The ‘Balesin’ Toyota’s court

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Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa

THE anticipation and hype surrounding Toyota Motor Philippines’ (TMP) newest compact SUV, the Toyota Rush, weeks prior to its grand public launch last May 5 and 6 was rivaled only by the guessing game around where the leading auto manufacturer would go for this year’s edition of its annual Road Trek event.

And when Balesin Island was revealed as the destination, the excitement went on overdrive, as most of participants had not set foot on this uber-exclusive island club — yes, an entire island about half the size of Boracay, off the Pacific southeastern coast of Quezon Province in the Polillo group of islands — made famous by high-profile weddings of celebrities and politicians.

Before flying off to Balesin from Clark International Airport, TMP engaged participants in its traditional on-road challenges, this time held at three Toyota dealerships in central Luzon — Angeles, Tarlac and Bataan. The group composed of 32 guests, divided into nine teams, rode on TMP’s best-selling vehicles — the Toyota Innova MPV, Fortuner mid-size SUV, and its newest entry in the compact SUV market, the Rush. The various fun challenges translated to corresponding points that would determine the winning teams.

Cristina Arevalo, TMP first vice-president for its brand and product planning cluster, explained: “We want journalists to experience the hustle and bustle of the cities in central Luzon while driving a Toyota. And then experience the peaceful and serene atmosphere of Balesin island.”

On the drive on the highways and city streets in and around Pampanga, Bataan and Tarlac, and then on the dirt roads of Balesin, the Rush units highlighted noticeable high ground clearance, comfortable suspension system, and the adequate 134 Nm of torque and 100 hp of power generated by its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, DOHC, chain-drive gasoline engine with dual VVT-i mated to either a four-speed gate-type automatic transmission or a five-speed manual transmission.

An interesting sidelight during a stop in San Fernando, Pampanga, was the display of the new-look Alphard luxury van.

In Balesin, TMP President and CEO Satoru Suzuki summed up the 14th edition of Road Trek: “Road Trek 14 is a breakaway from the usual, from the monotony of the everyday, and that is exactly what Balesin Island Club offered us. Balesin gave us a new kind of rush, paired with the exciting challenges and top-notch vehicles led by the new Toyota Rush. Four days have gone by so fast.”

Four days did go by in a rush, in another ride-and-drive coup that only TMP could pull off. As Jade Sison, TMP group head for its marketing services department stressed; “We really want to build camaraderie among our friends from the motoring media, making sure each and every time it’s going to be memorable, and everything in good cheer.”

Unlike the name of this potential best-seller from Toyota, this kind of camaraderie that the car maker has nurtured all these years couldn’t have been accomplished in a rush.