While on exile in Dapitan, Rizal wanted a bike

Whether on a tour or exploring on our own, how bamboo bicycles can help us pedal toward a greener future

By Ruben Claro Reyes IV

In the last years of his life, Dr. Jose P. Rizal yearned for a bicycle.

In late 1885, during his exile in Dapitan, one of the Philippines’ greatest heroes exchanged a series of letters with his family requesting that they purchase a bicycle for him. In one of these letters, he even describes his ideal bike: “I do not want a deluxe bike, but a sturdy one that can run on sand and on these bad roads.”

In late 1886, Rizal was arrested for his supposed role in the revolution, despite disavowing a violent rebellion. He would be detained at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila and meet his fate at what is now Rizal Park. Unfortunately, Dr. Jose P. Rizal never got his bicycle.

I CAN RIDE A BIKE WITH NO HANDLEBARS A Bambike parked at Rizal's statue inside Fort Santiago, also in the walled city

Today, among the modern icons of Intramuros are the wide-eyed tourists exploring on bamboo bikes. These eye-catching bicycles are perhaps just second to the kalesa as iconic vehicles inside the historic walled city. They are made by Bambike Revolution Cycles, and hosted by Bambike Eco Tours at the San Luis Complex along Real Street. Whether you hop on a tour, or rent one to explore on your own, the bamboo bicycles are a great way to experience Intramuros and learn about the formative events of Philippine history.

I do not want a deluxe bike, but a sturdy one that can run on sand and on these bad roads. —Jose Rizal

The bicycles are just one part of the bigger picture. “Bamboo bikes are a vehicle, literally and figuratively,” as company founder Bryan Benitez McClelland puts it. Bambike is a socioecological enterprise that focuses on fair trade labor, sustainable manufacturing, and ultimately building toward a greener future through bamboo technology.

BIKE, BIKE, REVOLUTION A bamboo bike, otherwise known as Bambike, parked by a kalesa or carriage inside Intramuros

When one of the tour participants asked, “Why start with bikes?” Bryan’s response was simple: “It is hard not to smile when you are on a bike.” Cycling is fun. You hop on a Bambike just looking forward to a good time, but you end up learning a lot about cultural heritage, environmental sustainability, and local communities. You leave with the mindset of how local natural resources, Filipino craftsmanship, and green technology can pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Bambike Ecotours is currently hosting experiences at Intramuros in Manila, Ligtasin Cove in Batangas, and the San Lorenzo Wind Farms in Guimaras. You can also get a bamboo bike of your own, as well as a host of other bamboo products. You can learn more by going to Bambike.com, follow Bambike and Bambike Ecotours on Facebook and Instragram, or visit Bambike HQ at Plaza San Luis Complex. Real Street corner General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.