• Fast Times talks to one of the country’s most well-respected car club: Miata Club Philippines

    One ton of fun

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    E3---Miata-Club-0820160426The Mazda MX-5 Miata (now simply called the MX-5) is undoubtedly one of the automotive world’s greatest nameplates.

    This is because for over 25 years, the MX-5 has been a bastion of pure driving pleasure by following a formula that very few carmakers today bother to do: a fairly cheap, light, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-seat convertible. Indeed, Mazda was responsible for bringing this formula back from the pages of history – from a time when British sports cars like MGBs and Triumph TR5s ruled the world’s roads, before these were mostly killed off by hot hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Peugeot 205 GTI in the 1980s.

    And since 1997, the Miata Club Philippines has ensured that this rare little car, which has been sold here on and off since 1996, will always have a strong following.

    “The thing about this club is that the cars are the members,” said the club’s founding president Eddie Salonga in a phone interview. “So even if it gets a new owner, we make sure to keep track of where it goes.”

    It is obvious from this photo that members of the Miata Club Philippines are both young and old, and in love with the Miata. The club also has female members.

    It is obvious from this photo that members of the Miata Club Philippines are both young and old, and in love with the Miata. The club also has female members.

    Irreplaceable
    Salonga said the Miata holds a special place in the club’s heart because it is an unpretentious sports car. “You could be a multi-millionaire or an office, but the Miata offers lots of fun for little expense,” he said.

    Incumbent Miata Club Philippines president Jeric Mariano said there really isn’t anything else like a Miata.

    “When I sold my first Miata, I thought it would be easy to replace it,” he said. “Wrong. You need to move up to a Porsche Boxster or a classic Lotus Elan to truly replace a Miata, but those are really a big step up,” he said.

    He also said the car’s peerless reliability is what makes it so special. “My Miata is 25 years old and even if it had something wrong with it, it always brought me home,” he said.

    The importance of tradition
    Salonga said when he and five others formed the club, they wanted it to be a group of like-minded people who bonded over regular routines. “We are proud to have time-honored traditions that have lasted through the years,” he said.

    Salonga said having traditions, such as monthly club meetings every second Sunday of the month, ensured that members would instinctively know what was happening in the club. “Even if you woke up late on that Sunday, you’ll know that the group is meeting somewhere,” he said.

    Miata owners Dr. Don Espiritu and son Dandan stand beside their respective Miatas representing their generations.

    Miata owners Dr. Don Espiritu and son Dandan stand beside their respective Miatas representing their generations.

    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Miata Club Philippines is the Council of Past Presidents (also known as ‘The Council’), which Salonga said not only exists to uphold the club’s fine traditions, but also exercises administrative functions within the club.

    “The council is responsible for creating the list of nominees for president,” he said. “We look for three vital characteristics: commitment; character and confidence to lead. In addition, we make sure to be with the new presidents from their very first day – through a welcome barbecue that we organize – as well as guide them throughout their term.”

    Salonga also said The Council is the body that settles disagreements within the club to prevent factionalism among members. He also said any changes the president wants to implement in the club must be approved by The Council.

    Like motorcycle riders
    Mariano said the Miata Club Philippines currently has over 170 members (with about the same number of human members). He also said unlike other car clubs, the Miata Club Philippines has a high participation rate in club activities

    “In the club’s meeting in March 2016, 79 members attended, which is nearly half of the whole club” he said. “And in the Binibining Pilipinas event we participated in, there were at least 50 Miatas there.”

    Mariano said this level of involvement is not just because of the car itself, but also because of the owners who just want to be together. “They’re just like motorcycle riders because they can’t really share their cars with that many people, so they need to have a group to be in,” he said.

    From NA to ND
    Mariano said to join the Miata Club Philippines, you have to first and foremost own a Miata. “We welcome all sorts of Miatas, from the first-generation NA Miatas to the current ND MX-5, even those that were imported from the US and Japan,” he said.

    All one has to do is attend one of the club’s monthly meetings (held this year at the Metroclub near Rockwell in Makati City) and pay the joining fee of P1,200. If you become a full-fledged member, he said you pay the same amount every year as the membership fee.

    Mariano said new members have probationary status for six months, where they will be observed by other club members. “You don’t really need to join a minimum number of events to become a full-fledged member, but you have to get yourself involved and get to know the members,” he said.

    And unlike other car clubs, even probationary members get perks like discounts from partner companies, the latest news about the car, as well as freebies from sponsors. “But perhaps the most important perk is the camaraderie we share,” he said.

    From track days to long hauls
    Mariano said besides the club’s monthly meetings, the group also holds outreach programs for orphans, as well as offer support in disaster-relief operations. “Around Christmas time, we bring the orphans around in our Miatas,” he said.

    Mariano said the group also has fun runs, some of which are long-distance drives.

    “We’re looking at another run to Baler in Aurora this year, as well as the North circumnavigation run,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to our Baguio run in December. Also, we want to have as many runs as we can this summer, preferably early in the morning so that we drive with the top down.”

    Mariano said Mazda Philippines often joins them in these runs, even going so far as to provide a mechanic, spare parts and breakdown assistance for the latter. “It’s a nice partnership because we can drive around without worrying about what will happen if something goes wrong,” he said.

    Mariano also said because Miatas are track-prepped sports cars, the club also holds frequent track days. He said the biggest track event the club has is the Miata Cup (sponsored by Mazda Philippines), which it plans to hold again in May this year.

    “There will be six races for the Cup, with two races spread over three weekends,” he said. “The Cup spans from the Open class for the hardcore racers to the Feeling Pogi class for those who want to cruise around the circuit with top up and the aircon on.”

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