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Ride for the Philippines

Roger Rigor rides his bike to aid Pinoys affected by climate change

by Lucille Nolasco-Garrido 

Roger Rigor wearing the purple
bandana that participants wore for
the Ride for the Philippines 2023.
Purple is the official colour of the
Foundation for Philippine Progress.

When you talk about the Philippine music scene in the ‘70s, VST & Company will often be mentioned. The Filipino disco band from Manila is considered one of the most successful Filipino bands of the late 1970s. Founded by Vic Sotto, Spanky Rigor and Tito Sotto, its original members also included Roger Rigor, Male Rigor, Celso Llarina, Monet Gaskell, Val Sotto and Jun Medina.

They pioneered the Manila sound genre along with bands such as Hotdog and Cinderella, spawning their first disco hit Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko. From then on, VST & Co. produced five albums that included many other hits such as Rock Baby Rock, Swing It Baby, Disco Fever, Magsayawan, and many others.

For many, the pioneering group is considered a pillar of Original Pilipino Music (OPM).

More than four decades later, one of the original members, Roger Rigor continues his love for music, albeit he has found a new focus in another meaningful undertaking.

Pilipino Express recently spoke to Rigor about this and more.

PE: What have you been busy with after VST & Co.?

Rigor and friends - all set for the ride, July 15
  VSTCO reunion tour
VST & Company - Reunion Tour 2022
  VST COMPANY in the 70s
VST & Company – Hailed as one of the most successful Filipino bands of the late 1970s. Roger Rigor, now based in Seattle, second from right in photo.

RR: It has been years since we had our last stint with VST and since then, I have settled in Seattle; followed the footsteps of my parents and grandparents and became an educator in public education, teaching math and science. Since my retirement, I committed myself to working with the Foundation for Philippine Progress (FPP) since it was a way for me to return what I have been fortunate to have earned while I lived here in the U.S.

PE: Are you able to continue performing or being active in the music industry at present?

RR: I continue to perform in many communities who host projects and programs, annual festivities, or private occasions. I also had opportunities to present workshops and symposia about Original Pilipino Music in conferences or academia. My role as an educator and a community advocate has also created a kind of attention that a band in California came up to Seattle and collaborated with me to create a song about the climate crisis in the Philippines. This process was filmed for a documentary that is planned to be premiered, with the song, by either the end of this year or early next year. The band’s name is Bootleg Orchestra.

PE: How did the idea come about for the “Ride for the Philippines” project?

RR: The idea came up after another colleague of ours in the Foundation decided to ride the annual Seattle-to-Portland Bike ride, pre-COVID, and was able to raise $2000. Now that the ride has returned, we have encouraged others to ride along again. And yes, this time, with the sole purpose of spreading the word about the work of the Foundation while seeking other riders, the greater the community, and families to extend financial and publicity support. With a bigger number of supporters and donors, one does not have to shell out a substantial amount of money. The effort to extend help to the people in the Philippines becomes a unified, bayanihan act, especially with the wide outreaching power of social media.

PE: What are the main objectives of the project?

RR: Ride for the Philippines (RFP) aims to attract others to take part in the Foundation’s effort to raise awareness about its existence and who it helps back in the Philippines. RFP envisions covering a quarter of all Fil-Ams in the US to respond to the urgent need of marginalized and vulnerable people in the Philippines as they now face dire environmental conditions due to the impending weather patterns brought about by climate change.

PE: Who are involved in this endeavour?

RR: The Foundation for Philippine Progress is the organizing group while it is supported by Cascade Bicycles, organizers of the annual Seattle-to-Portland Bike ride; and a few Seattle Biking clubs, including the St. Peter’s Cycling Club, the Gruppetto Cycling Club, the Life After Forty Biker’s Club and Bike Works Seattle. We envision widening the scope of the RFP so that communities of the diaspora with Fil-Am riders can emulate the spirit of “riding” along with the Filipinos as they face the challenges of today’s environmental changes.

PE: What does this project mean to you, personally?

RR: This project has made me reflect on my role as an educator, a Filipino-American living in a country that is endowed with so much, and someone who others relate to because of our songs from years past. In spite my years of absence from the Philippines, my heart continues to beat for our people back home. And so, for now, as an initial act of physical commitment, I’m going back to the annual bike ride, which I had set aside in the past five years. There is now a purpose to ride and encourage other riders, and to encourage our communities here in general, why it is important to join the RFP and to share with others what the Philippines is dealing with in terms of a changing climate.

PE: What tangible and lasting benefits will this project bring to our kababayans in need?

RR: The Foundation partnered with community networks back in the Philippines that are solely intent on servicing the poor and the marginalized, most especially during times of crisis or weather-related relief efforts. They provide the FPP a continuing update on their sustainable environmental and community projects that aim to empower little barrios to both survive and be self-sustaining through the years. One of the projects, among others, the FPP has made a strong impact on is the rebuilding of fishing boats for coastal communities whose source of livelihood was destroyed by powerful typhoons lately.

PE: How can people not riding with your group be able to help?

RR: Others are invited to participate in other ways – be our cheering support along the way, and in the process, take the opportunity of giving others more information about the RFP and the foundation’s projects that help the folks in the Philippines. Volunteers can also help in sharing the ride updates during the weekend to others. This will allow a wider network in the community become aware of the Foundation’s existence. Also, other riding clubs may organize their own versions of the RFP anywhere they may be and at any time in the year.

PE: Anything else you would like to impart to our readers?

RR: In our initial attempt to draw attention to the Foundation through this mass ride, we are greatly encouraged by the support the greater Fil-Am community is beginning to extend – what your radio program and Pilipino Express newspaper is doing for us is one example. We feel that with today’s communication technology, we have hurdled the limitations of time and space and are able to mobilize others to act as if they are our physical neighbours.

The conditions brought about by the changing climate impact those who are the poorest most seriously, especially in countries like the Philippines where these weather-related conditions are getting worse and will continue to worsen in the decades ahead. We feel the urgency of providing them at least a fighting chance to ride these calamities through. And, in our collective effort to gather needed resources and with renewed determination, we literally, and spiritually, will ride along with them.

With the goal of raising $10,000 dollars by July 15th, Roger Rigor and Ronald Antonio rode 206 miles (331.5 km) from Seattle to Portland this past weekend, with roughly 8,000+ cyclists participating in this iconic summer bike ride for a cause.

Funds raised will support the group's trusted partners in the Philippines to aid in their relief efforts, medical missions and community health programs.