Northwestern Adventure
by Mike Aguilar

The Northwestern Adventure, organized by MSCC member Jorge See, promised to take classic cars to the Northern-most tip of Luzon via the western highway. The cars would travel over 900 miles through Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, from and back to Manila. The event, open to cars made before 1974, attracted twelve classic cars:

Karmann Ghia Coupe (1960), Felix Valenzuela
Jaguar E-Type 3.8 (1963), Jorge See
Mustang 2+2 (1966), Alex Laurel
Jaguar E-Type 4.2 (1967), Michael Aguilar
BMW 2800 CS (1968), Serge Naguiat
Camaro (1968), Adolfo Sy
Camaro (1968), Ding Vitug
Mustang Mach 1 351 (1969), James Lim
Mustang Shelby (1969), Tony Feliciano
MGB Roadster (1972), Dindo Abad
Pontiac Trans-am 455 (1973), Cesar Cifra
Mercedes Benz 450 SLC (1974), Toti De Leon

Mike Aguilar, who drove his concours XKE in the event, gives his account.

Day One, May 20, 2002: Manila, Baguio, La Union

The adventure begins at the Bulacan Shell station on the North Expressway, where we agreed to meet at 5:30 a.m. Today would take us through the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, and La Union. The initial drive toward our destination is not as expected. Instead of the summer heat, we encounter heavy rains.

At Pangasinan, we converge at the Shell station at the Sison Junction, where we do some last minute checks on the cars. La Union looks too easy, so I join the 2800 CS, 450 SLC, MGB, and Karmann Ghia to take a detour to the mountain resort city of Baguio. The rest of the cars proceed as planned directly to La Union. Our five cars take three different routes to Baguio: the Karmann Ghia takes Naguilian Road, the MGB Kennon Road, and the others the Marcos Highway.

The way to Baguio is not trouble free for all. German engineering notwithstanding, the 450 SLC is the first casualty, shedding its exhaust manifold bolts, a problem easily fixed. We now enjoy the cold weather, and pity the group in the lowlands, who as scheduled reach Oasis Hotel, La Union, at 11 a.m. 

Day Two: Baguio, La Union, Vigan, Laoag

Our splinter group departs Baguio at 8:00 a.m., taking Naguilian Road. No problems, except for a minor incident with the BMW of Serge Naguiat, which loses its brakes going down the steep Naguilian. No accidents though, and the brakes recover. We meet the rest of the group at the Oasis Hotel, where Ding Vitug and his Camaro join us. We are now a total of 11 cars, all headed for lunch at Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

The route to Vigan at the peak of summer in a vintage car is definitely not a walk in the park. However, despite the threat of heat stroke, all drivers are steadfast, trying to enjoy the long straights, fast winding roads, and the great view along the coast. Driving my E-Type at 70 to 80 mph on these traffic-free lanes is sheer pleasure - only a true car enthusiast would understand. 

We arrive at Vigan at 1:30 p.m. All drivers are now very hungry, thirsty, and tired. No one could think of anything but food. We enjoy local cuisine, from bagnet to pinakbet to empanada, cornick and tinubong. We have some time to go around Vigan in a house-drawn kalesa to look at antiques, Vigan tiles, and old jars. A very charming place, so preserved... so much like our vintage cars! 

After historic Vigan, we proceed to the final destinations of the day - Fort Ilocandia and Laoag Inn. The roads leading to Laoag are breath-taking. I feel now that this adventure is well worth the trouble. It is only on these roads that one can enjoy driving a vintage car.

We are in Laoag by 5:00 p.m. Everyone is tired, but spirits are high. 

Day Three: Laoag - Pagudpud

The 1969 Shelby of Tony Feliciano joins us, having come all the way from Manila. A most welcome addition to the group. We could not leave Laoag without visiting some of its historical landmarks. One of them is the ancient Sarrat Church, where we take some photos with our vintage cars. 

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After lunch at Fort Ilocandia, the journey to Pagudpud starts. This route is like no other. It is the most relaxed and enjoyable of all the roads so far. The scenic drive to Pagudpud is truly rewarding. Being able to see it, driving a vintage sports car, truly is an experience of a lifetime. 

Saud Beach Resort awaits us. A late afternoon swim was the order of the day. What more can one ask for? Almost a perfect day, except for one casualty - the Karmann Ghia’s exhaust pipe fails. Nothing to be alarmed about, because we all make it to Pagudpud to enjoy all that it has to offer. German engineering seems to be taking a beating in this adventure.

Day Four: Pagudpud, Patapat Cliff, Cagayan, Ilocos–Cagayan border, Laoag

At 8:00 a.m., all 12 cars proceed to the Patapat Cliff. The 20-km drive to the Cagayan border takes a good three hours. All the drivers enjoy the very good scenery and are in a victorious mood. In their faces you could see the satisfaction of reaching the final destination. A journey fulfilled. No major breakdowns, which for all participants was the ultimate reward.

After lunch at Saud Beach, we get ready to depart for Laoag. Some of the cars face minor hitches. The Mach 1 has a radiator leak, one Mustang destroys its front suspension bushing, the Mercedes blows a rear tire, and the Shelby loses its fan belt. They are easily repaired before the next run. Original Ford NO5 parts are available at Laoag!

Day Five: Laoag, Paoay, Batak, La Union

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The group is in no rush to leave Laoag, and most of us try the four-wheel bikes on the beach at Fort Ilocandia. We do some sight-seeing around the towns of Paoay and Batak, visiting old churches, the Marcos Museum, and the Little Malacańang of the North. 

After lunch at Fort Ilocandia, we assemble to begin our drive to La Union. This is a long and tiring drive. The weather is not cooperative, and we experience some rain. We make it to La Union by 6:00 p.m.

Day Six, May 25, 2002: La Union, Angeles, Manila

The final day of the Northwestern Adventure. All cars depart at 9:00 a.m. Traffic becomes the ultimate problem of this journey, and we are forced to take alternate routes. With pressure mounting, both Jaguars throw minor fits. The red E-Type of Jorge See has a throttle linkage problem, and my black car blows its auxiliary fan relay. 

There is major traffic congestion through all towns, made worse by an accident in Tarlac, Tarlac. Nevertheless, we all decide to drive non-stop to Angeles. We have a late lunch upon arrival at 3:00 p.m.- Chinese food, arranged through the kindness of Jorge See.

At this point of the journey, everyone just wanted to get home. But no regrets... a fulfillment of a dream! A real adventure which led us to our ultimate goal of making close to a 1,000 - mile run. Almost a Mille Miglia!

Twelve cars, 12 drivers, 12 proud owners of vintage cars that made through a once-in-a-lifetime journey.