When the new Softail motorcycle lineup by Harley-Davidson of Cebu was unveiled over the weekend, Pinoy rock icon Joey "Pepe" Smith couldn’t help but disregard protocol when he rushed out of the VIP tent to personally witness the momentous event.
It was still half an hour before his much-awaited performance, and organizers feared his premature appearance might dampen the crowd’s anticipation for his appearance on stage at SM City Cebu. Also, Pepe Smith had just survived another life-threatening stroke some two weeks ago—his third cardiac incident so far.
At the event venue, Smith leaned on the steel railing with his Epiphone Les Paul guitar while watching the sexy female Harley models reveal the seven brand-new Softail motorbikes. The 70-year-old Pinoy rock icon says he's been dreaming and drooling over those American heritage bikes since he was a child.
Like many rakistas, Pepe Smith is a believer of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. His invite to the launch came from Harley-Davidson of Cebu dealer principal Regan Rex King, and he just couldn't let the boss of HD Cebu down.
After rendering four of his classic songs, he surprised everyone when he approached the 2018 Fat Bob, threw his leg over its saddle, and kissed the fuel tank several times. But in reality, Pepe Smith is a person who'd rather not touch motorcycles with a 10-foot pole. Just like forbidden fruit, Joey wants one but doesn't want to own one.
“Muntik na kasi akong mamatay dahil sa motorsiklo,” he narrated while changing out of his sweaty shirt inside a van. He asked for a light for his cigarette before proceeding with his bike tale.
Sometime in 1968-69, he recalled figuring in a road accident on a borrowed Honda 350cc naked bike going uphill along Leonard Wood Road approaching the Teacher’s Camp in Baguio City. For unknown reasons, Smith's bike suddenly went low side, causing it to plow the pavement for several meters. Of course, Pepe Smith thought that rock stars didn't need to wear helmets or any safety riding gear. (Oh, and he had taken the bike without the knowledge of its owner, by the way.)
After flying off the bike—owned by a grandson of the late President Manuel Quezon—and landing on the rough cement, the next thing Smith saw was the solid steel bumper of a Mercedes-Benz from the opposite lane.
Literally and figuratively, the car almost gave Smith the kiss of death. Fortunately, the Benz's driver was able to slam on the brakes before he hit Smith. Smith even showed us scars on his hands, souvenirs from that crash.
That's not even what caused Pepe Smith to swear off bikes. In one of the reunions of the Juan de la Cruz Band more than a decade ago, the rock star was asked to ride with his friend on a cruiser bike to the center stage. They didn't make it to the microphone, as the two fell from the motorcycle. Smith and his friend were unscathed, but Smith's pride was hurt. Since then, the rock icon swore he would never ride motorcycles again.
Smith said that he is actually more scared of riding motorbikes than having strokes. With three strokes and two bike crashes under his belt, this means in cat terms he has four more lives to go.
However, these unfortunate incidents did not stop him from admiring motorcycles, especially cruisers like the Harley-Davidson. This is one of the reasons why in every concert, he always plays the song "Beep Beep" of his Juan de la Cruz Band.
While that song is about jeepney drivers, could it apply to habal-habal riders, too?
This story originally appeared on Topgear.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.