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'Crosswinding' across 1,400 kilometers through Bicol in three days

Isuzu Philippines Corp. (IPC) did it again! Four Isuzu vehicle models went on endurance runs to four different destinations simultaneously -- a first in the auto industry.

Dubbed as the Isuzu Cloverleaf Endurance Drive, the event took some 40 participants in 12 vehicles in a cloverleaf-like, three-day sojourn to Tuguegarao, Cagayan and Sagada, Mountain Province in the North and Mindoro and Bicol in the South.

"Our aim is to put to maximum tests the four major products of Isuzu -- the Trooper, Crosswind, D-Max 4x4 and D-Max 4x2 in different road conditions as well as taking you to other areas in the Philippines that have not been visited by other automakers," said IPC executive vice president Kasuhiko Sho at the flag-off held at Isuzu Manila, where all the teams started on July 16.

The Trooper team led by Yuki Kato and Ronald Baladad made the loop of the Ilocos and Cagayan regions passing through Vigan, Laoag, Tuguegarao and Santiago City in Isabela and tested the Trooper's versatility, comfort and power of its 3.0-liter direct injection diesel engine. The D-Max 4x4 team under Myrna Gonzales and Nora Liquido took the long and winding off-roads of Banawe in Ifugao, Bontoc and Sagada in the Mountain Province and Mount Data, La Trinidad and Baguio in Benguet testing the D-Max 4x4's off-road capability. The D-Max 4x2 team led by Joseph Bautista and Anna Dalida, meanwhile, took the Nautical Highway driving to the Batangas City Port, taking the ferry there, then exploring the beaches and other spots in Mindoro.

Our Crosswind team with Timmy Naval took a food-tripping but fast drive through Quezon and Bicol provinces.

We had two 2004 Crosswind XUVi units and an XTRM variant, which I boarded with Tessa Salazar of the Inquirer and Dino Directo of Manila Standard taking turns as drivers. Anjo Perez of Manila Bulletin, Ulysses Ang and Tiffany Go of, Jeff Pahilanga of Auto Review, Timmy, Adit Roa and Felix Mojica were assigned to the other Crosswinds.

We tasted for the first time a ginataang santol over lunch at KBP Restaurant in Caluag, Quezon. After lunch, the Crosswinds resumed the punishing pace mostly running at a maximum speed of 130 kph on the roads of Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Albay. After logging 534 kilometers, we arrived in Legaspi City at 5 pm. Despite the heavy rains along the way and the bad roads in Tagcawayan and Sipocot, we made it to the new Pepperland Hotel in LegaspiÕs, two hours ahead of schedule.

From time to time, the organizers updated us on the locations of the other teams via cellular phones.

At dinner, we feasted on seafood cooked in coconut milk and chili. One's visit to Bicol would not be complete without sampling the spicy Bicol Express, a strong mixture of pepper, pork, shrimp and coconut, which is considered the region's culinary pride.

We were blessed with clear weather the following morning and enjoyed the view of the world-famous Mayon Volcano, which at 7,941 feet is the third highest mountain in the Philippines next to Mount Apo and Mount Pulag.

We switched vehicles this time and started enjoying the Side A and Neo Colors songs on the XUVi's single in-dash CD player. The 5.6- inch headrest mounted LCD monitors also gave us a first class seat in the trip. I relaxed in the cool leather seats at the rear, while Tessa enjoyed the back massager in the front passenger seat.

We headed to Sorsogon, the southernmost province in Luzon. Our lunch by the beach in Gubat town consisted of shrimps, blue crabs and fish. Aside from its beaches, Sorsogon, particularly the town of Donsol, is also known as the sanctuary of the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark or "butanding" which could best be seen during Summer.

It was quite a drive on the narrow and uphill road to the Bulusan Lake but the Crosswind's powerful 2.5-liter diesel engine and 15-inch alloy wheels and Bridgestone Dueler tires were at par to the task.

On our way to Daet, Camarines Norte, we encountered heavy rains again and we maintained a 90 kph maximum speed. We arrived at our hotel late at night.

On the third day, we headed to the Mercedes Fish Port in Daet. More than 300 fishing boats sail here everyday bringing the day's catch to the local buyers who in turn sell to Manila.

The Bicol team was the first group to arrive at Le Souffle Restaurant at the Fort in Taguig City. Sho and IPC vice president for marketing Ken Takashima welcomed us back.

Takashima summed up all the distances covered on various terrain over 1,400 km for the Bicol team, close to 1,400 for the Tuguegarao team, 1,100 for the Sagada group and 600 for the Mindoro team, for a total of 4,500 km of safe driving onboard Isuzu's reliable vehicles.

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Too cool 8)

But, I don't know if I should be impressed with the event or...........hungry :D

Too bad something like that couldn't be set up here in the states. With all the cool places ExpeditionsWest has been, I bet he could set up an uber cool endurance rally. 8) Of course, there's no more new ISUZUs to run it with........ :roll:

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