AS expected, Race 2 of the Vios Cup Season 4 went well at the Clark International Speedway last weekend. Not even a speck of a glitch marred the occasion. Not even the rains, reduced to almost a daylong drizzle, could dampen the enthusiasm of the 52 or so racers, hundreds of car buffs and entire families, from grandkids to granddads to grandmas, from staying all day to watch the now-iconic race’s usual dose of thrill and excitement.
I saw Llawyer Rommel Gutierrez, the man with the well-combed hair all day long, the day of the race itself in the company, as always, of his wife and kids.
“I got only two kids with me today,” he said to me. “The other two elected to stay home this time.”
A fellow journalist asked him: “Why did you arrive only today? We missed you last night.”
“Why? Was I needed here last night?” replied Rommel, the vice president for corporate communications of the event’s sponsoring Toyota Motors Philippines (TMP).
“Of course,” came my colleague’s reply. “You missed last night’s momentous event.”
“What was so significant about last night that required my presence?” Rommel asked, eagerly.
“Oh, well, we did karaoke, and the only singing group that we didn’t play was the Bee Gees.”
With that, Rommel almost got himself floored.
“Ganern? Had I known that there was karaoke at Midori hotel, I would have also arrived last night,” Rommel said, his thick eyebrows knitted.
As everybody knows, Rommel, who is Campi president for the longest time, is the only certified Bee Gees singer from the entire motoring industry. That is because his voice bears a strong resemblance to Barry Gibbs’s, the chief Bee Gee.
And Rommel has no qualms hiding his Bee Gees-like voice, complete with the vibrating wiggles and falsettos typical of the Gibbs brothers.
That is why each time there is a program in Toyota events and an impromptu Bee Gees performance is required, Rommel immediately takes center stage—to the delight of an audience used to his high-impact performance of every Bee Gee ditty, from “Massachusetts” to “Words” to “I Started a Joke”.
Once Rommel starts his Bee Gees act, there’s no stopping him.
“That’s why on second thought, I think there was one good aspect about Rommel’s absence last night during our karaoke session,” one motoring reporter said.
“And that is, that Sir Raymond [Rodriguez] and Sir Jing [Atienza] might not have unraveled their singing abilities had Atty. Rommel been around.”
“Joke, joke, Sir,” was my colleague’s quick quip.
Oh, well, if truth be told, both Raymond (the brand-new Lexus Manila president succeeding Danny “Sir John” Isla) and Jing (newly promoted TMP senior vice president) could sing so well that Raymond can rival the throaty tick of the legendary Louis Armstrong and Jing the crackling, coarse-refined style of the inimitable Joe Cocker.
But, of course, not to be forgotten were the other Midori stars of the night, including Tourism Asec Ricky Alegre, who brought the house down with his Bocelli-inspired “My Prayer” and Ogie Alcasid’s “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang?”, and the incomparable Jade B. Sison, whose renditions of Katy Perry, Beyonce, Arianne Grande, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus were revelations, indeed, to the delight of TMP bigwigs Sherwin Chua Lim and Carlo Ablaza, and Top Gear exec Jeff Reyes.
Not to be outdone was Vernon B. Sarne, the former Top Gear editor in chief, who second-voiced several of Sir Paul’s Beatles acts handpicked by Asec Alegre.
Too bad Satoru Suzuki, the TMP president, had to retire early, as he wasn’t feeling well. Subbing for him well was Kei Mizuguchi, the TMP executive vice president, who contented himself as the chief applauder of the night. Energized to no end by the stress-releasing singing session the night before, the entourage of media people and TMP officialdom trooped to the race tracks all wearing ear-to-ear grins.
“I feel fine now,” said Suzuki-san, who would deliver his usual opening remarks with gusto before the race was flagged off by the efficient staff of JP Tuason, the chief architect of the event’s nitty-gritty.
Vernon, Jeff and I went for a look-see of the gz rids and, in one pit stop, I bumped into Toyota Alabang’s Mike Lee, my champion Lexus skipper in the recent STV Car Rally in Subic.
“Nice to see you again, Sir,” Mike said. “Enjoy your day.”
I did, as I always have since the Vios Cup’s inception in 2014. See you in September.
PEE STOP Was I glad to also see anew at Clark Rene So, a major coowner of Toyota dealerships in the cities of Dagupan, Baguio and San Fernando (La Union). His Team Biskeg, as always, performed well again…Happy golden wedding anniversary to my Compadre Bert and Comadre Fel Bravo tomorrow, June 17. Cheers!