By Jodee A. Agoncillo
Street sweeper Rodora Dones walked a kilometer from her home in Don Galo, Parañaque City, to get to work in Barangay Tambo during the enhanced community quarantine.
Then she walked home during her break to care for and prepare meals for her two children. That done, she walked back to her “beat.”
Two days before her birthday last month, Dones received a gift from “Bikeyanihan,” a group raising funds to provide bicycles for Filipinos “walking long distances to work” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was one of 15 beneficiaries.
The bike has allowed her to “save time and effort in going to my workplace,” Dones told the Inquirer, adding that a friend of her nephew had pushed her to send the group a message for help.
Bikeyanihan was set up last June by a group of present and former students of De La Salle-college of St. Benilde in Manila who are convinced that biking is an inexpensive way of promoting a healthy lifestyle.
In an online interview, Marley Alconera, one of the founders and a graphic designer based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, talked about Bikeyanihan’s search for beneficiaries with inspiring stories.
“We wanted to help people keep going,” she said. “We support them, give them an extra push, [so they can] reach their destinations despite the challenges of this pandemic.”
‘Tatay’ Carlo, etc.
Alconera said they were inspired by bicycle shop owner Fe Carandang, who gave a bike to Carlo Samonte, a candy vendor who used to walk from Nichols in Pasay to Makati daily.
“Tatay” Carlo, 87, had been frequenting the shop morning and evening since May 15, hoping to persuade Carandang to sell him a P4,800 bike at P2,000. Carandang relented on June 3 and gave him the bike for free.
Another Bikeyanihan beneficiary is a 57-year-old vendor who used to walk from one barangay to another to sell the fish that he bought from the fish port. The daily effort took him more than four hours of walking.
“There are 11 people in his house and it’s only he and his son, a grocery bagger, earning a living for their family,” Alconera recounted.
“We knew there are more Filipinos like him who are enduring long hours of walking just to provide for their families. We thought there might be some way we could help them, one bicycle at a time,” she said.
Beneficiaries are chosen from direct applications and referrals, Alconera said. “We’re all in our early 20s. Eight of us are girls and most of us are in the creative industry. We are running the fundraising remotely as some of us are based overseas. We didn’t want distance to stop us from helping, so even with the limitations caused by the pandemic, we still continued [with our effort].”
Among the other members of Bikeyanihan are Joni de Guzman, also based in Qatar, and graphic designers JP Anonuevo, Yvette Cruz, Marge Abordo, marketing professional Nikki Angeles, and students Nicole Dyogi, Erika de Castro and Leslie Dy.
The group is now seeking donors to complete its third batch of 15 bikes.
Continued Alconera: “At first, we thought of just pitching in and donating a few bikes to some people. But since most of us are from the creative industry, we decided to brand it. We started a Facebook page in the hope that we would reach more people. We first reached out to close friends, [family members], and the people in our network. Our Facebook audience eventually grew, and we’re now receiving donations from the public.”
The group found a supplier who provided discounts. It collaborated with other social service groups also catering to bike riders: one provided helmets, another provided reflectors.
Their help will provide a safer road experience, Alconera said. “If ever getting to different places using a bike continues to be part of the new norm, bike lanes should also be implemented, as well as proper safety measures for all bikers.” Street sweeper Dones said biking had become her mode of transportation. “I’ll use the jeepney fare that I can save to buy more food for the family,” she said.
Bikeyanihan will continue to provide bikes to those who need them, Alconera said. “As long as there are people contributing to our cause, we will continue to provide help to Filipino workers in need.”