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Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29

ZOOM-ZOOM \21 Sea lapping lazily against the shore. While we could gladly stay in this paradise forever, much distance still lies ahead of us, so three hours has to do. Dragging ourselves away from Pagudpud, we set off on a south-westerly bent, eventually joining the MacArthur Highway — built during the American colonial period of 1898 to 1946 — past lush swathes of rainforest, and through cheerful jungle villages and settlements, where the cooler air lends itself to an altogether more relaxed rhythm of life. Loosening my grip on the wheel, I relax into the Mazda3’s double-stitched leather seat, open the windows and the sunroof and breathe in the clean air. We stop for a lunch of traditional chicken adobo stew in the bustling town of Laoag, before heading on to the beautiful colonial settlement of Vigan. Flipping the Mazda3 into Sport Mode gives me a more instant throttle response: the car holds its gears for a little longer and offers helpful engine braking following higher speed overtaking manoeuvres — increasingly necessary as we reach the traffic-clogged approach to Vigan. One of the few Hispanic towns in the country with its original structures still intact, Vigan’s fusion of Philippine and European-influenced buildings and architecture — the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines lasted for almost 400 years — have earned it Unesco World Heritage status. We rise early to wander its cobbled streets and marvel at its crumbling facades before the tourists arrive. Passing the penultimate Cannonball checkpoint on the way out of town, we hit the road for our final overnight destination — the mountain city of Baguio, high up in North Luzon’s Benguet province. We enjoy the passing blur of rich greenery, looking out over the South China Sea while the Mazda3’s Bose stereo fills the car with tunes appropriate for a perfect coastal drive. Soon we’re climbing once again, the extensive Baguio spread out across the encroaching mountains. Established as a hill station under the American occupation in 1900, Baguio has since served as a summer retreat for Manila’s affluent residents, keen to escape the capital’s heat and congestion. We spend the evening touring this lively city before departing the following morning, Manila-bound. Descending the mountain we rejoin the Tarlac- Pangasinan-La Union Expressway for a smooth transition back into the modern Philippines. A final blast down the SCTEX Expressway and we hit the ex-US military base at Clark where, at the modernist Royce Hotel, we reach the official finishing line of the Cannonball 1000 and the endpoint of this epic driving adventure. Total journey time? Fourteen hours, 30 minutes. And four days. Beat that, Nestor Reyes. Opposite page: corn dries in the road (top left); the La Paz sand dunes (top right), and Paoay Church (left), both in Ilocos Norte. This page: climbing the mountain roads that lead us up to the city of Baguio


Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
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