Rainforest Challenge 2022

Rainforest Challenge 2022

 Toyota Fun in the Philippines

BALER, a small town with just under 45.000 inhabitants along the east coast of the Philippine island of Luzon, is actually quite famous for its relatively small size. World famous surfers who appreciate the waves of the Pacific Ocean regularly meet here.






But it all started back in 1979 with a film by the well-known director Francis Ford Copolla and actors such as Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. The award-winning film Apocalypse Now was shot here, on the beaches of Baler. The GI's brought their surfboards with them, and since then Baler has become world famous and a Mecca of the international surfing scene.

It's the end of June and after a good two years off due to Corona, the otherwise rather sleepy town of Baler is waking up from its deep sleep again. The Rainforest Challenge Philippines 2022 has been announced. The national elimination for the Grand Final of the international Rainforest Challenge 2022, which is scheduled for November in Malaysia.

Baler is perfectly prepared, is used to the hustle and bustle and the hosting of national and international sporting events, whether on the beach and on the sea or in the hinterland of the Sierra Madre National Park.
Only it is a little louder now, but still, the hospitality is unbeatable. The Philippines is by far one of the most hospitable countries in Southeast Asia, and this is due not only to the English language, which allows us to easily find our way and communicate, but also to the still formative Spanish culture and the history of the country.

Luis J. A. Wee and his team are on site, he is the founder and owner of the international Rainforest Challenge in Malaysia. He accompanies his events worldwide, travels a lot in the world, symbolizes and embodies the true spirit of the Rainforest Challenge, which started exactly 25 years ago. So there is something to celebrate this year and celebrating is also very important in the Philippines.

After the first of the three Rainforest Challenge events in the Philippines in 2022, Sir Malizord Estillore and his entire team travelled with five vehicles from Mindanao in the far south and the island of Cebu. This is a good 1,800 kilometres and several ferry connections that connect the many islands efficiently. You might not think that’s far, but in reality it's four days and three nights on the country road.

The city of Baler itself is also located only 230 kilometres northeast of Manila, but you still sit for a good six hours in a minibus with your legs pulled up, because the seat distances are correspondingly small and you have to travel over winding pass roads. The fact is, logistics is still a challenge for all travelers, but that's the way it is, because you take a lot for the Rainforest Challenge Philippines 2022.

The participants all know each other...

The market square of the city of Baler was the meeting place of all participants. H ere not only the registration of the vehicles or teams took place, but also the technical acceptance and of course the gluing of the vehicles with the company names of the many sponsors. For this, a whole three days were scheduled, because no one could definitely predict when he would arrive exactly, for example, if the ferry breaks down or one of the vehicles fails on the long way.

The participants all know each other, having already fought for points with each other at the beginning of the year in Mindanao at the first of the three Rainforest Challenge Philippines 2022 events. So the reception is very warm again this time, everyone is happy. However, the weather itself did not play along so much, it rained the three days in torrents. Baler is located on the east coast and on the mountains of the Sierra Madre, all the rain clouds coming from the Pacific get stuck and settle there.

Four days of action were on the program and in the convoy they then set off together into the mountains and through several rocky rivers, which are more reminiscent of Iceland. The official plan at the first special stage was actually to race without a time limit. That was the plan, so far, so good. The heavy rain of the last few days made the routes not impossible, but simply too long. Accordingly, many prototype vehicles failed, or the teams were on the road for hours. The course was simply shortened in the end, but even then not many came to the finish line. In the end, only a single prototype vehicle somehow made it to the finish line without any technical problems.

So the balance of the first day was not what everyone had planned, but, and this is the most important thing, everyone had fun, fought against the forces of nature and gave their best. Then we went to the camp on the nearby river, the dirty clothes were washed in the river, the barbecue was lit and the rather meager successes of the first day were celebrated anyway.
Sunshine over the Sierra Madre, fantastic weather welcomes the participants. Day two can begin and even before the kettles boil coffee water, the engines are started. The teams have clearly divided the tasks among themselves, one cooks, the other takes care of the vehicle and, in turn, another still sleeps off the intoxication. There are just meetings or events where there are no winners and losers, everyone is friends here, even if you only see each other three times a year.

