When he rode his first motorcycle at 16-years-old, Joseph Legaspi thought that nothing could beat the feeling of freedom and adrenaline that run through his veins. Now in his 40s, he gets the same fulfillment leading a motorcycle group to report fires in Malabon City, deliver relief goods to evacuees, and other acts of community service.
In September 2003, Legaspi with over 40 motorcycle enthusiasts formed the “Malabon Riders Association” to look out for fires in the city and provide other emergency response operations.
Top photo: HEROES ON WHEELS. The spirit of volunteerism in the community comes alive with the Malabon Riders Association. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Legaspi)
“Magra-ride kami kapag may mga sunog. Nagdadala din kami ng mga damit, pagkain galing sa mga nag-aambagan. Kung mayroong gustong mag-donate, nandun kami para kunin yung donation (We would ride when there are fires. We bring clothes, food from those who pitch in money. If there are people who want to donate, we ride to pick up donations),” he said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
But it was not until the government imposed restrictions on the movement of people and public transport to help contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in March when Legaspi realized that more and more people were in need of their “pabili” services where they do grocery shopping and other errands for free.
Legaspi then decided to put up a Facebook Group called “Malabon City Bayanihan Rider Pabili (Iwas Labas, Iwas Covid)”. So far, it has 27,000 members, of which 570 are riders.
“Doon nagpo-post yung Malabonian or tao na gustong makisuyo. Nagtatanong sila kung sino ang puwedeng rider na mautusan sa palengke, gagawin nila may code system kami para safe (That’s where Malabonians or people who need their services post. They ask which rider is available, and they’ll make sure there’s a code system so that groceries or packages are safe),” he said.
Besides “pabili” services, Legaspi said the riders have also been tapped by the Schools Division Office of Malabon City to deliver modules to public schools in the city after signing a memorandum of understanding.
He said their motorcycle group has helped deliver modules to 80 percent of public schools in the city.
“Kukunin namin sa school, kunwari sa Malabon National High School. Pupunta ang mga rider natin magbibigay ng instruction ang principal or administrator ng school sa mga team leader na sila rin yung magsasabi kung saan dadalhin (We get modules from a school, for example, Malabon National High School. Our riders go there and the principal or administrator of the school gives instructions to team leaders on where to deliver the modules),” he said.
The motorcycle group also recently helped deliver relief goods, clothes, and hygiene kits to residents in Marikina affected by flooding brought about by Typhoon Ulysses.
Because emergencies happen anywhere, anytime, Legaspi said their group also raised money to purchase a brand-new firetruck with help from the local government. The group bought their first fire truck last Oct. 20.
Other members of the group have also teamed up with the local fire department to volunteer as firefighters.
For their initiatives, the motorcycle group has even earned them the praise of Malabon City Mayor Antolin “Lenlen” Oreta.
“Masarap yung pakiramdam kasi na-appreciate ng tao at local government yung ginagawa namin (It feels good because people and the local government appreciate what we’re doing),” he said.
The local government currently conducts regular swab tests for riders for free. Alcohol and other disinfectants are also provided.
Legaspi and his fellow riders never sought payment for any of their services, but noticed that many citizens were generous enough to give modest tips.
He said he considers helping others as a hobby, because he could no longer drive motorcycles the same way he used to when he was younger.
Legaspi suffered a foot injury from a motorcycle accident in a trip to Lemery, Batangas in 2013. Although fully-recovered, he said he has been careful to avoid getting into similar incidents again.
As a teenager, Legaspi was fascinated by motorcycles, but since he didn’t have money to buy for himself, he had to borrow a friend’s motorcycle.
“Nung panahon na bata-bata ako pag may scooter ka, may pera ka. Wala ako nun. Ang barkada ko meron. Lagi ako sumasama sa kanya. Hihiram ako ng motor (When I was younger, when you had a scooter, it meant you had money. I didn’t have one. I had a friend who had one. I would hang out with him a lot. I would borrow a motorcycle),” he said.
Aside from the practical reasons of owning a motorcycle, he said the thrill of riding one gave him immense joy. He currently uses a Yamaha Mio 125.
“Lahat ng taong dumaan sa kabataan nahihilig mag-motor. Ang sarap kasi pag may motor ka tapos pupunta kang probinsya (Every teenager goes through a motorcycle phase. It feels so good riding a motorcycle, going to the provinces),” he said.
Although riding as community service started as a past-time, Legaspi said he realized it has also helped riders who found themselves between jobs.
“Iba-iba ang dahilan kung bakit napasa sa grupo. Merong sumali para gusto lang talaga ng charity activities, pero marami rin talagang nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa Covid (Riders have different reasons for being part of the motorcycle group. Some joined because they simply wanted to participate in charity activities, but there are many who also lost their jobs due to Covid),” he said.
Legaspi, just like everyone else, is hopeful that a vaccine for Covid-19 will soon be developed so things go back to normal. But even if more people start to do their own grocery shopping, he said that he’s certain that other citizens, especially elderly and persons with disabilities might still be in need of their services.
“Siguro mababawasan talaga yung makikisuyo, pero tutulong pa rin kami hangga’t may nangangailangan (Perhaps fewer people would need our services, but we’ll keep helping as long as there are people in need),” he said.
Legaspi said he was lucky to have friends, colleagues, and even a wife who shares a passion for motorcycles and community service. Once the pandemic is over, he said he looks forward to taking a long ride with his wife.
Would he let his kids follow his footsteps? Legaspi said: “My eldest is still a teenager, but I’ll let them decide on that on their own. For now, they can help us with community service.” (Azer Parrocha, PNA)