Story & Photos by Ronald Rey M. de los Reyes
EVERY year, the country’s number one carmaker pull out—with guns blazing—all the stops to sweep the local motoring journalists off their feet with the best home-grown destinations for the classic much-anticipated annual Road Trek.
And already on their 14th year, they never seem to disappoint. In fact, as far as this scribe can remember, this year’s terminus is their best yet ever—their magnum opus. The venue? Balesin Island, a 500-hectare property off the coast of Quezon province.
Toyota Motor Philippines President Satoru Suzuki even couldn’t agree more. “The exclusive paradise gave us a break from the monotony of every day. That is exactly what Balesin Island Club offered us. Balesin is a small island. But its natural beauty is unmatched—from its fine beaches, to the boardwalk sunsets and through many outdoor activities,” he said during the last night of our stay at the picturesque island.
No polished gem without friction
But of course, like any traditional Road Trek, the prize comes after all the challenges set by the organizers in the four-day affair. Grouped into nine teams with three to four members each, we were all ready to “Go for the Gold.” This writer, in particular, was teamed up with Autobuyer.ph Alfred Mendoza and JamesDeakin.ph Erica Zuzuarregui together with their young ace lens man Paolo Lesaca. Onboard the manual five-seater variant of the Toyota Rush, we first set sail to one of their newest dealerships in Central Luzon, the Toyota Angeles in Pampanga.
Here, we were first tasked to create a “Pahiyas” parol. Though we did not score high in this contest and in the trivia questions that came after, we were surely able to make up with our creative “famfie” shots and witty captions that were all labelled with hashtags: #ToyotaRoadTrek2018 #RoadTrekToyotaAngeles.
Soon after breakfast and all the morning pursuits in the dealership, we headed out to SOUQ—a Capampangan restaurant along Lazatin Boulevard in San Fernando. It was the place where organizers asked us to take photos of the new Toyota Alphard parked right in front, as well as capture artistic “millennial” photos.
From San Fernando, we traveled about 53 kilometers down to Bataan via the Roman Superhighway to drop by their Toyota Bataan dealership before again cruising back up about 103 kilometers to Toyota Motors along MacArthur Highway in Tarlac all behind the wheel of the Rush—not to mention—all riddled with tricky challenges along the way.
By sundown, we were all checked in time at the Midori Hotel in Clark, Pampanga for a healthy dinner and well-meaning night cap.
Rush around the world
The next day, we were all up and primed for our 35-minute flight from Clark International Airport to Balesin Island. And mind you, the challenges didn’t stop there.
Organizers, then, told us to take photos of the four Toyota Rush vehicles scattered all over the island. Here, it was our moment to not just get acquainted with their potential best seller, but to also tour around this much-talked about exclusive paradise. During our mini-exploration, we first had a snap of the Rush in Greek-inspired Myknonos Village, followed by an Italian-twist at Toscana. We got lost along the way and found ourselves in various themed resorts—from Indonesia to Thailand and even France before uncovering the other two units in Aquatic Center and the Balesin Spa.
Rush in a snap
While taking various snapshots and even briefly getting behind the wheel of the Toyota Rush, we learned that it can be one’s own practical and reliable SUV. I, particularly, fell in love with the top seven-seater G variant smothered in Bordeaux Mica Metallic color. This subcompact sporting a 1.5-liter dual VVT-i gasoline engine (102 hp and 134 Nm) had enough power as we took it on a short spin along the dirt roads of the island. On the outside, its velvetish color is awe-inspiring as it stood out from its surrounding green foliage, as it donned that pragmatic entry-level functional work-horse suit on the inside.
In the end, after all has been said and done, our team ended up in second place overall and, indeed, had our own unique kind of “rush.”