Some say that being a motoring journalist is one of the best jobs an individual could ever have. Why so? Well, you get the opportunity to drive the latest cars in the market as well as reach far flung places. All you need to do is bring a notepad and a camera to capture the content of your story.
Speaking of which, Nissan Philippines held a drive that veers away from the usual out of town trips. Dubbed as Nissan Drive for Samar, select members of the media were tasked to help build new homes for the people of Oras, a community that was badly hit by typhoon Ruby.
Oras is one of the many areas that suffered the havoc of typhoon Ruby last December 2014. To put things in perspective, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the typhoon had maximum sustained winds of 175 km/h and brought upon prolonged period of rain, winds and storm surges.
Until this day, the people of Oras are still trying to recover from the damage brought upon by typhoon Ruby. With this, Nissan partnered with Habitat for Humanity Philippines in order to extend a helping hand and to spur hope for Oras.
With that in mind, we flew to Tacloban and embarked on a five hour drive to reach our first pit stop which was at Borongan, Samar. On the way to Borongan, we hopped on board the top spec variant of the 2015 NP300 Navara and crossed the famous San Juanico bridge to reach Samar.
The bumpy road condition as well as the rural streets of Samar was easily managed by the 2015 Navara due to its light steering feel and redesigned suspension. This Navara features a multi-link rear suspension with coil springs which provides an SUV-like ride. The rear suspension of the 2015 Navara eliminated the bumpy ride, a trait commonly associated with pickups. Aside from this, the 2015 Navara didn’t disappoint as we cruised through straight highway stretches. The power and acceleration of the Navara was instantly felt as you step on the gas pedal. Furthermore, the seven-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, which enables the pick-up to overtake with good measure. In case you’re wondering, this Navara is powered by a 2.5L variable turbo CRDI engine that delivers 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque.
After the long drive, we finally reached Borogan, Samar and recharged our bodies for the real task at hand: building new homes.
Around 7 a.m. the following day, the convoy started to move towards the repair site situated at Barangay Dalid in Oras, Eastern Samar. From Borongan, we have to take a 2 hour drive to reach the site.
Upon reaching Oras, we were welcomed with huge smiles and the place had a festive-like atmosphere. It was clear that they were excited to see us and in return we became more driven to accomplish the task at hand.
Then, participants were divided into groups. Nissan PH President Toti Zara as well as Habitat for Humanity PH CEO Charlie Ayco joined the select members of the media in building new homes. Armed with carpentry tools such as hammer, nails and paintbrush we constructed the new houses for the people of Oras. The group was not faltered despite the intense heat because we consider ourselves lucky that we were given the chance to help other people.
Wilma Monchagodo, 42 years-old, shared that their house was totally wiped out by typhoon Ruby. According to Monchagodo, she and her family lived at the evacuation center for a month. However, due to the huge number of evacuees, she decided to go back to their place and build a makeshift house for her eight children.
She and her family lived in that house since the typhoon hit their area last December 2014. Monchagado adds that life became tough because their only source of livelihood (coconut) was also washed out by Ruby. Despite the odds, Monchagado remains hopeful that they can stand up once again.
As of this writing, Habitat for Humanity PH has already constructed 948 houses in Eastern Samar. Adding to the 948, Nissan PH donated 56 houses and seven of it were already built during this activity. Habitat for Humanity CEO Ayco said they were glad that the number of donated houses had increased, but he emphasized that there are still a lot of families that need new homes. He hopes that more people will be inspired to help the people of Oras through this Nissan Drive for Samar activity.
On the other hand, Nissan PH also donated a fleet of 2015 Urvan and Navara for Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore program. The said program is a non-profit home improvement donation center which offers new and slightly used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances. All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity and are used to build homes and communities.
After the build, we were welcomed by Oras Mayor Viviane Alvarez and at around three in the afternoon, the group headed back to Borongan.
When the sun went up the next day, participants set off to make their way back to Tacloban. For this return leg, I was assigned to drive the 2015 X-Trail.
Similar to the Navara, the 2015 X-Trail has a comfortable and stable ride. The power of the X-Trail's 2.5-liter gasoline engine is good and the CVT shifts smoothly giving you confidence in maneuvering overtakes. However, I wished that this X-Trail comes with paddle shifters so I could change gears without having to take my hands off the wheel. Of note, the 2015 X-Trail features 'Zero-G' seats, which was developed by Nissan in collaboration with NASA. Like the Altima, the 2015 X-Trail's driver's seat are optimized for low fatigue and maximum comfort. The said seats will come in handy when you go for a road trip or when you're stuck in traffic. In addition, the 2015 X-Trail can accommodate up to seven passengers.
As a whole, the drive wasn't just about the capabilities of Nissan's latest vehicles rather it was an activity that intends to bring hope for the people of Oras. Other than the Navara and the X-Trail, the most important part of this drive was the new houses that we were able to build. After a hard day's work, there's no greater reward other than seeing the smile and happiness of the families we were able to help.