|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
This ride and drive story actually started in 2012 when Mitsubishi Motors Philippines and renowned photographer John K. Chua brought to light the destruction of the Banaue Rice Terraces after a strong typhoon. It was severely damaged that UNESCO was threatening to strip the amphitheater rice terraces of its place in the World Heritage Site list. Helping ignite the Ifugao’s bachang aka bayanihan spirit, it was eventually fixed. Today, its status is safe. And this is all without government support. Of course, the work doesn’t stop there. Coinciding with the all-new Strada, it’s time to drive up to see what we can do to help the people of Batad.
From EDSA, the fleet of Stradas stood waiting for their marching orders. The styling is polarizing, but I personally find it a good thing. Parked next to the previous-gen model, the new model’s got tauter lines and better proportions. I find the hard crease—running from the front fender to the bed—to be its most definitive styling feature. The front maw does take some getting used to, but it gives it character. It’s best paired with bright colors such as Rosita Red or better yet, the Impulse Blue Metallic.
Hopping aboard the mid-level GLX V trim, it is well-equipped for its P 1,158,000 price tag. It comes with all sorts of features absent in pickup trucks in this price range like dual SRS airbags, ABS, and a multi-function display nestled between the two main gauges. Plus, you get a 6.75-inch touchscreen AV system with GPS, tire pressure sensors, and even cruise control. It’s a winner in my book. The steering wheel adjusts only for tilt and the driver’s seat moves only in four ways, but it has a very comfortable driving position. I found all the controls easy to reach and understand. The exception is the GPS navigation, which like all other touchscreens, require good eye-hand coordination to operate.
Driving the Strada GLX V surprises me at how much it improved in driving terms. Despite the carryover engine and transmission, it’s noticeably quieter than the previous-gen Strada. Thanks to the compact body and lighter curb weight, it pulls strongly all the way to highway speeds. The automatic gearbox readily shifts up. On NLEX and SCTEX, it shows a marked improvement in NVH isolation. I could actually hold a decent conversation without having to shout over the drivetrain. It’s still no passenger car, but there are some instances when it comes real close. After a short stop for brunch in Cabanatuan City, the long straights are replaced by tight, two-lane roads. On these conditions, it showed good pull—enough to literally dig me into the driver’s seat. From Nueva Vizcaya to Banaue, the road scape transforms again—becoming twisty and mountainous. In these instances, the Strada lives up to its “sport truck” moniker by remaining secure and stable. There’s some tire screeching involved, but no big drama. The steering requires less turns to toss it around tighter confines. An extra second or two is required for the gearbox to call for a lower gear, so some planning in involved when attempting a last-minute overtake. Still, when the power does arrive, you’ll have boat loads of it to blast through an 18-wheeler or two in one go. The ride is understandably firm, but again, it’s leagues better than the previous-gen model. It’s not punishing nor draining even after ten hours behind the wheel (and just one driver change).
The following day, both man and machine are tested on the way to Barangay Batad, home of the Batad Rice Terraces. The steep 30-degree incline is no match for the Strada even in 4x2 guise (it’s highly recommended though you take a four-wheel drive vehicle through here). When the road ended, it’s a 40-minute walk down. Greeting us is a spectacular view of the rice terraces—the very same one that Mitsubishi helped save three years ago. Today though, it looks perfect with no trace of the damage it once suffered. With nothing to fix, what are we doing here? Well, aside from the rice terraces, the Batad Public School itself was endangered, almost closing down due to the lack of students. Today, they’re seeing a steady uptick in number.
Now comes the post poignant part: unknown to everyone, we carried all the necessary supplies for the school from Manila; items like flat-screen TVs, iPads, paint, bags, clothing, and more—all to modernize and improve education for the people living there. This certainly made good use of the Strada’s bigger cargo bed.
From that point on, I saw the purpose of this ride and drive. We could have been billeted in a fancy place, binging on food and drinks, but that wouldn’t change the world much, would it? By having us experience their advocacy, it shows what the Mitsubishi Strada and consequently its owners can achieve. The Strada is one pickup that goes beyond the specifications printed on its brochure. Likewise, it’s the same for Mitsubishi, the company behind it. Clearly, the Strada is an instrument of change and shows that its owners or would-be owners can live their lives to the fullest or better yet, make a difference.