Date Published: August 9, 2021
For Jemelie Torres, another Philippine Loop is just what the doctor ordered
Some people get into motorcycling and just take off on every adventure they can get their hands on. Jemelie Torres fits right in. That first sentence isn’t far from her first thoughts each time she completes the 5,000km journey that is the Philippine Loop.
A pharmacist by trade, Torres is also a five-time PH Looper—the only woman to hold that distinction as of this writing—and she’s already planning for a sixth attempt. Even though she has seen more of the country in her roughly two-week stints than many of us would in a year, she insists that she has only scratched the surface in her decades of riding.
A seed sown early
While many riders tell stories about sneaking around or hiding their motorcycling hobby from parents, Torres is one of the few who got it good from the beginning. The kernels of her passion were planted by none other than her dad. He gave her, at the age of 16, a two-stroke Honda Dio, which she used to get her to and from school.
Since receiving the Dio, bikes never truly vanished from the picture. “Pang-alis ng stress yung pagmo-motor,” Torres explains, saying riding helps her clear her mind, even if it sometimes had to take a back seat to life.
By the time 2018 rolled around (the year of her first Philippine Loop), Torres was already a veteran rider in experience as well as years. She had already participated in several endurance rides and didn’t shy away from testing her limits and her motorbikes. Taking on the Philippine Loop was the next logical step. She became the first woman to do so on a motorcycle by herself.
Don’t stop ’til you get enough
Now, after four more completed Loops in the span of two years, she smiles when asked how many more she plans on doing. She deflects from a statement, substituting instead the story of one encounter: A soothsayer once told her that she should finish the Loop 12 times.
We’ll have to wait and see if what the prophet said will come true; maybe it was onto something. Because even after completing five PH Loops, Torres still hasn’t gotten to the point where she seems bored about her travels. On the contrary, her riding habit is active. She dedicates numerous holidays, vacation leaves, and long weekends to hours on a motorcycle.
And though she is open and willing to ride with motorcycle groups, she is in her element when riding solo. Most of her extended trips (including her PH Loops) are undertaken alone, come injury or uncertainty. She says she prefers it that way and reaps plenty of benefits from doing so.
Torres has gone through some gnarly things. In 2016, her first accident involving a truck resulted in her femur getting a titanium support. She figured in another crash—just last May around the Bulacan area—that saw her tossed from her ADV.
There was also this one time when she got lost at a Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp in Maguindanao, which she describes as her most unforgettable PH Loop experience. “Ang kaba ko nun hanggang bukid. May nakita akong mga kabataan may baril,” she recalled in a previous interview.
Despite all that, she continues to be in awe of the country’s beauty and different local cultures. The more of it she sees, the more she can’t seem to get enough of it. As she continued to talk about her experiences, the more she brought up stories of interesting places, people, and customs.
Sightseeing and new notches on her belt are just a bonus on top of what Torres achieves with each venture. “Dapat meron kang ibang purpose, hindi lang PH Loop,” she advises. True to her words, whenever she sets out on a trip, there is a definite goal. Sometimes it’s to visit friends and check on clinics and pharmacies, and at other times it’s about helping far-flung communities and making new acquaintances. “Maraming akong inaanak sa (buong Pilipinas),” she shares in high spirits.
Jolly and open to new cultures, the pharmacist also credits solo riding as a major contributor to her highly rewarding travels. She can approach locals more easily. She’s free to bend and flex her itinerary to accommodate last-minute changes. And group conflicts and drama are nonexistent. “Iba pa rin yung ikaw lang ang nag-plot ng daan.”
PH Loop or not, Torres’ traveling style is rooted in cultural awareness. “Ride humble,” she says, because the outcome depends on “kung paano ka makisama.” Discovery is part of travel, so her additional tips include reminding herself that she’s a visitor to a local culture; prioritizing respect when approaching others; and keeping privacy sacred. To emphasize the last one, she actively suggests hiding cameras, or not bringing them at all, when visiting Muslim areas.
Even after 25,000 kilometers around the Philippines and counting, Torres swears, “Hindi ko pa sinasabi na tapos ko siya.” We believe her. At several points during the interview, she gushed over the hidden sights of the Cordillera Region. She spoke of one day organizing—maybe soon—a group ride through the mountains, accompanied by a guide who could introduce the tribes and destinations the mountains tuck away.
It’s hard not to get sucked in when listening to Torres’ stories. On paper, the Philippine Loop is long journey traversing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. But as other PH Loopers have also mentioned, she agrees that it’s a much larger experience after you finish it and look back. Having conquered the Philippine Loop many times over has solidified a few things for Torres. She believes that it’s essential to continually adapt, stay open to your surroundings, and meet each opportunity to learn about new cultures with the same excitement you had in the very beginning.
So where to next? For Jemelie, the next challenge is to cross from the Philippines to another country on her motorcycle—no air travel involved.
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