in Travels with my angst

My year or so in biking to work

The Black Swan (left) with electric jeeps in Tacloban. (Photo by Reina Garcia/iCSC)

The Black Swan (left) with electric jeeps in Tacloban. (Photo by Reina Garcia/iCSC)

(This blog entry is being written as part of a 30-day blogging challenge which I read about in the blog of Om Malik, the founder of GigaOm. [See: 30 days of blogging] I posted the blog link on one of my social media accounts and challenged my friends to do the same. Thanks to my undisputed popularity, none of my Facebook friends have so far accepted the challenge. However, a few hours after my status update, Jun Verzola, a former co-worker at GMANews.TV posted a link to a blog of his own about—unsurprisingly enough—blogging, which he wrote about early this year. [See: Blogging is writing is breathing] If you want to join me in the 30 day blogging challenge, please leave a comment below or tag me on Twitter and use the hashtag #30daysofblogging so we can promote it together.) 

It’s been over a little more than a year ever since I began to ride my bike to work.

And during that short period, I have had the ride of my life—no pun intended.

For the past seventeen months, in no sequential order, I’ve quit one job; got invited to another one; left that four months later; applied for another position at the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) [See: Tales from the Slacktivist];

left when the contract ended; and got another job (which I’m currently holding and—if I must say so—enjoying); wrote an occasional column for a widely-distributed newspaper [See: The store that Jack rebuilt];

spent five days in Baguio for a sesshin; lived and worked in Tacloban; spent a weekend or two in Catbalogan; rode one of my bikes on the Philippines’ longest bridge several times [See: The Black Swan goes on tour in Tacloban];

gambled some and slacked off in Singapore; spent nine days on a 70-year-old Philippine Navy ship (including two nights in Iloilo City and an afternoon in Ormoc) [See: The Philippine Navy, the electric jeepney, and me];

trimmed several inches off my waist; lost a tooth (and a Flipcam that was lent to me by Alan Robles, the only Filipino who has taught new media and journalism at the Berlin Institute for International Journalism); read several books including three Granta volumes [See: Granta, Alan Robles];

acquired four bikes (one of which has been sold, another temporarily lent to iCSC friends in Tacloban, and the fourth already claimed just a few hours ago) [See: Mrs. Montero];

interviewed a city mayor (Tacloban’s Alfredo Romualdez but some genius forgot to press the record button during the whole affair); got an invite to Ello [See: ello];

and, last but not least, drank a lot of beer (on air, land, and sea).

All in all, I have been lucky.

And so are the rest of us, if we go by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan, which I have been babbling about several times on my social media accounts. [See: The Black Swan]

It’s not primarily skill that allows us to get jobs and create lives that we—at least for the most part—enjoy.

It’s luck, according to Taleb’s Black Swan, a book that I’ve read three times since 2011—the last one just this August while on a boat to Tacloban.

Many of us have been fortunate enough to get decent jobs—and, as a result, enjoy our lives, such as they are—because of the social environment that we belong to, and to a partial degree, the skills that we’re known for.

Of course, the run-of-the-mill Nobel Prize winners—especially the select few who read this blog—may be disturbed by that revelation.

To these genuises, I say: just read the Black Swan already to find out why I named one of my bikes after the book and, most importantly, why we owe our successes—however few and far between—to luck.


I come back to the book—and Taleb’s latest, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder—from time to time, like devout Christians to their bibles. But before I get carried away—after all, I plan to write a more formal piece about luck and uncertainty using not only the Black Swan but several other books as references including John Kay’s Obliquity; Tim Harford’s Why Success Always Starts with Failure; Eric Abrahamson’s and David Freedman’s A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder; Spyros Makridakis’, Robin Hogarth’s, and Anil Gaba’s Dance with Chance: Making Luck Work For You; and David Freedman’s Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us and How to Know When Not to Trust Them (which I’m reading now)—let’s go back to biking to work.

Up until today, as this is being written, I still commute by bike.

And it all started on a warm Sunday in July last year when Dennis Estopace, a fellow media worker and bike commuter, decided to ride our bikes to what at that time was my office in Pasig City. (He even recorded a seventeen-second video of me cruising along what is now a formal bike lane along EDSA from the corner of Ortigas to Camp Aguinaldo below.) [See: Dennis Estopace]

It was fun.

It still is—despite erratic rainfall, extreme weather conditions, inconsiderate motorists, toxic routes, lack of government incentives for bike commuting, and, most of all, the humungous mass of vehicular traffic in the city.

And since that Sunday, there was no turning back.

I have rarely left the house without at least riding any one of my bikes.

Just about the only setback I can think of is that the addiction to biking may encourage my materialist. consumerist instincts.

Right now, I’m thinking about getting a folding bike, just less than a day after I got Mrs. Montero, my six-speed, old-school, road bike.

But that, as they say, is another matter best discussed in another blog entry.

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