A very different launch
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2016 - 12:00am

MACTAN ISLAND, Cebu – The moment the convoy of 18 vehicles reached the first school we were met by lines of school children waving hand-made flags with messages thanking our host for being a blessing to them. As we entered The Nicolas Tiongko High School their dance troupe was already giving a welcome performance in the most colorful costumes you can imagine. Everything was so festive many of the teams referred to it all as “like being in Rio.” Yes it felt like Rio, kids singing and waving flags while regional media representatives from seven countries took pictures, videos while singing and swaying with the school children.

But that was not the atmosphere here for many years. After Typhoon Haiyan a.k.a Typhoon Yolanda and Typhoon Ruby did a tag team demolition of homes and school buildings in this particular area. Nicolas Tiongko High School is way up the bundoks so to speak, so being out of sight places them out of mind among government officials. When their school building lost its roof, all they could do was hope and pray that some kind soul would be their answered prayer to get a new roof. Almost “next door,” the students at the Lawaan High School and Elementary School found it ironic that they had sinks for the mandatory lessons on washing hands but no running water. They actually had to fetch water from elsewhere.

Fortunately, “There are no accidents in life” and proof of that came when event organizers representing General Motors International - Chevrolet visited the area in search of an ideal “proving ground” they could develop for the upcoming launch of the 2017 Chevy Trailblazer and Chevy Colorado. Not only did they need the proving ground they also wanted to find beneficiaries whom they could give “Indestructible” soccer/footballs. The proving ground turned out to be the Danasan Eco Park, which in turn happened to be one of the “angels” that regularly provides the school children transportation going into Cebu City as well helps out by funding and helping maintain the school facilities.

From that initial contact, GMI-Chevrolet went all out. Boxes Footballs got elevated into a new roof for a school building and funding to install pipes with running water in another school. So there we were watching the short program when this young girl started to sing the song “Glowing Inside”: Now all is bright, I’ll always thank you for the love, thank you for the joy, thank you for the love you gave to me… That’s when the rough and tough drivers, even an Aussie or two started squinting and rubbing their eyes. The kids were glowing inside while the grown ups were crying.

In the many years I’ve written about new and old cars, this is the first time I beam with pride that General Motors Inc. - Chevrolet chose the Philippines, particularly Cebu, for a regional launch especially of two new products. More often than not, most car manufacturers hold their product launches in Thailand or Tokyo simply because those are two centers of production and operations in the region. This time Chevrolet chose the Philippines in recognition of the great work done by their Philippine partners – the Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCI). The Philippines and the new administration have also attracted attention regionally and last but not the least the Philippines is the biggest trailblazer market in the region.

Not only did Chevrolet choose to launch the 2017 Trailblazer and Colorado at the luxurious Shangri-la, Mactan they went further out and upwards by taking motoring journalists from Brunei, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Fiji and the Philippines to the Danasan Eco Park all the way in Danao, Cebu where they made a purposely built 4x4 track.

In order to make it to Danao, the organizers opted to travel by speedboats because as Waze App announced, traffic in Cebu is the worst and no one here seems to contest that. Depending on the weather and speed of the operator you could go from the Shangri-la to Danao in an hour+/-. Going by land they say is so unpredictable it could have taken twice longer if not more.

The drive to the eco park which was approximately an hour and a half from the Danao port proved to be a very good test run in itself as we went higher and higher up the countryside while the roads got narrower and narrower and rougher. Just staying on the road required concentration as you try to avoid on coming traffic in the form of “habal-habal” motorcycles, branches and stray animals. 

In order to see and feel the performance of the 2017 Trailblazer and Colorado, Chevrolet actually brought in a team ofAustralians to design and manage the 4x4 track consisting of a 30-meter wheel placement challenge consisting of huge logs lined up to simulate a wooden bridge like you find in jungle crossings, a 130-meter long “side-incline” path of compacted rocks and soil that you drive through giving you the sensation and challenge of a tilted vehicle nearly at the point of rolling over. Then there is the 40-meter long water crossing across a wakeboard lagoon, then two rows of multiple earthen humps designed to lift and twist the vehicle’s suspension off the ground, and finally a hill so steep that the only thing the driver and front passenger see is the sky as they drive up the challenge. Given that the site was an Eco park, everything had to be “natural” and that took five construction teams approximately two to three weeks to build each part of the 4X4 challenge. In spite of all of that, the Trailblazer and the Colorado simply cruised through the tracks repeatedly with no difficulty whatsoever.

* * *

Yes we were there to do test drives, compare notes on the 2017 Trailblazer and the 2017 Colorado but the real high point of trip and what made it very unique from all the other “Trade” launches the participants attended, was to witness the other side of corporate affairs, the one where a global company like GMI-Chevrolet touches the lives of children in a far flung village and helps to improve their quality of life, learning and their future. That’s Why I Love this Chevy.

***

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