Traveling by road means we're sitting in a car for long hours, maybe even in traffic, usually itching to get to our destinations and ignoring what interesting things there are to do and experience along the way. With the Toyota Roadtrek, however, it's the journey that counts.
Now on its 6th year, the Roadtrek is Toyota's annual ride and drive event, and presents some unique opportunities to get to know the towns, people, and other interesting things to do and eat en route. Normally, ride and drives involve a quick drive to the destination and staying a night or two until you drive back, but this is the Roadtrek, and Toyota always makes sure there's something special in store. And given that this competition involved the motoring press, it was bound to get interesting.
This year, Toyota takes us to the island of Panay for a nearly 300 kilometer journey from Ilo-ilo up to Caticlan and ultimately, Boracay. Along the pre-planned route, Toyota had some interesting challenges in store. Taking a convoy consisting of various variants of the newly upgraded and refreshed Toyota Vios, the group set off immediately after touching down at Ilo-Ilo's new airport.
For 2010, the Toyota Vios gets a new look with a redesigned front grille, front bumper and fog lamps, multi-reflector headlamps, side view mirror-integrated turn signal lamps, sporty 15" alloy wheels and new rear combination lamps. On the inside, there's a new interior, featuring a new sporty, semi-flat bottom leather steering wheel with audio controls, restyled instrument panel, chrome accents, and an auxiliary port for audio players. Engine choices still include the 1.5L and 1.3L versions of the DOHC VVT-i powerplants, with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. A new color, light blue mica metallic, is also available. The 1.3E, previously only available in manual, now has an automatic transmission option. For this trip, Toyota brought 8 examples of their popular subcompact in 1.5G automatic and 1.3E automatic models.
After settling in to our cars, we were briefed over the radio of some of the things that Panay Island and its provinces are known for. Taking note of what was being said, we then proceeded to the new Anhawan Resort in Ilo-Ilo for our first challenge, a crossword puzzle about anything from Panay Island. From the local delicacies to the names of different towns and capitols, it proved to be quite tricky to get it right, and made for a great icebreaker before brunch was served.
When all the pens have been set down, the intrepid Roadtrekkers set out again in their cars, this time heading to Miag-ao Church. However, in true Toyota Roadtrek style, each team was given a CD with short samples of popular music, with which we were to name each song and respective artist. It was truly fun hearing some good old songs from bands like the Beatles, Apo Hiking Society and Shades Apart, though being in a moving car made it more challenging to jot down the answers.
28 kilometers later, we arrived at our destination. We submitted our answers in what will have to pass for legible handwriting, and proceeded to take on the next challenge: assembling a jigsaw puzzle of the facade of the famous Miag-ao church. Built in 1786, the church was built in the baroque style as both a house for worship and, with its thick walls and tall watchtower belfries, also as a defensive post against Moro raiders.
After hunting down all the pieces and putting the puzzle together, we were back in the Vios and this time heading north towards Antique, for a date with one of the most popular residents of the island: the watermelon. As an added twist, we were each to eat large slices of red, white and green without using our hands.
Faces washed, we set off for the final challenge with the long drive further north to the seaside town of Pandan, the penultimate stop before crossing onto the island paradise of Boracay. A small and sleepy town, Pandan actually takes pride in its prime handicraft of weaving twine made out of buri, bariw and abaca. We were to learn how to weave the twine into a glass coaster from the eager locals, and to add pressure, we were to do it in only 20 minutes.
When the time limit passed, amidst all the cheering, jeering and banter, the group finally made their way back to the faithful Vioses, and took a quick drive up to Caticlan Port for the final transit to our ultimate destination: Boracay.
In most trips, the story begins when you get to your destination. With the Toyota Roadtrek, however, it's the journey that is the story, and the destination is just the cherry on top.