I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the summer season than to spend it driving around our beautiful countryside, exploring what our motherland has to offer. So when Ford Group Philippines recently invited us to join them for some (end-of) summer fun with the Ford Focus, we counted the days ‘til we flew out to scenic Bohol.
The test drive officially started with six Ford Fiesta units greeting us as we exited the Tagbilaran Airport. There were four 2.0-liter and two 1.6-liter variants waiting for us to draw lots to determine the driver pairing. Once the pairings were established, we wasted no time getting settled before heading out. My partner for the trip was motoring beat veteran Eggay Quesada who took over the driving duties for the day. Our first car assignment was a Frozen White 2.0L Titanium+ Sedan. First order of business? Hook up Eggay’s iPod that was loaded with oldies-but-goodies driving music.
Our first stop was Ford Bohol. Located on CPG North Avenue in the Taloto District, the Ford dealership was a short 15-minute drive from the Tagbilaran airport. Upon arrival, we were greeted by their friendly staff, led by dealer principal Brian Chua and Managing Director Lyndon Go. Being a newly built dealership, the facility features the easily identifiable Brand@Retail II styling that is Ford’s global standard. While it looked like they were already fully operational, Chua informed us that they were still on soft opening, and that the big opening was scheduled for sometime in July.
Our host Anika Salceda-Wycoco, Ford’s AVP for Communications, led the participant’s briefing with the usual safety reminders and a route summary. Towards the end of her spiel, she mentioned that for this trip, we weren’t going to be doing an economy run, they wouldn’t be asking for Facebook likes, nor would there be any photo contests. We were basically told to “just have fun and enjoy the ride.” Best. News. Ever. Because no trip to Bohol is complete without going on the Loboc River cruise, that’s where we headed for lunch. I had taken the same cruise a few years back, and I was glad to see so many improvements in the infrastructure as well as in the Bohol tourism industry altogether. The supposedly leisurely trip was made more exciting with torrential rain that fell midway though the cruise.
After lunch, we headed to the Tarsier sanctuary where we walked through a mini forest to see the tiny nocturnal primates in their natural habitats. You know the feeling of extreme gigil when you see cute things and you just want to get one for yourself? Well, (thankfully) that is no longer possible, because the tiny Tarsiers are on the endangered list, there is Tarsier Conservation law in effect that comes with a stiff fine and jail time for offenders.
Our next stopover was another must see attraction in Bohol — the two-kilometer stretch of road that goes through the man-made forest that straddles the towns of Loboc and Bilar. The twisty roads and majestic mahogany trees made for a great backdrop for the brief photo-op that our organizers were able to pull off.
Over the two-way radios that the organizers provided, our host reminded us to enjoy how the Focus handled. Having attended the ASEAN test drive held in Krabi, Thailand last year, my partner and I were confident that our car would perform flawlessly. True to our expectations, our ride handled great, thanks to the combination of a rigid body, independent suspension, and the Torque Vectoring Control that counteracts wheel slips of the inner wheel when cornering under acceleration. The Focus made easy work of the twists and turns of mountain roads we encountered, as well as the sometimes uneven flatland pavements. The 170 horses under the hood mated with the six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission provided more than enough power we needed at the pace we were going.
Next on our itinerary was the world-famous Chocolate Hills. We were amused to discover that the conical formations were actually grass-covered limestone that turned brown during the dry season, hence the name. The group was cut into two at this point, where the adventurous ones climbed the 214 steps to the view deck, and the smart ones moved their luggage to switched cars.
Now in a Lunar Sky 1.6L Trend Sedan, we took to the roads again, and traversed the twisty roads of Tagbilaran and crossed over to Panglao Island where the Hinagdanan Cave is located. From the highway, the main access road leading to the caves were under construction and covered with crushed limestone that was abundant in the island. The slippery material proved to be a fun surface to drive on with our trusty steeds. The Hinagdanan Cave turned out to be a naturally lit cavern that had a deep lagoon and is full of stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations. To get in and out of the cave, one needs to climb down a ladder, or a hagdanan, thus its name.
Our final destination and home for the night was the beautiful Blue Water Panglao Resort where we got our well-deserved R&R. It was such a perfect ending after a full day of driving and taking in the sights of Bohol.
You may ask if I was able to take drive in Bohol at all? Yes I did. I finally got to drive the 2.0 Hatch on our way to the airport from the resort, with a short stopover in the metro for some pasalubong shopping of peanut kisses other local goodies.
The all-new Ford Focus is fully loaded with technology like Ford sync, active city stop, active park assist, blind sport information system. Top-of-the-line variants also feature keyless entry and Ford power start.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, July 2013
Words by Mika Fernandez-David