I just came back from Banaue in the province of Ifugao, site of the world-famous rice terraces, where Mitsubishi Motors Philippines did its small share in helping rehabilitate a damaged portion of this agricultural landmark. The Japanese carmaker additionally donated educational materials to an elementary school in Batad.
We went there using a fleet of capable Mitsubishi vehicles, including the Montero Sport, the Strada and the ASX. None of these cars suddenly accelerated for no apparent reason, in case you're wondering.
After we'd left Baguio early Saturday morning on the way to Banaue, we passed through the province of Benguet. There, one particular sign caught my attention. It said: "Highest point of the Philippine highway system; 7,400 feet above sea level."
I'd seen that sign more than once before during media trips with Isuzu and Ford. But it was during last weekend's excursion that I longed to come back to the area using my own car. The sight of the Montero Sport artfully positioned beside the sign made me hanker for my beloved personal car.
It also made me think of the farthest place I'd driven my car to. The answer (Subic) made me feel embarrassment for being such an unimaginative and unexciting car owner--for just sticking to the smog-covered confines of Metro Manila. I reasoned that I couldn't really bring my car to far-flung places because it's a front-wheel-driven subcompact hatchback powered by an anemic 1.3-liter gasoline engine. It's a car that never fails to remind me of its humble constitution if I just so much as take it up a multilevel parking building. For me to even dream of driving it to the Pine City would be the equivalent of bringing a fan knife to a gunfight.
But whom was I fooling? Even our associate editor Paulo Subido is able to haul an old-school Colt Galant wagon to Baguio trouble-free. I, meanwhile, can't muster the pluck to use my five-year-old hatchback for a faraway escapade. The truth, of course, is that I have merely been too unadventurous when it comes to my own car. It's a shame that after having owned it for exactly 60 months--and having driven it through 46,000km--I have only brought it to the fringes of the metropolis.
One excuse I always give myself for not embarking on a long road trip with my own car, is that my job allows me to do this all the time anyway. But I have a feeling that a work-related drive can't possibly compare with a leisurely one. Things must be different and ultimately liberating when you don't have a fixed itinerary, a layout peg and a PR companion.
I envy friends who post Facebook images of their vehicles all muddied up and in the most exotic of settings. They get it. They get what motoring really means. It's how cars are meant to be used.
Behind the wheel of the Montero Sport last weekend, I once again felt the thrill of clipping the apexes and overtaking slower cars. I had lost this buzz for quite a while. Buried deep in deadlines and the urban bustle, I had gradually grown weary of driving. Two main factors are largely to blame, I think.
There's the dreadful traffic mess, which makes me subconsciously associate driving with torture. I see a steering wheel and a feeling of hard labor descends upon me. And then there's the rising cost of fuel. This one makes me think of driving as a bad gambling bet, certain to suck my wallet dry.
But I've realized these things shouldn't discourage me from taking pleasure in driving my car. I need to get a fresh set of tires and head out north or south. I need to learn how to accurately read a map and risk getting lost. I need to take photographs of my car against historical and cultural backdrops.
We don't need a 911 Carrera or an M3 to rediscover the fun of driving. Always, the best car to drive is the one that's parked in your garage.
I’m not alluding to romantic relationships here. But if this column has given you that idea, I’ll be one of the first to wish you a memorable Valentine's Day.