New Toyota Avanza in PH’s ’final frontier’

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer May 15,2019

Was I eating too much of a good thing that I was starting to suffer an allergic reaction from it? I was hoping against that while the motorcycle I was riding on sliced the fresh city air (yes, I was in the city, yet the air smelled of fresh grass and sea). I would have never dared to ride on these dangerous two-wheeled contraptions, but Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, seemed to have more motorcycles and tricycles on its roads than four-wheelers, so when in Rome …

I would agree to Puerto Princesa’s claim that it is truly one of the country’s greenest and cleanest cities. Much of it probably owes to the fact that the city is among the least densely populated among the highly urbanized cities (HUCs). There are more unspoilt greens and forests in Puerto Princesa than there are man-made patches, while the commercial and administrative hub sees more of the usual heavy population and traffic congestion typical of urban centers. And there seems to be no one unified mass transport system here–just a mass of trikes, jeeps, buses, vans and cars of every type, going every way they wish. And of course, there are the motorcycles.

This diversity of public transport does offer the riding public a multitude of choices (although I do observe many foreign tourists opting either for the rented van or the motorcycle). But if you’re new to the place, and the culture, things can get quite confusing.

When I asked Robin Jarvis C. Uy, Toyota Puerto Princesa City’s executive vice president and general manager of his take on the state of public transport in the city, he said that with the rapid increase of migrants from other parts of the Philippines, and even from other countries, Palawan is becoming more congested, and that would translate to an even more frenetic mass transport scenario.

But the public transport system wasn’t the reason I was in Palawan. Not this time, anyway. The cashews I was munching on, well, maybe. Palawan cashews taste the best, and I couldn’t get enough of them, even while on board a motorcycle speeding along at 60 kph on the main highway. I’m calling them air-cooled cashews just for this trip.

The reason I was motoring along in Puerto Princesa was that I wanted to experience the city and its environs even for a couple of days, before I joined the rest of the motoring media contingent who were participating in Toyota Motor Philippines’ 15th edition of its annual Road Trek tour from May 9
to 11.

Such an event has become highly anticipated, as teams from the motoring media compete with one another in in-transit games or during designated pit stops for big-ticket prizes on board the latest Toyota vehicles en route to the country’s best beach or island getaways.

This year, TMP flew the group of 37 participants to Puerto Princesa. From there, the group boarded 10 of Toyota’s latest vehicles (including the newly launched Avanza, the Vios E Prime and G Prime, Rav4, Fortuner G and V, Innova V, Camry, FJ Cruiser and Hiace Tourer), and made the seven-hour journey to Taytay Port in northern Palawan. From the port, a 45-minute boat ride took us to picturesque Apulit Island (formerly Club Noah), where we spent the next two days living the tropical island paradise life (and contemplating, perhaps, on who to vote for come election day the following Monday).

Although I would consider the two-night stay in Apulit Island (and the brief hop to Isla Blanca), the highlight of this year’s Road Trek, what would be more unforgettable for me would be the fact that this was my first time to step on Palawan’s soil (as well as my first time to join the Road Trek). And I can say with confidence that Palawan, indeed, deserves its moniker as the Philippines’ “final frontier”.

Palawan Province is much like its number one nut commodity, the cashew: Raw yet tasty, curved in shape, yet goes straight to the point as soon as your teeth sink in it.

Palawan is considered the country’s cashew capital, supplying 90 percent of the country’s demand. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, there are 3.1 million cashew trees planted in 20 municipalities in Palawan. Due to the abundance of this fruit, cashew is the major One Town, One Product (OTOP) item of the province. The research and development of the Bureau of Agricultural Research said that the resilient cashew tree thrives well in Palawan’s changing seasons, being able to adapt well to drought and heavy rainfall.

On a global scale, cashew (kasuy in the vernacular) is the third most important nut, following almond and hazelnut.

And the popular cashew, one way or another, paved the way for the establishment of the Toyota dealership in Puerto Princesa in June 2014. The sprawling 1.6-hectare dealership, Uy stated, was a result of investors “who were impressed with the rich natural resources of Palawan–including its thriving cashew industry–and saw potential growth” when they visited Puerto Princesa in 2013.

So, there really is cash in cashew, and the dealership recognizes that it owes a lot to Palawan’s “nutty” reputation, and it’s now luring in the province’s own car nuts.

The province, of course, means so much more to its people and its enamored tourists than just cashews. Palawan, being so expansive, does have
lots of room to offer natural wonders.

In a nutshell (oops, there I go again), the breadth of the province goes like this: From Puerto Princesa, if you want to reach Brooke’s Point, the southern tip, it’s a 6 hour, 300-km drive. If you want to reach the northern tip, El Nido, it’s a 5-hour, 230-km drive.

Palawan has also been a favorite destination of TMP for its Road Trek drives, the last one being in 2016 during the 12th edition of the event where the featured destination was the exclusive Lagen Island in El Nido.

In return, Toyota has been bringing in its own “endemic motor vehicles” that have adapted well to Palawenos’ motoring needs and wants. For this year’s featured vehicle, the new-look Avanza, Uy assessed that the vehicle is “poised to create a big opportunity for the people in Palawan to own and drive this multi-purpose vehicle for an acceptable price.

“We want to let the citizens have a taste of how exceptional Toyota products are, and the Avanza has played a big part since we opened five years ago. The Avanza has always been popular and well-received in Palawan.”

Uy related that “Avanza buyers in Palawan are usually families in need of a vehicle that will suit their lifestyle of being practical, but not to the extent of sacrificing comfort. Due to its spacious interior and fuel efficiency, these families make sure it’s ‘bang-for-buck’ in their day-to-day lives such as bringing their kids to school, doing grocery, family activities and the like.”

“Though all Toyota products (including Avanza) are known for its ‘QDR’ which is Quality, Durability and Reliability, I think the edge of Avanza compared to other Toyota units is its reasonable pricing for a 7-seater Toyota vehicle,” said Uy.

The 2019 Avanza comes with a refreshed sporty look, a redesigned dashboard with a new infotainment system, and practical safety features. Since its introduction to the Philippines in 2006, the Avanza has sold
almost 100,000 units. Currently on its second generation, the 2019 Avanza became available in all 69 dealerships on May 14 with a starting price of P731,000. The new Avanza comes equipped with a 6.8-inch Capacitive Touch Panel Display infotainment system that can also be found inside premium Toyota models like the Rav4 and Camry. This multimedia console is enhanced with high-resolution K2 Technology audio that enables 2-phones hands-free and 5-phones music streaming. Smartphone mirroring is also allowed using the T-Link app.

Aside from the Avanza, Uy said that the Hiace van has also been a bestseller in Palawan. “In terms of mass transportation, the Toyota Hiace has been a big contributor in tourism transportation. We are proud to say that the Hiace is the top priority of Palawenos.”

Toyota Puerto Princesa City also values its home province’s natural heritage. Thus, it initiates environment-related projects in keeping with Puerto Princesa’s reputation as a clean and green city. “Part of the mission of Toyota Puerto Princesa is ‘Satisfaction to the General Public’, wherein we vow to help make a good impact on Palawan’s environment. We participate in annual coastal and river clean-ups, as well as tree planting activities.
Currently, we are maintaining 400 trees in the barangay where Toyota Puerto Princesa is situated.”

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