Re-launching my blog with a story close to my heart: A new highway in Taguig City that has an exclusive bike lane and walkway Read More
In celebration of carless day, I had mapped out two ways of getting to my office in Pasay City from Alabang sans a car.
How do you spend a day in Hong Kong with the Running Priest?
Contrary to what many of my friends guessed, there was no running (we’ve done that), no mass, no confession (at least not real confession). But it was still a cardio-packed day filled with spiritual reflection, thought-provoking conversation and inspiration.
I went to Hong Kong upon the invitation of Fr Robert Reyes, otherwise known as the Running Priest. A few weeks ago he was at the Senate and told me about his current work with OFW cancer stricken patients and survivors. He wanted me to meet them and see what we could do to help them.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the meeting held in the Philippine Consulate. What transpired was an emotional yet extremely inspirational 2 hour dialogue. There are clear gaps in policies and laws which I am looking into. I will cover this in a separate blog.
The next day, Fr Robert and I agreed, or should I say, connived to show my staff and friends a different side of Hong Kong. I had been to Lamma Island a few years ago and was excited to go back.. We met at Central station and took a ferry to Lamma. That alone was an adventure because I get seasick very easily. Thankfully, it was a short 25 minute trip and I managed a smile soon as my feet touched land.
We were introduced to island life by the sight of bicycles parked by the pier. This is how people got around in Lamma. No cars, just bicycles and a few miniature vehicles that transport goods. Even their ambulance and fire trucks were miniature versions.
Fr Robert explained to the group that we would walk to the other side of the island. You could hear the sound of resistance to Father’s plan but Father simply said, that’s where we are eating, so if you want to eat, you have to walk… end of story.
After passing thru the commercial area, we found ourselves in the midst of forest cover walking to the beat of bird sounds. Fr Robert pointed out the burial sites which seemed to almost blend with the forest.
Our first stop was the Portiuncula Monastery. We met the contemplative sisters, headed by Sister Mary Ann. They served us cold orange juice and told us about the distance learning program they offer to OFWs. Sister Mary Ann explained that the objective was to keep the modules as simple and relevant as possible to enable to students to study and comprehend the lessons on their own.
Leslie, an OFW walked me thru the course she was taking. I was amazed! The topics were very relevant to the lives of the OFWs. One sample test was to make a marketing plan for the sale of pre-paid cards to other OFWs.
Our next stop was the taho carinderia. Since the Chinese version of taho is served without sago, I took out my bag of trail mix (nuts and dried fruit) and passed it around to be added as toppings.
More walking…. Fr. Robert then announced that we would make a stop to visit Joey Dyogi, an OFW who has end-stage kidney failure. Although, he no longer works, Joey is still able to avail of subsidized treatment from the Hong Kong government because he was working as a professional and was a permanent resident at the time he got sick. Contrast this with our domestic helpers who lose their benefits once they are no longer employed and who cannot attain permanent residency status despite the number of years of work.
The main path then led to the beach. After walking in the heat, the urge to jump in the water was almost irresistible. How I wished I had a swimsuit.. I didn’t and neither did anyone else, so we just took more pictures.
The next segment of our walk was hilly and hot. We entertained ourselves with storytelling, jokes and phone calls from people who Fr Robert wanted me to touch base with.
Finally, we reached the other side of the island. We sat down for lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon just in time to catch the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.
What did we take home from this trip? Because it was led by the Running Priest, our stops were not the usual tourist stops. The people we met and interacted with along the way had stories that affected us, changed us.I think my staff was inspired to take their fitness to the next level. We also felt a deeper appreciation of nature walking thru the well-preserved island devoid of vehicles and traffic. I picked up lessons, I will use to work on legislation and policies for our OFWs.
I plan to go back and take my kids there. They have been on nature walks, they have climbed Mt. Pulag. But I want them to see Lamma Island where it seems modern living and nature have found a way to co-exist.
I love Davao!
Davao City is so progressive. The first city with a Women’s Code. They also have an anti-smoking ordinance and a fire cracker ban. They are looking into establishing bike-lanes. And the most important part of this.. they implement their laws!
Meanwhile, Davao del Norte, is constructing a state-of-the-art sports complex in Tagum City. I saw the plans and was at the ground breaking on a previous visit. So very exciting. Ani del Leon, also conducted a Pinay in Action running clinic there. They are also pouring million of pesos into health care.
I was there for 3 days from January 29-31, 2009. My office and advocacy arm, Pinay in Action organized 25 seminars on health, breast feeding, immunization, women empowerment and running clinics for girls.
That was the tiring part and we couldn’t have pulled it off without my hard working and dedicated staff, the support of the local government units, particularly Davao City, thru the office of Mayor Rody Duterte and Davao del Norte Province, thru Governor Dolfo del Rosario, the NGOs and private sector.
The fun part was the 101 km bike ride from Davao City to Tagum City (where the provincial government of Davao del Norte is). There were also a lot of people who lined the streets to greet us, and as always many expressed shock to see women bikers.
We passed thru the beautiful banana plantation that just stretched on and on. It was a very calming bike ride, away from the heavy traffic, save for the aerial spray of fertilizer which flew right above us! There is actually a Davao City Ordinance banning this, but the case is currently pending in the Court of Appeals.
For part of the ride, I rode and chatted with Fr. Amado Picardal
known as the Biking Priest. He bikes around the country for peace. His blog is full of interesting stories of his bike rides, his advocacies and his vocation as a priest and teacher.
An interesting side trip was the tour of the Nestle Experimental and Demo Farm for Coffee. I was told that it is the only experimental facility for coffee in the whole country! Farmers come from all over the country to learn about improving their coffee business. We used to be an exporter of coffee but today, we cannot even meet our local demand 🙁 Sadly, Vietnam’s yield per hectare is much higher than ours, according to the National Coffee Development Board, which only tells us there is so much more to do.
Another stop I made was Barangay Sasa in Davao City where our triathlon national champ George Vilog hails from. As a young boy, he enjoyed riding his bmx bike and swimming in Coaco Beach. At 16, he competed in his first triathlon . In 2002, he became our national champion. Today, he is the silver medalist of the SEA games.
George is a shining example of a young boy with very little means, who found his way to the top thru sports. George is currently developing local talents in Davao.
And so ended my Davao trip. Had to rush home to my girls after the ride and shift to mommy mode.
n.b. Bike for Hope is a project of The Companero Rene Cayetano foundation which was put up by my dad the former Senator Renato Cayetano years ago. When he pased away, we continued it in his memory. We are on our 8th leg having covered various provinces in Luzon Visayas and Mindanao. By God’s grace, I hope to bring Bike for Hope to other parts of the country to continue spreading our advocacies on health, women empowerment, protection of the environment and youth development programs.