Kenneth Cobonpue with son Andre on the 1961 Jaguar XKE. Photograph by Erwin T. Lim

If you want to see the country’s swankiest vintage cars in one race, Cebu is where it’s at

And this year’s edition of the premier vintage car event will be hard to forget, at least for two of its participants.
Clint Holton Potestas | Nov 05 2019

Since its birth in 2014, Tour de Cebu has grown from a regular road trip among a group of car collectors to a grand rally across regions in the Visayas. Inspired by the legendary Mille Miglia in Italy, the Tour de Cebu is a race where precision and accuracy are given more premium than speed. The drivers are given a route to follow, with different stages, adhering to a specific average speed. The challenge is really to “tame” a car that has no power steering, uses drum brakes, and has no air conditioning. Basically getting a 50-year-old or so vehicle to finish 1,000 kilometers, which is quite a feat.

1966 Datsun Fairlady

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Last Oct. 18, the race began with a flag-off at the Asiatown I.T. Park in Cebu City, with 29 participants led by the founding organization Performance and Classics Enthusiasts of Cebu (PACE) along with the Manila Sports Car Club. The cars then sped uphill to Chateau de Busay before heading to Pier 3 to sail for Bohol. In Bohol, they passed through scenic views of sea and sky on the Loay-Lila route.

Anthony Ramos and Coco Garcia behind the wheels of the 1968 Mercedes Benz 280 SL.

“This year was pretty special since both my son Anton and daughter Andrea took turns taking care of navigation,” shared Island Souvenirs top honcho and PACE pioneer member Jay Aldeguer. “Anton is recuperating from a very recent operation, so we thought that it would be prudent for him to not do the entire 1,000-km drive. Andrea had no choice but to fill in. To her surprise, she enjoyed the whole experience.”

Jay rode a 1968 Porsche 911 Targa Soft-Top. “It was the most unforgettable because my daughter got a glimpse of my world. She was the most uninterested among my children in my passion for driving vintage cars. But during the event, you could tell she was pleasantly surprised how enjoyable the whole atmosphere was. In fact, she wants to do it again next year. It can’t get any more memorable than that.”

1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Spyder.

Anton joined for the first time last year, which was also remarkable because the father-and-son tandem bagged the Roberto Aboitiz Class Champions award. “For the first four years of TDC, I drove by myself. I’m used to driving alone, and I enjoyed the solitude, especially when I did drives to the countryside. But when it became mandatory to bring a co-driver or navigator, I instantly thought of taking Anton,” he continued. “Admittedly, this year I was least prepared. It has been such a busy year that I hadn’t been able devote as much time as I had the previous years. It usually takes almost an entire year to prepare a car for a grueling race such as this. I was lucky my car performed well with no hitch.”

Jay Aldeguer with daughter Andrea on the highway, driving the 1968 Porsche 911 Targa.

Meanwhile, publishing executive Julius Neri, Jr. was able to apply a few lessons learned from his first experience of the Tour de Cebu in 2018. He made sure he was ready for the challenges of the entire duration of the race. “After last year’s edition, we found out that our car had some mechanical issues; we tried to get them sorted out this year. We also came better prepared to use all the navigational tools available, and we tried to go into the event well rested,” Julius said. “Our team finally got to finish one perfect leg with no breakdowns, no getting lost, and hitting the correct times. It was so satisfying. But to me, the most unforgettable part of this year’s trip was enjoying the drive in a nice vintage car in fantastic roads with beautiful views and no traffic. Another very enjoyable part is meeting new friends and having fun with fellow car buffs.”

1971 Mercedes Benz 280 SL driven by Julius Neri, Jr. (Photo courtesy of Julius Neri).

Michael Lhuiller emerged as the 2019 Tour de Cebu Grand Champion. He was behind the wheel of a 1968 Mercedes Benz 280 SL. Following Lhuillier is Oscar Medalla who was on a 1969 Alfa Romeo Duetto. Pace member Kenneth Cobonpue ranked third.

Michael Jo riding the 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

Like Julius and Jay, the rest of the drivers are avid collectors of vintage sports cars. “There really is no challenge doing this tour in a new car,” said Julius. “In a vintage car, even if you’re driving at average speed, it feels like you’re already going at top speed.” Somehow the vehicles not only give joy to the riders but also to spectators. “The classics elicit a lot of friendly waves and smiles among the locals; they don’t come across as intimidating or ostentatious,” Julius continues.


Photographs by Erwin T. Lim