A few weeks after my first marathon, I got an invitation from the 2016 Guimaras Marathon 2nd Edition Organizer Federico Senen Rentoy or “Boyet” as what his family and friends fondly call him. “Its not going to be an official race”, he said, “but we are running to reach Bucari. The run is going to be about 23K, on a weekend, meet-up will be at Leon Plaza at 5AM.” Without hesitation, I said “Yes, I’m in!”
Leon is a second class municipality in the province of Iloilo, Philippines. Located in the southwestern part of Iloilo Province, it is 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Iloilo City. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 47,522 people. It has a total land area of 14,020 hectares (34,600 acres) of which 276.16 hectares is classified as an urban area and 13,728.84 hectares as rural land. It is bounded by the municipalities of Alimodian in the north, San Miguel in the east, Tigbauan and Tubungan in the south, and San Remegio, Antique, in the west.
I rode my bike out at 4:30 am and took an early jeepney ride from San Jose to Leon (Php12.00). In about 15-20 minutes later I arrived at Leon Plaza, it was still dark and I was the first to arrive. I spoke to some locals who were curious why I was there, a few even offered breakfast and coffee which I graciously declined (Filipino hospitality is amazing but I’m a stranger to the place and well I’m just trying to be cautious but I sincerely appreciate the love), stretched a bit and took tons of selfie. This is my first time in Leon.
The plaza at 5am is busy with people who are walking their dogs, jogging, running, brisk walking, kids and adults playing and watching basketball, a few people who are just sitting around and local pedicab drivers waiting for their passengers. According to one of the locals, I just missed their market day, which is on a Friday. Every town has its own market day, where local farmers bring their fresh produce in the market to sell. Leon is known as the “Vegetable Basket of Iloilo Province” due to its supply of asparagus, cabbages, baguio beans, sayote, eggplants, carrots and other vegetables.
A few minutes later, Boyet Rentoy arrived. He introduced me to Ate Diding, Tolits and Dyay. All of them has been to Bucari before, so I was the only newbie in the group.
Ate Diding only 5’ tall (more or less) at 49, is the most glamorous runner I’ve met. Seriously. With make-up on and high-end matching gears, she was ready to conquer the world, errr, Bucari. This tiny woman greeted me with a smile as we were introduced. She took several pictures and started to prep for the run.
Tolits, “I already ran 21K from Oton to Leon,” he said. I was already in pain just visualizing that. This guy has no fat in his entire body. He has very well toned muscles. He’s probably a decade older than me too, but I know I’d be eating his dust on this trip.
Dyay, the bearded guy. At first glance, you’d think, “rock and roll baby!!!” But heck no, Dyay is an active member of their church (Baptist) and sometimes would be ask to read or speak during their mass or church activities. He has a very distinctive laugh and has very strong opinions and a good sense of humor.
And finally, Boyet, a soft-spoken man with a heart. Boyet is always the one who would stop and ask if you’re still breathing. As a team leader, he was the one who organized this run and invited the people to join.
Which I just recently learned is a tradition in this sport. It also has its own exclusivity, where the Team Leader only invite, well people they like for some reason to join them. For some groups it would be because of their love for a particular product like the “Salomon” or “Mizuno”, so most of their gears would come from those particular brands. Some groups train to run and bike, so they create their own group as well. While others like me, are freelancers who are doing it for the love of running, nature and are still trying to find the right TEAM.