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May 25, 2012

It's More Fun with Toyota: Toyota Road Trek 8

Photos by Ulysses Ang
May. It’s the height of summer, with temperatures reaching well over 36 degrees Celsius in Metro Manila. It’s hot, humid, and dry—the perfect weather for a trip out of town. Of course, given that this is Toyota’s annual Road Trek event, this wasn’t your ordinary beach trip. Being a first-time Road Trekker (I declined the early ones and wasn’t invited to the later ones); I didn’t know what to expect. In the end, I found the Toyota Road Trek experience to be one unforgettable event.

This year, the 36 or so Road Trekkers, including myself, made our way to the island of Bohol in the Visayas, which served as the first leg of Road Trek 8. Upon touching down at the Tagbilaran Airport, we were immediately welcomed by a traditional Bisaya folk song. After the luggage was sorted, the Road Trekkers was divided into 9 teams of four, all representing different aspects of the Toyota Sure Advantage (TSA): Quality, Durability, Reliability, Worry-Free Ownership, Great Value, and Pioneering Technologies. And since TSA is present in every Toyota vehicle you buy, we had two of the country’s best-selling vehicles present at Road Trek 8: the Toyota Innova and the Toyota Vios—both of which are proudly made in the Philippines.

Assigned to Team 9 along with fellow The Philippine Star writer Angel Rivero, we drove our red Innova 2.5 E from the Tagbilaran Airport to our first stop: Baclayon Church for a short CSR activity (the timely donation of school bags to elementary school children) and a short photo opportunity. After a few snaps, it was off to lunch at one of Bohol’s hidden gems: The Peacock Garden Hotel Resort also in Baclayon. The name may conjure up images of a Chinese restaurant, but it was later explained that the peacock is the symbol of the meeting of cultures. In this case, it’s east-meets-west because of the Filipino hospitality intertwined with Old-World European art and interiors.

After lunch, I welcomed the opportunity for some drive time and it happened to lead us to Bohol’s most famous sight: the Chocolate Hills. This is the first time I’ve driven the E variant of the Innova, much less the 2012 model, so I made the most of it. The Innova made short work of Bohol’s varying road conditions from broken asphalt to outright dirt roads. All the while, the passengers were kept comfortable and cozy thanks to the compliant ride and blizzard cold air conditioning. The Innova’s engine had gusto, enabling us to easily keep up with the rest of the convoy as we cruised at around 80 km/h on provincial roads including through the famous man-made forest. Upon reaching Sagbayan Peak, the most famous vantage point for the Chocolate Hills, we were in awe at the more than 1,260 conical and almost symmetrical hills made of grass-covered limestone.

Reaching the Chocolate Hills meant we were almost at the end of Road Trek 8, but we weren’t done. With Angel behind the wheel, we drove the Innova to Loon at the western tip of Bohol to catch a ro-ro ferry to the Argao in Cebu. The two-hour boat ride was made extra lively by a trivia game, but ultimately it was just an appetizer for the two-hour drive traversing Cebu from east to east ultimately ending at Badian Island, which served as the rest stop for Road Trek 8.

Swapping our Innova for a power boat, we crossed the Badian Strait and reached the Badian Island Resort and Spa, a luxurious all-suite resort located on an isolated island. The island itself is picturesque with lush palms, sandy beach front, and crystal-clear waters. However, what set it apart was the warm and personal nature of the staff. Indeed, this was a very welcome rest stop after a day’s worth of hard driving.

As I called it a day and dozed off in my bed, I can’t help but remain in awe at the wonderful sights that the Philippines has to offer. Although this isn’t the first time I’ve set foot in either Bohol or Cebu, they continue to provide different but equally wonderful experiences. The annual Toyota Road Trek offers the motoring beat a chance to relax and see the great wonders of the Philippines, while proving to us that their cars are truly ranked as one of the industry’s best. As a first-time Road Trek, I came away happy and satisfied, with a smile that reached from ear-to-ear. Hopefully, I’ll get to go trekking again next year!

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