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Driving Mr. Datu

Would the Chevy Trailblazer open the eyes of a great warrior chief? Only time will tell

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The Trailblazer can make all these children fit into its spacious cabin.

The lake is surrounded by mountains. The waters aren’t clear, but you know it’s clean, judging by the thriving fish population. The lakeside is dotted with pockets of human activity, and non-motorized boats with no outriggers neatly lined in rows give a semblance of a riverside in Cambodia or Vietnam. On one corner beside the lake stands the crater of the once-violent Mount Asog.

This was the scenery that greeted this author as she drove the Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8L 4×4 (automatic transmission) to the edge of the dock right behind the Buhi, Camarines Sur, municipal hall and public market. The spot gave an expansive 180-degree view of the lake, with the Mount Asog crater on the left, and the steaming peak of Mount Mayon peeking from a distance at the right.

The thought crossed this author’s mind, as the afternoon sun raced to the west, that if the Trailblazer were a time machine, she would go back 400 years to the time before the volcano eruption in 1641, when a chieftain named Asog reigned over the land. She’d invite the warrior leader to hop in this seven-seater and transport him through time to one sunny day in the distant future, in June 2013 (but not before convincing him, of course, that the Trailblazer was a completely safe contraption and he would be able to go back in his own time in one piece).

But for what purpose to bring a warrior datu to a period in modern history when peace supposedly brought more change than war? For one, she would show what Mount Asog looked like after its final and most violent eruption: A mere shell, or crater, of its once magnificent self. No doubt that would elicit a gasp of disbelief on his part.

Another, she would show what his kingdom looked like centuries after the lava flows and ash clouds from the eruption practically wiped out half the human community that lived at the foot of the volcano. Perhaps this knowledge would cause the great warrior to be overcome by grief.

Lastly, she would point to the town of Buhi and show him the thousands of people now living there, thriving in the bounties provided by the lake, the tragedy that happened nearly 400 years ago leaving no visible scars on both flesh and spirit. That would most surely bring joy to the great leader, knowing that even after such violence, life does go on for the naka-buhi, or the survivors.

Car-like comfort, but the legroom at the third row can be a bit tight, even for Asians

Maybe the datu would be amused after she tells him that the volcano would eventually be named after him, and perhaps even laugh heartily after knowing that his name would eventually become the word asogan that would literally mean “a dog in heat.”

Look ma, 4×4 made easy: Stove-type four-wheel drive knob PHOTOS BY TESSA R. SALAZAR

Before returning Datu Asog to his own time, this author would give the great warrior the joyride of his life on the Trailblazer. Maybe they’d rush on over to Mount Mayon in Albay province two hours away, making haste with the Chevrolet’s Duramax Diesel engine to get to the volcano while there would still be daylight. After negotiating the lava trail leading to the foot of Mount Mayon (using the Trailblazer 4×4’s feature with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, to name a few, for added off-road driving confidence), Asog would be dumbfounded to discover that Mayon still wears her near-perfect cone even after centuries of being angry.

The author would imagine Datu Asog to make one final request: That he be able to witness a full moon over Lake Buhi, for that was the one image that always brought peace in his heart, and clarity in his thoughts. The night trip back to Buhi from Albay would then provide the opportune time for the Trailblazer to reveal more of its technological wizardry to the chieftain already overwhelmed by the wonders of 21st-century peacetime.

As this author snapped out of her daydream to catch the daylight slowly fade over the placid lake, another thought dawned upon her as she ignites the Trailblazer’s engines to life: A region shaped so violently by fire from the belly of the earth could form such serene sights. Forces that can destroy mountains can also spawn the smallest, most fragile living things, such as the Mistichthys luzonensis, the smallest fish in the world, found only in Buhi.

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