The forecast of stormy weather conditions last Saturday, March 24, 2018 failed to dampen the spirits of six hundred nineteen cycling enthusiasts from all over the province during the Bisikleta Iglesia. Initiated by the Archdiocese Commission on Vocations and several Biker groups, the route encompasses all 120 kilometres encircling Mount Isarog, from Naga City going through the towns of Pili, Ocampo, Tigaon, Goa, Tinambac, Calabanga, Bombon and Magarao. Intended to be a spiritual activity for bikers, the activity included stopping at different churches along the way to pray the Stations of the Cross. With a special blessing from Archbishop Rolando Tirona at the beginning of the activity and led by Fr. Jay Jacinto of the Commission on Vocations, it was not just a physical endeavor but also a spiritual exercise for the participants.
For a first-timer like me, it was an intimidating but nonetheless exciting challenge. In my heart, even though I knew I would not be able to complete the task, I knew there was no harm in giving it a try. The entire journey perhaps was an allegorical reference to life--we're all like pilgrims on a bike, navigating the road's ups and downs. Armed with sheer guts, the trip on two wheels brought me as far as the Church of St. Claire of Assissi in Tigaon-- not bad, I surmised, for weekend warriors like me and my friends, whose hectic work schedules restrict us from participating in regular physical training. The trip was replete with memorable buwis-buhay moments that not only gave us a cardiovascular beating but also lessons to keep for a lifetime. Admittedly, it was at first wanderlust that got the better of me. I have not been to the Eastern side of Mount Isarog and was curious about the road that connected the Bay area and Partido side of Bicol. Not being familiar with the topography of the place was my first mistake, I underestimated the road and overstimated my own physical endurance. The first lesson learned was humility: one has to know one's limits and accept them in order to move on and move forward. Second mistake was not giving the road the respect that it deserves. The path included national highways which we shared with six-wheeler trucks and big buses. A slight miscalculation on my part brought about by inattention caused me to veer and swerve to the right, knocking off another rider, almost sending her flying into a ditch. In no time did fellow bikers help us back to our feet and called for medical attention. Without hesitation, they fixed our damaged bikes and so notwithstanding the injuries sustained, we carried on with hopeful hearts albeit with slightly bruised egos. Lesson learned, God loves us so much that he sends us angels in the form of our fellow men to keep us out of harm's way. God's love is manifest in human kindness. Slightly shaken by the impact of our fall and also because our non-athletic stamina has already been depleted, we decided to ride on the back of the pick-up trucks the rest of the way. From this vantage point, we were treated to stunning views of the countryside of Camarines Sur. From the peaceful greens of the ricefields of Ocampo, the hills of Tinambac reminiscent of the beauty of Baguio, to the mountainside with glimpses of the great blue Pacific ocean, we witnessed the grandeur of Mother Nature. God's love is manifest in the beauty of His creation. All the while, we tried to keep a solemn disposition, even with excitement sometimes taking over us. With the booklets that were provided, we participated in the Stations of the Cross and said our silent prayers in each and every church along the way. I was in awe of the beauty of the churches, some of them dating back to the Spanish era. These man-made structures seemingly stand as reflections of the human aspiration to recreate the majesty of God's kingdom. Midway in our journey, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Goa. God's love is manifest in the Church and her sacraments. All in all, despite the exhaustion from biking for several hours and the pain from overused muscles, we went home with lessons to keep for a lifetime. Our bodies weak yet our spirits toughened, we felt greatly blessed. It was a reminder that despite our arrogance and human frailties, we are deeply cared for by a God who loves us so much. Despite our weaknesses, He gives us strength to sustain us until the end of our journeys. In spite of our wickedness, He Himself sacrificed for us in His journey through Calvary. The journey was a sacrifice, willingly made and given. After all, sacrifice is but another name for love. God’s immense love for mankind is manifest in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. After all, the story of Lent is a story of love.
The logo of the activity shows a biker carrying a cross on his back. Reflective of a man going through the journey of life, we all have our crosses to bear but only if borne with great love do our sufferings become more meaningful. Only then do we become more Christlike as we aspire to imitate our Lord in the selflessness of His Passion.