Sunday, June 21, 2015

Outside the Comfort Zone: Toyota Road Trek 11

Photos by Ulysses Ang
The Toyota Road Trek is the annual event where Toyota Motor Philippines brings us members of the motoring media on a ride-and-drive activity that takes us all around the country. Every year, it’s an excuse to take off the serious hat and put on something a tad sillier. This year though, they’ve ramped things up a notch and not in the physical sense. This year, Road Trek welcomes the world of social media.

Road Trek 11 is aptly titled, “Eat, Sleep, Drive, Repeat”—a play on the single “Eat, Sleep, Rave Repeat” by Fatboy Slim, Riva Starr, and Beardyman. From the title alone, you clearly know that there’s something much more youthful going on that the typical road trek. So aside from the usual photography challenges and trivia knowledge, social media takes center stage. Your otherwise serious motoring media, myself included, attempt to “break the internet” with memes and Dub Smash videos.

Leaving the Toyota Manaue-South in Cebu which served as the staging point for this year’s Road Trek, the The Philippine STAR team was split into two with Angel and Manny in Team 3 and me and Buboy (our cameraman) making up Team 4. Apparently, this was done on purpose to bring out the competitive spirit of the otherwise relaxed Philippine STAR Motoring team.

With vehicles raffled off during the orientation, Team 4 ended up with the 2015 Toyota RAV4 4WD while we had the Camry 2.5 S at our disposal. Despite their rather distinct appearances, both the RAV4 and the Camry share something in common: the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine under the hood.

This made the climb to the first stop a breeze. Situated atop the hilly terrain of Balamban, Canso X was the first stop of the 2015 Toyota Road Trek. The area is known for its unpredictable weather and was made famous as the site where Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay’s plane crashed on March 17, 1957 (Mount Manunggal). Although Canso X is a place for extreme sports, the challenge during Road Trek 11 was something decisively simpler: it was to stack cups using just pieces of string and rubber bands. It was a show of team spirit and good eye-hand coordination.

After finishing the first challenge, we looked like we stood the chance to win the overall championship this year. We completed the challenge in third or fourth which wasn’t too bad compared to Manny and Angel, who happened to finish dead last.

From Balamban, it’s a one and a half hour drive to the next stop, the San Remigio Beach Club located some 109 kilometers from Cebu City. The teams’ arrival coincided with the second challenge which was to pull sticks out in turns with the least amount of balls dropping in the basket. This one rewarded good spatial recognition, and again, eye-hand coordination. Initially, we were rocking it until a wrong move sent an avalanche of balls falling down. It was apparent that there was no way we’ll win this challenge. Manny and Angel didn’t fare any better.

As Road Trek 11’s halfway point, this was used as an opportunity to swap rides. From the comfort of the Toyota RAV4 4WD, we switched to the entry-level Toyota Wigo after another team didn’t want to drive it. Meanwhile, Team 3 swapped their Camry for the Innova.

Despite packing just a meager 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine, the Toyota Wigo could easily climb the hilly roads as long as you plan your throttle and brake engagement beforehand. Still, it was a relatively shrot drive to the location of the third and final challenge: the Queens Island Golf Club.

Here, we were made to match different Toyota vehicles with their marketing slogans. That’s a piece of cake. But since we lacked manpower, Jade Sison and Bea Villegas volunteered to be honorary Team 4 members just to help us complete the “Name That Cebu Delicacy” challenge. This was one challenge we’re sure to have aced.

Three challenges later and a whole day’s worth of driving, it was time to head to the “top secret” resort this year: Kandaya Resort in Northern Cebu. Arriving at dusk, it marked the end to our long drive from Cebu City. However, that didn’t spell the end to Road Trek 11: in case you didn’t realize, we had a bucket filled with materials needed to make a puso wrapper—the classic Cebu delicacy of rice wrapped in coconut leaves with us. Suffice to say, we weren’t able to weave even one during the entire afternoon.

Just like its product lineup, Toyota Motor Philippines is injecting a bit more youthful vibe in the way they do their events. It shows the changing demographics not just of this traditionally conservative car company, but of the motoring press as well. Although none of us can claim to have broken the internet in the four days of Road Trek 11, we all had a blast in each other’s company.

Check out the video of Toyota Road Trek 11 on the Wheels TV Facebook page. Also, catch Wheels TV every Saturday, 10 am on ABS-CBN Sports+Action. Season 2 starts on July 18.

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