Palawan via Strada

I remember that my fascination with Palawan started when I first learned about the Tabon Caves and the ancient artifacts and bone fragments that the team of Dr. Robert Fox discovered as the remnants of the early Tabon Man. From that time, Palawan was recognized as the “Cradle of Philippine Civilization.” Later on, I would learn more about the province’s rare limestone karsts and virgin forests where vast wildlife abound. And a bit later on (but before it became touristy), I would discover the world’s longest subterranean river.

It is therefore always a treat whenever I get to return to one of my favorite provinces of the Philippines. This time, I had an immersive experience driving through both Palawan’s paved and dirt roads using the new Mitsubishi Strada pickup.

Launched earlier this year, the new Strada is among Mitsubishi Philippines’ latest and strongest product offerings. The pickup is manufactured and imported from Thailand’s Laem Chabang plant, and is the triple-diamond badge’s most modern workhorse based on its 40 years of pickup heritage.

Our journey began in Palawan’s capital of Puerto Princesa, and continued along the province’s eastern coast, eventually cutting across inland and westbound heading towards the quaint municipality of San Vicente. It took us three hours of spirited driving to get to our destination; and the Strada did not fail to please with its good handling and commendable fuel consumption.

Admittedly, pickups are hardly ever top of mind when it comes to riding comfort, but the Strada begs to differ from the consensus, with its roomy cabin and class-leading legroom. The vehicle can comfortably seat five adults and keep them content for long journeys; but in our case, we opted for three adults and kept all our baggage inside the cabin.

Hardy Stradas traverse the shoreline.

Palawan’s provincial roads are a bit bumpy to begin with; and many of the connecting bridges involved curiously high approach angles and surprising dips on the other end. Fortunately, the new Strada has larger rear dampers, and can now offer a more graceful transition through local road irregularities such as these.

Meanwhile, random street dogs and goats also abound – and they proved as inevitable testing ground for the pickup’s enhanced braking performance, thanks to upgraded (larger) front discs and caliper pistons.

The new Strada carries a 2.4-liter Clean Diesel engine, with a Variable Geometry Turbo and MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-timing Electronic Control system) technology. And what it gives the pickup is a strong 181ps and an impressive 430Nm of torque!

Much of our route involved thoroughly paved roads, through high-speed swooping curves, and eventually across zigzags and mountain passes. Our GLS 2WD with A/T provided the option of manual upshifting/downshifting (via paddle shifts) for the frisky driver – which was especially useful for the more technical parts of the drive – but I also experienced no dissatisfaction whenever I kept shifting purely on automatic.

As far as safety is concerned, the Strada GLS has a lot to offer – it comes equipped with Active Stability Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, and even Trailer Stability Assist. That, and the pickup uses Mitsubishi’s proprietary RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body, which basically absorbs more impact (and therefore improves the safety of its occupants) in a collision.

After a scenic drive through beautiful seascape and mountains, we eventually hit the last segment of the route, which was a pothole-ridden dirt road that no one who loves his car would ever drive it through. Luckily, ours was a convoy of pickups – and managing the car-cruel terrain was really the least of our worries.

Finally, we arrived in high spirits at the boutique resort of Club Agutaya in San Vicente. The municipality has not yet grown into a mainstream traveler’s destination, and hence still retains much of its undisturbed charm. It is a nice time to visit, as the place is slowly gaining tourist traction, but still in the early stages – offering the rare privilege of empty, sweeping beachfronts, quiet beauty, and uncrowded vistas. 

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines left the town a special gift by donating a few hundred mangrove seedlings which we helped plant in a special sanctuary by the beach, where saltwater meets freshwater. And we got there only after a 175-kilometer drive from Puerto Princesa, aboard the capable Mitsubishi Strada GLS 2WD A/T. Not bad for a pick-up priced at P1.3 million!

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