Che Cabotaje and his love affair with Honda
Feature was written by Che Cabotaje, Honda enthusiast
When I was a young boy back in the late ’90s (yes, it has already hit me that the ’90s is not 10 years ago anymore), I used to enjoy playing with my Hotwheels and Tomica’s on the backboard of our car whenever our family goes out for errands in the city or long frequent trips to Baguio. Once I get bored, I don't usually go back to sitting properly in the backseat, I continue to just stare at the rear window and look at all the cars that I see.
The habit of staring at other cars developed a special skill in me that I didn’t know would start my perpetual interest in cars, and that is to be able to know and identify car makes and models that I get to see on Manila roads, including rare cars that time such as the Mazda Miata, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Nissan 200SX and many more.
For someone who was 4 years old at that time, this was something that my parents, relatives, and close family friends were amazed about. It even got to a point that one of my mom’s work colleagues at that time took me out for a Sunday drive just to see and be amazed at how I could identify cars at such a young age.
During this period in time, there was also this one car that I tend to see a lot. I think it was its sporty looks (and probably its practicality and prestige) that made it really popular with the Filipino market. Seeing a lot of them on the road made me say to my mom and my dad that that car is my ultimate dream car and that I would want to have one when I grow up, and that car is none other than the Honda Civic.
The Honda Civic, back in the 90s was an upcoming nameplate in the Philippine automotive industry. What started out as Honda’s humble entry to the People’s Car Program during the 90s, the Civic helped catapult the brand to one of the industry's top players, and at a point in time, become the market leader of the industry.
Since there were a lot of Civics on Philippine roads back in the day, the one that really got my attention was the Hatchback body Civic, or what car nuts would like to call the “EG”. As a kid, anything you see with two doors is already considered a sports car. With the EG’s sporty styling and amazing split tailgate, I fell in love with the car, even more than the newer and sportier orange Civics that came a few years later (Yes I am referring to the SiR).
My family has owned numerous Hondas throughout the years. My dream of our family having a Honda first came into reality when my parents bought a 1998 Honda City LXi (SX8), a car which up to this day is still in my possession. This was immediately followed by another Honda, a 1999 Civic LXi (EK4), which my dad got as his company car.
At that point, I was filled with so much joy seeing that a later iteration of my dream car was already part of the family. A few more Hondas came along in our household, a 2003 CR-V 2.0 MT (RD4), a 2010 Civic 1.8V MT (FD1), and a 2018 Jazz 1.5 VX Navi CVT (GK5). We had a few other cars that came and went throughout the years, but Hondas were really the staple in our family.
Fast forward to 2015, three months after graduating from college, I was very fortunate to land an opportunity of a lifetime, and that is to work for Honda. It was a dream I never thought I would achieve as aside from cars, I was also an optimistic fresh graduate who had other goals that were being considered. But landing a job in HCPI changed my life forever.
It allowed me to learn about the automotive industry both from a product and business perspective, I learned how cars were made, as I was able to see the manufacturing process, I was able to meet new friends and networks from the industry, and most importantly, I was able to drive Honda’s latest and greatest offerings.
During my stint, I was fortunate enough to be able to drive not only the latest Honda models but also a couple of interesting Hondas that reached our local shores. There was of course the 2018 FK8 Civic Type R (the R-00000 if I may add), the 2015 Honda Legend, and the one that I consider to this day as my 'one that got away', the 2013 Honda CR-Z, a car which I had the privilege to have as my occasional service car and one of the cars included in my top 5 Honda’s I want to own. Working for Honda made me feel like that kid from the 90s, but instead of playing with toy cars, I am now experiencing the real thing.
In 2022, I left my dream job at Honda, a gamble I had to take as I wanted to try to explore other opportunities and pursue other dreams and aspirations I have in life. I tried distancing myself from the industry I love, for me to be able to grow. If this was a romantic relationship, this was more of an “It’s not you, it’s me” kind of situation.
But as with any relationship, if you ended up on good terms, there is still a possibility for second chances that some things can be worked out, and may end up even better.
As I was looking for an opportunity to find a way back to rekindle my relationship with cars and the auto industry, I came across the giveaway announcement of Luxury Cars Manila back in July, featuring a fully restored 1994 Honda Civic Hatchback. When I saw this post, I was first hesitant to join as deep down, I know that there are going to be a lot of enthusiasts and regular followers of the page who would join as King Panda was giving away one of Honda’s aspirational models and now considered a cult classic model. Plus, I also have a track record of being unlucky when it comes to raffles and giveaway contests.
As Soichiro Honda once said, “You don’t have to believe in miracles to believe in the Power of Dreams”. Knowing that I have nothing to lose in case I do not get selected, I decided to take a shot and submitted my entry and just hoped for the best. After seeing all the other deserving entries of those who participated in the giveaway, I never thought that I will be the one getting the call from King Panda himself. I was nervous and shaking and at the same time overjoyed that I will be awarded the car I’d been forever dreaming of since I was 4.
My affinity with the Honda brand has made my childhood dream come full circle. What started out as a young boy’s dream to have a Civic Hatchback, has brought me to places and experiences I’ve never thought I’d be able to achieve, and later on, finally got a chance to own the dream car itself. I may aspire to own and dream of other cars from other manufacturers, but Honda will always have a special place in my heart.
Thank you, Honda (and King Panda) for making me believe in the Power of Dreams.