Everything takes place more or less within reach of the camp, so everything is quickly accessible and you do not lose track, because in addition to the prototype vehicles, there are three other categories, the modified vehicles, the pure production vehicles and the beginners. Different vehicles, different demands on the teams. However, the focus here is on the prototype vehicles, because they will qualify for the grand Final of the Rainforest Challenge in Malaysia in November 2022. If you want to win, you have to qualify, that's how it is with the Rainforest Challenge, accordingly, the international standards are high.

Sir Matrel Mancera from Mindanao has many years of off-road experience and has carefully planned the special stages with his team weeks in advance, so special stages are now available that offer something for everyone. The team, which is more focused on skill and speed or the team, which prefers winch technology and tactics, there is something for everyone here. So, on day two and three, accordingly, there is alternation in all respects and the field of competitors opens up a little.

toyota fun in the phillipines

Even though we are now driving well into the night and fighting for points, the paddock is always brightly lit in the evening until late at night. While one is already turning over his sausages on the grill, the other is still using its wrenches or the screwdrivers. Of course, the material suffers, but the concentration also decreases and an unusually large number of mistakes happen, driving technical as well as strategic.

On the fourth and last day, there was a tie at the top of the prototype group, but there can only be one winner. A decision has to be made. The small river next to the camp, which was used for washing and bathing the days before, will be converted into a special stage with external vehicles as obstacles. The vehicles are set up and parked in the river in such a way that almost a zigzag course is created. Sounds simple, but it is not, because there are also larger rocks that should be better avoided.

The special stage "Water" is due, which must bring a final decision. Now it's about milliseconds, so full speed. All or nothing, because if something breaks down now, it doesn’t matter anymore, tomorrow it will go back to home anyway, as this is the last and final stage.

In the end, the team with the starting number 100 wins the prototype classification. Driver Sir Edison Dungca and co-driver Sir Bomvet Santos, the team that had already passed the first special stage as the only one. A team sponsored by the company MAXXIS, which, in addition to perfect team and fighting spirit, also has a lot of humor. It's not just the suitable tyres, but also a good combination of vehicle performance and team work, which must form a unit, and that's what the two have.

The Fourth Day

In the late afternoon of the fourth day we went back to Baler to the Aliya Surf Camp Resort. The official award ceremony was to take place here at a joint dinner. The team of RFC founder Luis Wee, who travelled specially from Malaysia for the Rainforest Challenge Philippines 2022, presented the trophies in the different categories to the following winners:

‘Prototype’ Category

1st Edison Dungca & Bomvet Santos (#100), 2nd Jayson Peyra & Albert Frondozo (#118) and 3rd Rogelio Peyra Jr. & Glen Buena (#110)

‘Modified’ Category

1st Noel Bartolome & Jerol Conteras (#138), 2nd Marc Ortega & Carlo Marzo (#128) and 3rd Pastor De Leon & Jestoni Ilagan (#105)

‘Production’ Category
1st Bing Gabriel & Victor Ma Dela Rosa (#120), 2nd Lee Romar Vince & Christmer Edmar (#126) and 3rd Steven Nikolai Camaya & Christian Peralta (#127)

‘Newbie’ Category
1st Cristopher Espana & Allen Fontanilla (#107), 2nd Car Michael Santos & Danilo Matias (#121) and 3rd Neil Carlo Federizo & Gil Delos Santos (#139)

In September 2022, everyone will go to the island of Negros, which belongs to the Visayas Islands group. The host this time will be the small town of Dumaguete. There is a lot of diving and no surfing here and more fish is on the menu than meat, because Negros is known for its diving resorts on the south-eastern part of the island.

I am sure that Sir Malizord Estillore and his team will once again warmly welcome us with a MABUHAY. MABUHAY means as much as LIFE in English and life is excellent here in the Philippines.