Pedals for education

CYCLING may be considered just a hobby by many people, but for a school boy who has to walk kilometer upon kilometer to school, it's a ride to a better future.

Emmanuel F. Majaba, a grade 9 student of Dr. Beato C. Macayra National High School (DRBCMNHS) in Kinablangan, Baganga, Davao Oriental now looks at cycling as a means to pursue his dreams. Being the sixth of eight siblings of Mr. & Mrs. Lolito Majaba, he has to walk to school as riding eats into their meager budget.

“Sometimes, if I have money I take a ride in the morning and walk my way home in the afternoon, but if none, I trek back and forth,” Emmanuel said in the vernacular.

As the family is barely earning enough to feed the 10 members, paying for transport fare daily is a luxury.

Sometimes, when he's lucky, he gets to hitch a ride on vehicles passing by.

It takes him an hour and a half to walk to school, another hour and a half to go home.

Now, he is looking forward to saving a lot of time in going to and from school because of Bikes for the Philippines Foundation (BPF), a non-profit organization aimed to help the underprivileged children go to school with less sacrifice through providing bicycles.

Emmanuel is one of the first 40 students who will be receiving bicycles to ride on every day.

According to Rutchie L. Adanza, the bike coordinator of the school, the program was introduced to them through former Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, who initiated the partnership with BPF through its Pedals and Paddles Program.

As the program name connotes, it is not just for students who have to walk long distances to and from school, it is also for those who have to swim or ride floaters across rivers.

For Emmanuel's school, it is pedaling.

BPF came about during an all-terrain buggy ride tour in Baclayon, Bohol in February 2010 by Jo Grant and her cousin Joel Uichico, where Jo called Joel's attention to the mass of children walking from school.

Asking around, Joel learned that these children walked great distances just to get to school and that because of the hours it takes to arrive to school, many drop out.

Looking at the terrain, they concluded that children can easily navigate this with a bike, and thus, the makings of a foundation came to be with Jo, now the BPF president, contacting different organizations in the US for bike donations. As a result, Jo was contacted by Bikes for the World in October 2010. At around the same time, Archt. Joel Esguerra, a Senior Associate at Gensler, a global architectural design firm in the US, got in touch with Bikes for the World for possible community initiatives for his company.

From these came BPF, with Uichico who based in the Philippines, tasked to implement the distribution of bicycles to students first in Baclayon and later throughout the country. The other Joel, Archt. Esguerra has since become the vice president of BPF.

The first container of bicycles was shipped to the Philippines in July 2011.

Just last year, Christian N. Sango, DRBCMNHS school head, received a call from the Division of Davao Oriental announcing the BPF’s plan to make the school the pilot for the program in Davao.

A site interview was conducted identifying 78 students qualified for the program. Among the factors considered for a student to be given a bike are the number of siblings in school; the distance from the school; and the scarcity of public transportation.

The first batch of 40 bicycles finally arrived on February 27, 2018.

The student-recipients, however, will be formally handed their bicycles after completing a training scheduled on April 28 to May 3, 2018, which will teach them traffic rules and maintenance and repair of their units for safety and sustainability.

“We hope that the program through the help and donation of generous individuals will continue and hopefully reach more students in the future," Adanza said.

“We are also inviting everyone who has a generous heart and willing to donate funds to help us construct a bike shed, racks, and maintenance tool kits,” she added. (Alvin B. Catubig)
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