Have you ever seen those amazing Bamboo bicycles around the metro? The ones being rented out and used for tours around places like Intramuros in Manila and Bonifacio Global City? Well, chances are, you probably have since they’ve already become quite the attraction in many hotels, establishments and tourist spots as of late. The response by those who’ve seen and even experienced riding these bikes turned out overwhelmingly positive.
For those who aren’t aware, these beautifully created bamboo bicycles are actually called Bambikes. It also happens to be the very name of the company that builds these amazing eco-friendly rides — Bambike!
I’ve actually known about Bambike for quite sometime now. In fact, I even featured these Bambikes together with my wife on a segment of a television show which I hosted on GMA-7 called, “Pinoy MD”. You can check out my wife and I riding a Bambike on a behind-the-scenes video I made during our taping of Pinoy MD below…
I learned during the interview that Bambike is a socio-ecological enterprise that hand-makes (Yes! Hand-makes!) bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices. Their bamboo bike builders — or “Bambuilders” as they would like to fondly call them — come from Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine based community development organization for the poor, working to bring an end to poverty.
I immediately fell in love with these bikes the moment I tried one out. First, because of its really novelty appearance… second (and most importantly), because of the deeper purpose and meaning that Bambike has set for itself — to effect positive change not only to help save the environment, but uplift the lives of many decent hardworking Filipinos and families who only need the opportunity to make a living.
Being that I also have a very soft spot for the less fortunate, I became all the more interested to know about Bambike and the incredible efforts they are doing.
A quick Bambike visit with the Ford Ranger
As luck would have it, my desire to know more about Bambike and the people behind this awesome company would be granted sooner than I thought!
You see, I recently had the fantastic chance to take my family with me to visit Bambike’s main base of operations in Tarlac with the help of our friends from Ford Philippines. It was a great way for me to learn more, not only about their special bamboo bikes, but to also personally see the kind of good they are doing. Apart from that, bringing along my family would further reinforce my children’s sense of social responsibility.
During this quick day trip up north, Ford Philippines provided me with their very handsome 2017 Ford Ranger FX4 2.2L 4×2 AT — a very sleek yet equally macho pickup truck that was an absolute joy to drive as it was to just look at.
It was the perfect vehicle to bring along, especially since we’d also be checking out the bamboo farm where Bambike harvests much needed materials for the production of their bicycles.
With my wife and kids in tow, together with a few other friends in media, as well as some of the wonderful folks from Ford Philippines, we made our way to Tarlac. It was truly one of the best road trips I’ve had in quite a while.
Our first stop was the bamboo farm in Barangay Sinait, Sitio Maligaya. It was actually quite a ride going to this semi-remote place in Tarlac where we encountered very dusty and unpaved roads. But it was immediately apparent that these obstacles were nothing to the Ford Rangers we were in.
We cruised along with no difficulty whatsoever. I believe even my kids had a blast off-roading like that. Who wouldn’t, right?!
At the bamboo farm, I met Bambike founder (and all-around good guy), Bryan McClelland, who also arrived in a Ford Ranger togther with his team. He introduced us to some of his workers and partners and toured us around the area.
We all walked a considerable distance across the field which led us to where bamboos were harvested.
There, he happily explained that there are actually many different species of bamboo.
While one of the harvesters was demonstrating how the hard work is done, Bryan continued orienting us by further sharing how difficult it really is to consistently find the right species, variety, shape and size of bamboo culms (the main stem) which are used for the frame of their Bambikes.
Bryan added that the difficulty of making Bambikes is mainly due to bamboo’s natural variations. So, finding just the right diameter, length, and species, in order to meet a bicycle’s needs — such as pedal and chain ring clearance — becomes a challenge.
They are very careful when it comes to the selection process in order to maintain the quality craftsmanship that Bambike has come to be known for.
