The Philippines

Text: John M. Flores • Photography: John M. Flores

Not every day do you get the chance to ride a motorcycle on the other side of the world. So when that opportunity arises, you best take full advantage by riding fast, riding hard, and savoring every mile.

Dumaguete to Bacolod

Day 1: Bacolod City. It's close to midnight and I'm sprawled across my thin hotel mattress utterly spent. A naked ceiling bulb throws flat light on the bare walls, the air conditioner wheezes like a pack-a-day smoker, and road gear is strewn about as if a pannier spontaneously exploded. I should be asleep - we have a 6 a.m. ferry to catch - but the adrenalin of the day is still coursing. Finally, overwhelmed by fatigue, I pass out…

Fourteen hours ago. We're bouncing like Ping-Pong balls through the streets of Dumaguete, our KLRs towering above the scooters that buzz through this small university and port city. Our tour leader, Bryan rides point and weaves an expert line through traffic while Arnold, an enduro rider from Quezon City, rides sweep. After days of rain, the sky is an impeccable cerulean blue, perfect but for a few lingering clouds.

The town and traffic fade as we head north where the beauty of Negros (na´gros) Island unfolds - the aquamarine sea lapping the shore, the road perched on a simple sea wall, and modest homes set within the lush vegetation. We stop to admire the view and look across the Tañon Strait to Cebu Island, another one of the 7,000-plus islands that make up the Philippine archipelago. We're not the only ones who've stopped - a man in bathing trunks and flip-flops walks up to admire the bikes. Italian by birth, he came here many years ago and built a home. He's not going anywhere anytime soon, but we are. We bid him arrivederci and ride on.

We turn away from the coast and head into the fields and hills of the island, a working paradise blessed with natural beauty and fertile soil. Sugarcane fuels the local economy, and its influence can be seen everywhere, in the broad cane fields, plantation homes, and the ancient trucks hauling the sweet harvest along dusty country roads. Our journey inland is like traveling back in time: the concrete blockhouses by the sea are replaced by Spanish-styled wood-frame homes and eventually native nipa huts made from bamboo and dried grass prevail. Likewise, the shoes and sneakers of town give way to flip-flops, and the road reverts from pavement to hard-packed dirt.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2009 back issue.