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To travel green, artist creates borloloy bike

April 17, 2010 10:17pm
Less than a week before the Tour of the Fireflies on April 18, artist Toym Imao is working on his bike and, as he put it on his Facebook post, "... adding borloloys."

The bike he is working on is a vintage 1969 National "Sensor" from the National Bicycle Industrial Company of Japan.

"Yes," Toym proudly explains, "the National Company of Japan used to be the number one bike company, producing high quality bicycles that became the benchmark for future U.S. models to follow."

Toymie Sensor bike
The bike before the borloloys. Photo courtesy of Jojo Gutierrez

Toym is an artist -- a painter and sculptor -- and an architect. He is not your regular bike buff. He does not go out Sunday mornings decked out in a spandex shorts and a bright, tight shirt straddling the latest, light-weight, aerodynamic road bike. More likely, you'd see him wearing a loose white t-shirt, shorts, sandals, tubao and his long hair in a pony-tail. His friendly smile is framed by his dark complexion.

Last year, he rode solo for two days, clocking about 24 hours of bike time from Monumento in Caloocan to Urdaneta in Pangasinan. He traveled a total of 180 plus kilometers on a 3,000-peso surplus bike from Japan (no, not yet the National Borloloy bike).

The trip, he says, enabled him to harvest tons of ideas for his art and writing. This was his first long trip in 17 years. He left Monumento before dawn on Good Friday and got to the Manaoag Shrine in Pangasinan about 3 pm on Black Saturday. Along the way, he observed traditional Lenten practices along Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Pangasinan.

toym urdaneta trip
Abdulmari "Toym" Imao, Jr. is a product of two rich cultures. His father is Dr. Abdul Mari Asia Imao Sr., the only Muslim Tausug National Artist for visual arts, while his mother Grace de Leon is an art dealer from Pampanga. He went to U.P. where he finished an architecture degree.

While in college, he joined the U.P. Mountaineers which further shaped his love for the environment. More than 20 years later, he is still active in the group. Together with his good friend Jojo Gutierrez, he is supporting the Diliman-based climbers' “Padyak" program of promoting a bike culture in campus.

He currently sits on the Board of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), which promotes alternative modes of transport like the Electric Jeepneys in Makati.

The ICSC is a a Manila-based non-government, not-for-profit organization. The group manages sustainable energy-focused programs and provides expert policy advice concerning renewable energy, climate and finance, alternative transport, and development issues related to building climate-resilient communities and cities.

Fusing his environmental advocacy with his artistic talent, Toym provides his skills to the ICSC for free.

"I do the external designs pro bono for the Institute," he beams, adding, "please check our website, just google ICSC electric jeepney."

Asked if the Philippine government is doing enough to protect the environment, Toym says: "There is always a reason to say it's not always enough, but the bottom line is we should stop making government actions as benchmarks for our country’s environmental efforts and start focusing on individual and group initiatives. We must take the helm as responsive citizens."

He believes that the country has enough environmental laws, but notes that "implementation and vigilance is the key factor."

Which is why he is again joining the Tour.

Toym's "borloloy" bike is almost ready for this year's "Tour of the Fireflies," the annual bike ride around parts of Metro Manila organized by the environmental group Firefly Brigade. The event, usually timed near the worldwide celebration of Earth Day on April 22, promotes the bicycle as an alternative and environmentally sensible means of transportation; if more people ride the bike, the Brigade is hoping that this will make local cities firefly-friendly once more.

toym 1
Borloloy Bike ready for the Tour of the Fireflies. Photo courtesy of Toym Imao

Toym describes his bicycle this way: "... a clamp brake system (front and back), 6-speed that is controlled by a battery operated stick shift similar to automatic cars. It has a parabolic speedometer, original dynamo to power space age looking front and rear lights. It has special light controls at the right handle bars. Body is aluminum, black painted, with original but faded stickers."

He says he got the bike last year.

"I bought it from someone second-hand, fixed it up some more and added accessories," he says. "I’ve been on the hunt for two years for a period bike. I got it April 2009."

toym 2
Why borloloy?

"Borloloy because I jazzed it up to reflect the spirit of the times, the turbulent ‘60s, flower power, space age sort of thing. It pays homage to the era that is associated with over-accessorization," Toym explains.

"It has three kinds of “noise makers" -- a very large chime sounding bell, a rubber honker, and a battery-operated whistler siren, (the kind mounted on ‘40s police cars)," he says.

According to the Urban Dictionary, borloloy is:
1. a Filipino term for fashion accessories;
2. culture: an eminent Filipino culture pertaining to the lavish decors put in homes, streets, stores, etc.

The accessories on Toym's bike are more than lavish. They are psychedelic.

toym 4
Aside from the noise makers, Toym points out that "it has more than two side mirrors, and supplemental vintage stuff like a ‘60s transistor radio, period peace stickers and graffiti on a metal military ammunition box."

To top it all, Toym says, "It also has a Rastafarian feel to it."

But more than the "borloloys," Toym says the bike is special because "for a time, it was my holy grail."

He says there were several candidate bikes, "but this had character in it so when I located it, I never let it go na."

Always on the go, he gives a parting shot, "kita tayo on Sunday, I’ll be there as early as 5 am with the U.P. Mountaineers “PadyaK" group. Just look for the orange UPM flags." – YA, GMANews.TV

The Tour of the Fireflies 2010 starts at 7 a.m. at Tiendesitas for an estimated 40-kilometer spin around Pasig, Quezon City, Marikina, Cainta, Taguig, Makati, Mandaluyong, and the Pasig Loop. It will end around 1:30 p.m. also at Tiendesitas. For more information, check out the Tour of the Fireflies website.
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