The Inspiring Journey of Rogelio Franco: ‘The One-Hand Biker’
“I started my bicycle ride around the Philippines in June 24, 2015 and ended in October 10, 2015 for a total of 108 days”. Franco narrated to me during the first time I met him at a Travel Expo in SMX Moa earlier this year. After listening to his story I found out that his impressive journey started a year earlier and commenced with a horrific incident.
It is understandable that Franco couldn’t remember the exact date of that fateful day where life seemed to have taken the worst for him. “It was sometime in March 2014, while I was on my last hour of shift working at a factory in Dasmariñas, Cavite when the accident happened” Franco narrates in Tagalog.
“I had my right hand stretched out trying to reach something from a mold of excess plastic when I got distracted and turned my head to my co-worker standing from another line. In a matter of just seconds of losing focus, the hydraulic molding machine caught my hand…”
Franco’s right hand was still intact when his co-workers pulled him off the machine and took him to the UMC hospital. He remembered how the doctors assured him not to worry, that everything will be fixed with surgery.
Franco and a local biker stand in front of the Sultan Kudarat State University in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao
“The doctors told me in front of my parents, siblings and co-workers that I won’t lose my hand. But when I woke up at the recovery room I was shocked to see my right hand covered with bandage. It was only then that the doctors told me they had to severe my right hand down from the wrist, because the nerves have died already”
Met with the grim reality and a lengthy post-traumatic episode, Franco found comfort in the words of God and the wisdom of “never giving up”. In his desire to get back up on his feet, he started adjusting to life without his right hand while still confined at the hospital.
“I practiced writing using my left hand and I also asked my sibling to bring my guitar so I could also learn to play guitar with one hand. At first, I had a hard time. I also worried about how I would face people once I get out of the hospital without a right hand” he adds.
The unfortunate events of that day in March and the succeeding months only strengthened the resolve of Franco and a little over a year later, he found himself setting off for an epic adventure most of us never even thought of doing.
The 108-day Journey back to Life
“I biked for a cause, but without any specific organization or charity group behind me. My main goal was to show that anyone can still become a vital part of society with or without any disabilities. The advocacies I pedaled in my journey are for unity, anti-discrimination and to never give up.”
Franco started his journey from his hometown of Dasmariñas City, Cavite to the kilometer zero landmark in Luneta, before cycling himself towards the North of Luzon via Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Norte, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, and all the way down to Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Batangas city, before taking a connecting roro (“ferry”) ride to Oriental Mindoro.
Not long after, many people started noticing the one-hand biker threading the highways of Visayas as he circled the scenic island of Panay before crossing to Negros Oriental and Occidental and into Cebu, Bohol and Southern Leyte, before hitting the island of Mindanao.
“I not only discovered my capabilities to continue a normal life, I also discovered the unique beauty of the Philippines from Luzon, Visayas to Mindanao” he shares.
“Along the way I experienced the wonderful hospitality of the locals at each place I visited and most especially, the biking community who followed my journey through Facebook. I would always meet a group of fellow bikers waiting for me at the border of their towns, and then ride their bikes with me through a greater part of their province.”
Fellow bikers welcomed Franco back in Luneta at the culmination of his epic 108-day journey
I will never forget the people who adopted me and welcomed me to their homes, gave me food, rode with me everyday and everyone who supported my advocacy, all throughout those 108 days of being on the road.” a gracious Franco tells me.
Another thing Franco learned on the road is that there is no such thing as a smooth ride. Challenges were everywhere along the road but they only made his journey more epic and his determination stronger.
“I once slept at a public cemetery after the police at Supiden, La Union prohibited me from taking shelter at their outpost. I also spent a few nights in waiting sheds at the side of the road, at a basketball court huddled between sacks of crops. I also pedaled my way through typhoon Egay as it made landfall in Luzon. I experienced getting stranded in the middle of a rice field in Cagayan. Until now, when I think about those mis-adventures, I just laugh at it and at the same time feel proud of myself for overcoming all those obstacles.”
After what he went through, Franco still feels lucky to be alive, functioning as a normal human being. “If you look at it, I am still a lucky man. Because of what I’ve achieved, people now look at me as a normal person. I still feel complete even without my right hand. I hope that in return, I am also able to inspire people with disabilities to never give up and still continue what they want to attain in life.”
Franco proves it is safe to travel to Mindanao by passing through Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte and Sibugay, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and many more
I asked Franco if his perspective in life changed after his 108-day journey. “My outlook in life remains the same because I still dream of living a good life. The only difference is, today I have more wisdom to carry along with me, and I have witnessed the varying lives across the Philippines. I now want to become an inspiration to many. Don’t give up and never lose hope. Never surrender to the trials that God entrusts us to pass with flying colors.” he proudly tells me.
Franco pedals on and on– literally and figuratively
Today, Franco works in a safer environment manning a 24-hour computer shop, in a 12-hour work shift in Las Piñas. He still feels sad for the rejection slips he received from previous companies he applied for after his accident, but is very thankful for people who believe in his abilities. “I owe Kuya Rhony Bayer who is also an avid cyclist for helping me find a job and to the couple Jennifer Cura and Vincent De Guzman for hiring me to work in their computer shop.”
In the meantime, Franco is living a steady life but still dreams of doing even greater things in the near future. “I want to bike around the Philippines again, to take the chance to thank all the people who helped me and rode with me. I also want to find a better job eventually, something that will harness my passion in biking, traveling or anything that involves the great outdoors. Fight lang nang fight!”
Franco reaching Jolo, Sulu – a place most of us have never been to before
Franco ends our conversation with a smile and as he reached out his right arm to shake my hand, I grabbed a part of it – just at the area where his right hand was severed – and shook it like he didn’t have a missing hand. Judging his accomplishments and his positive outlook in life, one can believe that Franco never lost an important part of his body. The courage he exhibited after his life-altering accident is just beyond amazing!
*The interview was conducted in Tagalog (both oral conversation and follow-up email exchange). The conversation was translated to English for worldwide readership purposes.*