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Isuzu ‘returns fire’ with the D-MAX LS-A

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer October 16,2019

Sand Bar off Camiguin Island

No other island or province in the Philippines puts such a not-so-subtle hint right in its very name. When you say Camiguin, others within earshot would tend to cup their ears and ask, “Did you mean, ’come again?’”

Even without the play on names, the island province of Camiguin will leave you wanting more. Maybe because the island was “borne of fire”, passionately shaped by the inner fires of the Earth, this intensity seems to rub off on us mere mortals who pay a visit.

Camiguin’s charms has certainly rubbed off on Isuzu Philippines Corp, which had been to the island more than 16 years ago to showcase the ride and drive of its then-flagship pickup Fuego. Of course, the choice of island to drive the Fuego on was a no brainer.

This certainly brings a richer context to the motivation behind IPC’s return to the island just this October 10. The Fuego’s modern heir apparent, the D-MAX pickup, has come out with its latest premium iteration for 2020, the D-MAX LS-A, and it would only be fitting for the pickup to revisit its “rugged and fiery” past in the Philippines.

By air, Camiguin is already accessible via direct plane flights from Manila. By land and sea, however, the route is a bit more complicated. You have to check if the ferry schedules posted online are updated. A ferry from Jagna in southern Bohol province leaves at 1 p.m. for the three-hour trip to Camiguin. The other ferries come from Balingoan terminal north of Cagayan de Oro City (a 2.5-hour trip by car from the city) to Benoni Port in Camiguin (a good 45-minute ferry ride).

I chose to go by land, straight from another motoring coverage in Siquijor Island the day prior. Coming from Siquijor, I took the ferry in Larena port to Tagbilaran. But instead of traveling by shuttle van for about 2 hours to Jagna and take the 1 p.m. ferry to Camiguin, I took the TransAsia ferry in
Tagbilaran which leaves at 7 p.m. for the 9-hour slow boat ride to Cagayan de Oro. From CDO, shuttle your way to Balingoan to catch either the 7 a.m. or 9 a.m. ferry to Benoni port in Camiguin. Whew!

But the trip was well worth it. The thought of gorging myself on those oh-so-sweet lanzones gave me that extra patience to wait through those long lines at the ticket counter, endure unsanitary conditions in the terminals and boats (let alone the toilets!), and put up with unruly passengers.

My trip from Cagayan de Oro to Camiguin was made more pleasant when the amiable Isuzu CDO and Cebu Southern Motors Inc general manager George Ongchua and his bubbly wife Suzette joined me. Later on, at Camiguin island, we would be joined by the Isuzu CDO sales executive Linda Erfe and the rest of the dealership’s team. Their helpful attitudes and cheerful spirit made me understand why Isuzu CDO has been a consistent IPC dealer of the year awardee.

2020 DMAX LS-A at Bukidnon pineapple plantation

We were able to join the rest of the motoring media and IPC executives who came from Manila at lunchtime in a scenic lagoon south of the Camiguin airport October 10.

After lunch, the tour continued around the island. IPC’s lifestyle-motoring tour took participants to the island’s well-known and most picturesque spots on board the New D-MAX LS-A pickups. Camiguin, the country’s second smallest island province, is ideal for test driving the new D-MAX LS-A on a scenic spin because the island is mountainous in its general terrain–perfect for a diesel utility workhorse.

This time, the D-MAX is ruggedly handsome as well, with the unique combination of modern design, timeless heritage, and world-class engineering. And as it turned out, this time of the year was peak season for harvesting the province’s most famous produce. The D-MAX LS-A’s pickup bed was perfect for bringing in hundreds of kilos of lanzones as pasalubong to our loved ones back in Manila.

We were billeted at the Paras Beach Resort, which was also the jump-off point for the stunning natural sand bar that the motoring media visited early morning of Oct. 11. Camiguin also offers a rich mix of natural attractions and cultural treasures.

The island’s progressive-thinking governor Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo—who visited the motoring media during their first night at the island—rolled out plans to make tourism a major engine for growth for the province. These included packaged “volcano” tours, heritage trips, divespot tourism, and farm and ecotourism. He said that the plans are “anchored on national government tourism policies. Our long-term strategies are geared towards making Camiguin competitive, sustainable and inclusive.”

