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May 31, 2012

Lessons Learned from the Jollibee Drive Thru Cross-Country Challenge

Photo courtesy of Jollibee Facebook Page

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to embark on a very unique contest involving fast cars, fast food, and the concept that was born from their marriage: drive thru. For 10 days, my chosen partner (Neil Pagulayan aka Neil Almighty of FM station 99.5 RT) and I basically drove through almost the entirety of the Jollibee drive thru network collecting points, completing challenges, and what have you. Unfortunately, the winners won’t be revealed until night, so this story may not have such a happy ending to it.

But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is Neil and I have carried with us some of the most unique experiences we’ll ever have in our entire lifetime. And I can say that with a degree of authority given our pair has the age average (thanks Neil). I could certainly do a list of a thousand lessons we’ve learned from the Jollibee Drive Thru Cross-Country Challenge, but here are the biggest lessons we’ve learned:

The Ford Fiesta is a very capable car.

If there’s one thing that surprised all of us during this 10-day journey is just how tough, capable, and reliable the Ford Fiesta really is. All teams except us got brand-new Fiesta 1.6 Sport Plus hatchbacks at the start of the challenge (Neil and I got the veteran—a former test drive unit) and during the duration of the contest accumulated around 50,000 kilometers; that’s around 5,000 kilometers in 10 days or 500 kilometers per day.

And yet, I never once felt tired driving or sitting in it. The car proved itself equally durable and comfortable. What’s more, the Fiesta went through what felt like an accelerated life test, being subjected to poor road conditions, varying weather, and tired contestants with impaired judgment. Yet, all 10 Ford Fiestas made it to the finish line in (mostly) one piece. Indeed, the Ford Fiesta felt like the third member of each team, and he was very dependable as long as you treated him right.

Our roads are terrible and so are our politicians.

Since the objective of this challenge was to visit as many of the 171 Jollibee Drive Thru outlets as possible, it took us and our trusty car through every nook and cranny of the Philippines bar the southern part of Mindanao (security reasons). Teams went as far up as Pagudpud and as far south as Iligan and Ozamiz. Neil and I half-jokingly said, wherever Cebu Pacific flew, we’ve been there. However, if there’s one thing we noticed as a constant in every town, municipality, city or province, it’s this: our roads are terrible.

Broken asphalt, torn concrete, road breaks, downright missing roads—you name it, we’ve gone through it. What’s worse, since it’s close to the election season, just about every stretch of major highway is being “renovated” or “reconditioned” with a huge portrait of a congressman proclaiming what’s supposedly his responsibility as a “priority project” or done under “his initiative” (I’m talking to you, Congressman Marcy Teodoro of Marikina City). How shameful! Whatever happened to the anti-epal bill?

Being a Jollibee crew is hard.

You see them working tirelessly behind a stainless steel counter. You see them churning out Chickenjoys, Jolli Fries, and Champ Burgers faster than you can imagine, and yet, we don’t pause and thank them for their hard work. Well, next time you should. What they’re doing in there is damn hard.

Throughout the duration of the contest, we were told to try out various tasks commonly asked for in a Jollibee Crew Member. We were told to wrap burgers in five seconds, wash windows in a certain way, man the drive thru window complete with a memorized spiel, among many others. And while things look pretty easy from a customer’s point of view, what they’re doing is actually taxing both mentally and physically. Aside from the physical challenges (yes, we also need to get back into shape), the Jollibee Crew challenges were the hardest part of the Cross-Country Challenge. It’s hard enough to do things in front of the camera, but having to do it under time pressure and to the exacting standards of Jollibee? Man! We were sweating after just a couple of minutes working in there. So, to all the Jollibee Crew nationwide, we salute all of you! Keep up the good work!

You can actually travel around the Philippines by car.

There’s a saying: you shouldn’t be a stranger in your own backyard. In that respect, this is perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned from the Jollibee Drive Thru Cross-Country Challenge. The Philippines may seem like a daunting place to go around, given the 7,107 islands that make up our archipelago. But getting around is pretty easy and safe, as long as you have the time, money, patience and the bravado to take on the terrible roads. If you do take the time, our country will reward you with vistas and experiences that few other countries can match.

The experience is far from perfect (highly corrupt and bureaucratic port officials and Super Economy on a 2GO ship, but knowing that you can travel around the Philippines by car opens up more adventurous vacation destinations than the typical Baguio, Tagaytay or even Sagada. Places as far away as Ilocos Norte are worthwhile going to, and even places in the other island groups such as Cebu, Caticlan (Boracay) and even Cagayan de Oro are all accessible! There’s absolutely no excuse not to grab your car keys and make your way to just about anywhere in our country. Make it a point to go and explore.

Tonight, the winner of the Jollibee Drive Thru Cross-Country Challenge will be announced. Win or lose, we feel that this unique contest has opened our eyes to the beauty and splendor of the Philippines. It has also opened our eyes to the many lessons we’ve gathered along the way. Above all, it’s also given us a great opportunity to meet new friends namely: Anthony and Nino (Team 1), Q and Rob (Team 3), Francis and Joaquin (Team 4), Prince and Mitch (Team 5), Andre and Cerah (Team 6), Jan and Paul Jake (Team 7), Irene and JM (Team 8), Maria and Jon (Team 9), and Angelo and Charlie (Team 10). It was a great experience guys! We love you all and may the best team win.

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