It's no secret: we love to drive.
If you're anything like me, then the night before a long drive somewhere, you'll probably be so excited that you'd have a hard time sleeping; and that's how it was the night before the 8th annual Toyota Roadtrek.
This event is one of the most anticipated drives for the past 8 years, and has toured many islands and provinces all over the country. We've driven in places like Cebu, Leyte, Cagayan De Oro, Ilo-ilo and Dumaguete. We even got to drive on Boracay, small as the island may be.
For this year, however, we paid a visit to Bohol, the home island of the Philippine Tarsier and the Chocolate Hills. Again, we were all excited to get going.
Upon landing at Tagbilaran Airport in Bohol, we were again greeted by two of the country's best selling vehicles: the Vios and the Innova. The Vios really needs no introduction, having been the best selling vehicle (as well as the best selling Passenger Car) in the Philippines nearly as soon as Toyota launched it nearly a decade ago. The Innova, like its little brother, is the best seller in the Commercial Vehicle class, and on of the driving forces behind 10 dominant years of Toyota, racking up 10 Triple Crowns (best PC sales, best CV sales, best overall sales) in the process.
For the 2012 model year, both the Vios and the Innova have been upgraded, and rightfully so. The Vios's upgrades are not as noticeable, with new touches here and there, as well as a new audio system and other bits. The Innova's upgrades are more profound, with a major redesign of the front fascia as well as additional features and an upgraded audio unit with USB capability. Excellent. Now I can hook up my iPod, no problem.
Setting off from Tagbilaran, the convoy proceeded to the first stop of the day at Baclayon. The town for being the home of Baclayon Church, one of the oldest churches in the country. Unusually, the church was built with coral stones and cemented together by -wait for it- the whites of a million or so eggs. It seems that the construction method has truly stood the test of time, having been completed in 1727.
Being a province, Toyota took the opportunity to give back to some very lucky school children, providing them with hundreds of new schoolbags and supplies for the school year. All in all, it's a great way to start the Roadtrek.
From Baclayon, we had a little break at the Peacock Garden Resort. This beautiful boutique hotel provided a nice view of the trees and the sea, as well as a great garden to get some fresh air and some good food. After lunch, we then continued on our trek.
Sadly, because of the delay with the aircraft on the way to Tagbilaran (it's not more fun in NAIA), we were to miss our date with the Tarsiers. We did, however, catch a glimpse of the world famous, world's smallest primates at the Viewdeck, along with what made Bohol truly famous: the Chocolate Hills.
Scattered all around the island are well over 1700 limestone hills left over from the Ice Age. The island was underwater during that age and was composed of coral reefs, the left overs of which now make up the Chocolate Hills. Unusually, the hills are green during the wet season, but during summer, they turn brown, and that's how they got their name.
After getting our fill of Bohol's landmarks, we continued on our path, this time en route to the RO-RO pier at Loon. Along the way, we found ourselves driving under the immensely green canopy of a man-made forest. A great road cuts through the forest, and affords a great drive and some truly fresh air. The road also -at some points- runs parallel to the Loboc River, which is another great landmark, with floating restaurants aboard riverboats that ply it everyday.
Once at Loon, we board our fleet of Innovas and Vioses on to a RO-RO ferry to cross to the island of Cebu. After the two hour nautical ride, we then continued our drive in Cebu, cutting through the mountains to the other side to get to our ultimate destination: Badian Island.
There are those who say Toyota's cars are just too plain. Too boring. And honestly, in some ways I do agree. What Toyota takes pride in, and what others can't deny, is that they provide all their customers with an excellent ownership experience through reliable cars, efficient service and the latest technology. The high residual value is merely a bonus.
At the end of another great Toyota Roadtrek, we ponder again at what we've experienced. Over the years, we've been to and experienced so much of the country that we wouldn't have if we just flew from one place to another. Some say we join the Toyota Roadtrek because we get to eat as much as we want, stay in some pretty awesome hotel rooms and party the night away. I'd be hypocritical if I said I didn't enjoy it, but I believe it's more than just that.
Cars are meant to get us from A to B, from one place to another. For me, however, it's the drive that really counts. Much like the great ownership experience that Toyota delivers to every customer, it's hard to put a price on it.