3 days of riding through Zambales and Pangasinan on ADV bikes

The Christmas Season is perhaps the busiest of all the weeks in the entire calendar for many Filipinos, especially now that everything is back to normal. For many, it is the season of celebrations – Christmas parties left and right, family reunions here and there, etc. etc. That said, a lot of motorcycle riders wished they could just squeeze in one final long ride before 2023 ended.

For a select few of the BMW Owners Society of Saferiders (BOSS) – the group that organizes the annual BOSS Ironman Motorcycle Challenge – that season was blessed with a small window of opportunity to let off some steam and explore the beautiful backroads the country has to offer onboard their big adventure bikes.

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The BMW R 1250 GS Adventure climbing Daang Katutubo

 

Between December 28 to 30, Vince Tagle of Ride Manila (who was also celebrating his birth month), Fel Neri, Vic Ochoa, Chester Alvisse, Omeed Jafari, Raymond Guevarra, Lee Kierulf, me and former PBA and National Team player Mick Pennisi, headed straight to New Clark City to meet our friend Rye Azaldon to guide us to the Daang Katutubo trailhead.

Rye took the group through the newly widened (and beautiful) paved roads that lead to Aguilar, Pangasinan, where the trailhead is located, bypassing the Tarlac City and the busy MacArthur Highway.

If I remember correctly, the story goes that Daang Katutubo used to be an old foot trail (daan) used by the local tribesmen (katutubo) to cross the mountains from Pangasinan to Zambales. From Sitio Mapita, the road will intersect with Daang Kalikasan after about 4 kilometers of steep uphill with ruts that were carved by the rain and loose rocks. We were fortunate that the weather cooperated with the group and the road – or the lack thereof – was perfect even for our heavy adventure bikes.

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Yamaha Tenere 700

 

The running joke is that, no matter how difficult the terrain was for us and our ADV bikes, there’s always a Starbucks waiting for us at the top of the mountain.

After trudging our way up, we’re finally out and reached the Daang Katutubo-Daang Kalikasan junction. From there, we began the descent towards the town of Santa Cruz, Zambales. After a quick lunch at a local Inasal, we headed down to Masinloc and to the famous Coto Mines to camp for the night.

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Old Coto Public Market

 

Back in 2017, when the Touratech Travel Event was held, Coto Mines was very quiet and peaceful and only a handful of adventure riders dared to enjoy its beauty. Now, thanks to Pia Wurtzbach (through her movie My Perfect You) and social media, hundreds of tourists flock to Coto Mines every day, with both positive and negative effects on the place.

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Sinampalukang manok for breakfast, Coto Mines

 

The next day, after downing two cups of coffee and sinampalukang manok (chicken in sour soup), we found ourselves back on Coto’s rugged “highway” that was used by heavy mining trucks during the mining’s heyday.

Now on our 2nd day, the route was pretty straightforward going back to Pangasinan and should not involve any serious off-roading for these heavy adventure bikes. So the group headed back to Daang Kalikasan and soon, we were captivated by its picturesque overlooking spots. We can’t help but think that in just a few years, this magnificent new road will become the “Marilaque of the North” complete with left and right eateries and you guessed it, kamote riders. Let’s hope that that’s not the case.

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Daang Kalikasan overlooking Pangasinan

 

Shortly after crossing the mountains back to Pangasinan, one of our riders experienced a throttle sensor failure on his BMW R 1250 GS Adventure. These owners say that it has become a common issue for the 1250, and I was told various stories (that were shared by BMW owners) on where and when the throttle issue occurred to them, with one owner caught in Skyway Stage 3 and in the middle of the rush hour.

If there’s a good thing about the BMW in this scenario, the bike can still run on what they call “limp mode.” Basically, limp mode allows forward travel but the rev is limited to about 1,500 rpm only.

While other groups would leave the troubled rider behind to continue with the journey since help (pick up) is on the way, that is simply not in this group’s dictionary. From Manila, the ETA of the pick up where the R 1250 GSA will be loaded is about 6-7 hours to our location. Instead of being idle for 7 hours, the group decided that it was best to run the bike as far as we possibly could.

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Mick Pennisi towing the GSA

 

From the sleepy town of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, we literally crawled our way to the towns of Rosales and then to San Nicolas, Pangasinan. What should’ve been a 1 ½ hour journey became 4 hours. But that’s ok. That’s still better than sitting idle and doing nothing. And besides, it wouldn’t be another epic ride if there’s nothing out of the ordinary happening, isn’t it?

Since the 1250 GSA can no longer climb the steep inclines of Villa Verde Pass, we had to tow it by the footpeg. Mick was the first to act as the tow truck. Once tired, the former PBA star called for a substitution and Vince took over.

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Vince Tagle 2nd day birth month celebration, Malico

 

Shortly before sundown, the group was safe and boots off at Omallio Homestay in the colder-than-Baguio-weather Malico. With food and booze overflowing, the night also served as the second day of Vince’s birth month celebration. At about 10 PM, the rescue vehicle arrived and told us that the traffic along NLEX was terrible. It was indeed a wise decision for the group to continue with the journey and ride the 1250 GSA as far as we possibly could.

After a very chill night in Malico, the group went back to Manila and everyone was home by 2 PM, refreshed and ready for 2024.

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"Kuya Mick" and Brando Rosales

 

Come to think of it, this 3-day adventure ride also became sort of a test run for our group for the upcoming 2024 edition of the FJMOTO Mountaincross Adventure (FJMMA). Through this adventure ride which involved off-roading and some moto-camping, we determined what essentials should be brought for FJMMA and the non-essentials, stay at home. Most importantly, our group bonded like brothers which is one of the things we look forward to when riding our beloved steeds.