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Top Gear Philippines


Every weekend, the hills of Marilaque come alive to the sound of two-wheeled machines in the morning. This place is likened to the Tail of the Dragon, a two-lane, 11-mile road in Tennessee, USA, which is a haven for motorcycles and sports cars because of its endless twisties with a picturesque mountain backdrop.

There’s the deep rumble of the Harley-Davidson cruisers, the purr of Japanese sport bikes, the boom-and-clang of Ducati machines, and the buzzing of the underbones. You see classic Vespas with their Italian charm, Royal Enfields in their vintage glory, Italian stallions, and Japanese crotch rockets both big and small.

There are motorcycles of every make and model: scooters, underbones, touring bikes dirty from the muddy trails, and sport bikes—all gleaming in the sunlight.

While it’s still dark, riders converge at a Marcos Highway gas station, waiting for their mates, sipping coffee, filling up with gas. They strut around in full regalia. Padded mesh jackets are favorites. Sport bike riders prefer full leather suits, as do racer boys in their small souped-up underbones.

They come far and wide, as far as Cavite and Laguna in the south, and Bulacan, Valenzuela and Caloocan in the north. Rider groups with names like Bionic Wheels, Spartacus Riders, Blacksheep Riders, Viajero Riders, and the cheeky Biyakeros.

And as the sun rises, they head out in herds, riding past Cogeo, heading up and away.

So, what brings them to Marilaque?

It’s the popular rest stops like Café Katerina and Martessem Mountain Resort nestled on the hills of Tanay, The Gathering Café down in Sampaloc, and Jariel’s Peak at the far end in Infanta. All of them serve up hot bowls of bulalo, barako coffee and breakfast dishes.

It’s the sense of camaraderie with other riders. Motorcyclists will flash you a sideward V sign, the universal peace sign for riders. At stops, they will ask you questions about your bike. The chatter over breakfast is heavy with exuberance and adrenaline.

It’s a commune with nature, meditative and refreshing. A respite and escape from the drudgery of urban living. It’s the smell of the forest and the sun bathing the asphalt during the dry season.

It’s the magic of a fog-kissed road in the wet season. Beyond Jariel’s, civilization fades and the rider is left with just the road and his thoughts. It’s a wholly different ride in the afternoon as Marilaque affords you a view of the sun setting on Metro Manila.

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Ultimately, it’s the speed, whether you are charging up the mountain paths or counter-steering your way down on the long, winding, twisting roads. It’s the thrill and the freedom. Push your machine through corners at 50 - 60kph, maybe more, and find a smile plastered on your face. Boys become men, and men become their happier selves.

But Marilaque is not without its perils.

There is a crash almost every week, some poor rider pushing the envelope, riding beyond his and his bike’s capabilities. Marilaque demands respect. You disrespect the road and risk making its acquaintance up close—really close.

That’s just one way dreams die in Marilaque, crashing and maybe even burning in a mass of twisted steel, rubber, oil, and worse, broken bones. Ambulances are a common sight in the place during weekends.

Yet despite the accidents, riders still keep coming back.

The truth is, as soon as you round the final bend near Foremost Farms onto Cogeo on the return trip, you are hit by the fact that the dream is going to be over soon. Beyond that, civilization, the reality of the coming workweek, and the traffic in Masinag sets in.

But Marilaque will always beckon. And as you make your approach to the weekend, the road calls to you. It says, “Come ride. Return to the dream. Return to me.”



Alcuin Papa
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