My Favorite Rides Around Manila

The Manila cyclist has choices so aplenty it would fill a book to describe them all. Here are only two of my favorites.

1. Corregidor Island.

Pros: Scenery, serenity, safety, seclusion and scary ghost towns. It’s five stars for all of the above. Virtually no car traffic. Nice boat ride (open upper deck). Very few places on the planet beat Corregidor as a cycling destination.

Cons: It’s not big. Even if you try all roads you can hardly ride more than 30 kilometres. The boat returns far too early. It will cost you P1300 (lunch included).

Vehicle: Good for road bikes, better for MTBs.

Ironically this prime cycling destination was de facto unreachable to Manila cyclists until recently. Sun Cruises, until recently the only tour operator there, stubbornly refuses to carry bicycles on the boat. Fortunately there is now also Prestige Cruises, who are bike-friendly. There are trips on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

How to get there:

• Choose a Friday, Saturday or Sunday (Sunday is best)

• Book your seats with Prestige Cruise. Contact Bong from Prestige on 0927 5555502 or 02 8328967, tell him you are bringing your bikes.

• Ride to the Cruise Terminal at the CCP Complex on Roxas Boulevard. If you come from around Makati or Ortigas Centre, take Buendia Avenue. It is a good run, especially on Sunday mornings.

• 7am check in at the terminal, pay P1299 per person (it includes lunch)

• At Corregidor, being a tourist off the guide’s leach, they make you sign a paper where you commit (smile) not to damage the place. After thousands of bombs dropped by foreigners they obviously have become cautious.

• You are back in Manila by 16:30.

2. Bataan to Subic Bay

Pros: Great scenery, long ride (80km to 110km), steep sections, no traffic.

Cons: You may arrive after nightfall. The ferry to the port of Lamao has no open deck (only a closed air-conditioned, TV-infested cabin.)

Vehicle: Good for MTBs, perfect for road bikes with low gears.

This one is for real riding. After a ferry trip of an hour and a half (use it to sleep and have breakfast) there is nothing to slow you down all the way to Subic but your own weakness.

It’s smooth pavement almost all the way, but strangely there is almost no traffic at all.

Also for this ride you need no car or bus if you live in Manila. Start pedalling from your doorstep.

How to get there:

• Book a trip to Lamao (Prestige Cruise, contact Bong on 0927 5555502).

• Book a room. At Baloy beach rooms start at P1000, check out Harley’s (047 2246922), Mangroves (047 2227909) or Shaevens (047 2239430).

• Buy the Central Luzon Map from Accu map (e.g. at Power Books) and check the route.

• Ride to the Cruise Terminal at the CCP, pay and board the ferry.

• Have breakfast (bring your own) on the ferry or sleep, you won’t see much inside the closed cabin.

• From the pier go right on the Roman Expressway. After Caput go left. At a small T-Junction after a few kilometres go right (not on the map) then left on the Linao Highway. If necessary ask for the way to Mount Samat and check your map.

• At the turn-off to Mt. Samat to the left (there is a sign) you have the choice of going up the mountain and back or to continue straight. The trip up and down will add some steep 10 km and one hour to your trip.

• Follow the Linao Highway, check your map and if you have, bring a compass. It’s not difficult, but not all the turns are no the map.

More rides to consider:

Marikina river banks. You can ride there from Makati or Ortigas. Marikina is in fact building a whole network of bike tracks.

The Maarat trail just behind the newly-built Timberland development near San Mateo in Rizal. This trail is a classic among local cyclists and features quiet mountain roads, steep inclines with only the occasional great view on Manila to remind you that you are not hundreds of miles away.