It’s already known as the “Onion Capital of the Philippines” but now the town of Bongabon in Nueva Ecija is poised to become an emerging destination for cycling tourism.
The municipality will host the inaugural qualifying event for the first Trek UCI Gravel World Series on April 3. The event is organized by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), a Switzerland-based governing body for sports cycling. The organizers say this serves as an alternative off-road version for the premier UCI Gran Fondo World Series and World Championships.
Why is this a big thing for us? The Philippines is the only Asian country to be hosting a qualifier for the gravel world series. The succeeding racing events, the venues of which have yet to be revealed, will be held in North America and Europe.
Gravel racing, a new cycling discipline, has become very popular in recent years. According to the Bike Radar website, it “sits somewhere between road, cyclocross and mountain bike racing.”
Bongabon is blessed with mixed terrain which makes it a fitting venue for a gravel race. Aside from its mountains and gravel, the town also has plenty of rivers and breathtaking sights which will surely refresh riders, says race director Edrie Ocampo, a native of Bongabon.
The second class municipality is quite small, with a total land area of 28,000 hectares, with 28 barangays. “We have limited accommodations, but the nature of gravel biking is outdoors so we will be putting up camping sites,” Ocampo tells Philstar. He also assures Covid protocols will be in place for the race.
The town’s mayor, Allan Xystus A. Gamilla, says Bongabon is “a great place with exciting backroads, trails, and routes that every adventure-seeker would be thrilled to experience.” The place is wonderful in the summer, with its rivers and the cool weather at Mount Labi. “It is also the home of the Bongabon Bike Park in Ariendo, an Enduro and Downhill MTB destination for the gravity riders.”
The race coincides with the town’s Sibuyas Festival held every 10th of April. The celebration is a form of thanksgiving for a bountiful onion harvest.
Ocampo says it’s always been his dream to bring world-class quality races here in the Philippines. He hopes that the cycling event will attract many enthusiasts and even non-professional riders to come and visit Bongabon.
To sign up for the race, visit https://gravelphilippines.com