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Chocolate run

The Toyota Road Trek goes to Davao

EVERY YEAR, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) — the country’s undefeated top seller of vehicles for more than two decades now — holds the highly anticipated Toyota Road Trek event, which is essentially an exciting journey that brings together our local motoring media to experience the latest Toyota vehicles in a creative and very immersive way.

The annual event is eagerly awaited by automotive writers and content producers because it transforms what is typically the technical job of test-driving cars into a more elaborate and memorable adventure. Historically, it is set against the picturesque backdrop of various provinces. In doing so, Toyota not only showcases the Japanese brand’s commitment to innovation and excellence, but also celebrates the beauty and diversity of the Philippines while showing everybody a good time. It’s that secret sauce for making the work a more profound event. And clearly, it is a gargantuan task to organize.

Having said that, the Toyota Road Trek is more than just a work assignment — it is in fact, a coveted opportunity to connect with fellow motoring journalists while exploring stunning natural landscapes and, more importantly, putting Toyota’s lineup of vehicles through their paces in real-world conditions! Because as we very well know, not all corners of the country are bestowed with properly paved roads, and not all destinations are convenient to drive to. Whether it is navigating twisty roads, cruising along coastal highways, visiting farms or traversing bustling city streets, we all gain first-hand experience of the performance, reliability and comfort that define the Toyota brand.

And the cars did not disappoint.

The Toyota Road Trek is now on its 17th iteration, and this year holds the theme “Exploring Diverse Mobility.” The province of Davao was our selected destination, and our home base there was Samal Island. Davao is a quintessential icon showcasing the Philippines’ rich diversity in natural wonders, flora and fauna, and even in the cultural realm. The province boasts of pristine beaches like those found on Samal Island, alongside the majestic peak of Mt. Apo — the highest mountain in the country. Its geographical diversity alone already provides an ideal setting for driving vehicles across varied terrains, and it is a perfect practical test of car versatility. Moreover, the Davao region’s commitment to sustainable development and environmental conservation further highlights its role as a leader in progressive and inclusive growth.

My media team was assigned the Toyota Corolla Cross as our land vessel, and it accommodated our luggage for three, while still providing ample room for us and our video/photo equipment in the main cabin. The driving was straightforward, easy, and familiar. I guess that’s one of the strongest points of Toyota vehicles — we’ve all known them for that long, and we’re confident that they’re tried and tested. They’ve been evolving to keep with new sources of energy, and yet there’s still always that familiar feeling that Filipinos have grown to recognize and appreciate.

The main body of our adventure began at the large Toyota dealership in Davao City, which is a testament to the brand’s strong presence in the region. After a warm welcome and a brief introduction to the convoy of vehicles, our media contingent quickly hit the road to experience the different vehicles in a different environment.

One of my favorite stops during this trip was at the cacao farm region of Malagos. The area has rich agricultural heritage and is especially known for producing world-class chocolate. It was quite a distance from Davao town proper, but our vehicles demonstrated their adaptability and good handling on both paved roads and all rural paths.

The unmistakable aroma of cacao greeted us at the farm we visited, and we were offered an immersive experience into the art and science of cacao cultivation. We walked through verdant plantations and learned about the intricate process of transforming heirloom cacao pods into premium Philippine chocolate.

There was also an interesting Chocolate Museum for visitors, but I think the best part was getting the unique opportunity to craft our own personalized pieces of chocolate by selecting the ingredients we would like to have in them (such as sea salt, chili flakes, nuts, dried fruit, etc.) in quantities that we determined, for our personal enjoyment. Of course, we were guided by expert chocolatiers, and were provided with only premium ingredients to begin with.

After our chocolatey rendezvous, we drove towards the coast, and upon reaching the jetty, a speedboat awaited to transport us across the water on our way to Samal Island. It was a short but exhilarating boat ride that offered a beautiful view of the Davao Gulf, with the peak of Mt. Apo standing mighty in the background.

This year’s Road Trek took us through the urban environment of Davao City; from the rustic charm of Malagos to the serene elegance of Samal Island. This awesome combination of professional engagement and scenic exploration truly makes the Toyota Road Trek a standout event in the automotive calendar. At the end of the day, it always offers valuable insights and lasting memories for all participants involved.