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Woman Power

Healthy, fit and strong. Beautiful inside out. That is how David Charlton of David's Salon Group Describes today's empowered women. Being a sports advocate and a former triathlete, his vision then was to put together women athletes to form one cohesive group which would reflect his vision of the truly beautiful woman. And his vision has found fulfillment with the salon group's recent introduction of Team David, the first all women multi-sport team, made up of seven women, each accomplished in her own right, who share a passion for cycling and fitness.

Twenty-five-year-old Bing Alto is an accomplished and multi-awarded athlete and a member of the Philippine Cycling Team. She holds a college degree in metallurgical engineering from the UP, Diliman and a staunch advocate of environmentalism.

Maritess Bitbit, 27, is the ultimate athlete. Mountain biking is her passion, a sport she has indulged in for over 15 years. When she is not giving the country honor through medals as a member of the Philippine Cycling Team she is helping protect the country's security and has presently the rank of Private First Class in the Philippine Army. She studied accounting at Southwestern University in Cebu.

Ani de Leon, 29, an interior designer by profession. Her passion for cycling and the triathlon keeps her toned and fit. She is a member of the Philippine Triathlon Team 2000-2004 and the Philippine Cycling Team 2003, among others. Ani works in Lupon, Inc., a design studio.

Kaye Lopez at 22 is the youngest of the team. She was a member of the Philippine Triathlon Team 1999-2003 and the Philippine Cycling Team 2003-2004. She graduated cum laude at UP Diliman with a degree in psychology. She is now into nutrition and wants to take post-graduate studies in the field.

Marita Lucas is petite at barely five feet but this 32-year-old mother of three is acknowledged by the team as a powerhouse. She has been a member of the Philippine Cycling Team since 1989. Rising above her economic challenges, this gardener at the Eternal Gardens in Novaliches, Quezon City has been cycling for 15 years.

Thirty-four-year-old Mona Valdes is a medical doctor who practiced in Indonesia from 1995-99 until she married a Filipino businessman. She now keeps busy with raising four sons and running Indocater, an Indonesian food catering business. . She'd like to specialize in sports and nutrition and enroll in culinary arts focusing on healthy gourmet food also suitable for athletes and health buffs.
Pia S. Cayetano is the youngest female senator in Philippine history. Apart from being a senator, she is also a successful entrepreneur. Her company, the Maxi group, presently owns a chain of retail stores for babies and children. She is the founder of Gabriel Symphony Foundation, which she established after the death of her son Gabriel who was diagnosed with multiple congenital anomalies. This foundation helps children with disabilities. She is also the founder of the Rene Compañero Cayetano Foundation which helps the underprivileged in the areas of health, education, environment, and sports development.

Despite their very busy schedules, just where do these women find the time to indulge in such a physically demanding sport? "If you really love doing something, there is nothing in this world that can stop you," says Sen. Pia Cayetano, recalling the time when she never gave up cycling even during the electoral campaigns. "They say it cannot be done, but I've proven them otherwise," she says. Now, 35-year-old senator and mother of two is setting her sights on competing abroad.

Mona Valdes says she enjoys cycling immensely. "I love the feel of the wind in my hair. It's total freedom especially when you're in the countryside. You feel as if you're one with your surroundings. Also, you get to meet interesting people along the way," she says.

For her, cycling started out as a hobby and a way to keep fit. "I got into cycling at the prodding of my husband. Before I knew it, I was hooked." She quite smoking (she was a heavy smoker) but the biggest reward, she says, is that she lost 30 lbs. Now at a lean, attractive 109 lbs, the tall mestiza swears by cycling and its healthful benefits. She used to practice with the top cyclists back when she was in Indonesia. Now she bikes five times a week and has ran duathlons and recently participated with the Team in Bike for Hope, riding from Rosario, Pangasinan to Baguio via Marcos hi-way.

According to Charlton, these women compete with over 600 men in each race as, sadly, cycling is still a male-dominated sport. "You can single them out from over 600 sweaty men in each race, roses among thorns, so to speak. We believe that as far as training goes, these women are undeniably in top, competitive form," he says.

But as in any sport in the country, the biggest obstacle in keeping cycling alive is funding. He says it takes P9,000 to enter a race and the equipment they (Team David) use is very, very expensive. With Team David, they hope to not only promote cycling but to help women cyclists to train and compete with the best of the best, in the country and throughout the world. He hopes to encourage private companies to help in promoting cycling by funneling funds into the sport through Team David.

Charlton says it is David's Salon's way of giving back the lifestyle of beauty, fitness style and well-being on its customers. "I strongly advocate sports for women as an exciting and invigorating lifestyle that combines 'living strong' and 'living beautiful'. Team David needs your support," he concludes.


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