Climbing up a hill along Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac and seeing Land Rover vehicles covering the entire expanse of the valley kicking up dust was a sight to behold, even for a 4WD gear-grinder like myself. The image was reminiscent of the iconic Camel Trophy photograph showing a convoy of Land Rovers kicking up dust on the dusty plains of the Atacama Desert in South America. No, the local version was not a recreation of the event. It was the 15th anniversary celebration of the Land Rover Club of the Philippines (LRCP); the most rabidly loyal-to-the-brand 4WD club in the country.
The drive to Tarlac was quite symbolic, in more ways than one. First, it was were the first few trail rides of the club took place. Second, leading the group is then, and still club president, lawyer Robby Consunji. It was Consunji, who formed the club 15 years ago, who led a group of Land Rover owners in exploring the river deltas around Mt. Pinatubo, to see the destruction brought about by the volcanic explosion as well as its effect on the surroundings.
The history of the club begun in Tarlac, but the spark that started the fire can be traced back to 1962 during the event called the Shell/Land Rover Philippine Safari; what probably is the first ever 4WD event in the country.Very little is known of this major Philippine motoring event which even ended with a big luncheon at the ball room on the Manila Hotel, which back then, was Manila’s bastion of luxury.
A band of Series 2 Land Rover 4WD’s ventured to explore hinterlands of Luzon. This may not sound to spectacular nowadays but one must remember this was back in 1962, when there were still very few road networks. The Philippines event even outdated the legendary Camel Trophy which started in 1980 and ended in 2000.
Sadly, Cotey Villa Agustin, one of the few remaining participants of the Shell/Land Rover Philippine Safari event and son of the legendary Marking’s Guerillas leader, Marcos Agustin, passed away a few weeks before the event. Cotey, who is like Chairman Emeritus to the LRCP, would have joined the ride had he been around.
Since its formation, the LRCP has always been in the thick of the local 4WD community; getting actively involved with recreational exploration, 4WD motorsports, public service through relief work, Land Rover restoration, and anything 4WD related.
The LRCP also has actively participated in international motorsports competition, showcasing the driving prowess of Filipino off-roaders. At the same time, the LRCP played a key role in transporting relief goods and participating in search and rescue missions in natural disasters like typhoon Yolanda.
It is widely known that of all the Land Rover’s ever built, 75 percent are still running all over the world. So it comes as no surprise that with every new variant of the Defender model, an older Defender would be traded in or sold to a new “care taker” of the vehicle which only leads to a growing number of club members.
During the 15th anniversary ride, a total of 60 Land Rover vehicles joined the event. That was a good thing. Had half of the LRCP members attended, it would’ve been near impossible to manage so many vehicles on the trails.
The first destination of the group was a ride towards the Crow Valley trail. Good thing there were no military exercises going on that day. However, the drive was cut short after the discovery of an unexploded ordnance aling the trail. It was decided that the group turn around as it would take forever for explosives and ordnance experts to arrive at the scene to detonate the bomb.
With the drive to Crow Valley cut short, the group doubled-back and headed for the Capas National Monument to have lunch. After the feast, the ride continued on towards the Puning Hot springs located at the other river delta of Mt. Pinatubo. This delta led to the hot springs which was operated by the Aetas, the local indigenous people of the area. It was already getting late. From the hot springs, the group had to hustle back to San Fernando for the evening lantern festival which was hosted by the local tourism council.
It was quite an anniversary ride. I have been with the club, initially as a non-member in their growing pains, and as a member since 2008. It is not the perfect 4WD club, but it is the 4WD club that matters; because in the end, it is not about the cars. It is the people behind the Land Rover Club of the Philippines.