SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/18 December) – After finishing the Baclaran-Leyte route on Tuesday, Redemptorist priest Fr. Amado Picardal began the Mindanao leg of his bike tour for the climate Wednesday from the Lipata Port in Surigao City.
The 60-year-old priest started pedaling around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after arriving here from Liloan, Southern Leyte via a roll-on-roll off vessel.
“I embarked on this bike-tour in memory of the victims of super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (2013), ’Pablo” (2012) and Sendong (2011),” he told MindaNews.
Picardal left Baclaran in Manila last Wednesday for a bike journey that he hopes would raise awareness about climate change.
MindaNews joined Picardal from Surigao City up to the junction of Bad-as, Placer town in Surigao del Norte, a distance of 30 kilometers, along with Jayjay Baldonado, a triathlete from this city.
“We should do something to respond to disasters because this is a serious threat to humanity,” Picardal said, adding the typhoons that hit the country claimed thousands of lives.
Picardal’s bike tour stretches a total of 1,800 kilometers. His final destination is Iligan City, on Dec. 23.
“My bike from Luzon to Visayas was colorful. I was impressed by the beauty of nature in those places, I really appreciate it well. I saw poverty here, there and everywhere,” he said.
Picardal said his advocacy is what keeps him going because “this keeps me energized”.
But he said he had fallen from his bike twice already – the first after hitting an uneven road somewhere in Plaridel in Luzon, and the second was on a descent along the Quirino Highway also in Luzon.
“In the second accident I did not notice that the road had loose gravel. I got minor bruises and my knee is still swollen after those accidents,” he said.
Picardal said he could not go beyond 20-27 kilometers per hour because he has to maintain a heart rate of below 140 beats per minute.
He added that on his first 50-kilometer run he suffered leg cramps that forced him to reduce his speed. “I have to relax because my muscle in the legs had tightened.”
With no support vehicle, as he finds it awkward for his campaign, he said he just uses mental toughness to reach his goal.
Picardal also got flat tires twice which delayed his arrival in some places. Nonetheless, he managed to make it to Tacloban City from Baclaran in five days, which was shorter than his previous trip along the same route.
In 2000, Picardal did a ‘bike for peace’ advocacy with a total distance of 2,080 kilometers from Davao to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, after deposed president Joseph Estrada waged all-out-war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In 2006, he did a bike around Mindanao for the Life and Peace campaign, covering a total distance of 2,100 kilometers, to protest extra-judicial killings, human right violations, mining and logging.
He endured a 5,160-kilometer bike tour in 2008 from Davao to Aparri in Cagayan Valley and back to Davao.
Picardal also hiked from Davao to Appari via the Cordilleras.
Calling himself an ultra-marathoner, the priest said that in Spain, he ran 800 kilometers barefoot.
“In all of these, it’s not about bike and run per se, but once I’m in the church I always ask if I could preach on my advocacy,” he said.
Aside from the church, he said he shares his advocacy everywhere, on the road, in a store or in a waiting shed while taking rest.
Prior to this tour, his doctor warned him not to proceed citing the risk. “I was diagnosed with atherosclerosis and myocardial ischemia. It’s a mild heart ailment,” he explained.
But Picardal went on despite the risk and even if he had tooth extraction prior to the tour. “I can’t bear the pain. I was advised by my dentist not to proceed.”
Misa de Gallo
Last Sunday, Picardal held a mass at the Redemptorist church in Tacloban where he told the churchgoers about what he’s doing. “People were shocked by what they heard. They were awed by what I did and what I’m doing right now,”
“It’s not about disasters but it’s about the cause of it,” he told the churchgoers.
He said he just wanted to remind people that climate change is a serious threat to humanity. “We need to act, we need to tell the government to do something about this and the people must respond to this by doing simple things like riding a bike in going to office or school instead of riding a car.”
Picardal stopped Wednesday by Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur where he officiated the traditional Misa de Gallo Thursday. On Friday, he will do the same in New Bataan, Compostela.
He said that since the start of the nine-day Misa de Gallo on Dec. 16, he would request to preach at a church in the place where he would sleep for the night.
‘One day, one eat’
Picardal’s food intake follows a Spartan regimen. He said he doesn’t take breakfast, only a cup of coffee before getting on the bike.
By lunch time, he just takes water and a few minutes of rest. He said he had tried surviving a few days with just water. “I rest, I do catnaps. That makes me recover when I get tired.”
At evening, it’s refueling time for the priest. “I eat heavy meal at dinner for me to fully recover.”
He said he sleeps only five to six hours a day. But on his trip to Surigao from Liloan, he slept for only one hour.
“Feel groggy, would just find a waiting shed and take some rest for a while,” he said with a smile.
Fr. Picardal said he trained on his own for at least three months before the tour. “I do bike 3-4 days in a week. That’s when I go to the office and back to where I stayed.”
He said he did long rides on weekends. “I bike from Baclaran to Tagaytay, Pico de Loro, Nasugbu, Lipa, among others.”
A certified marathoner cum cyclist, there is one thing he wants to do next — become a triathlete.
“I want to compete in a triathlon race. But right now I have to finish this mission,” he said.
But he admitted that becoming a triathlete is quite difficult because he needs more time to train. “I have to go on out of town trips in a month. I need to undergo a total immersion in swimming.”
Baldonado said he was amazed by the priest’s feats and advocacy.
Baldonado, a shop mechanic assistant and now considered one of the strongest and fastest triathletes in Caraga Region said he wanted to join Picardal in trips around Mindanao but his work won’t allow him to do so.
“It’s my first time in my life to meet a person who has made a remarkable personal record and with a passion for advocacies. I salute him for that. He is awesome, he is the man,” Baldonado said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)