A TALE OF TWO MONKEYS
By Celeste Gomez and Margot Tan
Guts, and well, how else could we put it? Makapal na mukha.
The only two things we had. No background on adventure racing. No intensive training or any training at all, for that matter. No team. Not knowing the real deal about this kind of competition, we mustered up enough courage and dared to enter into the world of adventure sports.
The Urban Jungle Adventure Race, the country’s first, was definitely not your typical “fun run”. Together with San Mig Light, it was especially organized for the launching of PinoyCentral’s Adventure Sports section in its website. At least 240 participants and more than 40 teams braved the special course designed by no less than Thumbie Remigio, a champion adventure racer and team captain of the first all-Filipino team that grabbed the 2nd spot in the international adventure race in Sabah, Malaysia.
Two distinct events were set-up – one for the Elite Category and another for the Fun Category. The teams who faced the 100 km overnight race in the Elite Category took on a biathlon of running and biking, kayaking and rubber tube paddling, rappelling, tyrolean crossing, wall climbing, and games of wit and humor. For us non-serious “athletes”, we barely lived through the 25 km Fun Course with everything except rubber tube paddling and tyrolean crossing.
Inspiration from the Pros
In spite of the many desperate, last-resort measures taken, we still lacked members for our team. We raided the race briefing and kick-off party in Grilla, Libis last May 30, hoping to grab anyone who wanted to join 2 inexperienced females into the game. While scouting around for potential players, we found ourselves amongst the crowd of real adventure-sport racers – all ready and geared up as if the race were to start right after the party.
The Sandugo all-female team represented by Noelle Wenceslao, Janet Belarmino, Michelle Henares, Len Escalante, Junie Santos, and Kim Gomez, was the only one of its kind in the Elite Category. Unlike all the other teams, Sandugo felt no pressure whatsoever. “Kung matalo, ok lang. Kung manalo, eh di sikat!”, Noelle, the team captain, remarked.
As the night progressed, we realized that the more we got to hang-out with the game’s participants, the more we felt incapable of joining the adventure challenge. Being neophytes of the sport, we asked for tips and strategies from the main man of the race – Thumbie Remigio. Expecting a lot of sports jargon and technical details about surviving the race, we were surprised to get a “Don’t take out the fun element of the race”, instead.
That was all we needed to hear!
Thanks to the kind and accommodating Neyney Guevara and Yasmin Hidalgo of PinoyCentral, Team 2bU! merged with experienced athletes from the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines Inc. (MFPI). The new team, Team 2bU!-MFPI, was made possible by Crow Julian (team captain), Taz Biagan (racer) , Yay Ortega, and Doods Ulanday as support crew. Yay and Doods are supreme adventure athletes themselves, far more qualified than the two monkeys who insisted on joining the event.
Having barely 24 hours left before the race, we met in Power-Up Pasig, had our own briefing session, planned our secret strategies, and even had a crash course in rappelling and wall climbing. The initial shortage of teammates turned out to be a blessing in disguise; if we had not met these wonderful people from MFPI, we would have been doomed last June 2. After taking down mental notes on technical details, race rules, and procedures, we were all set to compete and to have some FUN!
Through hell or high Manila Bay water, we were dead-serious about finishing the race. Crow checked in at 6 am in his bedazzling aqua leggings (The other teams cried foul. “Bawal yan! Distracting!”), Taz with a memory of his Alabang lover, Doods and Yay with their spirited pom-pom’s and packed equipment. (Van Fernando, the supporter of our support team and number one fan was also present to provide us with his version of “iced tea”.) On the other hand, while unloading the bananas, the two of us cursed and panicked about our situation – what have we gotten ourselves into? Just outside the Power Plant Mall, buff and beefed-up members of other teams began to pour in. It was literally an adventure-sport community reunion where everyone knew everyone else. After much chatting, stretching, trips to the comfort room, and last minute questions between the competitors and organizers, the race finally began at 8 am.
Penitentia Along Roxas Blvd.
In the first leg of the race, our fit friends, Crow and Taz, were charitable enough to volunteer themselves as joggers while we cruised comfortably on the two bikes with loaded backpacks. We would occasionally pause to give our joggers a sip of water, and continue treading on towards Quirino Grandstand. The only difficult part about biking was due to the fact that this was an urban race. Urban means three words: insane bus drivers! There were a number of marshals in strategic corners to give directions, but the route was not corded off for the racers. Translation: Bikers and joggers had to battle it out with considerate and very patient drivers face-to-face, with the nicely paved city roads to boot. While racers were given time penalties for traffic rule violations, the motorists get away with beating the red light, and oops, knocking off a racer along the way. In the middle of the sweat, nervousness, and along Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., a female biker crashed into Mags and both fell to the concrete. Luckily, the minor mishap had nothing much to show but black and blued knees, a cut thumb, and a dead nail.
