Alive and Kicking: Philippine Car Culture – Feature

When it comes to Philippine Car Culture I’m honest enough to say that I know very little. The aspect of the underground nocturnal car meets and hangouts were never really my thing. That’s not to say that I dislike them, in fact, I regarded the ‘culture’ and the people in them as heroes and mythical creatures with their just as heroic and mythical vehicles.

I’ve always been curious though, because I always felt that the Philippines was falling out of love with cars, and those who do love them are few and far between.

Despite my general outsider status though, as my years in the automotive beat grew so did my friendships with personalities who I would consider as ‘key’ people in Philippine Car Culture. Through these meaningful friendships, I was able to attend what would be a historical moment for the local culture.

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Larry Chen x Klubsport

To give more context let me first explain who Larry Chen is, he is regarded as a global car culture icon who’s been to and recorded some of the most extreme and extensive car collections in the world, apart from that he also immerses himself in the car culture of other countries and makes video and photo content. Due to his fame and body of work he now also creates corporate content for automotive brands like Nissan that the brand uses as promotional material. He is in short, a God to automotive lovers globally.

A few months ago my car culture friends informed me that a car meet was set to take place in April, and in attendance would be the Apostle of the Car Gods Mr. Larry Chen himself. I quickly told my more informed colleagues Carlos and Kelvin of this who were both equally (if not more) excited.

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The meet was to take place in a soon-to-be-opened car culture hangout called Klubsport Cafe and Gallery in Tagaytay. Klubsport is another child of the people behind Karrera Cafe in Alabang an already established car haven. We made our way up to the venue early to avoid the unavoidable SLEX traffic, our 3 car convoy consisted of Kelvin’s Lexus IS300, Carlos’ Toyota GR Yaris, and I borrowed the GAC EMPOW which I felt would become a future Philippine Car Culture icon (and because my personal Camry isn’t worthy yet of showing up at a car meet).

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We arrived early (4 hours before the meet) to secure good parking spots because the meet was said to eventually total around 80 of the finest local automotive examples. As we waited patiently under the summer sun, cars started to trickle in, some in groups, some individually, and some finer priceless examples on flatbeds.

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This I believe is when the meeting started in earnest, standing with two of my best buds pointing, gawking, and hollering as immaculate, beautiful cars from all aspects of automotive history started arriving. I particularly remember the group of Toyota AE86 Truenos arrived, I’m usually shocked to see one on the road, but to be assaulted by 3 of these icons rendered me speechless. One of the AE86’s is a former Toyota TRD race car that was used in America, it wasn’t a copy it was the real deal. That moment was then equalled by the arrival of our friend Aurick Go in his beloved green Mazda RX7, and the presence of a Hakosuka Skyline.

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Just to highlight what a high point this meet was, it was sponsored by Hyundai Motor Philippines who wanted to display the latest N cars alongside the other car culture legends.

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As the day went on, more and more icons showed up, and the scene was now in full swing. I would from time to time walk around just to see the new arrivals, and among them were automotive greats like 3 fine Honda NSX’s, exotic Porsches, and anything and everything in between.

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Larry Chen ignites Philippine Car Culture

It was well into the evening when Larry Chen finally pulled up in a convoy of classic Porsche 911’s, and the crowd literally went wild. It really was as if God himself descended from the heavens to grace this little car meet. I watched in awe as Larry made his way around the venue shooting his video, taking photos of cars, and even speaking to some of the owners.

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It was astounding to see these serious men and women of the local automotive scene be reduced to fanboys and girls in the presence of Larry Chen. He waltzed around like Moses parting the red sea of people as he made his way from car to car, and I genuinely felt the elation of the crowded masses around me.

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A 5-minute picture and autograph segment took place before Larry’s departure, and here’s where I felt the high point of the meet. Now some of you know of Kelvin my Creative Director as the man behind the camera trying so (very) hard to make me look good and respectable. In reality, though Kelvin is a quiet and reserved person, he isn’t one to make a fuss (and detests being fussed over). So when I saw him all giddy and make himself visible to Larry Chen just to get an autograph, showed me just how much Philippine Car Culture exists and thrives in all of the individuals present that fateful evening in April no matter how loud or quiet the individual is.

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Up and Away

As mentioned earlier, I’m a mere observer in this world of high octane, expressive modification, and priceless metal. What I took away from that evening though, is the fact that Philippine Car Culture doesn’t only exist, it’s on an upward trend towards relevancy on a possible global stage.

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An outsider like me would generally be trepid of showing up to something like this with no true understanding, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these men and women who were gracious in explaining some of the things I was asking them about their vehicles. It was a day of camaraderie, fun, and the general love for all things 4-wheeled made better by the presence of Larry Chen.

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This major moment in Philippine Car Culture was brought to life by dedicated people who wanted to put the local scene on the map. It would be remiss of me not to mention my dear friends Alex Lim (Banawe Boy) and Justin Buzzhype for letting me experience this moment in history.

Pablo Salapantan

Pablo Salapantan

Pablo's first word was probably "Car", and this has developed into a personal passion that has consumed his professional life as well.

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