One great joy of having a fun-loving family is the weekend and holiday road trips to a getaway just hours away from home. The excitement and bonding moments multiply when you have grown-up children who can take on the wheel and take turns on long-distance drives. Father’s Day, which is just around the corner, is another outdoor escape worth looking forward to as a more-than-the-usual day trip with the man who drives the family in so many ways.
The drive becomes extra special with vehicles purposely-built for form, function and family in mind. Iconic American brand Chevrolet, which has been an aspirational car for many families for decades, has in its fleet sport utility vehicles and pickups that can help Filipinos explore the great outdoors with ease and style.
An underrated destination worth driving to is Tarlac which is often relegated to pit stops during long-distance travel to northern Luzon. Its upside is the absence of a crowd can make your family trip aboard the Chevy more intimate and stress-free.
Reachable via the NLEx, SCTEx and TPLEx in just above two hours, this is a landlocked territory which make it less attractive to beach bums. But it more than compensates for this seeming disadvantage with its bevy of surprises fit for a dad with an active lifestyle.
The provincial capital of Tarlac City is a bustling northern commercial and industrial colony which dates back to the Spanish period. Golfers can play a round or initiate the family to the sport at the 18-hole, Par 72 Luisita Golf & Country Club in the midst of sugarcane plantations of the province’s old elite. A short drive away is the Aquino Center Museum which houses the memorabilia of Tarlac’s most illustrious offsprings—martyred former senator Ninoy Aquino and former president Cory Aquino.
Dubbed as the “Melting Pot” because of the confluence of migrants, it is a busy and traffic-prone portion of McArthur Highway where vehicles converge. Despite urbanization, the city has managed to keep intact cultural influence and its heritage structures, most notably its postcard-pretty Capitol Building and Maria Cristina Park.
Capas town, the endpoint of the infamous World War 2 Death March March, has reinvented itself as the gateway to Mt. Pinatubo across the mountains in Zambales. A must-try is the 30-minute 4×4 jeep ride to the surreal landscape formed by years of lahar flow, and a two-hour trek to the mountain’s scenic crater lake.
With its 4-wheel drive variants, Chevrolet’s Trailblazer SUV and the Colorado pickup truck can easily take on the rough terrain up to the trekking point, and forgo the 4×4 jeep rental. Just by their names, you can surmise that these two vehicles pack a powerful engine designed for the outdoors, something that the Americans have enjoyed in its heritage spanning more than a hundred years.
It is best to climb early, have a packed lunch near the panoramic crater lake, and descend before mid-afternoon. You can also try out the Capas ATV Adventure for an adrenaline-pumping rough ride in the laharscape, with its decades-old lahar dust.
Neighboring San Jose town beckons with the Monasterio de Tarlac which prides itself of housing a relic of the cross where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified. This mountain-top religious shrine, which the Trailblazer or Colorado can climb with ease, sits on a 278-hectare eco-tourism park and has a 30-foot statue of Jesus overlooking the valley.
A few minutes away is Tarlac Recreational Park, a sprawling government sports complex which has lagoon, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, track oval, archery range, zip line, airsoft ground, and a pavilion for refreshments.
For a consummate stay, spend the night at EDL Farmhouse in Capas which takes guests back to the basics with the unique blend of farm life and a touch of modern but modest comfort. Farm-themed lodgings is a growing trend among families as they rediscover healthy living and nature’s healing wonders.
The Farmhouse also has a swimming pool amidst manicured gardens, greenhouses, poultry and livestock farms, and Balai de Lorenzo restaurant which elevates home cooking into a gourmet level.
While in town, page homage to the World War 2 heroes at the Capas National Shrine where more than 10,000 Filipino and American soldiers were cramped in prison by Japan from 1942-45.
For more off-road drives to test Trailblazer or Colorado’s mettle, head off to Canding Falls or Antap Twin Falls and bask in their icy waters, tucked in the interiors of northern Tarlac.
Swing by the spanking New Clark City which hosted the recent Southeast Asian Games, which is within the soil of Capas. With the splendid roads, going back to the big city with the Chevy would be a breeze and another memorable drive with dad.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.