DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Filipino ultra-athlete based in Al Ain and known for his race-for-a-cause events for Palawan’s tribal communities among other beneficiaries has, this time, upped the ante.
He organized an endurance triathlon to donate helmets and a bicycle to a Metro Manila community initiative aiming to provide bicycles to working class commuters faced with the hardship of reporting for work during the quarantine days of the pandemic.
“Every year sa aking birthday, I have always done something special instead of buying gifts for myself. Kadalasan, ginagawa namin ay pumupunta sa Philippine embassy (in Abu Dhabi) to provide meals to some kababayans or mag-celebrate kasama ang mga katutubo, and so on,” Romeo III Tumayao Puncia, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Abu Dhabi Police’s emergency and public safety department, told GMA News Online.
This year, Puncia, who has a string of awards from various international competitions, organized the triathlon event with Apex Endurance UAE, which he has co-founded. It involved a 34-km windy cycling run followed by a 34-km marathon and a 3.4-km swim – all on his 34th birthday last Sept. 27, and after a graveyard shift at work, that is.
Thirty-four cycling helmets and a bicycle came out of that event held in Al Ain in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi near the border to Oman.
“We wanted to make it special like what we did in our previous projects. Gusto namin pinaghihirapan like doing certain long distances. Kasi, madali lang naman mag-donate, but doing it with physical body exertion ay mas fulfilling,” Puncia, founder of Katribo Charities Philippines, said.
Puncia said he came across the Metro Manila-based bicycle initiative on Facebook, which has among one of its founders, someone whose close relative stays in Abu Dhabi and whom Puncia said he had been able to help recently. The founders – a couple – were also triathletes, he said.
“Na-moved ako sa story ng founder na si Roy Maceda. It just so happened na silang mag-asawa ay triathletes din and looking for donations to help our kababayans there by giving bicycles and other bike-related accessories,” said Puncia.
“Since ang ‘Race with a Purpose’ Campaign natin ay into that, I decided to choose them to be one the beneficiaries. We are looking forward to collaborate with then sa mga susunod na campaigns,” he added.
“Ang pinaka-interesting at nakaka-surprise dun ay anak pala sya ng taong nakilala at natulungan natin dati dito sa Abu Dhabi; and isa rin palang follower namin at na-inspire sa ating mga advocacies,” Puncia further said.
BeSeekLeta for EveryJuan
BeSeekLeta for EveryJuan was recently formed and has around 2,600 members as of last check. It aims to help provide bicycles to those affected by the quarantine. This, by way of donations of any form – be it old bikes, scrap parts that can be used to assemble a bike, accessories and the likes.
“Every day, we look for unused or almost-scrap bike parts that can be reused to build a functional commuting bicycle free for our underprivileged brothers and sisters,” the group’s admin said.
“As anticipated, our transportation issues will most likely be impaired until the end of the year and more people would be needing free bicycles for their day-to-day needs.”
Puncia said he ordered the bike and helmets for donation online for delivery as well.
During the UAE-wide quarantine in May, Puncia ran 19 kms in 19 days on a tread mill for a total distance of 361.34 kms; and, using a stationary bike, also did 19-km laps for a total of 370.29 kms to shore up relief goods as well as masks and PPEs for free distribution.
Among Puncia’s titles is that of being the first Filipino triathlete and UAE resident to conquer last year’s 517.5-km Ultraman Florida.
Apex Endurance is an Al Ain-based sports team training residents on triathlon. It currently has over 200 members.