Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dutch bike ride to Freedom on March 9


The Dutch have a strong outdoors culture.

I've already written about how H.E. Gijsbert Anton Boon von Ochsee, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, took his orange bike home from work last week, to do his bit for the environment and to escape the traffic of EDSA.

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This bike ride -- the Dutch Ambassador is perhaps the first Manila-based ambassador to ever ride a bike home from the office and across EDSA -- elicited many positive responses from readers of this blog. They all praised the efforts of the good ambassador. 

On March 9, Ambassador Boon von Ochsee and his wife Martine, are personally leading Dutch residents of Manila on a bike ride around Fort Bonifacio to raise awareness about human trafficking in the Philippines.

A lot of locals will be coming along for the ride as well.

I recently caught up with Ambassador Boon von Ochsee to find out more about the Freedom Bike Ride and his recent bicycle ride home across EDSA. Read till the end, as he says he definitely will bike home from work again.



WHAT EXACTLY IS THE FREEDOM BIKE RIDE? 

The Freedom Bike Ride is the launching activity for Project Freedom, a campaign that seeks to raise awareness among the public on human trafficking and the Philippines Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline 1343.

It also aims to empower advocates and citizens to become watchdogs in their own communities, by driving them into action.

It will happen next Saturday, March 9, 2013, and kick off at the Venice Piazza Fountain Area of McKinley Hill in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Assembly will be at 7 AM and ride out will be at 7:30 AM. Rest assured that the short program launch ends by 9 AM.

The tour shall go around Taguig, Makati, Pasay, and Manila cities, covering a distance of approximately 22 kilometers. It will culminate with a short program to launch Project Freedom

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HOW WAS THIS PROJECT CONCEIVED? 

Dakila, which is an organization of artists advocating for social consciousness formation through creative platforms, conceived Project Freedom.

As an awareness-raising campaign to engage the public, the Netherlands Embassy sees this cooperation as a big step towards actively preventing human trafficking especially in marginalized communities nationwide.

My wife and I are therefore more than happy to give our all-out support to the project starting with the Freedom Bike Ride on March 9.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT SATURDAY? 



My wife Martine and I have personally been inviting Dutch companies and friends to the ride

Philips, Seatrade, and Control Union World Group have already confirmed joining the Freedom Ride. You can therefore expect to see an Orange contingent on March 9.

Cyclists led by celebrities such as Albert Martinez, and friends from the diplomatic community such as Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, will also be biking with us.

We, along with the Manila Fixed Gears, will also be wearing shirts promoting the Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline 1343 during the ride.

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YOU RECENTLY BIKED HOME FROM WORK ON A RATHER COLORFUL ORANGE BIKE – PERHAPS THE FIRST AMBASSADOR IN MANILA TO DO SO. 
WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE?

That’s true.

To most of my local staff’s pleasant surprise and not a little amount of entertainment!

I certainly made my trip home faster compared to sitting in endless traffic just to cross EDSA from Makati. By the way, that orange bike is a traditional Dutch bike brand which has been popular in the Netherlands for 100 years.

WOULD YOU BIKE HOME AGAIN? 



Definitely.

We promote bikes because it’s very natural for us. It is a symbolic gesture.

What we can do is give examples on how to use the bicycle in daily lifeeven while coming home from work in a formal business suit. It is also a way of reducing my carbon footprint.

Before coming to the Philippines I held the position of Ambassador at Large for Sustainable Development in the Netherlands and I have represented the Netherlands in conferences and meetings related to Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Ozone Depletion.

After countless negotiations that resulted in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, I’d like to think that I continue to ‘bike-the-talk.’

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ANY PARTICULAR DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED BIKING HOME FROM WORK? 

I had to be extra mindful of drivers not used to bicycles. I almost had to think for everybody in the streets.

To ensure everyone’s safety, it felt like my head needed to keep turning 360 degrees.

IS BIKING REALLY A PART OF DUTCH LIFE? 



Yes. Cycling is highly interwoven with Dutch culture.

A State Secretary even said once that Queen’s popular song, “Bicycle Race,” could easily be the Dutch national anthem.

We use the bike as a mode of transport and we do everything on the bike more often than not. There are so many bikes in the Netherlands. As a child you learn to ride the bike and you never stop.

As you’ve heard, I have been using my bike to go home from work. My wife and I also bike to weekend markets in Makati.



ARE THERE REALLY MORE BIKES THAN PEOPLE IN THE NETHERLANDS? 

There are about 17 million Dutch people, and each person likely has different kinds of bikes for different kinds of activities.

In fact, the Netherlands is the only European nation with more bicycles than people. The Dutch government also creates policies that give people the incentive to ride a bike.

For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a carpark; but employees who live less than seven kilometers away will only be allowed to park a bicycle.



WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE BACK HOME IN THE NETHERLANDS AND NOT BIKING? CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL SUNDAY? 

A typical Sunday for me would be an early morning 10-kilometer run followed by a relaxed breakfast. Then my wife and I will go shopping in town. I believe that, similar to Filipino Sundays, it is normally a day spent with family.



WHERE ARE YOU LITERALLY HEADED NEXT FOR WORK OR HOLIDAYS? AND IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ON A BIKE. 

We’ll likely head to one of the many beautiful dive sites in the Philippines.

This way, we also get to know this beautiful country better. I have only been here for six months and already appreciate the quintessential Filipino spirit found in your many islands.

www.dakila.org.ph/projectfreedom/



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