And he never could have picked a better time and place to let me know: during one afternoon as I was making the most of the lull in holiday traffic along Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Avenue in Pasig City.
At that time, I was in no mood to chat, let alone discuss anyone else’s career options, including mine. I myself had quit my job and joined the ranks of the so-called gig economy. Since then, income and earning capacity had declined considerably but the space for life and other pursuits — such as they were — had increased exponentially. (And so has credit card debt. But that’s another story.)
Freed from routine, I now had more time to read, write, and ride my bike, the last of which was what exactly I was doing when the stranger caught up with me.
Initially, I couldn’t even make out who he was or why, for that matter, did he even choose to talk to me.
He looked just like any other motorcycle driver, except that this one was wearing a helmet whose visor was open. Meanwhile, his passenger looked just about as interested as I was in chewing the fat with two-wheeled travellers such as ourselves.
“Sir,” the motorcycle driver then called out in a surprisingly familiar, friendly tone. “Didiretso ba kayong Trellis niyan? (Will you be going straight to Trellis?)”
That question slowed me down.
I eased on the pedals, allowing both of us to catch up — socially and otherwise — without anyone actually stopping.
Turned out he worked as a waiter at Trellis, a restaurant where I get served my favorite drink without me ever asking for it. He recognized me because the staff lets me park my bike inside the premises when I visit.
I let out a good-natured expletive and we both laughed, as the jeepneys and trucks rumbled past us on that tight, two-lane highway.
He then told me he quit because he was unable to take the schedule and the commute. I was prepared to tell him my own tales of woe — which might explain my regular visits to his establishment — but he quickly sped off into the horizon and into what presumably was a new workplace.
Goody for him and for me.
The unexpected reunion boosted my momentum.
I needed it.
It was my first time to ride my bike to the interior of Pasig City and I was understandably apprehensive.
The last time I went was a few years ago when I took an Uber to bring home a co-worker who was more intoxicated than I was (if that was at all possible). We both made it home safely.
As I headed back to Quezon City on two wheels, I remained uncertain while in Pasig, riding all alone in an environment that I wanted to become more comfortable with.
The roads barely helped.
Several city avenues had markings for designated bike lanes but most were fading or were in the process of being erased — just like certain memories of many Filipinos regarding the Marcos dictatorship.
What kept me off these bike lanes — however temporarily — were the dozen or so open drains that were embedded deep in the lanes themselves.
Rectangular in shape and covered in a mesh of steel strips, these drains were as big as laptops. The oversized replicas of Hannibal Lecter’s mouth (while he had the mask on) also ran as much as six-inches deep, thanks to the layers of cement and asphalt from road improvement projects.
Riding a bike over them — especially on thin tires while cruising at above-average speed — risks a flat likely caused by a tear in the tire’s interior.
When I began to encounter several in a row with only a one or so meter gap between them, I decided to veer to the left. I didn’t want to risk a tire blowout. Nor did I want them to tear a bigger hole in my ass, let alone cut up a new one.
As soon as I evaded the last of the drains, I had to deal with another roadside distraction: a motorcycle whose driver made a show of taking me by surprise.
He quietly approached from my left and accelerated while swerving into my path. He rode within inches of me that I’m certain he heard me swear and, unfortunately, for him, take an unintended sniff at my armpits.
That cheap stunt was made more dangerous because we were both heading uphill on a merging intersection that led to a bridge.
It was the same bridge that I missed that morning on the way to Pasig.
Good thing that a pedestrian whom I asked for directions told me that he was already walking towards it.
The bridge itself wasn’t easy to miss.
But if Google Maps is your only tool to get around on two wheels, it can be misleading (and so can Waze, I suppose).
MNL Moves, a Facebook page managed by Aldrin Pelicano, who bikes to work and gave me directions earlier, said relying on these wayfinding apps too much may be risky for cyclists. [See: MNL Moves]
He told me to avoid C-5 — where vehicles travel faster than usual — even though it was recommended by Google Maps for cyclists (which made me consider it initially).
Instead, he said I should take Rodriguez — also known as Santolan — to get to my destination.
A few days later, I did exactly that, to and from my destination.
Despite some incidents, it was still a trip worth taking.
But then again, any trip on a bike — long or short, off the cuff or planned months before — is always time well spent.
I plan to go again, sooner than later.