End of an era
Back in late 2003, I saw a message posted on one of the popular automotive forums asking if someone would be interested to write about cars for a magazine.
The message was posted by my friend Rufi Parpan, whose sister Lara was an editor in one of Summit Media’s magazines.
Little did I know that this small gesture would forever change my life.
I started writing for T3 Magazine, a UK gadgets magazine that was licensed by Summit Media.
I remember meeting my first friends in the automotive manufacturer’s side: Arlan Reyes and Froilan Dytianquin.
My first assignment was the Mitsubishi Pajero, wherein I went to the old Cainta production facility to test drive.
Thankfully, it was an auspicious start: both Arlan and Froilan were genuine car guys, and we had loads of fun testing the Pajero.
Fast forward a few months, and Stephanie Dy-Chiu, one of the Business Development Officers of Summit Media, was tasked to put together a team to study the feasibility of launching a car magazine.
Along with myself, our Harvard-educated contributor, JV Colayco came on board. JV also happened to be family friends with the Parpans, and was a dear friend of Summit’s big boss, Liza Gokongwei-Cheng.
Another person to come on board was Atty. Robby Consunji, who happened to be friends with my dad, a fellow-lawyer as well.
Oh, and JV Colayco was my partner in crime back then, always looking for go-fast parts for our cars. Small world indeed.
It was decided by Summit Media that the car magazine would be a licensed title. The two titles that popped onto the short list were Top Gear UK and Motor Trend USA.
Because of the strength of the Top Gear TV Show, the Top Gear brand was the better choice. And so in September of 2004, only a few months after we had all gotten together, Top Gear Philippines was launched.
And it changed my life immensely.
I had met so many wonderful people because of Top Gear. Industry pillars like Robert Coyiuto Jr. of PGA Cars, Danny Isla of Toyota, then Lexus, Felix Ang of CATS Motors fame, Gov. Jose CH. Alvarez, Karl Magsuci of BMW, Raymond Rodriguez of Lexus, Nicky Mariano and Ariel de Jesus, both formerly from Toyota, then Subaru, where now Nicky is the boss at Aston Martin Manila, and Ariel is head of Wurth Philippines, and JP Orbeta, acknowledged as the absolute best HR executive in the entire country when he was big boss at Volkswagen Philippines. And who could forget Mr. Felix Mabilog, with his mix of colorful words?
These, plus all the PR people who I call friends now, too many to list.
During my wedding six years ago, of the 300-plus or so guests, two-thirds were from the automotive industry, which shocked my parents and my in-laws.
I had to keep it on the down-low, as my initial estimate would have seen the guests soar to 500-plus!
On the average, I’ve traveled abroad every single month in the last eight years.
I’ve had to turn down quite a number of travel opportunities because of conflict with family and work.
Travelling has truly enriched my life. My favorite place? Japan (food, cars and toys), Germany (cars, cars and more cars), followed by Spain (food), Italy (more food), and France (amazing architecture plus food).
Top Gear opened doors for me. From Top Gear, I got to write for Manila Times, before landing in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
I got to try my hand at a radio show called Gearbox at JAM 88.3 with co-host Andre Palma, Eric Tipan, and my good buddy Nick Laconico.
I got my first taste of TV with TV5’s Lifestyle Check, then now with GMA 7’s Turbo Zone TV Show with my dear friends and industry veterans Jiggy and Marnie Manicad.
I’ve said so many names, but what do they mean to me? Because of Top Gear, my entire world has become all about cars and motoring.
Of course, I also owe it to the team, who without them, things would never had gotten to where things are now, and we would not have survived for almost 14 years.
Starting with Vernon Sarne, who I learned a lot from, Paulo Subido, who took the mantle of leadership and stamped Top Gear with his own style of leadership, Elaine Lara, Jason dela Cruz, Jaykee Evangelista, Vincent Coscolluela, Stephanie Asi, Aris Ilagan, and Jeff Reyes—these co-workers became true good friends.
And who can forget Dinzo Tabamo, my evil twin who always gets mistaken for me, vis-a-vis?
This sounds like a farewell. But it’s not. This is simply the end of Part I.
Indeed, even I will truly miss nervously opening up the pages of a magazine, searching for exciting articles (not mine, but that of my fellow writers).
It’s a special feeling to see something you’ve worked hard on get published, hit the newsstands, and see other people read them excitedly.
At a famous barbershop chain, I was getting a haircut while the gentleman beside me was reading a Top Gear issue with a cover story I wrote.
As he was reading the magazine intently, I noticed he started darting his eyes towards me, then back to the magazine, checking to see if I was the same person on the magazine he was reading.
When he realized that it was indeed me, he hid his face in the magazine, probably surprised to see me seated beside him.
That was a funny moment, I could barely contain my laughter. I guess being at barber shops won’t be the same anymore.
Lastly, it’s all about the cars the market wants and deserves. Jeremy Clarkson said that cars are an extension of our freedom. I agree.
I also believe that cars will always be in the top three biggest expenses that will ever be made in our lives.
First would be a home, followed by education, and lastly cars.
A car has to make an emotional connection to you. Without it, the car might as well be a refrigerator, TV or oven on wheels, an appliance for that matter.
Much as I love driving a Porsche 911 on a winding road, or a Ferrari F488 flat-out on the highway, or an Aston Martin up and down high street, it’s the regular cars that will always make the headlines, because despite this all being fun and enjoyable, it has to be relevant to our readers.
Top Gear has taught me to be far more conscientious to others, to value relationships, and to continue to learn, adapt, change, and boldly go forward.
With Top Gear’s print edition now history, the battle ground has moved to the digital side, but rest assured, we will be at the forefront, delivering the best, finest and truest automotive news and reviews.
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