Features Wheel2Wheel December 19, 2022 By C! Magazine Staff Words and Photos by Maki Aganon
Re-discovering the Philippine Archipelago with Mindanao Freedom Ride 2022
It was already Day 5 (for me) of riding the Luzon Loop, in the middle of a cold night after dinner in Sagada, after a group of about 60+ riders from different parts of Mindanao are seated in the dining hall, Norminring Motorbikes President and CEO Mr. Jondi Lacson stressed out the meaning of Freedom.
“Freedom from stress. Freedom from work. Freedom to ride. The objective of this tour is to point at a place in the map of the Philippines and explore what’s out there by riding our motorcycles, arranged in a safe, organized, and enjoyable way.”
Mindanao Freedom Ride (MFR) is now in its 11th year tracing all motorable roads all over the Philippines while promoting domestic tourism and donating to select schools/communities along the way. This year’s theme is exploring the Philippine Archipelago (Luzon – Visayas – Mindanao) and visiting iconic tourist destinations, and cultural landmarks, and passing through the most popular and enjoyable riding spots (straights and twisties) in the country for 13 days. 42 Provinces, 8 islands, the highest point, most wonderful riding destinations with unlimited twisty roads. With about 4,000 kms, pledging to promote the beauty of the Philippines in cooperation with the Tourism Promotions Board.
My adventure with the MFR group started in Batangas port. This is already their 5th riding day from Cagayan de Oro passing through western Visayas, after spending a full day in Boracay. It was such a warm feeling being reunited with a lot of familiar faces since my last MFR in 2019 before the pandemic happened. I noticed that this year is quite a large group. I have noticed about 60+ riders have joined MFR this year, mostly from Mindanao.
I looked at Marlon Montera, the ride spear, how in the world do you lead such a large group in one of the longest Philippine loop rides? He gave a thumbs up and said, “Up until where are you riding with us, bro?” I have never ridden with a group this large. I also have never ridden with such a group this far. I have never seen such a long convoy that stretches as far as your eyes can see. It’s such an amazing view, especially from a slope. I have to commend Norminring Motorbikes’ experience in handling and organizing a big motorcycle touring group. This time, I was able to cover most of their Luzon Leg.
MFR is a ride of firsts. One is that most of the riders from Mindanao have never traversed Luzon Tollways on a motorcycle. They are also welcomed by a Tuesday C5 rush hour on the way to BGC. The convoy was received by KTM Philippines in the KTM BGC showroom. Some of the riders were also able to park the bikes at MotoStreat. The majority of MFR 2022 riders have never experienced riding in Luzon and the excitement of what Northern Philippines has to offer.
MFR is a ride to meet new people. Henry Secretario from Pagadian City is now riding with his 27-year-old son who just recently learned how to use a clutch and this was his longest riding experience so far and counting. Supreme Court Justice Ronald Tolentino has filed his max leave credits to have a grand time exploring the Philippines. Mr. and Mrs. Cabahug are having the time of their lives with their panniers full of stuff for two. I have met many new people from different stores, but there is one thing in common. They are all here to ride free and have fun.
MFR is pro-cultural heritage. The selected destinations are historical landmarks and relics that enrich Philippine history. Some of the places visited are Mt. Samat Cross in Mariveles, Bataan. President Ramon Magsaysay’s House in Castillejos, Zambales and Bessang Pass National Monument. Every now and then, it’s quite important for anyone to remember Philippine heroics and how our country is shaped and molded.
zMFR boosts tourism. If you have 60+ people checking in hotels, and buying food, fuel, and other commodities for 13 days, then you have your businesses going. People will spend on anything they are happy with and MFR has been supporting moto-tourism since day 1. MFR had everything arranged for every participant, from accommodations, meals, transportation requirements, insurance, and safety protocols. All you have to do is register and ride your bike.
Bon Sinsuat from Cotabato, the first-time MFR member, shared how happy he was by joining this year’s trip. He shared that when the news came up that MFR 2022 would do a Philippine loop, he immediately signed up. He thought about the convenience of joining a well-organized group to finally fulfill his riding dreams of exploring outside Mindanao, with everything else arranged for him. He also shared the difficulties he might encounter by touring alone or with a small group. With MFR, all the mental stress of planning and navigating was eliminated.
Martin Dia flew back from Pennsylvania to join MFR. For him, this is one of the few moments he can ride all out without worry and make the most out of it. Brian Flores also made time to join MFR to also serve as a group marshal to guide the middle of the pack. Paul Borja also serves as a guide and leads the back of the group, while Ren Salazar serves to lead his first-timer friends from Davao. MFR Kagay-anon Krusers veterans don’t just ride but take the lead into making the entire group safe and intact.
MFR is breaking barriers. This activity is more than just riding with a group, but you form a different kind of connection despite ethnic, religious, or occupational differences. Riding is a common platform where everyone is in the same playing field and the common goal is for everyone to enjoy the ride and explore the country. The youngest in the group is 26. Aldwin Solis, a motocross rider, gained his first Philippine loop experience with MFR. Usman Sari, 66, is the eldest in the group wanting to fulfill his longtime dream loop of the Philippines on a motorcycle.
MFR is a group of skilled riders. It is indicated in the waiver that only intermediate-advanced riders are allowed to join. For some reason, safety and efficiency are very important, especially managing a very large group. MFR makes it to a point that other than just touring, spirited riding is also one of the key elements that make this trip enjoyable. I was totally impressed by how each and every one was able to manage themselves in different riding scenarios and different road conditions. Rain, heat fog, or storm, this is a tough bunch.
MFR2022 itinerary involves some of the most popular twisties the Philippine archipelago has to offer. I was able to join them through Mariveles Loop from Manila. Next is the Tagudin – Cervantes Road passing through Bessang Pass, going up to Sagada. The entire twisty road buffet in Mountain province going down to Banaue, Ifugao, towards Maddela – Dinadiawan seems endless. The Dipaculao stretch towards Baler is also worth mentioning and it doesn’t end there. All the way to Clark, the group went past Maria Aurora – Pantabangan blessed, with sunny weather was exciting. The CLLEX – SCTEX – NLEX felt like a refreshing drink to savor all those twisty treats. To top it all up, Marikina – Laguna – Quezon (Marilaque) was the icing on the cake, a short but sweet well paved curved road, before going down to Lucban via Pililia – Mabitac road. It all happened in a span of 5 riding days.
This organization will push forward in search of new motorable roads in the spirit of exploration through riding motorcycles. The reason why familiar faces are still here is that they all understand what they signed up for. It is the complete experience package. MFR is probably one of the best touring groups I have ever been with.
Freedom is happiness. Riding is freedom. Our motorcycles are just varying vehicles with different makes and construction but what’s ultimately important, are the priceless memories, the people you are with, and stories in that period of time, that will last more than a lifetime. Mindanao Freedom Ride continues to push the boundaries of exploration, culture, excitement, tourism, extension of help and creation of lasting connections among people that share the passion of motorcycling.