Every year for the past three would bring forth a wonderful sight in the southern Philippines. Beautiful classic and vintage cars would be driving en masse through quaint town plazas and along stunning coastal highways, on picturesque mountain passes and into car ferries that would allow them to cross the seas. The Cebu-based Performance And Classic Enthusiasts (PACE) group is a bunch of like-minded car enthusiasts who have taken their weekend runs to a whole new level. And because they have quick and easy access to some amazing (and amazingly quiet) roads on their own island (Cebu) or those nearby (like Bohol), the whole mix ends up to be an awesome experience that everyone seems to want to repeat. So, once again, they are running the islands this year.
The 2016 event saw thirty-three vintage and classic cars drive 980 kilometers of road and a few of ocean. They began in Cebu on a Thursday night then proceeded to the boats for the ferry ride across to Bohol. The official rally start began Friday morning at the Tubigon Plaza in Bohol. It ran quickly along the highways and carefully through the crowds, and both were beautiful sights to see. The cars were being driven as they should when the chances arose, not dangerously but spiritedly and briskly. Even more enthralling though were they crowds of children that would come up to see, touch, and ask questions. Why were some cars so big, why were some so small, why were there only three wheels?
Such was the depth and breadth of participating vehicles. The oldest car was a 1959 MGA, with it and cars like the Jaguar XKE of Kenneth Cobonpue representing another island that produces cars. Lovers of Teutonic engineering had their pick of Porsches to follow, including a lovely 1972 911E that would confuse gas station attendants because of the fact that it had the oil filler cap where they thought the gas tank would be. There were also homages to the Stuttgart stalwart in the running, 356 models built by Manila-based Michel Motors were among the most beautifully-classic or classically-beautiful shapes on the roads. Going in the other size and comfort direction, you had big Mercedes Benz sedans that would float along in comfort and air-conditioned ease. This proved particularly useful when the rains came, and people saw the level of commitment needed to drive on with the cars like the Spyder homages and the Morgans that didn’t even have the ability to put a soft top up. Such was the attitude of the rally, ever onward and having fun.
Participants weren’t only continental either. American muscle was gloriously represented by cars like a 1966 Pontiac GTO that was more than twice as long as many of the others on the road. The lovers of the Japanese has some eye candy as well, with excellent examples of what many consider the next important collectible, the Datsun Z. The overall winner of the event was actually a Toyota, an S800 driven by Marty Aguilar that you will rarely see outside a museum and will probably never see being driven like it was for this event. Unless you attend the next one.
In October of 2017, the engines will crank up again. On the twentieth of that month, people will be again looking for participants like the three-wheeled and completely-open Morgans driven by two seriously-committed husband and wife teams that most agree truly embodied the spirit of an event that began because some car guys and girls loved cars and wanted to drive them no matter what.
Lovers of vintage and classic cars in general have a passion for the designs of the past, their lines and curves and craftsmanship. Yet while many believe that such cars are works of art that belong in museums in order to preserve them, those that join events such as these don’t see these pieces as static. They feel they are best appreciated when they are moving. When you see them glide along a coastal highway or see them take a twisty mountain road. When you hear the different engine sounds in their different states of tune, big Detroit V8s or German Boxers on Japanese inlines. When you smell the oil and the brakes and the leather. When the whole experience sets itself in your mind because of all these sensory experiences that are either absent in modern cars or too often feel (or are) synthetic when they do appear. No spray-on leather smell here, no engine sound out of the stereo. Actually, there’s a good chance there is no stereo or air conditioning or power steering. And while most would think these attributes or lack thereof are reason to move further into the future, the drivers and participants and hangers-on (that would be me) following this and future Tours de Cebu believe that all this must be celebrated. And documented. And lived. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to see cars like these, all lovingly restored and kept going, on the move and part of a good happy world.
There was joy in this event, and around all these cars. Not just in the participants but in everyone they drove past, everyone they saw. In the school children that gathered, in the adults that looked on as the cars came to the different stops. You don’t get that feeling in most car events, you don’t get the welcoming, appreciative looks if, for example, a bunch of supercars roll in.
It is easy to be simplistic about these cars, about the people that drive and restore and live and breathe them. They of course get much joy from them, but it isn’t just about that. These cars take work, often lifetimes of it, to keep moving. Then the owners and drivers and trustees of this history go out and drive them in the rain and dirt. They have accidents, they break down. But they go on, and they go on smiling. Often they say it is because of the camaraderie of the group, the appreciation of the open road. But it is more than that. When you see these guys and their eyes light up because they just made someone else’s eyes light up. When they see in an older man or a young child a twinkle that wasn’t there before or maybe was long forgotten. You will be able to see these cars in museums and books and documentaries and the like. But in events like the Tour de Cebu, that’s where you will live them.