Cebu has always been a must-visit travel destination. With whale sharks, white beaches and lechon abundant on the island, it also has a growing economic hub. And so, the 9km drive from the airport to Hyundai Philippines' newest dealership--Hyundai Cebu South--takes almost an hour.
But the heavy traffic doesn't dampen our mood. After all, we're in the Queen City of the South to test-drive the all-new Hyundai Elantra. We load our overnight bags and camera equipment into a spacious 1.6 GL AT unit. According to our route book, we will drive 157km from the dealership to Kandaya Resort in Daanbantayan, the northernmost part of the province.
We take the Dalan Antonio y De Pio Highway in a three-hour drive with one pitstop along the way. After wrestling with the inevitable traffic jam in the city, we make it to the mountain roads. Our designated driver for the day happens to be a member of the motoring media in Cebu. As we drive by the IT park, he explains that since many professionals are coming to the island, the volume of vehicles has increased. To those who don't opt to work in the highly urbanized Metro Manila, Cebu has become a refuge, he shares.
After about 40km, the convoy of Elantras is already broken as everyone drives on their own comfortable pace. And since a local Cebuano is behind the wheel of our unit, he confidently maneuvers our car along the scenic route. Plenty of habal-habals do make us nervous, but apparently the Dalan Antonio y De Pio Highway is a weekend favorite of local gearheads. Not only does it pass by many tourist attractions, it also has less traffic than the road we are to take on our way back.
The roomy compact sedan is filled with three people and equipment. And for the first half of the trip, the drivers get the chance to play with the compact sedan. With sharp turns and wide-open roads, the drivers get to test the car's acceleration and braking. By the time we're halfway through the trip, the pavement disappears, but the ride is still comfortable enough for the passengers to sleep.
After almost three hours on the road, we arrive at our destination, the luxurious Kandaya Resort, where we will relax and enjoy island activities for a couple of days. But to further experience Korean culture, a Korean barbecue cooking contest is scheduled. Which is only apt since we're on an island where food is a tourist attraction in itself.
Drawing lots, our team gets beef hangar as our main dish. We then decide the hierarchy in our kitchen and determine the division of tasks before we set off to boiling the carrots and the potatoes, grilling the beef, and mixing the sweet and spicy Korean sauce. We end up snagging third place.
On our third day, we wake up really early because we are to take the Central Nautical Highway route back to the Hyundai dealership in Cebu City. This route is known as Cebu's version of EDSA. Unlike our initial route coming to Kandaya, this thoroughfare is a long stretch of coastal road.
For this 126km drive, we get assigned a 2.0 GLS AT unit. By the time I get to drive the Elantra, we're 20km from the destination, and the traffic is starting to build up. It doesn't help that it's the first week of classes.
We don't follow the route book after a few kilometers. We break from the convoy, which is already broken anyway because of the provincial traffic, and turn on ever-reliable Waze. It does help that a Cebuano is riding with us.
Our co-driver points out that it would have taken us more or less nine minutes to get to our destination sans traffic. But if we had stayed on the route indicated in our book, it would have taken us an hour due to the volume of vehicles and the road repairs.
The trusty navigation app takes our Elantra to tight areas, where we share the roads with trucks and trikes. There are also a lot of pedestrians, of course. But since we have a compact sedan, it moves when and where we point it to. We ease it in between trucks and guide it through populated areas. I feel surprisingly confident using the car and not at all nervous--there are usually no major close calls here because, in spite of the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the drivers are respectful of each other and wait for their turn.
Despite being the sixth car in the convoy, we're first to arrive at the Hyundai Cebu South dealership. The rest start showing up after we've unloaded our stuff and started eating. Everyone shares the sentiment that Cebu is beginning to follow in the footsteps of Metro Manila as far as traffic congestion is concerned.
Thankfully, we all had the luxury of driving a great car, helping make for a relaxing road trip.
Photos by Elaine Lara