Experiencing a ‘Drive to Carbon-Neutrality’

Standing on a field in Bohol province, I stared at the carabao sitting next to the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid I parked on the road. I captured that moment with my camera and thought, this image of nature and car effortlessly co-existing together perfectly sums up my Road Trek experience this year. 

The Road Trek is a Toyota tradition that has spanned over a decade. Motoring journalist Ira Panganiban, who has attended all 16 Road Treks thus far, shared with me that the first few Road Treks were similar to Amazing Race. Participants had to drive approximately 200 kilometers and overcome serious challenges like white water rafting, rappelling over a cliff, and catching fish with bare hands. Over the years, the Road Trek developed a more balanced mix of driving Toyota vehicles, playing less intense team games, and relaxing to enjoy the group’s company.  After a three-year pause due to the pandemic, Road Trek evolved into a more meaningful event.

The participants of Road Trek 16 

Road Trek 2023 (or Road Trek 16) centered on the theme “Drive to Carbon-Neutrality.” With “Climate Action” being part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), this year’s Road Trek was both relevant and educational.

Our venue was aptly Bohol, a province known for its environmental beauty and rich natural resources. Our first stop was at Bohol Bee Farm where our lunch taught us what “sustainable” eating is. With all the ingredients sourced locally from Bohol, the amount of packaging and carbon emissions required to get the food to our tables were considerably reduced. Following Road Trek tradition, we were grouped into teams to compete in several challenges. But this year, the team challenges made us more connected with nature. The “smell test” required us to identify herbs based on smell while we were blindfolded. While visiting the Tagbilaran Toyota dealership, we played a modified version of “jenga” where each wooden block extracted by a participant required a team to answer a question related to sustainability or reducing carbon emissions. Our last stop was at The Prawn Farm, where the teams went fishing and thereafter shared a meal consisting of the freshly caught fish and prawns grown at the Farm’s ponds.

The author captures a carabao sitting next to a Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid in Bohol province.

On our free day, I drove around Bohol in a Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid and appreciated the natural beauty of the island. When I made a stop to admire the scenery, the hybrid engine of the Toyota Cross was so quiet that it didn’t disrupt the carabao resting in the field. This was when I had the opportunity to take a photo of the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid and the carabao sitting side by side.  

In the afternoon, I ventured into trying archery for the first time. The activities available to us at Amorita resort (such as archery, kayaking, paddle boarding) made me realize that the road to carbon neutrality is not just about cars. It’s a lifestyle choice where even our extra-curricular activities don’t have to exhaust resources or produce emissions to be enjoyable. 

The author at the Road Trek fishing challenge with teammate Ira Panganiban, who has attended all 16 Road Treks

The whole theme of the Road Trek was consistent with a point emphasized by Toyota Motor Philippines President Atsuhiro Okamoto during the concluding dinner. He said: “Road trips can be more fun when done in consideration of the environment.”

To give life to that statement, Okamoto-san unveiled the new Toyota Innova Zenix Hybrid.  Powered by a 4-cylinder gasoline-electric hybrid system, the Zenix 2.0 Q Hybrid CVT is a spacious 7-seater that enables people to drive with less emissions. 

Beyond the awareness-raising experience through Road Trek 16, the introduction of the Zenix shows the direction Toyota is taking in a global drive to carbon neutrality. Whether we’ll be seeing more hybrids or start seeing a rollout of full EVs will be an interesting revelation of how Toyota intends to fulfill its declared Global Vision to “lead the future mobility society” through their commitment to “quality, ceaseless innovation, and respect for the planet.”

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