May 18, 2016

Twelve years of road trekking

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) once again pulled all stops as it staged the 12th edition of the motoring media’s always eagerly awaited yearly work and play summer getaway, the Toyota Road Trek.

Although often bannered as a grueling test drive event where TMP subjects its vehicles for close scrutiny by the invited motoring journalists, the annual event is considered by the country’s top automobile company as more of a way of saying thank you to the motoring media for its continuing support to the entire local auto industry.

A total of 34 top level motoring journalists were in the convoy of 15 gleaming Toyotas, all part of the IMV (Innovative International Multi-purpose Vehicle) platform namely; HiLux, Fortuner and Innova, which flagged off Thursday morning, May 5 from the Toyota Palawan dealership. But not after a hearty breakfast served through the courtesy of Toyota Puerto Princesa lead by the dealership’s very warm and hospitable president, Henry Sy.

It was indeed a long 297-kilometer test drive through the very impressive well-paved highway and road network of Palawan, often referred as the country’s “island paradise”. The convoy finally settled at the El Nido Cove with stopovers at Astoria Palawan, Halfway Resto and Pems Restaurant after seemingly unending meals and snacks. The whole exercise gave credence to what’s always being said that, “when you are in any of TMP’s test drive events, be prepared to carry added pounds and an increased waistline by the end of the trip”. After parking all the test drive vehicles we had a short boat ride to the final destination—El Nido Resorts Lagen Island.

Aside from the driving and the riding in an organized rotation of vehicles coupled with the eating and the drinking (sans alcohol), there were challenges and competition along the way between the pre organized teams of journalists to add more excitement and eagerness as there would be winners and prizes galore as part of the 4-day event.

Following Road Trek tradition, despite belonging to specific teams, Business Mirror’s motoring columnist, Al Mendoza and myself found ourselves aboard a HiAce in the company of Lexus-Manila president, Danny Isla, TMP vice president and CAMPI head, Atty. Rommel Gutierrez, TMP vice president for marketing, Sherwin Chualim and TMP vice president for sales, Takao Arai—thisyear’s “Grupo Impertinente”. Sorry I can only go as far as saying the group’s name but not explaining why it is named as such. Perhaps when we have enough space in this column.

As the years go having the Toyota Road Trek, it’s starting to be obvious that the test drive is more of an excuse for the event to be organized as every year more and more time is being allotted for the invited guests’ R&R. More time to decide on whether to sleep, see sights, be by yourself or bond with the rest. Work to the barest and party to the fullest.

This is actually not the first time for TMP’s Road Trek to bring us to Palawan. Although this time we were brought to another side of the island. But similar to the last time, which was a good five years back or more, we also had a lot of beach and island hopping activities in our daytime itinerary. And similarly too, a lot of “all in” and “single malt” sessions at night, which is actually a given whenever “Sir John”, “Sir Paul” and “Elvis” get together. Who are they? Well, that’s another story.

On the last night when we had the awarding of winners of the competitive challenges in an exclusive island, which was a short speedboat run from the El Nido Lagen Resort, we were joined by the other top TMP executives headed by its president, Satoru Suzuki, evp, Yohei Murase and svp, Ariel Arias. It is noteworthy to mention that the STV-Manila Times team composed of vp for production, Jenny Bleza, online operations manager, Ray Louis “Wee” Gamboa and ace cameraman Matt Mallari boosted by Manila Times motoring editor, Anjo Perez deservingly garnered 2nd place overall while also winning 1st overall in the Eco-run competition.

Aside from the awarding of the very generous prizes to the winners another highlight of the evening was the sing-a-long performed by both journalists and Toyota execs. We didn’t get to hear any musical notes from the soft-spoken and mild mannered TMP president but he made sure he stayed on for the night with a glass of wine in the midst of our countless glasses of single malt.

We need to give credit where credit is due for the excellent organization of this year’s Toyota Road Trek, which goes to the team of Sherwin Chualim with the invaluable corroborating efforts by Jade Sison and Jigo Vidanes. To Toyota Motor Philippines, thanks for having us year, after year, after year.

What’s on Auto Focus tomorrow night?

Another full hour treat awaits automobile enthusiasts in this week’s episode of Auto Focus, the ‘Philippine Motor Show on Television’ with the spotlight trained on two outstanding models featured on “Autos of the World”, where we put on center stage concept vehicles or newly launched or about to be launched car models from around the world. This week we have the 2016 Volkswagen T-Prime Concept Car and the 2017 Toyota Highlander.

We shall also have a review of the all-new Montero Sport plus a feature-to-feature comparison of the Toyota HiLux against the Mitsubishi Strada on head-to-head.

A special feature on the highlights of the recently held 2016 Isuzu Truck Fest also awaits our viewers together with the latest news and developments in the auto industry.

Auto Focus, the country’s premier auto news and features TV magazine, airs at 10 o’clock tomorrow evening at Solar Sports (Channel 70, Sky Cable and Channel 35 on Destiny).

Happy Motoring!!!

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Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network’s AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart’s middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN’s DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70’s, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports’ living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN’s Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable’s Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport’s hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry’s latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star’s business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)