Sunday Lifestyle

When Nissan Almera meets Angono Higantes

MISS TECH - Kathy Moran - The Philippine Star

We chose to bring the new Nissan Almera to the Higantes Festival as a nod to our sedan’s class-leading spaciousness,” said Antonio Zara, Nissan Philippines Inc. president and managing director, last Nov. 22 before we boarded the Nissan Almera for the drive to Angono.  “If the Higantes bring ‘bigness in size’ in top-of-mind recall, so does the new Almera in terms of not just cabin space, but also trunk space.”

I was assigned Nissan Almera car 3. Since everyone in the group that day was a driver, I asked my companions if I could drive first because I was still sleepy and perhaps the drive would wake me up.

NPI picked the Higantes Festival in Agono as its first out-of-town trip in a year-long tie up with the Department of Tourism’s “Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan” program.

The NPI program complements the objective of DOT, which is to rekindle an interest in local tourism. The tie-up between NPI and DOT is part of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing and promotions arm of the DOT, which aims to boost local tourism through the promotion of road travel to tourism destinations recommended by the TPB.

“Also, ‘Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan’ is a facet of how we at Nissan Philippines do things differently,” Zara added. “This is our way of showing the beauty of the country from a different perspective, that the drive, the journey, can be as meaningful and exciting as the destination. And thanks to our partnership with the TPB, we look forward to bringing more of our fellow countrymen into making new discoveries and new experiences possible.”

“We are happy to partner with Nissan in order to strategically bring the best of the Philippines closer to more people,” said Milo Oropeza, TPB project development officer. “There are still many interesting places to visit, sights to see, and activities to try out that are unique to the country. By working together with Nissan, we hope the public will be encouraged to make new discoveries on the road.”

Let the drive begin

All buckled up and ready to drive we left Capitol Commons shortly after 9 a.m. for Angono. And, even as I prayed for “no traffic” on the drive to Angono that was not to be the case. The traffic buildup started as soon as we hit Ortigas Ave. Extension as there was roadwork being done leading to Angono. So, what was originally a four-lane road dwindled to two because of the drainage work in progress.

From the cockpit I let out a sigh, as top speed for the most part of the drive was a turtle-paced 40 kph on a good stretch and for the most part we were stuck between 20 to 30 kph because of the volume of cars on the road.

On the good side, the traffic build-up allowed me to fiddle with the knobs on the cockpit — as my companions discussed topics from politics to fashion — to keep us awake.

It took almost two hours for us to make it to Balaw Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery around 18 to 20 kms away from Pasig. The good thing about the stop was that it was close to lunchtime — and since it was a hot day, I welcomed the break from driving and the cool drink that was offered me.

After getting my fill of fresh veggies and hot rice, it was time to drive to the Municipal Hall for a meet-and-greet with Angono Mayor Gerry Calderon.

Mayor Calderon gave a short talk about the Higantes Festival, saying it is a procession honoring the town’s patron saint, San Clemente.

Male devotees carry San Clemente, whose image is dressed in papal vestment, during a procession accompanied by female devotees dressed in colorful local costumes, wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles and Higantes, giant papier-mâché effigies. The street event culminates in a fluvial procession at the Laguna de Bay amid revelry that continues until the image is brought back to its sanctuary.

Thunderbird calls

It was before 2 p.m. and the parade was not to start until 4 p.m. so NPI president Zara suggested we make our way to Thunderbird Resort in Binangonan, Rizal.

Finally, when we got to the rolling hills of Binangonan I was able to test just what the Nissan Almera could do.

I enjoyed being in the driver’s seat as there were many steep hills we had to ford. And the Nissan Almera took all of them with great ease.

When I drive, I usually like the long silent drives — so I shut out the conversation that was going inside the Almera and listened to how the engine held up with four passengers and overnight bags in the trunk. Since we were part of a 10-car convoy there was no speeding for me.

The Almera is equipped with a 1.5 VL/AT engine, which makes driving even easier. I liked how the Almera never made me feel that it would slide back as I could feel the engine rev ever so slightly as we stopped on the highest point of the steep Binangon hills. I must add that the steering wheel was easy to handle and I always felt that I had a firm grip on it.

We arrived at Thunderbird Resort with lots of time to spare. So, as everyone who was staying for the night made his or her way to the check-in counter, I opted to give the Almera one good look.

I was immediately attracted to the boomerang-inspired headlamps, the front and rear bumpers, front and trunk chrome accents, the rear spoiler and a bigger and bolder front grill.  Modern, sporty and not too masculine.

The new Almera’s interiors also boast a redesigned center cluster, leather-trimmed seats and good knee room and headroom because of the spacious cabin.

And, to make the drive super comfy even for the backseat passengers, the Almera has a dual ventilation and speed control rear comfort fan, which allows for better cabin air circulation.

We made it to the Higantes Parade before it made its way to Laguna de Bay. Most of the Higantes had smiles on their faces. So, too, did the people on the streets who came out that day to catch the parade with us.

This is what Pinoy parades are really all about — good times with family and friends. A reminder that Pinoy fiestas should never be missed.














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