Opinion: The Epic Weekend


I am using epic in the small-minded sense, in the manner that the esteemed satirist Maddox lampoons ebulliently. I am sure that my car-centric weekend is an insignificant part of human history, notable only in enlivening my transient existence. That is to say, I’ve enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t be so sure that it made a difference to the world. Thank you, Maddox for making my life feel irrelevant.

Epic is also the adjective used by Top Gear Philippines (TGP) to hashtag their 9th anniversary party. If standing for hours, subsisting on tasty finger foods and seeing automotive junior executives toke up on liquid disinhibitors is considered ‘epic’, then I guess it is.

Epic was also my parking fee at the venue’s crowded parking area. Three hundred seventy five pesos. That much in diesel fuel would power the Carens more than a hundred kilometers in a highway setting.

Despite being bored to death and at risk of tinnitus, TGP’s party isn’t so bad. I met a fellow invitee, Kent, who has aspirations of writing, which I hoped to stoke while partaking of some tasty breaded dory. Also in the event was Korean Formula Winds racer SJ Park, whom I talked shop and shared the delectable fish dish with.

I had Angelo Sison, also a motoring blogger and plus a banzai mountain road driver, as my plus-one. He had re-parked his car to a cheaper locale and thus was not hit by the draconian rates of the lot’s management.

Thirty hours ago, I was chasing his red Rio’s tail at the Marilaque road to Tanay, Rizal. We were traversing the Tanay mountain togue en route to our auto club’s stop at Paseo Rizal, a restaurant whose owner is seemingly a patron of the visual arts, and I mean paint-and-brush ones.

At the party I was taking his picture with Michelle Bumgarner, who thought it cool upon hearing that we were slalom racers. At the Tanay pass, he was Takumi, his Alpha on song, his Westlakes chirping happily and laying down notes on tarmac paper. As for me, I was Bunta, with flops for footwear, chasing this errant boy with my Carens, a vehicle that should be the one delivering the tofu.

Image credit: Kia South Triangle

The Carens is no mountain pass machine, but I knew that with its weight and wider tires I would have an advantage in the corners. I was able to keep up with this nut. But the real lunatic appeared in our midst ten kilometers into the run.

We found ourselves behind an underbone with two guys riding on it. Angelo, who was overtaking cars on blind corners like he had eyes twenty feet ahead of him, managed to pass him on a short straight stretch. A few corners later, the motorcycle leapfrogged, taking advantage of Angelo’s hesitation at one tricky corner complex.

Those guys on the bike had balls the density of osmium. They were leaning on the corners approaching MotoGP angles, and were on the limit as they were cutting opposite lanes to maintain the ragged pace. This went on until just before we arrived at the restaurant. All the while I was like WTF, is this guy the John McGuinness of Marilaque or what?

And it didn’t stop there. On the way back, I’m reacquainted with the Monster Energy sticker at the red Rio’s rump. On my rear end was a current model Rio driven by Brett from the car club, who decided to follow us down.

That weight that I said was an advantage when cornering? Weight is a massive bitch on the brakes, threatening to burn away all semblance of speed retardation. So I braked early, trying to avoid deadly fade.

Angelo was still a nutter up ahead. Brett was late braking to keep up. And I was having a good time. More so than the day before, when I attended a local car show.

Starlacs Carzone’s Honda Civic SIR. Their Nissan Patrol is at the background.

It was called Wheels & Machines, and was organized by a group called CarMavens. JR Lacsamana of Starlacs Carzone, an off-road and body shop in Bacoor, practically summoned me to attend and check out their entries.

I saw the people gawk at the puffery and glamor. I wonder if my race car will grab attention in this type of event? But it has bigger problems – it hasn’t been repaired yet! And speaking of immobile objects, one interesting display at the show was the Glade Sport/Atoy Formula One car. Too bad it was looking a bit worse for wear, what with some Polituff on its front aerofoil.

The cars there were mostly for show. But some of them had some firepower under the bonnet. Like this guy. And this dude. And this and this, to cite a few. Those that tour the car show circuit now require serious mods that are more than just lipstick on a pig. Now they’re liberal amounts of Mang Tomas on a pig.

All sorts of aural output assaulted my eardrums that day, much like the TGP party. In Marilaque, however, the soundtrack was different, with screeching tires, that red Rio’s rorty exhaust, and Steve Aoki blaring out the Caren’s JVC head unit.

My brain was exhausted. I didn’t know the hand gesture to “slow the fuck down, Gelo!” but if I did, would he see it from behind? But let me tell you, when I got home that night, I was knackered. And I was floored by the fact that I survived.

I hadn’t fully recovered when I found myself at the entrywell to Aracama restaurant, where the pre-party was held. Ostensibly it was a “meet-and-greet” with the Top Gear Philippines’ staff, but actually it was an indoctrination to the cult that is Shell, most specifically to their V-Power Nitro+ chapter.

Yes Vernon, we will.

After being brainwashed to believe in the engine cleaning and instant cylinder lubrication effects of V-Power Nitro+, me and the rest of the invitees were introduced to the dark, mysterious world that is motoring journalism. But not before the Shell people giving us loot bags to savor and enjoy. Shell should really start a church, spreading the word of safety and Enzo Ferrari. If the loot bags are this good, I’ll attend that mass regularly.

If there was a takeaway from the meet-and-greet for this puerile motoring blogger, it was this. The TGP staff repeatedly emphasized the importance of integrity, telling us that their primary focus is to seek the truth. This was something I’ve heard before from other scribes, when I was applying for a motoring journo job.

If there was more to takeaway, it was the brief interfacing with Paulo Subido, who clarified some concerns I had asked Atty. Consunji at the open forum;  Stephanie Asi, who looked quite similar to my college crush, the fact was both captivating and unsettling at the same time; and finally, the TGP EIC, Mr. Vernon Sarne, who showed concern when I was standing by the lonesome at Privé.

“I’m okay,” I said to Mr. Sarne. “It’s just that I don’t drink.”

“That’s good!” he replied.

I’m sure it is. I’ve read your memo. And you and the rest of TGP are epic, in the truest sense of the word.

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