Basey, we met Rudy who was riding his hand-powered tricycle (his legs are paralyzed). He had been biking from Hilongos to Tacloban yesterday and from Tacloban to Basey to meet up with me (he joined me during the Cebu-Santander leg and he told me that he would meet me in Samar). When we reached San Juanico bridge, there were over 50 Tacloban bikers who met us and biked with us. They were mostly members of the One Way biking club and the MTBU. We were escorted by the Kabalikat Civicom motorcycle and bicycle riders and led by a firetruck. We reached Tacloban at 3 pm, after biking 160 km. The total distance I have covered so far: 4,330 km.
I celebrated the 5:30 pm mass and then had an early dinner with my confreres - Frs. Non and Fil.