As far as places go you would be hard pushed to find somewhere more different to the UK than the Philippines, landing in Manila rips the comfort zone right out from underneath you. Gone are the normal western customs, humidity is king of the weather even in deepest winter and the traffic is mind boggling. Heading out of the airport we could not be happier to have guides Iztok, Bans and Tena by our side.
The Philippines as a country is made up of over seven thousand islands. With the western isles being a relative no go zone for foreigners due to kidnapping, pirates and a whole host of other things that didn’t sound too appealing. We were relieved to hear that our trail hunting mission was taking us north through the rice fields towards sun baked Narvacan.
With Narvacan making a solid bid to become the action sports and horse-power capital of the Philippines we quickly found ourselves slinging our Genius’s into the back of a jacked up pickup to sample some of the local trails. With steep fireroads and dust being the gourmet starter on in the up’s department the main would not disappoint. Dropping almost vertically from an outcrop that was being prepared for a paragliding school the trails snaked back down to the golden beaches through steep channels, big jumps and phenomenal corners. The smiles and the dust was cemented on our face’s with the only way of blowing it off being on a supercharged quad, then a jetski, then a Polaris rounded out by a Porsche. I think it would be tough to argue with the action sports capital’s credentials.
With the country life ticked off the Philippine must do bucket list it was time to get back to the hustle and bustle of Manila. With 42,857 people in every square kilometer and a population of 1.652 million people we were fully won over by our guides claims of ‘riding’ within the limits of the city. Pulling up at the local we were awaited by a tribe of scooter kids, or in Philippian terms, our uplift. With the wind flowing through our hair, a flurry of replica Red Bull helmets around us and trails we could almost taste the scooter life was for us. No more uplift-bus drowsiness, 10 runs a day instead of 5, being pulled right to the top of the trail, does it get any better, the downhill’s certainly did!
Island swap day had arrived, we waved goodbye to Bans and Tena, boarded a short flight and stepped off in the quieter but still bustling island of Palawan. With Joe being a full trained mountain bike coach we agreed to run some of the islanders through some Trippin top tips on how not to ride a bike up their local. The ‘local’ turned out to be one hell of a track weaving down through burnt shrub land and houses you couldn’t even imagine full of three generations of family. This is the part of mountain biking we love, the places it takes you, the people you meet and the things you see.
Settling in for the long journey and multiple flights home we cannot help but think how lucky we are to have met so many amazing people and taken in so many incredible sights, trails and experiences. We are all so privileged to be part of an amazing community stitched together by our love of skidding round corners. Mountain biking is a credit to us all and it genuinely is the people that make it what it is. Thank you so much to all involved for making every moment so special, long may our amazing two-wheeled community continue.
Video/Photography: Sam Flanagan