Beyoncé in Ilocos, on an old Daewoo
I went home one day to find a silver Daewoo parked in our small garage.
Here goes Papa borrowing cars again, I thought. One night, he fetched me driving a tolerable turquoise Nissan; on another evening, a red Toyota Corolla that had no back seats. Both cars were borrowed from a friend of his, since buying our own car was unthinkable at the time.
But, this time, it took only a walk upstairs for me to be proven wrong.
The old Daewoo was apparently Papa’s new car. Like a true salesman, he had mapped out plans of experiencing the Philippines aboard his new friend. He spoke of Daewoo’s peak years, the jackpot of buying one at such an affordable price, and the “slight” repairs one visit to the auto shop could remedy to turn the car into something as good as new.
The Daewoo was in no way flashy, but it did look clean and pretty decent. The paint stuck neatly, the windows weren’t shattered, and all its seats were intact. Regardless, Mama was not very enthusiastic, and no wonder: Papa’s new purchase was a third-hand car bought at a very cheap price.
Not too soon, indeed, the saying “Mothers know best” slapped us right in the face. The Daewoo failed one excursion after another. That supposed one trip to the auto repair shop became two, and then three, until we stopped counting altogether. But Papa still believed his Daewoo was invincible, and he planned to prove it with a grand trip to the North just before 2014 ended.
The idea actually came from Beyoncé’s “Run the World” music video, where she was decked in gold in the middle of a desert. I thought it would be perfect to copy the look for my creative graduation shoot, and so—without thinking Papa would take it seriously—I proposed a trip to the sand dunes in Ilocos Norte. He agreed.
The next step was to convince Mama. We all knew the grim possibilities: a crash, a car explosion or a mechanical system shutdown that might get us stuck in the middle of NLEx. Mama was skeptical, but she finally conceded after Papa assured her the necessary repairs on the car would be made.
Came the awaited morning, Papa’s Daewoo was at its best condition. He turned on the air conditioner, and it worked fine. He used the auto locks every time we alighted, and grinned widely as the old-school antenna in the rear slowly rose when he turned on the radio, which was operational for the very first time.
We drove through Pampanga and Pangasinan and reached our first stop, La Union, without any major mishaps. We had made 270.3 kilometers—a brilliant milestone for Papa’s Daewoo.
On our first night, we stayed in Bauang, La Union, and enjoyed the sight of the West Philippine Sea’s giant waves. Before sunrise the next day, we were off to our next destination.
Then the nightmare began. We were just 10 minutes on the road when the car’s motor died in front of a furniture shop. Papa was in shock. I could see Mama’s eyes speak as she stole a glance at the passing buses bound for Manila.
The thought of getting into a bus and facing the passengers’ judgment so horrified me that I desperately pleaded with Papa’s Daewoo. By the grace of God, it worked. After four hours of being stranded, the motor roared to signal our return home.
But Papa’s spirit was relentless. Instead of driving back to where we came from, he surprised us by following the original route.
Excited for his Daewoo’s next milestone, he diligently tracked all the yellow kilometer posts and shouted in glee each time we went farther and farther from Luneta Park, the kilometer zero of the Philippines. When the skies went black as the sun sealed its final kiss, we were already traversing Laoag. The signs to the sand dunes were in sight.
The next day was jam-packed with activities, from sandboarding in the desert to museum-hopping in Paoay to strolling along the cobblestoned streets of Vigan. We did the impossible and dared to do the even more impossible: reach the high woods of Baguio, and welcome the New Year in our sweatshirts.
Sadly, this is not a story with a happy ending. Papa’s Daewoo failed to reach Baguio. I also didn’t get to channel Beyoncé. But, hey, our old friend survived hours on the road when it normally gave up on Edsa. It traveled 486.5 kilometers, when we thought it could only reach 50.
With all those auto repair shop visits, Papa could not just have fixed the mechanical problems of his Daewoo. It seemed to have acquired a spirit of its own—something capable of taking us to those faraway sand dunes.
Beatrice Anne de Leon Malveda, 23, is an editorial assistant at Philippine Tatler.
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