Nissan Pro-4X proved its worth in a road trip that literally had its ups and downs

By Tina Arceo-Dumlao, Business Editor

Celebrated American author Ray Bradbury once said that “half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness”. Jetsetters and road warriors took this to mean that they should just go with the flow and embrace possibilities that open up when things don’t go exactly as planned.

My family did exactly that when we found ourselves stranded for a few days in the province of Sorsogon by typhoon Agaton that disrupted many Holy Week travel plans.

We had been gobbling up the kilometers from Manila on board the P1.75-million Nissan Pro-4X – the most advanced Navara model that hit the market last year – all the way to the end of Luzon at the port of Matnog, when we were told that there would be no ferry crossings to the island of Samar that day and the next because of the heavy rainfall and the rough seas brought about by Agaton.

That meant making an unplanned – but not unwelcome – stop in Sorsogon.

We do pass through Sorsogon as part of the annual pilgrimage to my mother’s hometown of Sulat in Eastern Samar, sometimes making a stopover in Sorsogon City if we’re too tired to drive all the way to Matnog, having already gone through Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay.

But we never did get to explore the province at the southern end of Luzon, until Agaton, the first of about 20 storms that hit the Philippines every year.

We looked for budget hostels in Matnog, but all of them were full, so we made our way to the quiet town of Bulusan, 32 kilometers from Matnog.

We had to navigate amid torrential rain on the way there. Fortunately, the tough and smart Nissan Pro-4X, which builds on 80 years of Nissan pickup heritage, was more than equal to the challenge of driving under perilous conditions given its array of best-in-class mobility and safety features.

The Pro-4X, for example, comes with a driver attention alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and high beam assist to help drivers do more and see more, thus reducing the stress of driving, especially along unfamiliar roads and in bad weather.

The flagship pickup variant also came with quad projector LED headlamps that were a lifesaver as the long and winding mountain roads were not as well lit as those in the city centers.

We ended up staying in Bulusan for two days and we made the most of the time when the rain finally stopped to explore the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, with its serene lake and protected forest surrounding active Mt. Bulusan, the highest peak in Sorsogon.

Fired up to see even more of Sorsogon, we decided to delay our trip across the San Bernardino Strait that separates Luzon from the Visayas by another day, which we devoted to Irosin, the “caldera town” known for its hot springs.

There are a lot of accommodations to choose from depending on your budget. For us, we settled on a room in a resort that cost P1,700 a night. There we relished the naturally heated pools and warm showers.

We checked out after breakfast and made our way again to ever-busy Matnog Port. The weather had cleared so we were finally able to go across the now-calm strait to the port of San Isidro in Northern Samar, from which we traveled the familiar Maharlika Highway for another six hours to Sulat.

We brought with us more than just broas from Lucena, Quezon and coco peat from Camalig, Albay asked for by my Mom. We also gathered memories and experiences from our unexpected detours in Sorsogon, the type that are made possible by long road trips such as our annual 875-kilometer journey.

Indeed, going on the road, which gives the feature-packed Nissan Pro-4X enough room to gallop, opens up possibilities that plane rides will not.

Of course, the trip itself is long at about 20 hours. But it is one to look forward to, especially if driving a quiet and yet powerful pickup such as the Nissan Pro-4X with all of its creature comforts, from the leather and fabric trimmed seats to the dual-zone automatic air conditioning and the 7-inch high resolution Nissan Advanced Display Audio unit to better hear the Best of the 80s.

The quality of the roads can change dramatically from one province to another, an indication of the quality of local government leadership, or severe lack thereof.

Good thing that the rugged and bold Nissan Pro-4X was built for adventure lovers and travelers craving an escape from their daily routine. Its updated rear suspension with dual rate coil springs provide added comfort and confidence to take on any road condition.

Travelers going our way also have to prepare for what lies ahead when mother nature calls, as there are various levels of hygiene. A toilet that actually flushes is a rarity. But at least there’s the pail of water with the customary dipper.

Making up for these small inconveniences are the delicious and affordable food discoveries in carinderias – wonderfully hot and authentic Bicol Express in Sipocot, Camarines Sur for P60 each, freshly baked rice macapuno puto from Guinobatan selling for P25 for every three pieces and pili nut candies from Camarines Sur that go for P85 a bottle.

A road warrior for a long trip

Then there are the stunning vistas that suddenly open up just around the bend, the type that Metro Manila residents do not know they are missing, all while happily cruising down country lanes and byways.

But more than these, life on the road is also about simply enjoying the company of people you love and basking in the kindness of others, the generosity of spirit of even those who have less in life.

Free coconut juice and the shared plate of fruit salad with a family we met for the first time, for example, are indeed enough to restore one’s faith in humanity, and in destiny that made us stay for a few days in Sorsogon.

Can’t wait for the surprises that the next road trip will bring.