Driving in Siquijor, Pre-Pandemic
The first time I traveled to Siquijor, I missed my flight because I overslept. When I finally woke up, I had about three dozen missed calls from my friends all wondering where I was and what happened to me. I had to take a later flight and missed a whole day of what turned out to be a fun and memorable vacation.
I was bright and early at the airport the next time an opportunity to go back to Siquijor presented itself. A few months before the coronavirus completely upended travel in the country and elsewhere in the world, Nissan Philippines invited a group of motoring journalists to the island province to test drive its lineup of LCVs or light commercial vehicles. I already knew Siquior was beautiful and charming, and mysterious—not unlike a woman you meet while traveling—but touring it onboard Nissan’s fleet of shiny, new, dependable vehicles was going to be an altogether different experience.
The adventure began as soon as we stepped off the ferry that brought us to the island from Dumaguete. The Nissan Patrol Royale was waiting right by the pier. The 2019 version of the huge luxury SUV may have been imagined as a carrier for VIPs and dignitaries—a capable, spacious, sophisticated ride that screams success—but it was an easy, joyous ride even in the smaller roads of Siquijor.
Power definitely isn’t a problem with the Patrol, with its V8 engine, nor is space. I enjoy being behind the wheel of any vehicle, but with the Patrol, I didn’t mind kicking back, either shotgun or in the second row. Seats are buttery soft, with legroom for days. There’s also automatic heating and cooling in the front seats, as well as eight-way adjustable push-button controls.
With the Patrol, Nissan brought a touch of luxury and class to the parts of the island that were still largely wild and untamed.
The Japanese automaker arranged a special visit to a limestone quarry in the island that wasn’t exactly in the itinerary for regular tourists. Of course, it was a way to show off just what the vehicles can do.
On this stretch of the visit, I had the pleasure of driving the refreshed 2020 Nissan Terra. Not a lot has changed externally from the previous version, save for tiny design updates like a new black chrome grill in front and a rear spoiler. The engine also is the same: 2.5-liter turbo-diesel (same as the Navara it’s based on). It was smooth and purred like a kitten on long stretches of asphalt road, but off-road was where the Terra really showed its muscle. On a hill overlooking vast blue sea and sky, the contingent stopped for photos. It was also a chance to admire the vehicles up close.
As a midsize SUV, the Terra seems like it would be the ideal carrier for the typical family living in the city that goes on occasional road trips out of town during the weekends. There might not be a lot of unpaved roads, steep hills, rocks and gravel on those trips—like what we encountered on the way to the quarry—but it’s always good to know that when you encounter these potential roadblocks, your drive can handle it.
There are several nice beaches in Siquijor you can go to if you’re feeling the urge to take a dip in the ocean, but you can also visit other places, too. There’s the Cambugahay Falls, old colonial-era churches, and a mystical centuries-old Balete tree. Of course, you can also just choose to chill in your resort, many of which have modern-era conveniences.
Nissan’s pick-up was my last drive of the trip. The automaker said that, just like the Terra, the Navara we drove in the island is the 2020 version, but there aren’t any exterior differences. The company says what’s new is the infotainment system: an eight-inch touchscreen similar to the one in the Terra. I guess you can think of the Navara as essentially the pick-up version of the Terra.
It was a bit of a tight squeeze inside the Navara, but I imagine it was because we were just coming off of the two other vehicles, which of course are much bigger and roomier. Otherwise, it was an easy drive, and just as fun as the others.
Looking back at it now, Siquijor seems like the perfect getaway for when we eventually go back to regular, unrestricted travel. There’s still an air of mystery throughout the island that many other places in the country may have lost because of the influx of tourists. You may not have a fleet of Nissan LCVs at your disposal, but experiencing what the island has to offer—the beaches, the culture, the kindness and hospitality of the people—will most assuredly be the same.
Watch a video version of the Nissan Siquijor trip here: