Words by Margarita Buenaventura
We Filipinos have always valued our freedom — to wear what we want, say what we want, even eat what we want. But then, we ask ourselves: why can’t we get to where we need to be on time? The answer, of course, is all that damn traffic.
But there are those who are able to break free from that oppression. These are folks who can shimmy their way out of northbound EDSA during payday traffic or make haste to a safer place during a flood. Biking, using a skateboard, and other means of alternative transportation might just be the answers to our woes, and it’s people like photographer Joey Alvero who make all of that seem possible.
As we followed Joey around on one of his excursions in the city, we asked him about becoming the change he wants to see, biking like a square, and wearing pinstripes on two wheels.
Can you tell us about your bike?
It’s a Doppelgänger Black Max 202. It’s black and orange. Not the color I wanted — I was hoping for something I could shout “Black and yellow!” to. Orange works for me, because it’s bright enough, but it’s also goth enough. It’s very Jack Skellington, but without the pinstripes. (Laughs)
You could wear pinstripes while biking.
One day, when I finally get my line of biking clothes out there. Maybe if I work with Bench. (Laughs) Hashtag kapal ng mukha.
Hey, you’ll never know. So what got you into biking?
I learned how to bike when I was 17 in my family’s farm in Pampanga. And the thing is, ever since then, it’s the closest thing I ever felt to self-propelled human flight. It’s always had a beautiful sensation to it. You know how you lose all sense of self, and it’s just you and the road? And the traffic? (Laughs) It’s a very zen thing to be on a bike. That’s why I like biking.
Is that what makes you wanna bike everywhere?
That and the whole Mahatma Gandhi thing: be the change you want to see in this world. I’ve watched way too many doomsday foretelling shows where if you don’t change soon, something bad’s gonna happen. Very Tomorrowland, very Happy Feet. I like how that’s the reference, Happy Feet. I like to at least take part in protecting this world by using my own self-propelled power.
What routes would you recommend to someone serious about biking?
Usually the online communities help. There are a lot of biking communities online, where you can check out the best routes. I’ve met people who can bike from Makati to Paranaque in 30 minutes.
Wow, that’s fast.
One of my art director friends in Makati, he showed me the way. And the cool thing is that it was the same route he took to make sure his daughters were safe during Ondoy. ‘Cause thankfully at that time, he brought his mountain bike and not his car. So he biked all the way from Makati to Parañaque in the flood. So there’s some benefits to it talaga.
What are the pros of pedaling in a place like The Fort?
It’s really clean? There’s no smog, so I don’t have to wear those specialized masks. I have a piece of cloth that I use so that I look like a bandido while I travel. It’s blue with lots of cats on it. Everyone needs to know that I’m a crazy cat person. I also have a pendant with an asthma inhaler in case it gets really bad.
Do you ever have to worry about safety when you’re on a bike?
I always worry about safety when I’m biking. It’s the number one thing. Even here in the Fort, man. I still see some people trying to pass areas where they might accidentally hit me. I try to make sure I’m very predictable when I’m biking. So I maintain a very straight route, I don’t swerve in and out of traffic. It’s very square, but it gets me from point A to point B, and it reminds me of that one line from the highways that they had before, which says “Arrive alive.”