After a considerable amount of time harvesting, we took these huge bamboo culms and loaded them on our Ford Rangers in order to bring to Gawad Kalinga located in the rural town of Victoria, Tarlac, where these Bambikes are manufactured and produced.
I was especially excited loading these bamboo culms onto the back of our Ford Ranger since I wanted to really test out how well the pickup would perform on and off the road with a heavy load on board.
True enough, our Ford Ranger didn’t even flinch for a second. It maneuvered masterfully and effortlessly even on rough terrain, impressing me all the more.
Roughly 45 minutes and a couple of kilometers later, we finally arrived at Gawad Kalinga.
Hello, Gawad Kalinga!
Gawad Kalinga, translated in English means to “give care”. It is a beautiful Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty by first restoring the dignity of the poor. The foundation, which was established back in 2003, employs an integrated and holistic approach to empowerment with values-formation and leadership development at its core.
It was here where we unloaded the bamboos from our Ford Ranger and had the pleasure of meeting some of Bambike’s amazing bambuilders — community members who are incredibly skilled craftsmen, responsible for hand-building the greenest (and coolest!) bikes on the planet.
Bryan tooks us through the careful process of how a Bambike is manufactured.
He talked about the various stages of Bambike production… from the sorting of stems, soaking/curing of bamboo to make it anti-bukbok, an eco-friendly smoking process to carbonize the bamboo (and to give it a beautiful caramel color), assembly, all the way to quality control.
During our tour, my family and I learned how much love, sweat and tears go into making every single Bambike unit. Color me impressed.
These handmade bamboo bicycles are then used for bike rentals, purchase and ecotours along the walled city of Intramuros which in turn help Bambike’s beneficiaries — the BamBuilders.
It’s quite mindblowing to realize that these beautifully crafted bamboo bikes that have been admired and purchased by international personalities, diplomats, even presidents and prime ministers, are actually all made in a small rural village by very humble individuals who used to work a number of part-time jobs, driving pedi-cabs, welding, farming, and other odd jobs as day laborers.
But more importantly, I was amazed to learn just how big of an impact Bambike has become in the lives of these normal, everyday people. Through Bambike, Bryan and his wonderful team have initiated programs that include scholarships, sponsoring a preschool teacher, weekly feeding programs for children, as well as a bamboo nursery for reforestation. It is truly a company dedicated to social and environmental stewardship whose passion is helping out people and the planet.
Bryan explained that Bambike shares Gawad Kalinga’s vision of a poverty-free Philippines and contributes to the cause by hiring GK villagers, providing them with sustainable livelihoods.
These Bambuilders now work full-time at the Bambike workshop, inside the Gawad Kalinga community where they live among friends and close to their families.
To give you a better undertanding of Bambike and the immense good they are doing in community, check out their short video below…
I am incredibly grateful to have been able to bring my wife and most especially my kids along to witness true kindness at work. It is in these kinds of opportunities that one’s heart is opened and our limited and sometimes selfish perspective is blown open and radically changed for the better.
Thank you to Bryan McClelland for patiently taking us around and sharing his infectious passion to help others. Truly, Bambike has become a force for positive change in a world that needs more people like him.
I’d also like to thank my good friends from Ford Philippines for the beautiful and purpose-filled getaway, not to mention the immensely delightful Ford Ranger experience. What a joy to ride!
Finding purpose and meaning…
So, here’s my take-home reflection after this unforgettable Bambike and Ford Ranger road trip…
Love can never be taught… only experienced. And this beautiful opportunity has helped my family including myself experience a true, genuine love for others. The kind of love that never holds back, expects nothing in return, and desires to be only given away.
In closing, I sincerely hope that we all eventually find this kind of love within us so that, just like Bambike, we can continue to uplift, improve and change the lives of many more people around us. May it ignite a similar kind of passion that will give us more reason and purpose in this world than to merely exist.
And with that, allow me to leave you with a totally random video of myself, together with my wife and kids inside the Ford Ranger, which we shot on our way back home from Tarlac. Enjoy!