"WHEN women gather, great things happen," peace advocate Leymah Gbowee once said in a speech.
The same could be said for this all-female biker group, who found belongingness and company on two wheels.
A few days into the lockdown March last year, Precious Anne Villones, a 29-year-old self-employed entrepreneur, struggled to sustain her cacao tablea online business as public transportation closed and transport couriers ceased operations.
She had to improvise ways to deliver her products to her clients. So, she turned to bikes.
"Kasagsagan ng ECQ, I bought my first bike sa Facebook Marketplace. P2,500 siya, pero natawaran ko ng Php2,300. Kailangan ko kasi ng magagamit pang-deliver sa mga customers ko. Wala pang brake yon, foot brake lang ang gamit ko," Villones, the founder of the group, shared with SPIN Life .
Several weeks after, her bicycle has become her best friend. It wasn't just a lifeline for her business,but also a way to destress from her routine as a wife and a mother to three little girls.
Every morning, she bikes along Taguig City's C6 road, a popular spot for bikers in the locale.
During her many rides, she began noticing something interesting. "Sa pagba-bike ko, na-notice ko, bakit parang halos ang bikers puro lalaki? So sabi ko, mag-encourage kaya ako ng female bikers," she said.
Villones posted a photo of herself, her bike, and her products in one Facebook group. To her surprise, it gained traction on social media among other girls who wished to belong in a cycling group.
"Ang raming nag-comment. Marami palang gusto mag-bike. Tapos, dun na nagsimula. May friend ako na niyaya, nagwo-work siya sa BGC, niyaya ko lang magbike sa C6 kasi may bike naman siya," she said.
Just a friendly ride
That friend of hers is 32-year-old widow, Jean Rosalio, who lost her husband to diabetes just a month into the pandemic.
Rosalio's bike was actually a gift to her by her late husband back in 2019. But she barely touched it before his untimely death in April of last year.
"May folding bike ako, regalo ng husband ko. Since binigay niya naka-stuck lang yon sa bahay, sabi ko ibebenta ko, ayaw niya," she said. "'Pagdating ng April, namatay husband ko, so naghahanap ako ng ways to unwind, until nilabas ko 'yung bike and nagka-yayaan kami ni sis Precious mag-ride."
Aside from helping getting her mind off the tragedy, Rosalio noticed another unexpected side benefit.
"Tumagal 'yung panahon, di na ako gaano ka-stressed, iba 'yung pakiramdam 'pag pinapawisan ka. Tapos from 65 naging 58 kilos na lang ako," she said.
Sometime in August, Villones and Rosalio decided to invite even more females in their little company. Villones kept on talking about her experiences on social media, which encouraged more women to join them.
Villones opined, "Sa Pilipinas kasi, culture or tradition natin na 'yung mga nanay sa bahay lang. I think it's time na din na 'yung mga nanay makalabas, especially in this time, para makapag-destress kahit papaano."
Four more riders began joining their group, including a mom in her 50s and working girl who was 22 years old.
And that's when it all began. They started calling themselves the 'Women on Wheels' (Team WOW) of Taguig City.
Over time, more females approached them either via social media. Some even personally went up to them on the streets. Of course, Team WOW welcomed everyone with open arms. Now, the group has 35 active members.
As they continue with their rides, both casual and long ones, they noticed the huge disparity between female and male bikers on the streets.
"Sinusulong din namin 'yang equal rights sa streets, kasi, sa society that we live in right now, 'pag babae ka, less ang tingin sayo, or may catcalling," she said.
That's when they found another reason to sustain what they started.
"We want to build a support system. 'Pag may mga ganon [catcallers], pinupuntahan namin at sasabihan namin na mali 'yang ginagawa mo," Villones continued. "We wanted equal rights pagdating sa road."
With the fire inside of them, the group also aims to spark motivation among other bikers to maintain a discipline on the streets.
"Minsan, may mga nakikita kaming motorists na nagagalit sa bikers, kaya ine-encourage talaga namin ang members namin na sumunod sa traffic signages kasi sa atin din magsisimula ang disiplina," Rosalio added. "May time kasi na hindi pa naka-go ang stoplight, tatawid na ang mga bikers, hindi dapat ganon. Matuto dapat sumunod."
As Team WOW continued to spin at its own pace, it paved the way for a special bond among its members.
"Nag-establish kami ng three core values; Fun, Fitness, and Friendship," Villones said. "With members of different ages, marami kaming mga discussions within the group, may mga sharing of own experiences that helps each other."
The group created a healthy avenue for its members to have meaningful and mindful conversations.
"It's not a perfect team but we make sure it's a safe space for everyone. Ini-inspire namin 'yung isa't isa, given nga na we are composed of women of different ages. There'd be mothers, working age, and even students," she said.
Even in the toughest of times and in financial crises, they stand by each other.
Almost a year into the group's founding anniversary, so far, their longest ride was a 130-kilometer trip to Norzagaray in Bulacan and Los Banos. They're game for more, of course.
"Sa Team WOW, hindi lang 'to basta ride, may friendship and connections built din," Villones added.