The Hardy Isuzu
A journey to the wonders of Palawan with the MU-X
By Angel Rivero
It was not my first time to come visit the now-world-famous Puerto Princesa Underground River, but I woke early that day with the excitement to revisit a wonder of nature that, as far as I could remember, made me feel like I had entered the National Geographic Channel and gone on an exploratory mission to discover a secret world deep in the mountain and away from the light. This time it was on a trip together with Isuzu Philippines, who for as long as I can remember, have been strong advocates for domestic tourism. Indeed, you cannot go wrong with Palawan and its many natural wonders – and usually the foremost challenge is to actually get there and journey deep into its country roads to get you to its pristine destinations. On this particular trip, we had chosen to fly to Puerto Princesa and ride and drive the spanking-new Isuzu MU-X – an excellent choice for reliably taking us through the crude provincial roads with sufficient amenities and agreeable comfort.
The Isuzu MU-X actually caters quite well to the typical Filipino large family – it can accommodate seven passengers comfortably, and won’t make the rearmost passengers suffer as the third row seats are not such a pain with its forward-tumble 60-40 split function. Young family members’ usual concern on long trips like these is motion sickness – but honestly this should be the least of your worries as the MU-X struts an accommodating suspension system (a front with independent double wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer, and a rear that has a 5-link with coil springs and stabilizer bar combination) that will keep passengers comfortable throughout the lengthy drive. Other thoughtful features for such out-of-town family trips are its 12 cupholders (which often prove to be handy in the long run), 19 storage compartments, a lockable glove compartment (for good safekeeping), and three 12V accessory sockets – providing people enough resources to charge their gadgets in. The driver will likewise appreciate the 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and the car’s interior leather upholstery, as it generally gives a more premium feel, and furthermore any spillage could be easily wiped off. Importantly, the vehicle also has built-in navigation, whose maps – as I have tried and tested – are current and quite complete (as opposed to other vehicles whose Navi system begin to struggle as soon as you veer away from the major cities).
“Isuzu is not a stranger to the numerous wonderful destinations that the Philippines offer,” explained IPC President Nobuo Izumina while we were on the trip. “With our All-New Isuzu MU-X, we are confident that touring these many attractions become even more pleasurable. This premium SUV not only benefits from core Isuzu values of durability, reliability, and fuel efficiency, but also raises luxury and convenience to a whole new level.”
Our first stop after leaving Puerto Princesa’s domestic airport was the Sheridan Organic Farm in Sabang, where we enjoyed a delightful lunch made from fresh ingredients (being a farm and all). From there, we proceeded driving through long stretches of coastal roads that offered excellent views of the West Philippine Sea, and eventually headed inland, cruising winding roads that were decorated with wild foliage and interesting, Palawan-distinctive rock formations.
All throughout the drive, the MU-X provided easy hill driving, good handling through the zig-zaggy roads, and, most importantly, good off-road driving capabilities. To make things easy and straightforward, the MU-X’s four-wheel-drive system has got a ‘4WD Terrain Command Select Dial’, and using it is a no-brainer as the driver simply has to turn the knob (on the fly) to shift from 2H mode to 4H mode, which is allowed even at high speeds. Meanwhile, the vehicle provides a ground clearance of 230mm, making it easy to drive over shrub growth and over rocky patches in the many road cuts along the way.
The road trip was lengthy, but not a bore with the changing landscape and in-car entertainment system. The MU-X has a 7-inch touchscreen display for its 6-speaker multimedia system; and for people with limited attention spans – a 10-inch roof-mounted DVD monitor with remote control is available to keep them busy.
Our contingent’s chosen base site was Sheridan Resort, an excellent take-off point for parties wishing to visit the Palawan Underground River – being situated only a short walk away from the port area where you board the boats that will take you to the underground river site. The National Park is located within the Saint Paul mountain ranges, and upon reaching the site’s shore, you have yet to walk through an old wooden walkway that goes through a small foresty area inhabited by numerous monkeys who seem to already be accustomed to visiting tourists, and are quick to grab any snacks or cellphones you may be holding in hand (so be wary!) along the way. Other interesting wildlife that you will find around the pathways and along the way are huge bayawaks (monitor lizards), so be careful not to aggravate them!
The end of the wooden walkway converges into a boat-loading area where visitors board their small plastic boats, headed by a local guide carrying a portable flashlight. The guides are your storytellers as you enter this world’s longest subterranean river, engulfed within a cave inhabited by birds, bats, and eerie underwater creatures. Crawly animals sometimes lurk along the cave walls, adding to its bizarre flavor and feeling of exotic adventure.
As touristy as it may sound these days (especially after having been deemed one of the world’s current wonders of nature), I would like to emphasize that even being an off-the-beaten-path-inclined traveler like myself, I would still highly recommend paying this Underground River a visit at least once in your life. A work of art millions of years in the making and now is the time to go see it. All you need is a reliable, versatile vehicle to take you there – like the Isuzu MU-X – and every minute of the journey is sure to promise an out-of-the-ordinary experience.
Engine: Inline-4, 2499 cc, dohc, 16V, CRDi, 5-speed AT
Max Power: 134 bhp @ 3400 rpm
Max Torque: 236 lb ft @ 1800-2800 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 11.4 sec.
Fuel Mileage: 8.2 km/L Overall
Top Speed: 176 km/h (110 mph)
Price as Tested: PhP 1,748,000.00
+ The most competitive product that Isuzu has built in years, very rugged, very versatile, comfortable, good looking
– Hoping for the 175 bhp / 280 lb ft 2.0-liter CRDI engine option in the near future and more standard equipment
C! Editor’s Rating: 9.5/10