ALL roads led to Angono when the quiet but progressive town in the province of Rizal celebrated its annual Higantes Festival, and leading the way was a fleet of newly redesigned Nissan Almeras—sleek, shimmering and aerodynamic sedans in Brilliant Silver, Alpine White, Bluish Black and Titanium Grey driven by motoring and lifestyle media practitioners to take part in the colorful festival.
The media road trip served as the formal launch of Nissan Philippines Inc. and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB)’s Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan program, which is aimed at stimulating local tourism and promoting road travel to tourism destinations recommended by the TPB. The TPB is the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan program is proof that it is really serious about promoting road travel as a more fun and exciting way to get to a tourism destination because you get to explore other places, meet more people, experience the culture and taste the local cuisine of the places that you pass along the way. And Nissan Philippines is the perfect partner because it provides the vehicle to make the road trip a reality.
So, together, they launch the program and set off to Angono, Rizal, for the Higantes Festival to experience the road adventure that they encourage everyone to take. Groups of two to four media practitioners got into each Nissan Almera at Capitol Commons for the early morning trip, with the Almera being chosen by the top officials of Nissan Philippines headed by president and managing director Antonio Zara for the sedan’s class-leading spaciousness.
“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,” says Zara.
A huge trunk space is an advantage on a road trip because it can be utilized for baggage and refreshments, among other stuff that will make a road trip so much more enjoyable. Besides spaciousness, the Nissan Almera boasts of a remote keyless system with push-button start, automatic transmission, and rear view camera. It’s also the first in its segment to offer dual ventilation and speed control rear comfort fan that improves cabin air circulation and keeps the passengers comfortably cool through the entire trip, even if it’s scorching hot outside. Its sleek and contemporary design includes new boomerang-inspired headlamps, redesigned front and rear bumpers, front and trunk chrome accents, a redesigned rear spoiler and a bigger and bolder front grill. Its interiors feature a redesigned center cluster, leather-trimmed seats for the top-ranging 1.5L variant, and excellent knee room and headroom. It also offers convenience for both driver and passengers with various cup and bottle holders at the center console and door sidings.
The big small sedan thus makes any road trip, be it a short or long one, so much more comfortable.
Despite a bit of traffic along the way, the trip to Angono proved to be a fun, comfortable and exciting one, with the fleet of Nissan Almeras catching quite a bit of attention as it made its way to Balaw-Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery along Doña Justa St. for early lunch. The most famous restaurant in Angono, Balaw-Balaw serves exotic dishes such as Sizzling Crocodile, Crispy Crickets, Nilasing na Palaka, Adobong Balot, Soup No. 5, Sizzling Butts and Balls and Tapang Usa, although it also offers classic Filipino dishes like Laing, Nilasing na Hipon, Bulalo, Crispy Kangkong, Nag-aapoy na Pata, Pinakbet and Guinataang Kuhol.
Diners get to enjoy these in an artistic environment, as Balaw-Balaw is also an art gallery with artworks—sculptures, paintings, religious art and décor—all around. On the second floor is an actual art gallery, where diners can even find a life-sized interpretation of The Last Supper.
After having a sumptuous lunch at Balaw-Balaw, the group proceeded to the Municipal Hall of Angono to make a courtesy call on Mayor Gerardo ‘Gerry’ Calderon, who warmly welcomed the group to his office. He cheerfully talked about the Higantes Festival that made his town famous. Twelve-foot papier-mâché higantes effigies parade along the streets of Angono in honor of the town’s patron saint, San Clemente. The figures are held together by a person within the higantes’ wooden-framed cavity. These days, however, the wooden frame has been conveniently replaced by tubes and wires.
Mayor Calderon also shared his pride in having Angono recognized as the Art Capital of the Philippines, since it is home to two National Artists, Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco for visual arts and Maestro Lucio San Pedro for music.
Then it was off to the streets of Angono to wait to catch the Parade of Higantes. The group converged on the grounds of St. Clement Parish and then met the grand parade on foot, skirting the crowds to take good close-up shots and snacking on toasted cashews and suman bought from the sidewalk stalls afterwards. Aside from the usual higantes, this year’s Higantes Festival had Chef Higantes, Gangnam Higantes and Morion Higantes.
After sweating it out under the sun, the group got back behind the wheels of their Nissan Almeras for a countryside drive up to Thunderbird Resorts & Casinos Rizal in neighboring Binangonan, taking advantage of the sedan’s easy handling capability, vaunted cooling and generous leg space to reach their home for the night. Over a sumptuous buffet dinner, Nissan Philippines Inc.’s general manager for marketing SJ Huh and Tourism Promotion Board’s project development officer Milo Oropeza met the media and talked about their partnership for the Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan campaign.
“We are happy to partner with Nissan in order to strategically bring the best of the Philippines closer to more people. There are still many interesting places to visit, sights to see, and activities to try that are unique to the country. By working with Nissan, we hope the public will be encouraged to make new discoveries on the road,” says Oropeza.
After a hearty breakfast at Thunderbird’s Olives Restaurant the next morning, the convoy of sleek Nissan Almeras set off again to discover yet another attraction in the area—the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs. This cultural heritage site dates back to 3,000 years ago and is regarded as the oldest prehistoric Filipino work of art. It’s made up of some 127 drawings, mostly of human and animal-like figures, on the stones; and it was National Artist Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco himself who discovered it by accident during a camping trip with boy scouts. Back then, Francisco lay down in a rock shelter to rest after a series of activities with the boy scouts, when he looked up and around him and saw the drawings on the walls. He told the authorities what he had found, and efforts to date the drawings followed. The authorities gathered evidence through diggings around the area and found stone tools that were present during the late Neolithic Period. These became the basis in dating the drawings, although no indigenous people were found around the area to help explain the meaning of the drawings. In 1973, the rock art was declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure. It became one of the world’s 100 most endangered heritage sites due to neglect and vandalism, so a view deck was built to keep people from touching the petroglyphs and vandalizing them as well. The effort proved to be an effective way of preserving the petroglyphs, which visitors can reach on foot from the entrance of a tunnel manually carved from a mountain.
The group marveled at the amazing petroglyphs, got back to Thunderbird Resort to have lunch and pick up their stuff, and then set off on a leisurely drive back to Capitol Commons to conclude the pilot run of Nissan Philippines and TPB’s Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan campaign. The program will see monthly road trips with members of media to various destinations to be set by the TPB.
It has only just begun exploring the wonders of the Philippines.