In time, the much-abused Crow and Taz needed rest, alternating the biking and jogging with Mags. Celeste was a better biker, and busy pumping herself up for the way home later. Jogging along Roxas Blvd. was definitely an experience – the smell of the reputed pristine waters of Manila Bay was better than expected, but the belching mufflers of jeeps and buses never did fail to live up to their standards. While our muscles clamored for more oxygen, our lungs couldn’t help but opt to unbreathe instead.
The Bucket Feeling Ka? Casualty
Upon arriving Quirino Grandstand, our checkpoint, we scrambled for our cellphone in a bid to find our support crew. Playing by the rules, Doods and Yay did not pass by Buendia and ended up tangled in traffic elsewhere. Our team spent a lot of time in the transition; Crow decided not to wait for our own equipment – life vests, harnesses, carabiners – and pushed us to proceed to the next leg of the race. While both men kayaked, we jogged a designated route and met them again by the seawall. It was time for the Bucket Feeling Ka? game, where a pail (with lots of punched holes) of Manila Bay water was carried from below to fill a red bucket on the seawall. After minutes of looking stupid and wasting good effort, we discovered that the red bucket itself had punched holes in it – then scrambled to stuff our fingers and body parts into them. The wet rocks caused Crow to slip and bang his knee; our guru was in pain and didn’t even show it. The only words that came out of his mouth were “Go, go! Deretso lang!”
Team 2bU!-MFPI jogged to the Department of Tourism, somewhere by the Philippine Map Pond of Luneta. We found out that only 2 racers were required to rappel, so while Crow and Taz expertly boogeyed down the building, we romped straight to the cement representations of Luzon, Samar, and Davao in search for answers to the second game. Meanwhile, the blue-colored sea areas which we see in Philippine maps were represented by murky dark water in the pond, complete with algae, weird fishes, and gobbledygook we’d rather not know of.
“We made it through the wilderness…”
Contrary to Mags’ theory that the way home would always seem faster, the way back to the base camp was horrible! Roxas Blvd. seemed longer than ever. The scorching sun barbecued and dehydrated our tired souls in the last leg of the race. Our feet were heavy as hollow blocks, and the jogging never did seem to come to an end. We would rejoice and revel whenever the traffic light would turn red as we reached an intersection; it was the perfect excuse to stop and rest. With squishy algae-soled shoes, Team 2bU!-MFPI were back in Rockwell base camp by 11:30 am, with resurrected spirits and strength. For the last leg, we dragged our tired bodies to the top of the artificial wall and sprinted to the finish line where we met up with our support crew. After three and a half hours of sadistic (since we volunteered for this event, let s make it masochistic) muscle torture, the team unbelievably entered the Top 10 of the Fun Category. We arrived right after Team Gameplan, popped out our San Mig Light six-pack and laughed the day’s nightmares away.
The Rockwell base camp turned into one big shindig when all the organizers, sponsors, and participants of The Urban Jungle Adventure Challenge came back at around 8pm to award the winners and to celebrate the success of the first-ever urban adventure race in the Philippines. The winners for the Elite Category are the all-female Team Sandugo (3rd place), A.M.C.I Ayala Mountaineers (2nd place), Team Bombproof and Team Tribu (tied at 1st place). For the Fun Category, Team Adobo Republic grabbed the first spot, followed by the Loyola Mountaineers as second and the ADUMS team as third. Despite sore and unbelievably unbendable body parts, Team 2bu!-MFPI stayed intact throughout the night, thanks to more supplies of San Mig Light, Van s “iced tea”, and Holland sausages purchased by our support crew. The lovely Triccia Chiongban who was part of Team Gameplan hosted the night s festivities, from introducing the bands Color It Red and True Faith, to holding the fastest wall-climber game and the kooky velcrow-wall acts. Though we were handed certificates in place of the medals earlier promised to finishers, our team rejoiced in having completed the race with our heads well above the water. Our many thanks and best wishes to the hip crew of MFPI (Crow, Taz, Doods, Yay, and Van) and the fabulous, warm people of PinoyCentral (Neyney and Yasmin). Perhaps we ll be seeing you again in Davao or Cebu for the second take; but rest assured that next time, we re coming prepared.