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Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

ZOOM-ZOOM \17 Opposite page: a roadside food stall (top left); an Igorot tribesman from the mountainous Ifugao region (top right); the ancient Banaue Rice Terraces (bottom). This page: negotiating the Dalton Pass With a host of new features including Adaptive Front Headlights and Blind Spot Monitoring System, we’ll be just fine, they assure us. And, with that, Manila’s most dedicated Mazda fans wish us good luck before heading out into the maelstrom that is the city’s never-ending rush-hour traffic. Dawn the following day and that traffic is up as early as we are, keeping us company as we crawl through the upscale Makati City district of Manila. We’re en route to the network of modern highways that will extricate us from the confluence of people, pollution and aggressively driven Jeepneys — kitschly decorated buses based on US military jeeps left behind after World War II — that are doing a fine job of fraying my nerves on this fine morning. We accelerate onto the North Luzon Expressway and see Manila disappearing behind us in the mirrors of the Mazda3. The Subic-Clark-Tarlac (SCTEX) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union (TPLEX) Expressways, smoothly surfaced totems of the Philippines’ newly found mobility and booming manufacturing economy, whisk us towards the provinces north of Metro Manila. After an hour of steady progress, we veer off the expressway and onto the Pan-Philippine Highway. And suddenly everything changes. Constructed in 1965, this two-lane, pockmarked artery — part of a 2,175-mile network of roads that forms the backbone of the country’s transport infrastructure — is a very different proposition from the modern expressway we’ve just exited. Cutting through small rural village after small rural village, this is the other side of the Philippines, a world away from the designer malls and chain restaurants of the capital’s prosperous districts. Madly weaving motor tricycles, clattering small businesses, excitable children, yet more aggressive Jeepneys, unruly dogs, even the odd slumbering pig, all jockey for space by the side of the road. In addition, the vast majority of the Cannonball’s route seems to be part of an on-going road-widening programme, with tarmac turning suddenly to single-lane dirt track with little or no warning. It’s total chaos, albeit a happy, smiling kind of chaos. It’s also completely terrifying, necessitating a totally new driving style — one hand over the horn, left foot hovering over the brake pedal. Just in case. One thousand kilometres loom ahead of us. As we pass the location of the Cannonball 1000’s first checkpoint at Baloc, we’re relieved that we’re only following the route, rather than taking part. For a relaxing journey, my vice-like grip on the Mazda3’s redesigned steering wheel suggests that it may not be. Not just yet anyway. While our mission is to take in the sights and sounds of the Cannonball 1000 itinerary, we allow


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
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