(Left photo) Rafie Llego, also known as Bamboo Lodi, poses for a photo with his bamboo bike. (Right photo) Screenshot from investigative journalist Kara David's Tiktok account shows her in the Iwahig River on November 11, 2022. She will be among the participants to new Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa race. | Photos from Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa FB page and Kara David Tiktok account

[UPDATED] A 22-year-old artist and bamboo bike builder, as well as a well-known investigative journalist, are among the 1,221 triathletes who have traveled to the city to test their endurance for strong finishes in the new Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa.

Rafie Llego, also known as Bamboo Lodi, will participate in the elite race on his bamboo bike, dubbed “the fastest grass.”

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement,” his cycling club, Team España, where he is an executive member, said.

“Rafie aims to provide a more sustainable alternative, cheaper yet of same or even of more quality than the traditional materials used in bike builds,” it added.

Bossa Nova Queen Sitti Navarro and triathlete husband Joey Ramirez on their way to Puerto Princesa for the Ironman race. | Photo from Sitti Navarro’s FB account

Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa will be the first race for the artist and builder, who created his first bamboo bike during the pandemic “to combine his love for adventure and nature,” according to organizers.

Llego has built 12 bamboo bikes under the Bamboo Lodi project, including two prototypes.

In an interview with Palawan News, Llego said that he had tested his bike in the Mindanao Loop and twice in the Cebu Loop. He spent Php25,000 and at least a month to complete its frame.

“Many times na rin. Nag-ra-race ako gamit ito like mga road bike race, influence ride. Last August nag-200 kilometers rin ako. Ang Ironman mismo nag-invite sa akin to join the race, they sponsored me,” he said.

He knows that he isn’t as strong as the other aspirants in the individual race, but he was inspired to join as a first-timer to promote his advocacy for sustainable bamboo use.

He said that making bike frames out of bamboo was just a “pandemic project” that some people found interesting and bought from him.

“For me, just finishing the race will be a big accomplishment for me and for my bamboo bike,” he said. Llego, a native of Agusan del Sur in Mindanao, is currently enrolled in a BS Aircraft Mechanic program in Cebu.

Award-winning broadcast journalist Kara David used Tiktok to announce that she will be competing in the race in the age group women category.

Her posted video showed her with some participants in Iwahig and in the Ironman Village at Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa in Barangay Bancao-Bancao, where she completed her registration Friday, November 11.

“Totoo na po ito, nag-register na po talaga ako sa Ironman, binigyan na nila ako ng bag, so wala ng kawala. Wala nang atrasan ‘to, ipagdasal niyo po kami sa Sunday,” David said.

Bossa Nova Queen Sitti Navarro’s is also in Puerto Princesa, not as a racer but to accompany her triathlete husband Joey Ramirez.

The artist said the triathlon in the city will be her husband’s first in for years. His last was in Davao in 2018.

“First trip without the kids. First two nights that’s just us. BUT also, first half-Ironman race for the hubs in four years!!! After his last race in Davao in 2018, we found out we were pregnant with Lilibubs and training took a backseat. So I’m veeeery excited for @joeyramirez12. God bless and safe race to all participants at the #Ironman703PuertoPrincesa tomorrow!” she posted on her verified Facebook account.

On Friday, Mayor Lucilo Bayron expressed Puerto Princesa’s enthusiasm for hosting the major swim-run-bike event, which he called a “historic race.”

“We are doing our best to ensure, and to make sure that the race will be safe, and that you will enjoy the race,” he said.

1,221 triathletes will participate in the Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa, the biggest event in the city since COVID-19.

The Puerto Princesa Baywalk Park is where swimmers will get their start for the single loop of the 1.9 kilometer swim. After getting on their bicycles, the athletes will complete the three-loop, 90-kilometer bike ride that will take them through the verdant rainforests and past the picturesque views of the southern part of Puerto Princesa to the Iwahig Bridge.

After stowing their bicycles, the triathletes will begin the two-loop, 21-kilometer run by heading south and going around the City Center. Athletes will sprint to the oval track at the Ramon V. Mitra Jr. Sports Complex in order to cross the finish line and receive their rewards.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.