‘Don’t ride faster than your angel can fly’

WORDS SUSAN CLAIRE AGBAYANI | PHOTOGRAPHY G-NIE ARAMBULO (LINK TO STORY HERE)

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On Sundays—or whenever someone gets the itch—a diverse and interesting mix of 23 professionals called the Cruiserheads get on their motorcycles and expose themselves to the sun, the heat, the wind, and, depending on Mother Nature, the rain. They also contend with undisciplined drivers, incorrigible pedestrians, stray dogs, slippery roads, and sudden curves—sometimes all at once. To an outsider, riding is having one foot in the grave.

For what?

In an interview with High Life at his Parañaque residence, musician Ely Buendia answered the question with a memory of his high school self seeing a motorcycle parked outside the family’s house in Las Piñas. “I tried it, and I loved it. I loved the feeling of being able to literally fly on a bike, and being able to control such a powerful machine you’re sitting on. I guess the danger aspect of it also appealed to me. It was very exhilarating. I never forgot that experience.”

Rock Icon Ely Buendia
Ely Buendia and his Harley Davidson

Mr. Buendia, 47, bought his first bike last year. His modest collection includes two Harleys and a Ducati, a nimbler beast suited for adventure rides, which he bought from fellow Cruiserhead Karlo Magpayo, a licensed embalmer and funeral director, and president and COO of the Caloocan-based Mother Teresa Crematory and Columbarium.   

Continued Mr. Buendia: “I’ve always been fascinated with motorcycles but I didn’t really have the time back then, neither did I have approval of my family. You’d be surprised what a lot of bikers have to through.” Seeing that his kids were all grown up, the elder statesman of rock gave into nostalgia unburdened by guilt. “I’m getting old. I guess it’s never too late to do something you’ve always wanted to do.”

He joined a group of bikers and reacquainted himself with the exhilaration he felt: “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had since getting my first bicycle,” Mr. Buendia said, adding that he made an important discovery. “I thought you just bought a bike and used it for commuting or whatever. I was surprised to find a whole new world of bike culture.” He was referring to long trips to places like Tagaytay and Sagada, and exploring spots that cannot be reached by car. The formula is simple: ride with the pack, eat with the pack, go back with the pack. “It’s like going back to school. The difference is, it’s fun,” he said. “There are parts of the city and the countryside I didn’t know even existed. And I want to discover them through riding. The fun has not waned at all. I can see myself doing this for as long as I can,” he said.

A SCRAMBLER, A RACER, A TOURING BIKE
On the Sunday that High Life joined the Cruiserheads on a road trip to San Pablo, Laguna, Mr. Buendia was absent due to an upcoming gig. Mr. Magpayo, from whom the rock star bought his Ducati, was in attendance, as was Bernie Ledesma, manager of the Shangri-La at the Fort branch of Harley-Davidson; TV host Kim Atienza; professional basketball player Rico Villanueva; TVC director and painter Erin Pascual; Ace Pools, Inc. President Alvin Edrosalam; and retired basketball player Mick Pennisi. Mr. Magpayo, the glue that holds the group together, noted that—save for Mr. Ledesma—everyone is in their 40s. “But you know what makes the group click? Diversity.”

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Multiple bikes are represented in the Cruiserheads: a quick inventory revealed a scrambler, a racer, and a touring bike, among other types. The riders themselves are as varied as the motorcycles in terms of skill level and acquisitiveness. Mr. Magpayo, who has had several bikes through the 20-plus years he’s been riding, keeps and drives a Harley. A Harley-Davidson, he explained, has its own soul: “It vibrates. It’s heavy, and it’s quite different compared to other bikes.” Mr. Pascual, owns three—none of which are Harleys. Mr. Atienza is said to have 10, while Mr. Edrosalam, who has been riding motorcycles since he was in fourth grade, has only one Softail for now. Mr. Ledesma said that he, too, has one (Mr. Magpayo quipped, “one fleet”).

inside-cruiserheads

The Cruiserheads think of themselves not as a club but as “foodies,” said Mr. Magpayo. To elaborate: foodies who like going places on their bikes “to have good breakfast, good meals, good coffee.” Their culinary cravings have brought them to Taal, Batangas, where one can find great lomiand to San Pablo, Laguna, where Sulyap, a café-cum-gallery serves traditional Filipino food. 

“It’s a good diversion for us to ride,” said Mr. Magpayo. “It’s a privilege. But we owe it to our families to get home safe.” He knows whereof he speaks. Five of his friends have died from motorcycle-related accidents. Speed is often the culprit, a lot of times, speed and curves.

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Mr. Magpayo offered this piece of advice: “Don’t ride faster than your angel can fly. From there, just learn through riding and experience. Nothing beats experience. Either learn the hard way, or the smart way.”

 

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