30 years of driving through tight provincial roads, the deserts of Dubai, the Autobahn and around the world’s most famous speedway
There is nothing motherly about driving. In fact, if you are female and want to survive driving in what is now called the NCR Plus, you must assume the daring, smartass manners and sense of humor of a law-abiding but aggressive driver.
For more than 30 years now, I have been writing articles for PDI Motoring, first as a weekly “On the Road” columnist for 28 years (1987-2015), then as an occasional feature writer after I voluntarily “changed gears” and gave up the column on May 27, 2015 to pursue a literary dream.
I won’t bore the reader with a list of the countries, cities and car shows I’ve been invited to over the course of 30 years which are part and parcel of being a motoring journalist. Instead, here is a list of the most memorable moments this mom of four and grandma of one enjoys remembering:
1) Gold Coast, Australia, March 2005 – Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan invited media from four ASEAN countries to test-drive the first ever Fortuner. We got first dibs at driving the 4×4 Fortuner off-road.
2) Bellarocca Island Resort, Marinduque, April 2010 – When Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) invited 30 motoring journalists to drive eight new Hyundai vehicles to Marinduque island, it required at least three hours of non-stop driving from Alabang through Laguna and Batangas to Lucena, Quezon, then a 3-hour ro-ro (roll on, roll off) ferry ride from Dalahican port to Balanacan port. The PDI team consisted of editor Jong Arcano, photog Edwin Bacasmas and I. For the 105.2-km Alabang-Lucena leg of the trip, I took the wheel of a Tucson compact SUV since the route did not require following a convoy or a speed limit. I wanted the PDI team to be the first to reach Lucena, and I succeeded although it meant outracing several challengers along the way. The next day, on the trip back to Alabang, my editor said he would do the driving. He wouldn’t tell me why I couldn’t drive back anymore.
3) Clark-Subic Caravan, May 2010 – The Automobile Association PH organized a 26-vehicle caravan from Luneta to Clark to Subic and back to Manila to promote its Drive Tourism campaign. Driving a 2010 Ford Focus turbocharged sedan, I found it easy to keep pace with the four Highway Patrol Group motorcycle escorts assigned by Land Transportation Office Chief Bert Suansing. On the way to the first pit stop, the Total service station on the NLEX, I noticed a black Hyundai Starex trying to cut in front of me. Of course, I didn’t allow it to. Was my face red when we got to the Total station and LTO Chief Suansing alighted from the Starex! I apologized to Mr. Suansing. Later that night, all the way from Subic to SCTEx to NLEX and on to Balintawak, I drove right behind the four HPG officers with their sirens wailing and hazard lights blinking. It was a thrilling experience, as all traffic moved aside to give way to our convoy — although only my car was in the convoy, the other cars having been left behind.
4) Dubai, UAE, February 2011 – We joined media from South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Morocco and Turkey in driving the 2011 Hyundai Accent for 380 km daily for three consecutive days. I failed to snap a photo of a camel beside the Accent on the road to Fujairah, but was able to overtake all the other cars in the convoy so I could be the first behind the lead car. C! Magazine editor-in-chief Kevin Limjoco unsuccessfully tried to cut in. Later, he told me I was driving “too close” to the lead car.
After the test drives, “dune-bashing” was offered to the media. It was an unforgettable adventure, riding shotgun beside a professional desert safari driver in dune-bashing, a long, wild ride across the sand dunes of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. It’s the Arabian version of a roller-coaster ride in a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Chevrolet Tahoe (with deflated tires) traversing soft sand dunes as high and as big as rolling hills. Aware from experience as a passenger of a Mitsubishi rally car driver in Japan, I immediately took the front seat. Sure enough, after only about 10 minutes into the dunes, those in the rear seats were dizzy and nauseous. Good thing the driver had barf bags ready. So when you go rally car racing or dune-bashing with a pro, always grab the front passenger seat.
5) Subic International Airport tarmac, December 2012 – Toyota Motor PH Corp. made their 86 sports car available to invited media after a pair of professional race cars drivers had performed a drifting exhibition on the rain-soaked tarmac. Editor Jong Arcano was my front seat passenger, but after a few laps of wet and wild driving in the fish-tailing Toyota 86, he asked to be let off. He didn’t tell me why.
6) Nissan Global Headquarters Gallery, Yokohama, June 2014 – A familiarization tour of Nissan Motor Corp.’s facilities in Japan included visiting its Kyushu plant, NISMO headquarters and driving the 2014 X-Trail and the Leaf electric vehicle, the latest iteration of which will be virtually launched in the PH today.
Accompanied by a Nissan official, each of us was allowed to drive a blue NISMO performance-packaged Leaf on a short, traffic-free route behind the Nissan HQ in Yokohama.
7) Silverstone Racing Circuit, England, August 2015 – Six selected PH journalists (with me as the only female) were invited to cover the 2015 Asian Race Camp of the Nissan Playstation GT Academy (GTA) at the fabled Silverstone Formula One racing circuit in England. It was the best of times since a Filipino driver, Jose Gerard “Joward” Policarpio did our country proud by winning the championship. We experienced some live action ourselves as we got to drive Nissan sports cars like the insanely fast GT-R and 370Z NISMO on Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit, “drift” a Juke NISMO RS on Silverstone’s Wet Grip Area, drive a basic Formula car on the Stowe Circuit, and ride a Chevrolet Silverado monster truck as it rambled off-road and drove repeatedly over a pair of squashed Nissan sedans.
There are many other memorable moments whose dates I can no longer recall, only the venue such as the BMW overnight trip to The Farm at San Benito in Lipa, Batangas when Lito German was still the marketing head. Driving back to Manila was exciting as speed limits were nearly forgotten and I, with Lito German as my backseat passenger, beat the boys in the long race home.
Then there was my first trip overseas as a guest of a carmaker, in this case BMW PH which invited Manny de los Reyes, Popong Andolong, Armin Amio and me to Italy and Germany for the global launch of the 3rd or 4th generation 7 Series. We got to drive the BMW 7 on the Autobahn, but with a BMW official in the car, speed limits were strictly observed.
Summing up, driving is not usually associated with mothers, much less the passion for automobiles. But I’ve been lucky, for as a part-time motoring journalist over three decades, I’ve met quite a few moms who also enjoy driving and love cars.
Aida Sevilla Mendoza is fascinated by everything about cars: their power, styling, design, technology, craftmanship, exciting history of motor sport through the years, and the ever-evolving industry that creates them. But above all, she enjoys driving, especially on a traffic-free expressway where she feels the connection bonding her and the car.