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07 December 2011

Taking the plunge with the Isuzu Alterra

Words and photos by Kris C. Lim
I considering it such a blessing that my profession indulges my passion to travel. From fuel-economy runs to out-of-town road trips, we motoring journalists have the privilege to test out the latest on four wheels from different car manufacturers and drive them to places we've never been to. Quite frankly, it takes something really special to impress your average motoring hack, but to our delight, Isuzu Philippines gave us just that in our recent excursion to down south.
A few weeks ago, I received an invite from Isuzu PR Supervisor Ronald “Isuzu Joe” Baladad to join their last leg of Isuzu Road Trip event. Dubbed “For the Journey that Matters,” we took the plunge at the last leg of the Isuzu Road Trip event - a trek that would involve driving down the beautiful and historical province of Quezon in the Isuzu Alterra Urban Cruiser. 
After a sumptuous breakfast and casual media briefing to jumpstart the day, we took off from the Alabang Town Center and headed out for the long day ahead. But to prep us for the trip, we made a quick pitstop at the Caltex service station in Mampalasan, Laguna, where we grabbed snacks and refreshments courtesy of Isuzu. Our destination: Villa Sariaya, a 130-kilometer drive  south of Manila. 
First thing I noticed were some new exterior features on the updated Alterra: A new sporty chin, a rear skirt, plus the merit of an “Urban Cruiser” sticker at the back made it look more dressed for the metropolis. But underneath all that, it was still the trusty recreational family vehicle we've grown to love. 
A Piece of History
Thanks to Alterra’s good air-conditioning and flexible seat configuration, we were able to enjoy our excursion in absolute comfort despite the searing 37° C weather outside. And just like any regular motorist, we were not exempt from getting lost in a new place. Good thing the new Alterra is equipped with an I-Nav GPS system. In no time, we were able to trace our way the town of Sariaya in Quezon - a place synonymous to big and beautiful ancestral homes infused with Filipino-Spanish architecture that define the elite and affluent center of trade in the pre-war era. 
Our first stop was the monumental Parokya ni San Francisco de Assisi, a local church that has stood the test of time since 1748. Then, just a few blocks away were the Gala-Rodriguez House and the Natalio Enriquez House, both of which are declared heritage sites by the National Historical Institute. Considering their age, one would be astonished by the utter sophistication of both ancestral homes' styling. It’s also interesting to note that the mansions' remarkable architecture were designed by internationally acclaimed Filipino artist, Dr. Juan Nakpil, while the fixtures were designed by Manila’s leading furniture atelier, Don Gonzalo Puyat. Adding to the mansion's history is the romantic tale of Carmen Rodriguez, who hid in the cellar just to elude his Japanese lover during World War II.
Another highlight of the road trip was dressing up in Commonwealth-era costumes organized by top fashion designer Lito Perez. While most were excited to play dress-up, others were wary if the wardrobes' original owners were keeping a watchful eye.  But when Isuzu Philippines' President Ryoji Yamasaki suited up, we were left no choice but to follow his lead. 
A Road of Discovery
After indulging on a hearty Filipino lunch at Villa Sariaya, we headed on home as I took the helm of the Alterra Urban Cruiser. 
Even after all these years, the Isuzu Alterra still surprises with performance not expected from a typical SUV. Its 4JJ1-TC Common-Rail Direct-Injection Turbodiesel engine provides a continuous supply of power and torque. And thanks to the FlexRide Suspension System's comfy ride, I didn't notice that I was driving all day. 
On the trip back to Manila, my passengers were kept entertained by Alterra’s premium multimedia system that features a 7-inch touch screen upfront and a foldable LCD screen for the rear passengers. Adding up to its safety profile are dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD, and side impact beams. And to end the eventful day, we were rewarded by Isuzu with a relaxing and soothing Spa at Kartini, owned by Nina and Jun Malvar, followed by a great dinner filled with drinks and camaraderie.
The old city of Sariaya, Quezon left me mesmerized with its culture, inheritance, and tradition, which was what Isuzu meant to be part of everyone's journey. For that short while, I felt that my life was much simpler. But in the end, what matters most is one' passion to discover new things, understand other people’s cultures, and the time to break the dullness of orthodox. Starting at only P1.388-million for the base model and P1.688-million for the Urban Cruiser we tested, you too can enjoy new journeys such as this with the new Isuzu Alterra.