Are We There Yet?

Cyclist Eloiza Regaliza goes farther to explore possibilities
Freedom Cycle with Eloiza

© FNF Philippines

She’s done three 200-kilometer ride that each lasted ten hours. She’s conquered Baguio on her bike, cycling at an elevation of up to 8,000 meters. She’s had a few scratches and small bruises, but fortunately, not a serious injury. She’s always ready for another bike challenge, a new adventure.

She takes her 89,000 YouTube subscribers on a trip with her through her vlogs. In her videos, she’s caught breathless as she pedals at 50KM/H, but she’s never without a smile. Her cheerful spirit is a tank full of energy.

At 26, Eloiza Regaliza identifies herself as an entrepreneur, a cyclist, and a content creator. Yet she’s more: a reflection of the endless horizon of possibilities when one puts in hard work and embraces a sense of purpose.

The roundabout

A communications graduate, Eloi’s love for travel prompted her to enter the tourism industry. She opened a travel agency, arranging domestic and international trips for clients. At that time, she already wanted to start vlogging, but the demands of the business tied her down to her desk. She was also busy managing her family’s business so she had to shelve her plans to become a digital content creator.

When she noticed that the long hours at work was taking a toll on her health, she bought a bike, and began cycling her way to the office. It was the start of her beautiful journey.

She got a road bike, and would leisurely ride along the Mall of Asia loop. There, she met other cyclists who eventually became her teammates when she was ready for long bicycle rides and races. “The cycling community is strong. It’s one of the things that I love about biking: you meet a lot of inspiring people who will guide you along the way – literally and figuratively,” beams Eloi.

When the pandemic struck, she hopped on an adventure that she had always wanted to explore. Her travel agency had to fold, and she realized that she had time on her hands to finally start online content creation. Eloi exited the roundabout into a more exciting route, offering fresh opportunities.

On her bike armed with an action camera, she recorded her weekend solo cycling trip to Sierra Madre, a 100-kilometer trip to Rizal, to the west of Metro Manila. She recorded 21 minutes of her cycling trip as she commented on the “ahon” (elevated) route, criticized a truck driver that recklessly did an overtake, and almost jumped off her bike when a spider landed on her.

She was surprised herself when her very first vlog garnered 100,000 views in just one week. Nine months since, it remains one of her most popular videos. When asked what she thought what made her initial video click, she humbly attributed it to the bike trend and the novelty of women taking on cycling as a sport. But it could also be because of her sunny personality, radiating through her warm smile.

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Eloi, everyone!

Eloi opens her vlog with “Eloi, everyone!” (Hello, everyone!), echoed by her fellow cyclists appearing in the video. It’s her simple greeting, but also welcome introduction of a strong, confident woman to the world.

Working out five days a week, and cycling three to four times a week, Eloi has gone as far north as Benguet, and as extreme south as Zamboanga. She participates in cycling races with her team, Franzia. There are only seven women in the group, but this does not intimidate her. “Cycling remains a male-dominated activity, but that shouldn’t stop women from taking it up as a sport,” encourages Eloi. “Many couldn’t believe that I finished a 200-KM ride, but I did,” she says triumphantly.

Eloi shared that before she set up filters on her page, she would receive repulsive comments on her posts. Many times on the road, she had experienced catcalling, which turned her into an ardent advocate of Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act that penalizes all forms of sexual harassment in streets and in public spaces as well as online spaces. Last year, Eloi filed a case with the barangay after two men catcalled her. “Women should not be objectified, and misogyny is not a laughing matter,” she emphasized.

“When people, especially women, say that my courage on the road and to stand up on issues like harassment inspires them, I get more motivated myself,” expresses Eloi. “Cycling is a beautiful sport. It also provides ease of mobility, and today, during the pandemic, we can even more appreciate its value,” she adds.

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On the right track

Eloi’s favorite bike ride is still cruising through the mountains of Sierra Madre, enjoying the gush of air on the cheeks, and the marvelous greenery. She considers it her fast escape from the city, where she needs to contend with high volume of vehicles, and with road sharing a lost concept.

She recognizes the road improvements that happened during the pandemic: bike lanes were installed, and cyclists were given a priority. In Metro Manila, however, Eloi remarks that a lot of bike lanes are very narrow, and would even have obstructions. “I would give Metro Manila a grade of 4/10 in terms of usability and safety,” rates Eloi.

“Bike lanes were an afterthought, and not immediately integrated in city plans. This has caused road rage because motorists are not used to allocating space for cyclists,” observes Eloi. “We also have to acknowledge that there are a lot of new cyclists – either hobbyists or simply commuting to and from work. We need road education for these road users and for ‘kamote riders and bikers,’ or those who still have little knowledge of the rules of the road,” suggests Eloi.

Eloi would like to see more bike-friendly cities like BGC in Taguig, and Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Despite the low score that Eloi assigned to Metro Manila’s road condition, she remains optimistic that infrastructures would be better especially given the policies proposed in congress. The Magna Carta of Commuters, also called the Commuters Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives and Senate Bill No. 775 or An Act Providing for a Magna Carta for Dignified Commuting guarantee “safe, convenient, reliable, and affordable commute with dignity.”

The development of shower facilities in establishments, bike racks in transport hubs and commercial centers, adequate sidewalk and bike lanes, network of greenways, and proper lighting on all roads and footpaths are prescribed in the bills.

“The bills address a lot of concerns. For instance, the lack of shower facilities greatly affects people’s decision to use a bike, especially because we’re in a tropical country,” points out Eloi. “As more employees return to the office, we should see this as an opportunity to start thinking of ways to encourage more people to bike to work,” she recommends.

Eloi is the face of FNF Philippines’ Freedom Cycle.
Eloi is the face of FNF Philippines’ Freedom Cycle. © FNF Philippines

A continuing journey

Eloi’s important message to cyclists this pandemic: get vaccinated. Eloi prioritizes health, the main reason why she got into the sport hence, she strictly follows health and safety protocols, and persuades others to do the same. Her advice is to avoid crowded areas and wear a mask. “Biking is a form of exercise that can boost the immune system. It can improve our physical and mental wellbeing. It also gives us a sense of freedom when we’re outside, and have full control of our destination,” reflects Eloi.

Cycling may be challenging to some people. Eloi tells them not to be daunted. “The wonder with biking is it’s not limited to just being a sport or an exercise. It can also be a lifestyle or a choice you make. You can adopt it as your personal mode of transport,” states Eloi. “Find out which bikes suits you. There’s road bike, mountain bike, or BMX bike. That’s really what I like about cycling. There are a lot of possibilities to explore,” she beams with excitement.

Eloi says that she intends to visit many more places on her bike. She wants to continue creating online content where she can impart knowledge, and “hopefully some joy.” She grins, and certainly, she holds a lot of promise.

Eloiza Regaliza
©  FNF Philippines