It was a casual meeting over a cup of coffee. He introduced himself simply as “Hecky”, and the brother of good friends Alex and Michelle Villanueva.
I was having my regular hot latte when he started sharing about his advocacy: replicating the UP Padyak Project of the UP Mountaineers which advocates bicycling as a means of transportation in UP Diliman.
The project was a straightforward approach against threats of global warming and environmental crisis. I had heard about it before although I never got the chance to talk with someone so involved in it.
What actually got my attention was his passion and sincerity to share his time and resources for a good cause. I have had my share of people trying to change the world, but Hecky was one of those who simply reminded you that everyday heroes are ordinary people you meet everywhere.
That was our first meeting. It was brief and unfinished. We both had another engagements then so we agreed to meet again.
The next meeting was hurriedly set. He was in town for an overnight stay, and a mid-afternoon coffee break was a perfect opportunity. I asked Cobbie Palm and a fellow Silliman biker to join us. We talked about the project again, and the possibility of doing it retrofitted for the Silliman and the Dumaguete community. It was a pleasant exchange of ideas which partly, only Hecky can brew.
As we were about to end, he politely showed a video clip in his mobile phone. It was about a bike he was riding. Or to put it accurately, it was about the frame of a bicycle he was riding.
He proudly introduced us the bamboo frame bicycle. We were all amazed by the new concept of putting the bamboo’s unquestioned versatility to good use, and the use of bamboo as bike frames was doubly far-reaching in promoting healthy lifestyle and environmental awareness.
Hecky was president of KawayanTech, a group composed of members of the UP Mountaineers. They founded in July 2009, barely a month after our first meeting. He was also the author of KawayanTech Bamboo Bikes 2009 Business Plan that competed in the Business in Development (BiD) Challenge International Marketplace in the Netherlands this year.
Again, our meeting ended with an unfinished business. He sent occasional emails and texts as I was trying to wrestle with the idea of putting up the replicate project.
We were actually supposed to meet again in October, and finalize our plans. As usual, we planned to meet over a cup of coffee. I had a tight schedule that day preparing for the Unigames in Dumaguete, but decided to accommodate a brief encounter with Hecky in Dumaguete. We agreed to meet late in the afternoon. A few minutes before the agreed time, Hecky called and, with his usual polite voice, apologized that he may not make it. We never got to meet that day.
That was the last time I heard Hecky’s polite voice, except for the usual links and tags on Facebook.
Coincidentally, I met his twin brother Alex while checking in for our flight to Dumaguete last Friday. I casually asked him how Hecky was doing, and mentioned about our failed meeting. I then planned to text or call him soon to continue discussion of his project.
Prior to Sunday, 7th of November, Ronald “Hecky” Villanueva had gone to sleep, and never woke up. The news was a shock to all of us who know him. He was a passionate bike advocate, an avid mountaineer, an advocate of the environment, and a very good friend to many.
He was a natural hero and perhaps purposely, left us with an unfinished task to continue.