How did you come up with the idea of using bamboo as bikes?
I sort of borrowed the technology from a bamboo bike project in Africa, and I introduced the technology here in the Philippines. I realized we have a lot of bamboo and natural resources and also a lot of people need jobs so I worked with Gawad Kalinga.
How did you train the Bambuilders in the art of making bike frames?
I brought in an expert from the states. he brought the technology and i recruited him to come to me and my bambuilders.
How was coming back to the Philippines like for you? Did you have any culture shock?
I would come back every other year growing up, so I was always familiar with the Philippines and I’d always thought to myself that it’d be great to come actually live here. So this was about 4 and a half years ago I decided to move here.
I wouldn’t say it was culture shock but there was kind of just an adjustment period getting used to the pace of life… you know, filipino time, “traffic,” the typical kind of island vibe. I grew up just outside New York so I’m used to the hustle and bustle.
What was the most difficult part of setting this project up?
I asked Gawad Kalinga to put me in touch with the village that has really been underserved. So they had picked the most remote place in Tarlac for me to go, which I took on as a challenge, and it has been, but it’s also very fulfilling and rewarding just because I know that my bambuilders really had it pretty hard, working part-time as farmers, and now I have very skilled and dedicated team of guys that i consider to be very loyal and hardworking. So I think one of the hard parts of getting to where we are has also built a really strong team.
How has the response been both locally and internationally for Bambike?
A lot of interest…which is great. I can’t ask for more. I would say that locally people are a bit more skeptical with using bamboo as a high performance kind of machine. We’re focusing on going to united states, and also some countries in europe.
We’re working to start exporting a lot more…that’ll be our primary market, going to the US. but I think once people learn a little bit more about what bamboo actually is and what it’s capable of, they understand and they see that it makes sense as a bike…but then again a lot of people need to be convinced of its strength.
Do you ever plan on collaborating with industrial designers in the future?
I’ve actually been thinking about bringing in other local artists to do some design work on the bamboo and then maybe doing limited edition, fund-raising type bikes where we have say a batch of 5 or 10 by this particular artist.
I’m looking to go to the bilibid prison, talking to people there coz i know they do etching and tattoos so i’m trying to tap into that talent pool, also creating more jobs for them. And I think the way that it works is that I pay them but it goes to their families who are having a hard time coz maybe their primary breadwinners are in jail.
So I wanna try to work with them and doing limited edition Bambikes. We really wanna collaborate with artists, maybe even work with artists abroad.
Who’s your dream collaborator?
Tough question. I have no idea. I haven’t really pursued it yet. What I’ve done is I’ve taken fabric woven by ifugao and I laminated bits of their fabric onto the bamboo frames. I’ve even laminated Barong Filipino. I’ve taken some of their extra cuts and laminated that.
So I wanna explore using more indigenous crafts and such. We have handwoven rattan seats, so I’m looking to incorporate as much indigenous Philippine art as I can. As far as particular artists abroad or locally, I’m not sure. Maybe you can help me find some.
What do you do during your spare time?
I don’t have any spare time. [laughs] but when i’m not immediately working on Bambike, I have another product=a bambowtie. it’s a bamboo bow tie. the women in Victoria are helping to create them. I have another company called rapid stream.
So you’re into all these adventure stuff?
Yeah. I created a lifestyle company which suits my life which is outdoor, adventure, biking, kayaking, camping, and going into kind of eco-fashion/design.
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
Start a bamboo bike building company. That’s proven to be quite an adventure. But i guess recently I learned how to air glide and I’ve been doing a lot of paddle surfing, paddle boarding. Eventually,I’ll have a bamboo surf board. I have a bamboo longboard and skateboard. Bamboards. we’re gonna go into baby strollers…bambaby.
Can you give us a sneak peek into your future plans other than bambabies?
I’m not having bambabies any time soon. [laughs] Sorry what was the question?
Sneak peek into your future plans other than the strollers. Things that are actually gonna happen [laughs]
Oh don’t be a doubter, come on. [laughs] Bambaby is gonna happen. It’s conceptualized. we just need to prototype it. Anyway, so definitely 2012 is gonna be a big year. we’re gonna start a bamboo bike rental in Enchanted Farm in Bulacan.
It’s a Gawad Kalinga social tourism project. We’re really gonna make the push to export into a number of different countries so we’ll increase our productivity and get into europe, start working and forming relationship with international distributors.
If we want to help you, how can we get involved?
I’m looking for interns. Anyone from sales, marketing, industrial design, engineers, web development. We’re really looking to grow our internet presence, and also to increase our sales so I’m looking at students who wanna intern. We’re gonna be trying to make a Bamboo Wheel so I need some mechanical engineers.
Other than that, you can like us on Facebook, tell your friends about us, support the cause, buy a bambowtie. It’s 500 pesos. proceeds go to support our sustainable development fund in Gawad Kalinga.