"Sometimes, madness is what makes us who we are."

- Amadeus Arkham, Arkham Asylum (A Serious House on Serious Earth)

A mid-April invite from Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMPC or Toyota) to join in some Cagayan de Oro (CdO)- Davao summer fun usually means four days of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, this was to be no ordinary down-south ramble. This southbound trip would be the second edition of the Innova Roadtrek, a four-day festival of physical activity and insanity.

Trip of fools

Much like the first Innova Roadtrek, motoring journalists present were grouped foursomes, with this writer teamed up with Business Mirror motoring editor Popong Andolong, photographer Ed Simon and Manila Standard's Dino Directo. Foursomes were given tasks to complete (some in the fastest time possible) in order to earn points. Unfortunately, the first task required arrival at the Manila Domestic Airport at around 3 a.m., awarding points to the first three teams with full attendance. This unusual rendezvous time saw sleepy faces and even delayed the flight to CdO. Nevertheless, after the arrival of the "late" (by 25 minutes) Chris Van Hoeven of C! Magazine, the plane managed to drop participants off at the CdO airport at around 0730H.

The next phase of the roadtrek saw participants board specially designated Innova MPVs with rafts lashed to their roofs. But before that, everybody had to go to Toyota Cagayan de Oro for breakfast and a mix-and-match game with the numerous trophies (Toyota CdO is a consistent top seller in terms of units sold in Mindanao) awarded to the aforementioned dealership. The dealership's trophies were numbered from one to 48, with the rules requiring a search for five specific trophies and a match of the numbers with the corresponding trophies.

After the festivities at Toyota Cagayan de Oro, the pack hied off to the Mambuaya River for a day of whitewater rafting. The D4-D G a/t (automatic transmission) Innova of this writer's team helped immensely in bringing team gear AND its accompanying raft, thanks to its direct injection, common rail diesel, double overhead camshaft (DOHC), turbocharged, 16-valve 2KD-FTV engine. Its 102 Ps of power and 260 Nm of torque helped the team go quickly through Cagayan de Oro City and the slightly hilly roads leading to the river. The a/t D4-D G's suspension (independent wishbone coil spring with stabilizer bar in front, four-link coil spring for the rear) felt a tad harsh on the rocky roads 10-15 minutes away from the rafting venue, but nevertheless gave occupants good comfort.

Row, row, row your boat

Upon arrival at the river, teams were to row (in time trial fashion) from the river's starting point up to a sandy embankment after the eighth or ninth rapid, a two-hour test of shoulder and back muscles and willpower. The fastest team was to get 10 points, the second fastest team was to get eight points, the third fastest team was to get six points, fourth fastest team gets five points and every team after gets points in descending order (based on their time) from the fourth fastest team. Andolong had a unique way of motivating the others in the team by using the cadence pattern of "lunch-time" and "le-chon" (the rowing exercise was around 10:30 a.m.) in honor of team gourmand Directo, who was dead hungry after the rowing exercise.

After the rowing time trials, teams then had to station themselves on the said sandy embankment for some rest, then undergo another time trial in which teams had to row around a huge rock AGAINST the current, then intentionally capsize the boat, put the boat right side up and get into it. Seems easy? Try doing that within five minutes (in order to garner five points) and with most of your teammates with Michelin man-like mass. This writer's team did the task in two minutes and 45 seconds, not bad for a team composed mostly of Michelin-sized men.

Teams then had to go to Graduation Point, a huge rock that rises sheer from the river's middle. Members (if they opted for it) had to leap from the rock within ten seconds to garner five points; otherwise, no points would be added. The exercise brought out commitment and bravery in some, a serious case of acrophobia and bathophobia in others. For example, this writer and Andolong overcame a case of the jitters and did the task in six seconds, prompting Andolong to recall his Philippine Military Academy (PMA) training in the 1970s. "In instances like that, you don't have any second thoughts once you get to the jumping point. You just jump with blind faith, otherwise your fears will get to you. Our Special Forces parachute landings, which were done both during daytime and nighttime, were like that. But if you hesitated, your instructor would push you out of the airplane," said Andolong.

The last task at Mambuaya River required teams had to go get orange-colored balls floating around the river (with each ball equivalent to one point) and wade to the starting area. Due to fatigue, this writer's team got six balls doing the said task. On the other hand, the CdO motoring media team snapped up 64 balls by the end of the exercise.

Davao trippin'

After an overnight's stay at CdO's Koresco Hotel, the teams drove from CdO to Davao in eight hours, with respites for breakfast and lunch at the Del Monte plantation in Bukidnon (90 minutes from CdO) and Sunrise Grill and Restaurant in Davao province, respectively. It was during this six-to-seven hour drive that the Innova's interior amenities came into play, especially during the long stretches of highway leading to the Del Monte plantation and Davao province. The plush tan moquette seats can handle five people, but in this case were exceptionally comfortable for four men of Bibendum (Michelin's mascot) bulk. The 11 cup/bottle holders and integrated door pockets were great places to store drinks, food, sunglasses, task clue cards, cameras, batteries and iPods. Although music was mostly derived from this writer's iPod Mini, the Innova's 2-DIN Fujitsu Ten head unit'sFM frequency locking characteristic, six speakers and 12-volt auxiliary power outlet kept tunes playing non-stop.

The long stretches of up-and-down Bukidnon-Davao highway also gave notice to an unusual characteristic of the Innova - a tendency to stay at the lowest possible gear before downshifting. This writer had to place the a/t at the 3" setting (only three of the a/t's four gears used) to keep the vehicle in the powerband, essential to catching up to the dangerous driving of the convoy's police escort.

"I pity the poor shades confined to the Euclidean prison that is sanity."

- Amadeus Arkham, Arkham Asylum (A Serious House on Serious Earth)

The contingent then had an overnight's stay at the Marco Polo hotel, with a side trip to the Matinag Town Square for dinner and drinks. After that, the teams spent the whole of Saturday and Sunday morning at the Pearl Farm resort in Davao for rest, relaxation, golf (for some of the participants) and awarding of the winners. The awarding saw the CdO media team place first (based on the strength of their 64 orange ball haul) and take home Php 30,000. The awarding also saw Toyota president Hiroshi Ito grace the event and a nightcap of drinking and juvenile fun.

The emailed Innova Roadtrek invite to this writer claimed that participants will be treated the Toyota Way. If undergoing work (such as following certain tasks) to the point of insanity and having fun while doing it is the Toyota way, then this writer pities the unconverted to the gospel of moving forward.