Our group’s itinerary included stops at the following:

A 30-minute drive from Mambajao airport to Taguines Lagoon

A 40-minute drive to the island’s interior that features the towering and still active stratovolcano Mount Hibok-Hibok

A 10-minute drive leading to refreshing Tuasan Falls

A short stop at the Lanzones Farm 25 minutes from the falls

The Church ruins and the Sunken Cemetery, where the remnants of a graveyard and a town destroyed and sunk into the sea by the explosive birth of nearby Mt. Vulcan in the 1870s provided the solemn foreground to a magnificent sunset.

Sunken Cemetery closer to sunset

Day Two of the trip saw the group spend the morning on the powder white sandbar, a mere 15-minute speedboat ride on the clear blue Bohol Sea.

Romualdo related that his team has identified “12 key sites and attractions for development within the next couple of years.” He added that “these sites and attractions are expected to draw more tourists who will experience enhanced quality of facilities and services.” Romualdo also related that in 2017, Camiguin broke the internet with millions of interactions on its #FeelCamiguin digital campaign produced in cooperation with the Office of Congressman XJ Romualdo. the governor also cited a travel trade show that highlighted the lanzones farms, dive sites, tangible and intangible heritage, 14 volcanoes, and Camiguin’s advocacy on sustainable tourism. The governor also spoke about plans to expand provincial waste management.

Tough enough even at premium levels

The D-MAX LS-A was introduced to the Philippine market on August 29, and is the latest and most stylish modern iteration of the Isuzu D-MAX pick-up.

IPC President Hajime Koso, in his welcome remarks to the ride-and-drive participants, proudly introduced IPC’s flagship pickup, “The Isuzu D-MAX LS-A with Blue Power Diesel engine is our answer to the clamor of our customers for reliable, hardworking but fuel-efficient vehicles. This represents nearly a century of Isuzu’s experience and innovation in the design, engineering, and workmanship of diesel-powered utility vehicles. The D-MAX LS-A is infused, as well, with features that address the demands of a market that value both hard work and play, business with leisure.”

The featured highlights of the D-MAX LS-A include:

A powerful and fuel-efficient 4JJ1-TCX 3.0-liter 4-cylinder In-line Blue Power Diesel engine with VGS turbo intercooler that generates 177 PS @ 3,600rpm and maximum torque of 380 Nm @ 1,800-2,800rpm. Available in the 4×2 and 4×4 MT and AT variants, the D-MAX LS-A drivetrain consists of either the 6-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift or the 6-speed manual transmission with gear shift indicator;

Comfortable, stable and confident handling is achieved with the rack-and-pinion power assist and tilt adjust steering, independent double wishbone with coil spring and stabilizer for the front suspension, and semi-elliptical leaf spring for the rear;

For its exterior, the D-MAX LS-A is distinctive with the aggressive-looking very dark gray radiator grille with engine hood garnish, front bumper guard and one-step type black rear bumper, power folding side view mirrors in dark gray finish with LED integrated turn signal, and LED rear combination lamp. The under-rail bedliner, cargo extender, roof rail, fender lip-type over fender, and side molding all come standard;

The stylish and functional character of the D-MAX LS-A continues in the interior’s electroluminescent-type instrument meters with Multi-Information Display (MID), 8-inch full-touch monitor/ CD/DVD/Tuner/Bluetooth and iPod connectivity/Aux-in/USB/MP3 Compatible/AV-in/TPMS ready/USB-link/WiFi display, navigation system, and three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with hands-free function and audio controls. The bucket seats come with adjustable headrest, back pockets and convenience hook (1st row) and the 60/40 split cushion 2nd row seats with two adjustable headrests and center arm;

The D-MAX LS-A is equipped with numerous safety features: Dual SRS airbags, child seat tethers for the 2nd row, side door impact beams, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Brake Override System (BOS), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Child-proof rear door locks and reverse camera;

For occupant comfort and convenience, the D-MAX LS-A is equipped with the auto-climate control air conditioning system, passive entry/push start-stop system, 12V accessory socket, three USB charging ports, 15 storage compartments and 10 cup holders, and tow hooks for the front-driver and passenger side and one at the rear (for the LS-A 4×4 variants).

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