Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on June 15, 2021
The starting gates open and anywhere between 22-30 big bikes immediately shoot out to tackle jumps, hills, and berms. Each rider’s focus is absolute in order to deal with rough terrain that can get rutted in the middle of a race, and skill comes into play to avoid getting roosted by competition.
Welcome to the world of Yamaha brand ambassador and professional motocross rider Lino “Bong” Radam, the only Filipino participating in the ongoing 2021 Monster Energy Guam Motocross Championship.
Motocross racing is considered as one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Danger is a constant when traveling at a high speed executing whoops and jumps, but it is this unpredictability that makes the sport so attractive. For Bong, he loves the feeling of being in control suspended in midair. With over 100 races completed and counting, he already knows what works for him in every competition: experience, continuous training, and confidence.
Bong’s interest in motocross racing began in high school. “I was the quiet person just reading and drawing,” he began. He saw sports legends Jovy Saulog and Glen Aguilar in a motocross race in Tacloban City and was immediately hooked. He watched races any chance he got and dreamed of racing one day.
He got his chance when he moved to Guam to work for his aunt and run the warehouse operations of the Levi’s brand. One of the Levi’s distributors also owned the Yamaha shop on the American territory. When RPM Yamaha found out that Bong was looking for a bike, they gave him a Yamaha 2000 YZ125CC. Bong became a member of the Guam International Racing Motorcycle Association and started racing in 1997.
Bong moved to San Francisco to become the distribution manager for one of the biggest furniture companies in the US. He also started a family and had a daughter who is now 21 years old. He continued racing and finished second overall at the famous OTHG race series in 2010, drawing attention to the Filipino talent in the series. He accepted invitations to several other races in the US, his skill and showmanship further cementing his reputation on the dirt track.
But just like the uneven landscape in motocross racing, Bong’s life also had its ups and downs. He broke his wrist in a training session in 2014. Bong recalled, “that’s when I slowed down. I got separated and went through divorce. It was a hard time.” He wanted to go back to racing but it was not the right time. He turned his attention to family and his hometown. “The idea of giving back to Tacloban has always been on my mind. My father became sick and asked me to manage our property in La Paz.” Bong returned to Tacloban City to help his mother who dealt with cancer until she passed away.
Bong’s motocross success reached the local media. “They wanted to interview me and see me race.” He organized a race in Dulag to promote the sport. He was invited to become the brand ambassador of Vino de Coco and promoted the local wine during competitions in Bulacan, Manila, and Iloilo. He recalled a dilemma when he was invited to race in Manila but his bike was still in Iloilo. The organizers solved the problem by letting him use the bike of actor Sam Milby so he can compete.
Bong competed in the inaugural race when motocross racing was added as an Olympic sport in the Philippines in 2014. He returned to professional racing when he moved back to Guam in 2019. He also regained his role as the Yamaha brand ambassador with RPM Yamaha providing him the 2021 YZ 450F for the racing season.
Bong maintained the strict discipline required for the sport even while he was on hiatus, so it was easy to regain the fitness. As a single man, he rarely hangs out with friends or spends late nights. He neither smokes nor drinks. This is not to say that he has no other hobbies or interests. He is a Sikaran black belter and a talented illustrator. He is also the lead singer for the alternative band Merge Left that performs at Hard Rock and other clubs in Guam.
The growing popularity of the sport encouraged Bong to share what he learned and do his part in providing opportunities for interested hobbyists and future pros. He plans to develop a motocross facility on his family’s property in La Paz. “I want it to be a place where races and practices can be held,” he explained.
After all, his plan is in line with the most important pieces of advice he can give to young people: “Train and learn motocross with patience. Find a good motocross facility and hire a riding coach. Wearing proper gear is very important.” Very wise words from an accomplished rider and a proud Waray.